31 mayo 2008

Remedy for funks

Daily doses:

~ Sweat. Exhaust the body. (Run, bike, walk, manual labor, etc.) Go farther, longer.
~ Produce stuff: Something that you can look at or feel upon completion. Cut the lawn, garden, plant flowers, tan, run [produces endorphins], paint, do art, &c.
~ Get out of the house EARLY. Walls tend to depress. Get into large spaces, nature preferred.
~ Be around people/ kids. And not ones that you can be depressed around, either- ones around which you HAVE to control your emotions.
~ Don’t be around people that get on your nerves. Give yourself a break. You’re dust, not a masochist.
~ Do nice things for others. Think about your victim, plan the act, execute service or gift. Surprise somebody.
~ Minimize talking (especially about your or anybody’s emotions. Who cares?!)
~ Listen to good music loudly. Stuff where people sing with their diaphragm and bang drums with good will helps. Try South African stuff for soul. Reggae makes you [me] inordinately happy. Likewise those beautiful, beautiful Brazilians. Indulge. Find new delicacies.
~ Surround yourself with beauty. Art, photos, flowers, candles, music, nature, kids. Don’t do penance by being in ugly places. Leave or beautify.
~ Study missions, read about martyrs. Perspective.
~ Read children’s books. The Horse and His Boy, Holes, The Princess Bride, Gary Soto, Rudyard Kipling &c. Abstain from Orwell, Bradbury, Sartre, Hemingway, et. al.
~ Take risks (not involving your life.) Go new places, try new foods, splurge.

Pain killers:
Everybody needs a little Nyquil every now and then (but don’t get into the habit of it, capice?)

~ If your prayer time itself causes you to despair, cut it short. Be as concise and honest as possible. Summarize your feelings; don’t describe. Humble yourself, but don’t grovel. Instead of a large, emotive dose early in the morning, space “bite sized” times of prayer/ meditation throughout the day. Spend more time in gratitude than confession.
~ Go shopping. Don’t buy something you’ll regret later or spend a scandalous amount, but go buy something nice for yourself or others. Goodwill, bookstores, garage sales, and amazon.com are good. (Walmart has demons, so try to avoid.)
~ Watch a worthy movie. I could almost dismiss the whole medium, but i suppose there are times when musing needs to be suspended. Seldom, but still times. Singin’ in the Rain, the Sound of Music, A Raisin in the Sun, Remember the Titans, Humphrey Bogart, Life is Beautiful, the Emperor’s New Groove, etc. (I really don’t have a lot of recommendations…)

**NOTE: Need i mention: the above is not divinely inspired. I’m lacking that lately. If depression comes from guilt, repent (confess, seek grace, and very deliberately find ways to stop sinning), and the funk should go away. If that doesn’t work and you’re not purposefully avoiding/defying God or in sin, perhaps the above can help…

Depression (i have no idea about clinical. i've spent almost the majority of my life as an adolescent. i'm talking feelings.) generally accompanies lack of meaning / meaningful activity. Not being around unbelievers (or, in different circumstances, lacking communion with enjoyable saints) - or being around them only superficially- lends itself to depression. Not "seeing" the Kingdom come is a sure way to get down as well.

i dunno what to do when the worst of the funk is the utter lack of energy. that's why i mentioned the music. that helps. creating "appointments" that you can't get out of helps to...

i dunno. we all want to live meaningful, eternally-relevant, active, relating lives. who knows why that's so difficult sometimes...

i do know that community is inestimable in combatting suspicions of meaninglessness. "You do not have to drown in your own autonomy. _________ is good. _________ is bad. God is real. The Bible is true. Let's sing. I have a testimony..."

God's community provide the alternative to despair, the plausibility of meaning. When isolated, one might find that her feelings of angst and convictions of meaning are not fighting an evenly matched battle. Feelings, for instance, can make you cry, a sucker punch if there ever was one. And for those who can form their community with just them and God, mis respetos, but that's not exactly what God Himself had in mind....


24 mayo 2008

"hey! where's the cream filling?!"

thought one: being perfectly honest here...

so the previous post is the rationale behind the wait.
now, emotionally...

i waver.

hope: God does want me to go "cross every mountain, ford every stream..."

anti-hope: God wants me to give it up...

to what shall i liken it?
the disillusioned animals in the twinkies commercials from my childhood, "hey! where's the cream filling?"
Jacob the morning after
Jonah sensing the Middle Eastern sun suddenly beginning to roast the back of his neck...

"it is right for me to be angry, even to death!"
i want to love God enough to give up everything, anything, but how do i know He wants me to DO it?

thought two: what i would miss about the USA (EEUU) if i were never to see it again...
(in no particular order and not counting persons; assuming also i'm not lacking basic amenities)

~ libraries: how can there be education with out plentiful books? how can the poor be educated without FREE plentiful books?

~ jalepenos, tortilla chips, tortillas, salsa

~ a literate culture and the accompanying skepticism: there's probably a better heading for this, but the dependency we have on reading. i assume a lot of people get their information from TV, but never without the knowledge that they COULD double check (or somebody could) the claims on the internet, in a magazine, in a book, etc. oral cultures have their communicational strengths but i APPRECIATE "just the facts, ma'am." the accountability numerous information sources provide is inestimable.

~ the virtue of individuality: now, i'm not sure i would chose individuality over community, but i would miss the appreciation of the unique, the marcher-to-one's-own-drummer, the conscientious renegade that so characterizes American culture.

~ the shared culture (of childhood): being able to meet any kid on the street and share kool-aid and lucas, laugh about macaroni and cheese and wieners, laud peanut butter and jelly, and reminisce about playing in the sprinkler and Saved by the Bell... (okay, any kid of a certain bracket on federal student aid forms...)

~ the opportunity: the solution really is "hard work." if your kids work hard enough, develop their intelligence, and get an education as well, they really can become an astronaut or firefighter or secretary of state or whatever.

~ ecumenicalism: the thought that a good number of Catholics, Assembly of God-ers, and even Baptists have a fighting chance of getting into the Kingdom of Heaven...

~ public trash cans and clean streets

~ Walmart, quality control, Goodwill and other perks of a consumer culture

~ Christmas lights, trees, and carols

~ THANKSGIVING (but i'm not letting go of that one, no matter)

i'll do one on Peru if i make it there...

thought three: frederica! of missions and beauty

[a nonbeliever entering a worship service:] Maybe he doesn’t yet see the Lord we worship, but he see us, and sees that we see something; that we are being held rapt by the presence of something awesome, terrible, beautiful. He can tell that something is going on. And that mysterious beauty is a hook that pulls people further in.


Any missionary needs theological education, as well as love for those in the mission field. But we Orthodox know of one further element of missions: beauty. We worship in beauty because it is what God commanded. He instructed Moses to provide elaborate beauty in worship—gold, incense, embroidery, carved wood, vestments, “a golden bell and a pomegranate.” But not because God needs these things – as the psalmist says, he already owns the cattle on a thousand hills. No, it is we humans who need such things, and their use in worship empowers mission in ways that, literally, can’t be conveyed in words. Beauty sets the heart aright, and opens it to God.


the single most aesthetic "worship" service i recall attending happened last summer in Tambillo. the electricity was out for the whole valley because some drunk had driven into an electric pole (if my memory serves me right.) anyhow, electricity is inane when one speaks of devotion, so we stumblingly, gigglingly made our way down (up?) the road to the "new" church building (templo) one June night.

the chalky rock road was generally perceivable (if you didn't look directly at it) and the square doorway at the end framed a glow. "how..?" i puzzled. oh, candles...

no electricity means no amplifiers, which are THE symbol of Latin evangelicalism. (these are invariably purchased before the pews and occasionally preceeding the pulpit as well.) artificial amplification, however, was unnecessary. adobe, concrete, and the human voice sent out shiveringly perfect spheres of sound waves up the road and over the town. the "surround sound" inside was unnerving. singing mixed with prayer. Aleluja! Gloria a Dios!

tall, thin candles were placed on the back of the wooden benches about ever 5 rows. shadows, good heavens, thank the Lord He created shadows! is there beauty without them?

a wooly fleece below shielded knees from the concrete's cold. a manta on the shoulders provided insulation. elbows rested on unsanded wood.

aesthetics... funny: the elements were so simple. just the essentials: light, darkness, cold, warmth, voice and echoes, but it was so old, so singular, so unmanufactured, and anything but plain. it made a body WANT to have something beautiful to say to God. i dunno. maybe it was just me. but it was unpretentious, unawkward, untrivial. it was beautiful, and nobody even tried.

if we did try what would we need?

21 mayo 2008

substance and evidence

Greetings from the grand metropolis and distant shores of...

Easternish Texas.

Ha. Did you see that one coming?
I didn't.

thought one: of faith and superstition

faith can feel very scarily like superstition. including the supernatural in one's decisions can be hard to explain...

say there is a setback followed by a very close miss... say like, 9 minutes late to your Lima, Peru-bound plane because of a late connecting flight. say then that after being booked on the next flight out the next day, you are given the unusual option by the very kind customer service agent to go back to your port of origin rather than just stay the night where you are. say your family unanimously agrees to make the trip to pick you up and try again the next day. you go back home and start from square one (to borrow the colloquialism).

let's propose that you feel perfect peace and confidence in the benevolence of the Almighty.

then, let's have the earlier connecting flight you scheduled for the next day get cancelled. the next available one cuts it close, but since the airport TV screens foretell it to be "ON TIME" you are not shaken. (you do remark that 2 unfortuitous events is unusual... with 3 you would be sure there was some heavenly message intended... your sister-in-law remarks, " 'with three?' two would be enough for me!") you check in, problem free. you go to gate four... let's say you see no plane out of gate four's window, even though it's past boarding time.

you are very, very tired, and the ferry plane is stuck in the other city with a flat tire on the runway.

a test of faith? you pray. with faith. but you do not pray against Providence. (that's dangerous.)

it's past the time laid out by your prayer with faith. it's "sign" number three. it's a no go...

...except... this IS Peru.

to get to Peru, specifically, to some individuals within the landmass, you'd hitchhike, swim, skate, bribe, do the bunny hop, clean toilets, student teach, sprint across airports fully loaded, throw a fit at customer service to switch airlines, stay in a hotel overnight,


... go against the will of the God by whom you breathe.


... how do you know He's not testing your resolve? How do you KNOW the "signs" are Divine? what if they're demonic intervention? what if they are a series of most unfortunate but unrelated, unsignificant events.

what if you're being superstitious?

1) in the abundance of counselors, there is wisdom... especially if the counselors are a solid 50x more godly, practical, and life-experienced than you. if they see no superstition...

2) either a) God exists, or b) He doesn't. there's no option C. either invest all in A or hope in B and do whatever you want, whenever you want, and both faith or superstition can go to... the Middle Ages.

if, having chosen hypothesis A, your subsequent life and evidence have supported your presupposition, don't give it up just because you want something that hypothesis might suggest you ought not take. in other words, if your understanding of and reaction to God has held up, don't change that understanding/ response because they're inconvenient. for anything less than Peru, how would you respond?

3) "better safe than sorry." maybe God has naught to do with the matter and you ARE being superstitious. but having Him shake His head at your earnestness is worth it if He's simultaneously touched by your devotion. if He WAS talking, you would have listened.

4) superstition is related to fear; faith to trust. superstition fears EVENTS. faith fears and trusts in a PERSON. i fear God. i fear disobeying Him. i fear being on my own in a giant, non-personal, un-emotive, unimpressed universe. He's GOOD. He's all good. No hay para mi bien fuera de Ti; i fear choosing the alternative to Him.

yes, i fear.

but i trust, too. the best i've ever gotten was BEYOND WHAT I WAS CAPABLE OF COVETING. [how to say...?] stuff God has been in has been so deliciously good, so perfect, so unexpected that i'm not about to assert my omniscience now.


5) faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen... faith comes from the other side. when it's genuine, it's not YOUR possession at all. it's lent (prestado) knowledge. substance and evidence, not feeling or make believe. it is, as it were, a future dweller's understanding of history, except reversed. we just happen to be living in history and the "Future Dweller" in the eternal now. He just happens to be on our side, and sympathetic to our history-bound restraints. once we arrive in the "future," there is no faith, only sight.

[oh, to be able to articulate...]

time proves whether we have been faithful or superstitious.

ya veremos.

06 mayo 2008

"God woos humanity with beautiful, not ugly acts." ~t. oden

it's been a while... since writing. not since beautiful acts.

thought one:

the practice of loving God ruins us. (by "us," i guess i mean "good sinners.")

much gets boring quickly. we start demanding that amusement be "important" enough to be worth giving up musing. various forms of stupidity become more obvious. we get cocky enough to refrain from them. "why?" becomes a better answer than "why not?" we presume we have something better to do. we analyze EVERYTHING like some Friday-night-homework-doing law school loser.

we get grumpy. it gets bothersome to hear desacrated laughter. we get nosy. cruelty gets on our nerves. we get possessive, act like we're related to the whole human race. we learn a new language, and wanting earnestly to practice it, we find few whose ears discern more than gibberish.

ruined, i tell you.

we can't settle for a body anymore; we want a soul. we want one for we; we want one for you. we're so needy. can't pull ourselves up by our bootstraps for jack. don't have any self-respect; we'll do anything for love. His. Ours. that there might be a "Theirs."

gone is our youth... to what? ...eternity?! please.

poor idiot romantics.

what's more gullible than building a life around one whose existance has yet to be proven by today's leading scientists?! optimists... as if someone possessing absolute power would use it for our sake anyhow. idealists. where's our realism? God can do no wrong? is flawless? what kind of complex loves what it fears?

us: head over heels and shameless. we bring Him into too many conversations. if we manage to keep out His name, you can still tell we're thinking about Him. everything reminds us of "that one time," or "when He said..." we've got to drop hints all the time, all quite innocently like we didn't even realize He was on our mind...

nobody's fooled.

Divine distraction! jump into my conversations! interrupt my boredom! highjack my fixation mechanism! ruin sin! ruin disease! ruin the distance and ruin my blindness!

i could stand some good ruining...

adoration is heart revealed through habits and impulses... love exposed by slips of the tongue, obsession. appreciation. regard. consideration. intensity. extravagance.

thought two:

"... wooing and giving gifts is an intrinsic aspect of the demeanor of grace." -t. oden

God's gifts (which The Ruined really think are something) are God-flavored... they shine with God-relevance, symbolism, serendipity, beauty, dignity. He is never far from His delivery of such. He so possesses His tokens (/symbols/ acts) of affection that He's happy to receive most appreciation for THEM as unto Himself. (He does not, however, want you to forget the significance of so many symbols. anything but that.)

As the Almighty flavors all He does, so we, spiritually respirating by the Spirit of our God, ought to flavor all we do/make with Him. He's applicable (metido) like that. Bendito Dios is also interesting enough that a lifetime of work could reveal a theme, some motifs, but no end to ingenuity.

thought three:
- "the purpose of life is to get rich or die trying..." -she
- "what if you're happy being poor?" -me
- "well, that would never happen..." -she

now, the girl who said that is not what i would define as either poor or unhappy, but her comment does remind me of something else: i can never get over how sad the kids of the richest, most opportunity-filled, most knowledge- available, most-upwardly mobile, most entertainment-satiated nation on earth are. (i reveal my patriotism.)

they laugh a lot, but, dang, look at their faces when they're not laughing. and the sad thing is, they don't even know all they have to be sad about.

where are we?!