Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Endings

And no, this blog post is not about my current obsession "Happy Endings" as you probably would have initially thought. Though I love Penny (year of Jess, suck it!). Hmmm...I'm not as predictable as you thought...

But what I've found myself perpetually thinking about is happy endings of a different sort. You know, Life Happy Endings. And the question is, do we all get one? And if not, what qualifies someone for a happy ending, and why do some not get them?

We've been taught in this culture that we all get a happy ending--even that we deserve one. Whether that be the perfect spouse, the perfect job, the perfect 2.5 children, the perfect house, ultimately the fulfillment of the American Dream, we want, and hope for, a happy ending [eventually!]. I'm not seeing these are per se my happy endings, though select categories may apply. All the strife and turmoil we may be facing now is someday going to all make sense! We've read fairy tales about this stuff--You know, "happily ever after" and what not. We are taught that "everything happens for a reason," that the "story will come full circle"--as if our life just gets a little bumpy, but eventually everything will pan out. We're taught that our hard work and "can do!" attitude will pay off eventually. Or we believe that God has our back when it comes to our happy ending, we just have to wait, be tested, you know all that stuff. But I wonder if God and life is a lot messier than that. Do we all get a happy ending, does it all come full circle? Does everything get resolved? Or do we change our perspective to mold our reality into our happy ending--even if it's not everything we'd originally hoped? Do we change our definition of our "happy ending," and if so, do we lose faith too quickly in our original wants? Is there always a lesson to be learned from pain, from sorrow, from violence, from death? Or does bad stuff just...happen? What do you say when life is cut off prematurely, and that person never gets to experience their "happy ending."

But perhaps these statements highlight my questions about God, and how in control I believe God to be. Maybe it says a lot about my definition of happiness.

Maybe the problem really is what my Happy Ending looks like. Maybe my problem is that my version of a happy ending is to short-sighted.

And these are things that I sit awake and think about at 12:39 AM--is it coming (the fulfillment of my deepest wants and my greatest desires)? Do I need to change my perspective, or do I dare to keep dreaming? Do I ultimately have to wait until heaven for my happy ending to come true, or is it possible here on earth? Is it even a static state? And how would I begin to define my "happy ending?" When will I finally look back and say, "Ahhhh. I get it now"...or will that happen this side of heaven?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Do not let your fire go out,
spark by irreplaceable spark
In the hopeless swamps of
the not quite
the not yet
and the not at all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish.
The world you desire can be won.
It exists.
It is real.
It is possible
And it is yours.

— Ayn Rand

--Thanks, Scott Katsma

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jon Foreman

I've always had great respect for the lead singer of Switchfoot, Jon Foreman. Dare I say that he is one of my own contemporary heroes of the faith. I've been listening to the band Switchfoot for a number of years. It takes me alllllll the way back to high school and throughout college--I watched them in Seattle, I saw them at the Big Easy in Boise (which doesn't even exist anymore). I even got to see Jon Foreman play a last minute solo acoustic set at a coffee shop in Boise.

I'll never forget my sophomore year I went to see them in Seattle with my neighbor from home. As we walked out of the concert, my neighbor said, "That was better than church." And I think what he said was true. When we talk about spirituality, so often we think we have to be in a specific venue, or using specific (churchy) words, instead of just being. We may not say it, but we believe this to be true. While Jon was playing his acoustic show in Boise, I had the opportunity to sit at his feet as he played. And there was something about him--an otherness. He was patient, kind, soft-spoken, caring...something. He didn't sit and preach at us, he just played. It was really very refreshing, to tell you the truth. If you sit and listen to the poetry of their music, the lyrics, and I mean really listen, deep within your soul, deep within your spirit, you will hear something. It is quiet, but it is there. It is in many ways unspoken. This is spirituality.

One of my RA's incessantly teases me because I read The Huffington Post all the time. Maybe it's because a lot of my conversations with her begin something to the effect of, "So I was reading this article on The Huffington Post..." Anyways, you can imagine my pleasure when I found out that Jon Foreman posts articles on the Huff Post once in awhile. And one of my favorites is called "Possessed By Truth."

I'll let you read the article, but basically as a summation, he says that truth is not something that we possess, it is something that possesses us. It simply is what it is...we don't have to prove it. And for so long, I felt like I have to convince people of something, that it is my personal responsibility to educate them on what they are missing out on. I think this in general about church culture--for some reason or another we believe that we have to stand on the proverbial street corner and cram things down people's throats--and here's the thing...it doesn't seem to be working (shoot, it turns me off, and I even affiliate myself with the group). We don't stop and listen--we're so concerned with fitting truth in where we can, we're in such a rush to work it into the conversation, that we don't let it run its natural course. But what if we just were. It might take longer. But this is what I appreciate about Jon Foreman (or at least, the one in my mind's eye...obviously I don't know him any better than I know Conan O'Brien, but work with me people!). He is who he is, and these things all sort of just naturally trickles out of him. He does not have to say anything, but one can sense his peace, his genuineness, his compassion. It's not about him proving a point, or speaking the "right" words-- it is about him writing meaningful lyrics, about collaborating with civil rights workers (John Perkins) to bring justice to earth, writing articles, putting together charity events, you know, action. Switchfoot has met harsh criticisms from the Christian community for not using enough of the J-word (Jesus) in their lyrics, or not being "overtly" Christian. But Jon Foreman's faith, in many ways, is what I want mine to look like--it feels natural, it doesn't seem forced. It is active. There is freedom there. And that is very refreshing. There is something magical about God finding us in a bar at a concert, or finding us in poetry, or finding us in music and lyrics, or finding us out on a jog. Truth finds us. Not the other way around.

Perhaps I like Jon Foreman because I have so much to learn from him...but he isn't going to tell me right away. I have to wait. I have a lot of opinions on things. But maybe I need to be quiet and listen. Maybe I don't need to prove anything.

God found me in college, sitting in a classroom, wishing for a new faith that had been made so toxic, been filled with so much judgment and hate, that I began to wonder if faith was even for me anymore. But it was. It was just a matter of pushing through all the filth and the messages where people believed they were teaching me truth, telling me I was doing something wrong, instead of letting truth find me. And the Jesus I found there was so much more welcoming, so much more inviting, so much more freeing, and so much more than the Jesus I had originally believed in. Kind, compassionate, genuine, patient...sound familiar?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Double Entendres

For as long as I can remember, I have been the last to know, in particular when it comes to erm...well...termonology as it relates to sexuality (that's about as nicely as I can put it). Some may describe this as "oblivious," or perhaps "sheltered..." I prefer to think of it as "naive," and I'd like to believe "endearing." I am that person who didn't know what a lot of certain..."terms" meant until I was later into college...people wonder if I was living under a rock, but I will again point to the fact that I am just good ol' naive, or perhaps I simply lack street smarts. I mean they don't teach you these things when they separate girls and boys in the 6th grade. So it's no surprise that I am very good at mistakingly saying double entendres without even realizing that I'm saying them. These statements are typically met with awkward gazes from people, perhaps a giggle, followed by a "Uhhh...do you know what that means?" And THEN followed up with me saying, "OHHHHHH. Good to know." It happened again today, but perhaps the most unfortunate instance was during the Fall of 2008, a day that will live on in infamy as one of my top most embarrassing moments.

There we were. It was our big town hall meeting in front of approximately 350 students. I was the Moyer Hall Advisor, and it was my first debut in front of everyone--I was there to introduce myself so students would know who the heck I was. My supervisor at the time said, "Hello everyone, this is Jess. She is the Moyer Hall Advisor. Jess, would you like to say anything?" Unfortunately, yes. Yes I did. "Hi everyone! I would just like to let you all know that this summer I took up baking and cooking as a hobby, so if you stop by my apartment, you just might get lucky!" OHDEARLORD. The crowd was silent. People always joke about crickets chirping during awkward silences, BUT I ACTUALLY HEARD SOME. "Uhhh...!!!! Not THAT WAY!" The crowd burst into laughter, with all the men in the crowd going "woot! woot!" I honestly don't know that my face has ever turned that red, nor my ears turned so bright--I literally could have guided Santa's sleigh that night. There's the phrase "my ears were burning"--they actually WERE on fire. Subsequently, every time thereafter someone ate a cookie in my apartment, they always walked out saying, "I GOT LUCKY IN JESS'S APARTMENT!" There was talk of creating t-shirts to wear after eating in my apartment with the aforementioned catch phrase, I really think it could have been a money maker. Apparently I do not easily learn lessons as a few weeks later I was out shopping for food with my boss for the annual Christmas party, and she picked out a bag of mixed nuts and asked me what I thought about serving them at the parter. "I'm not much of a nut muncher at parties...Oh. Crap." Some things never change.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kendra and I Take Connecticut!

OK, people, my friend Kendra came to town, and it was a HOOT AND A HALF!!! You can check it out on my SJC blog (will be posted on Tuesday), but I thought I'd post some fun pics!!! To sum up the trip: we ate a LOT of goooooooddddddd food! Nothing wrong with that! So much fun to see my girl!!! P.S. No idea why my alignment is off...but think of it as a creative expression...????

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Listening: "I only wanna be with you" by Hootie and the Blowfish (classic! makes me think of my younger years and riding in the car with Dad)
Eating: full stomach from The Cheesecake Factory :) Crab cake sandwich, sweet potato fries, banana cream cheesecake
Drinking: Nada
Wearing: Hoodie (cuz I'm listening to Hootie?), and my gross black men's soccer shorts I can't seem to get rid of that I have had since 2000.
Feeling: Procrastinating...
Weather: Perfect. I love the evenings.
Wanting: MORE TIME
Needing: TO DO HOMEWORK!! (WAH!)
Thinking: About Occupy Hartford (see blog)
Enjoying: That it's Thursday...which means tomorrow is Friday Fun day! (and Happy Hour!)
Thankful: for all that I have--education, friends, food, shelter--life is pretty durn exciting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Hartford

Oh man. As Bob Dylan once said, "The times, they are a-changin'"--and oh glory was he correct (or at least I hope so!). This past Friday night (did "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry just come into your head? Because it just popped into mine which annoys me because that song is NOT at all related to what I did with my Friday evening) I went to downtown Hartford to stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Protesters. If you don't know about Occupy Wall Street, basically it is all of these protesters that are taking a stand to protest the class divide between the rich and the poor. The divide has grown wider and wider in the past few years, and people are finally saying ENOUGH. And here's the thing; I'm not protesting the fact that people have worked hard and have a lot of money. I'm not disputing that at all. But what I am disputing is that we somehow equate a person making $8 an hour at Target with not working as hard as Lady Gaga who made an estimated 90 million dollars last year (for an interesting article click here). We somehow believe that certain people deserve certain things, and others do not. But what we ALL deserve as human beings is equal access to resources (healthcare anyone?!). I'm not saying that I have any solutions right now, but it seems to me that in a country as rich as ours, the haves should be taking care of the have nots a whole lot more than we are. Basically, the top 10 percent have more wealth than the bottom 90 COMBINED. Like seriously--WHO NEEDS THAT MUCH MONEY?! *NEED being the operative words, not "want"--but we live in the country of excess, so...yeah. My brother told me that if Steve Jobs (R.I.P.) took just ONE of his ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS, he could give each of his Apple employees TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS EACH. I keep praying he left money to his employees, because seriously, how tremendous would that be? It would be too beautiful, because you think of just how hard they work to scrape by (and let me tell you, I have received WONDERFUL service at Apple--they have helped contribute to those billions of dollars!). OK end rant. Anyways, the point is that the top 1 percent control most of the $$$ in this country. The divide is just too big, and it's not because people are lazy or don't work hard enough or all the excuses that the elite try to get the "have nots" to believe about themselves as if they earned their societal position (bull $h!@). There are bigger forces at work here, and it's so much more complicated that personality traits--the way the current system is set up will leave the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer--it's how capitalism is set up to work. Marx predicted it 100 years ago, it's true--in fact he wrote a book about it. Creepy, but true. He actually predicted this very revolution (*surprise!).

But what I love is that people are getting angry about this. Like, pissed. And they are doing something about it. Social movements are the best!!! This isn't about people agreeing or disagreeing with my political view, this is about the fact that a collective group of people is standing together to voice their dissatisfaction with something--we're doing something. What has killed me these past few years since my eyes have been opened (thank you Sociology!), is the amount of apathy present in this country--and this is the country where we should be voicing our opinions of all places!

As I walked around downtown Hartford chanting "WE. ARE. THE 99 PERCENT! YOU. ARE. THE 99 PERCENT!" and "WHAT DOES DEMOCRACY LOOK LIKE? THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!" and feeling particularly hippie-ish, I couldn't help but hope that I'm not being overly optimistic in believing that change is coming, that things are going to be rectified, that things WILL get better. That our government will get itself together and stop representing the people instead of themselves. But it is my faith that propels me to keep on using my voice. Christians pray the Lord's prayer all the time to bring heaven to earth, and to help the poor, and all of that--so, let's get moving!

Oh, by the way, you should sign this petition. Why? Because basically the government thought it would be a GREAT idea to bailout banks, but not the people--so this representative is submitting a bill for all student loan debt to be forgiven. Why will this help our economy? Well, think about it. I have $400 each month in student loans--what am I IMMEDIATELY going to do when I have an extra $400 a month? Probably pay off my car. Probably go travel, probably start saving for a down payment on a house. So the idea is to put money back in the hands of the people, and not bailout corporations that may not effect the greater majority. I LOVE THIS IDEA. And you could get your loans forgiven...win-win!!! Check out my facebook page for some more articles about Occupy Wall Street!