Friday, September 26, 2008

on eyes opening and instilling curiousity

Sometimes my life and my brain turn me to face strange directions.

I will think nothing of a topic for days at a time, then all at once it seems like all of my experiences, conversations, wonderings, and even topics in my classes seem to point me towards something. Indefinite as it may be, it’s just the concept in general that lingers there, somewhere in the back of my mind.

So, my friends, here is the concept of the moment: differences. Why are we created different, with diverse political opinions and varying aspirations and talents? What good does it serve? There is the cliché of the betterment of the general world, that we are all special in our own ways, that we all have the ability to make a difference. But beyond those stereotypical responses, what is left?

My sister, Brittany, and I chatted briefly last night about how differing we are; about how it is even possible that out of all the combinations of siblings we could have acquired by marriage, it was us. Polar opposites, inside and out. My petite and athletically-gifted sister has straight, blonde hair while I am taller with unruly brown hair and curls that can’t ever seem to stay put. But beyond the superficial and less-important, our differences lie in so many other areas.

Despite the many things we talked about, the one thing that resonated with me was how we agreed that our difference inspire one another. That when she is passionate about something, it make me passionate about it as well, or at least instills in me the curiosity and desire to find out why it is so important or applicable to her, and vice-versa.

I think that is beautiful.

Do we, as a general rule, function that way with the rest of the world? Seeking to understand passion that is not our own? Trying to examine the world through new eyes? By enlarge, I think that we don’t.

Maybe that’s the reason we are meant to be different and unique, swimming in the knowledge of our own individuality. To inspire. To put forth ideas and beliefs that are new and true and relevant. Open-mindedness does not mean changing your views or believing that right and wrong is different for everyone, just as it doesn’t mean conforming or subscribing to organized religion in order to see where they are coming from… it just means that your ears are open. That your heart is open to love, regardless of differences in culture, personality, or preferences. That you seek to be inspired instead of deterred by differences.

Sometimes I think our eyes have been closed our whole lives, and we are going about this thing all wrong.

I am going to try opening my eyes differently tomorrow.

(Or at least in five hours when I wake up to go to class...)

on cups of tea and old-fashioned letters

Ah, relationships.

For whatever reason, I have been thinking of them today. My history, my memories, my photographs, the tattered, old-fashioned letters I keep stowed away. I have so many great things in my life, my friends and past-relationships being most of them. I have slips of paper with ‘I love you’ scrawled across them, from friends and loves that have come and passed.

I am coming to realize a few things about me lately. There are a lot of them. One of which is that I am happiest when I am in the company of someone else, and I tend to cling to relationships to define me. Another is that I am nostalgic to a fault.

My roommate and I sat out on our patio overlooking Moscow last night, the cool autumn wind in our faces. We curled our fingers around warm cups of tea, and enjoyed the rare treat of a cigarette. Bundled in blankets with my head on her shoulder, we admitted secrets to one another; secret worries about the other, musings about our lives and where we are going, and the always-necessary recounting of our separate experiences that day.

“You just always seem to be looking for what’s going to happen next; where you will live or your next relationship, or you are the polar opposite and dwell on what’s been and the places you have lived and want to return to. But you can never go back, really, and you need to be a whole person… I don’t think you have ever felt the need to be your own person outside of a relationship before. But I think you would like it,” she told me, “and I think you need to give it a try. Really give it a try.”

I felt like that’s what this past year has been spent trying to reach.

Parts of me know those things are true, for the most part. Relationships to me, while various other people see them as hard work or exhausting, are a challenge that I enjoy. It is a chance to be more than yourself, and to focus on letting that person know you care, and that you are invested in their life and their happiness. It gives you the chance to be thoughtful, to be considerate, and to realize things about yourself that you may not have found on your own.

But where is that balance?

Between being happiest in the company of others while learning to make your own happiness of the utmost importance? Between loving being with someone and feeling like you need them? Between hoping for the past and future while living in the present?

I would like to say that I know, but the answers are still hazy in my mind.

Going through the box of letters and memories today gave me gratitude for all the amazing men I have been able to date in my life, and all the different ways I have been blessed by them and inspired and driven by them. They each have their own place in my history, and a few ended painfully while others are still my closest friends. Granted, there are a few I with I hadn’t wasted so much time and emotion on. Granted, the endings weren’t always beautiful. It is definitely a funny thing, this life.

The truth is, I have loved a lot in my life, and been loved by many. In the grand scheme of things, that in itself makes me blessed.

In this process of becoming myself, this unending walk of mine, I wonder if I will get to a place where I can be content without needing to have the knowledge that someone is content with me and thinks I am lovely. Who I am should assure my soul that I am safe. That I am beautiful. That I am cared for and appreciated regardless of circumstance or status.

But on nights like tonight, I just want someone to sing me a love song. I hope that’s okay.

Friday, September 19, 2008

on developing nations and the morning breaking

It is four a.m., and the morning is breaking but sleep is far from my mind.

I spent my late-night moments composing a speech to give to my United Nations class just a few short hours from now, and there is something stirred so passionately inside me that keeps me awake and wondering. Tonight, more than ever, I am thankful that I am pursuing a career and an educational journey with the purpose of working towards betterment in the world instead of just my own personal gain and interest, my own eventual wealth and accumulation; how empty that would feel and how fruitless it would be, in my own heart at the very least.

In a few of my classes we are studying developing nations and smaller-scale communities that most people have never heard of that live in the outreaches of the civilized world. I have been reading about how they function and breathe, how they form relationships and how they make do with what little they have, and it is so interesting to think of how little we know of what they live daily.

The funny thing is, when we hear about people like the Australian Aboriginees, or the San people in the Kalihari Desert, we think of them as uncivilized and in need of our assistence to help 'catch them up' to the present day, so to speak. We think of them as our pet-project that needs a helping hand to become just like us economically, socially, spiritually and educationally.

What often goes unrealized is how beautiful simplicity is. In my own mind, at least, I have always assumed that hunting and gathering groups lived a rough life and must spend days on end just scavenging for food, living in unrest and in relentless pursuit of life's necessities. What is really never presented to us is that they really only spent three to five hours a day collecting food in an intricately-organized plan to minimize effort. They live this way so that the rest of their afternoons and evenings may be spent focusing on what is important: relationships and conversation, story-telling and feasting together on the things they are thankful for. They have more complex kinship systems than we do, with more elaborate ways of categorizing relatives and more ways to interact in an egalitarian society where no individual is elevated above the rest of the group (though I'm sure there were exceptions).

How amazing it would be if we still all felt equal. If instead of working for yourself and your own friends or family, you give what you have to the group and it is shared equally. So if one person is unsuccessful, it goes unnoticed because of the achievement of someone else. I am well aware that in our society today, that would never work, I am not implying that at all (save the speech). Most people would have an issue with that today because they would have no chance to stand out or shine, to 'show what they've got,' so to speak, and would get consumed in not getting noticed and not getting enough attention for their achievement (which some would argue is essential to American culture, and I would agree, though I think it is self-motivated and self-seeking). The more I'm learning, the more I realize that the richer countries of the world always seem to think they've got it right, and become stuck in ego centrism, evaluating other cultures based only upon the perspective of where you come from, drawing from the data bank of your own experience instead of reaching out for what could be newer or richer.

My speech I finished tonight is about developing countries, and what role we as independent and developed nations should play in the course of their future. The first thing that usually comes to mind, for me at least, is sending over heaps of money that will hopefully reach the right people and work towards the right things when it gets there. But how do you find that balance? There has to intensive framework in place to ensure that the small percentage of rich people in those poor countries don't receive some more pocket change. There is also the issue of corrupt governments, and people trying to get ahead on what should have been someone else's gain.

How crazy and complicated and complex is our world?

If there is one thing I am learning in my International Studies major, it is that all cultures evolve at a different pace, and that is a beautiful thing. Even recently I looked down at certain cultures for being not as 'caught-up' with the present day as we are. For not embracing our clothes or culture or monetary system. We think of them as unrefined or savage, as naive and ignorant of the world growing and changing around them. I am learning to disagree with what I have always been taught. I am learning that most people we would call 'indigenous' loathe that term and consider it offensive. They scoff at how we fumble trying to classify them.

I don't want to try to classify cultures that are misunderstood or misrepresented anymore. I just want to reach out, to understand, and to get some sense of how they live and why. I want to stretch myself and experience, to open my mind and heart to how I can help them be who they are, originally, apart from who we would desire them to be.

It is so great to be learning again. I just can't wait til I get in my Issue Emphasis classes about Global Resources and Development. Way excited to know how I can get more involved in the right ways.

I will keep you posted. = )

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

on fancy words and elaborate things

Sometimes want to speak to you in fancy words and of elaborate things because that’s what I think is beautiful. But I know you want my honesty and the openness of my heart.

I miss you.

I haven’t been talking to you as much lately, partly because I am so preoccupied with all of the newness of my life and all of these changes that are crashing in around me. I get busy. I push you aside. I settle in where it’s comfortable and where the pangs of conviction can’t quite reach my restless soul. I reach for what is lesser and temporary.

I know you are well aware by now, but I am selfish. I have my own agenda, and all of these things in my life that I want to get done my way, and in my time, and by my own feeble hands. I have my own demons that I refuse to let go of, my filthy habits and my half-hearted relationships I cling to so desperately. I just won’t let go. I enjoy addiction to lesser things and tattered worldly glory because it’s easy. It’s comfortable. Mediocrity can be soothing at times.

Despite what I like to tell myself, I am really not all that great of a person; my plans for my life are self-seeking and egocentric. You know this. I want to travel so I can say I have been places. I want to learn languages so I can appear smarter or more accomplished than other people, even though I really do enjoy the learning aspect as well. I stretch the truth. I bend the rules. But how long can I bend and not break?

I do love you. I really do.

Sometimes I talk at you when I am alone, when I am under a sky of stars that you created. I tell you of my day, about lessons learned and things I am wrestling. But more often than not, my voice echoes back at me, and I wonder if you have heard; if you have been hearing me at all. My whispers are met by the crickets and the faint sounds of cars someplace distant. I exhale slowly in the near-silence and wait for you to answer me.

Someplace inside though, I know you hear. I know you listen. If there is a listening deficiency, I am more than certain it is on my end. But I am not hearing you tonight.

So with your ever-constant heart, I hope you hear that I love you still. That I still long for you. That despite the inconsistency of my actions at times – most times – I still know that your way is the best way, and that your love is the greatest and most beautiful.

Someday I will learn to overcome my humanity and learn to let go. But until then, I know you will be waiting. Thank you for always waiting for me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

on conversations with popo and hospital rooms

I am up in Spokane tonight, spending time with my grandpa while he waits to undergo surgery tomorrow. These are words and stories that poured forth in moments that often go unwritten. This is Popo's story... the words I clarified for him are in brackets.

I heard an Illustration that was used once at a conference in Colorado Springs, someone asked one of the pastors that never flew anyplace, ‘Why don’t you fly, you always use the train’ ‘Well the Lord never said he would protect me on a plane’ ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ ‘He said ‘low I am with you always.’

This next [illustration] was told as a real story but I’m not sure if it is or not… [it was] about a beautiful large church, kind of upper-class, so to speak, and it was right across the street from the University. [One Sunday] this kid came into the church wearing his worn-out sandals, and he walked in, the church was full and he couldn’t find a seat. He had jeans and a big beard, and he walked all the way down to the front and he folded his legs and sat on the floor right in front of the front pews. The whole time he walked, people that thought they were all ritzy were astounded, and then all at once in the quietness they heard an older gentlemen get up, a man with a cane, and he walked all the way to the front, and as difficult as it was to sit down, he sat down next to the young man, and put his hand on his shoulder. The pastor couldn’t preach his sermon or anything, it blew the church apart when they realized ‘we think we are so hot, and here is this guy who goes and sits down [on the floor].’

And that’s the way it should be… if Jesus was walking down the aisle people would say ‘he doesn’t belong in our church.’ It was told to me as a true story but I don’t know if it is or not.

So I talked to [my old friend] Rich on the phone… the talk came around to age eventually… he said ‘Floyd I’m going to be sixty soon’ so we got to talking about this and that, and anyhow, long story short, I felt led to preach a sermon last Sunday on something I have never preached on because it didn’t appeal to me and that is on the subject of age and getting older. I can’t remember exactly, I think it's Psalm 37, it says something like, 'I was young once, but now I am old, and I have never seen the righteous go hungry'...

I preached [a sermon called] ‘come and grow old along with me’ and so I brought out some of the aspects of what it meant to be aged, what transpired [in our lives], what can benefit people... Some people in their eighties that I know minister more [to the community] than their pastor.. they fold bulletins for three or four thousand people downtown… some have a food pantry, some friends of mine, Lee and Glenda Gwin and I think she is eighty-something and he might be right at ninety, and they go down and work in the food pantry [downtown] and feed people that need food, and some markets give them vegetables and stuff like that… [it goes to show that] even in your older years you can still be doing something for the Lord.

People [at church on Sunday] said it was interesting that I took a subject that maybe would be unappealing because none of us really like to get old because there are various things that can happen to you, but there are still a lot of good you can do for the cause of Christ… I had about five points but I can’t remember all of them… I talked about [the] advantages of being old, and about your family. You have a tighter knit family sometimes and you have long relationships that have gone for a long time, years and years, and one of the things about your children is that you wake up one day and realize that your children are your friends… when they’re growing up you’re not sure and you’re not always looked well upon by your children… but when you get older, your kids are your friends not just your kids.

Someone asked me a week or two ago if I was walking and I said ‘yeah I only walked two blocks last night, got tired in front of the funeral home and sat down out front waiting for them to open up.’

All in all, Dayna, I just like people. And I think when you like people, they like you too. I think it’s like the Bible says, ‘to have a friend you have to be a friend,’ or something along those lines… it’s just always been my 'thing'… for lack of a better term. I love people. And because of that, people by enlarge love me too. I don’t have many enemies.

When they told me I had to have this pacemaker opened up again and have this other surgery a few weeks ago because they thought something was flipping out in my heart... There was a nurse I hadn’t seen before, and when I told her my age she said ‘you couldn’t be that old!’… and that makes me like them whether they like me or not! We got to talking and I told her I was a pastor, and she said ‘I just can’t believe that, and that you are 83’ so when I got ready to leave Judi and I were walking down the hallway, and the nurse was getting ready to leave down the hall in front of us. She turned around and blew me a kiss… it almost made me tear up, it was so sweet. A neat little nurse. I just really love people.

more to follow.