Sunday, December 27, 2009

Romeo and Juliet

This is a review I wrote for a play this past October. It was a fun event and a fun review to write, so I thought I'd share it.


I had planned this out for months. I first heard about the production of this play at the beginning of the semester and it went in my planner immediately. In the past few weeks I had attempted to get some of the girls from my floor to go with me... to no avail. That left me last minute calling my friend Ben to join me as I attended a freezing, two hour long production of "Romeo and Juliet". Fun? He wasn't convinced but I was ready. Armed with sandwich, caramel apple cider, and blanket, I marched through a blustery October evening to stand in a short line half an hour before the start of the show. I was enjoying the charade of sorts that I was participating in. It was almost a play in and of itself before the real production even began. I was snug and bundled, warm coat, purple scarf, and brown wool beret perched on my head for warmth. The buildings that surrounded the lawn cut off the main wind gusts, keeping it tolerable. I found a seat (though I later regretted this decision to not sit on the grass) about five rows back toward the left of the seating area. I read a book as people milled around and came from all directions. We could see our breaths and everyone was quietly talking as we found places under an autumn sunset. I heard an older man, who looked to be a penn state alumnus, comment that it was almost like waiting for a football game. "Let's start counter cheers! Montagues! Capulets! Montagues! Capulets!" Those around him chuckled appreciatively. Then came the appropriately formal and awkward "big name" theatre people ready to introduce and remind us of their part in tonight's show. They were quickly forgotten aside from their charming blunders in forgetting each other's names. We were not really interested. There was something else coming. Anticipation was building. And the show began.

Words fail to express what it means to be caught up in a story, when drama comes alive in such a way that... the only word that seems to work is "magical" and that has been falsely co-opted by Disney and brutally marketed to within an inch of its life. But take then your mind to the outdoor setting of the Alumni Family Center: the grass slope running towards a constructed stage in the corner of a garden walk and a Pennsylvania Stone Farm House. Trellises built up to the windows. Lighting that expertly crafted the outdoor lights of day and night and the indoor moods of parties and bedrooms. But more than this, there is a sky arching above your head. It is light and then fading into darkness as a physical marker of the rising action. There is the chill air, constantly keeping you tied to the living and the present, and entranced with the antics and tragedy presented to you. There are the sounds and movements of the other people, entranced with you so you hardly notice them beyond being one with them. There is a unity to this place, of time and setting, harkening back to the days before we knew how to craft the outdoors too well indoors, and had to be in it to justify the discussion of trees and sky and railing against the stars, as Romeo cries aloud and falls to his knees doing.

And this setting, this harkening back to the birth of theatre, in open amphitheatres and dramatic expressions, ritual of love and youth incarnate, married to the technology and evocative, familiar, and realistic acting and stage craft, all came from a director's vision and into my understanding. Yes, my understanding. For the first time, I understood Romeo and Juliet.

"Romeo and Juliet" has been done before, in case you were unaware. It is the most overdone piece of high school literature there is. It was overdone by the time I got to middle school. I could pick out fractured, elitist references a mile away. And I knew the plot too. My middle school self set me on the definitive course of "Hate sappiness. Reject first time love. Suicide for love is stupid." I have maintained that course. I have enjoyed the mockeries of such passion and laughed at its retellings whether in comedic balcony reconstructions of my own or in "West Side Story". But here, a different hand was at work. I read in the program that this version was ultimately about the young searching for identity and suddenly finding it in each other. The subtle undercurrent, this primary tension and subtext, ran through the production but did not seem to be such a difference until the moment when Mercutio died in the meaningless battle in the street. Suddenly, the romantic comedy turned into tragedy and all the playfulness that had marked the balcony scene (that we've all wanted to realized in our romantic subconscious!) ran its faithful course into the intensity of banishment, separation, and death. I had been wooed and won by the lighthearted romance. I had seen them come alive under the intoxication of love, finding fullness in it. This meant that I walked open eyed, open mouthed, broken hearted into the tragedy. I was fully present in the heartbreak and completely understood their actions and choices, even to the moment when Romeo drinks the poison over the Juliet's living body.

This takes no little strength in acting, setting, and director's vision. Oh well done! I wept and shivered and quietly moaned my warnings. The audience held their breaths and yet the story concluded, as we knew it would. There was nothing we could do, but for the first time, perhaps for more than a few, it was something that we cared about. The story drew together the audience in the fear and knowledge of what would happen. Even as it grew colder, and blankets were wrapped around strangers, and we took to fidgeting to keep in connection with our toes and fingers, we were wrapped in the essence of the story and the importance of what was to happen. And it was terrible and magical.




I almost didn't believe it when the actors returned to the stage for the applause and standing ovation from the 642 audience members. Romeo and Juliet had died. I did not believe that Gilbert and Leah (the leading actors) could still exist. I almost laughed in delight at my own slight confusion. The vision was lifting and shifting, the cares I had forgotten (responsibilities back at my residence hall) returned to me, but somehow were lessened. I was laughing and running in my lateness. I could see my breath completely now and my friend ran beside me, both of us thrilled (I in raptures) by what we had just witnessed: a play.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas

(Otherwise known as: Sleeping Long Hours)

It is with great relief that I packed myself into a small car late in the afternoon on December 19. The snow had been coming down hard since about 1am the morning of the same day. My last night as an RA for Fall 2009 (no fears. I'm returning in the spring!) was spent in a near empty dorm hall hanging out with a few RAs and getting into "trouble". My capabilities for trouble are often uncreative, but I found a good things to do, like take the carts in the basement and racing them down the hallway ramp outside the laundry room and riding my bike in the hallways. Break mentality was setting in but I nearly didn't get out of State College. The Roads were quite bad but I had found a ride with a friend of a friend who was going anyway. I held my breath most of the way but we never went too fast or lost control. Amazing. Being home and out of the dorm was a relief even in quite the snow fall we had.

Break, Christmas, has been lovely. I have seen some dear and long neglected friends. I have visited the "Midtown Scholar" (a coffee house and scholarly bookstore in Harrisburg) with Mim and discussed the complication of lit theory with Hannah E. I have started Anna Karenina and am almost a third of the way through. I have played wii more than I have at any other time in my life and watched movies with the family. It has been a true rest. I've been grateful. It took me four nights to start feeling rested when I woke up. This is a good place to be.

And today was Christmas. We all enjoyed it with far too much sugar, gifts, movies, and hanging out. Our celebrations are always rushed with their suddenness, unpretentious, and carried out with a "pjs all day" atmosphere. For some reason, this particular holiday brings out complex emotions for me. I don't think there is another day in the year (other than my birthday which carries similar connotations) that so impresses upon me my utter selfishness. I think it is the realization that I am being lavished with gifts (appreciated) but knowing even as the paper comes off that I do not appreciate them as they deserve, nor do they satisfy. Satisfy? I don't know if I even attach that profound of a desire to objects. Even the ability to delight in the objects before me is diffused by an overwhelming sense of the temporary of everything that goes into these observations. Where does it come from?

Me. This selfish, screwed up human being who is caught in focusing on a world that extends as far as her arms can reach and her eyes can see. Being short sighted, I can see about half a foot without glasses, but not terribly far or clearly with. Once again, I've been caught with my mind and heart meditating on myself and my desires and my thoughts and opinions on a day where I am most specifically urged to meditate on the Incarnation of Christ, and the Grace that came through that. Confession: I almost resent this command. To dwell on it would mean that I would be forced into changing the way I view the world. I would be caught in irresistible knowledge of my helplessness; shown a Person, a Word, a Maker, that makes His own new; and grateful. Sure. I know this. I also know that I did not look at that squarely this morning. I also know that to do so would be to live in freedom already born, died, and even currently living on my behalf [the verb tense shift was deliberate]. Sounds about as appealing as a salad compared to the ridiculous stuffing and apple pie I had tonight. I also know that the option of eating the salad would have made me awake, coherent, and lithe rather than the rather weighty effects of Mom's pie. It seems I've missed and neglected the entire point of the day if that is how I see the whole thing right now. No wonder I've been having some writers block... there isn't really a place for me to even write if I don't have the Incarnation, the Word of God made flesh and "pitching his tent" among us. It is the bread and wine, the life, of my very existence. It is death and I am caught in a failure to follow God's Law ("whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me..." john 14:21).

Two hours left in the day. There is some time to reconsider my missed Advent and Christmas day.

(This song might as well be a Christmas hymn... kind of. It is associated, for some reason, for me with O Come, O Come Emmanuel, almost as an answer made possible by Christmas, by God coming in the flesh.)

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thanksgiving

This is a summary of Thanksgiving at the Tingle House:















The trip to Georgia was wonderful. I enjoyed the time with family and the time I was also able to spend with two Worldivew friends. Greer met us outside of Charlotte and drove with us for over an hour while we caught up. I drove to see Leah at her house after her classes were done and spent the night (which saw us staying up till all hours with funfetti cookies and many, many stories from the summers and the fall). The differences between Georgia and home were surprisingly stark for me this trip. There are very real, tangible differences between the life I live in Pennsylvania and the way life is lived in Athens, Georgia. It starts with the geography, the land. Here, the trees are branchy and full, and not terribly tall. They hold fast and go with the heavy winds we sometimes get especially in the winter months. The earth is brown. The summers are lush green, the falls even brighter. In Georgia, the trees are tall and straight with their limbs stretching straight in either direction. Leah noticed this: they do not move in the wind. The outer limbs may rustle but they do not shake and toss and turn like water surfaces as our short maple and ash so violently do. And the air feels and smells rather differently. It was interesting to note this strange comparison... was it for the first time and I just recognized my awareness of it?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fire Alarms

This happened the other night. I have other posts that will go up soon about the past month and a half, but this entertaining (?) vignette will have to do. Welcome to Penn State Res Life, Simmons Hall.

It was the moment between dreaming and waking that I cannot remember and yet I still feel was timeless. It happened in less than an instant. Time slowing down would not alter the abrupt jerk it was to move from a dream to being awake... to being awake and being frightened. I cannot remember it. Memory begins when I was stumbling around the room in the dark, telling myself again and again to calm down and to do the things you know you should do when the alarm goes off. I couldn't. Memory beings with me frantically failing at leaving my room. I do not know how long that had been. Even if it had only been a second, just a frozen second, it felt slowed out, sluggish. It was the physical comparison between the jolt from dream into a dark nightmare of sound and fury. Fire alarms are painful. I hit the light switch and looked at the clock. 4:30. The inexplicable hour marks confirmed the terror for some reason. Cold. It must be cold outside. I grabbed a coat then took it off and put on a sweatshirt and then the coat. I put on a hat and took it off. I found my slip on shoes and thought about socks but couldn't seem to figure out where I kept them (perhaps I was still dreaming). I left the room, locked it. I unlocked it, reentered and grabbed my cell phone. I left and locked it. I left for a final time. The sound was inside my head it seemed. Everything was screaming. The walls were, the ground was, I was. Not really. It was just the alarms, flashing slowly and brightly. Raaeeeuuunn. Raaeeeeun. Raaaeeeun. Again and again and again. Three in a row. Small pause. Three in a row. Small pause. It was a sound that vibrated our bodies and we were desperate to escape, fire or no fire. It was a good explanation for how disoriented I was in my room and the shock of going from sleep into 100% adrenalen. A small quiver of relief at seeing all my girls exit their rooms burst in me, most of the girls ahead of me on the way down the stairs. I found out later that some of them had forgotten shoes. I was not the only one gripped in the panic and shaking of the sound. The hallway was almost empty and we were all sleepy. I could hardly even see them in my fatigue. We rushed down the stairs and out into the cold. A crowd had gathered at the door. My hands and voice were shaking. I pushed through the waiting crowd to the door. They looked ready to go in again. "Everyone move back from the door! Please step away from the building! I don't want anyone close to this door! Please scoot back!" Mike stepped out, more disoriented than I was. And suddenly, the alarms were gone. I breathed. They breathed. We were all talking again and went back inside.

It was after I had mounted the steps with ease that I remembered that my knee had been hurting me and had begun to hurt again. It was also when I started noticing the people around me. It was like a bad sleep over party with way too many people and not enough sleep. There is a reason we all have our own rooms and do not have parties. Sleep doesn't make beautiful people. Neither do pjs nor fire alarms nor sub 20 degree weather. It was while I walked down the long hallway back to my room that the cold hit my bones and I started shivering. The adrenaline was coming down and my empty stumoch threatened to leave me dizzy and perched above the rim of a toilet, heaving my guts out my mouth. I didn't. We talked a little bit, in anger, trying to undo the fear. None of us would sleep for a while. I laid in bed and held onto a favorite book I had not thought to carry out with me. I had terrible visions of the building actually being on fire even though we were all falling asleep again in our beds. I chuckled though as my heart slowed down and the shivering was counteracted by the soft blankets and holding the book in my arms. I began to realize how I had just stepped through the situation we all think about as kids: what would I take if the house was on fire? Mom always said that there wouldn't be enough time to grab anything. I thought that was ridiculous. Fire always seemed slow enough in the movies to grab the important things. Yet here I was. I did not grab the computer or even consider it. I didn't grab a favorite book. I did not grab my school work or my journals. I grabbed clothes (that mismatched) for the cold, shoes, a phone to call my coordinator, and another item stuffed into my pocket for potential later use. I had, essentially, grabbed myself. It was my only thought (Other than "Should I wait for the floor? No, the RA handbook says to not do that. Elizabeth would be angry." In my sleepy state, the handbook seemed the best reason not to check the doors!) The time in the question when it is posed "What would you save?" isn't there when the alarm goes. Even if you answer right away, there is emotional time given to consider it. There are gut responses that always list some item as worthy of being saved. But in the moment, the physical time is gone. The emotional time has moved into the negatives, and the body is the primary thing I was desperate to see out of that building and in the cold air. There had been spasms of trying to answer that question when I found myself stumbling around the room, but they were lost in the overwhelming instinct to get out.

This was somehow amusing and I was drifting off to sleep, chuckling to myself, when I heard in another part of the building, the screaming demons begin again. "Oh no...." I groaned and it hit my room with full force again. There were yells mixed in this time, frustration. The clock read 5:30 am, exactly an hour after the first one. I had my clothes laid out in case this happened and was out the door in two seconds. The intensity was less this time. All of the floor was looking at me to explain and I couldn't give them anything. They were angry. One or two of them started to cry. I laughed. If it had gone off a second time, it meant that we had never been in any real danger from a fire. It confirmed the quick silence of the one before. The fire department would not have let us back in and would have stayed if... well, it was all going to be okay. I tried to spread this attitude as I could among my girls as they gathered at the back of the door crowd. The alarm was even shorter this time. We gathered near the bathroom doors to rant and to commiserate and offer each other explanations and strangely awake "Goodnights". The sun would be up in an hour, though most of us would not awake or out of our rooms till noon.

Later that afternoon, I asked another RA. "Do you think my coordinator will let me count this as a program?" We laughed. "Seriously though, when have I ever had all 54 students in one place at the same time? In the snow? That is serious talent."

End of the story:
The reason for the alarm was this: a student had stolen several fire extinguishers and run through the hallways, spraying them. The smoke detectors picked it up as smoke and went off. The student did it again an hour later. They were not caught. My floor is currently on a man-hunt. Any news of this perpetrator should be handled with caution as I and my floor would like to see them brought to (our) justice. :-)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Ties

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necktie#Origins

This appallingly amusing. I had no idea that the modern necktie was just that: modern. Before this it was entirely cravats. Please note the bottom two sections which involved "Objections to the Necktie." This reminds me of the continuous debates amongst the Nav crew regarding facial hair.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faithful Education

So I'm using "Taste and See" by John Piper for my devotionals, similar to how I've used Andrew Murray's "Waiting on God" and "Abide in Christ" which I've referenced on here a few times. Today, I read an short piece on Christian education. This is something that fascinates me, mostly because I can see it only from the outside as a Penn State student. However, it rings true, even for some that I've seen come through Christian elementary and highschools or even through the homeschooling world. I keep asking myself what it is that helps or hinders a student via an education clearly stacked toward raising kids into solid, faithful, Christian adults. That question is still relevant at a state school where we either box off our education from our spiritual lives (an "effective", but very shallow technique) or we have to daily wrestle to gain a Christian education, a truthful education in the midst of being lied to. In either place it takes constant supervision. But is it worse for the fish in the water to not appreciate it or the fish in pollution to know the value of water? Oho! Now there is an awkward metaphor for you!

Some excerpts and quoted texts from the devotional:

James Davison Hunter from his book "Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation"

We can see the multiple ironies of Christian higher education. On the one hand, Christian higher education historically evolved into precisely the opposite of what it was supposed to be, that is, into bastions of secularity if not anti-Christian sentiment. Contemporary Christian higher education, on the other hand, produces the unintended consequences of being counterproductive to its own objectives, that is, it produces individual Christians who are either less certain of their attachments to the traditions of their faith or altogether disaffected from them. Education, to the degree that it is not indoctrination, weakens the tenacity with which Evangelicals hold on to their worldview. In sum, the Evangelical education creates its own contaminating effects. And the more Christian higher education professionalizes and bureaucratizes (that is, the more it models itself institutionally after secular higher education), the more likely this process will become.

John Piper's thoughts:

Faith is destroyed when little academic minds and little hearts for God niggle away at magnificent and precious realities with no remorse...when there is no great love for God and His Word and no great passion to see the truth of God magnified and defended with profound credibility and authenticity...when faculty demonstrate their academic standing not in the really great and difficult task of constructive explication and justification of truth, but in the simple and adolescent task of deconstruction and cynicism.


Oof. That last part strikes home when I consider some of the professors I have sat under and am currently sitting under. Since I'm not a professor, nor am like to be one, I question this entirely as a student trying to take responsibility for my education. It becomes my task then as a student to do what I can to employ effective and faithful "constructive explication and justification of truth" in all my work. Confession: it is so much easier to do the latter. It can even be more fun to walk around feeling very proud of oneself in a cynical and deconstructive manner. Very humbling. Very challenging.

I think there are many other angles from which to develop this topic. Thoughts? Please be long winded. I'm a fan on long winded as long as it make sense.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Updates

Currently listening to: a playlist I made of folkish music (Jake Armerding, Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, various Maryn songs, and one Fellowship of the Ring)

Currently watching: the tree between me and Nittany Mountain turn bright organge and yellow

Currently reading: too much.

Currently: behind on blogging.



I haven't died, contrary to Gretchen and Jen's opinion (though they saw me this past weekend so I'd hope that they stopped worrying!). Rather, life continues at the break neck pace it adopted day 1 of school. I've been hoping that things would "slow down" enough to justify posting but it never happened. Therefore, I must post without justification. Here, I hope to give you some updates on various activities and madness and also ask for prayer in these things that are running mad in the wake of things I've been processing since Beach Project.

(Why does it take so long to process summers and major life events? I suppose that is rather like asking why gravity comes from a spinning earth. And if you can answer that question, I probably don't want to know. It is more fun to make up reasons)

Resident Assistant:
My floor has kept their minds in order this year and no violent illnesses have occurred! Compared to last year at this time (when I had called 911 three times), I find this a great improvement. I'm still learning how to do this whole RA thing though. It is hard to remember my desire to see my job as a give and take relationship like a host, offering hospitality to my 54 students. I don't know all of them well at all and never see some of them. On my wing of the L I supervise, the girls seem to be interacting more than last year which is fun. They are all in the grips of midterms, so pray that they survive and don't kill each other in the process. I'm also struggling to find spaces to interact with the other RAs in. I like them a lot but have done a poor job of befriending them as I should. It is a strong group and I see them being fantastic leaders and teaching me so much, even though most of them are new and I'm the old hand!

Navigators:
This year, I've been leading a very small Bible Study in my room with girls from the South area. Kadi and Sang, friends from the past two years, are coleading with me and doing an amazing job with it. I've learned much from their response to the trial and tribulations of slim to none attendance and juggling many responsibilities. Being forced into the book of John has been wonderful, similar to my experience leading on Exodus this summer. Many "aha!" moments have continued in that respect. Leading a study is an art that none of us are great at but trying to improve. Sometimes, it feels like a very large rock being pushed up a very large hill. Pray that doors start opening here and that the few girls we have will find connections in Navs as a whole as well. Also, I'm meeting with Barb Baldner, a Nav staffer, each Wednesday for discipleship. This then is going to be turned around when I start discipling a student this week. The one on one relationships I have had since coming to school have been the most significant learning times and being able to start this training with a freshman (and a wva alum!) is incredible.

Theological Thursdays:
So these are more laid back, but some guys started it last year and it ended up in my room. Now we meet Thursday nights at the Duplex to talk out our faith, particularly how it applies to our lives at Penn State-- which, of course, is really us talking about life. Penn State isn't too different from the "real world" in many senses, but it is helpful to talk about these things in our Penn State culture and then look at it in a bigger picture. So far we've covered things from evangelism to church worship to homosexuality and gender roles to the "christian ghetto" we make for ourselves.

School Itself:
Good. Bad. Ugly. Fantastic. Stretching. Miserable. It varies, to say the least. On the bright side, I'm in two classes that are teaching me a great deal: fiction writing and disability theory. They are nothing alike but each is acting as a catalyst for a lot of other growing in my life. The other three aren't so grand at times, particularly "critical reading" which someone misnamed because it is encouraging "mindless theory non-application". Boo. But then again, even the more disappointing classes have forced me to do some serious double study. By this, I mean that I do some outside work for each course but this time using a Christian source for it. This not so often contradicts what I am learning, but brings it to life, shows me its usefulness, and where I'm not getting the complete story. This also means that if you walk into my room, the book shelf is literally spewing its contents around the room. I'm at least part way into most of them, which means I haven't completed a read in a looooooonng time. Perhaps after the semester ends, I can catch up on some of the fun reading and exult in the semi-completion of the library books. And praying for thesis stuff to fall into place would be much appreciated. It is being very unwieldy right now and has a deadline of Nov 6 to abide by.

Home:
Gretchen and the Shining Light Folks are amazing.

Aside:
http://live.ist.psu.edu/live/Viewer/?peid=2c8c47f2cdb647fe9ebc368286813b17
(This is the link to see the film of the Romeo and Juliet production I saw last week. It was fantastic and well worth watching)

Other (Concluding) Aside:
This day is too beautiful to be inside. I'm going to bike to the library at the very least before duty tonight and firedrills.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 10 by Wendell Berry

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
loud—a landmark—now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.


------

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Through Miriam's Travel's

I have decided. I have decided by way of Miriam Eagleson sending me pictures and short emails about her trip to the North West and visiting Portland and Powell's (a book store that is five stories high and three city blocks long) and seeing mountains what I am going to do with my life after graduation. I have decided...

... that if all else fails, I will go live in Portland and work at Powell's.

A city of books. In Portland, in the valleys in sight of the great mountains, with water running through it. So amazing. I miss it even after only two hours in it two summers ago.

(At least SOMETHING has been accomplished in my hours of wasted time in Websters, the State College bookstore, today!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Small Collection (by others)

Here are some poems that I think are lovely and capture the days we've been having. Enjoy!

Grace
-Wendell Berry

for Gurney Norman, quoting him
The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”


Sonnet 73
- by William Shakespeare

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.


The Autumn
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1833)

Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

How there you sat in summer-time,
May yet be in your mind;
And how you heard the green woods sing
Beneath the freshening wind.
Though the same wind now blows around,
You would its blast recall;
For every breath that stirs the trees,
Doth cause a leaf to fall.

Oh! like that wind, is all the mirth
That flesh and dust impart:
We cannot bear its visitings,
When change is on the heart.
Gay words and jests may make us smile,
When Sorrow is asleep;
But other things must make us smile,
When Sorrow bids us weep!

The dearest hands that clasp our hands, —
Their presence may be o’er;
The dearest voice that meets our ear,
That tone may come no more!
Youth fades; and then, the joys of youth,
Which once refresh’d our mind,
Shall come — as, on those sighing woods,
The chilling autumn wind.

Hear not the wind — view not the woods;
Look out o’er vale and hill —
In spring, the sky encircled them —
The sky is round them still.
Come autumn’s scathe — come winter’s cold —
Come change — and human fate!
Whatever prospect Heaven doth bound,
Can ne’er be desolate.


The Lady of Shallott
-Tennyson

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining.
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And around about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance --
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Resisting

Dear Readers,

There is a truth universally acknowledged, that a student in possession of a steady progression of homework, must be in want of distraction. Or a student in possession of a lovely weekend must ignore her work.

Rather, I am not ignoring. I am resting in resistance. I am reveling in a small space of glory. I worked hard yesterday and began the weekend in a Starbucks corner, reading Shakespeare, writing a paper. I missed the glorious day until I met up with two wva students to talk about life and break out the dexterity check. I am excited for them. I want them to see this whole journey from two years down the road, from the person who has taken too long to realize what Servant Leadership means, what critical thinking, what a timely word employs. I want them to rest in the fact that God has brought them here, for this space of time, to teach and shape them and for them to be used as well. It is a beautiful and frightening thing to think of how well I knew both of their staffers and I can see how much they look up to them and have been changed through those relationships. We carry so much for each other just by being present. Just for five days.

Another glory of these days, as filled with difficulty and frustration as they have been, are the moments of realizing how wonderful the community is here. I have been missing Beach Project. I have missed the dinners and the constant conversations and laundry and tea on the porch and the ocean breeze and swimming in the ocean at night. But I have also seen the places where community can happen at Penn State. I have been the guest of the Navigator's Duplex thrice in the previous seven days. They welcomed us for fire and food after Navs last week. They let me leave my bike there that I picked up several days later. I was then over there on Thursday night until the early morning discussing evangelism, relationship witnessing, honest truth speaking, confusion, questioning, glory in a sleepy, cheese-it filled living room. And then after Navs we congregated there again and had a beautiful conversation between atheists and various Christians about the world and how it works and practicing our beliefs and statements. It made me wish I had a living room to welcome people into, though I remember now as I type Lauren Winner from "Mudhouse Sabbath" claiming that we must welcome into our smallest corners. Wishing for greater space is a copout. And I am grateful for the small spaces and messiness given to us by the Duplex inhabitants.

Other beautiful things that have been moving and growing has been my presence at Oakwood Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings. This was a change from Calvary Baptist, my church for the previous two years. There were several reasons for this change and one that I have seen no reason to regret. Pastor Russ has been a faithful bearer of The Word and constantly proclaims to us Christ and who we now are in Him. I have learned so much from his words, as well as the other families and leaders that have taken time and care to get to know us. There is Fiona, the woman from Scotland who teaches Italian language and culture who gives us a ride each week; there is Alex and Becky who lead RUF and who have two little boys, Whit and Miles. Whit and Jack (Pastor Russ's son) are the same age and two halfs of one soul. They run without stop around the fellowship room's center pole. And there is Mr. Houston who teaches Sunday school and his wife. They homeschool their kids and we play with them via Four Square games between and after services. It is a different church than any I have attended for very long but is an extension of my experience at 1st Presbyterian Church of Ocean City, where I attended this summer.

This weekend has been another gift: Kent and Lindsey came to visit! These are two dear friends from the summer. Lindsey was a leader and Kent, a good brother who would drink tea with me on the front porch. Both appeared in poems (see past posts); Kent in "The Gospel According to Kent" and Lindsey in "Walk II". We met up at Panera with Ruthann, Jeremy, Marian, and Katie Stick. We stayed there for many hours before migrating to Saints and then to my room where Kent and Ruthann read favorite Proverbs aloud; we all shared songs; Lindsey encouraged us in discussing discerning false and empty churches that do not preach Christ; and I could not stop smiling. It was restful to be with them and be able to process the summer. I have had little chance to do that and little knowledge of how best to do it. Today was a good step in that direction. Tomorrow, I will be going with Ruthann to Altoona where we shall once again join cooking forces (well... she is the force. I encourage) for Curt's birthday! I am delighted to spend more time with them all before October rushes in upon us.

In other news, I am currently reading:
Taste and See by John Piper
Love is an Orientation by Marin
Receiving the Gift of Friendship by Reinders
Story Matters
Wendell Berry (when I get a chance! His writing makes me happy)
Shakespeare

Much reading. Little focused time. I wish I could spend more enjoying these books but I plow ahead when I get a chance.

In other other news, Penn State lost and we are ashamed.

In other other other news, I received a box in the mail today from Daniel that contained unexpected letters from my Erskine friends! I was shocked and overjoyed and ready to cry. I curled up in my blanket, and read them all in one sitting. I couldn't not read them all at once. An unopened letter is irresistable, far more than snow crying to be walked on. I mean that. I did not expect such love and encouragement to come from that corner. Not that I didn't expect it. But it was so totally beyond anything I could have imagined. David Hubbs, the tea connoissoir even gave me some of his favorite loose leaf to try! Oh, and Daniel also included several delightful letters from himself with some more tea. In short, a lovely day was made exquisite.

But perhaps you are simply tired of hearing such updatish things. Many other things are happening but these are the particularly lovely parts.

(PS. An especial congratulation to Caleb and Sallie for their engagement! Hurrah!)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Intensity

Hello blogging world, this month has been intense.

School is a hard start every year but this one seemed particularly challenging. I was struggling with transitioning from Beach Project life, to home, to school. I was intensely tired and found my schedule uncommonly unwieldy. I think it was solely on my mother's prayers that it even worked! Now I'm in several challenging courses, one of which has me ecstatic: fiction writing! Of all my course work, I want to invest in this the most. The others are interesting and seem to be offering very real challenges in discovering truth. Byron Borger (heartsandmindsbooks.com) has been of particular help in providing me with many book recommendations that I shall attempt to work through as helpful perspectives on topics such as: critical theory, the nature of text interpretation, disability theory (or the theology of disability, homosexuality, literary excellence, human relationship to the body, and the joy of writing. I am so excited to pour myself into these studies and I feel more excitement in them than I ever have before. However, it seems that I have less time to give to it... or perhaps I have more to distract myself from it. It reminds me of something Hannah Eagleson pointed out to me when I visited them in August: so often, people do not do what they love because they are afraid of failure. God, give me courage to do what I love!

This is a short update. I will give an update on RA life and Navigators very soon. Today Maryn is married to Nate Forney! Hurrah!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Conclusion: Sleeping

I am sleeping. I am deep in sleep. I am dreaming. And I hear voices and someone said my name. I didn't quite hear it but I can feel myself shifting. There is this vague awareness of my body attached to the dream physicallity I carry. I shift again. More voices. I start to understand their words and my eyes from the dream are dark and I start to come up. I hear them talking and I know that I will wake very soon. But not quite yet. It is coming. I am reluctant. I know that when I will awake, it will be time to work hard and long and that joy will be required of me. I hesitate. Waking hurts every time and the lethargic weight of my existence sits heavy in my bones. But I will wake. I will move. I will answer the voice that speaks my name and makes my existence. I will follow and push through the rest. And in those days of painful waking, I will return in renewal. I will carry on the redemption. I will push and practice and seek and grow weary and never faint. I will wait in patience, purchased for me. I will be glad to be awake and delight to know.
Waiting for the sleep to ebb hurts.

In Defence of Kent/ Jeremy Eschleman

I am ashamed. I really want to post these but they are "in context" poems. My poetry prof would be ashamed. "You can't spend your life walking your poems around by the hand, explaining it to people so they don't misunderstand you!" And here I go explaining. The first is an event where The Gospel was played out in a way when I was "beating up" my friend Kent with a green swimming noodle. The second is a lesson I learned from Jeremy, who (however much he drove me insane) showed me how deep my fears run.

In Defense of Kent
Light green. Light touch. It folds away and twists away
like palm trees in a hurricane.
Foamy, thick. What a satisfying smack it makes against Kent's head.
I giggle.
I continue thudding its weight on his head
He wimpers, "I had surgery!"
I continue thudding.
Two thin arms, one this face, one shrill voice rush between the swinging
instrument. "Stop, stop! Don't hurt him!"
My insides tighten and burst across my face.
"Don't hurt him! Don't hurt anyone!"
The small arms, stringy brown hair, rush away
and hide behind their mother's distraction.
I lower my weapon. My mouth hangs slightly open.
I bend at the waist because I cannot breath. I am laughing.

Kent considers. He tilts his face.
He squints his eyes and strokes his invisible beard.
He "hmms."
"I think there might be Jesus in this somewhere, Dana Ray."


Jeremy Eschleman
It was the kitchen
over boiling noodles and mishappen
cheesey milk that I began
to panic.
We were covered in our own sweat
from the ovens that would not boil
the cheesey milk.
My stomach was pinched as a mother grips the end of a thread to make it fit the coming needle's eye.
I (helpless) watched
as our dinner began to come undone in goopiness.
(I dislike cooking. I always cut myself).
My eyes effectively threw needle darts into his bristled hair
poised above the pot with a spoon and a careless look.
I whimpered at how my weapons were nonchalantly repelled.
Beneath the counter, I slumped in failure.
I pretended to ignore
the laughter
as my great enemy saw our disaster mounting.
He smirked. My eyes beamed ineffective death wishes.

Tables set. Pots set out. Plates served.
I turn, helpless, into a hug.
"I'm sorry Dana," the great perpetrator said.
"You shouldn't worry so much."
I push him away and throw water on him from what is left in my cup.
He is right.

The Walks

These two poems are in two very rough and very vague forms. I wrote them for the two women who lead at the Project this summer and two moments I had with them that stood out. It so happened that both moments happened during long and intense walks. I'm finding more and more often that such moments happen in the places where I am physically active, where conversation and body movement are the same. I apologize for their obscurity.

Walk I: Confusion Over Clarity
"I don't understand clarity. I don't know what to do."
My voice was thin. It strained in a hot
New Jersey sun off the fading wooden boards.
I answered a question that I didn't have an answer to.
My legs cut angrily at the confinement of the skirt.
My hands swept dramatic circles in visible humidity, ripples and wakes left behind.
They slapped ripples into the ocean sweat
Sweat began to move down my back
in the New Jersey sun off the fading wooden boards.
I tripped over a tourist as I moved salty hair
out of my burning eyes.
My own ocean rain came from my eyes.
I brushed them away and stood straighter
and waved my hands more, swimming for understanding.
I held confusion at arms length, tredding,
and it tired me.
She leant her head forward and back. She looked at me
without expression. She asked questions.
My hands stopped moving.
I stood still.
Nothing solved, but clarified by walking

Walk II: Womanhood
Restlessness is a drink that flows easily in blood.
Nightime and Wakefulness are its makers.
Confusion and Desperation are its sisters.

We took the lit pathway of the boards
(they were slippery with the unnatural
act of the sky, raining. It shouldn't rain
on things such as boardwalks.)
It rained on us. Our backs were wet.
There was not a silence or awareness.
Our bodies strained ahead against wind and rain and disappearing tourists.
Our words marked the walking of a summer.
Our legs went faster strength entered memory
and became story.
Two shadows of a familiar story walked stride to stride.
Two shadows with the same earnest voice,
one of learning, one of wisdom.
Grace given. "We are alike
but you do not have to choose
what I did."
It was closure.

Restlessness is a drink that flows easily in blood.
Walking in dark, driven by sound of shadowed voices
heals.

Before the Fridge/ Hospitality

The next several writings explore aspects of our community living in the same space and what we learned about God's glory through it.

I wonder whether life exists beyond the kitchen. My back slides down the front door of the fridge. I see the grimy edges. I did not sweep well last night. An ant crawls with a crumb in its mouth. The juice sloshed out of the pitcher and down the front door. The sink and dishwasher are running, trying to keep our messes clean. My fingers and mouth are sticky with chocolate and cookies. I am drinking the last of the milk straight from the jug. We talk about brother and sisterhood. Inhabiting time and space as our home, our walls, our roof, our air, rather than feeling incessant movement erode life into hours, into minutes, into seconds. There is glory in our floor sitting.

Hospitallity

enough rooms and enough chairs and enough tables and enough food.
Small house. Never getting bigger. But the people
always
fit.

Introduction: Straight Lines Considered and Explained in Straight Lines

(Offered toward the community at Ocean City Beach Project, but also to you, my readers)

I have spent the summer in certain thought. I have stood on the beach and considered the philosophical grandeur of God. I have eaten good food and argued over fellowship. I have disagreed with many things. I have spent time taking copious, well considered, articulate course notes. I have defended my position and adopted new ones. I have read "Engaging God's World" with every ounce of concentration I had to give. I have browsed through Byron's world of Christian nonfiction. The lines of my thinking were clearly drawn and neatly colored between. I have colored accurately by number. I have thought in straight lines.

I told no stories. I spoke no poems. No words came in the fullness of life, the engagement of my mind, the growing of my arms and legs. I have not thought in color but had some clear lines drawn. I was waiting. I was tired. I am tired so that I am still explaining this to you, my reader, in prose. You are listening as I take you through my thinking, through the lines, through the process. And now it is time for an incarnation of this (I am waving my arms towards you, towards us, towards our invisible friendship). I need to say things in a different way. I need to take these thoughts and remember them in moments, in senses, in details. I need to say The Gospel in a way that is not always clear, but simply exists. Is. Does. And I ask that you wait patiently with me in the stories that bring life.

Explanation

I've been in RA training. And before that, Daniel was at my house for a reunion of four months missing. And before that, I was leaving Ocean City Beach Project, 1st Pres, and a summer that I did not appreciate enough when I was in it. Enough to forgive my lack of posting? Well...

Gospel centered posting; right Ruthann?


Here is parts of my capstone. I offer explanations to each post to explain what I was after. I hope you enjoy.

(Oh, and I'm doing this as a series, so there will be many posts in the next few days. Remember that the chronology of blogs means that the first writings come further down the page!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer

Paris tea, Goldfish, fresh cut roses, swinging for an hour, good conversation, the final hours of summer:

There is redemption at the Eagleson's kitchen table.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fade Between Scenes

It is like being suspended in air, this waiting for the scenes to change. I feel no urge or compulsion to accomplish anything. I spend my days doing things that delight me and do not tire me. I made a pie. I sit with Daniel. I ignore phone calls to make. I do not remember well. I am stuck in between and I rest. This makes processing OCBP a difficult task (that I have not tried very hard to do); writing an impossible one. I return to Penn State and all that I have been preparing for in three days. Three! I suppose I shouldn't use such an exclamation point in an attempt to elicit pity since other ocbpers have returned to school already and are going through some hard times after leaving Ocean City. I know somewhere inside me that I miss it... I do... but not very consciously. I went from the strangeness of a goodbye to the strangeness of being with my family. I'm being present very fully right now and that is not always good. Most of these thoughts are extraneous excuses for not posting. (That and Daniel tried to take a "byte" from my computer. Silly fellow! Doesn't he know that eating food is far more satisfying?!)

And, as I said, I am going to include some of my capstone project, with a few additions, in the next few days. I would love feedback for improvements and criticisms. My dear ones from the beach enjoyed but did not critique. I would appreciate such responses!

The school year approaches!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Quick Update

Today, I am very tired and only have a few moments in which to write a post. If I don't hurry up, I'll be late for work. BUT, tomorrow will be my last day. Two more days of Kidz Creations. I'm so relieved and glad.

The past week or so has been a busy and delightful one. Byron was here with his book store in tow and we had a marvelous time wandering through the pages and reading books as fast as we could so we could buy others. He spoke on Christian vocation and he and his family contributed to our crazy lives quite well! It was a week where I began processing the summer and started writing my response to it. Hopefully, I'll finish most of it by Thursday and put some of it on here so you can see. It was also hard because I started to emotionally pull away from being here. Telling that to the group helped a great deal and they have been conscious of including me in our craziness. This made the weekend a beautiful one.

(I can't decide!)

First, church seemed to finally come together. Our attitudes met with the graciousness of 1st Pres and we seemed to be one church for the first time. I even missed some of the best parts when some of us shared in Sunday School. I think in the realization that we will be leaving soon, we understood just how much they had given us this summer and were able to give a little back to them in our stories and music. We wandered around church afterwards and talked to people there. It felt familiar and we were encouraged very deeply by it. Pastor Sheldon gave a challenging sermon that went hand in glove with all that we were experiencing with them. Alex, Curt, and I were asked to do the special music. I couldn't help but grin as we jammed together up there and knew the church was worshiping with us in it. And then we took communion. The Sheldons kept telling me that I should come back and visit in the winter. I'd love to.

The weather has been a tad crazy here. We had some serious thunder storms and decided to spend our Sunday afternoon out in it!

(Trevor, me, Alex)

Please keep me in prayers in these last few days! I'm excited to see those of you in Hershey and continue trying to articulate what God has done this summer!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Waiting

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning...
He will redeem Israel.
(Psalm 130:5-6)

Whate’er my God ordains is right,
He never will deceive me
He leads me by the proper path,
I know He will not leave me
I take, content,
What He hath sent
His hand can turn my griefs away
And patiently I wait His day
(A Hymn)

against the night sky of your waiting
your face is like starlight when He walks in
everything worth keeping comes through dying
love has come, love has come for you
(Ten Thousand Angels)

Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
(Psalm 27:14)

Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen
(Psalm 77:19)


It has been a long week. There were many trying things. Class was hard. Learning about racial reconcilliation is hard. Feeling angry about the whole thing was hard. Alaina was a dear and gave incredible love in the whole process. I think many of us in the house this week were carrying burdens that we didn't talk about. Perhaps we should have. We did a little last night. I am finding how hard it is to wait on God. Oddly enough, the theme of "waiting" was prevalent toward the beginning of the summer and even in the end of the school year. This lead to me reading "Waiting on God" by Andrew Murray (who was a significant character in my life via his book "Abide in Christ"). Why is it so hard to rest completely in the sovereignty of God? To trust that He knows and He works? That He is indeed loving and strong enough to act on His love? I do know it is because I am human. That is not an excuse. It is a condemnation. I am screwed up and waiting on His final restoration, waiting for the redemption of the now, is long. And how can I speak of it as long when I have only waited a very short amount of time? Absurdity. But there will be beauty made out of it.

In other news, there are two weeks left in Ocean City. There is much glorious living to be done in this town, or rather much glorifying life to be lived in the next two weeks. Byron will be coming on the morrow with a book store of books to set up in our living room. Ah! The smell of paper to return to in the evenings after work! What frabjous joy is ours!

I also directed my first meal last night! It took me the whole summer to get there but I did it! I helped coordinate the cooking, the prep, and the moving of 31 people and their food down a block to the park. It went wonderfully. There was just enough food... just. It was very stressed but I think that has gotten better as the summer has gone. I did not panic. And the food was good. Thank you to Mom for her recipe for Speedie Meat! Also a special thanks to Alex who cut off the tip of her finger for the cause of making us salsa dip! The park was lovely as the sun began to set. We played frisbee and laughed on the blankets, laughing. It was marvelous to have a change of pace from our living room/dinning room.

Also, a specific prayer request: in the next two weeks, I am to finish my payments to the CCO. Right now, I am significantly short. It has been a blessing to call old friends and catch up with them; and for those of you I have spoken to, I thank you a million times for your encouragement. Keep this in prayer. I know it will happen. There will be funds one way or another. But I still covet your prayers that all needs will be met. That's all.

Another thing: I am a fan of the Positively 4th Coffee House. This place is wonderful. The Ark is wonderful. 1st Presbyterian Church of Ocean City is wonderful. I will be sad to leave here. I am even more excited than my sadness that Penn State and a school year of work is before me. And there isn't even a little bit of sarcasm in that statement.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mail

There is something so incontrovertibly charming about receiving mail. It surpasses all the magic of computers and screens. It bewilders and delights more than any other form of technology. This summer has convinced me of this all the more as the occasional letter and package finds its way into my Ark mailbox. I wait in anticipation for all the surprises I do not expect. First, were the letters from Daniel in rapid succession. Both of us being in different places this summer meant that the early weeks were full of things to say in paper. And then there was a surprise box from Jenny Davidson just when I was getting discouraged, filled with deliciousness and a lovely card. And then there was a letter from my friend Chelsea and a letter from my friend Sarah and a letter from my Compassion child. And then there was an unexpected note from my discipler before she left for a week and a note from Kim Chez and a note from my prayer partner, snuck in while I was out to work. And then there was the cookies Maggie wanted to "test run" on me to make sure they weren't "poisoned" on their way to Steve and Ian. And then there was the yellow envelope and blue paper and witty remarks of Miriam. And then there was a card from Mrs. Shenk, unexpected and delightful. All of these have been surprises and reminded me of the joys of paper and pen (and baked goods!) sent with love. Letters are beautiful, strange physical connections from one person to another. More than any other token than I can think of (even more so than pictures), letters are a way to carry someone with you. They are a way to treasure something someone has made and invested time in. The sight of stamp and envelope and written addresses give more delight than any bolded "unread" email or the chime of a received text message.

And so I'm going to end with a question. My years in Sunday School lessons and pointed devotionals makes me gawk at this but I sincerely wish to know. I shall ignore my scruples and leap over them with well trained grace. Do you have letters that you have received over the years or recently that were remarkable in some way or that you continue to treasure and remember? What are their stories?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visiting

This past Wednesday, Dad picked me up from in front of the Ark and whisked me home (via a long 4 hour drive) for some R&R. I have been growing increasingly fatigued with noisy neighbors and not having some space to recover from several life blows that fell in quick succession. It was good to be home and in the quiet. I climbed in bed at 10:15 and was quickly asleep. 12.5 Hours of glorious rest. (deep sigh of contentment)

All in preparation for Thursday.

At 2pm, Hannah and I climbed into the car and drove to Lancaster Bible College. I was decked out in staff shirt, shoes tied, ready to play. I was so excited that I began getting jittery as we got closer. We parked and wandered toward what looked like a group of wva students. Incorrect! They were playing leap frog. Ah yes! The frisbee wielding Pegors was spotted across the parking lot and on the borders of a field. I moved towards them, and leapt a few times. All staff looked very preoccupied in their color teams and were practicing their cheers. However, Cara Craggett was unarmed against my excitement, and I sprinted towards her. It had been almost a year since I had seen her.





(Gretchen helping lead the Red Team Cheer for the Spamley Cup Competition)

Then the frisbee game began! Leah was so excited that she was shaking, waiting to finish the cheer competition. It was amazing just to be with them all again! JRedd and Sharpie did a great "Hide Dana from the students and give her a hug" and I remembered all over again how much I loved being part of the staff. Tim ran past and threw me a staff shirt. I shook hands with the staff I didn't know, hugging Michele in delight at meeting her for the first time, and learned names as fast as I could before the game began.





After the game, I hung out with Leah in her room, catching up on many things. Thankfully, we've been in touch over phone before now so there was just a little left to do. Leah has a gift of loving others so thoroughly and enthusiastically and I've missed her presence so much! It just isn't the same without her around. What I still can't believe is that we never actually staffed together! After dinner, there was a "Fandango" and Brandon let me tag along. We sat in the alumni room and I got to hear the joys and the sorrows and exhaustion of the staff and help out with a few things. Mostly, I sat and enjoyed the friendship of the staff and caught up with Sharpie and JRedd.



One of the awesome things about camp is Brandon Booth and his lecture 7 Sweet Lies. I ran in and out of this lecture until David said, "Hey! You should run down with us and dance to Listen To Your Heart!" Can I say that there is nothing else in the world that I wanted?! This was followed with BonJovi moshing (though missing chasing Daniel off the stage) and then Spamley Cup with Amelia and Ruth. I can't really explain how perfect it seemed... it was so restful and joyous to be doing these things again and with this community. I told Leah that I was going to cry when we reached the end of the night and I did, but not exactly out of sorrow. It was more of the joy of having had this last summer, of seeing God working the students and staff, and rejoicing in the friendships I do not deserve. The knowledge of Jessi and Eric made this joy a serious one. I have not been grateful enough for these times and these people. It can all be lost in a moment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmoE8_U-JTw


(me and the Baldwin kids: Emma, Kate, and True)

"We don't have this grand scheme, this big plan, this massive dream. All we want to do is change the world, one student at a time."

Talley Ho, Worldview Academy!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some Links and an Update

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IeXazl1szI

Above is a link to a short interview I did about the Beach Project and some things I have been learning. It isn't the half of it, but a little. Note: I'm very, very tired in this video which is ironic because I'm speaking about rest. One of the non-restful things about my summer has been the neighbors drinking at all hours. Pray that this ceases or I have epic deep sleeping skills appear suddenly. There are also other interviews under OCBP 2009 Interviews on youtube.

Thank you for your patience in posting. I haven't been very together this past weekend. The primary reason is that two friends of mine, Jessi Brown and Eric Kauffman, died in a car crash last Wednesday. I heard Friday afternoon. They were a core part of my Navigator community at school and the grief of my school family is very deep. I carry the burden and grief at a great distance. It is hard to know that I am so helpless to comfort those I care about. However, I know that the love God has shown me in the past weekend has been overwhelming. From coming home to The Ark and the care of those folks, to conversations on the phone with Steve, and then Maggie coming to visit, God has been very present. Truth has been spoken in these far corners of mourning. What then is God doing at the center?

In other respects, the past week has been very good. Hospitality was the conversation we kept having last week in classes and in practice. It was really amazing to have my entire perception of the RA job blown out of the water (more on that later when the notebook is at hand to write down some thoughts) and then see hospitality in action over the weekend. The new CCO staffers came to join us in worship and fellowship for a few days. They were a marvelous group of people and we easily fit 15 extra people into the Ark. There was much rejoicing, many late boardwalk nights, some crazy swing dancing, good food, worship together, frisbee in the ocean waves up to our necks, spoken letters to Rachel Foose (the NEastern incarnation of Jessi Morris), and little sleep. I was wiped out. It was grand but exhausting. I was glad they came. Several of them will be very near Penn State, and Daniel will be on campus with us (CCO Daniel, not Daniel Stephens Daniel)!

In the next few days, I am traveling home to Hershey for several reasons. First: To see my family. I miss them. Second: To hang out with Isaac for a belated birthday celebration. Third: To celebrate Dad's bday! Fourth: To see Jen in "The Wiz". Fifth: to participate in the frisbee game shut out of summer 09 (camp here I come!). It will be a good time, I hope, one of continued rest and recovery.

So... what exactly has Dana been learning?
That the Gospel is so much bigger than she can understand. That is so much bigger than my sin, and I can't even comprehend my sin in a real enough way to properly understand the glorious Grace as it relates to me... much less the entire Kingdom of God! I really don't get it. I struggle and fight for it only to find that it is when I stop struggling that understanding comes. It is... so crazy. So beautiful. Words are so inadequate for all that I don't understand. And words are good... I grasp in words... and suddenly there are no words. I'm hoping to do my capstone project with some expressions of what I'm learning in this specific area. And so I give you no words of my own, but a song that was written on this very subject with far greater skill and joy.

Thy Mercy, My God

1. Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

2. Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

3. Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

4. Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

©2001 Same Old Dress Music (ASCAP).

Monday, July 06, 2009

Prayer

Several of you have asked me to share specific prayer requests. I acknowledge that I frequently underestimate the gift of prayer and so I'm offering some things going on here at the Beach that I long to see God move in. Thank you for being me with this.

- Lisa, Amelia, and Casey are the three women that I work with at Kidz Creations. Things can get overwhelming for me there and I see a lot of brokenness in their lives that I know I can't answer. I need patience and love for them.

- That our community of students is consistently glorifying God in all we do. Things are so comfortable between us that we are apt to forget how to challenge each other and love each other as we should.

- I long for this summer to be a Sabbath and so far it has been. Pray that my attitude in this will continue to learn what rest and letting go means. I need to learn what it is to not stress out in stressful times and not to worry when things clamor to be worried about. Basically, that I will learn trust and rest in my Savior's sovereignty.

- That in my investment here, I will find freedom and rest to return to campus in the fall. I had a talk with one of our leaders today and realized how worried I was about it. Going back will be hard and yet that is why I am here! I want to go back! Pray that I will find vision, find good dreams to dream, and that I will return to campus ready to go.

- Speaking of campus: pray for my Bible study girls; my floor of 54 girls; 13 new RAs; and the Christian community there!

- For our leaders here (spiritually, in gaining rest, and in their financial situations). Pete Ware, Curt Wright, Lindsey Smyth, and Katie Black. They have been doing an amazing job of serving us and showing me what a leader should look like. Pray for their continued sustenance!

Please remember that I long to hear from all of you. Email narnia50@gmail.com, call (though less likely to get me) 717-514-8793, and write

Ocean City Beach Project
P.O Box 937
Ocean City, NH 08226


These days are good. This weekend was one of the best that I've had here, mostly because I rested quite thoroughly and was challenged by good conversations and Bible study. Lindsey took me out for a bike ride and coffee which turned into a three hour conversation about calling, relationships, purpose, and God's inexplicable care for us in all things. This was followed by an hour at the beach talking with Hannah and reading P. G. Wodehouse. Sunday was marked by church at 1st Presbyterian, with Eddie Parker's talk on Galatians 6, meeting my prayer partner, finding a friend in Annie Parker (Eddie's wife), and taking communion together. I also got a chance to lead Bible study on Exodus for my small group. It was a challenge to plan and I learned several things (like "Ask more questions!", and that I'm an external processor and should never plan studies on my own). Today I spoke with a recruiter (Allie Molencoff) for the CCO ministry about considering them further as a post-graduation opportunity. To be honest, I have no idea how I feel about that. I'd rather know what on earth is going to happen at this very moment but that is definitely a bad idea. I can wait. But it was an interesting conversation that will probably be the first of many with this organization.

Well, at this present moment, I am about to be late for house worship. The Ark family is waiting. Please contact me soon! Ocean City feels like the center of the world; it is a small world that gets smaller the longer I am here and I need to be reminded of the outside world.

Love,
Dana

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Getting a Visual

It rained and left the sky on the sidewalks.

Hannah Coulter

Byron Borger was here a few weeks ago. He was his classic self, lugging more books than we could read in a year to spread before us on whatever space was available (the air hockey table). I was milling around, smelling paper, when he handed me "Hannah Coulter" by Wendell Berry. Derek Meleby had recommended it the week before so I took it and began to read.

It is a book that invites understanding for the things we do not know. It feels very familiar and comfortable. It seems old to me, something I have experienced and resonate with. That cannot be true, at least not entirely. It is written in the perspective of an old woman looking back on her life. She does not slip into the narration that implies a present. She speaks through her memories and we are always able to see her present voice speaking these past things. I suspect that I have been given a friend that will remain one for many years. I can understand Hannah as she was in my age. She allows me to understand myself with the eyes of someone much older, who is almost a different person, who has wisdom and time in her words. She will also allow understanding as I continue living things she has lived through. There are many years to encounter them and I will be with someone who has gone before.

It was also an interesting read to continue considering "place" as a literary theme. This dominated my thinking and writing while in South Carolina with the Penn State class. I have never considered what living in one physical location does to you, how it makes you and the people you are with, and how little of that I have understood in my own growing up. I cannot wish to go back. I can only consider how moving forward with such things as the computer and the internet and cars and lights can be done to God's glory, in the celebration of place. It made me wish for woods and trees, away from the sound of traffic and the planes that fly overhead.

I'm speaking too abstractly. Forgive me. Perhaps what I mean is that I better understand the Ray in me that loves the distance of living on hills, deep in the woods gives.

In summary: I highly recommend this book.

The Guard Box

The box where the guards guard against joy teaches how to fly. Sit very still and look out into the dark. Listen to the sound that is no sound. Taste the taste that is no taste (only in memory). Stretch out arms. Do not close eyes. Wait. Wait till a wave so full of itself and strains at the edges that it rushes under your feet and around your house. Watch as it pulls under you and behind you and toward the shore and the buildings man has built near death. Breath deeply. And it will turn. It will turn though it tries not to. It pulls out under you and you will see the ocean race away from you, and feel as if it carries you in its arms. Know then, that you are flying .No questioning or you break the spell. Know only. Know that you have been carried away through air and salt and water, a living baptism, in the guard box against joy.

And the boundaries of the world hold still.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Being

And so we rest with paper and pen and stories, learning and growing. It is hard to be here sometimes, knowing how much need there is in the world. Knowing how many other places have "need". And still there are Sundays where we rest and are reminded to peace. Though today was a Saturday, today was a day of rest. And I look forward to tomorrow and worshiping with the church.

Some conversations over the past few days have included:

What is worldview? How do we teach it? When are students ready to learn it?
What is reformed theology? Why does Dana believe it?
Why does it always rain here?
Who is getting the mail today?
Where did the dog in my room come from?
Who is cooking dinner?
Where did the Alexs go?!
What is true ministry? How do we live in it? How do we evangelize?
What is it for Dana to chill out and stop worrying?
Who is Wendell Berry and why should I read his writing?
So... Alex really got caught in the bathroom?

This is just a small sampling. It is a summer of questions and wondering. A summer of searching. Joyful play and learning. It is good.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reliance (A Prayer)

My Father,

When thou art angry towards me for my wrongs, I try to pacify thee by abstaining from future sin. But teach me that I cannot satisfy thy law, that this effort is a resting in my righteousness, that only Christ's righteousness, ready made, already finished, is fit for that purpose; that thy chastening me for my sin is not that I should try to reform, but only that I may be more humbled, afflicted, and separated from sin, by being reconciled, and made righteous in Christ by faith; that a sense of my sufficiency and ability in him is one means of my being immovable; that I can never be so by resting on my own faith but by trusting in thee as my only support, by faith...

Lord, forgive me for this.


A Prayer from "The Valley of Vision."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elmo

Life continues here in Ocean City in its odd, distance from reality. This week we have had the unmistakable privilege of having Byron Borger (owner of Hearts and Minds Bookstore) among our ranks. His presence and conversation has instructed and challenged us all in very individual ways. He is up at all hours spending time with us and talking. He milling around the kitchen when I get up for work and it still going strong when I head to bed at midnight. It has been an astonishing reminder of how vast and glorious the gospel really is. The entire world is broken and instranged from itself in our fall, all institutions, all policies, all organizations, all relationships. And the gospel of Christ in us will bring life and healing to those places as well. I forget that the story of the church didn't end at the end of Acts. It is still a story being told, one that has yet to end, one of God's glory continuing to play out and command the course of our lives. It has also been a gift to hear the stories of God's redemption in the lives of my house-mates. We are learning to love each other even more and have much to learn from each other.

This post is specifically to tell some stories about where I am working. I am working for a woman named Lisa at Kidz Creations. I have had several different roles in the course of a week and am learning how to contribute. Arts and crafts aren't my thing but I now know the difference between acrylic and water based paints! More than that, I am getting a chance to do ministry in the oddest ways imaginable. The past two days I have drawn people into the store while wearing a large, awkward, smelly, red, furry suit. Who was I? Elmo. That's is right. You can read it again but the letters won't have changed. I was Elmo to entertain kids and get people to visit the store and notice where it is. This was done successfully. I could hear "my name" being shouted in little kids voices blocks away. I posed for pictures with strangers I couldn't really see from beneath my head. I have been hugged and kissed by many little children that didn't even reach the height of my knees. I have laughed silently with parents. I have pantomimed answers and danced at honking cars. It is the most absurd job I have ever had. No one sees my face. No one knows my real name. It is an odd disconnect. That disconnect triggers an overflow of affection and laughter in the people that see me. It is strange that a costume can give that joy. I'm not an Elmo fan. I haven't watched Seseame Street (did I even spell it correctly?). But it is a kind of ministry to be this character for them and delight them so. I smile too when the kids get all excited about seeing me. It isn't me which can be unnerving sometimes. At the same time, it is like a continual play. Hopefully, I have glorified God in my antics!

Ministry has also been happening in the form of stories. I was left in charge of the store last week and looked after Lisa's daughter, Abby. She did a painting project that involved painted feet and while I washed her feet, I told her the story of a great king who was about to die who washed the feet of his best friends to show them how much he loved them and how they should love each other; that it was one of the bravest things he had ever done. Today, I ended up at the entertainer in a cooking lull at the day camp. I got them in a circle and told them stories about fairies, dragons, and a soldier named Gideon who led a small group to defeat the evil king. The details were modified (mostly because I couldn't remember numbers and it sounded great to have Gideon go up against 1 million soldiers with 100); magic is used instead of miracles. But it is the same. The story captivates. I got them to listen and be interested and asked questions and confirm at the end that Gideon did in fact win against the evil king. I love how stories can attract and maintain attention- not merely attention but investment! How easily I forget such things! That what has changed me is, in fact, a story; the greatest one that was ever told; the greatest because it really happened. And the story gives it strength and life. It is not a "how to assemble" manual handed to me. It is real and is shared as we tell it again and again. It is the story that never grows old or weary or impractical.

So. Elmo. Stories. Cooking. Rainy clouds. Book talk. I'll have more stories to tell later.

-dana

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Placement

Oh dear blog readers, you are now reading a long overdue update on the life and adventures of Dana Ray. You deserve better. Oh wait... it hasn't been that long. It has merely been exactly one week since I moved to Ocean City, NJ for the summer to attend the Ocean City Beach Project with CCO! This has been a week of extraordinary changes and learning. But there I go telling you instead of showing you. Hopefully, I will post a few more times this weekend so you can get a sense of the place God has put me for the next seven weeks (one down, seven to go!).

I am living in a house that can hold up to forty people. There are 19 of us. 15 students and 4 directors. Our house has been called "The Ark" for time out of mind and is rented from the same man who owned it twenty five years ago when the Beach Project was started by the youth director at the 1st Presbyterian Church of Ocean City. This summer, our group will be attending said church who is still really involved in our lives every summer. I have already been blessed by several conversations that took place last Sunday inbetween services. I got the chance to talk to an elder about the church and their teaching and beliefs (they are part of the Presbyterian USA church. Yes, my eyebrows were raised and I went in skeptical). It was a great conversation and I look forward to learning more from this church community. It has been a challenge to our group already, most of whom have not encountered the Presbyterian world in any form. Pastor Sheldon has been a gift and I have very much enjoyed my brief encounters with his kids and with his wife. They all have the most glorious red hair and the youngest, Joanna, is a dear who doodles her sermon notes.

Our other days were spent searching for jobs. True to all the serious doubts expressed by parents all over the board... jobs were hard to find. Please pray for this for all of us. I am currently working at a kid's arts and crafts center for a very broken woman in a very broken town. I almost quit because the first few days were very overwhelming but I'm still there and will be for the near future. Other teammates are still without work and desperately need jobs to remain here this summer. No one is being kicked out or anything, but the pressure is on.

More joyfully, The Ark is a place where the community is centered. It has a spacious main floor that connects by a small hallway to the large kitchen area in the back. We have a small basement area with deep couches but the living room is where we congregate. The couches are many and we shape them in a circle so we can gather for meetings. Dinner takes place in the living room too. We move the pingpong table and set up chairs and tables every night, adding one extra place for the unexpected stranger or guest, who we can serve as Christ. When it is empty, it serves as a reminder that Christ is present in our conversations and community. Upstairs is reached by old, twisty, and creaky stairs. It is like climbing a tower. My room is the last on the left down a long hallway. A cheerful yellow with two windows that catch wind and light, I feel like I am resting like a bird in the tops of buildings. I enjoy resting there and waking up with sea breezes playing in my covers and through my hair.

While this past week was one where we attempted to get into a routine (meaning we had lots of meetings), I think a schedule is soon to be found. It may look like this:

Sunday: Church from 8:45-12, Rest in the afternoon, Breakfast for dinner, Bible study on Exodus (with Lindsey Smyth!)
Monday: My day off which I will spend writing, reading, catching up on sleep, and discipleship with Katie Black. Bible Study on "The Gospel Centered Life", House worship, and House meeting.
Tuesday: Work for the day and then class time at night.
Wednesday: Work for the day and then an evening off or an optional activity. Evening off means hanging out with the House! This is also the day that my group (under the stellar director, Pete Ware) cooks dinner!
Thursday: Same as Tuesday
Friday: A free evening after dinner.
Saturday: My day off. Repeat Monday.

So far, my reading has consisted of some Flannery OConnor and Engaging God's World by Plantinga. Both have been amazing. OConnor... I don't know what to do with her and could use some help. I have so much to learn this summer and the reading list is challenging. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to write some fiction and poetry this summer as well. I am too ambitious as always, but rather that than not planning.

Well, it is time for dinner now. And I must continue a discussion about WVA with Byron Borger (!). The man, as I said at Jubilee, is a rock star. And he knows tons of folks from camp and I get to have a great time trying to get ideas for my Honors Thesis from him. I am so blessed to learn from these people this summer!

In Christ,
Dana

Monday, June 08, 2009

Graduation and Cold Water

And now I will give an update on my hard work since coming home:



(chuckles) Those hours of sleep have been amazing. Hurrah for the chance to do it what school doesn't allow!


My incomparably beautiful and independent sister graduated from high school. We are all so very proud of her. The graduation itself was lovely. Friends and family shared memories, pictures were laughed at, chocolate was consumed in pounds, and much fun was (hopefully) had by all.


The past day was spent at my grandmother's in Deposit, NY. I have so many childhood memories of playing at these very waterfalls with my cousins. I hadn't done so since Grammy's funeral four years ago and was very lucky to enjoy a summer day like this with my sisters!

(we got into an fun water fight)

I also got the chance to employ my favorite pair of shoes. These chacos have been my grounding to the earth since I got them as a birthday present last month. They have served me well in woodland trecks, camping, mall wandering, road trips, and more. I have never owned such comfortable and versatile shoes. I think I might start joining my friend Jamie Zachavitch in wearing them to church. Hmm...



Next: OCEAN CITY BEACH PROJECT SUMMER 09! WOOT!

I have also been blessed to keep in contact with many friends who are starting to see God work in amazing ways this summer. Their stories have blown me away and I cannot wait to hear more as the summer continues. Please keep these folks in prayer and rejoice too in how crazy perfect our God's work is! I have been so encouraged by them!

-Steve, working at Eagle Lake Camp in Colorado. He told his boys the first week that they needed to share their testimony with at least two folks before the week was out. They went and told four people each.
- Sarah, working at an internship with engineers who are taking their time to teach her all they know. Was in a car wreck and a week later was practically given a car and more hours to help pay for insurance.
- Christy, back from Scotland with a passion for knowledge of Scripture and the pursuit of Godliness in the American church.
- Daniel, serving as the youth intern at Carthage Presbyterian Church in Mississippi. Turn out for youth events went from 7 to 17 in a week at VBS, and many doors have been opened for ministry and relationships.
- Worldview Academy camps started this past Sunday. The staff had a fantastic week at training. Having been with these people before, I can only imagine how God is going to work in high school students lives.

What are your stories of the summer?