Tuesday, February 19, 2013

All I Do...

All I do anymore is write for class.  (And go to the beach.  I live in Southern CA after all).  So this is a response I wrote for my Essays class.  Every Monday we're assigned an essay to read and on Wednesday we bring in our response to it.  This particular piece was on Virginia Woolfe's The Death of a Moth.  (You can read it here. It'll take 15 minutes of your time.  It's worth it).

Hannah Moody
Dr. Simons
February 12, 2013

The Death of a Moth Response
People compartmentalize their lives; placing things in categories makes it easier. We make our own proverbial window frames to fly back and forth between like Virginia Woolfe’s moth.  The biggest problem with these frames is you can’t always see quite where they are.  A part of me wonders where my frame is.  But figuring that out is scary, jumping into a boundless ocean. Yet Virginia Woolfe’s moth flutters, “from side to side of his square of the window-pane” (Woolfe 174).  “That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of the houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea” (Woolfe 174).  The moth had no reasoning or capability to understand the limitations of the window pane, “What he could do he did” (Woolfe 174).
The first thing I always ask before beginning something new is, “How do I do it?”  I have a crippling fear of failure at times.  I like lists, steps, instructions, and do-it-yourself manuals.  At times, I sit and wonder what I miss because of it.  The world—196 countries, countless cultures, untold adventures—is my oyster, or so I’ve been told.  It lies outside my window, beyond my limited view of the taupe and speckled wall of the college dormitory so many will limit their greatest life experiences too.  Still, consider the moth, “little or nothing but life” (Woolfe 174).  

“It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zigzagging to show us the true nature of life” (Woolfe 174).  What, possibly, does the true nature of life have to do with almost careless flight?  After all, zigzagging is not efficient and everyone knows the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line.  But is it the most worthwhile way?  I am a dreamer by nature—the love of lists a result of my tendency to over-react to faults and fall off the other side of the horse. I become “apt to forge all about life, seeing it humped and bossed and garnished and cumbered so that it has to move with the greatest circumspection and dignity” (Woolfe 174).  Throwing off dreams as irrelevant, I get lost in a mound of papers and tests and textbooks and coffee cups in pursuit of the hallowed ‘A.’ There is a certain drudgery in walking to 8 AM classes, and a definite dullness to grocery shopping. The shimmering quality of life is lost in the midst of stale-Styrofoam coffee and 7:50 AM and half-cartons of milk for $2.49.

What is the point of all of it, then? The Bible commands believers over and over again to be thankful.  G.K. Chesterton said, “gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”  There is something to the moth and his propensity to live well and excitedly and thankfully.  It is true a moth can be neither excited nor thankful, but it can live, and I maintain living well and as we ought is the best form of thankfulness.  This require a mentality shift: to recognize that 7:50 AM is the only time that day the baseball field glitters with cold as the sun, with its own iridescent quality, slowly melts away the frost.  Grocery shopping is possibly a beautiful thing allowing me to drive in silence and notice, for a moment, the velvety hills caught behind the haze of late afternoon. I still haven’t figured out the wonder in coffee cups, except for acknowledging coffee as a means of God’s grace to finish homework.

Back to the beginning: my need to know how to do things.  As much as I want understand the window frame I’m flying within, I can’t.  Most of the worthwhile things in my life right now aren’t coming with instruction manuals. But the zigzag flights of life are more fun than understanding the steps from point A to point B. I never want it said of me that I didn’t value or keep life well.

Monday, July 23, 2012

    "Letting go is a repetitive theme at camp. You receive a group on Sunday and wave goodbye on Friday.  The surfaces of the girls sometimes seem barely scratched, but somehow a unity emerges. Through silly games, 5 minute life stories and discussions about love over ice cream, personalities start to emerge. The person unfolds, leaving their shell and melding into one another as a distinct group.  Then on friday morning, when talking with each other has become the most natural thing in the world, suitcases are loaded into cars and we say goodbye. Sunday we do it all over again."
      The above were some scribbles I took down in the back of lecture about a month ago. I've had a total of   18 small groups, 3 staff teams, and an indeterminable amount of goodbyes. At times it seems impossible to partake in such a rapid exchange of lives. God brought us together- whether staff to student or staff to each other- for the purpose of the Gospel. C.S. Lewis speaks of us as eternal souls, pushing one another to the glories of Heaven or the depths of Hell. We are eternal creatures with eternal impact.
      The thought of eternal impact seems almost laughable as I perform some of the same tasks for the umpteenth time.  Only when I consider it as an action for the furtherance of the Gospel do I start to glimpse the eternalness of it.  Take, for instance, a cafeteria lunch with a student. Cafeteria lunches hold no special significance, and neither do the people partaking of them. Ordinary people sharing a mundane meal.  However, in light of the fact that we truly are immortal souls, this lunch is one shared between 2 eternal beings pushing each other towards glory. Nothing about that is laughable, because it is the Gospel.
      Francis Schaeffer writes, " projects the wonder of his personality- his thoughts, his emotions, and the determinations of his will- into a historic, space-time world through the use of his body, and especially his hands." Last night, Dell Cook expressed a similar thought as he charged the students to manifest in their flesh  the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Gospel. In other words, live the Gospel. Walking to lecture, eating lunch, organizing lists, filling schedules-  as Dell says- "Every moment is an opportunity to teach how to love."  What I do at camp, what the staff and directors and faculty do, is live the Gospel in front of students. Yes, we speak it with our tongues, but we also let it come from our fingertips as a frisbee is tossed or hair is braided.  They are experiencing Christ's love through us, and, hopefully, being pushed further into eternal glory.
      There are days when camp is hard. Days when you cry more than once. Last night I gave one of the faculty kids, Lauren, her good-bye hug. I reminded her of something I told her at the end of last summer, that  these tears only come because of the incredible friendships that have been forged. And I told her never, ever, to think that the cost of painful goodbyes was greater than the gift of these relationships. This morning on the way to staff meeting, I realized that I had the privilege of saying goodbye to Lauren 3 times. I've made memories with the Cook family, and said goodbyes, 3 times over. I can't ever ask for more than that. I'm crying again as I write this because it has become so clear to me over the past few weeks how our lives need to be be lived for the sake of the Gospel. How our relationships and interactions and steps need to be driven by God's glory. How wet goodbyes are only reminders of adventures further up and further in.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Camp Musings- Week 2 or Thereabouts

 June 17, 2012

       There are ‘click’ moments at camp. Moments when a friendship happens, a group bonds. All of a sudden, things snap into place and some of the craziness of what I do starts to make sense.
To pin point the beginning of a friendship, glimpsing the start of a deeper connection, is a beautiful thing.  Though there are many beginnings that span time and place, traverse age and race, they all have one commonality- they are fleeting. Often it is as simple as being able to laugh over a room switch that had to take place in less than 5 minutes (the result a tousle of clothings and toiletries, sheets and papers and general whirlwind chaos).  Sometimes it’s a challenge from one person to another that becomes joint camaraderie   in the pursuit of excellence.  Yet to catch and see the beginnings  is to witness the miracle of 2 people coming to see each other a little more as God sees them- excellent saints in whom to delight.
It would follow that if to experience the formation of a friendship between 2  is miraculous; to watch a group come together is a tiny bit mind blowing. God works marvelously through the seemingly inane to do this.  Picture a lawn, damp from evening, and a group of giddy 14 yr olds reveling in the joy and giggles produced by a game of Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur. A trivial game brought 6 girls together through the delight of laughter.  This is not to say games are the only way to bring people together.  Prayer brings a powerful unity – members of the Body of Christ coming before the same King, their mutual Father.  The recognition of weakness, the appeals for grace, the songs of praise are spoken around a solid wood table.  A team connects in the mutual give and take of each other, in the sublime privilege of lifting one another up in prayer before their immanent God.
Dell Cook says in his lecture on the Triune Life, “If you’re not loving someone, you’re dying.”  This is the give and take principle above.  To love someone is to give life to them and to live is to give love.  Cut off love and you’ve cut off life.  I this way we reflect our Creator, who creates and gives life (love) because He is life- and love.  Live this way and relationships and unity serve the purpose of reflecting the image of God Himself.
For this purpose, a group of strangers assembled. The flurry of logistics and schedules and the mental power it takes to navigate the mind of a 15-year old threaten to de-centralize this.  All of a sudden, though, God dazzles you with a ‘click,’ the beginning of a togetherness designed to reflect Himself.  And camp craziness becomes worth it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crossing the Delaware

       It always strikes me, the rapidity of which spring sunshine sneaks up behind you. Storm clouds give way in surrender before clear skies, though not without a fight. Those showers gifted with the peculiar task of bringing forth May flowers grace many a morning with their presence.

     And as I mused last year at this time, there is no lack of activity to fill these days. As spring ushers in a renewed delight in sunshine, so it also brings the chaos of finishing off another school year (and all the ensuing tests and paperwork!). 

    “Memory is not what the heart desires” (Tolkien). Yet those memories leaving us the nostalgia of wanting more inevitably proceed from a moment well-lived. C.S. Lewis writes in Perelandra of the remembrance of things bringing joy twice-over. This makes sense to me, as I keep seeing Jesus in the Upper Room instructing His disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.” Why bother with communion if it weren’t for our tendency to forget the Cross and the ensuing joy?  We need reminders.

  My family likes to drive. Mostly to far-away coffee shops or beaches. Or someplace obscure no one has really heard of. On these trips a certain member of my family has a tendency to point out, rather voraciously, the passing-by of something we should all take note of.  In the case of crossing the Delaware, we were aroused from our jet-lagged sleep numerous times.  These ‘announcements’ used to scare my dad, because he thought the shrieking meant he was about to hit a small child. Now he knows better, and that we are probably near a coffee shop. Or crossing the Delaware.

    Joshua was told to collect memorial stones. God instructed him to take one for each tribe of Israel to commemorate certain events.  Inquisitive children wondering what the piles of rocks meant would ask, leading to a conversation on all that God had done. Said children would then grow up and have little questioners of their own, so eventually “all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Joshua 4:24).

    We need our own memorial stones. We need the person unafraid to draw our swayed attention to the moment that should not be missed. People forget. Or we simply never pay attention during the process of living, and then complain when the good stuff is gone. Hence those ‘undesirable memories.’ Though what if we look for, revel in, and return those moments to the Giver of all good things?. I can't help but think they must be numbered among those memories that bring joy twice-over. We can relish life for the wonder it holds, for the glory of God revealed in it. So if spring sunshine is sneaking up behind you and you're about to cross the Delaware, don't forget to make a memory that will bring joy--- twice over. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Adventure Boots

    "April 24, '02  

      We just took off. We're heading to Vietnam where we will adopt a little boy named Sinh. We are really             excited. ..."
      Matthew Sinh Moody turned 14 years old this past week. Almost 10 years earlier, my 10-year old self was sitting in a plane staring into the big blue expanse of sky, kicking my feet for adventure. I was writing even then, but apparently I didn't know about contractions or the differences between "where" "wear" and "we're" so I amended all that for the first bit above. It was the beginning of a grace adventure.
     My experience of Vietnam was something that belonged in one of the books stuffed in my backpack, it seemed to me at the time. I traipsed around everywhere with my family, as brown as a walnut, shodded with Teva's and equipped with a hot pink Barbie Polaroid around my neck. According to my journal Matthew was quite taken with that camera the first time I met him. I don't remember that, but I do remember the amount of film he used on pictures of the ceiling fan. I was happy in this exotic corner of the earth, sucking down fresh-squeezed watermelon juice every chance I got and avoiding any meat-like substance after the discovery that my parents had been sneaking me squid. There were water buffalo and monkeys, puppet shows and pagodas. I remember being in awe of the sheer masses of people, watching the crowds from the balcony of a noodle shop. Having a new little brother was fun: he ate french fries with chopsticks and blue playdough and he giggled all the time. We all got to take a 'cruise' during which I have vivid memories of the cockroach that crawled over my feet at night. I chose to sleep on the deck after that.
    Coming home was 'topsy-turvy'- another one of my small self's observations. I think that's the only time of life I've ever used that phrase, but I have always associated it with the circus, so it made sense to use it- coming home felt like a circus. The thought had never crossed my mind that this little boy hadn't lived with a family before and didn't really know how they worked. It didn't cross my mind that he had his own will that maybe wouldn't always assimilate to ours. This was the other side of adventuring. No more treks overseas, just home, living, day in, day out.
    I got a text (from my mom) this summer saying love was a grace adventure. Me- being the clever daughter I am- listened to that piece of wisdom and decided to expound upon it: life is a grace adventure. Adventures appeal to my 20-year old self just as much as my 10-year old self. See, the key element to an adventure is excitement. They are never, ever boring. For clarification, I'm not sure excitement always equates with the sense of euphoria that comes from sucking helium. Take for example all the adventure books you read as a child. Ok, I didn't read many, but I read lots of fairy tales and those are mostly the same thing. Scary things happened in those stories: evil spells, enchanted forests, goblins, etc. It wouldn't be an adventure without the scary stuff, and, in the end, it was always worth it.
   Life, then, is a grace adventure. Adventure because it's full of crazy, exciting, scary, weird stuff. Grace because we've been given the perfect amount for every minute of un-expected adventure. I can't help but close with a Winnie-the Pooh quote, a pithy prod to go and find your own  boots and the accompanying adventure-
       “When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen.” 
 Or, maybe, it could be said another way:
      "Therefore put on the full armor of God...with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:13 & 15, NIV). 




Saturday, February 18, 2012

749 Words

     I've hardly written over the past couple months. The words just weren't there. I hate not having words because I can't stand trying to push past that barrier. So I don't.

    Maybe I wasn't totally truthful: I wrote a ton. I just didn't finish 90% of it. There's a litany of drafts on my blog dashboard and a scattering of them in my journal, but they never seemed quite right. And I can't finish something if I don't know where I'm going.

    Even now, the first sentence you read? I re-typed it 10 different ways in 3 minutes. I'll probably re-type it again before I'm done. If I ever finish.

    School breaks are lovely things for sleeping and not doing much, but horrible things for thinking. With no 8' by 11' To-Do list governing my hours, I had time for lots and lots of thoughts. So many thoughts I couldn't write them all down or trace them to completion. I began to wish I was multiple persons so I could direct each one of me to compose my ideas into neat, 750 word bundles. At the moment there are several optional endings for this post in a puzzle box in my head. It's like those horrible adventure activity books at the dentists where

 If you would like our hero to go to the jungle, turn to page 53.
 If you would like to see what happens at the volcano, turn to page 20.

I hated those because some part of me thought it was necessary to find each and every story, along with the inevitable ending, in those books. And it took forever.

   The same part of me that needed every part of the story wants just the right combination of words for everything. As funny and possibly cliche as it sounds, I would like to be a writer. I would like CS Lewis and Truman Capote to inhabit my pen (or keyboard) and change the world with my words. But I am the writer who doesn't write.

   The ever-relevant A.A. Milne said: “Pay attention to where you are going because without meaning you might get nowhere.” Going nowhere is not a biblical idea. We are commanded to run the race, fight the good fight. Neither of those are accomplished by merely sitting.

    A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. He left his servants with the instructions, "Engage in business until I come." Each was given a certain amount of money proportionate to his capabilities. The nobleman returned, calling each servant to him in turn and inspecting their profit. The last servant came to him, timidly, a small amount of cash crumpled up in a dirty handkerchief.  "Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you."  (Paraphrase of Luke 19: 11-21). 

   I have been given my own 'minas' in a sense, to invest in the kingdom. I can't bury them for fear of doing wrong or of not being good enough. There's another parable in Luke about a dishonest manager. Facing the loss of his job and the inevitable poverty that would follow, he lowered the debts of certain of his boss's clients in the hopes that when he was down and out they would return the favor. Luke says his master "commended" him- not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness.The manager took what he had and used it well. Granted, it was to his own advantage and not his master's. Still, the general principle applies: we aren't given certain gifts/talents to just bury. We are called to be shrewd as serpents. It takes some creative thinking and probably a fair share of risk. 

   What it doesn't take is fear of exploring whatever may be around the next corner. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (1 Tim. 1:7 NKJV). Finishing this post is a bit of commitment for me. It means I actually have to follow through on the call of action that every good persuasive essay ends with. This is my own  750 -word package. A persuasive letter to stop being afraid of things and just do them. An almost-empty 2 day stretch lays ahead, a rare thing in days lost under homework and classes. Time like this is a gift: for thinking and sitting still and figuring out where to go.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Reading, Writing, Coffee, & Surrender

         I'm a fan of online classes. They're more flexible than Gumby and make it possible to take more units. They also make it possible for me to study on my couch in the presence of  central heating, instead of in classrooms where central heating belongs in the same category as the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause. Anyways, those classes require students to type up self-introductions, answering prompts such as: "My hobby is..." My answer usually goes something like this:
     Mostly for fun I read and I write and I drink lots of black coffee. This also happens to be what I do for school- I'm a Communications major- so reading and writing and drinking coffee is probably what you'd find me doing at any given point during the day.
This semester is no exception to my reading/writing/coffee lifestyle. There  hasn't been a ton of time to just blog for fun. Over the past couple weeks, though,  I had an assignment to read through the book of Matthew and put together several informal responses for a discussion forum- I thought I would share one. The idea of surrender has been on my mind quite a bit lately, and these were some of my thoughts. ...

     In reading these chapters, the concept of dying to self kept sticking out to me. Maybe a better way to term it would be surrender, or the idea of poor in spirit. I’m thinking they all mean more or less the same thing, but I haven’t thought through it all yet.
                It starts with Jesus having compassion on the hungry- the 5,000+ hungry people following Him merely for the physical benefits. John had just died and Jesus had retreated to somewhere ‘desolate’. His cousin and dear friend had just been beheaded. Yet all these people still followed Him, and He had compassion.
                And then He walks on water. (This is related, promise!). I love this account because it is very true, yet also makes for a timely metaphor of the veritable storms of life. Jesus is there during my trials- He was there as the disciples cried out in fear in the midst of the thunder and waves-  and He reprimands, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (14:31). Why do I doubt Him? Why did the disciples? For all doubt should be blotted out by the voice that proclaims: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (14:27). I- protector, come to save, the one who controls the storm with a word and holds the molecules of the ocean together- it is He; do not be afraid. Commanding a storm with your voice is definitely a supernatural ability. Jesus was doing more than stopping the storm, He was revealing Himself as Messiah to the disciples. He was doing all this because it was His Father’s will and brought His Father glory. Nothing in His ministry was for His own glory- He had emptied Himself and surrendered His will to the Father.
                Jesus says to deny myself. To serve as He gave Himself to the 5,000 when I would have kept myself to one. The command to take up my cross is really one to surrender, to die to self. Because dying is living, giving of myself.
                Take the example of the Rich Young Ruler. He had done almost everything right. He was even double- checking, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (19:16). But there was one significant factor that kept him from the Heavenly gates: he wouldn’t surrender.
                On the surface, he was just asked to give up his wealth. Of course this is an enormous request and undertaking. Typically I read this as an encounter designed to teach believers about the dangers of wealth. This is true, but there is more to it than that. It’s about the unwillingness to surrender everything- especially the idea that we can do the right combination of “good” and earn eternal life. Jesus even says it, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” (19:17).
                Who  is good. Not a thing or a deed, but a Who. That ‘Who’ is Jesus Christ, who lived out “so the last will be first and the first last” (Matthew 20:16) and “whoever would be great among you must be a servant” (Matthew 20: 26).  Jesus was a servant, absolutely everything He did was under the guidance of His Father. He is the picture of surrender.