October 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
I love North Georgia in autumn.
I say North Georgia because North Georgia is a very different creature from Atlanta or South Georgia or the rest of it. I tell people I’m from Atlanta because nobody outside of Georgia has ever heard of the Medium Town, USA that I grew up in, but in truth I’m from a slower, older, earthier place. Earthy I think is a good word for it, though many other words are needed to describe North Georgia.
I have arrived for a short stay the very same weekend that autumn has arrived. This morning early in the cold I had the quiet joy of driving a winding, familiar journey through farmlands and over tendrils of The Lake. Fog rose in wisps from the water, like a giant steaming bath, and the sun slowly burned through the mist that rested in the fields. Yes, I’m painting you an idyllic picture, but I promise, I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.
I broke into a genuine grin yesterday when I caught my first sight of the mountain I grew up on. It’s short and alone, the very, very, very last mountain in the Appalachian chain. Geographers will probably tell you it’s not actually part of the Appalachians; they are mistaken.
This evening, on my way to a church picnic at a local farm market (read: farm market, not farmer’s market – there’s a difference), I saw a coyote trotting along the side of the highway. Blue mountains rolled before me. If I were a more sentimental person, I might tell you they whispered, “Keep driving, come on, don’t stop.” But that would be silly. Mountains don’t whisper, they sing.
I don’t look at this place through rose-colored glasses. I know it’s not perfect (when you know a place’s true beauty, you also know its true faults – maybe that applies to people too, but I think I’m getting overly philosophical) and I may not ever live here again. But wherever I live, whatever place I call home, the rolling hills of North Georgia will always be in some way, Home.
I think that if the blue hills, green fields, and golden fog of North Georgia are but a dim shadow of the beauty of the new heaven and new earth, then eternity will be very glorious indeed.
July 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s easy to measure the change in our lives – our outer lives and our inner lives – when we look back over a period of time, the longer the better. “Three years ago, I would have reacted completely differently to this than I do now,” or “My life was so different just one year ago.”
Sometimes, though, there are experiences that mark stark inward change. First semester of college. The death of someone we love. Times spent in another culture. The change isn’t a choice, it’s a reaction.
When we change drastically on the inside and have to continue living in circumstances that haven’t changed much, it’s hard. Can I get an amen? Many of you know this much better than I do. You look the same on the outside, and people regard you as the same, but you’re different inside and you don’t know how to communicate that without being rude…but neither do you know how (or want) to live the way you used to.
The first time I went to the Middle East, the coming back was exponentially harder than the going. What I experienced there didn’t fit into the context of my old life, but my old life was still there, expecting me to continue. The first couple weeks back in the US (and after such a short trip) were ridiculously difficult. I didn’t know or understand how to cope with my worldview changing, or how to communicate it to others, and that was really depressing. It was partly reverse culture shock, but I believe it went much deeper. The Lord used that trip (and the painful re-entry on returning) as a catalyst for my life going a completely different direction than I had ever imagined.
But that’s another story.
I can share several examples of pivotal inner change in my life. Let’s talk about the present though, shall we? I recently returned from 6 1/2 weeks in Thailand. I changed a sight more than I expected, in ways that I definitely didn’t expect (God is sneaky like that – in the best way). I’ve had significantly less culture shock than I expected, I guess by virtue of a lot of international travel, but I’m different on the inside. Just different enough to burn a little on re-entry.
I also moved right after I got back (different apartment, same city) and I’m starting a new job. Wow, that’s a lot of change, how are you handling it? Thanks for asking, and actually everything changing slightly on the outside has been really nice. The change of outer context feels appropriate for the inner change; it feels right that my circumstances should be slightly different, since I’m slightly different. Yet, it’s not so much change that I feel overwhelmed.
This is a gift, because it doesn’t always happen so neatly.
Re-entry hasn’t been frictionless, though, and I need the grace of Jesus daily to understand his will for this time of my life.
I’m not sure all of this had much of a point, except maybe some of you have experienced something similar, maybe to a greater or lesser degree. Most of it is me processing, via the written word. Jet lag…
July 20, 2014 § Leave a comment
A few years ago I discovered John Coltrane’s album “A Love Supreme.” Fans of the Trane will know it, but if you’ve never heard it you ought to give it a listen. At least listen to the fourth movement, “Psalm,” because it’s what I’m writing about right now.
Go ahead…listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1xe7FDsQWY
“Psalm” is shockingly mournful, full of anguish. It caught me off guard the first time I heard it, in that way that only the best music does. It still catches me off guard. I guess I thought it would be more peaceful, and in a way there is a peace about it – but an uncomfortable peace. Do you know what I mean? I thought that something called “Psalm” would be less…difficult.
I had to memorize Psalm 23 when I was a kid. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.” It was kind and poetic and I liked it. When I got older, though, it seemed platitudinous, like some nice sentiment. The Psalms in general seemed to be full of nice sentiments, either that or asking to be rescued from enemies. Since I didn’t have enemies and I was growing in cynicism toward comforting sentiments, I didn’t have much time for Psalms. To me (in my limited reading of them), they were fluffy.
After much more life (in years and experience, though comparatively little of both), I started reading Psalms again. It’s a much different picture. It’s a picture of desperation, even anguish. Of clinging to the Lord when there is nothing else left. David knows what I feel…he felt it too. “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63)
Green pastures and still waters seem unnecessary when you haven’t been to the desert. But when you’ve been there…
“For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 116)
I understand both “Psalm” and Psalms a lot better now that I’m a little older. Psalms isn’t a one-color, two-dimensional book; it’s not a book of affirming poetry. It’s a book of raw, even painful honesty and the Lord’s goodness to rescue us. What does it mean to walk before the Lord in the land of the living when you haven’t been in the grave? I get now why Coltrane called his melancholy, discordant song “Psalm.”
Maybe this all sounds very depressing to you. Maybe you’re thinking, “Oh, what’s wrong with Corinne? She sounds depressed.” Maybe your life is always sunshine and butterflies and you never get sad. My life isn’t always sunshine and butterflies, but the Lord is always good. His steadfast love endures forever. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing I desire on earth besides you. My heart and my flesh may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73)
May 31, 2014 § Leave a comment
Apparently when you are:
Preparing to leave to country for two months
Moving right after you get back from being out of the country for two months
it’s hard to find time to blog! That’s why the hiatus…and you should expect another one, pending upcoming international travel.
See you in two months, maybe!
May 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
I watched Roman Holiday last night. I didn’t intend to, but my roommate was watching it and Audrey Hepburn is adorable and Gregory Peck is beautiful and the whole movie bubbles with charm and quiet gags…it’s a ringer.
I also hadn’t seen it since before I went to Rome, so it was fun to do the pretentious thing and say, “Oh yes, I know that bridge. It has a great view of Vatican City.”
It occurred to me as I went to sleep (where I would dream about Gregory Peck, no really, I did) how different the ending of the movie would have been if it were made today.
For one, it wouldn’t have had that quietly sad yet somehow triumphant ending.
Joe would have written the story. But he would have made it into a declaration of love. How his views on the Princess were changed. How she was a real person, lovely and autonomous, and had utterly charmed him.
He wouldn’t have turned it in but SOMEHOW his publisher would have gotten a hold of it and published it, horror of horrors!
Ann would have read it and been shocked and angry and hurt – especially since she truly loved Joe!
But at the press interview, when she saw his face again, and realized that his story was actually a love letter, she would have forgiven him, and instead of exiting demurely, she would have run to Joe, and they would dash out to his scooter and ride away!
They’d make it work somehow! We’d never know how, but they would! Good feelings and closure abound!
How lovely is it, then, that this classic is not a piece of flippant Hollywood idiocy. Yes, it makes me sad that Ann remains in her stifling lifestyle – but she’s a little more grown up for her sacrifice, and has gained some backbone. Yes, it makes me sad when Joe walks away, probablynever to see Ann again outside of a newspaper or press interview. But just because you spent a magical day with someone in Rome doesn’t mean you’re meant to be together.
So, even though I hate the ending, I love the ending, the whole story, and its perfect balance between absurdity and realism.
April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
One evening last week I was at a worship service at a local coffee shop. The coffee shop owners were the hosts and organizers, and about 30 minutes before closing most of the tables and chairs were arranged – with a lot of commotion and bustle – so that the people who were pouring into the shop could worship together. Most of the shop customers caught on that something was going down, and either stayed to participate or headed out voluntarily.
A few people were in the back of the shop playing a card game. I don’t know what game – they had cards I didn’t recognize and using terms I haven’t heard in the context of cards (like “rook”). They asked what was going on during set-up and returned to their card game. Someone got up to pray before worship and they kept playing cards. “I put down a ___ and challenge your rook” or something like that. Then we started to worship. And they kept playing cards, loudly, talking over the 50+ singing voices and guitar and a cajon. I don’t think most people noticed they were there, but I did, because I was in the back, too.
God was worshiped and glorified and present there. And they were sitting in the back, playing cards. I guess the game they were playing must have been pretty engrossing, to keep playing in that loudness.
And I was offended. Not because they were loud or distracting (although they were) – I was offended because the living God, whose hem is so great it fills a temple, who dwells in pillars of fire and smoke, who created the Andromeda Galaxy and the Horsehead Nebula and the universe that holds them, who shed his own blood on the cross to reconcile humans to himself, was there,
and they just played cards.
The coffee shop became a temple of the living God because it was filled with his temples – his children in whom he dwells,
and they just played cards.
Like the God of the universe didn’t even matter.
I was angry. In my anger I realized that it wasn’t just those few people playing cards who were ignoring the living God like he didn’t even matter, disdaining his desire to adopt them as his children. I have always desired that people would know Jesus because he is life and joy, but that night I realized that I want people to know Jesus because Jesus deserves it. He deserves their worship, our worship. For all he has done and does and will do, for who he is, he deserves worship.
But people just keep playing cards.