January 30, 2011

This Is What It Is

A bout of evangelism always leads me into deep ruminations. Though while in the moment- the Spirit always seems to carry me through, giving me words, giving me answers- after it's over I find myself analyzing and reanalyzing- my motives, my manner. Did they read love in my eyes? Did I care more about the person I was talking too then hearing myself speak? Why was I doing it in the first place?

But last night, as I was doing my quiet time (returning, yet again, to my favorite book- Philippians) I stumbled across a section (I've read so many times) and it silenced my questions.

Paul writes about his imprisonment and how it has served to advance the gospel as he has had a chance to witness to those around him. He starts out, "And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear." (1 Phil. 1:14, ESV) -then, beginning the part that struck me, "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry [...] not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."  (1 Phil. 1: 15a, 17b-18, ESV).

Paul's focus amazes me: The message, not the means. God, not man. Paul didn't care if people gave the gospel out of envy! out of rivalry! out of emotions so far from love! His focus was on the proclamation of the Gospel- Christ crucified. He knew what I find so great a comfort in- that we are but tools in our great God's hands- and it is He that draws and when His word goes forth, "it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11, ESV)

To harden? To draw? To be a stumbling block to the Jew? An offense- and foolishness- to the Gentile?  Or to transform a life- to make it new? Ours is but to be faithful.

And indeed, it is faithfulness which seems to be Paul's main concern. For what is one of the biggest problems when it comes to the church and evangelism? NOT DOING IT!!!

Paul prays- for his own sake- "it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death." (Phil. 1: 20)

Ah, then this is what it is. How many times have I not let the truth which sprung to mind come out my mouth because I was afraid of what people would say? What they would think? How many times have I turned the other way- shut up, piped down, squirmed and remained silent- because I cared more about maintaining everyone's good opinion of myself, because I wanted the A in the class (more than salvation for my classmates and teacher)- because I have seen the looks of scorn and contempt- because I have heard the derisive laugh sweep the room- because I am afraid to loose people's respect and their smiles and instead gain the whisper, and the smirk- "There goes the girl who believes God!"

Yet what can I not give for Him who died for me and purchased me with his blood? If I would give my life- can I not also give my day, and my time, and my reputation?

Then oh, God- let me be not ashamed.

January 27, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [20]

 Dad, in from shoveling

chasing Mommy

with his icy embrace-

peals of laughter

interrupting my work


January 25, 2011

Semester in Review

I. Love. My school. Whooooooaaaaaah. Where did that come from?

I know. I know. It kinda came on suddenly. It's a long story. But last week when my feet touched the campus pavement I realized I was glad to be back... and by the end of the day Friday the words were dancing in my mind and playing on my lips... I?? LOVE??? my school?!!!!

Maybe I'll have changed my mind by the end of the week. But for now I'll explain.

I suppose there are lots of reasons. As one friend said, "Wow. you've gotten older. You're like an old woman!" He was referring to my previous post, (about growing in knowledge and wisdom), and certainly this semester has made me older, in that way. One doesn't fall in love with hallways and teachers and people because you're been around on the earth four months longer.

My friend David told me half-way through the semester that, though it had taken a while, he thought he'd miss our college. He hadn't always felt that way (and I thought I never would) but it seems that having a personal connection with the place was what made the defining difference.

And I have made friends. Tables, chairs, hallways- all now hold fond memories. 

Did I ever tell you my campus is beautiful? It is. It sits atop a ridge- you can see out for miles- over the clouds, rising mountains, sun-rise, sun-set.

But there's more, too. And that is that I love making a difference. I doubt I could have had such an impact at a Christian school... I love witnessing- sharing the truth and life of the Gospel with people who have never heard- or have only heard twisted mutations which left them confused, angry, and contemptuous. I love brightening people's days with a smile (I am amazed by how many faces I have come to know through countless minute interactions). I love making a difference in the classroom- being a lone voice amongst varying shades of godlessness. (Diversity for the win!)

I see now why God didn't let me go where I had wanted to go. And why he has me where he does. I am amazed by how he has used me in other's lives- and how he is using my college and the people I have met to mold me and grow me and bless me and make me more like Him.

So yeah. I love my school. And I'm glad to be back. Semester, here I come.

January 22, 2011

Walking Down Time

Walking down time

Dancing to the rhythm

This familiar beat

Weaves a path beneath my feet

So familiar

This path I trod-

Reaching out from me

Making our way to the skyline

Running, free, to meet tomorrow

Stop me if you like,

Catch me if you can

January 20, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [19]

I could dance in glee

(this gift I've received)

a forest of diamonds for me!

a'strung like crystals on ready boughs

dazzling in this morning light

January 18, 2011

The Old and Forgotten

For some time our church has had a Sunday-afternoon service at a local nursing home. Since our church is small (and hence short on pianists) I was asked to be part of the rotation. So for two years now I've been going once a month to the nursing home- I play a few hymns and somebody (for the last year or so, my dad) preaches.

When I began two years ago we met in a small, cramped room (with stacked tables and dingy curtains) and  only about 17 residents showed up. I was anxious to get used to the whole thing- I would go from person to person afterward and greet each one. I would take their hand- hug them- kiss them, and make small-talk to often unresponsive bodies. Sometimes they would stammer a thank you- sometimes only their eyes would look at me- lighting up with happiness- or else moist and infinitely sad. "Thank you." one woman once told me. "It stays with you all week." 

It was heart-rending to see neglect. To see hallways and dormitories and room after room with, primarily, mothers (there is about a 15-1 female/male ratio) starving for human contact- longing to be touched, to hear someone say their name (and not to tell them to be quiet, or to ask if they want to be fed... but just for the delight of saying it).

Yet somehow over the course of months my greeting deteriorated. There were good reasons... and not so good ones. For one thing our group got bigger- it became harder to get to everyone. Then there was habit- often we have had to leave right away to go to an event and there wasn't time. Bingo now meets in the room where we worship- the staff (and residents) are often waiting for us to get out so they can begin. I was sick several times in a row (and then sometimes they were sick) and I couldn't risk passing around infection.

But something happened in me as well, a musing and a selfish reluctance. It is difficult to know what to say to the elderly, it is wrenching to only say "hello" to a person when you know what they need is love and someone to sit with them and be with them- so that they are never alone again. 

Some of them are crazy. Most all of them smell bad and can't communicate. There are some particularly repulsive ones- and a few creepy men. And I have a peculiar distaste for saying hello to half of a room and leaving the other half without hellos (be it that I fear they will feel bad, or because it confronts me with my own discrimination (as I avoid the more difficult cases), or simply that I have a conceited notion of accomplishing an entire task or not doing it at all.)

Anyway, this last week I was convicted about the whole matter. How could any reason cause me to withhold what little comfort I am able to give- even if it can not be exhaustive? Shall I not love one soul because I am incapable of loving thirty? And what would I do if I were in their position? I don't mean if I were one of the temporary residents, or one with regularly visiting family. I mean what if I were one of the ones that is alone? What would I not do for a moment of love?

I was reminded of musings along the lines of what I thought of when I read The Metamorphasis last year.

What if I were something insurmountably repulsive? (Would you still love me, sister, if I were a beetle?)

Still, the answer I came up with was an assured yes. I do not love my family for their faces, and I don't think they love me for mine. Even you who read my blog can attest that you don't enjoy reading these words because my smile goes along with them.

But what if my soul was repulsive as well?

What if I had not had parents who had loved and corrected me? What if God hadn't reached out and made me a new creature in Christ? What if years bitterness and hate had festered inside of me till my mind and heart and soul were as twisted and mangled as my body?

Would you kiss my hideous face?

Oh, that God would give me grace to walk through those doors and for just thirty short minutes- forget myself...

To give without asking. To touch without fear. To love without thanks.

To forget... for the sake of the forgotten.

January 16, 2011

Hard Water Does Go Down Good

When I was little I did not like drinking water. My sister did not like drinking water. My mother did not like drinking water. Nobody liked drinking water.

Odd that a fluid so vital to the functioning of the human body should be so distasteful to us? What we didn't know was that our distaste was due to the fact we were drinking adulterated, chlorinated, California city water. When we moved to New York we discovered, well, something amazing in life that we'd long been missing out on: water. (It. like. actually tastes good.  And it hits the spot- endlessly refreshing.)

New York has been blessed with with some of the most amazing water in the world due to the rich mineral deposits in our soil. Even NYC has great water because they pipe it down from the reservoirs around where I  live. In fact, the peculiar quality associated with NY pizza has been attributed to our water. When two brothers moved down to North Raleigh, NC, they opened a pizzeria named Fuhgeddaboudit [Forget-about-it]- sporting genuine NYC pizza (which my last semester's marketing teacher, an x-military Italian gentleman, pronounced completely legit). Their secret? They ship down NYC water to use in their dough.

In our current home we have some of the tastiest well-water I have had anywhere (even guests remark on it). When we moved in- suddenly our whole family fell in love with this simple, so often abused, liquid.

Then, about five years ago, our dishwasher stopped cleaning our dishes. It was a combination of filter and human-loader problems, but the short of it was we bought a new dishwasher.

Then sometime this year it got even worse. Our dishes- particularly our glasses- were coming out with this white film on them- sometimes an almost granulated white substance. At first we thought it was soap. But no.  Our dishwasher was fine- the man who came out to "fix" it informed us that we have (quite) hard water. Hence its goodness, but it also meant we were doomed to calcium-build up.

Our once clear glasses came to look eternally unwashed- or like they had been sitting out  in the sun after holding milk. It was gross. I could never bring myself to return to an even freshly acquired glass because I couldn't get over the fact that it looked dirty. Bringing out our dishes for guests was always an embarrassing hassle- entailing either extra cleaning or an awkward explanation about our calcium problem (no, this glass isn't dirty- it's calcified).

We discovered one remedy: vinegar. By washing our dishes in vinegar we could remove the calcium build up- but this could only be done on occasion since vinegar isn't good for a septic system. The only other option was a water-softener. But water-softeners are also bad for one's septic because they dump out iodine, and, to boot, they remove all the wonderful elements from the water (which is why we actually drink it in the first place!).

Our glasses were doomed.

Then tonight happened. We were having dinner with some friends nearby when suddenly my Dad remarked something to the effect of, "Wow, it's been such a long time since I've drunk out of such a clear glass."

"Oh, we used to have such a problem with calcium build up."

You can imagine the eruption that ensued. "WHAT DO YOU DO?!"

"Phosphates." she said. "We use phosphates. They used to have phosphates in the dish detergent and then  a couple months ago they made the companies take it all out." (EPA laws or something. Because the government loves us.)

She bounded over to a cabinet and returned with a box of Finish. "They don't sell it in the stores." she tells us. "I get it on Amazon. But it's just so worth it- our glasses were grossing me out before."

We agreed with vehemence- and were given a box of phosphates as a take-home present.

So that was our problem. The government made the companies take out all the precious, cleaning, water-drinking-inspiring phosphates from our dish detergent which instigated months of discomfort [not to mention made us waste tons of water (and energy!) by our constant rewashing of dishes]. But now we have our phosphates. And I, particularly, am looking forward to a nice good ol' glass of hard water in a sparkling clean glass.

January 13, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [18]


out of desperation,

words that don't make sense.


starting again...

January 11, 2011

What I Read Over Break


Jayber Crow came to me long recommended and long unread due to the various libraries in my area not only not having it, but not knowing it existed. However in December, due to the generosity of one of the recommending friends, I at last got my hands on it. Admittedly, it did not become a favorite. However, it had some truly shining moments. I feel a more whole person for having read it, not just because I now have context and experience to rely on when my friends reference this, apparently, widely read author, but also for having gotten to know Jayber Crow, the character who's life the book details- a small-town bachelor barber who loves without self... and comes to be loved for himself. [Book: RECOMMENDED for those who enjoy leisurely reads]

Talk about a sickening book! I am glad I already knew what I was in for when I began it otherwise I might have nose-dived into a week-long depression. The author, Dr. George Grant, is well-known amongst the reformed, Presbyterian, and classical history circles. I have watched many of his history lectures- as he teaches his class in his button-down shirt and bow-tie about God's sovereignty in the course of history. Like all truly good teachers- he has a genius of his own and  his enthusiasm is contagious and his rapture inspiring. I can still hear his voice ringing, "Ideas have consequences- even unto a thousand generations!" This book, though never using those words, certainly reiterated his underlining philosophies. Killer Angel is a biography of sorts on the founder of  Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. While the organization has whitewashed its beginnings and made a heroin of its founder,  this short read tells the story of this amazingly influential women who, regardless of your opinion on her life and work, openly espoused and promoted the eugenic ideology of Adolph Hitler.  [Book: RECOMMENDED, for those not fainthearted]


I admit it, Dostoevsky disappointed me. He's one of my favorite authors and I confess I have very, very high expectations of him. This book did not fulfill them. While to my knowledge I understood everything the book had to offer, it is universally acknowledged as unique among Dostoevsky's work in that it has no metaphysical musings whatsoever. It seems I missed them. The book had no endearing characters, nobody seemed to learn anything, the plot, while engrossing, due to its inconclusiveness was not altogether edifying, and, consequently, I closed the book with a big question mark hovering in the air and a general feeling of having wasted my time.  I am disposed to believe, due to my loyalty to its author, that its one redeeming merit was most likely lost on me. Half of the fun of reading a Dostovsky  novel is drinking in the language and sentence structure of a master. I am thus forced to conclude that much must have been lost in my translation (mine was Andrew R. MacAndrew). Better luck next time. [Book: NOT RECOMMENDED]


This was quite the page turner! It came recommended to me in a rather odd way. I have long been a fan of the book The Cross And The Switchblade by David Wilkerson, a true story about his ministry amongst the violent New York street gangs of the early sixties. However, while I always enjoy the beginning and middle of The Cross And The Switchblade, by the end it turns into a bit of dissertation on the medic qualities of speaking in tongues. Though I'd had discussions about the doctrine of tongues with my pastor in the past, one day I decided to ask him about what he thought about it in the context of The Cross And The Switchblade. His reply was, "Read Run Baby, Run." So over break I bought and read it. I confess I was no clearer on the whole issue by the end of the book, but it was a good read in its own right. For those already familiar with The Cross And The Switchblade, Run Baby, Run is an autobiography by Nicky Cruz, a hate-filled, blood-thirsty young man (president of the gang the Mau Maus), who's conversion David Wilkerson anecdotes in his own book. The resulting story, Run Baby, Run as told in Cruz's own words is gripping, often gory, and  resoundingly God-glorifying. [Book: RECOMMENDED for the mature reader who has already read The Cross And The Switch Blade.]


I almost don't want to say anything about this book. I'd been wanting to read it for a quite some time and was finally given a copy in December from the literature available at the evangelism table I was helping a friend at school with (yes! God blessed me with a friend!). This book is amazing. My general rule of thumb when it comes to books is that they should be read fast, very fast, -lest they be so boring you don't finish them. Once you know you like the book you can read it again- leisurely- and drink in every sentence. Still, I  tend to only read even my favorites twice. Thus when I tell you that I hope to read this book again- and again- and then probably again- it is one of the highest praises I can give. In this short devotional John Piper explores what it means to live a life worth living. I confess, while never having had aspirations to waste my life,  and while the opposite certainly has occurred to me- I have yet to be all-consumed by a desire to spend it well. Piper's exhortation to live a life devoted to glorifying God is truly stirring- and I closed the book with tears in my eyes and newly awakened longings. Just read it. Don't Waste Your Life can do little less than change your life. [Book: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED]

January 6, 2011

Gogyohka-Thursday [17]

We have orphanages

where once the streets were dirty,

but our parents

sit alone in a nursing home.

What shall become of us?

January 5, 2011

He Sure Does Look After Me

I am often amazed by how God takes care of me... You may be tempted, due to my long silence on the subject, to think my car has been behaving itself, or that we have come to a mutual agreement, or, in other words, that everything has been smooth sailing ever since that last day in which I ran out of gas. But you would be mistaken. I simply stopped telling you about my saga because it was getting a bit embarrassing- and my parents feared you all would worry about me. 

So tonight I set out to meet a friend, Katherine, at Starbucks to spend a few hours in heart-to-heart conversation. I was late getting out (due to various safety instructions issued at my announcing my pending departure) but when I hopped in the car and turned the key it didn’t start. I ran back inside and grabbed my dad (who was on the phone), who then jump-started the car while still on his conference call. He threw the jumper-cables in the back-seat- just in case. (I have a smart daddy.)

My friend and I had our three-hour chat, and, true to my word, I called my parents to tell them I was leaving and made sure my friend stayed near as I turned on the car. Or rather- as the car didn’t turn on. Shamefaced and giggling, we shuffled back into Starbucks to ask for help, I had the jumper-cables, but neither of us had the know-how. (Where are our men when we need them?!) One of the young women (a large girl with blond hair in a pony-tail) knew how and followed us out to our cars (we were, thankfully, parked next to one another). I knew how to pop the trunk (I had to do Katherine’s for her) but neither of us could get the hoods open. I watched with a tinge of envy as the Starbucks lady stuck her hand fearlessly into the hood crack, feeling around amidst the oily pipes (to my imagination- hot, sticky, and maybe strewn with spiders). She put the plugs on and we waited.

“Do you mind if I smoke a cigarette?” our lady asked.

We didn’t mind.

I started the car, it rumbled, but didn’t start. We waited some more- trying to hold off calling Triple A. We tried again. It didn’t make a sound. Then out from the darkness came an older man with a flashlight peering into the hoods of our cars. He was a classic sixty-year old with his sports jacket, wrinkles, gray hair, and short subject-noun sentences about car-engines with the hint of a drawl. (At last! A man!)

Our lady, glad to be relieved, went back inside.

The man made sure everything was on right (telling us just so as he checked), we waited the appropriate amount of time, revved the engines, and I turned on the car. It started. We shut the hoods, threw in the cables, said our thank-yous, but as one last check I turned the car lights on and the engine died. And didn’t restart.

And we started all over.

“You see this—” he says, and proceeds to tell me how the dirt on the battery box terminals interfered with it charging. “You need to tell your mechanic to clean those.”

He got some sort of tool out and cleaned one of the terminals. That helped a bit, but things got significantly better when he then moved the cables down farther past the dirty terminals and gave Katherine’s car a good revving. The car started. To further make sure he got out his electric tool and tested the current on the battery- telling us just where the numbers had to be (something like between 12 or 13-something and 14.2) to mean that the battery was adequately charged. I felt like I was in Physics class. Or Auto-shop.

The lights went on, everything was tip-top. He reminded me again to tell our mechanic. We thanked him and thanked him (and blessed him, as well). And Katherine got a hug for being such an amazing friend.

The odd thing was- the man drove away as soon as we were done. He hadn’t been in Starbucks. He must have just seen us with our car hoods open as he drove by and stopped to help us. He was all kindness - a simple, strait-talking, old-school sort of man- not afraid to get his hands dirty- not looking for thanks, but serving where he was needed.  A gentleman. I am pleased we still have those- and glad that God's still making them- and I’m thankful He sent one our way.