Thursday, December 25, 2008


I've always been afraid that one wrong move on my part would mess up God's whole plan for me. I remember when I was thinking about which college to choose, I imagined that there were two paths at a fork in the road, and I had to choose the correct one because God was only down one of them. That's when God reassured me that A. take one step at a time! and B. I am with you WHEREVER you go. God would be with me at whatever college I had chosen. I wrote a poem last year that played on the distress signal of mayday, and I don't know how they spell that as a distress signal, but its origins are from the words m'aidez, which is "help me" in French. Anyway the poem is me asking God what his plan is, and I'm at the end of my rope. So I retreat, and I say God, m'aidez! And he says to the angels, mayday someone is messing up the plan! As if me retreating from the situation was messing up his plan. I asked the questions, "Am I messing up the plan by giving up?/ Is he messing up the plan by being afraid?"
But my point is... how preposterous to think that little old me could mess up God's sovereign plans with one stupid little blunder?? My Almighty God's perfect will messed up by me having a word vomit situation or some other small mistake?
I trust that my God is WAY bigger than me. I trust that His plans will not be ruined, detoured, or prevented by my dumb mistakes because He is so much more powerful than that! God is taking care of me. Cuz let's face it... I'm a dumb human. I feel like sometimes God slaps me on the back of the head as if to say, why did ya do that, Jess? I'm not talking about sinning, but just wrong ways of handling situations, I guess. I'm definitely guilty of handling situations incorrectly, but God always steps in and says, whydya do that? But He loves me! He loves me so much, and He rescues me everytime.
It brings to mind a song that I absolutely love by Ten Shekel Shirt called "You Rescue." This song is so comforting to me because I feel so powerless all the time. There's a situation in my family that I just can't do anything about... and it hurts so much, but I have to remember that God is sovereign, and He rescues, He intervenes. "He will NEVER stop restoring what's been lost." And in other situations that I'm dealing with, all I can do is keep pressing on, knowing that God rescues and restores our lives. I just have to trust that I'm not going to mess it up by making a wrong move. God has a plan, and it will be.

"remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,'" (Isa. 46:9-10)
"For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" (Isa. 14:27)

Yes, God is bigger than the boogeyman. Which is good cuz sometimes I, myself, am the boogeyman.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why We Read

So as I was taking my final the other day in lit theory, I was thinking about why I think it's important to read literature. I feel like most people don't appreciate Beowulf or Hamlet, and that's too bad. What I find so incredible about literature is that it all fits into the entire scheme of the world. Plato quotes, "Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history." That's a pretty powerful statement. But when I think about history, I realize that it is so subjective. Joy and I had a conversation about the validity of different accounts of history, and she asked what if a Nazi wrote an account and said the Holocaust didn't happen? I don't know how we could reconcile that... but on one hand, it really does just prove the point that people come in with their own bias to things. All history accounts contain whatever the author chose to put in there. So I'd guess that German history books look a little different than ours that talk about the six million people who died in the Holocaust. Yes, you can't change the facts. But you can pick and choose which ones to write and give a certain tone that allows someone to be the victim while another is the victimizer. So you can have the English colonists' perspective of coming to America, or there's the very different version that the Indians would tell you. Whose version holds more truth? Well they both combine to form the whole of things.
So the fact remains that history is different than literature because a lot of literature is fiction. Theorists have debated about why we read, what we should read, and how we should read... and they all come up with different ideas. Do we read for pleasure in the aesthetic, or do we read so that we can see the problems in politics, society, discrimination, etc. and feel empowered to make a change in the world? Does Beowulf tell us what kind of leader we should value? Well what if it is all the above? I think that there is a lot of literature that was just meant to be read for pleasure, just to get lost in the story and the characters... which means that we overanalyze sometimes. But even if Jane Austen isn't making some political statement with Pride and Prejudice in reinforcing the status quo of women having to find a man to attach themselves to or defying the status quo when Darcy marries a woman in a lower station than him.... well, even if that wasn't her purpose, we can see a perspective of life in the 1700's that we wouldn't normally get to experience. It's an experience much different than reading a history book about life in England in the 1700's. When you read and get in the head of a slave or a prisoner of war or a Catholic immigrant from Ireland... well you can know all the facts of the Vietnam War, and that's one thing... but to feel the experience of a POW, whether fact or fiction, that is another thing entirely. I strongly believe that it is absolutely necessary to expand your worldview and understand that the world is a lot bigger than what you feel and experience. What do we know about life besides being a white American in the middle class? Do we know anything about being so poor that there's nothing else to do but sell your children to a brothel? Could we ever comprehend NOT having water to drink? Do we know what it is like to live in a country torn by war? NO we don't, but if we did... I imagine we'd start thinking differently. And I wouldn't say it is the author of a text that changed our lives, our mode of thinking... but I'd say it definitely contributes. How could poetry come nearer to vital truth than history? Poetry doesn't just state the facts. It gives you more than just a statistic. It shows you the actual experience.
So here we are, making high schoolers read Hamlet and testing them on the facts... what is Hamlet's girlfriend's name? How does Polonius die? Well that makes literature just a bunch of facts. Wouldn't it be a lot more interesting to debate about whether Hamlet was pretending to be crazy or actually was crazy? Or why he didn't kill Claudius when he had the chance several times? I don't know, it's just a suggestion. I sure wish I had the chance to debate this in high school when I read Hamlet. I know part of that is just me being nerdy, but hey, if you have to read Hamlet, you can't deny that it you would get a lot more out of the experience of debating questions like this--questions that literary critics have been debating since forever-- rather than answering what happens to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Literature is really powerful, and I think it's time that we tap into that resource and start reading!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Between The Lines

This art of making poetry
is intimacy at its deepest.
The rhythm of words
seeming to float from my paper
to my lips, and from my lips,
suspended in midair,
stopping at your ears
to relay what's between the lines.
My heart is the art of making poetry,
each word constituting a fragment of me--
my heart, the art, the intimacy.
Coming nearer to truth, nearer to me
than any other touch, look, movement.
So what poetry means to me
is everything--
the spoken and the unspoken
words combining to form the likeness of a symphony,
a perfect kiss, a dance, a Van Gogh painting.
My heart, the art, the poetry.
They are one in the same, and that's why it matters.
Creating poetry is intimacy with the one
who can read between the lines to see my heart,
to see more than just the art.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Before All Time

Is it a bad thing that I'm jaded by the words of 1 Corinthians 13? I mean why don't things faze us anymore? Isn't it the most profound thing that "in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"?! I mean WOW! We just read Jude in women's bible study, and my bible had a note that in the last verse, the Greek New Testament has the words "before all time" that New King James omitted. So it would say, "To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power BEFORE ALL TIME, both now and forever." Before all time?! I can't even fathom that. What must it mean to be before time?
Anyway, a friend of mine brought up the fact that 1 Corinthians 13 is so overdone. I agreed with her because it seems like it is quoted all the time--so much so, that we quote it like a Sunday school class that "love is patient, love is kind." Like how at church, I always know the answer to the questions at Children's time is "Jesus." BUT God is love! And we were made in God's image! Therefore, loving, as seen in 1 Cor 13, seems to be pretty high on the priority list... I read this on biblegateway in a commentary about 3 John: "The statement 'anyone who does what is evil has not seen God' calls to mind 1 John 4:20, where John stated that love for an unseen God demands love for the very unstable believer. Here, then, John means that failure to do right, to love one's fellow Christian, manifests a lack of understanding of and fellowship with the God who is love." So 1 Corinthians 13 shouldn't be a jaded passage for us. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it is not proud, it does not boast. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking... I mean okay... no need to go on, I'll admit, my love for others is sometimes envious and self-seeking. I'll admit I am not always patient or kind. So clearly, this is something I need to hear. My absolute favorite verse of this is verse 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ALWAYS. What a strong word. And if I didn't feel like I'm already a failure at this "love," 1 John comes in and says that we only know love because Jesus laid down his life for us, so we should lay down our lives for our brothers. Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. SOOO yeah, loving? Pretty important.
I think whenever we read 1 Corinthians 13, we should be like WHOA GOD! My love could never "always protect" and "always trust," but yours does! What do I know about laying down my life for someone else? What do I know about before all time?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Life Isn't Like A Movie

Life isn't like a movie.

There is no beautiful hill in Austria

to run onto with my arms spread wide,

singing an impromptu song in perfect pitch.

I can't stop people dead in their tracks,

captivating them with my voice,

inspiring them to join in harmony... and choreography

that easily rivals So You Think You Can Dance.

There isn't the perfect joke at the perfect time,

the beautiful speech that heals all wounds,

the poem that reunites two people

with its language that can't be ignored.

Life isn't like a movie.

It's much messier and more complicated than that.

There isn't a rainstorm to set up the perfect kiss

after a fight in the piazza del Colosseo.

There's no room filled with flowers

or a symphony to slow dance to.

There's no surprise wedding in Ireland,

or secret notes with post scripts.

There's no hiking to the edge of a cliff

to watch the sunset in reverent stillness.

And maybe that's okay.

I always wanted that fairytale ending,

true love's kiss, white and pink lilies.

I wanted grand romantic gestures

and star-filled skies.

But I know now that life isn't a movie.

Life isn't a movie because it's much deeper than that.

Flowers, symphonies, Ireland—sometimes that happens.

But there's so much more.

Life isn't like a movie because

romance isn't the end all, be all.

The story doesn't begin with a passionate kiss

and a fairytale ending that makes all the girls cry.

As it turns out, there's so much more to desire in this life.

It's not that I don't hope for stars and lilies

or sporadic dance routines in the cafeteria.

But even more so, I want God.

I want His timing, I want His desires in my heart.

I desire His love, which tops all movie plots

and all Jane Austen novels.

I desire true joy that comes from God's sovereign plans,

not happiness from the plans I make for myself.

In short, I want all of the above--

the wedding in Ireland, the cool dance moves,

the pouring rainstorm and the hero.

But I don't want it if it's not how God wants it.

All the world's a stage, and I am merely a player

living out God's perfect script for me.

So in the end, all I can say is give me Jesus.

I cast my crowns at His throne, all my deepest dreams and desires,

knowing that He is going to be my happy ending,

and He is going to orchestrate everything in between.

I want to delight in Him, and He will guide me.

He tells me to take risks, He tells me to trust.

He tells me that real life is much deeper than movies.

So as the plot thickens, just give me Jesus.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I strove to love you in the old high way of love...

With this argument of socially constructed views on love, I could also say that meaning itself can be quite subjective. I have posed the question to people of other majors of whether the real meaning of something is in the person's intentions with their words or actions OR the way that another person construes the words or actions. In other words, where is the real meaning? Is it what you meant when you said it, or how the other person took it? People always tell me that the meaning is in the person's intentions. But let me back up a little before I say why I disagree...
I'm a literature major, which basically means that I'm an art major. It's not all that practical in the "real world," but for matters like this, I find it to be quite relevant. While listening to my roommate's violin recital today, I was thinking that one of her songs reminded me of rain falling. But I'm certain that isn't what the composer intended because the title was something to do with a dance--some word I can't recall that reminded me of obelisk. And I wondered what imagery that song brought to Ryan or anyone else for that matter because I'm certain we would think of different things. Perhaps this is different than literature, but since I'm a poet, and I make everything into a metaphor, I take the differing ways that we approach or understand literature to be the same concept. When I read the poem "Adam's Curse" by W.B. Yeats last year, the poem made me think that anything worth having is not going to be easy. But that's where my life was at the time. That's my general outlook on life. So I wrote an essay about how love takes work, but it is worth it! AND in that same class, I wrote another essay on a Frost poem "To Earthward" that, again, I was drawn to because Frost says "I crave the stain of tears, the aftermark of almost too much love." I felt that Frost was saying that when you let love in, you also let the bad in; it's inevitable and it's bittersweet. My life had taught me these very lessons.
So why do I mention all of this? Whatever intentions Frost and Yeats had with their poems may or may not have been accomplished, so it does no good to focus too much on their intentions. An author's intentions definitely weighs on the meaning of something, and I would never argue that any interpretation of a text is valid. BUT it just goes to show you that our social background that we bring into something determines what we take the meaning of something to be.
If I say, "I love you," what does that mean? In my head, I might be saying, "I love you like a brother," but Bob Snickerdoodle might be thinking I mean, "I love you, and I want to have your children." Obviously, my intentions matter, but Bob's take on my words, provided that he is using evidence of my body language and actions, are valid too.
It gets tricky. Again with defending the "love languages," I'll say that we have been socially constructed to value certain "love languages" over others. When I write poems and give them to people, I mean it in the most sincere way. It's sad to think that someone may not value my words because words of affirmation mean less to them than they do to me. He or she wouldn't understand that what I'm saying is I love you this much that I would devote myself to language, syntax and punctuation to try to explain my love to you. It's an act of service, and it's a gift. Well, this is why we are all so confused. We think we are showing our love, but really, the other person isn't getting it. And who is to blame? Where is the real meaning found? Is the real meaning in my intention when I write a poem to someone, or is the meaning in the way that the other person construes (or misconstrues) my poetry? Cuz after all, who knows if what I intended for the text was even accomplished?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What is Love?

I would argue until I'm blue in the face that most of who we are as individuals or communities is socially constructed. That's not to say that we are born tabula rasa--completely devoid of anything that makes baby A different from baby B other than the obvious biological differences. But really, why is it that I love Jesus? Why do I love the environment? Why am I drawn to a guy like Ryan instead of some other type of guy--the beach boy as opposed to the thug or the bad boy? The kinds of values we are exposed to from family, friends, media, literature, etc. really define for us what matters and what doesn't. So it only makes sense to me that there would be developments of different "love languages" among people; we each have learned, from our unique exposure to the world, HOW to love other people.
I was at the Wal-mart one day, and I overheard a couple having an argument about a litter box. They had a little boy with them who heard everything, from the woman snapping at the man to the man cowering at the woman's dominance. I couldn't help but pray for that little boy and the type of destructive love relationship that he was witnessing. How will this boy grow up and relate to a woman someday?
I've wondered whether or not we can really know love and show it to others if we don't understand the love of Christ. In 1 John 4:9-10, John really lays out what genuine love is according to God. He sent his son for us because he wanted communion with us. He loved us first. He took the initiative to seek us through a sacrifice, though we are undeserving. "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us." THEREFORE, "... we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). What I'm trying to say is that the way that I understand what love is to any capacity is because I know how Jesus has been beaten and crucified for me. What greater example of love could there be? Mr. Darcy pales in comparison.
So I think of that little boy who is going to grow up with a distorted view of what love is and how he should love others. Sorry if this sounds extreme, as if witnessing that one fight is going to affect the rest of that boy's life, but I truly believe that our expectations of how we'd like to be shown love as well as the ways we show love ourselves are constructed by the examples we see. In light of that, no wonder we are so confused!
All I can say is that I've seen a lot of different love scenarios because I read novels and watch movies, and I'm at the age where everyone is starting to get engaged or married. I've compared my own life with these people, but I've come to realize that comparisons like this are just worthless because the only thing I should be comparing the way I love and relate to others is through Jesus' example. It's the only perfect love out there, and while my love is never going to reach the depths of the love of Christ, I am absolutely convicted that THAT is the example by which we should be constructing our views on love. It just wouldn't make sense to follow any other model.