Friday, December 26, 2008

Philosophy Lying on the Ice: or a Post of No Consequence

Dusk deepens into night. Birds twitter softly in the quietly swaying trees which crack and shiver as the chill air grows icy. Along the wild horizon pale purple becomes blue blending to deep navy. A solitary planet lights the sky. In the deepening dark backdrop a few pin-points of light peep into visibility as though shy of intruding themselves on the inhabitants of the world; perhaps fearful of breaking their slumber, or maybe wary of the sun's rays, willing only to venture abroad when his head is hidden. In a few moments, the constellations will grow distinguishable. Three hazy specks: Orion uncloaks himself. An emerging blur of distant lights: Pleiades enters in full sisterhood. Though hidden by dense pines, the Dippers ladle up the night from within the strong arms of the Bears, Great and Small. At last, the darkness reaches a full contrast so that the arm of the Milky Way is revealed: A massive starry swath draped in folds across the immense expanse of infinity.

As if gaining confidence, each star shines more brightly in the gathered night and illumines the two mortal figures lying motionless upon the snow beneath them.They lie flat upon their backs, arms beneath and cradling their heads, gazing at the lights in the darkness and at the forlorn trees stripped of their leaves now covered and softened by the gloaming, heedless of the plummeting temperature or the melting snow seeping through their coats. Now they remain in silence, now in speech, muted and hushed as suggests the setting. An owl hoots quite near and they startle but snuggle down into the icy bed again, unwilling to break the moment.

Philosophers, they solve the great questions of the world in the light of the stars with solutions all their own. After a silence, one breaks forth, pondering;
"Why do we fear? Why?"
The other turns the matter over for a moment, considering it's angles and complexities. The prompt reply;
"Because the electric fence would hurt really bad."

It is too much to take in. Laughter rudely interrupts the quietude and ceases again. But even a bed of ice becomes burdensome after a while, no matter how pleasantly situated, and the philosophers drew themselves off and left the heavenly lights to blaze undisturbed.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Actually, the title has nothing to do with the post. Well, almost nothing. :D

I hesitate to blog anything which relates to plans because if I do, the plans will most definitely change! Have you ever played Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Remember how they tied the blindfold around your eyes, then spun you around until you were disoriented, then pointed you in a direction completely different from your target? You swayed from side to side, trying to catch your balance. Arms out in front of you, you took one small tentative step forward, hoping to feel a bit of wall in front of you. Behind you, someone giggled. Someone cheered, "keep going! You're almost there!" Encouraged, you moved forward, reaching eagerly. Then you heard another whisper. "She's going in the wrong direction. She's going to walk into the other wall." Instantly, you halt, uncertain where to go next. From all around you advice inundates your ears:
"Turn left!"
"Straight forward - you've almost got it!"
"They're lying - turn around."
"No, no. Let her figure it out by herself!"
"Be quiet. We're helping her."
"No, you're not!"

You are unsure of everything but one fact: you are making a humongous fool of yourself and everybody is watching you do it.

Remember wearing the same blindfold a few minutes later as you swung a club in frustration at the pinata just beyond your reach. You knew it was there - within feet of your stick - but somehow you couldn't make contact with the silly wad of papermache! Newspaper and goo! The desire to smack that, that thing, surged through you as the frustration mounted. You searched the unvisible air for the pinata. Finally, the tip of bat encountered something hard and hollow. Winding up for your hardest stroke, your arms sliced through the air with all the force you could muster. But something was wrong. Where did it go? No! It was there, it was! Next instant you hear and feel a thud, and your dad yelps. Sorry. You turn and make another go at it, longing to the the crack of hardened newspaper splitting asunder, doubting whether you ever will. If only you could see!

Both of these scenarios have one very beneficial aspect in common: they're both games, playthings, diversions. You can end them whenever you want. How each turns out may affect a day, a week, perhaps even a month if your dad teases you about the bruise, but ultimately do not have a significant impact on the course of your life. There are more important things to living, and there will be more games.

I feel as though I am blindfolded with bat or tail between my fingers ... only to find that this is not a game.
I've been blindfolded and spun. Streams of instructions overwhelm my ears. I've pinned the donkey's tail to the ears instead of to the rump and now it's got to stick there. I've got a couple more tails, but they're a lot smaller. Someone gave me a club to swing, but I'm not sure where that blob of papermache got to. Canada? Michigan? I'm itching to smack it, but I've got to find it first.

And it's not a game. My future swings with the bat and sticks with the tail. Ouch!

I am, of course, speaking of college(s). What I look at is cost-effective nutrient-density. Most institutions charge a pretty sixpence. And it appears that pence of any amount are becoming more and more difficult to come by.

One thing for certain: I'm not going back to Hope. Dad's authority there. And there's no point: the Greek is gone, Nursing I can take here for less.

We've got some interesting developments on the horizon. Basically, two main tracks. I can go to Hillsdale for four years and come out at the end in debt with a degree in something really interesting that basically only equips me for grad school. Or I can go back to community college for two years to finish an RN and add another year at a co-operating school to achieve a BSN. Just two years to a well-paying job that is pretty secure even in economic decline. Three years to a bachelor's which would allow me to go to enter CTSFW's Deaconess Program, if God so wills.
I'm torn. Enter $. Quality four-year liberal arts colleges are expensive: that's just the way it is. Community colleges are much less. Hmmmm.
If Hillsdale now, I'll be out of sequence for freshman classes. If back to community college, I can't enter the Nursing program till fall. Either way, it can't hurt to postpone the final decision which will determine the course of the next three years till summer. (Or can it?)
But what about this coming semester? I don't want to do nothing. I need to be engaged in useful learning. For this, I have the same two institutions as options, plus a third. I may be headed to Canada.

Time is running out as I wait for pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. Yet, I'm excited too. Ok, so I'm a little scared as well. Mostly I'm just tired of uncertainty. Ah, well, this is life under the cross. At least we know that Christ is certain and will continue to be.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Allegory of the Crucifix

The first few weeks at Hope College, I wore the crucifix everywhere - even to work out. Then, one day, I took it off. And couldn't find it. A few days later, I found and donned it again. But something strange kept happening. The tiny ring holding the cross to its chain began weakening, bending and slipping from off the chain. I kept repairing it. One evening (sometime in October), as I was preparing to take it off for the night, I noticed that the cross and corpus were no longer on the chain. I examined the floor. I traced my steps throughout the room and the bathroom. It could have fallen anywhere, and I had traveled the length and breadth of the campus in that day. It pricked me deeply to have lost it, not because I attached my faith to a piece of metal around my neck, but because it reminded me of Whose I am and what I am called and enabled to confess. The next week, I would reach up to touch it, to feel the contour and remind myself, only to remember that it was gone - perhaps forever. The thought that perhaps the likeness of our Savior might be lying in the mud on some campus pathway, trampled by the profane feet of the masses, made me ache. But I soon forgot it. It fled my mind as well as my body.

The very last week at Hope, while cleaning up the floor by my desk, I found the crucifix again. It was hidden by various debris and papers from my studies, homework and essays. The sight cheered me, yet caused me a sober moment as well. Thankful to have it returned to my keeping, it occured to me to possibly consider the treatment afforded the crucifix allegorically. It is not hard for me to see a rough parallel between the circumstances of the crucifix and the circumstances of my subjective certainty in the promises of Christ while at Hope.

I look forward to wearing my crucifix again and, God-willing, not losing it either physically or allegorically.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Of the Beloveds

The tide returns, washing over the beach as it has so many times before, caressing each grain of sand, carving gouges through antiquated deposits, leaving a new layer of sediment, changing the face of the shoreline...

The page turns; a chapter closes; the past is sealed and cannot be relived but in memory. And soon, no matter how vivid the memories be now, they too shall fade and be lost, drowned in the tides of time, unidentifiable amid the swirling silty waves.

Though Hope College has challenged and pressured me in many ways, I do not regret this semester. Though I shall soon - God willing - move on to another institution, I do not look upon the past months as wasted. The time spent here was God-given and the Master Craftsman's chisel was not idle upon my rough stone in this place.

I shall sincerely miss the blessings God has lavished upon me here. There are many here that I have come to love dearly over the course of the semester and they have become a part of me. To leave with the knowledge that I may never see them again will, I know, tear a piece of my heart from me, rend a leaf from the book of who I am. They have shaped me and how can I explain their unique personalities and what they mean to me to people who have not lived, laughed, wept, and brushed teeth with them as I have?

I have promised never to forget them. And I mean not to. But lest the image fade with time, losing color, texture, and sound till it become but a vague silhouette in some recess of my mind, I here take down a brief portrait sketch of the Beloveds of Hope; those who have filled the lonely void of family and friends with their love and care.

My room-mate, Reneé (I finally put the accent in correctly): Ah, what would life have been like without her? What will life be like without her? Without concern for each other's family, encouragement in study, understanding of each other's sleeping needs, random conversations across the dark space between the beds at 1am? What will I do when we cannot tease each other about how Reneé "takes out her eyes" every night? I will miss the laughter at my silliness, the way she drew me into her social life and surrounded me with friends, the Spanish she forced me to speak and helped me practice - the Spanish which spoke from her heart. Who will remind me in Spanish to "trust God" and "take one day at a time?" I am forever grateful for how she tried to understand me even when I broke down or couldn't explain everything. We are so much alike in a mind set that "I am right." Tonight, I will lie down and wait for the evening ritual but she will be much farther than five feet from me. She will not whisper in Spanish nor will I. Our nightly "Buenas noches" will be one sided from now on. How I will sleep without it I do not know.

Michelle: From the moment I met her she warmed my heart with her motherliness. Always the gentle teaser accusing us all of being "saucy," always ready for some silliness over the latest, be it important or just plain meaningless. My heart went out to her during her early room-mate troubles and I am glad now that she will take my place. But I ache to think that I shan't take part of her cheering presence.

Araksya: Oh, how I will miss her! She could match Snap for teasing - especially to Reneé . So gifted, yet so humble. Honest and frank is she with a piercing insight that surprised me many times as she guessed in a flash secrets I had hoped to keep hidden and simply told them to me as observations. Her way of describing the world refreshes my spirit.

Ziye, Xisen, Christina, Leonie: They have drawn me out and loosened my throat to laugh many times. They share with me both their unique personalities and tidbits of their culture. I'll never forget spending late night hours before an exam squeezing German cookie dough with all my might through a large frosting cone and tip in lieu of a cookie press. I have not words to describe their personalities accurately, but they each of them cared for me in a special way and I hope that I have in some small way returned that love.

Mikella and Rebecca: Oh, girls! How glad I was to be your partner for the research poster and presentation. Both of you brought your fun-loving attitude to the project, tempered with a serious, hard-working spirit.

My Lab Partners: I'll have to admit there were times when I was frustrated with both of them, but they cheered my heart, made me laugh, and I'm certain there was not a group in the lab that had as much fun as we three did.

Dan: From questioning theology on bus rides, to 7:30am prayer, to Bible Study he's been a friend I know I can rely on.

And Monday Night Bible Study group: You all have brought so much to my life. Though your worship and theology sometimes made me more than squirm, your child-like faith, trust, and hunger for God's Word encouraged me and challenged me to faithfully confess in a setting similar to those in which I had previously suffered and inflicted much confusion. I'll miss you all - testimonies included.

Jess: What a wonderful RD! The first to welcome me theologically and understand how important both orthodox doctrine and conservative worldview are to me. Theology Sister, she once called me. I'm so grateful that she made liturgical prayer available in the mornings. I needed both the fellowship and the rest in the Word of God. I'll miss her, her tea pot, and her dog.

The Phelps Scholars and my Hall in general: I love you guys! The community we created together was vibrant and supportive. Squeezing people around a table in the cafeteria, the life we shared, and the discussions we had stimulated my mind and afforded me the comfort of a virtual family.

My Professors
Dr. Green: Only he could have called us all the names he did and only provoke laughter in response. We took him seriously on some things, but at a certain point we knew the seriousness had vanished. I'll never forget hearing his voice shouting in the basement only to find a very pleasant conversation taking place when I turned the corner.

Dr. Brouwer: I thank God he was my advisor. He cared for me with a pastoral air, listened and advised without pressuring me. I'll forever think of him as a wise Teddy Bear.

Dr. Yelding: His perspective on many things was different and interesting. He saved our research project when the data seemed to be running amuck.

Profesor Moreau: To think that I wasn't even going to take an English class! I would have missed my (almost) all time favorite professor! Demanding but very human and caring, he made the two hours fly by and cranked the papers out of us before we ever knew we were working. Constructive criticism defined him. His wife's cookies and treats endeared the class and the professor to us even more. I'd write well just from knowing he'd receive the paper and that he believed in my writing capability.

Profesora Swain: She re-awakened the fire of Spanish in me (with the help of Reneé). She was a real teacher, instructing us with everything she had, forcing us to speak, using Spanish from the beginning of the class, giving us helpful tips and methods of remembering facts. She even investigated the differences between the words for "goat" just for me.

Professor Schmidt: I have to laugh whenever I think of her. She was more of a kid than we were. Always energetic and enthusiastic whether we were working out, or in lecture. When supervising the cardio and weight rooms she'd run up and down the stairs between the two, stopping to chat with each person or singing with the overhead music. I'd almost play sports just to have her as coach.

Dr. Richmond and College Chorus: I'm so very glad I took College Chorus even though it wasn't for credit. Dr. Richmond took us, no matter how inexperienced, and made us tick. He infused us with morale and by his very presence captured our attention and effort, focusing it to one goal. Somehow, he turned us into an vocal organism tuned entirely to the subtle motion of his hands and body. He also very deliberately explained the theological importance of certain song lines and insisted on proper "Queen's English" pronunciation.
I really grew to appreciate the warmth and friendliness that grew between the members of the Chorus as well.

My Community Placement: I enjoyed the interactions with the dear seniors there and I will miss the personal quirkiness of each one.

And finally, my dear, dear Orthodox Christian Fellowship:

Joanne: She's always been the quiet mover and organizer from the very first day. The shy, hungery one, eager to learn, warm and loving. I'd trust her with anything. Indeed she was the first person to know I was leaving Hope and she never breathed a word.

Alex: One of the non-othodox present from the beginning. Always quirky and theologically well read.

Andy: another non-orthodox friend of Alex. Quietly thinking lover of history. He always listens in silence, speaks with humility even though I'm sure he knows and thinks more than he says.

All the other students who passed through OCF on occasion: I'll miss their interesting questions, personalities, and input.

Christina: Ah, strong Othodox champion! She mothered me and I know that even if she dearly would like like me to convert to Orthodoxy, she always has open arms for me if I need to weep for a moment or just need to feel safe. She's challenged me to consider and weigh carefully history and dogma and I have taken her challenges seriously.

Father Steve: Perhaps I'll miss him most of all. A heart for his student learners and heart for the church and it's history. Not as eloquent as some, but what he had to say was always well worth listening too. Wrapped as much in kindness as in his black clerical garb, he explained theological implications of church history with an eye to his own Reformed origins as well as Orthodoxy. Gracious about my inattendance at Evening Prayer, he also used only Trinitarian prayer to close the Study portion of the evening. And the incense he lighted for Evening Prayer always brought images of Emmaus to my eyes as well as tears.

I'll miss the Othodox group and learning about Orthodoxy. Despite our disagreements, I felt ideologically safer and more relaxed with them than with the Evangelical Protestants.

I'll miss - strange as it sounds - the bathroom too. That's where most of the girls on my floor caught up on the doings of the day. I hope nobody where I am headed minds songs late at night in the shower. I'm so grateful my floor girls didn't. I'll always remember the shower head of my favorite stall that came apart and shot it's metal inside piece at me, spraying water every which way. And the Norovirus posters warning us to wash our hands. Ha!

I know I have forgotten someone somewhere. But I hope that these brief sketches will aid my memory in years to come. I would not forget the days I spent here. I must put them now to rest and pack up my possesions for the move tomorrow. Tonight I go to OCF one last time. Tomorrow I sign out and depart - perhaps for a life time, though I pray I shall be able to return to visit the friends I leave here.

Tomorrow, the tide retreats. Tomorrow the ink dries, the page turns.

What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be like? I wonder

Saturday, December 6, 2008

This Morning

Soo... I've actually put on make-up by myself for the first time in my life. I don't think it turned out too badly, but I'm no judge of cosmetics.

We're filming for television this morning and performing Christmas Vespers all after noon. I'm actually supposed to be ready in 25 minutes. Ha!

I've just got to remember that I'm performing in a secular performance rendition of a Christian service. Somehow the poems and the crucifix don't match. I hadn't heard the poems until rehearsal last night. One made me cringe.

Got to go eat breakfast and fly out to the Chapel!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Two More Fortune Cookies

#1. "The fun side of a relationship begins to unfold."

#2. "The object of your desire comes closer."

hmmmmmmm. Declines to comment. Marvels at the ridiculousness of fortune cookies. Needs to work on ten-page-paper. Will leave. Going. Going. Gone.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Seven Random Things

Delving deep into the past here, readers....

1. My first school library book was a child's history of King Wenceslaus. I was terribly upset that his pagan brother murdered him.

2. My childhood heroine was Joan of Arc. She'd whip those nasty English! Oh, wait... I became forever disgusted with the French Dauphin for not rescuing her from the stake.

3. I liked to walk through the poultry barn at the county fair, as a child, crowing as loud as I could to the roosters. The hens would then cuckle, cuckle, cuckle, and the roosters would turn and stare at me out of one eye, puff their feathers, arch their backs and neck, slightly spread their tails and crow even louder. I'd crow back and set the chickens in an uproar.

4. My favorite movie for about a decade was the black and white "Martin Luther" film. I could quote it. I loved the part where Luther says something (to Katy) like, "Don't look at me like that! A man...under the Emperor's no man for you. We must find you another husband," and Katharina looks up and says meekly, "Yeth, Dr. Luther." The next scene, the priest pronounces them man and wife.
I also always laughed at the part where Erasmus explains why Luther cannot win his case; "First he has denied the authority of the Pope, and two, he has attacked the bellies of the monks: both very grave and unforgivable sins." :P

5. For the longest time (until I was about 8) I thought that the song Daddy sang while rocking me in the rocking chair was about breakfast cereal. "Swing low, sweet cheerios, comin' for to carry me home..." Somehow I could never figure out what the Jordan River had to do with toasted oats.

6. I've got to take a shower after exercising before I go to class. I'm weird that way. I don't mind being sweaty or filthy working out on the farm all day, but I feel disgusting mixing sweat with college classes.

7. I have no sense of timing in music - never have had. I can't clap a beat in syncrony with a room full of people. I can't read music - never have. You can definitely tell, too.

Well, that's seven. Can't wait for finals to be over!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

O God, source of all abiding knowledge, through Word and Spirit You both enlighten the minds and sanctify the lives of those whom You draw to Your service. Look with favor on the seminaries and colleges of the Church, blessing those who teach and those who learn, that all the baptized may apply themselves with ready diligence to their tasks and faithfully fulfill their service according to Your will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Lutheran Service Book, pg 306