Friday, February 27, 2009

From Jubilee to Due West

The miles under my feet this month have been extensive and ones that have caused considerable joy.

Two weekends ago, I joined twenty or so of the University Park Penn State crew on a road trip to Jubilee, a conference in Pittsburgh, PA. We stayed together in a massive hotel and conference center with 3000 other students and CCO staff. It was a weekend of hope and joy. I cannot claim a specific theme that stood out to me as being influential. Rather it was the encouragement of being in that atmosphere and with those students. I learned from our side conversations even more than from the lectures themselves. In company with the extensive discussion of culture, its pursuits, and its relation to our faith, there were many artists present. Many of these were musicians who inspired me with the beauty of their work. Joy and Peace Ike were two women I felt I could be best friends with. Their music was a time of worship for which I was extremely grateful.

Seeing Jane and Nate Davidson was also a delight. I was able to eat breakfast with Jenny Sunday morning and start to catch up on what has been going on in our lives. Having not seen her since Adele's wedding, this was a special gift.

Other thoughts that this weekend spurred:

-Presence. I need to be present to the community I live in, starting with leaving my door open more often.
-Excitement renewed for the idea of college ministry after graduation. I went to a CCO informational breakfast and am continuing to look into working with them.
-A reminder of the importance of community and hospitality.
-A desire to see the world. More specifically, to visit and develop a love and understanding for the church as an international body. I have never been outside of the developed world.

The following weekend found me in the car with Mom and Gretchen on the way to visit Daniel at his school, Erskine College. Again, it was a weekend of extraordinary joy. I was so glad to see him again and to meet his friends as well. We watched movies (Monty Python and WallE), listened to music (Indelible Grace and Sanctus Real), read aloud (The Hobbit to T. S. Elliot and Winnie the Pooh), baked (cake and bread), and ran around the quiet peace of the campus so I could see it all. Beautiful trees, fountains (posing great temptations to throw people in), churches and grave yards, and fields under starry skies. Even more delightful was the chance to meet a host of new friends and characters that people Erskine. It was wonderful at every turn to find more friends where strangers were expected. There was challenging conversation over good food; there was worship from frisbee to The Barn; there was joyful delight in life from dancing in Robinson Kitchen to pulling off the road to pick early daffodils. I felt quite at home and long to visit there again.

The return to school has been frantic but not intollerable. It seems mad to consider that Spring Break it not a week away. There is a great deal of writing to accomplish in this small amount of time but it will be done. I'll be heading to New Orleans with Navigators to do various service projects and invest in these people. I'm also looking at being a Bible Study leader next year for which I am very excited.

Ever Yours,

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Forestalling of Story Telling

I don't have a moment to tell you all about the joyous weekend at Jubilee (CCO's yearly conference in Pittsburgh). So I shall leave you in the promise that it is coming and that it was wonderful. This weekend I am heading to Due West, SC to visit Mr. Stephens, which I have looked forward to with more than the usual expectation and joy. I simply cannot wait!

In conclusion, one of my favorite quotes from Pride and Prejudice

"Elizabeth, on her side, had much to do. She wanted to ascertain the feelings of each of her visitors, she wanted to compose her own, and to make herself agreeable to all; and in the latter object, where she feared most to fail, she was most sure of success, for those to whom she endeavoured to give pleasure were prepossessed in her favour. Bingley was ready, Georgiana was eager, and Darcy determined to be pleased." (Volume III, Chapter 2)

Monday, February 09, 2009

but hope as a way of turning

I think that Hannah visiting was the best thing ever. I've missed her. I still miss home. But it was good to hang out with the familiar again. And I now think that grocery stores are the most amusing places ever to get lost in. If I had unlimited funds, I think I might start spending it on stationary and random cards.

The world is starting to smell like spring. I know this is trickery and that spring is not here. This is false. But the odd, repulsive joy of walking through mud and the warmth enough to swing for half an hour... these are spring things. And the deeper sky crossed by the forgotten tails of planes... these are spring things.

It is too early for this hope.

Next weekend I'm going to Jubilee. ( It is unlikely that I will be able to post until afterwards where I hope to regale you with wonderful stories and memories. If you remember, I'd appreciate prayers as I do my school work these next few weeks. Every moment is precious and I have a great deal of work to accomplish.

In other news, I rather desperately need to clean out my room. (sigh) Such tasks take all my motivation.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Environmental Literature


(I realize now that I have reread this once and posted it that there is nothing new in here at all, even for me. But writing it helped me see that I did know it and could stand on it in the coming months of study. It's all world view studies, pretty much. And, of course, Lewis has already said it better than I could and with far fewer words. So keep that in mind.)

The spring semester of 09 is just begun. This is only our second real week of studying a subgenre of a subgenre in “The Beach”, an adventure literature course. In other, non-marketing words, we’re studying environmental literature, specifically that out of the coastal areas of the United States South East. Environmental literature, a genre without a home. I think it could be said to have started with Darwin. Odd, crazy man who had no idea what kind of hell he was chanelling into the world. He wrote what he saw and then made assumptions off of that. He wrote like a philosopher. He wrote well. This was not what we come to expect as science writing, the elite, the detailed, the criteria driven, the language bound. This was a free hand take on the world and it changed how the world saw itself. And it began with a man seeing it through his personal eyes alone.

And so we come to environmental literature. Rachel Carson. Annie Dillard. Wendell Berry. This strange baby of the postmodern world, the world where we cannot know things by the facts, by the measurement, by the concrete things we hold in our hands. But really, that “unknowing” has led to a stance that it cannot be known. Instead, we have this creature that is neither fact, the realm of science, nor is it creative, fiction and the realm of the arts. It is a both, a mix, a hodgepodge, a cut and pasting together. A close kin would be the memoir and all the battles it faces over the changing of a person’s fact into the fiction of a good story. Where are the ethics? Where are the lines? Where are the categories to judge the work by?

The judging does not exist. It is as the human sees, how the human knows, how the human interprets the nature of the earth.

And there, my dear friends, is the problem. Of the things we have read in our course so far, they have looked primarily at the world as seen through the eyes of the human. And from these experiences, they have been interpreted artistically in an effort to understand and to know, to derive meaning. They are using nature to create some moral compass to direct their lives and each person comes up with a different handful of mud and calls it the blood of life itself. C. S. Lewis once pointed out, “If you take nature as a teacher, she will teach you exactly the lessons you had decided to learn.” In other words, we see in nature what we want to see. It cannot be our guideline, our prop against which we judge all things for their truth and value. We’ve come in, already deciding what she is going to say. And in this, she can be twisted into whatever we like. If a person with a tendency after the heart of Emily Bronte, nature is a wild and dark passion, untamable and free. If you tend more towards Wordsworth, you will see it as a lovely, frolicky place to be. And if, as I so happen to tend, to see the world as a creation, then you’ll come away with something like the Psalms: “The Heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands”, etc. This it not to imply that nature changes or that we ourselves decide what she is. How we see her simply changes and only one of them can be correct.

I would like to say here that I’m not objecting to the artistic expression of science but rather the human conclusions drawn. I, for one, am not easily brought to praise and in awe of the Creator through the presentation of facts and statistics, however well reasoned and remarkable they may be. However, if you show me the world through a poem by Gerard Manly Hopkins or a passage by Annie Dillard or a Psalm, I shall be with you in a moment. The writing itself is not the problem and can in fact be a gift when coming from the right direction.

The answers do not lie in nature itself. It can’t it won’t. We must go into it with right philosophy, with right theology, with right worldview, and, as Lewis once again pointed out, “We must learn our philosophy and theology elsewhere (not surprisingly, we learn them from philosophers and theologians).” Our study of Scripture then and our study of Christian doctrine, will be our place to start. We do not start by asking what nature has to teach us about our existence and meaning or our relationship with each other and with God. But rather, the question of our relationship to God must come first and by that, we decide the answers to everything else. The same goes in any study whether it be from biology to philosophy to English and the arts to music. Our understanding of reality must not come through these things but through the lense of the infallible truths God has given us. I think I finally understand why Phyllis Tickle was so upset at the Festival of Faith and Writing when she discovered that most of us in the room did not grow up on catechism. What upset her was that we had not been taught doctrine in any systematic way and were running hither and thither through our creative work and measuring the truth of our creations by our own standards rather than God’s given truth. It is something to worry about, to be concerned with. As a Christian, I must understand that this study of nature and the study of writing about nature will only be truly beneficial as it relates to my standing and relationship with God. And out of that, the rest will come.

The Macc: Winter 09

Praise God for "le weekend"!

This past Friday, I got in a car with three other girls and headed 4 hours south to North Bay, Maryland. 13 Navigator Colleges in the North East gathered together for a time of learning, fellowship, and worship. All three were excellent. It was quiet weekend of normal bed hours, afternoon naps, reading in pools of sunlight, quiet conversations with friends over meals. The bay was frozen so as the sun set we ran out onto it to play and take pictures and soak it in. Those moments are better shared. Later, I went and sat on the frozen still dock, my feet hanging over the edge and resting on the solid ice. The dark is a different color when it sits on frozen water.

I am so thankful for this time. To be away. To be quieter and listen. To invest in some friendships.

"Not what my hands hath done, can save my guilty soul,
Thy power alone oh Lamb of God, can my spirit whole."