Proximity vs Intimacy

Before I get into the bulk of what I want to say, here’s a quick follow-up regarding the meal I made a week ago:

Praise Jesus my friendships aren’t based on my cooking abilities.  It was awful!  First of all, the main dish I made wasn’t even gluten-free.  The pasta was dry and rather tasteless.  The top of the casserole was super hard, and the “baked potatoes” I tried to make were raw.  We were too impatient to wait for the vegetables to bake completely, so those we raw, as well.  The corn muffins were good (thanks, Agnes!), but the overall meal was pathetically sub-par.  The average response of my friends while eating was “Katie, it’s not that bad”, which told me that it was, indeed, that bad.  I think the worst part of it all, even worse than the morbidly bland pasta, was the realization that I’m not naturally good at cooking!  Something I so desperately want to excel in, I’m not naturally able to.  My mom assured me that cooking is an acquired skill, but for someone as impatient as I am, that was terrible news.  Thus, I hereby surrender my desire to instantly be good at cooking to the Lord, in hopes that He will redeem my feeble attempts of delicacy.  Have mercy on me, Father, a mediocre cook!

Speaking of mercy, let me give you a little taste of how awesome my weekend was.  I had the blessing to spend four sweaty, beautiful, fellowship-filled days at Rockbridge, a Young Life camp in Virginia, with 700 other leaders, worshipping and learning about our Beloved Creator Lord.  Here’s a list of reasons why the weekend was awesome:

1) The cooks at Rockbridge, unlike me, are good at what they do.

2) Sunshine

3) On-point worship

4) Teaching that was out of this world.

5) Uninterrupted time with people I love a lot a lot a lot.

6) Time with my team!

7) Seriously so much laughter

Let me expound upon #4 a bit for you.  If you were with me this weekend, you can stop reading now, because what I’m about to say will pale in comparison to what we actually heard.  But if you weren’t there, prepare for some nuggets of gold.

Another note: I’m about to get real, so…be ready for that.

We had two unbelievable speakers.  Tim Brown, son of God and president of Western Theological Seminary, was our morning speaker.  His evening counterpart, Rick Rogan, Director of Young Life’s Northeast Region, brought a distinctly impactful point of view.  Together, their words made for one of the more convicting weekends I’ve ever lived through.  One gem that stuck out to me most vividly was one discussed by Mr. Rogan.  His question was this: Are you, Christian, settling for proximity to Jesus?  Or are you striving toward intimacy with Him?  My answer was this: I am absolutely, 100% settling for proximity.  I am going to church, leadership, doing contact work, listening to sermons, praying occasionally and calling it intimacy with the Father.  Dagger to my soul, I’ll tell you what.  The rest of the teachings followed suit.  I was so utterly convicted that for a moment, I questioned how a sinner like me could ever be redeemed from such stagnant existence.  Thanks be to God that I’m already redeemed.  But think of it!  I’m trading deep, intense intimacy with my CREATOR for being around people, things and establishments that are “about” Him.  What a foolish thing of me to do!  I was reminded of Jeremiah’s prayer;

24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—
not in your anger,
or you will reduce me to nothing.

This is the God that I’m choosing to run from.  A God whose perfect justice would reduce me to nothing, yet whose mercy secures my eternity and sustains me even in this very breath! How could I believe something else, anything else, is more deserving of my time, affection and intimacy?  I’m a sinner, people.  But praise Him that He knows that and sent His Son, Jesus, for that and that the Blood of Jesus covered that.  Amen?

And that’s what I’m thinking about today.  I hope you think about it too.

#crunchyleaves

That’s right, people.  It’s falltime in The Land of Ox (see what I did there?), arguably the most beautiful fall landscape this side of Narnia.  Fall, aside from the smells and flavors that rouse my soul to sing, brings along some interesting phenomena.  For example, everyone’s inner lumberjack steadily begins to stretch its brawny arms through the sea of flannel.  What is it about fall that causes every living thing to bundle up in their thick plaid blankets with sleeves?  I’m not sure, but I surely don’t hate it.  Another thing, increased indie music obsessions, across the board. Lastly (well, maybe not the exhaustive last, but the last for this circumstance), warm beverages.  I can’t tell you how many monogrammed coffee/tea/cider/whatever mugs I’ve seen in the weeks since the trees began to bleed fire from their branches.

And then, of course, there’s the fall trifecta affect – listening to somber indie music while you walk to class drinking flavored coffee and wearing your flannel blanket.  Who could argue against that?  It’s so unbelievably pleasurable to dodge falling leaves while Justin Vernon broadcasts to your soul just how content you are with your life.

Even more than that, however, I’m finding that the fuzzy sweater of dimly-lit corners knowing truth is far more contenting than anything Vernon might project into my ear in his sweet, sweet falsetto.  For a long time, I’ve been seeking to know Jesus.  Even more than that, I’ve been seeking how to seek to know Jesus – it’s not nearly as simple as I’d hoped.  I’ve searched high and low for comfort, for stability and the feeling of familiar arms wrapping me up, safe and sound, but my search has proved fruitless in all areas but one: the cross of my Lord.

By a raise of hands, how many of you have been let down by something you once thought was “comfortable”.  All of you?  That’s what I assumed.  Why is that?  Sin. There are so many things to be said for these things, but really, that’s the problem.  Sin.  That’s why we’re let down by the friends by whom we longed to be known, by the attention we craved, by the grades we knew would fulfill us.  I’ve seen soul after soul chase after empty skeletons that promised satisfaction, and not once has one of these skeletons delivered its promise.

C.S. Lewis has some things to say about this, and I’d like to share one of them with you:

It now seemed that the deepest thirst within him was not adapted to the deepest nature of the world

Your soul, whether you want to admit it or not, is longing, thirsting, begging for love, security, comfort.  And, though making promises is risky (something David Noble taught me with grace) I’m going to do it anyway, right now. You will not find any of these things in this world.  You won’t.  That boy, that jacket, those friends, that weight, that gpa, that family portrait…nothing, none of it.  You will be left out in the cold, damp light of a street lamp the instant the mirage gives way to actuality.  I make that promise with confidence because I’m in a battle against worldly, inadequate “comforts”.  I’ve been let down and let down and let down.  But at the foot of the cross, I’m continually amazed at the bonds that so beautifully secure me to salvation and peace and eternal life.

Last night I had the immense privilege of watching one of my dear friends and brothers weep in front of a group of wide-eyed high school students while he lamented over the insecure eternity of some of the people he loved the most deeply, knowing that their lack of faith in the true Light (John 1), Jesus Christ, meant impending darkness.

But here’s the hope in all of this:  Jesus was made to live, and die an excruciatingly uncomfortable death in order that we, His creation, could be welcomed into the arms of the Father, the true Comforter.

He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25)

 

So here’s my question: will you continue to turn to you roommates/boyfriends/success/money/future/control/you name it to find security?  Or will you be welcomed into the family of God, a blanket warmer than flannel, more beautiful than Miami fall, more aromatic than hazelnut coffee and far, far more beautiful than Justin Vernon’s voice?

[photo credit: lauren szandzik – she rocks]

A Rebuttal

Recently, a blog post was..well..posted, about the differences between main campus and branch campus attenders, all of which.  The following post is my response to that article, which can be found here:

http://mustachemaniak.wordpress.com/

I’m dating a DBK.  For those of you who are unaware of this classification, allow me to rephrase.  I’m dating a young man who attends a branch campus of Miami; Middletown to be exact.  He likes MUM very, very much.  Loves it, even.  It’s evident in the way he defends Middletown, the way he speaks of his fellow students.  It’s wonderful!  I’m a full advocate for branch campuses, and I agree with him that there are tons of stigmas against individuals who attend said campuses. Since entering this relationship, I’ve learned just how wrong my own ideas of the average branch campus attendee were.  (See link above)  They are real people, getting a real education, and for that, I applaud them.  They’re just like me in a lot of ways.  The difference?  The cost of their education, the place they live, and the size of their campus.

There’s a few things, however, that I believe are assumed about main campus students that are incorrect, as well.  Here they are:

1. All Oxford kids are rich, snobby, spoiled brats going to Miami because they didn’t get into private ivy league schools.

How do I know this is false?  Visit the corridor in which I live, and you’ll understand.  There are plenty of us who come from households with a very average income.  We are all incredibly privileged to attend Miami, but for a lot of us, it’s just as difficult coming to school to get an education as it is for those people going about their “daily grinds” and attending a branch campus.  Sure, there are plenty students who wear Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer, Sperrys and Longchamps, and these students may very well be the most visible.  But there is so much danger in assuming that all of them are the same!  On top of that, I find it rather unfair to assume that all students are clones.  As I write this, I’m wearing a red men’s flannel and Birkenstock sandals sent from God.  Is this “normal Miami attire”?  Not even close.  Many of my clothes are bought at a thrift store, and I will readily and eagerly explain to you my love of thrifting.  Not all Miami students are stuck up pricks.  Some are.  So are some students at Harvard, MUM, Colorado State, and every other college or university across the nation.

 

2. A main campus education is exactly the same only more expensive.

Yes, it’s more expensive, but there are plenty of studies and national awards to prove just how worth it it can be.  I’m NOT saying that a main campus education is more valuable than a branch education.  All Miami diplomas say “Miami University” – it’s all the same.  But there’s an experiential factor that plays into the value of a main campus education.  Living on campus has been incredibly influential in my experience thus far at Miami.  A lot of the time, I absolutely despise being on campus all day every day.  The amount of sin that stems from being surrounded 18-22 year olds at all times is vast.  But I wouldn’t trade all the comparison, sorrow, doubt and anxiety that I’ve experienced for anything in the world.  Why?  Because I love Jesus infinitely stronger than I did before I experienced campus life.  I wouldn’t have seen much of the darkness I’ve seen if I commuted or went to a branch campus.  This darkness forced me to cling tighter to the Cross than I ever thought possible.  Sure, my parents are paying much more for me to live on campus (and for that, I am eternally thankful), but to me, it’s worth it.

 

3. All main campus students think branch students are stupid and poor.

If this were true, I wouldn’t be dating David Noble, now, would I?  There is a completely different dynamic between branches and the main campus.  I understand that completely.  But I can say confidently that though some main campus may hold this mindset, it is not, by any means, the general consensus.  I love branch kids!

 

All of that being said, here’s some scripture:

28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If it weren’t a sin to add my opinion to the Bible, I would rewrite it to say:

28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slaveg nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither DBK (dirty branch kid) or COK (clean oxford kid), for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

So there are my thoughts. Branch kids and main kids,  UNITE!

on the third day of school…

I was so incredibly blessed by Jesus!  So much grace!

I woke up this morning feeling such a strong presence of the Spirit, which was beautiful.  I felt protected and cherished.  Throughout the day, I was reminded of the constant, eternal presence of God…which in itself is a concept that blows my mind.  Hebrews 13:8

Then! (This is really awesome!) my coleader of a small group discussion class and I had an incredibly exciting realization that we’ve both been saved by the infinitely sufficient grace of Jesus.  What a blessing!  I’m so excited to chase after our students with her.  She’s so cool.  I’m so excited!!

What a difference paying attention to convictions given by the Spirit makes!

Now I’m sitting in my dorm room with two beautiful young women doing homework (well..trying..).  The third day of sophomore year has proven to be the best one yet.

a few weeks in photographs

My parents have already left to unload all my belongings onto the sidewalk in front of Ogden Hall…an hour and a half early.  That’s okay.  I like that about them, they’re never late.  I miss living with them a lot when I’m at school.

I probably shouldn’t be writing this post, I really don’t have time to waste.  But I want to, and I’m going to.

I’m nervous for the school year.  Existing in a place crammed full of 18-22 year olds is far more difficult than one may think.  This time last year was easily one of the hardest times of my life, I was a sobby mess, just ask my roommate, Lauren Szandzik, whose blog is posted on the right hand menu of this page (shameless sell).  However! (Don’t you love that?  or BUT!  What a beautiful word, ‘But’, the most influential word of all time, in my opinion, ephesians 2:4)  There is hope!  First of all – Jesus is real.  You may not believe it, but you’re believing wrong.  That’s not very graceful of me to say, and I’m sorry for that.  But He is, and He will be, forever.  Hallelujah!  Secondly, I’m going to be surrounded by my favorite young women, all who fear and worship Jesus, Real Jesus!  When we experience the darkness that is college life, it’s garunteed that we’ll be surrounded by children of the light, ephesians 5:8.  So I’m not paralyzed by fear of how I’ll react to seeing brokenness this time, I’m not afraid of falling into a black hole of downward spirals, I have hope. Only because Jesus is real.

That being said, here are some photographs I took and enjoyed and would like to share with you all!

Here’s a picture of an afternoon in Middletown.  On this day, I spent some time with one of my favorite people, David Noble, walking through dirt and flowers with speedy freezes in hand.  It was really nice, and then I fell in the water.  Well, really my foot just slipped.  But my foot is still a little sore from it, and it’s been a few weeks since that incident.  That’s okay, at least I got my cheek kissed in the shadows! @mustachemaniak #stud

 

 

 

This is a photograph of a zebra, a real life zebra!  His name is Zanu Matata, which means something cute and zebra-y, but I can’t remember what it was.  He’s 4 months old and full of allergens that made me sneeze and itch for a while after being with him, but it was worth it.  To all of you Fairfield Young Life campaigner kids who laughed at me when I told all of you I saw a zebra in a yard outside the Vick’s farm…I hate to say it, but I told you so!  But hey, no hard feelings.  I love you people more than I can ever say, ever ever ever.

 

 

 

My dad found this baby humming bird in the grass near our house.  It was trying to fly but was too small, and he couldn’t and it was beautifully sad.  But we put him somewhere nice, in some flowers.  Hopefully mama bird comes back and can teach him how to fly so that if he falls out of his nest again, he can get home.  I’m not sure if the “dont touch the baby animal because it’s mom won’t take it back” rule applies to birds, but I trust God loves this little guy enough to make an exception.

 

This is Maria Sharapova, and she’s pretty good at tennis.  I had the opportunity to be my dad’s date to the ATP Western & Southern Open Tennis Tournament in Mason, Ohio yesterday, and it was fabulous.  I usually don’t use the word fabulous unless it has to do with something a little bit out of my league, like tennis.  But it was!  It was honestly fabulous.  After Maria cleaned house, we saw Fish sweep Nadal (USA!) (sorry Rafa, you’re still cool), and we even got to see a hot second of Federer doing his thing.  All the while, eating delicious food served to us by a really nice man named Josh, who didn’t like it when I called him “sir”.  And on top of all of that, I was with my dad!  He’s probably one of the best men currently living.  Forget the probably in that last sentence.  He has his arm around me as I type these words, which is a safe feeling.  What a guy.

 

So there are some pictures of my life.

And here goes nothing.  Move-In day.  Sophomore year.  God’s grace, maybe a few tears, lots of fellowship…this could get interesting.

A “Runner’s” Tale (Part 2)

Last evening, the beautiful Katie Rhodenbaugh and I went on our first run together as training partners. Let me tell you something: it was awesome.
Sundays are our “long run” days.  Yesterday was a 6-miler, and we made it!  We wove in and out of parks, neighborhoods and crosswalks, and an hour passed, and we snuck onto the country club golf course to drink some water out of white paper cones.

Here are some things I’ve been learning:

1.  It’s so much better when someone is running alongside you.  In anything, right?  It’s so good not to be alone.

2. It feels good to sweat.  I’m not saying I love being sweaty all the time, I don’t.  But when I’m working hard…it’s not so bad to be a bit more damp than usual.

3. The only way we will be able to finish a race is if we prepare for it.  There’s no way in a million trillion years that we would be able to run in this race without training.  We have to understand the end goal in order to truly be able to commit to desiring it. I need this in my walk with Christ, as well.  So often, I see the end goal as “no more pain”, which is true, in part.  But there is so much more to the prize promised to christians than that, isn’t there?!  Here I am, running a race to try and just get through it so that I don’t have to feel sore all the time, but how much more glory will there be after that beautiful finish line?  I’ve been on a “promises of God” kick recently, dwelling on scriptures in which God promises us, His children, various wonderful things, of which there are tons and tons, way too many to mention in a blog post. 2 Peter 1:3-4 says,

3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine
nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

His glory. We are promised experience  of that.  Rest, true worship, perfected bodies, minds, dancing…we get these things!  Let’s work toward them.

I’m not feeling very eloquent this morning, there are so many other things I feel would be appropriate, even cozy in the context of this post…but they’re stuck in my brain, somewhere between last night’s crazy dream and preparing for the flock of teenage boys that will be invading my house today around 2.  Maybe more words will spring through my fingers later.  Maybe not.  Wait!

4. Not everything in my life has to be deeply poetic or theological.  This may be rather obvious, but through conversation with Katie last night on our run, I realized that I’ve been believing a lie that says that everything I think, read, say, feel has to shake me to the core.  While my existence is absolutely rooted in deep, rich, beautifully solid truth, there are things that I can do that don’t necessarily have  to rock my world.  Like reading books.  Throughout my freshman year of college, I would guilt myself into only reading books written by famous pastors or theologians.  While these books are incredibly useful and an enormous blessing to individuals seeking to learn more about the gospel, the Holy Spirit, how to pray, what to  pray, how to find a good, christian spouse (eh?), etc, they are not the only books created by God, right?  God gave people the gift of writing to write about all sorts of things.  Last week, I began reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a really nice novel written by Aimee Bender.  It’s so  good!  It’s not filling my mind with garbage.  It’s beautifully written.  I look forward to reading it before I fall asleep.  It’s a blessing!  It’s a created thing!  Just because Beth Moore’s face isn’t gracing the cover doesn’t mean I’m sinning for reading it!*  Now, don’t take this as me renouncing my love for theology-heavy books.  I deeply enjoy learning from texts written by people who have followed Jesus longer than I’ve been alive.  But God is creative, and expresses that creativity through so many outlets, literature being one from which I draw a great deal of enjoyment.  So here’s to His creativity through His creation, Miss Bender, and the novel her words have created.  It’s really good.  Seriously.

*I love Beth Moore

Mid-Monday Thoughts

It’s a Monday, the first day of another sweltering week here in Oxford, Ohio.  I’m missing the beach, the incredible convenience of cool water and the poetic redundancy of the tide’s song.  I’m also missing the easiness of the ocean, it’s whispers of consistency.  Sure, some pushes of waves may come faster, stronger, but never, ever does Mr. Ocean hold out on pushing one to shore for more than a few moments. That’s something I really like about him.

I have the incredible opportunity to hang out with a group of girls whom I care for so deeply today.  We meet on Mondays to talk about life and what happens in it, which is a lot of things.  Today, we’re talking about spiritual warfare, which is a bit terrifying to lead a discussion on, let alone understand and imitate a doctrine that calls us as Saints to fight valiantly.  Friends, we’re in a battle.  The ocean, though beautiful and cleansing and consistent, is not a fair picture of our lives, well, let me rephrase.  The point at which the ocean meets the sand is a false representation of our lives.  The illusion of consistency is easily extracted.  The real, big, scary, Deadliest Catch waves in the real, big, scary ocean…they’re not that uncommon, now are they?

Good thing we have armor.  Ephesians 6:10-20 explains the elements of our internal defense system against the war being waged against our eternal souls.  It’s exciting, reassuring, and sometimes, it even gives you the feeling you get when you watch Remember the Titans and the game is about to begin and Coach Boone get’s all those boys wound up and ready to win.  Everyone likes that feeling.  But this is a tangent.

I know this battle.  I confess that all too often I don’t fight it.  I just lay down and play dead so that maybe the enemy buys it and doesn’t stab me in the heart.  Here’s the problem with that: I’m pretty bad at playing dead, so I always end up getting burned.  So my options are lay down and die, or stand up and fight.  Those are your options to.  So what’ll it be today?

a midsummer night’s dream

With a title like the one beginning this post, you may be expecting some really nice words; like “balance” or “misty” or “just a little bit odd”.  Those are things that enter my dreamy little brain when I think of summer and dreaming and sleeping and fireflies and christmas lights in the trees.  And I so wish I could write about such things!  You know, I don’t believe that dreams should ever be sad.  What a terrible thing, sad things taking over your brain even when you’re asleep and totally unable to distract your thoughts with something kind and even moderately pleasant.  How lovely it would be to be able to have full confidence in the head  finally resting on the pillow to produce only pictures like this one while your eyes darted around in a fit of REM sleep.  But friends, I know all too well that this dream of dreams is vastly different from reality.

I’ve been plagued with unpleasant dreams for as long as I can remember, which is a pretty long time.  I  remember dreaming about my brother in the few days after he was born (when I was a mere 3 years old) about a Tyrannosaurus Rex storming our house in hopes of eating my brother (who in the dream was actually..two babies..).  Knowing the monster was coming for my new siblings, I darted into their bedroom and replaced their pudgy, soft bodies with two circular saw blades, which the T-Rex ate, killing him instantly.

Around that time, I had another dream about stealing my parents car and driving it into a ditch.  It was their Nissan Maxima, which they sold when I was roughly 5 years old.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I have pleasant dreams every once in a while, praise Jesus.  But recently, my dreams have been absolutely terrible.  They’re not even that far-fetched, which makes the situation epically worse.  They’ve been about things in my past, dark things, things I try my darndest not to remember all day long, but my silly brain just can’t go without dwelling on them at all, so these memories, fears and regrets manifest themselves when I don’t have any say over whether or not they can occupy my thoughts.  Unfair?  I’d say so.  It’s like my last post, about needing to clean out our brains so we can let the good in.  I have so much junk up there that I can’t even go through it while I’m awake!  Sin has such power to overtake every single waking AND SLEEPING moment of one’s life.  But I will not let this win.  Romans 8:21, “…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God,”.  That’s what I want to consume me!  Not stupid dreams and trying to pick them apart and analyze them and feel defeated by my inability to fight sin on my own.  What  a silly thought – fighting sin alone.

That being said, consider this my manifesto, my declaration of war against my resting brain.  No, I’m not going to abandon sleep.  But I am going to figure this thing out and claim victory over these dreams.  By the grace of God, my sleep will be sweet once more.