Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blood and Tears

I always think I already know, already understand, have heard before what He went through. Growing up in a Christian home, celebrating Easter every year, and annually watching the clay-mation Jesus story, I sometimes (oftentimes) get caught in the trap of feeling like I've "heard it all before." Yes, I've heard it. Yes, I've seen it. But never like this. 

I've always avoided the pain, the suffering, the blood and guts. I don't like blood and violence. Movies like Fight Club and Boondock Saints are great. I love them. But when the violence is really realistic, or not funny, or depicts true suffering...I turn away. I don't want to think about it, acknowledge it, or let it into my head. I know the world isn't perfect. I know utter brutality, cruelty, violence, pain, and suffering go on...but I don't want to see them. 

Whenever people talk about the movie Passion of the Christ, I say I'm never going to watch it. I say I know what Jesus went through, I don't want to see it. I say the movie is too violent, I can't handle that much blood. I say I don't need to see it. I already know, I already understand. 

I still don't plan on watching the Passion. I don't think I could deal with it. Or maybe I just don't want to. I don't know. Maybe I'll watch it someday, just not yet. 

But tonight, tonight was incredible. 

I went to a production of The Thorn ( It's a live play/show depicting a brief synopsis of the Bible/creation story, Jesus' life, and most importantly, His death and resurrection. The acting, choreography, dancing, music, singing, lighting, etc, was incredible. In and of itself, the production was fabulous. But the story far exceeded the play in greatness. 

Everyone who has seen The Thorn before says they cry. 

I cried. I sobbed. Tears filled my eyes, flowed down my cheeks as I blinked. Little rivers of salty water splashing into my lacy skirt and spotting my blue shirt. 

Thirty-nine. Thirty-nine times they whipped Jesus. Thirty-nine times with the cat-o-nine whip. Nine strands of leather woven with broken chunks of pottery, bones, and hooks to tear and rip. Thirty-nine, an odd number. Thirty-nine because forty was considered execution, the torture of the cat-o-nine was so awful and detrimental. They wanted Jesus still alive, but just barely, so they could execute Him on the cross. 

The narrator, "Doubting" Thomas, said that when Jesus was through with the whipping, He could not be recognized. His skin was so destroyed, it hung from His bones, He was covered in blood. I almost can't even type this, because just thinking about it, imagining the pain He went through...I want to cry all over again. I want to pretend He didn't have to suffer that much. 

In the play, as Jesus is being whipped, He falls to the ground. Satan approaches Jesus and tempts Him yet again to give up. Tells Jesus He has suffered enough. Reminds Him that He can do anything. Tells Him to just summon up His league of angels and stop going through with His sacrifice. Jesus drags Himself to His feet, grabs back on to the post, and continues to be flogged. Tears cried rivers down my cheeks. 

Then the play showed Jesus carrying His cross. Stumbling, faltering, dragging it along. Kicked, mocked, scorned all the while. And while He made that slow, painful journey to His place of execution, all you could hear was, "Just to be with you, I'd do anything/There's no price I would not pay/Just to be with you, I'd give anything/I would give my life away," being sung. That song, those lyrics, over and over again. The song was so wonderful I want to just post all the lyrics right here:

I've heard it said that a man would climb a mountain
Just to be with the one he loves
How many times has he broken that promise
It has never been done.
I've never climbed the highest mountain
But I walked the hill of calvary

Just to be with you, I'd do anything
There's no price I would not pay
Just to be with you, I'd give anything
I would give my life away.

I've heard it said that a man would swim the ocean
Just to be with the one he loves
How may times has he broken that promise
It can never be done
I've never swam the deepest ocean
But I walked upon the raging sea

Repeat chorus

I know that you don't understand
the fullness of My love
How I died upon the cross for your sins
And I know that you don't realize
how much that I gave you
But I promise, I would do it all again.

Just to be with you, I've done everything
There's no price I did not pay
Just to be with you, I gave everything
Yes, I gave my life away. (Love Song by Third Day)

So all you see is Jesus bleeding, suffering, dying. And all you hear is, "Just to be with you, I would do anything. There's no price I would not pay. Just to be with you, I would give anything. I would give my life away. Just to be with you, I've done everything. There's no price I did not pay. Just to be with you, I gave everything. Yes, I gave my life away." 

I'm crying right now.

There's nothing, nothing more beautiful than this. Nothing more sad, nothing more joyful. Nothing more precious. Just to be with me, Jesus went through all of that. Just to be with me. Just to be with you. 

He. Gave. Everything. He gave His life away. For me, for you. He would, did, and does everything. And He'd do it all again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crazy Insane

It's one of those days. Those pretty-close-to-perfect days in terms of weather. The wind is a little strong, periodically knocking one off-course, but the sky is clear and blue, the sun warms your face, and there's that tantalizing smell of freshly-mowed grass in the air that hints at and dreams of summer. 

It's perfect for an early-morning bike ride and contemplation, which I did this morning. Also perfect for a late-afternoon/early-evening bike ride, which I may do after dinner. Ok, this morning didn't actually include much contemplation. A little, though. I put my iPod on shuffle for my "lovejesusmusic" playlist and journeyed to Wash Park. It was the perfect quiet playlist for a chill bike ride around the peaceful park. For such wonderful weather there was a surprisingly low number of bikers, walkers, and joggers. I suppose my 7:30am ride just missed the super-early-exercise-before-work crowd and the later-morning-i-don't-have-somewhere-to-be crowd. Technically I'm in the first crowd, but waking up at 5am to work out...just not going to happen. 

Anyways, it was lovely. The small man-made ponds/lakes were sparkling in the sunlight, pretty and blue as they reflected the clear sky. The heavy winds of this afternoon hadn't hit yet, and the air was clear, crisp, and a perfect balance between warm and chilly. I pedaled at a moderate speed, wanting exercise and to simply enjoy the beauty of the day. 

It seems almost beautifully ironic that the weather today should be so spectacular. Not only is it Friday, which is wonderful in and of itself (because it signals the weekend, no classes, and the potential option of sleeping in and relaxing if one does not have too much homework or prior engagements), but it is also Good Friday. Even the name "Good Friday" has that same ironic beauty. Good Friday celebrates and remembers one of, what I believe to be, the most important days in the world's history and the fate of human beings (others include creation day, Christmas, and Easter Sunday). It's one of the most beautiful, hopeful, sacrificial, and beautiful days. It is also one of the saddest, most painful days. That is why it is ironic. Good Friday brought pain, suffering, tears, and death. It also brought unimaginable, unexplainable, incomprehensible love and sacrifice. It's one of those things where one finds "beauty in the pain." 

I think of this day and I want to sing, scream, shout, and sit in utter silence, all for the absolute joy of realizing how incredibly I am loved. Those words are beautiful, and powerful. They're words we all want to hear and desperately desire to believe. They are words that mean everything, and nothing. They're words that are thrown around, "I love my cat. I love my dog. I love my family. I love my house. I love, I love, I love..." But they are also the most meaningful words one could possibly say, "I. Love. You." And that's what Jesus said to us. That's what Jesus said to you. That's what Jesus said to ME, when He died on that cross. 

Just thinking about that, it makes me smile. Just smile. Because it is so incredible that Jesus loves me. Whaaatttt? Me? But...but...but...I'm lazy. I'm selfish. I'm jealous. I'm stubborn. I'm unwilling. I don't listen. I disobey. I get angry. I say mean things. I gossip. I am rude. I am disrespectful. I am self-centered. I am a sinner. And Jesus still loves me. Jesus forgives me. Jesus died for me. I so don't deserve it, yet I have still been given the incredible gift of Jesus' life. Somewhere in one of the four Gospels it say something like, "no greater love can a man show than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Jesus displayed the utmost example of love for us. That's what Good Friday is about. The beauty, pain, joy, sadness, and amazing love of Jesus' sacrifice. It's crazy. It's insane. It's love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Floral Motifs, Stripes and Patterns of Reality

There's something about spring that just tugs my heartstrings and warms every bit of my soul. That thumping muscle in my chest just smiles. You can't help but smile. It's spring. And it really is, officially, spring. The grass is getting greener (though that may be due to the incredible amount of watering-of-grass they do here at DU), flowers are slowly unfurling their petals and peeking out at the world, and the shy buds on trees have cast off their introverted selves and blossomed (literally!) into beautiful shades of pinks and whites that could liven even the grumpiest person's day. There are dots of brilliant yellow sprinkling the lawns. Everywhere I go I see dandelions, little smiles of flowers, happy, cheerful, resilient. It's lovely, simply lovely. There's just something about walking down a pathway that's flanked in budding dogwood trees. Yeah, they smell a bit like dung, but the white flowers are absolutely magical. And redbud trees, oh, redbud trees! I love them. They're everywhere in my city, literally. Almost every street in Maplewood has at least four redbud trees. When spring hits, and they all burst into bloom, the world is purple and pink. They look so perfect contrasted against a brilliant blue sky. That's one of my favorite things.

So essentially, I just love spring. Fall and summer are wonderful too, and winter has its few moments of greatness (mainly when it's beautiful and snowy outside and one is inside with a big fuzzy blanket and a nice cup of hot tea, coffee, chai, hot chocolate, or whatever warm drink one fancies). Spring is just so...alive. Everything is re-entering the world after a long hibernation. The air is warm and welcoming, gentle breezes caress your face and arms, and you can finally break out dresses and skirts without fearing frostbite. Sandals and painted toenails, colorful splashes of color from the budding flowers, perfect blue skies. I love it, it makes me happy. I can't help but smile, even if the day is going badly. All you have to do is step outside on a perfect spring day and everything is a-ok.

The spectacular weather we've been having recently is definitely a HUGE contributor to my generally very happy mood. But there's more. Now I don't want this blog to be all "I love Jesus, I love Jesus, I love Jesus" all the time in a way that seems like I'm shoving my religion down whoever-reads-this' throat. But the fact of the matter is, Jesus is my life. I wouldn't be me without Him, and so the vast majority of the time He is going to come up in my conversation or blog posts simply because I can't separate Him from life, He IS my life.

It makes me really glad I can say that now. And really, genuinely, truly mean it. There've been so many times in my life that I've loved and lived for Jesus, but when I said Jesus was my life it was more just want I knew people wanted to hear. And what I wanted, really, really wanted, but didn't quite yet fully believe. But now I do.

I heard someone talking a few weeks ago. They said they knew if they walked away from God now, they might never be able to go back to Him. Just thinking about that, thinking about living a life after walking away from God, I couldn't imagine it. No matter how angry, hurt, confused, or bitter against God I could ever be, I still don't think I could live without Him. I too firmly believe that He exists. And so even if I decided I hated Him, I would still believe in Him, and I'd still know I had to be accountable to Him at the end of life. And what's more, I don't think I would ever want to live without Him. He's such an integral part of my existence. I don't want anything more.

I was listening to this speaker from Uzbekistan the other day for my Russian class (whoo hoo extra credit!) and he gave a brief history of the country. He said that during the time of the USSR, there was no freedom of religion, one could not pray. Upon hearing that, I felt so, so sad. My eyes almost filled with tears (but I was in I didn't let them). It just made me really sad for people who aren't "allowed" to pray or believe. I take it for granted, freedom. At this point in life, I don't have to worry about someone truly hurting me for my beliefs. I might have people who don't like me, refuse to be friends with me, or cease to be friends with me. Someone might call me a name, say something nasty about me or my faith, stereotype me or discriminate against me, but that happens to everyone, whatever their faith, color, background, gender, or whatever. I don't truly suffer for my belief in Jesus. That's special, that's a gift, that's something I should be incredibly and deeply thankful for.

So spring makes me happy. Flowers make me happy. Blue skies, sun, and warm weather make me happy. And Jesus makes me happy. Very, very happy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


That's the sound of Katy right now. It's already midterms week! Except midterms will happily span across this week, next week, and possibly the next. And when I say happy, I mean with extreme cruelty and utter despicableness.
Anyways. Today I was in my writ class, half asleep because I was up late last night finishing my paper for the class, and someone said something that stuck out to me. We've been discussing architecture, buildings, and the conversations they have, personalities they hold, and feelings they give us. Basically, we've been interpreting buildings (as you can see from my last blog post, which is the last paper I wrote for the class). Braving the biting wind and chilly weather, we were asked today to spend twenty or so minutes outside, looking at various DU buildings, and figuring out their conversation with one another, how they complemented or contradicted one another in style, and if the architects had done a good job putting the various buildings (all from various time periods) together and if they were cohesive and balanced or not. Walking quickly and shaking our arms and legs a bit to ward off the cold, we spent a rushed ten minutesish quickly jotting down notes with our stiff, cold fingers and then dashed back into the warm classroom.
In our discussion of the buildings, someone compared them to a family. University Hall seems like the old, grandfatherly type, while the Hotel Restaurant Management Building seems more like the wayward grandson, with its sometimes overpowering mesh of styles. Someone else asked where Penrose Library sat in the family dynamic, as Penrose is a modern-style building and doesn't stylistically fit with the typical brick, stone, and more gothic or European styled buildings at DU. I said it was adopted, not meaning this in a negative way, simply that Penrose was still part of the family, but different in appearance. Someone else then jokingly responded, "That's why it's getting plastic surgery!" (Penrose is soon to undergo construction).
Somehow, this kinda made me sad. Who said we all have to look the same to go together? I am thinking of this in terms of an actual, human family. What dictates that they must all look alike? Who says it isn't okay, or is unattractive, abnormal, or in need of "fixing" for a family to have a child (or children) who are obviously adopted. It just kinda made me think.
I think way too much of the time there's too much focus put on the external. We all fall prey to this, makeup, clothes, hair, good looks, etc. More should be about the heart, the inside, the soul. Motion City Soundtrack sings, "What makes us so different? The insides work the same." True that! We're (generally) the same biologically. Our hearts and actions should dictate beauty, not our outward appearance.
And I think there's something wonderful about those families. It warms my heart and makes me smile to see families with adopted kids. I love family portraits with a variety of skin tones. There are many families at my church in St. Louis with more adopted kids than biological, and they're all sitting there together, black, white, asian, or hispanic, smiling and loving and living and being a family. Color doesn't matter. The heart does. When I "grow up" I'm having a multicultural and racial family. My children will be from China, the Ukraine, the United States, and wherever else God calls me. I'm excited, and I can't wait to send out my own colorful family portraits in the yearly(ish) Christmas cards.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Histories and Havens

(paper for my writing class)

“There's something quite appealing in the simplicity!” This was my mother's comment upon seeing an image of the old Evans Chapel at the University of Denver. Such a statement is quite true. The chapel is simple, classic, and not extravagantly adorned. Yet it still has that something. You know, something, not really an explainable feeling, but a special something that just gives you a comfortable, homey feeling. Like the building is welcoming and inviting you, a place one can be calm and at peace, not worrying about whatever there is to worry about. The chapel is like that, sweet, simple, and inviting to all.
Speaking of tradition with its quaint and unpretentious sophistication, Evans Chapel invites one to slow down and feel calm and at peace with the world. Its classic appearance hints towards a rich history, but it does more than just hint. Evans Chapel actually has a very interesting and unique history. Built in the 1870's, Evans Chapel is the oldest Protestant church in Denver. The University of Denver founder, John Evans, had it constructed in honor of his daughter, Josephine. She was ill with consumption and passed away in 1868. Originally named the Evans Memorial Chapel of Grace Methodist church, it was not originally on the University of Denver campus, instead it was situated in downtown Denver. The small church was moved, brick by brick, to the University of Denver campus in 1959, saving it from demolition (Fisher).
The chapel emanates rich history and tradition. Its personality of invitation and calmness through its classically simple and yet stunningly beautiful architecture is continued inside. Walking into
the empty chapel, one's footsteps echo against the hard floors and around the small pew-filled room. Serene and quiet, the usually dimmed lights speak of confidentiality and invite meditation and contemplation. This is a place to sit, wonder, pray, meditate, and be. There is a sort of presence there, a holiness, a reverence. When one enters the chapel alone, it asks for peace, tranquility, and quiet. The room whispers that this is a place to be silent. To take a seat on the cool, white, wooden pews, close one's eyes, and take a few moments from the chaotic storm of life to be still.
Back in early September, on a warm, breezy fall day, my parents and I took a seat in the chapel. Our last moments together, I was preparing to embark on my “great college adventure.” About to leave me on my own, my parents and I spent our last moments and said our farewells at Evans Chapel. Quietly we opened the large, wooden doors and made our way into the silent church. It felt big and empty, and yet at the same time small and homely. Making our way towards the front of the empty room, we walked up the aisle and sat in the second pew on the left. Still, silent, serene, the chapel gave us a place of solidarity and softly invited us to speak, or remain silent. It told us we could trust it, speak whatever words we wished, and it would keep any secrets we might have. Bowing our heads and holding hands my parents softly prayed for me, my year, and the next step of life's journey I was about to take. The chapel's friendly, inviting calm and my parents' quiet voices created a moment of peace, stillness, and love I will not forget.
But the chapel does not only speak of quiet stillness. Its personality can change with its inhabitants, lighting, and sounds. When the lights are up, the conversation lively, the mood changes. At Cru (the nickname for Campus Crusade for Christ), the room takes on a more energetic and outgoing mood. The intricately designed light fixtures glow brightly, a medley of excited chatter and conversation fills the small room. Energy bounces off the white walls, between the spectacular stained-glass windows, and around the high ceiling and its beautifully and simply carved rafters. The music plays, worship time...lights are dimmed, voices raised. The room is still full of an energy, but of a
different kind. The request for reverence that the quiet room begged is infused with the vibrance and excitement of the bright lights and energetic people. A new sort of peace is formed, the peace that comes from being surrounded by those you love, singing songs that tug at hearts and evoke emotions. The room fills with the sound of passion and praise.
With changing moods and quiet invitations, the chapel is like an old friend. Its old and classic structure is built with a simple beauty. The intricate stained-glass windows, carved rafters, simple wooden pews, and red brick exterior are not extravagant, but are no less lovely. The interior can whisper of stillness, reverence, and peace. It begs for meditation and quiet reflection or prayer. With changes of light and company, its mood can change, becoming energetic and vibrant, resonating with energy and friendly excitement. Its long and rich history tell tales, reminding us that it is an old friend. It is a friend who has seen and heard much, and eagerly awaits and invites others to come and think, pray, or sing, a haven to all who step through its thick wooden doors. 

Fisher, Seve. "A Building with a Heart." University of Denver Blogs. University Archivists, Spring 2005. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Broken Heart

Walking along Buchtel, my feet were developing slight blisters from my new shoes, my armpits were perspiring mildly, I was squinting against the bright light of the gorgeous sunset, and tears were filling my eyes as I choked back the tears and sobs that had rapidly hit. My voice quivered as I talked to my mom, I had to pause for a few moments to regain composure before I could continue the conversation. What, you may now very well be wondering, could have caused this distress? Perhaps you think it references a boy, some boy that broke my heart, since that is the title of this particular blog post. No. No boys. 
The broken sobs came as I told my mom about two small girls I had seen in a documentary (called Call and Response - Two young, probably seven year old, girls had been filmed, probably by someone undercover. They were slaves of the sex industry, I can't remember the country. The little girls were marketing themselves, repeatedly telling the men (who were filming. I suppose they were pretending to be customers?) that they were good at the "yum yum," in other words, oral sex. Seven year old girls. Selling themselves, marketing themselves, offering these men oral sex in exchange for money. 
You can't help but cry. My eyes filled up with tears countless times as I watched this film earlier this afternoon. 
This past week has been eye-opening. Though I still don't know a lot, I know more than I did about the sex-slave trade, and human trafficking in general.
Did you know that today there are three times the number of slaves as there were when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation way back then? Did you even know there were still slaves today? Did you know slavery was never actually abolished, instead all the slaves were emancipated? Did you, did you know? 
Well, now I know. I know that all over the world women, men, and now especially, children, are forced to sell themselves for sex sometimes up to twenty times a night. Girls are sold by their own families, raped multiple times, and then forced into prostitution. Some are kidnapped, raped, and then, after being told that they're now unclean and a disgrace and no longer wanted/accepted by their families, forced into prostitution. This even happens to THREE YEAR OLDS. Three year olds. And many of them are addicted to drugs, like meth, so they don't want to leave because of their addiction. In some countries they've been taught that the police are the bad guys. In other countries, the police are the bad guys, coming into the brothels for free services. In some brothels, girls are actually chained up. They're slaves. There was a brothel that burned down, girls inside were chained up and died in the fire. 
There are so many stories, so many hurts, so many tears, so many scars and fears and injustices. There are so many slaves. Not just sex slaves. People will go to other countries to work, have their visa ripped up, and are forced into slavery. There's a difference between child-labor and child-slavery, and there's a lot of both. Three times the number of slaves as there were when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Three times. I know I said it earlier, but I"m saying it again. I think that's astounding. Shocking that this is happening. Why haven't we stopped it? Why haven't other countries stopped it? Why isn't something being done
Somethings are being done, but more needs to happen. We shouldn't be ignoring this, or think the problem is just "too big," or decide to worry about other things. If people react and work for change, change will come. After learned a lot this week about human trafficking, aka modern day slavery, I want to be part of that change. My first thoughts were, "Well when I graduate I'll get involved in an organization like International Justice Missions and start working to raise awareness for human rights and help work to stop things like this." Then I realized, why wait? I mean there's not TONS I can do now as an 18-year-old freshman in college, but I can do something. And something's what I plan to do. I feel like this is something I"m being called to. I always learn about things like this and want to help, so I sign up for the emails, make a few donations, and talk about it periodically. But I don't really DO anything. I want to now. We don't have a long time on earth, and the time we've been given should be spent loving, serving, and making a difference. Giving our lives, losing our live. "If you find your life, you will lose it. But anyone who loses his life for My sake, will find it, and life eternal..." or something like that. Jesus speaking, folks. Listen up.

The Undervalued

I think it may, finally, be (hopefully) safe to say that Spring is arriving. I have been, and still am, a bit hesitant to rush to my computer, log into my Facebook account, and declare to the world, "SPRING IS HERE!!!!" because this is Colorado, and I have a deep fear that snow and chills are still planning on dampening the warm springy spirits of this lovely weather.

Still, when I was jogging to Walgreens this morning, there were definite signs of color and life. The grass is slowly fading from dry brown and tans to light shades of green. It almost looks like a graying man's hair, but in reverse and with different colors.

There are little tiny blue flowers sprouting up about the bases of trees. I'm pretty sure they're actually technically weeds, they spread very quickly and we used to have them all over our backyard, but if weeds are pretty than who cares! Tiny blue flowers and lush green weedage are far better than dry and crinkly grass, far more cheerful.

And then, there were dandelions. Little spots of brilliant yellow lighting up the dull earth. There were so many of them. Each one felt like a little smile. I think yellow is a smiling color, maybe because so many smiley faces are colored yellow. Or maybe the smiley faces are colored yellow because yellow is a smiling color? Who knows! Regardless, they're lovely. I know, I know. Dandelions are weeds. They're pesky and grow everywhere and anywhere and half the time where you don't want them. And they spread quickly since they're weeds. I don't care. Every time I see the little fluffy ones I pick them up and blow them everywhere in hopes of planting more dandelions. Even if they are technically weeds, they're beautiful! They're simple, but refined. No they don't have the same intricacies and rich smells or variety of colors as roses do, nor the connotations of romance and beauty that roses do, but they're still beautiful in their own right. They're simple. Small. Ordinary. Yellow. Adorable. Bright. Sunny. Cheerful. And if you get very close (as I often do with a camera), they are quite intricate. Hundreds of tiny petals, and little curled somethings that do something with pollen (can you tell I hate science?) in the middle.

So I don't care that dandelions are defined as weeds, they're still wonderful. And they made me smile, the undervalued and too often unappreciated dandelions.