Friday, August 28, 2009

It's A Curious Thing

The past is such a curious thing. Though the facts of the past don't change, the impressions they leave, their effects and interpretations, do change. A lot. Even at only 27 years old I have experienced that shift that comes from moving to a further and further distance from a past event or relationship. How differently I think of certain memories now compared to when I was so close to their happening. I must say, I am preferring the broader vision that comes with that distance.

After college, when my misguided plans fell apart and I engaged in a ten-round wrestling match with God over what the heck I should do with my life, I could only see what was immediately behind me. I could not see what would come or how the present would look once I passed a little further down the road of time. Now I glance back over my shoulder and realize that God brought me around to what I'd really been wanting even six years ago. The writing, the ministry work, the solidity of my identity in Him... It's not all in place yet and I have a hunch that He'll have ample opportunity to shake down more of my personal plans, but realizing how He put the pieces together that eventually placed me right here, right now, doing the things I'm doing, bolsters my confidence that He is still moving me. That even now, the present is another piece. I won't know what it connects to until more of the puzzle is put together. For now, this is as far as He's built the puzzle; this is where He's stood me in the course of things and it is good.

These thoughts struck me after an long online chat with an old friend. We were sort of 'involved' very briefly in high school but our age difference and my parents' rules kept us from ever dating. In college there was more possibility but we never moved past an infatuated friendship and eventually we lost touch. Then came the era of facebook and here we are chatting online from our homes in neighboring states while watching our respective favorite baseball teams and glancing through each other's recent photographs. It was lovely to catch up with him mainly because of how happy he is now. I mean, this guy is incredibly happy! It was wonderful to hear how in love he is with his wife, how he adores being a father, how much he enjoys his career. I was thrilled to hear it all, not only because I am so very glad for him, but also how glad I am for me. I have every reason (with this latest bit adding to the supporting evidence) to believe God is piecing my life together for my greatest good. He asks me to do the work, engage in the opportunities to love others and conform to Christ, which He provides at present. He asks me to trust in where I will go with Him. As well, He is piecing another person's life together for his greatest good. How awe inspiring that God will make each of us a part of each other's greatest good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What It Means

I've just finished reading What It Means to Be a Christian by Joseph Ratzinger, who is now known as Pope Benedict XVI. This is a book of 3 sermons he gave one Advent season a few decades ago. The beauty of this book, in my opinion (formed by reading some of his other writings though far from all of his writings), is the applicability to all of us. While many might struggle with some of his other work (I like to think I'm an intelligent human being but sometimes the level of his intelligence and insight makes me feel like an uneducated child), this book is straightforward, simple to read and easy to internalize and contemplate. What better matter to internalize and contemplate than the meaning of being a Christian? Anyway, I had so many page corners folded over so that I could go back and reread passages and think them over properly that I couldn't pass up the temptation to blog some of my thoughts. This may take a while...

p. 19 (regarding the evils in the world; all that seems as if it shouldn't occur in a supposedly redeemed world) - "we quite often run a particular risk: that of not wanting to see these things. We live with shades down over our windows, so to speak, because we are afraid that our faith could not stand the full, glaring light of the facts... But a faith that will not account for half of the facts or even more is actually, in essence, a kind of refusal of faith, or, at least, a very profound form of scepticism that fears faith will not be big enough to cope with reality... In contrast to that, true believing means looking the whole of reality in the face, unafraid and with an open heart, even if it goes against the picture of faith that, for whatever reason, we make for ourselves."
  • This was the first passage to jump from the page and into my thoughts for hours afterward. It is true that I often live this way, keeping the blinders on or downplaying the evils that exist and that I even personally encounter. I succumb to it often. My faith is strong, I might claim. My faith is steady. But does it maintain its strength and steadiness because I do not expose it to such tests as the world makes readily available to me, or because that faith has faced - openly, fervently, confidently - all that contradicts it?
  • The author doesn't bring it up, but I think also of the pitfall of living in a constant test of faith. There are those who are consumed by all that isn't well, all that 'ought' to be different. Their faith becomes desperate; never at rest in God's peace, never reassured by hope. Though it may compel them to work for the common good and combat evil, they might not be able to slow down and explain to themselves or others why they are doing any of it. They might not trust in the surpassing power of grace and love that is our cause for hope.
  • I am also reminded of the words of John Paul II when he stated that teachers of the faith are called to teach Christianity "in all its rigor and vigor." Whole, without fear, not balking at the risk of rejection or challenge.
pp. 35-37 - "Advent is a reality, even for the Church. God has not divided history into a light half and a dark one... There is only one, indivisible history, and it is characterized as a whole by the weakness and wretchedness of man, and as a whole it stands beneath the merciful love of God, who constantly surrounds and supports this history... for all of us God is the origin from which we come and yet still also the future toward which we are going. And that means, furthermore, that for all of us God cannot be found except by going to meet him as the One who is coming, who is waiting for us to make a start and demanding that we do so. We cannot find God except in this exodus, in going out from the coziness of our present situation into what is hidden: the brightness of God that is coming."
  • This is part of the chapter entitled "The Hidden God". Talk about perspective! All of time is an Advent season. I suppose I've already learned this, but I don't think of it outside of the weeks preceding Christmas. To consider all of our days as Advent days, days of preparing and moving out from ourselves and toward God, is an enlightened understanding of history. The question of why there are such evils, such atrocities in a world that has been visited by Christ, a 'redeemed' world as we wish to categorize it, becomes a null question. Yes, this world has received Christ, has access to His grace and divine life, but we cannot forget that we are still not at our destination. Every generation, whether before or after Christ's Incarnation and Paschal Mystery, is a generation of individuals beckoned to move toward a hidden God - individuals who have to choose.
  • The chapter goes on to speak of this hiddenness. In all His ways, God has remained hidden. Not entirely so, for do we not have Divine Revelation and above all, the Incarnation? Yet even in those events, speaking by human hands and voices, coming in human form; so humble, so veiled in His great glory. I demand signs and answers to prayers and declarations of His will; I wonder why He doesn't make Himself more obvious. Who am I, though, to demand that He act differently for me than He has always acted toward humanity? And who am I to suppose I could handle Him without the veil of mystery?! He does come; He does reveal. I must seek Him in the hiddenness He employs.
pp. 39-40 "God's incognito is intended to lead us onward into this 'nothing' of truth and love, which is nevertheless in reality the true, single, and all-embracing absolute, and that is why in this world he is the hidden One and cannot be found anywhere else but in hiddenness."
  • This passage follows Ratzinger's summary of Pascal's teaching that there are 3 orders that exist - the quantitative order that is the object of all science, that is inexhaustible; the order of the mind, which doesn't seem like much compared to all that exists in the quantitative order but is truly greater than that order because it is by the mind that we are able to "measure the entire cosmos"; thirdly, the order of love, of which he says "a single motion of love is infinitely greater than the entire order of mind, because only that represents what is a truly creative, life-giving, and saving power."
  • God's hiddenness compels us to move forward in faith, to dive into the reality of His love and mercy which cannot be fit into any of the categorical, measurable parameters a human mind is capable of using and understanding. We have to humble ourselves and seek Him in His veil of mystery, in His subtlty.
pp. 53-55 (regarding the "breakthrough" moment in the history of creation when Creator and creature meet, when God becomes man and enters human history) - "it becomes apparent that what seems at first to be perhaps just some speculation or other about the world and things in general includes a quite personal program for us ourselves. For man's awesome alternative is either to align himself with this movement [toward God and toward becoming like God], thus obtaining for himself a share in the meaning of the whole, or to refuse to take this direction, thereby directing his life into meaninglessness... Becoming a Christian is not at all something given to us so that we, each individual for himself, can pocket it and keep our distance from those others who are going off empty-handed. No: in a certain sense, one does not become a Christian for oneself at all; rather, one does so for the sake of the whole, for others, for everyone... It should be enough for us to know in faith that we, by becoming Christians, are making ourselves available for a service to the whole... it means moving out of that selfishness which only knows about itself and only refers to itself and passing into the new form of existence of someone who lives for others."
  • The great paradox of Christian life, of knowing God's love and offer of salvation for you personally while realizing He does not offer it for your sake alone but for the sake of the whole of humanity. Is it not incredible that by becoming a Christian we are made able to serve God in whatever way He chooses?
  • Ratzinger mentions that it is not always for us to understand how God is using us or why He asked a service of us at a particular time or in a particular way. I see in this the reality that by faith we actually become enveloped by God's hiddenness. Our lives are given an aspect of mystery, of 'incognito,' like God! It is a thrilling prospect.
p. 74-75 - "For what faith basically means is just that this shortfall that we all have in our love is made up by the surplus of Jesus Christ's love, acting on our behalf. He simply tells us that God himself has poured out among us a superabundance of his love and has thus made good in advance all our deficiency. Ultimately faith means nothing other than admitting that we have this kind of shortfall; it means opening our hand and accepting a gift... [this reception of the gift] is grasping at nothing unless there is someone who can fill our hands with the grace of forgiveness. And thus once again everything would have to end in idle waste, in meaninglessness, if the answser to this, namely, Christ, did not exist."
  • I am unsure how to comment on this. The starkness of this truth hits me hard enough. The prospect of nothingness, of meaninglessness, is dark; it is terrible. Consider that every moment for us is a pivot point. There is always a turning, always a movement: toward Him to receive Him and follow Him, or away from Him into meaninglessness. But faith, oh that great, great gift of faith! Faith places into our hands the truth, the reality of Christ, which lends all meaning to all of life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Next?

Jess and I went to see the movie "Post Grad" last night. A so-so romantic comedy with several high points mixed with plenty of predictability. Even though the movie was just on the high end of okay, it did get me thinking. I walked down the dark steps of the theater considering how believable I found the movie. All I have to do is remember my senior year of college and the year that followed and I can confirm that it is possible for every single well-made plan to crash and burn. When that's the case, the level of frustration can reach a point where you simply aren't sure which direction you want/should/could turn. It becomes nearly impossible to trust yourself to take the reigns again and move your life forward because clearly you're odds of screwing it up are sizable. Truth is, I still have days where that distrust in myself is a defining characteristic. They pass, sure, but eventually they come again. When I am able to clear my head I like to think that in a few years I will be happily able to look back on this time (this in-between time, such as it is) and realize I had no reason to worry while I waited.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Brooke Fraser

Very recently I began listening to Brooke Fraser's music. She's out of New Zealand, a Christian singer/songwriter, by American standards but in her country they don't categorize the music so much so she's played on all the radio stations and music channels. Anyone who can convert C. S. Lewis's weighty words into such a lyrical verse has my attention. Here are a few samples in case you want to check her out.


11:45. I switched off my light and laid down, ready to sink into sleep for 6 1/2 hours. Before I could though, the rain began. My window was open and the rhythmic sound of the hard rain rushed inside. It was irresistible. I fought to stay awake for a while just to listen. If I concentrated, I could discern the softer landing of the drops on the leaves of the tree outside my bedroom. I was tired and had gone to bed a bit melancholy, allowing too many impatient thoughts to take hold. But with that sound, with that soaking, driving sound of the rain, came reassurance. I laughed a little at myself as I lay there. I laughed at the way I run to God with so many words, so many tumbling, pleading thoughts to communicate to Him, and then I struggle to hear Him. Turns out all I had to do was be still and let Him bring the rain. He's a master at subtlety and I would do well to remember that. I listened until I couldn't listen anymore and when I woke this morning, the first thing I comprehended was the freshness wafting in from the soaked earth.

Give ear, O heavens, while I speak; let the earth hearken to the words of my mouth!
May my instruction soak in like the rain, and my discourse permeate like the dew,
Like a downpour upon the grass, like a shower upon the crops.
For I will sing the LORD'S renown. Oh, proclaim the greatness of our God!
(Deuteronomy 32:1-3)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

No News Is...

Good news, relatively speaking. The manuscript has not been rejected by Moody Publishing at this point. It also hasn't been accepted. That's because after four long, dragged out months the editor either hasn't finished looking it over or hasn't begun. I can't tell you the relief I felt at realizing no decision has been made yet. Optimism can be sustained when there is still a sliver of possibility. In my book (or rather, for my book), no news really is good news for the time being. Maybe tomorrow I have an email saying "sorry but it's not what we're looking for," maybe I don't. All I know is that today, I still have a chance for this publishing deal that I want so badly.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Encouraged; uplifted; edified; emboldened... I do love a good synonym search. The thesaurus is an intimate friend. Last night, I (finally, thank God) finished writing chapter six and began chapter seven. I am increasingly happy with how the story is coming together. If I keep away the devilish self-doubt and concentrate on the movements God puts in my heart to continue writing, any of these synonyms are a fitting choice for me. It's a funny and perplexing thing, this need to write. I desire, quite a lot, to be published, but I need to write. Personal journal, prayer journal, blog, church newsletter articles, company newsletter, emails, and of course, novels; I'm an addict... in a positive way. It has become a compulsory action. There is a gradually building certainty that without publication, I will still write. It won't be set aside, not willingly at least.

Need: noun, def.: want, requirement; syn.: charge, commitment, compulsion, demand, duty, essential, longing, must, obligation, requisite, urgency, weakness, wish

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


There are times when my family drives me crrrraaaaazy. With seven siblings, four of whom have spouses, our parents, and ten nieces and nephews being factored in, too, every discussion and plan inevitably becomes more complicated than it has any right being. Every so often, I can be in the middle of listening to the fourteenth change in plans or typing a reply in a ten person email conversation and my imagination flashes with Kelly Kapoor and "This day is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S." It's as if the simplest idea is required to pass through a gauntlet of ongoing debate and multiple transformations before it can be put into action within the Ebsch family. Also, I'd gladly dare any of my siblings to come up with a single time that our repeated sharing of "in my opinion's" and "if it were up to me's" has ever led to actually solving and resolving an issue in the family. I love them all but seriously, is it really that hard to understand why I savor my solo evening/excursions/weekends/activites at every opportunity?

Friday, August 7, 2009

Love Is Different

Well, it looks like five thousand miles broke the camel's back
But it's not as though I had a plan to win you back
Because I don't know what I want
But at least I know that much

Now I'm afraid love came right up
And it slapped me in the face,
But I did not know

'Cause love is different than you'd think
It's never in a song or on a TV screen
And love is harder than a word
Said at the right time and everything's alright
Love is different than you think

Apparently Caedmon's Call is hitting home with me this week because they're already making a second appearance on this blog. This song was playing as I pulled into the office parking lot this morning. I only needed the first few lines to be sung before I turned off the ignition, then I continued the singing in my head. Conversations with friends throughout this week, hardships I see people enduring, encounters I'm unsure how to analyze, wishfulness about someone, this song, and even my very disconcerting dream last night - it all has me pondering love. Yes, I do mean romantic love. Although that's such a weak term for it, wouldn't you say? Romance... it's a sliver of the reality for which every person with a vocation to marriage longs... for which I long. My thoughts this week on the matter aren't about the romance. They're about the companionship. Side by side, hand in hand, encountering life together; I have so much to learn about selflessness, so much to practice. There is a daunting level of vulnerability involved when you commit yourself to loving another person, as well as allowing another to commit themselves to loving you. This is never more true than in the sort of relationship that's on my mind. It's a risky undertaking.

I have to laugh at the complexity of what ought to be simple. I have to laugh or else the anxiety over it happening could get the better of me. All at precisely the same time, God's actions must be bringing the two of you together, you must be open and willing to make the encounter with that person and follow it into the unknown, and the other person must do likewise. Then there's the matter of whether or not both of you won't flee from the call on your heart to love that other person and offer yourselves to the other. It's a good thing God stays involved. Grace and providence aren't subsidiary factors here; they're the essence of the 'how' when it comes to love. And therein lies the reassurance, right? I can't do it on my own; I can't make it happen or force it into existence. The sort of love I hope to have and hope to give, as the Lord so aptly put it, "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." (Matt 19:26)

The band got it right, I'm sure. Love is going to be different than I think. God willing, I'll have the chance to find that out firsthand.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Thursday I Wish Was Friday

So, my boss compared me to Craig Counsell today. An 'ultimate utility player' was his phrase. You have to be a Brewers fan to understand, but that's a darn good compliment. :) Makes me a little less impatient with the fact that I've spent three-fifths of my work week covering three other people's jobs when they each took a different day off.

I'm looking forward to this crazy weekend. Not sure how I'll be fitting everything in but the attempt should prove itself fun. Let's see... house & dog-sitting for friends, a cookout with a group of friends (really must figure out what I'm contributing to that meal and when I'll find time to make it), a zany olympics competition with the same group (here's hoping I don't fall off the balance beam or fall victim to any of the other ready occasions for humiliation), cooking an owed dinner for someone and watching the Brewers game with him on Saturday night, and (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully) finishing chapter six and at least starting chapter seven of the new book. The only reason I'm not mad at myself for having this kind of weekend after this kind of week, is that next week looks to be full of chill out evening hours and very little scheduled activity. So as long as I am still standing come Monday, I'm confident I'll recover.

Tonight is my last tennis lesson of the summer. I'm really glad I signed up for it. Am I a better tennis player now? Weeeelllllll.... let's just say I am a tennis player now. I do actually know what moves to make and swings to choose and how to serve properly, which wasn't the case at the start of the summer. However, learning how to play doesn't guarantee being able to play. But the absence of ignorance of the game has at least been replaced with the slightest amount of skill, and I'm glad for that.

This morning I thought it was Friday. One of the truly great disappointments in life, in my opinion.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

You Know

The Lord is your guardian; the Lord is your shade at your righthand.
By day the sun cannot harm you, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will guard you from all evil, will always guard your life.
The Lord will guard your coming and going both now and forever.
(Ps 121:5-8)
You know when I sit and stand;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest You mark; with all my ways You are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, You know it all.
Behind and before You encircle me and rest Your hand upon me.
(Ps 139:2-5)
"Well this day's been crazy But everything's happened on schedule, from the rain and the cold To the drink that I spilled on my shirt. 'Cause You knew how You'd save me before I fell dead in the garden, And You knew this day long before You made me out of dirt. And You know the plans that You have for me And You can't plan the end and not plan the means And so I suppose I just need some peace, Just to get me to sleep." (Caedmon's Call)
The applicable quotations are piling up. As it dawns on me, I want to smack my head in disbelief. Silly girl, how many times do you need to be reminded of His providence? You knew, Lord, that this day would be a rough one, didn't You? You knew, and You were there, ready to give what I needed for enduring it. No, for more than enduring it. Enduring is what I can do on my own, for the most part, but You bring good out of what I can't make good. You already know what I'll face tomorrow; what will make me smile, what will discourage me, what I'll be thankful for by the time the sun goes down and what I'll be wishing could have been different. And when I am taken by surprise by the way things play out, You are not surprised. You never are surprised, never thrown off balance. Guard me, Lord, against forgetfulness of this reality.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Casting Director

A friend asked me last night who I'd cast in a film version of my novel, Full of Days. I was stumped at the moment, unable to come up with anything. Today I find myself daydreaming about it, carefully running through possibilities for each of the main characters. Honestly, I'd be overwhelmingly happy if someone would just make my book into a book. In the meantime though, this is kind of fun.