Someone found this blog by typing in the search phrase,
“Are big noses attractive?”
See title. Well, most of the time. But I think my taste might be the exception here.
Someone found this blog by typing in the search phrase,
“Are big noses attractive?”
See title. Well, most of the time. But I think my taste might be the exception here.
It’s been almost 10 months since I returned from Europe, and even as I type that I can’t believe it. As the months go by, I’m more convinced than ever that I am a wayfarer, a wanderlust girl…with the heart of a homebody. I’m a walking paradox–I dream of zipping up the Grecian coast on a Vespa, of dancing on cobblestone streets in Buenos Aires, climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town with my South African friends.
And yet. It’s been 10 months and I still savor certain things about being home as though I’ve been away for 10 years. Christmas was the best holiday of my life–I was steeped in joy as I celebrated traditions with my family for the first time in three years. I still glory in the easy access I have to amazing salads and other produce, the idyllic weather of Southern California, and the drive from Pasadena to my hometown of Valencia through the green and brown foothills.
…and yet. I still dream. In a strange way, I miss that desperate discomfort of travel that makes every cell of my body feel more alive, and heightens every taste, sunset, and sensation. What is it the wayfaring Sea Rat says in The Wind in the Willows?
And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes! ‘Tis but a banging of the door behind you, a blithesome step forward, and you are out of the old life and into the new! Then some day, some day long hence, jog home here if you will, when the cup has been drained and the play has been played, and sit down by your quiet river with a store of goodly memories for company. You can easily overtake me on the road, for you are young, and I am ageing and go softly. I will linger, and look back; and at last I will surely see you coming, with all the South in your face!
My addiction to that door banging behind me, to that first step out into the sunlight where all things are new, lies quiet but not quite asleep in my heart. God willing, I’ll go to Italy this summer and maybe even a few other places to add to my “store of goodly memories,” and I will arrive there with a happy heart and all the South in my face.
The difference is that, this time, I will not be afraid to return home to my quiet river. Because I’ve learned to grow here, and to taste here, and to begin to feel alive in my own backyard.
So I saw Rob Bell speak last night as part of his Drops Like Stars tour. It’s kind of weird to go to the Wiltern to essentially see a pastor give a 2 hour sermon. I’ve never read any of Bell’s books, but I listen to the podcast from his church, Mars Hill, every week, and a couple of people have told me that if I listen to his sermons, I’ve read his books. Fair enough, but I still want to read Sex God.
Anyway, Drops Like Stars. It was better than I expected; I was riveted for 2 hours, and I laughed out loud several times. It’s just cool to see someone so gifted living out his gifts in an unexpected way. Oh, and it’s also cool that he went to Fuller (my school) and Christian Assembly (my church). Just sayin’.
Through the course of the evening I realized that I need to start acting like a real writer and bringing a small notebook everywhere I go, because I ended up attempting to take copious notes on my Palm, which just sucked and my friend Peter threatened to confiscate my phone at one point because he thought I was texting. Like I would!
So here are some of my observations from the evening, in semi-random order:
1. There was something unusual about the crowd and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I finally realized: this was the most homogeneous group of 1,000+ people I have ever seen in Los Angeles. Pretty much Caucasian, upper middle class, 25 – 40 years old, and borderline fashionable. (There were a lot of Urban Outfitters plaids to be found). Also I saw a ton of Christians I know/have known/have briefly met from all over the Los Angeles area. We flocked.
2. This was the first time I’ve watched Rob Bell in person, and I decided that his androgynous mannerisms lend much to his cross-gender appeal. There was something feminine and fluid about his movements, but not soft. He was still a dude. He’s neither a weeper or a yeller. He walks that fine line that make women feel safe and men feel not threatened and everyone feel pretty comfortable and understood.
3. “God came into the world and screamed alongside us.” A quote Rob used to describe the incarnation of Christ. Powerful.
4. Rob talked about the “art of elimination” and used the idea of sculpture as an example. The artist chips away until the masterpiece is all that is left. Michelangelo said things to the effect that he was merely freeing his sculptures from their marble prisons. Rob Bell told us that one night he invited his sculptor friends to come over and gave them each a bar of soap, whittling tools, and a couple of hours. During show and tell, there was a bunny rabbit, a set of chain links, a couple of faces, and even a urinal. Plain white bars of soap were passed out to each member of the audience, and Bell said, “You each hold in your hand a rabbit, links, even a urinal….endless possibilities.” The art of elimination. This had me thinking about my life and my calling, and how I usually try to accumulate more. More opportunities to display my gifts, more friendships, more experiences, more skills. The art of elimination is all about less. What would my life look like if I began to strategically and even artistically eliminate outlets of my time, energy and resources? Would my life take on more beauty, more of a masterpiece quality rather than the chaotic albeit colorful hodgepodge that it is now? Hmm…there might be more blogging to come on that one.
5. Drops Like Stars is all about suffering. Not if and why, but what should we do when we suffer? That’s where Bell comes in with ideas about the art of elimination, the art of solidarity, the art of possession, and the art of failure. And he also had a powerful tagline: “This, too, will shape me.” Whatever I do with my suffering, it will shape me. It forces me to re-imagine my future now that this has happened. That short line–”this, too, will shape me”–is probably what will stick with me the most from the evening.
6. One last thing. A couple of times during the evening, when Rob Bell was reading us a quote, he would actually pause after coming across a word he particularly liked and try to get us to enjoy it with him. I remember he did this with the word “deft.” Dude, I love that he does that because I’m a word-lover (nerd alert) but at the same time I was kind of upset, because my friends always get annoyed and uninterested when I try to express my appreciation (or distaste) for certain words. Sigh. Maybe after I publish a bunch of books I can get an room of 1,500 people to savor the word “squabble” with me.
I’ve been thinking the past few days of what I should “give up” for Lent. And then I thought, “Why am I giving up anything?” I was raised in the Pentecostal church and I don’t think I learned about Lent until I was in high school. Even then, I didn’t fully grasp what the whole season was about. To be honest, I still don’t. I know it’s about preparing for Easter, about penitence and self-denial…but why? I was wondering today if the whole idea of fasting during Lent comes from the Medieval idea that one must suffer in order to placate a wrathful God. Hmm. The thing is, I don’t believe in a wrathful God who needs placating, especially after Jesus’ final say on the cross.
I picked up a book of wisdom from G.K. Chesterton specifically compiled for Lent and Easter, and the first entry for Ash Wednesday addresses the idea of Christian asceticism, giving up things that are pleasurable to one’s self. Chesterton offers this prayer:
Father, we offer to you only what we have been given from you: our bodies and our selves. Show us how we can worship you through the use of our bodies and the giving of ourselves. We want to live for others, as your Son has taught us.
I love how Chesterton makes things so practical. We’re not sacrificing pleasure so that we can have little piles of ashes to lay at the feet of an angry God…we’re sacrificing ourselves–our time, gifts, and attention. The editors of the book say that Chesterton’s point may have been that “we are always free to give up these pleasures and at times are drawn to do so out of love for others.” They use the example of giving up an hour of sleep to speak with someone who needs our attention. Yikes. That’s a lot more difficult than giving up sweets for 40 days, but that’s the kind of attitude I want to have this season–my life is not my own, and that means constant small sacrifices, not for the sake of sacrifice but for the sake of love. And this way, I still get to eat cookies.
P.S. This is why it’s a perfect time to watch Chocolat…gives a really good perspective on Lent, fasting, religion…and Johnny Depp with an Irish Gypsy accent is the cherry on top.
This is a piece I wrote that’s featured this week in The Semi, Fuller’s student publication. To be honest, I wasn’t necessarily mulling over the idea of cynicism in seminary, but the Semi editor asked for submissions about the topic, and after watching Conan and reading the Donald Miller blog post I reference, I churned this out:
On Conan and Cave Dwelling: Guarding Against the Puffing Up Properties of Knowledge
Most seminaries don’t offer degree programs in cynicism, yet many seminarians graduate as experts in the field. Disillusioned, disenchanted, jaded. It doesn’t have to happen, but it does. We see students become consumers of concepts and ideas, of churches and ministries and missional strategies. They’ve seen it all and have learned to slash everything to ribbons with their world-class critical thinking skills.
Most students don’t come to seminary wanting to be hardened—they come with questions. They come from all over the world, from individual cocoons spun of the various factors and circumstances of their lives: spiritual tradition, family culture, ethnicity, education; everyone arrives in their own bubble of truth, like those crazy one-man submarines that seem so cool in theory but never really caught on.
These students have been living in caves with their own people, swapping the same old stories and the same old answers and the same old truths, and they started thinking their might be more to it than what they’ve been taught. Fuller students are explorers and mavericks, cowboys and astronauts. Ready to go out West, where no man has gone before. Climbing out of the caves of their own upbringing, they emerge into the glaring brightness of Truth—or at least, truth according to Augustine, Barth, Moltmann, Goldingay and Murphy.
At first it feels like a privilege to be on this windswept plain, one arm up to shield our eyes from the (did I mention it was cruel?) sun. The fact is, Conan O’Brien got it right last month on his final episode of The Tonight Show, when he delivered a brotherly lecture to his fans about cynicism: “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.” The terrifying reality of their big seminary dreams surround students as they take more courses, read more books, and realize there’s so many paths to take but no matter which one is chosen, there will be others proving in articles and dissertations that it was the wrong path.
I was reading a blog post by Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller today about how the apostle Paul wrote that knowledge puffs up. Miller says that this is “the thing that ruins many a seminary student” and observes that knowledge is “incredibly powerful and dangerous.” I think he’s onto something, there. However, Miller wrote about knowledge used as a weapon, while I started thinking about it as armor. When I first arrived at Fuller, I felt like my beliefs, so precious to me and housed in my experiences, were lined up like milk bottles on a wall and unceremoniously shot down one by one: “You’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong!” When that happens, one has two options: send up a white flag of surrender and say, “Okay then, tell me what to believe.” Or one can acquire more knowledge, and clothe herself with it like armor, puffing up her previously puny beliefs and stances so they won’t get shot down again.
Those caves we came from, full of “unenlightened” people we say we pity, slowly begin to bring back fond memories—maybe we even miss their closeness and warmth, although we’re too proud to admit it. Unfortunately, our puffy knowledge-armor keeps us from being able to go back in the way we came.
Donald Miller said in that same post that if a person is emotionally healthy when seeking and acquiring knowledge, the knowledge will produce fruit. For Miller, humility is key: “We realize that we did not invent truth, we simply stumbled upon it like food on a long journey. Knowledge will then produce the fruits of the spirit.” What if we shed the puffy armor of knowledge that isolates us from those who have yet to receive or understand? Instead we might let our newfound knowledge fill our arms with the fruits of the spirit—love, patience, kindness, and all the rest—and go back to where we came from to share what we’ve learned so we can nurture those we love, those who nurtured us when we didn’t know any better.
And if you don’t want to listen to me, or even Donald Miller’s advice, heed the wisdom of everybody’s favorite red-haired late show host, uttered in a rare moment of seriousness. “Please don’t be cynical,” Conan said, looking imploringly into the camera. “I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality.” Let’s listen to Conan. Let’s gather those truths we’ve held close to our hearts and keep them close; and allow love to build us up as we continue to stumble on new truths, letting them sustain us like grapes warmed in the sun.
In Norway, people often said they were going to “look at” a movie instead of watch it. Just one of the many funny little translational blips. Anyway, I’ve been wanting to watch Chocolat lately. Maybe because I had a burst of culinary inspiration 5 minutes before my friends came over tonight and decided to make homemade chocolate peanut butter dipped pretzels, and felt like the beautiful heroine of the film for a split second. If you haven’t seen it, now’s the time. Perfect for Valentine’s Day and Lent (I know that sounds weird, but seriously). Gorgeous music, gorgeous people, lovely story. Look at it and tell me what you think!
Today in my reading for my Spiritual Traditions and Practices course, the chapter on “Feminism and Spirituality” began with the image of “a spider spinning her web…she creates out of her own body a world that feeds and protects her, a world unique and adapted perfectly to its environment.”
Woah. What? This provocative imagery made me think about how many people—not just feminists—choose to create their theology, their thoughts about God, based on their own needs and preferences. I remembered a camp workshop I attended many summers ago where the speaker asked us to draw a picture of ourselves and hang it around our necks. Later, he asserted that the way we see ourselves is the way we see God.
It’s an age-old problem, isn’t it—one that does not limit itself to a demographic. And I call this a problem because it leaves us worshipping ourselves, which never leads to the meaning, joy, and love that we seek. In my reading it was pointed out that a common theme in feminist spirituality is sensitivity to one’s individuality. There is much celebration and sacralization of the woman’s self and body. Prayer to goddesses is common, for as feminist scholar and theologian Carol Christ argues, worship of a male God can never empower women.
Is that what we are looking for in our spiritual quest: empowerment?
A major problem for Christian feminists is the idea of Jesus Christ as a male savior, which “appears to deny women’s religious authority, autonomy, and moral agency…Models of submission to male will and authority are not emancipatory for women.” And this, I would say, is proof that if one subscribes to such a stream of Christian spirituality, one is entirely missing the point of the good news Jesus shared. Jesus was all about a new kingdom, where everything was different: where it doesn’t have to be scary to submit to a God, a Father, a “male savior” who loves you. Jesus modeled this himself, extending compassion, tender love, and grace upon grace to the women who crossed his path in ways that were not just radical in his cultural age, but are still radical today.
Personally, I know that fear of letting go, of submitting, of saying, “Hey, actually, I can’t do this on my own…I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps no matter how beautiful and special and strong I am—I need a savior.” I also know that it is when I’ve let go that the most beautiful things have happened to me, when I’ve been able to open up and receive gifts I’ve always longed for like peace, hope, and security.
This fear of and resistance to submission to a God who is primarily spoken of in male terms is legitimate and grounded in circumstances ranging from heartbreaking to heinous. One needn’t be a history buff to know about the millenniums of oppression of women. However, it would be foolish to read about Jesus’ life in the Scriptures and assume that the women who loved, followed, served, and yes, submitted to him did not know what it was to be oppressed. The world of the Ancient Near East was a man’s world. I can’t imagine the abuse that some of these women suffered, yet they found acceptance, gentleness, respect, and freedom to be themselves in Jesus.
The chapter on feminism and spirituality closed with the spider image again, remarking, “The spider creates a world from her own body.” As women, we have often been used, abused, neglected, and left to fend for ourselves. We feel the need to create a God who will not also treat us like this. But we are not spiders. The world—true reality—has already been created, and we must gather the courage to crawl across our own webs, swing out on a silken thread, and be caught up in arms of Love.
***Sorry about the cheesy spider picture. I tried to put a real photo up, but they were just creeping out me out WAY too much. Hee.
The other day I was on the Sparknotes site for Little Women, checking a detail I was wondering about *nerd alert*. Anyway, I came across an interesting comment about Jo’s behavior in her early days of acquaintanceship with Professor Bhaer, who would ultimately become her husband. In their blossoming relationship Jo, the ultimate tomboy and feminist–in the late 19th century, no less–”becomes nearly conventional, conforming to a more accepted code of female behavior. She darns the professor’s socks, for example, in order to show him her affection [...]“
The funny thing is, this echoes a conversation I had with a girlfriend the other day. She was bewildered at her own behavior, as she had spent the day before running around whipping up a homemade dessert for a dinner with the family of a man she is interested in. “I don’t even bake!” she cried.
No, but there’s something in her that makes her feel she must. I’ve seen it over and over–friends who usually eat a bowl of cereal for dinner suddenly slaving over 3 course meals for their new boyfriends, or how many times did I see a girl in Bible college produce a batch of homemade brownies for her guy friends but never for the girls? No end to the manifestations of these primal urges to feed, nurture, mend, and clean. These young women knew that mastery over domestic tasks is an essential part of the package most men are looking for, no matter how much progress and equal rights our society has seen.
This can easily be seen in terms of “selling out” but that’s not always the case. I think sometimes girls shy away from such domestic tasks when they are single (and not yet husband-hunting) because they don’t fit with the strong, independent career-girl image they choose instead of the wife-and-mom route (sometimes chosen, incidentally, because no one chooses them). But when they find themselves in a situation where they must demonstrate their level of wife-ability, these domestic urges naturally arise and I really believe that many of these girls find they love the tasks and activities they originally spurned on principle of feminism, independence, gender role defiance, whatever.
On a related note: I’m still reading that book Mediated that I quoted a couple of posts ago. Later in the book, the author writes, “So you finally grew up, got married—or coupled up seriously in some way.” And I’m wondering, since when is getting married the key, or the initial evidence, of growing up? I know “grown-up” singles, and I know many married people who are still waiting in those wings. Maybe I’ll know what he’s talking about when I grow up get married. At a different point in the book, the author mentions how after college, adolescence is an extended, drifting time period because there is no longer a rite of passage or milestone looming, such as puberty, high school or college graduation, etc. So what do you think? When is an American person “grown up”?