Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Wisdom of Lions

<-- That's Sherman, my adorable Lion 
Sunday night was one of our last nights together as a floor. Shannon, Alaina, Katherine, Nhat, a few others, and I spent the evening in Shannon and Nermina's room watching movies on their lovely television. Elf was playing. I love that movie. Who wouldn't want to be called a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins? Prince Caspian aired next. Although the movie is a bit cheesy and could definitely be better, it has some absolutely fantastic lines from Aslan, the great lion. C.S. Lewis was a genius for sure. A few certain lines stuck out to me in particular.

One point of interest in the movie is Lucy's virtually unwavering faith in Aslan. She sees him at one point and cries out to her companions, who have not seen him. They don't believe her, and I believe it is Peter who asks her, “Why wouldn't I have seen him?” She plainly replies: “Maybe you weren't looking.” What wisdom she speaks! I find myself constantly doing this with God. I ask myself, ask others, ask Him, WHY can't I see him? Why can't I decipher what He's doing, why isn't my life clear, why can't I understand everything and see His perfect plan in everything? Maybe I'm just not looking clearly enough. Maybe I'm spending all my time looking for my own version of an answer, unwilling to see the truth. Maybe I don't want to accept it, maybe I'm too stuck in my own sinful ways. Regardless, He's there...I'm just not looking.

Or maybe sometimes I cry, like a character in the movie, “I wish he'd given some kind of proof!” and the only response can be, “Maybe we're the ones who need to prove ourselves to him.” Oh the truth in those words! I'm always asking God why, trying to test Him, question His reasoning and omnipotence. No, no, no! God never has to prove Himself. We can't run about searching for the proof of God. It's all around us! Look at the sky, the stars, the sunrise, or sunset. His glory, the proof of Him, surrounds us, great and mighty. It is us who must prove ourself to Him. We are fallen people. We fail and sin and lie and cheat and fail and fail and fail. God still loves us, though, despite our desertion, abandonment, and betrayal. But He never has to give us proof of His glory and power. We are to follow Him, because He knows best, and all His plans are perfect, even if we can't, or won't, understand the reasons.

I believe the following quote to be the best from the movie: “The others wouldn't believe me!” Lucy cries. Aslan lovingly rebukes, “And why did that stop you from coming to me?” Oh how that pierces my heart with an arrow of truth! So shamefully often I am the bearer of this excuse. I don't pray in public, for people might think I was foolish or crazy. I don't cry my praises to the heavens, for fear someone might hear. It reminds me of a Fall Our Boy song, “I wanna sing 'I love you' from the top of my lungs/But I'm afraid that someone else might hear me.” Yeah. Pretty much. Why on earth would that stop you from singing your love for someone for all the world to hear? If you love someone you want the world to know it. Sing it from the rooftops, shout it on the streets. It's like my photo, A Shout Not A Whisper, love shouldn't be hidden beneath roofs or kept in the deep crevasses of the heart. It should be painted on walls, tattooed on arms, sung from corners, it should be seaping out of every aspect of your being. My love for Jesus should never be hidden. I should never fear that someone won't believe me. It doesn't matter! Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Light. He is all that matters, the only true bit of importance. This world does not matter. The opinions of man should not phase me. This world will pass away, but Heaven will last forever. My faith should not be dependent on what others think of me, or what they do to me, or say about me. “Why did that stop you from coming to me?” It never should. It does, far too often, but it never should. So I don't just “want to scream 'I love you' from the top of my lungs,” I will sing “I LOVE YOU!” from the top of my lungs, because I DO want the world to hear me.

Flying into Fire: the Last Sunset

The engine starts, plane rattling and shaking a bit. You're sitting by the windows and you can see the wings tremble and quiver. You begin to move, the plane slowly driving down the runway. Green light illuminate the path, emeralds sprinkled on the grounds, like bread crumbs marking the path home. The plane picks up speed. Your leg muscles tighten, pressing closely to the seat. Your whole body tenses, dreading and anticipating the heart-stopping moment when the plane lifts off. Suddenly the wheels leave the runway. The sky and ground are at an awkward angle. Gravity is defied. You are flying.

Slowly the cars and buildings shrink. You're staring at a matchbox creation – small and imaginative, anything could happen. The roads and houses create intricate lines and shapes with little splotches of color and varying shades of brown. It could inspire an abstract painting.

Then you see it...that glorious setting sun. The plane accelerates, flying directly into the medley of orange, salmon, gold, and red. The mountains are dark, cast in shadows. They blend in to the dark purpling clouds as the sun slowly retreats.

The sky darkens and the plane coasts high above the world. You sit back and close your eyes. When you open them next it's pitch black outside. Peering down into the dark world you can see small clusters of light...cities and towns, light spots in a dark place. They look warm and inviting, safe and comfortable, and so, so unattainable from this great height.

The plan descends. Tilting down towards the earth, everything suddenly grows bigger. First the too small for Polly Pockets to dwell, it grows to the size of a Lego masterpiece, then Barbie-size, and then the normal size for humans. The ground is coming up quickly. It's almost terrifying, that imminent reaching the ground. Right before the plane hits you brace yourself. The wheels hit the earth with a jolt. You shudder, shake, and release the tension in your body as the plane slows to a halt.

Wait for awhile, and then it's lift off again. The same body-tensing, heart rattling mount into the sky. It might be the closest you'll ever be to flight like Peter Pan's, free and careless, childish joy. The city of Minneapolis twinkles beneath you. If only there were words to describe its beauty. The lights flicker and shine. Oranges and reds, golds and yellows, whites and lights. Everything glistens in the dark, shining together into an alluring picture of light. If only it could be captured, hung on a wall, and enjoyed forever. Instead it must reside in your mind's eye...perfectly hanging there for years to come. A sight worth seeing, and never forgetting.

St. Louis draws near. The lights shine and the houses grow larger. Trees become clearer, a whole world appears from the blur of colors and shapes you saw from above. You land, you are back, a sort-of forgotten version of home.

(Pretend this was posted on Tuesday)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

To Ms. Julia, RIP

Julia Richer is quite possibly the most incredible person I have ever met. Today, she met Jesus. She had cancer for the past two years, but she spent her life praising God. Her every moment was devoted to sharing His love and goodness with those around her. 
When most people hear they are going to die they stop living. Their remaining days, weeks, months and years are spent preparing for their imminent release from this earth. Many finish writing their will. Some spend their days mourning their loss of life, others visit the places they had always wanted to go, and many spend time with their families. These are not BAD things in and of themselves, but they seem to be done with a sense of hopelessness. When most people discover they are fatally ill they stop serving, loving and caring. They prepare for that next step in their adventure of existence by focusing on themselves. They no longer view their lives as a progression, but more like nearing the bottom of a great hole they’ve been falling through. They also begin to question, and usually they question their Maker. Hate, bitterness, fear, confusion...these are all additional emotions that generally accompany a person when they hear of their fatal illness. They don’t understand why this has happened to them, and they often blame God for their troubles. Often they put on a good show for friends and family, but the pain and fear are still hidden beneath their fake smiles and lying “I’m OK”’s. It is so, so simple to believe in the goodness and compassion of Christ when life is easy, but someone’s response during tragedy shows their truest nature.
Ms. Julia, as the youth of the church affectionately call her, was not ‘most people.’ Quite the opposite, her joyful smile and caring persona were true and tangible. Though I will never know what went on inside her mind, I do know she was never bitter towards God. She didn’t know WHY God has allowed her illness, but she accepted her fate and lived the rest of her life to the fullest in Him. Almost two years ago, Ms. Julia received the awful news that she had terminal cancer. Incurable, she learned that she would most certainly pass away within the next few months to a year. In Ms. Julia’s response she proved, once again, that she is not ‘most people.’ Martin Luther said that if the world was going to end tomorrow, he would plant a tree today. Why? Because he wasn’t going to give up, he wasn’t going to stop living. Ms. Julia didn’t give up, and she never stopped living. She devoted her time to her daughters and the youth in the church. She continued to serve the youth choir and held potlucks at her house. She never stopped caring about others. She lived each day as if she has a million more, even though each day could, potentially, be her last. 
One Sunday morning the church sang “God Is A Good God” and Ms. Julia joined the choir and added her sweet voice to theirs. Her face radiated with the joy of the Lord, her song was like that of the birds, joyful to be free on a warm spring day. As the band played out the chorus of the song in the background, Ms. Julia took the microphone and poured her heart our to the church. She praised God for His goodness to her in the midst of her pain and suffering through cancer. The church wept. Looking through tear-filled eyes at the hundreds of people in the church, I saw nearly every one crying. They weren’t sad, bitter, or pained cries, they were incredulous, joyful, and touched tears. Hearing her words strengthened us, encouraged us and gave us hope. If she, sick with cancer, could stand before us and praise God with her every breath, surely we could get through our struggles in school or work or at home and know that God is always, always, always on our side. 
Ms. Julia’s life, death, incredible love and faith have been and will continue to be a testament to all who hear her story. Ms. Julia’s faith in hard times attested to her genuine love for God. Her faith not only shows what a great woman she was, but has helped others to grow closer in their relationship with God. Ms. Julia’s faith touched my life. I have seen her unrelenting belief in the goodness of God. Her refusal to give in to Satan’s lies that God doesn’t care showed me the goodness of God in my own life. Seeing a suffering person praise the goodness of God is one of the most powerful experiences a person could ever undergo. Ms. Julia drew me closer in my walk with the Lord. A person’s response during trials shows their truest self, and Ms. Julia showed her truest self to be a person completely reliant on God and His goodness. She was one of the most faithful, loving, godly, caring, and servant-hearted people I will ever be blessed to know. She will be missed. I know she’s up in heaven right now, with Jesus and singing with the angels, and I cannot wait until the day I get to join her there. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Imminent Ends

It's finals week. Technically I should have shut down my Facebook, blocked Twitter, and avoided blogging. That's just not my style, I guess! I'm sitting at work and should be studying. I've been pouring over Russian notes and Analytical Inquiry (computer coding class) notes for the past few hours, and I'm getting burnt-out. So, I decided to spend a little more quality time with my dear friend, the internet.

Finals are intense. We're all tired and stressed and anxious and relieved. It's hard to have such mixed emotions! There's, obviously, a lot of stress about the tests and final papers themselves. So much of our grades, usually 20-40%, are based on that final paper or test! It's an intense amount of pressure to do really well. I have a Russian oral exam on Wednesday that I'm not looking forward to. It probably won't totally brutal, but it's gonna be hard. We have to make up a story pretty much on the spot with a partner. The second part of the test involves either accusing someone of being a lazy-do-nothing or hooligan, or defending yourself and protesting being such a person. Then Thursday is the cram-all-the-notes-you've-ever-taken-into-your-head-at-once day. Finals themselves are Friday. I have a two hour coding test and then a two hour Russian final. Eek!

These tests are starting to stress me out, if I think about them too much. Having so much on your mind and so much importance placed on succeeding is intense. It also provides a great opportunity to trust. And trusting can be hard. At a certain point I have to let go. I have to come to the realization that no matter how long and hard I study, I can never do better than my best. All I can do is work hard, study, not slack off, and give my all when I take the test. I have to leave a lot of it in God's hands. He knows that I have to get good grades to keep my scholarships, and He knows how hard I'm working. So I have to rely on Him to provide, give me the strength to keep studying, and survive my first finals in college.

This week has more endings than just the finishing of school. It also means going home, back to St. Louis. Now don't get me wrong, I love my family and can't wait to see them, but I'm still super sad about leaving behind the many new friends I have made here. Also, there are rules at home. I'm not really the rebellious rule-breaking type, but going from being absolutely in control of my life to being under the jurisdiction of parents again, it's just gonna take some getting used to. As great as not having class for six weeks and being with my family again will (hopefully) be, I feel like I can't wait until Winter quarter arrives so I can be here, at DU, in Colorado again. It's just another area I really have to trust God in. He's always there for me, and even though being away from my new friends and family at DU will be, my very bestest friend will always be with me, and He'll never change or leave.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Allure of Mother Nature

“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me... but it's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life... You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure. But don't worry... you will someday.”

American Beauty is one of my favorite films. It's a little strange, but it has some of the most profound quotes. They're all saved to my computer and taped to my walls at home. 

“It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was, like, dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. And that's the day I knew there was this entire life behind things, and... this incredibly benevolent force, that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... and I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it, like my heart's going to cave in.”

Yesterday morning I felt just that, like my heart was just going to cave in, there was so much beauty. I slept in late and went for a run around 11:30. Thinking the air would be frigid, I bundled up in a big sweatshirt, sweatpants and gloves. The weather, though chilly, was perfect for a jog. Cool air blew against my face, fresh and alive. Everything was sharp and clear. There wasn't any specific flower or leaf or tree that caught my attention as being exceptionally comely, but the whole picture was so almost painfully beautiful. I couldn't help but smile, and my heart sang for joy. 

The other day, maybe Wednesday or Thursday, the sky was spitting out little bits of snow. It was freezing. Dew had frozen to the grass, frosting it like pancakes sprinkled in powdered sugar. All the leaves on the ground had little drops of dew frozen to them. Perfect beads of ice, like resting pearls. 

There's so much beauty in the world, if we only keep our eyes open and see. We look every day. Our eyes function, but sometimes we don't really see. Jiddu Krishnamuri said, "If your eyes are blinded by your worries, you cannot see the beauty of the sunset."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Big Blue Armchair

When I was little we had this huge armchair. It was blue, with little red and hold lines of stitching running up and down it. I loved that armchair. It was a comfort to me, the day we put it out on the street and replaced it with a newer one I was sad. I used to sit curled up in the chair, surrounded by its soft blueness. I would lean my body and head against it's back and feel warm and safe. It was like sitting in someone's lap, their arms wrapped around you. It was completely secure. That chair was sort of my image of God. My big father, whose lap I could curl up in and be completely protected.

The other night I was sitting sideways in an armchair in our floor kitchen and I had a flashback to those warm protected moments in the big blue armchair. Suddenly all I wanted to do was lean my head on it's strong back and feel small and safe again. That's God for me. My favorite image of God is when I'm feeling hurt, down, broken, like a failure, or happy, full of life, in need of a hug, any emotion really, and I just close my eyes and picture myself in his lap. Like a Santa Clause in the mall. He's big and loving and accepting. He forgives me for every single wrong I've ever committed, and volumes could be written, I assure you, and He wraps His strong arms around me, rocks me back and forth, and reminds me that He loves me more than I could ever imagine.

I had to go back and ask for that unfailing forgiveness today. I should every day, but I don't. Every day I should get on my knees and thanks the Lord for this beautiful world. I should thank Him for giving me life. I should thank Him for His great sacrifice. I should thank Him for His love. I should thank Him for forgiving me even though I fail Him daily. Daily, I should do these things, but daily I don't. I'm a college student, I'm busy. But too busy for God? Too busy to take moments of my day to dwell in His word? That is a failure. That is my failure.

As I was reading in Matthew this morning I came upon this verse:

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." Matt 12:35

I'm a follower of Jesus! His good should be shining out of me. I should be loving and serving and caring, just as Christ did. Yet every day, there I bring evil. I complain. I fail. I think about myself every moment of my day. I gossip. I don't trust Him. I worry. I care too much about the materialistic things of the world. I fear people's thoughts of me. I don't love God the way I should. I fail Him every day. Where is the good? I want my life to tell the story of Jesus. If you were to type up the Story of Katy Owens I would want the word most frequently uttered to be some form of "Jesus," or "God," "Christ," or "Lord." He is my story.

I can't do this alone. Infact, I can't do it. I'm utterly incapable. I am weak. But God's power is made perfect in my weakness. So I am weak, and broken, and a failure. I give it Jesus. He can make me stronger, He can work through my failure to bring Himself to power. And I pray that one day I can have good stored up in my heart, so that what comes out of me is a reflection of Jesus' grace and love and goodness.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Tuesday

          I should have been doing homework, but sometimes you just can't focus. I think we're all a bit ADD. So I just lay there in the grass. The sun warming my face as I stared at a sky so blue it looked like it had been painted as a backdrop for a movie. And I watched the leaves and grass as we breathed in and out together to the beat of the wind.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Irresistibility of Fallen Leaves

Some fall days are just perfect. The sun is warm and comforting. The sky is a brilliant cerulean. You look up and see an array of bright colors, starkly contrasted against the blue. Shocking reds, dazzling yellows, and luminous greens create a patchwork above you. To further the perfection of this fall day, the trees have left us gifts - leaves sprinkled on the ground before us.

There is something so quintessential about dried fall leaves on the ground. They're so perfect, with their crisp edges and bright colors. Even the tattered, brown, or crushed leaves have sharp edges and intricate details. Sometimes the only word to describe them is crunchy. I feel as though every time one sees a leaf they are faced with a question. To step upon that inviting and satisfyingly crunchy leaf, or simply admire it, preserving it's beauty and perfection.

Last week my art class carved pumpkins for Halloween. Stepping outside to place my pumpkin with the others along the wall, I entered a world of scrap metal and fallen leaves. My excitement bubbled up. After docking my pumpkin I ran inside, grabbed my camera, and spent a few minutes blissfully capturing every winding vine, sharp leaf, and rusted metal I saw.

It might seem so strange, but I was almost breath-taken by the beauty of that moment. Enclosed by a concrete wall, there were bits of scrap metal, long pieces of rusty metal, and half-finished sculptures littered about. Leaves were sprinkled everywhere. The sun was shining and the sky was bright blue. Everything was vibrant and clear.

The world is a beautiful place. I know there is pain and suffering, broken people and despair, hurt and loss. But one can't deny, the world is still a beautiful place.