Monday, August 24, 2009


I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. Just snippets of his books, since what I have is a devotional type book called A Year with C.S. Lewis. I really, really, really like C.S. Lewis and everything he has to say because he just puts things in such a way that makes sense to me. Often times, it's things that I've thought about, but he puts them in much better terms.
So one topic that has struck me lately is forgiveness. He talks about how, often times, when we ask forgiveness from God, we make up excuses for why we did what we did. But there's a difference between forgiving and excusing because excusing means that the person was not to blame for what happened, while forgiving means that they did something, but you will not hold it against them. So you can pray that God would forgive you for something, but really, what we're really asking is for God to accept our excuses. So sometimes we feel like we have repented, but really, we have "satisfied ourselves with our own excuses."
Another important point he makes when we are forgiving others is that sometimes we don't want to forgive others because that means we are acting like it didn't happen, but really, if that were the case, then there would be nothing to forgive. It doesn't mean that if a person broke a promise to you, you have to believe him the next time. But you must "make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart--every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out."
AND to bring these two points together, he says, "The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people's we do not accept them easily enough."
I like to make excuses. A lot. When I apologize to people, I tend to explain what I was thinking or why I did what I did... but that's not really apologizing. It's like this quote I read when I was at VISTA training: "Never ruin an apology with an excuse."

"A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favour. But that would not be forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it." (The Weight of Glory)

And I guess unless you learn about God's forgiveness and really, really understand it, you can't fully forgive others. Or yourself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Twitter Updates For The Past Week

-Came to work today and noticed my computer wasn't on my desk. Someone walked up the fire escape, broke a small window pane, and stole my work computer out the window! And my little pink dog too! (Monday)

-Stayed up really late last night watching The Island. No, not with Leo DiCaprio. It was about clones. I don't know how I felt about it (Tuesday morning)

-Finished typing up No Room in Lancaster by Grace Wenger, founder of Tabor. Grace Wenger is my hero! She was passionate about social justice and race issues. She also taught English at Millersville. I thought she was just a cute little Mennonite woman! (Tuesday afternoon)

-Mary and I made egg sandwiches for dinner. They were goooood. We also watched another move... (Tuesday evening)

-I'm in charge of a Day of Caring event now that The Ware Institute at F&M will be doing. We'll be cleaning up the sidewalks! (Wednesday morning)

-My heart hurts. (Wednesday afternoon)

-Everyone loved my baked mac and cheese with toppings at potluck! I am a really good cook! I just can't stand doing it. Takes too much time (Wednesday evening)

-Really? It's only Thursday? Really? No rest over the weekend? Oh, merde... (Thursday morning)

-I'm famous. My stolen laptop made the newspaper. (Tuesday afternoon)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Walling In or Walling Out

Jalaleddin (don't ask me if that's spelled right) Rumi once said, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." I wonder if that's true. Is it possible that it's hard to experience love just because you've built up a resistance against it? And what happens if you do find those barriers? Can you change them, get rid of them?
The other day I was at my Grandma's house, and she has a path behind the barn that leads out to the field. I used to go on walks behind there when I was younger. Last summer, I would go running on the path through the field. On Sunday, I went sprinting through the grass, running as fast as I possibly could, kicking my flip flops off because they just slowed me down. I just left them there and kept running until I couldn't possibly go any further. But I still didn't feel like I had ran enough. So I ran again, and I stopped only because the grass ended, leaving me at a place where the cornfield met the dirt path. I could have run up the dirt hill, but it was too muddy. So I just lay in the grass, catching my breath from sprinting.
I wonder if that is the running away, the barrier. Is that action me running away (in the figurative sense)? Everyone says how bad it is to run away from things, so my head always says "stop running away, Jess." I wrote in that poem that being covered only comes from after being exposed to the sun. Vulnerable. But what does that mean?
Even if you recognize in yourself the areas where you put up walls, can you knock them down? Can someone else knock them down? I guess only God can, really. Do you really have to know about the walls before they come down?

And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

-Robert Frost

What I'm finding is that God doesn't like us to hold onto our safety too closely. I've always craved stability and safety and comfort. But God wants us to give our money freely, not worrying whether we will have enough for ourselves. So maybe He wants us to stop building walls and risk. It reminds us that He is the only constant. And if I put up walls, I start thinking that I'm protecting myself, taking care of myself. And that's not the case. God is the only one who takes care of me.

God speak truth to the walls we've relied on instead of You.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lavender Petals

The feel of your skin brushing my arm
touches me like a thousand lavender fields
during a June’s mid-day walk in Provence.
The scent is intoxicating, too much, not enough,
I can't decide whether to run into the field--
taking in every morsel of beauty,
lying down only to rest in the comfort
of knowing that I'm surrounded,
that I'm just one step closer
to being one with the flowers
and memorizing their feel, their movements.
That's what I want--
to feel like nothing separates me,
nothing separates us.
There's not this force that blinds me,
this sun reflecting off the petals,
this brightness that I have to hide from
because it's too much.
Or it could be.
I just want to rest in it all,
take it all in,
just let it be.
Mais je peux pas.

That's what it feels like.
Mes sens tout sentent,
being exposed,
and wanting to be covered.

But being covered only happens
I risk exposure
to the sun.

And maybe in the end,
it will all have been an illusion
from the very beginning.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


"Many years ago, during a wreck of a Californian ship, one of the passengers strapped a belt on himself with 200 pounds of gold on it. He was later found at the bottom of the sea. As he was sinking: Did the man own the gold? Or did the gold own him?"

So it all started with me fighting with Bret and Betsy about money. I felt that they were asking for too much money for the urban project. Why we should need $1200 for a five week period was just baffling to me! That’s a lot of money. I kept telling them that it’s not that I don’t trust them, but I just use money very conservatively (and by conservatively, I mean conservatively in areas where it’s convenient), and I don’t like other people being in control of the money, especially if I’m asking people at my church for this money. But by the end of that long sentence, don’t you get the sense that I actually don’t trust Bret and Betsy? And if I don’t trust Bret and Betsy with the IV urban project funds, doesn’t that extend further to say that I don’t really trust God with those funds? Since God has given them the authority over the project, shouldn’t I trust Bret and Betsy as a representation of my trust for God? No, I didn't ask myself those questions then. I've only recently begun to consider this concept of submission and trust a little more since Ryan has read a book about authority recently, which forces the topic that I like to avoid. But more on that some other time; this entry is about money.
During the project, we talked a lot about poverty and how we use our money. Of course I’ve thought about these issues and cared about these issues, but my view of money and materialism was really challenged at the project. One night while we had reflection time, God was really prompting me to gather some of my clothes and ask the others at the project to do the same so that we could donate a bunch of stuff to Water Street Mission together. As I was going through my stuff, I was listening to a song called “Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb. The song lyrics say, “I want the things you just can’t give me.” And there I was, holding a sweatshirt that I really love, and I felt myself saying, “No, I can’t give this one away. I love it.” Then my next thought was, “Oh crap, that means it’s exactly the one I have to give away.” So I did. Later that night as I lay in bed, it kind of haunted me; I kept wondering if I could just have my sweatshirt back. But that felt like stealing from God. I thought of another line from the song where Derek Webb describes Jesus digging through our trash can, and that’s when I said, “No Jesus, I will not let you dig through my trash can. My sweatshirt is yours.” Why does my stuff have such a hold on me? Praise God that He’s changing my heart. I gave away a bunch of stuff that night and a bunch of stuff when I got home. At the project, we really explored how God might want us to use our resources.
Here are some quotes that really stuck out to me:
--"According to scripture, we are no more free to do whatever we want with our money than we are to use our bodies to sleep around." - Kevin Blue
--"If we are determined to waste God's money, it would be better to throw it into the sea than to spend it extravagantly. At least throwing money into the sea hurts no one, while spending it needlessly on ourselves poisons all who see it with pride, vanity, anger, lust, love of the world, and a thousand foolish and hurtful desires."- John Wesley

Well now I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA. (I didn’t think I’d identify myself as such, but it really is becoming something significant in my life.) I make $385 every other week. We are just above the poverty line. VISTA is a program that deals with poverty, and by paying us at that line, they are forcing us to live at the level of those that we are helping, which is a really incredible opportunity. But it’s hard. My rent right now is $400. (Praise God that it will be going down with the addition of other roommates.) I have been studying these types of things, and households whose rent is 30% or more of their income per month are considered severely cost-burdened. I pay over 50% at the moment for rent. So yeah, how I spend my money is even more of a pressing topic now. It would be easy to stop giving away so much because of my tight financial situation. I mean I have to take care of myself, right? But God has really prompted me to start tithing my income, which means that I am giving away $80 out of my $770 per month. I’ve really gotten so much joy out of tithing. I give $30 per month to church offering and $50 to different non-profits. I give $25 every two weeks to a different organization, which I have been enjoying so much. God promises that He will provide for me. If I'm willing to spend myself on behalf of the poor and oppressed, He is going to take care of me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

it's a nice day for a blood covenant

At chapter camp, Mary learned about covenant making in Old Testament times. They used to take an animal and cut it in half. Then they would let the blood drain out from the center, and each party of the covenant would walk through the blood. They would stop in the center to discuss the terms of the covenant. The blood of the animal signified that you would do to the other party as to the animal if they break the covenant, as well as signifying the sacrifice you would make for them—that you would give up your life as the animal has done. This is what happens in Genesis when Abraham and God make a covenant, but God actually goes through the blood twice since Abraham is sleeping during this and can’t do it himself. We’re not strong enough to keep a covenant with God; He has to do it all. Anyway, Mary was taught that they used to do this at weddings back in the day. How disgusting, and yet, how powerful is that?! I looked online for some verification that it was true about the blood covenant at weddings, but I didn’t find anything. But I like believing that it’s true. It just goes to show how important a marriage covenant is. It’s a serious thing. We should still use the blood covenant at weddings because then maybe people would understand the commitment they are making when they get married.
Well, I say all this to say that this past weekend, Debby, my former roommate, got married! She and Tyler met on (yes, it works!), and they got engaged only five months after they started dating. Isn’t that crazy? But if it’s right, it’s right. They are perfect for one another it seems, and I’m just really happy for them. The wedding was on the beach at Cape Henolopen, DE. It was so laid back, which just really fit with their families. When Ryan and I got there, they were swimming, and then Debby said she had to go change into her dress. We all ate, and then they had the ceremony. It was just a short ceremony, and we all stood on the beach. Vanessa caught the bouquet, although technically, it was a man who caught it because Debby threw it out of the range of all the single women, and Vanessa ran for it and stole it from the guy. Then she gave the flowers to me :o) It was so great to see Vanessa, Joy, and Debby! It was sad that Rasa wasn’t there, though. Ryan thought it was great how laid back the ceremony was because usually, it seems the bride (and the mothers) are so stressed that they can’t even enjoy the day. Well, you know as well as I do that I will be stressed whenever I get married. It’s just my nature to be uptight about things! That’s actually one reason that I didn’t want to have a traditional wedding before. I wanted to go get married in Ireland outside of Hore Abbey (seriously, look it up, it’s so beautiful). I don’t want the stress of picking out flowers and dresses and centerpieces and songs and locations to take away from the celebration of a covenant. At one point, the only reason I did want to have all that traditional stuff was for the pictures. I will want to have a nice photographer who will take artistic pictures—that I know for sure. Oh, and another reason I didn’t want a traditional wedding was because I’d forget about the fact that the day isn’t all about me. I love the idea of everyone focusing on me and thinking I’m beautiful and stuff. But first off, there’s also a groom involved, and he matters too. But more than that, I don’t want to focus on me on that day. I will want to be focused on God and me and [insert soul mate’s name here] making that covenant together with God.
In any case, I know I’m not ready for that yet. But someday. And on that someday, I’m going to imagine us walking with God through blood. Except that God is going to walk through that blood twice on behalf of us because making a covenant like that in the way that God intend us to can only be done through Him.