Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gerig is a Scary Place

(Note: this was supposed to be a point in Saturday's entry, but it just kept wanting to be its own post. So I let it. Seriously, I lost a fight to a blog post. How's that for humiliating?)

For you non-Taylor people out there, Les Gerig Hall is a delightful little dorm right next to my own, one that I’d never spent any significant amount of time in before a few months ago. Even though it was probably twenty yards from my door, and I had several friends who lived there. Which really doesn’t make any sense.

That started to change when I got a little scolding from Psalm 1. (Don’t you hate it when dead Scripture writers do that to you? You can’t even argue with them, especially if they’re included in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. Or called “a man after God’s own heart.”) Here it is, in the ESV, which is apparently more inspired than the average Bible, by the way. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

The point of the verse is simple: be righteous. To get that point across, the psalmist makes an overstatement: not only should you not be a sinner, but you shouldn’t even walk in the same places that they do. They can’t influence you in any way if you don’t even associate with the paths they walk on.

For some reason, my backward mind took this and reversed it. I asked myself, “What paths should I be walking that I don’t?”

And right away, I thought of the sidewalk outside of the library.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: Five Steps to Being a Character

Characters are a big deal in the writing world. I talk all the time about how to make characters seem real and endearing, how to make conflict flow out of them, and how to analyze their personalities.

However, I haven’t written about one very important character: you.

If you’re like me, you often wish you were half as interesting as the characters you create or read about. Compared to them, your personality doesn’t seem so dynamic, your comebacks so witty, and your inner resolve so…resolved.

Let me tell you a secret: I’ve always wanted to be a hero. There is a strand of the epic inside me. I want to fight for something that matters. One of my earliest memories (no joke) is a daydream of saving someone from the burning McDonalds Playplace, where I was somehow paralyzed in the process. In my four-year-old mind, it made sense.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pretending to be Myers-Briggs, Part 2

This week, we move on to Sensing vs. iNtuition. (Yes, spell check tried to automatically correct the deviant capitalization. Fight back. The people who created this test were geniuses. Spell check is just a computerized tool. Who are you going to side with here?)

Introvert and extrovert have entered our daily vocabulary. Pretty much everyone knows what they mean, and they sound like words too, which is a bonus. But it would sound pretty dumb if I called people who fit into these next categories “Sensors” and “Intuitors.” (Although they do sound like some kind of mutant superheroes with mental powers.) So I’m going to use the terms S and N by themselves, because that sounds slightly less dumb.

Once, my sister asked what the difference was between an S and an N.  A friend of ours said, “The example most people use is how you describe something like this apple.” We decided to give it a try. Here’s how it went.

Erika: That’s an apple. It’s the size of my fist, red—probably Red Delicious—a little bruised…um…there’s a stem. There’s a sticker on the bottom. That’s all I’ve got.

Me: An apple, Red Delicious…I hate those—why do they call it delicious when it’s gross? Snow White. The Fall…except that probably wasn’t an apple. We just portray it that way because red represents temptation, which fits with the Fall. The season of fall, when you pick apples. We went to an apple orchard once, and even though they were freshly picked, the Red Delicious apples still weren’t delicious. William Tell. Newton. Wasn’t that how he discovered gravity? I think I learned that in elementary school. School. Teachers. Children’s alphabet flashcards….

And it went on and on and on.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: The Devil Made Me Do It

My roommate keeps a document of all the weird, out-of-context things I say. It’s getting pretty long by now. The main problem with this is that I have nothing to counter-blackmail her with if she ever decides to make this document public because she rarely says anything stupid. The other problem is that I find a lot of my own quotes funny and use them in blog posts, embarrassing myself in public for the sake of content. Sigh. The life of a writer.

Anyway, one of the early entries is this: “Satan is way sneakier than the Pillsbury Doughboy.”

This was after one of my classes watched a documentary on the advertisement industry and how they get people to buy their products. They have to create a want strong enough to make the consumer think it’s a need. They do this by using words, stories, or images to associate their product with a positive abstract concept such as family, acceptance, dominance, or beauty.

In my mind, it was a perfect jump from that to how Satan tempts us. He makes sin look good, or at least harmless. He targets specific weak points, just as different products have target audiences and intentionally appeal to their values. And Satan is sneaky. Most of the time, we don’t even know that we’re being tempted until it’s too late.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pretending to be Myers-Briggs, Part 1

A while ago on Facebook, a few friends of mine posted a helpful informational picture-thingie (there is probably a trendy name for this that I’m too uncool to know). Its title was “How to Care For Introverts,” and despite the fact that it made introverts sound like houseplants, I found it very interesting.

Some of the tips were “Never embarrass them in public,” “Don’t interrupt them,” and “Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities.” (Although heaven knows how you enable that…set them up with an online best-friend-finding service that tests their compatibility?) The last one, of course, was “Don’t try to remake them into extroverts.”

Fact of life: extroverts often don’t understand introverts…and, possibly to a lesser degree, introverts often don’t understand extroverts. Being only 10% extroverted on the official Myers Briggs scale, I am going to pretend that I am in some strange middle group that is either super conflicted or mysteriously above petty personality preference distinctions. Therefore, I will dispense wise advice from my position of authority on this subject.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: Reflections on the Death of Aslan

If I’m still in an Easter mood, I blame it on Narnia. I went to see a musical production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night at a local high school.

Now, I have to preface this with the fact that I’ve never liked Susan. She’s always too darn practical. (For fans of the series, this led to a smug, “I knew it!” in The Last Battle which I immediately felt guilty about.)

Anyway, the Susan in the musical was just like that. In the sister’s song right after Aslan’s death, this is what she sings, “Little sister, no more tears / Though the night is long and dark / Still the dawn appears. / Dearest Lucy, dry your eyes. / Yes, the dawn is cold and gray. / Still the sun will rise.”

I get the point. Really, I do. This was supposed to be a sweet and touching moment of the play. But it just made me angry. I wanted to yell, “Let Lucy cry!” Susan has the annoying habit of wanting to make everything reasonable.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Where's Waldo?

You know, the concept of the Where’s Waldo seek-and-finds is so very simple: find Waldo, Wenda, Odlaw, Wizard Whitebeard, and Woof, along with their missing objects. That’s it. Just find them. I mean, they’re wearing bright red stripes, for heaven’s sake (except for Odlaw, who prefers the bumblebee look).

The problem with this, as thousands of children (and college students) have figured out is that everyone in a Where’s Waldo book is wearing red stripes.

I mean it. Suddenly, red stripes are as trendy as…oh, who am I kidding? I don’t know anything trendy to put in this analogy. I don’t even know if the word trendy is trendy.

The point is, in a Where’s Waldo book, people are wearing candy-striped ties, tights, jackets, canes, capes…practically anything you can think of. So your eyes dart every which-way, trying to land on a familiar face and wishing like anything that Waldo had thought to bring a cell phone so he and the rest of his group could stick together for once.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sabbath Reflections: The Traitor and the Betrayed

I’ve been the Force/narrator in several games of Star Wars Mafia. This puts me on the outside looking in, which provides a great opportunity to psychoanalyze people. (Yeah, it happens. Don’t play a game with me if you don’t want your brain picked and turned into a blog post.)

Often, there comes a point in the game where two people are claiming to be the exact same character. One is telling the truth. One is lying. And they both know who the other person is.

Over time, I noticed something that all of the honest parties had in common, guys or girls. There is one way you can spot the person who’s telling the truth.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

When Easter Hurts

If I see a happy, smiling Easter bunny right now, I will throttle it. There is no flavor of jelly bean that can take away the bitterness of something like this happening. All of the trappings of the holiday that I normally look forward to and smile at feel plastic and meaningless.

Except for the cross.

A great tragedy happened on my campus today. Students everywhere were crying, whispering in their rooms, walking into the street in front of cars because they were so stunned.

Easter is about joy. All of the concerts and programs end on a triumphant note, because Jesus is risen. Death has been swallowed up in victory. And that’s true.

But we’re here. And we’re fallen. And nothing feels right anymore. When things like this happen and I wonder how a loving God could allow it, I run to the cross.

Not just because Jesus understands what it’s like to suffer, although that’s true. Not just because the crucifixion displays a more somber mood that fits with the emotions my campus is feeling right now. But because the cross proves that God is love even when we don’t understand how that can be.

I cling to that when there is nothing else that makes sense, when there are no other explanations that work for both my head and my heart.

The way we treat Easter in America doesn’t have answers for times like this. But God has the answer, and the answer is Him, the dying God, the one who gave up everything for us. No, He didn’t take away pain and He doesn’t always stop tragedy. But He loved us enough to die.

This is my favorite George MacDonald quote of all time: “That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and his desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to him, ‘Thou art my refuge, because thou art my home.’”

Right now, I have no answers. I have no joy. I am hurting and confused and full of regret, like so many others. I have come crying to God from the bottom of my heart, without anything to give, stripped of self-righteousness and security and thinking that everyone is fine like they always tell me.

I’m in Good Friday right now. I don’t feel the sunrise of Easter coming. Everything is dark, and I’m scared. But I believe that Jesus died and that He died for me. No amount of confusion about why terrible things happen can overcome that.

Perfect in faith? No, not yet, George. But I’m trying. I’m waiting for the morning, and I wait with hope. Because of the empty tomb? Yes, but mostly because of the cross.

What's Your Punctuation Habit?

Okay, everyone, time to talk about excessive punctuation!!!!!!!! Yeah, I’m talking about you, Facebook status posters whose emoticons have the fluctuating emotional range of a jr. high drama queen. (I’m pretty sure some people have invented emoticons for things like “angst-ridden,” “perplexedly bemused,” or “slightly beaten down by the apparent meaninglessness of life.”) I’m talking to you, fiction writer whose narrator uses punctuation marks that really should only crop up in dialogue. And I’m talking to you, college student who thinks that a colon in the title of a paper will get an automatic A.

Usually there’s some traumatic event that subconsciously attaches writers to a particular mark, and then they use it. All the time. In almost every sentence. Until you never want to see it again.

Okay, that might be an exaggeration. For the most part, though, if you use a punctuation mark more than once a double-spaced page, it might be your punctuation habit. Try editing out some of those repeats, especially if someone else has mentioned that it’s distracting. It will be hard, I know. You have deep emotional connections to that mark. But just do it. It’ll make you stronger. I promise.