Thursday, July 28, 2011


I am moving off of Blogger. I have started at new WordPress blog, which you can find here: Hopefully I will post there more regularly than I did with the Squat Pen. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beautiful Everyday Things

I am one of many writers working on this collaborative blog that celebrates the beauty we find in everyday things. We are two days old, but already there are several posts up. This is a wonderful read; check it out!

The Squat Pen will remain a blog for personal hoo-das and whats-its. Cheers!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Revelation and Revolution

Today was one of those days. You know, the long to-do list, end-of-the-semester stress, sickness, personal crisis... all the usual symptoms of a college student who has hit rock bottom. And then God spoke.

But we're ahead of ourselves. The start of the day was to rise after four hours of sleep, finish packing, and head back to Biola. Discouraged by how little work I had accomplished over break and the mountain of deadlines looming ahead of me, I was focusing on taking things one step at a time, slowing chipping away at the tasks I had set for myself. Because I didn't get to campus in time, I missed chapel, for which I was grateful. It meant I could organize my emails and other such details before my day exploded in busyness. I headed over to spiritual direction but had a half hour before my appointment, so I sat at a table in the grass under the shade of the trees and finished my email. The day was hot, and with the breeze and the lazy conversation of happy people, it felt like summer. "I should go outside more often," I thought. For the first time in a while I felt a sense of peace.

In spite of this, I was anxious about going to spiritual direction. I underwent the exact process I had with my previous appointments: feeling a strong desire to cancel because I had too many other pressures and because I didn't have things figured out, or even know what I was going to talk about. But, as I told myself, spiritual direction isn't for people who their life together or who have things figured out, and anyway, it would be cowardly and selfish to back out twenty minutes beforehand. My director started us with several minutes of silence. A true blessing, because I needed gather my emotions. I wanted to be able to think clearly, but four hours of sleep and stress do not lend to stable tear ducts or coherent thought processes. At the end of the silence, she prayed to open us up, thanking God for the time of quiet that we had in that place and asking that we would carry that peace and rest into our lives, and have hearts receptive to His love.

I won't go into detail about what I said. It would be impossible to organize it anyhow, because it all tumbles out in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Essentially, I told her that I had been able to feel God's presence in most areas of my life, that I saw Him responding to my prayers, but that I didn't hear Him speaking to me. I said that I was frustrated with my inability to reconcile the apparent contradictions of the Bible and I was discouraged and dissatisfied with the abrupt, incomplete resolution to Ecclesiastes' philosophical struggle. I expressed my confusion at the tension in my life between the benefits of accomplishing the ambitions which seem God-given and the call to lay down in green pastures which had been persistent in my mind since the beginning of my sickness.

She told me that she had wanted to read Psalm 23 to me, but that she had felt it was too cliche to begin a session with such a well-used piece of scripture. She also said that my frustration with Ecclesiastes' lack of clarity might reflect my own frustration with the tension of work and rest in my life, something I had sensed but been unable to admit. Our discussion didn't resolve any of my questions, but it brought order to the chaos of my thoughts and emotions. I realized that the problem might lay in the fact that I was not ready to sacrifice my desires concerning my life for God's.

Still processing, I went to eat lunch alone in the cafeteria. Just to have something to do, I pulled out Mere Christianity. I had been trying to read a chapter every morning as a devotional, but that had fallen apart during break, and I hadn't looked at it for a couple days. To my surprise, I found that the chapter was incredibly relevant to my situation. I have chosen those sections which really stood out to me:

"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of
your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to
torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch
here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill the tooth, or crown it,
or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent
as well as the ones you think wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I
will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'

Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ
Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, "Take
up your Cross"—in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next
minute he says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden light.' He means both. And one can just see why
both are true.

...The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all
your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.
For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our
great aim in life, and yet at the same time be 'good.'

We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centred on money or pleasure or
ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is
exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a
field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short:
but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper
than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.

That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It
comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you
like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in
listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter
life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings;
coming in out of the wind.

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading
through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference
between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He
never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, 'Be perfect,' He meant it. He meant that we must go
in for the full treatment.

It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It
may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while
remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an
ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

...What we have been told is how we men can be drawn into Christ —can become part of that wonderful present which the young Prince of the universe wants to offer to His Father—that present which is Himself and therefore us in Him. It is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, exciting hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many other things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning."

A few hours after reading this, I ran into some friends on the way back to the dorm. I hadn't seen them since the beginning of spring break, and I hadn't realized how much I missed them. They tried to convince me to go to the park with them, where they were shooting a short film project and hang out. I declined, though I wanted to come, because of the mountain of work waiting for me when I got back to the dorm. They continued to plead with me, insisting that I could finish my work later. Finally I caved into their and my own desires and went with them. We spent the end of the beautiful afternoon by the lake, walking around and watching the ducks and geese. It was so relaxing, and such a peace settled on me that I wasn't worried about the work ahead of me, even when I thought of it. I knew that I was meant to be there, enjoying the day and the time with my friends.

When we returned to campus and went our separate ways, I finally went back to the dorm. When I reached my door, there was a note with my name on it sticking out from the crack. Thinking it was a note from a friend or an RA, I went inside the room to read it. This is what it said:

"Remember last semester? That was when you did nothing but work. This semester God is calling you to do two things: to do good work, and pursue relationships. This means focusing on growing intellectually and as a good neighbor. I hope, future self, that you can look back on this semester and see your spiritual maturity flourishing. Let God's plan be your plan. Amen"

As I read it, I was thinking, "Who could have written this? They must be really familiar with everything that is going on in my life," and then I saw the words. "Future self," I thought, "What?" At last, it hit me. I wrote the note. At the beginning of the semester, I had attended a mandatory floor meeting (the only floor meeting I have attended to date) where our RAs asked us to write a letter to ourselves. We were to give them the letters, and they were to mail them to us at the close of the semester. I had completely forgotten about this, and I was floored by the perfection in the timing and the content of the note. In no way could I have known at the beginning of the semester that these were the words I needed to hear now. Stunned, I realized that the note had been crafted not by my hand, but by God's. Through divine inspiration, my thoughts and emotions of three months ago had been molded so that they might be relevant to me at this precise moment. God was speaking to me.

I felt awed that the voice of God, manifested in a person, a book, and a letter, was having a conversation with me. My prayers were no longer a one-way street, a fax to heaven. God was actively using all the elements of my life to respond to my doubts and my questions, my requests and my desires. I wanted to cry for joy, but the great stillness of my soul overwhelmed the emotion of the moment, and I was left with my wonder. It was a profound revelation of my mind, and a call to a revolution of my spirit.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Hymn on a Day of Rain

Where is the fire, Father,
that burned in my heart
those days past?
You do not change,
you did not put it out,
but still it did not last.
Was it the clouds of grey,
the uncertain sense of a storm
that put the fire out?
No longer black and white,
            the skyline’s dim and hazy,
expressing all my doubt.
It’s raining everywhere now;
            the whole world weeps,
            and I cry to feel again.
I know that water cleanses,
            showers bring new life;
            but first comes the pain.
My tears touch my face with salt;
            I wonder if I have to weep
            to find the flavor in my soul.
Must passion equate with suffering,
            can there be no other cup?
            Surely trial is life’s great toll.
Is not fire the greatest passion,
            do not flames also purify?
            Then, Abba, set me ablaze!
You created me a fire-water,
            always at war with myself;
            teach me harmony as I praise.
You called me to be a light,
            so I stare into the dark
and I am too afraid.
But “it is you who light my lamp;
            the Lord my God lightens my darkness”
            so, Father, come to your daughter’s aid!
Start your holy fire in my heart,
            flood my soul with lucid grace;
let me reflect your light’s beam.
I give you my fears and burdens
            in exchange for your free joy;
Father, you are my new dream!

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Express yourself," they said. So I wrote a poem.

 I am.

The golden-haired child
who dances on her father’s feet,
barefoot, foot-loose and free,
abandoned to her wild joy.

The girl who climbs trees
to see what the world looks like,
who runs in the wind and rain
just to feel she is alive again.

The teenager who is held captive
by her mind and its invention,
who rides to freedom on a horse
whom she loves more than life.

The young woman who loves
but doesn’t know the direction
or the object, only the passion
for something more than this.

The adult, given great freedom
and so also great responsibility,
who loves to read, write, think,
and comes to college to learn how.

The daughter who is grown up,
but will always be Daddy’s girl
and, in her mind, heart and soul,
will always have a Father.

I am His.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Psalm 1 Rewritten

For a writing assignment, I had to rewrite Psalm 1 as an acrostic. If you can't figure it out, my version spells THELAW over six verses which imitate the original psalm. I was told to use my "landscape" to inform the poem's content and style. This is the (feeble first draft) result:

The woman is blessed whose eyes reject false beauty,
whose ears ignore the deceptive whispers of desire,
whose mouth shuts against judgment and gossip.
Her felicity is found in the Word of her heavenly Father;
            it is written on her heart throughout the days,
            occupying her mind when she lays down to rest.
Ever in joy she blossoms, like a radiant red flower blooming
            on the desert cactus that never dies for want of rain,
            for it holds its hope of life within, and is always green.
Look how the wicked suffer their own misfortune:
            they are like tumbleweeds buffeted in a wind,
            dead, lonely, without rest in all the dry desert.
All those whose hope is in the law of the Lord will stand,
ready for the judgment, joined together with the righteous;
            but the wicked and the sinners will not be found among them.
Well does the Lord know the hearts and minds of all,
            their souls like books, open for him to read in full;
            the righteous will be taken up, the wicked thrown to the fire.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I See the Light

Over the last week I've been feeling a lot of doubt about my major. I haven't really been doing much of anything film-related lately, and I've been focusing more on my Torrey work. It feels more important to me, and in some ways it is. The Torrey program is probably the best possible path to follow for spiritual, mental and personal growth. But it has been taking over my life, and I've felt guilty about neglecting my other passions. I even began to doubt that they were anything more than vague interests. After leaving my non-Torrey desires on the shelf, they got a bit dusty.

Today I took down those old desires and dusted them off. In the afternoon I helped a friend with her directing project and I remembered how much I loved being on a film set, even though this was really just two film students, two actors, and a camera. Later in the evening I went to the opening night of Into the Woods. Before it started, there was a Q&A with the vocal director, one of the main cast, and the assistant director Amick Byram. Amick talked about the importance of storytelling and what a huge role it has played in history. This woke the slumbering storyteller inside of me, and seeing the play proved to me how influential a story can be.

I was very encouraged to find that I still very much enjoyed these previous passions of mine. It was encouraging to realize that I had neglected but never abandoned them. The joy of working on a film and seeing a play has inspired new confidence in me that I truly am in the right major. I am, have always been, and will always be a storyteller. I need to learn to balance my time between my passions, but half the battle is realizing what my passions are. Tonight I have remembered my passions, and I call them my own. I have remembered that I am passionate.

Now I'm here
Blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here
Suddenly I see
Standing here
It's oh, so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be

And at last, I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once
Everything looks different