what we're about

Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Monday, October 10, 2011


I love chipmunks. It never fails to make my day when I'm walking the sidewalks at school and one of these tiny creatures zips along the edge of the shrubbery next to me, or skims across the concrete in front of me. I'm okay with squirrels, too, but they're so much more ubiquitous. They almost seem to be a part of our world, their digging and quarreling and chase games taking place in front of our eyes as we rush to class, or soak in the gorgeous autumn days. Chipmunks, on the other hand, are much more rarely seen (at least by me). They're almost like fairies, living their parallel existence on the same patch of terra firma that we call our own, only occasionally compelled to pop into our universe when they really need to get from point A to point B and the fastest route is along the edge of flower bed. It's a good creative exercise to consider how my world looks to them. Of course it's a player in their lives, but it's not like we're gods. They do their thing, and sometimes they have to adjust for these large beings that lumber past at such astonishingly slow speeds. But I don't really like them because they give me some sort of grist for existential pondering. Mostly I like them because they're so unbelievably adorable. I mean, really. How could you not?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Uncertainty: it makes armadillos out of the best of us

... or at least out of me.

I'm uncertain about a lot of things these days. Some future events, certainly. I'm going back to school this fall, and my head is full of questions like "how will we manage not to starve to death in an ice-cold apartment this winter?" But uncertainty about practical matters I can handle; it's the cosmic questions, the ones that tell me what my universe looks like, that are difficult. I won't go into the details right now, but I'm uncertain about a lot of these questions right now. Even the ones that I have down ("[I] believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty... [a]nd in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, etc.") are by no means settled as to shape. What does it mean to believe these things?

When you combine these fundamental uncertainties with self-knowledge of my malleable nature, you get an armadillo. I don't want to read books of theology that might take advantage of my fears. I don't want to take classes that will unduly challenge my always-fragile faith. I don't even want to talk to my friends who are taking some of the same journeys that I am. In short, I'm curled up inside myself. This doesn't make for good relationship building, or even happy chatting amongst friends. It's definitely not the open-hearted person that I want to be. And I don't know how to fix it myself. The only thing that I know how to do at this point is be honest about what's going on, even though I can't be open about what's going on inside the armadillo. And as I ponder this, I begin to wonder if the whole point of this experience is to teach me helplessness. And I begin to hope that Jesus fits inside an armadillo curl.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


From my exploration of the Book of Common Prayer this morning:

O come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation.

- Psalm 95:1

The translation of this verse that I grew up with refers to the "rock" of our salvation. I can't make any comment on the relative merit of the translations, but I do know that I like the one that I found in the BCP this morning. It ties together for me the strength of God and the durability of my salvation. It reminds me that our salvation is not a frail, unstable state of being, dependent on my spasmodic efforts. Ultimately, it is an act of God, an act of mystery and grace. It is something strong and vibrant, and that strength - the strength of God, the strength of our salvation - is something in which we can heartily rejoice.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I'm in Pennsylvania right now, helping a friend get ready for her wedding on Saturday. Nicole and I have been good friends for about 4 years now, through all kinds of circumstances, and this visit is continually bringing up memories of "how things used to be." Just being with her, staying at her house like I've done before, and talking over our shared memories is a trip to a previous life. It brings up in living color the other people who formed our initial tight-knit circle, and the good times that we had with them. It's tempting to look back with a bit of a sigh. But Nicole and I decided that, as good as that was, and as different as our lives now are from what we anticipated then, we wouldn't trade what we have for what we had. That was good, this is good, and the next phase will be good. Life flows on. And we're happy about that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Questions for a momentous day

This is what I'm doing this morning as I contemplate my response to this news. I decided to take advantage of driving Landon to school early to stop by one of my favorite coffee shops and get some breakfast. I had coffee at home this morning, so it's just biscuits and gravy (really yummy) and some water. I'm sitting here eating biscuits and gravy, and across the world, Osama Bin Laden is dead on the bottom of the ocean.

People are celebrating all over the United States. In front of the White House, in New York City, in small towns. One picture particularly stood out to me - two men in a truck with a large flag attached to the roof, yelling and shaking their fists out of the windows, joy evident on their faces. And I'm just not feeling it.

First of all, it's been 10 years since we set out to "get him", and that feels a little embarrassing. But, more importantly, he doesn't seem to deserve this hoopla anymore. From my perspective, at least, he hasn't been at the forefront of our collective consciousness for years. Since 9-11, the problems the U.S. has had have been mostly of our creation. 9-11 was, and is, huge. It could be that some of my emotional detachment stems from not having a close personal connection with anybody who died that day. But what has Bin Laden really accomplished since then that make him still a threat to us?

And then there's the human angle. At what point is the death of a human being, even in the pursuit of justice, a joyful thing? I have to be careful with this one, because it might just be time and distance that has dulled my too-human ability to rejoice at someone's end. If the news came tomorrow that Robert Mugabe, or even Muammar Quadafi, had been assassinated by the CIA, I might have a different reaction. However, human death at the hands of other humans was never part of the best plan for this world, and it should sadden us that the only way to achieve justice for one death seems to be another death. The only way to balance one hole in the fabric of the universe is with another. And then, what about this situation, where there thousands of deaths that are supposed to be balanced by this one?

This simply doesn't seem like an unmitigated reason to rejoice.

What was your reaction to the news of Bin Laden's death?

Friday, April 29, 2011

For the birds...

Every once in a while I just have to stop and look at birds. They're so amazing to me, especially the tiny, common ones that hop around the streets where I live. I saw a robin tonight on my way to grab some internet access, and I was struck all over again with the thought of that tiny package of feathers and legs being alive. It shares my world, but my view of the world would be totally unrecognizable to it. It has it's own, completely separate view of the world. Just think about it: we live in the same space, and yet it looks like two totally different places. The world suddenly seems bigger when I think about it that way.

Photo: European Robin (Erithacus Rubecula) Taken by Francisco Marzoa

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Sadness and Doubt

The sadness of the world is that there is nothing so beautiful that it cannot be marred. No motive so noble that it cannot be tainted. No cause so pure that it cannot be perverted. It is this sadness that makes it so hard to try to live with your eyes open and your heart and mind engaged. Ultimately, it is this sadness that brings me doubt about my faith in it's softest, most beguiling and insidious form.

If Jesus' death and resurrection is more than our ticket to a glorious afterlife; if the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us; and if our purpose here on earth is more than persuading people to move themselves from one category of person to another, then... why doesn't it seem to work? Personally and institutionally, Christians mess up at about the same rate as those around us. Our personal lives carry the same self-induced and other-induced pain. Our churches calcify into cultural edifices just like other institutions. Even those of us who look good usually do so by dint of hiding some darkness. The Church has done much good through the years, but it's also done some unspeakable evil (just like everybody else). So... what gives?

What do you think?

Note: in case anybody is worried, this is not a post about how I'm giving up on Christianity. I follow Jesus and will until I die. This is just a really important question for me, and I want to know what you think.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Before the resurrection there is the cross...

I haven't quite unpacked everything in this post, by Jeff Dunn at internetmonk.com yet, but it struck something really... profound for me. Tomorrow we celebrate His resurrection, but it's good to keep in mind that this isn't a strictly chronological event - He died, He rose again, and now we're past all that. In some way, Jesus' death, as well as His resurrection, remains a present reality.

Photo: By Joaquín Martínez Rosado (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Girls and their animals...

Yesterday on All Things Considered I heard this story, "Why do Girls Love Horses, Unicorns, and Dolphins?" (You can follow the link to read a text version, or listen to the story as it aired). I went through a "horse phase," as did so many other girls that I know. I had a cousin who loved all things dolphin. And unicorns... well, I'm still not out of my unicorn phase, and I don't know if I ever will be. I had not, however, thought of these animals as a connected group. But this story made me reconsider that. As the experts posited their opinions, I tried to see if I could come up with my own ideas about why girls love these animals. And I think I know why.

I think I know why. The problem is that I can't really articulate it. When I think about that grouping of animals, and how I feel about them, I can feel what it is that attracts the hearts nd minds of young females. I can feel it, but I don't know if I can explain it. So before I try, why don't you have a crack at it.

If you're a girl:

- does this trio ring some bells for you? Do you remember loving them, or do you now? Can you articulate this better?

And if you're male:
- have you observed girls' love affairs with these animals? Are you confused about it? Do you have any theories?

One final observation: I think that some girls are seriously gypped in their love of unicorns by inferior ideas about what a unicorn is. They all need to read something like "The Last Unicorn" .

*Picture By Yamavu [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons