Straight line winds.

Without giving in to sarcasm, windy nights are really effective in limiting my sleep. I probably slept a solid four hours despite the constant interruptions of either my cat screaming in my face, the wind hitting my apartment’s exterior with formidable force, or the constant sirens blaring — likely due to wind-related emergencies.

Schools are all closed this morning. I chose to work from home. George went into the office, though.

As I lay awake last night listening to the wind, I thought. It’s refreshing how in the low-lit glow of the evening when one’s brain hasn’t been distracted by screens for a couple of hours, one begins to think again. I thought of the time when my mom got transferred from her company’s Springdale office to the headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. It was 2004, and I was thirteen going on fourteen. Because my sister worked a job at Sonic, she had been driving for some time, and was able to take herself and me to Wichita to see my mom pretty often – especially through the summer. I thought about the layout of my mom’s apartment. She lived in a nice complex in Maize, an extraordinarily flat, but new, suburb to the northwest of Wichita. The living room with a fireplace, the small kitchen, the small dining table, a bathroom off the dining room, and a bedroom. In the closet of the bedroom was the DSL set up. It was the first time I had heard of DSL internet, but it was acceptable for my Xanga and MySpace browsing.

There was a night when we were staying with my grandparents in Bella Vista, and my mom called and said that they were slated to get 80 mph straight lined winds. I didn’t know what that was at the time, as Arkansas was only ever threatened by tornadoes. After asking, my brain understood it to be as if a tornado had unwound itself and decided to barrel through in a flat plane instead of a cone. She was alone, working late at her office. We all asked her not to drive home. To our chagrin, she drove her 2002 burnt gold Hyundai Santa Fe the 25 minutes to her apartment. She made it safely, but in light of her experience agreed that she should not have been out in the weather. Her trip from the car to her apartment stairs required hanging on to a parking sign pole and hedges in order to remain upright.

After tracing the memories, it occurred to me that was fourteen years ago, the same amount of time I had spent on the earth at that point.

I then considered that my mom has been gone for five years. This isn’t some incredulous revelation; I think about it nearly every day. Regardless, the reality of this fact never loses its weight.

Immediately, a verse of scripture began cycling through my mind,

“the grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”

I don’t have the best process for memorizing scripture, so this was very surprising to me. I find it difficult to recall passages word for word, and have an even worse time quoting book and verse. In that moment, the word was blissfully evident to me. As I contemplated my mortality, my vapordom, I was comforted in the knowledge of the Rock on which I stand. I stand firm on the rock of ages, who gives and takes. Jesus is sovereign over life and death, over pain and suffering, over governments and principalities, over the uniformity of nature, over knowledge and wisdom. It is all His. Absolutely everything has been subjected to the feet of Jesus, while our natural reality hides the fullness of this declaration in that it is being worked out among us today.

“What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
You have made him for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
Hebrews 2:6-8

 

We do not see this reality being worked out among us today, because of God’s sovereignty. His character and nature is made evident through that which He creates, and that which He chooses to reveal to us. Holding to this revelational epistemology (i.e. all knowledge is revealed), we understand that the rationality of logic, the uniformity of nature and science, the completeness of mathematics, and intelligibility of it all sources from God himself, and His word which has been given. What He chose to give is the means by which we know anything at all. Without God, you can know nothing at all.

I have been reading through the chronicles of Samuel and Kings, and as I was reading about Elisha’s confidence in God despite the opposition army that stood against him exclusively, the sufficiency of Scripture and the sovereignty of God made itself manifest to me. This story goes a little something like this:

The king of Aram wanted to kill the king of Israel. But God spoke this conspiracy to Elisha, who was also instructed to warn the king. He obeyed, and the king was able to evade capture, death, etc… not only from one plot, but from multiple, because of this revelation and obedience to it. Welp, Aramean king dude wasn’t so pleased. He wanted to know who the mole was, and received in return that it was not a mole, so much as it was an Israelite prophet named Elisha, “who is in Israel, [and] tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” So, for geographical purposes, Elisha lived in Dothan, and Ben-Hadad II (Aramean king dude) lived in Damascas. (Here is a map for those of you who are interested.) So like, no telephone game was going on. It should also be noted that Arameans worshiped Baal, not the Hebrew God. Anyway, Ben-Hadad said, “‘Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.’ And it was told him, saying, ‘Behold, he is in Dothan.'” Dothan is 10 miles North of Samaria. Okiedoke, so “he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.” Welp. We do not know whether or not God told Elisha about this new development. (I wonder why! :3) That morning, Elisha’s apprentice, attendant, mentee, whathaveyou, woke up really early and went out and saw the militia waiting there for Elisha, circling the city. I’m sure then, he rushed back to Elisha, woke him up in a full fledged panic and said, “‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So [Elisha] answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.'” Okaaaaaay. Was his servant friend running around with his eyes closed? No. How does God open the eyes of an individual when their eyes are already open? What does Elisha mean when he says “those that are with us are more than those who are with them?” Spoilers.

Please remember that before I went into this story, I was relating the preconditions of intelligibility to the foundation of revelational epistemology to God, His intentions, and our dependence on those intentions. Back to it then:

“And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said , ‘Strike this people with blindness, I pray.’ So He struck them with blindness according o the word of Elisha. The Elisha said to them, ‘This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.’ And he brought them to Samaria (read: where the king of Israel lives.) When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, ‘O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.’ So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, ‘My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?’ He answered, ‘You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.'”
2 Kings 6:8-16, paraphrased; 17-22.

So much. There is so much here. There is supernatural revelation through prophecy, there is supernatural revelation through seeing an unseen but very present realm, and there is supernatural *concealation*  through blinding. Elisha received the word, and was obedient to act on it. Elisha also knew that, through an obvious vision to him from God OR perhaps faith in the Lord for his total protection, that there was an angelic military that had surrounded him in defense against those who were physically present. Elisha had the relationship with God in which he could pray with confidence that his requests would be heard and granted. And ultimately, Elisha acted within the will of God through humility, mercy and grace on those which he so easily captured by the acting, present, and intentional hand of God.

Let me be clear: it is a gift to think, reason, and understand. From the creation of the world, God has had an omniscient will to reveal and conceal that which He desires. And His nature, which is consistent forever, is demonstrated through all of that which He has made, producing consistency in every area of understanding that exists today, insomuch that the laws of logic, morality, and the uniformity of nature testify to Him.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

It is impossible to justify the existence of rationality by rationality itself. If you claim that you know the laws of logic are rational by logically rationalizing them, your claim is self-refuting. The Christian stands on the word of God, claiming that the laws of logic are given to humans through the divine purpose of God that we might come to know His creation, be blessed to discover it and learn from it, and glorify Him with thanksgiving for what He has revealed, and what has has concealed, all to our benefit.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Proverbs 9:10

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
2 Peter 1:2-3

Indeed, “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

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Luke 14

I got broken by words on a thin page

I started a thousand years in the future, seeking solace in the New Year, understanding newness

Rustle backward to the beginning of time; an Aaron Weiss looking man speaks with a sword and someone writes it down later to be read by me on a plane translated into the one language I can understand, shattering me into thin shards, splayed flat on the ground.

A thousand years in the future, I read. It resembled continuity at the time, but would be perceived as mania later. I followed this Light through a poorly lit stone opening to reveal a bright door with a crimson banner hanging over it. Gold trim around it spelled out “truth” repeatedly in a woven cursive. The message of the banner was hidden from me, so I sought it in the illuminated hallway. I found a door reading “first resurrection”, and a tall man sitting at the foot of the door, and he passed me a footnote I couldn’t afford to discard. Opening the piece of paper, I read a reference.

Go here, it read. So I went. I went a little farther, for context’s sake.

There is a man suffering from cancer and infection. An abscess amassed on his left cheek, sealing his vision for the remainder of his life. His life would end eventually.

If someone could relieve this man’s suffering, would I let them?

The answer is no. No, because my vision has been sealed with the promise of mechanical warmth, magic meals, and hurried seconds. My vision is restored in this hallway. I see this man, and I see my hands. They are rotten with maggots and curled fingernails.

Here in this reference I have lost and gained. I clench my chest as truthtruthtruthtruth in gold tinsel fabric is sewn into my jacket pocket. The needle might hit me and I might bleed a little. Ambitious is the characteristic I have been proud to wear in that spot for all of my hurried seconds, but it is covered up now.

The suffering man has suffering friends. They live together in the trees.

I can’t stand the sight of them, so I turn around. The banner was there and unapologetically read like a siren, “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

I stepped off the plane and my vision clouded, but my hands looked like regular hands.

Chase, no.

Help, all I ever do is tell my cat no!

Just kidding, I tell him I love him a lot, too.

Consider me inspired. In all reality, by myself.

Without being too haughty, I should explain. I found myself alone tonight with plans to work and sleep. (My husband is out of town visiting a friend.) After I went out for a lovely Thai dinner and extracurricular bubble tea with my excellent neighbors Tim and Rob, I got busy on the work part of my evening plans. They were successful! I did things! I figured things out! Engineering!

The sleep part has been delayed some now, as I was encouraged by a coworker and friend to consider my past life. It’s not something I do very often, beside the occasional “Gasp, how different am I? I can’t think about it, it’s too much to bear.” and then toss the thought aside to pursue more practical things. In all reality, that consideration more often than not actually looks like me falling on the floor in a quiet, dark room thanking God for His goodness and protection over my life. I don’t deserve this grace.

Okay, back to inspiration.

So as I was considering said past life, I thought about my old blogs. Livejournal to be specific. It was my destruction blog — the virtual space where Satan and self-condemnation ruled. Naturally, I ventured to the url, login, password, voila. Begin reading.

Tres amused.

For me, reminiscing the destruction blog isn’t a shock. I remember that time of my life vividly because it was so painful. What was shocking was when I started looking for my other blogs. Apparently I had a blogspot that I used considerably often, and totally forgot about. (Holler, gewgle.) I was sixteen or seventeen when I was writing on it and, to my surprise, writing quite uniquely. Beautifully, even. And because it was truly me, give or take a decade, who was doing that writing, I found myself disappointed and also joyful to consider…myself. (I’ve always felt confidently paradoxical and enigmatic, so these two emotions flow consistent to my nature.)

Disappointed because I know that the writer that was in me no longer exists. She was, but is no more. She was diminished by several years of really bad decisions.

Disappointed because I had no memory of most of the events I had written about.

Joyful because I was reminded of what a delightful young woman I was for a moment between adolescent terrors.

Joyful because I was reminded of the mix CDs I used to make, and some of the songs that comprised one I made for my mom’s coworkers. I might have actually cared.

Joyful because I wrote about my sister and my mom. A lot.

Disappointed because I didn’t know then how much I should have cherished my time with my mom.

Joyful because I was spoke of the friends in a different light than I remember them, now shrouded in foggy memories.

So, as the last seven months have gone by, I’ve, on at least three occasions, written down notes on which to blog. I haven’t. However, I find myself actually inspired to write tonight. Even if it’s not as good or poetic or ethereal or painful. I am still capable of writing. Praise God.

I am capable of doing a job that I love, being a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter (kind of bad at this one), a worshipper (kind of bad at this one too).

But I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.

 

Future/Past

“In this fortunate turn of events, You asked me to be Your friend.”

The presidential debate is on, and I really did expect to watch it. I intended to watch it half-heartedly, and pour the majority of my efforts into this post. Before it started, in the meantime, I started listening to a recent go-to music video, Future/Past by John Mark McMillan. It is funny to think that a song I’d fallen in love with, that had nothing to do with my present circumstances as they were not yet present at that time, would have so much power as to prophesy over my next couple months.

Obviously, I love music. George and I both do. And I know music will continue to create fortuitous meet-cutes with us and thousands (I mean thousands) of people in our future. I know that. I can say with a certain declaration that it’s true – only through the power of a dream that my Friend has laid on my heart. This Friend of mine can make more than my lifetime’s efforts happen in a day. A second. Because “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”

I can’t seem to do anything for too long without a hunger for music. Lately, that hunger has been growing for praise-motivated lyrics and art, and when I sing I feel like I’m home. So I can be confident when God tells me that He intends to draw me closer to Him through music, and I can spread that confidence to the promises He’s spoken over my future; George’s and my future. Something is coming.

Anyway.

It seems as though some things have already come! And that is what I’m here to write about today!

Future/Past very succinctly gives homage to the Eternal One’s eternalness, sovereignty, knowledge, love, power, creativity, and propensity for intimacy. I’ve been singing it to myself at my desk at work, in my car, at home on the couch. I’ve woken up singing it. Honestly! (Does anyone else wake up singing? This happens to me a lot.)

The song has become this mantra that I’ll sing over myself – and what a glorious one. But that’s not the only mantra I’ve been hearing.

Dial back to July. A very unsuspecting me went to church as I do on a Sunday morning when George and I are home for the weekend, and was surprised when we had a guest pastor from New Zealand. He spoke from Exodus on being prepared by God in the seemingly mundane moments of life for the more glorious plans He has for us. I didn’t know what it meant for me, and still really don’t, but one thing stuck with me: expect the unexpected.

I couldn’t shake it, so I embraced it. That whole next week at work, every day, I walked into work thinking “expect the unexpected. God I’m expecting You to move in unexpected ways.” And He certainly did.

Not long after this sermon, something else started sticking with me: Virginia license plates. EVERYWHERE. I wasn’t looking for Virginia – I don’t even know about Virginia. But one thing I was looking for was license plates. I notice ’em. All of them. I’m not sure…it’s just this thing I do.

So I kept it to myself for a while and thought, “gee this is strange!” It kept happening.

Then I had to make a huge catering order for a work event. The catering event manager’s name? Virginia.

It’s not like this is an unheard of situation. Our brains are programmed to begin noticing something of importance once it makes its way to the forefront of our attention. But this just felt…different.

I mentioned it to George once, which is kind of a miracle in and of itself because I find it difficult to communicate the strange idiosyncrasies I experience when there is little substance to them. Regardless, I did. I spoke it and put it out in the universe, if you will. And shortly thereafter, I was sitting in my bed reading, and actually considered that God might be speaking to me through license plates. I mean, He does know me really well, and knows exactly how to capture my attention. I said, “okay, well I’ll look then.” And then I looked.

LinkedIn Jobs app open. Search criteria populated: “DevOps Engineer, Virginia.” I searched the entire state. I scrolled. I ignored. I saw. Two jobs: US News & World, and Amazon. Both looked like a great fit. US News was in DC. Amazon, Virginia. I applied for US News with the LinkedIn-apply. Amazon was going to take a bit more work.

After an hour, I submitted my application on August 2nd at 11:52 pm. I started to look for a third job, and immediately, God spoke in that loud, still, small voice, “Stop looking.” I actually replied out loud because it was so unmistakable. I said, “okay!” and sat there perplexed for a little bit before I closed the laptop lid.

Because I am a seedy human, I immediately forgot about what had happened and went on with my life, assuming nothing further would come of that experience. HA.

August 10th. Email in my inbox. Amazon wants to speak to me. Me? Me? From a single job application I put in? Really? Wait, no, really? Again I said, “okay!”

Peach Music Festival was that weekend, and I scheduled the phone interview for the following Monday. I sort of freaked out all weekend, and even made George listen to an Ansible/PowerShell podcast on our way to the music festival. I called every bookstore in the Scranton, PA area looking for a PowerShell book to study since I wouldn’t have internet. Alas, none of were in stock. Oh well! Commence a fun weekend.

Monday happened. Monday happened and it was great. I was blown away.

Then Friday. Friday was phone interview numero dos, and I forgot to eat. NEVER FORGET TO EAT.

Awful sums up my overall feelings of numero dos. I knew immediately that I was done, and this was just an experience for me to have! And boy was I grateful. Two rounds. That’s awesome. I called George and let him know how bad it was, and how confident I was that door had been closed. “Oh ye of little faith” or something like that.

Then Monday. One week from first interview comes an email requesting my presence in their Virginia office. Trigger tears. Trigger rejoicing. Trigger fear.

Oh yeah, hey, my sister was getting married the next week. So pause job stuff, wedding gon happen!

(And oh my word, it did and it was perfect! I am so grateful for my sister, her husband, their friends, and our families. It was a seriously beautiful day, and a glorious weekend!)

After Labor Day, Bethany and Chris departed for their #KentuckyFriedMinimoon (best hashtag ever…), George departed to drive his car back to New Jersey, and I hopped on a plane to Dulles International to visit Herndon, VA for the first time. Some hours later, I hopped on a plane to Newark. (I signed a NDA, sorry y’all.)

I had friends pray peace and confidence over me before I left Arkansas. I love my friends so much. My personal prayer warriors spoke words over me that permeated my heart and my soul and my mind all day. I had peace that surpassed all understanding. No jitters. No worries. Just calm. That is…extraordinary. That is my extraordinary, loving, prayer-answering God.

And the Lord did not make me wait long at all. I had an offer the next day.

You would think that I would be rejoicing, jumping and exclaiming the goodness of our God, and thanking Him in His incredible provision. I can be a pretty bad daughter, though, and I’m even worse at saying thank you. I tend to consider everything good as something that can be taken away. Though I’m generally ridiculously positive in most every facet of my life, I can be severely negative when receiving blessings, and this new job is no exception.

For days, I dwelled on the potential destruction of this seemingly impossible, perfect, glorious opportunity. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I became obsessed with finalizing the process because I wanted to make sure everything was completed. I was terrified almost to the point of assurance that I would be robbed of this offer.

I think a lot of this reaction comes down to worth.

Do I feel worthy of such a blessing? Not because of anything I’m capable of doing, but solely based on the fact that I am loved by a generous, friendly Father? I feel the answer is no. I don’t. Instead, I feel guilty of self. I feel my sin creeping up lying to me about the new person I’ve become in Christ. Saying I don’t deserve it, and because I don’t, I won’t truly receive it.

What a sham. How true is it though? We self-sabotage ourselves out of receiving blessings because we are BLIND to our own worth in the eyes of God! He LOVES us, guys! LOVES LOVES LOVES LOVES LOVES.

LOVES.

And when we, in our ignorance and defeat, choose to walk by a blessing or pass up being a blessing to someone else, that breaks the heart of God. I do not want to be a cause of heartache for my Creator. I want to see Him, to know Him, and to give Him the glory and praise He deserves. I want Him to be proud to be seen with me. He is proud to be seen with me.

Let that be my new mantra.

I’m going to pivot away from my own fleeting moment of self-sabotage and talk about Satan though. He real.

Because I had so clearly heard the voice of the Lord on August 2nd, and been so acutely aware of the license plates, I was expecting to continuously hear again and again about every prayer I prayed. Instead of expected the unexpected, I expected what I could only imagine. And because of that expectation, I was willing to listen to any voice I heard. There is something very dangerous about not being able to discern the voice of God. It is a cause for deep scriptural meditation, and fully surrendered prayer.

Every day was something new. I took a walk and heard a new song and the song spoke my exact situation to me. Stopped in my tracks. I kept walking.

I sat down in a graveyard and prayed for a while. The words “I can’t give this up, I need you to give it up for me” came out of my mouth. I was stunned. I sat there in silence for a while, perturbed and entirely confused. Everything about it felt wrong. I was sitting there, with a mind that was flooded and spilling over with empty thoughts and a distressed heart. I stood up, realizing that I had no idea what was going on. I had no clarity. I had no vision. I was just…there. And I walked home.

Monday afternoon, a beautiful friend came to my house. She asked me a question, “what are you afraid of?” So I answered. When I answered and couldn’t think of any other fears that were going through my mind, I realized how small those fears were. They were small! Small in the wake of my giant King. Small in the understanding that He is my future and my past. Small in the muddiness of the waters that I couldn’t see through, but that He created. A small crack, but still bigger than those fears, was made in the shell surrounding my heart that afternoon.

The week prior, George and I started a 40 day prayer challenge called Draw The Circle. I bought it while I was standing in line at Hobby Lobby in Rogers, AR getting supplies for my sister’s wedding. Though it’s not as meaty as the books I normally enjoy, it’s a great challenge – we need a prayer challenge.

Every morning as soon as we wake up (and manage to take a couple sips of coffee that George so graciously makes for us), we open the books and read – and then pray. Within the first few days I saw our prayers taking real shape, and I know I don’t want to ever let go. Circling my dreams. Circling my fears. My friends and family. With my husband. What a privilege!

Breakthrough happened on Day 7. Right as we woke up I finally talked to George about what I was feeling – that Great Confusion. It felt like a million bricks were lifted off my chest. It was that “lay your burden down at the foot of the cross” moment, where you’re just finally surrendering it all and leaving nothing hidden. When we bring our darkness to light, we bring glory to God. And in return, we see everything in His beauty. Revealing our shame and pain allows our minds and hearts to abandon self-preservation and receive a holy clarity. This understanding was made very clear: Satan is cunning and smart, and he is good at manipulating us in our weaknesses.

Where I found myself terrified in the face of potential disobedience, he tried to use that against me to attempt to disarm God’s plan for our future. He knew that I didn’t want to be disobedient, so he tried so hard to convince me that I wasn’t supposed to have this job. Those words “I need you to give this up for me” shook me so hard because they were wrong. I couldn’t stomach it, not because of my own willfulness, but because it was not consistent with the holy, simple, beautiful path God had already promised me.

My Heavenly Father is not a God of confusion! He is not! Praise Him for that! He knows how to communicate with me. His Holy Spirit burns in me and affirms His will in my everyday. His scriptures speak His love and life into my soul. So as we continue to pray, my vision is clearing. I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God!

I am also the wife of an amazing man. He has displayed tremendous joy and confidence when I needed to lean on it. From the beginning, he’s been my cheerleader. He’s been so willing to partner with me in every moment, including this move. Even though it means he’ll have to look for work again and leave behind his beloved friends, he has been so strong through it all. Thank God for him.

I’ve accepted the job and weepily said some momentary goodbyes to the incredible friends I’ve made in my three and a half years in New Jersey. I put in my two weeks notice, but not without two days worth of stress-induced stomach pain and heartburn. I’m coming to terms with the reality that this chapter of my life, our life, is closing, but a new one – still full of everything we gained here, but with the addition of more – is awaiting just a few moments and miles away.

 

In No Time At All

I made it back here within a year! Doing better than my last blog. It is really a shame that I haven’t written in such a long time, but honestly, I just couldn’t.

It’s not a good thing that I’m so busy that I come home at night and can barely put together a Trader Joe’s enabled meal before collapsing on the couch for a marathon of The Office. Every. Night.

But I’ll get to that another time.

Tonight, my heart is heavy.

I felt the urge to write about 10 minutes ago while texting my friend Jenn. About 10 minutes ago, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about. But that’s all changed now.

This morning I was joyful. I was filled with thanksgiving and prayed all the way to work. I was thinking about my incredible friends. My friend Samantha visited George and me for the last week and it was extraordinary. She is a precious person, and we had a blast. My friends in Philadelphia are beyond wonderful. My friends from church are life-breathing and joy-giving. My friends from work and from school are my treasures. My friends from home are forever. And I knew all of this at once, while listening to my Pretty Lights EP, driving down Fairmount Avenue in Chatham, New Jersey.

Tonight is different. I, as I do most every night, directed myself to Humans of New York’s Facebook page and read Brandon’s posts from today. They’re consistently soul-crushing, but the last one from today did me in. It wasn’t even an interview post. It was an advertisement. A Kickerstarter campaign for UNHCR. There was a short video that I watched. I watched and I fell apart.

This video literally made me sob. Huh. It’s just photos. Just statistics. My reaction can be explained, surely. I think there are several reasons…but none more resounding than that of people desperately needing love. Intense, relentless love. The love of a stranger. The unconditional love of a parent or a sibling. The love of a savior.

I’m over here freaking out about my tiny apartment. I love to look at houses on Zillow. It’s become one of my favorite pass-times. Idk, I just like homes, okay? Last night George leaned over to me, jokingly, and said “You’re not supposed to covet.”

I had a pretty harsh reaction.

Is that what I was doing? Really? No.

No.

Right?

Or maybe I am. Adoring structures filled with well designed and placed furniture and decor is definitely something many people do, and I absolutely am not saying each of us are coveting when we enjoy these things. What I’m saying is that I’ve been a tad bit obsessed. I’ve had friends call me out on it. I see it.

My simple obsession has become sin. It has become extremely distracting to the more important things in my life, such as my husband. My prayers. My reading of the Word. My picking up the phone and calling a friend or family member.

What I’m getting at is that my desire to better myself materially isn’t going to help anyone but myself. I’m so distracted with ‘getting the good’ that I am so far removed from understanding the desperate need of people around me. That IS NOT what I want. I want to constantly feel the Holy Spirit kindling the fire inside me; The Spirit who sharpens my soul, molds my life, and fills me with righteousness that I otherwise lack entirely.

Literally. Lack entirely. ENTIRELY. Otherwise I’m swimming in a pond of self. I’m immersed in mucky, mud walled water trying to search for something to help me see my knees below me.

I think being able to save for a down payment on a nice house or modifying my car (can’t even start down this rabbit hole in this post…) is going to unlock some personal achievement or provide happiness. More credibility. More desirability. Such that others look at my life and see “cool”. How pathetic could I be?

I went from singing praises in the morning to desiring more than what God has allocated for me now. What I forget in the span of 12 hours is that I’m nothing. My life is a vapor in the air. It is here and it is gone.

I will be here. And then I will not be here. You will be here. And then you will not be here. The refugees will be here, and then they will not be here any longer.

What does this mean to you? What does this mean for your life? Where do we go? What will our lives have been?

I know what I want my life to look like: light. Arresting light. Captivating glory.

“In Him was life, and life was the Light of men.” – John 1.4

The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.” – Matthew 4.16

I want my life to look like Jesus.

“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” – 1 John 4.8

“Their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2.2-3

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” – Luke 6.27

I want to practice this pure and undefiled religion.

“Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” – Isaiah 1.17

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” – James 1.27

I want to be peculiar. Everyone wants this. Surely no one says, “No, I’d just like to go completely unnoticed for the rest of my life. I would like to do no thing worthy of mention, no notable deed.”

Confidently, Jesus Christ will create a peculiarity in my life to the world if I let Him. It is His desire to fill me with the utmost holiness, joy and consuming love. If I truly am just a vapor in the wind, then let me fully surrender myself to the Living God.

I am so glad there are organizations like HONY and UNHCR that are intentionally delivering necessities and stability to people who, just like me, are hand-crafted and desperately loved by God, our Father. But who will tell them the good news? Who will share the Gospel to their exhausted and unimaginably abused spirits? Though I am in a safe and well manicured town of cute homes facing no oppressive circumstances, I have to actively fight to pray for the desperate. I have to actively fight to put down my phone and disconnect my brain from Instagram, Facebook and Zillow. I have to pray vigorously. I have to give thanks and remain humble.

I am not being called today to go and work for an aid organization to personally contribute to the refugee crisis today, but I am praying for those who are being called. For those who are there today, looking terrified and weary people in the eyes. I hope they are renewed daily, and pour nothing but Living Water into those whom they are serving.

And for myself, and for you: I pray for the emptying of murky, muddy self in order to be filled by the God of Wonders. May we never stop having hearts that bleed for our brothers and sisters in the world. May we always remember to pray constantly and have the wisdom to listen to the Spirit that dwells within us.

I used to love the Christmas season. Everything about it was magical and everything smelled divine. The lights on lining roofs and even the lights on the trees surrounding the Walmart parking lot made me tingle with seasonal spirit.

Now it just reminds me, again, that she’s gone. Everything that used to bring me such nostalgic joy has shriveled and disappeared. It’s a distant memory that breaks my heart. I guess this is grieving.

I’m more and more like her, which means so much of what I do and who I am becomes a constant reminder that she’s not here.

 

 

I finished college yesterday. She would have been there. It’s strange….I don’t feel like celebrating.

Shepard Tone and other musical paradoxes

I am doing something peculiar for my blog in the spirit of finishing my next to last semester. Woo! It’s probably just that I am finally taking classes that I enjoy, so I get heavily invested in my projects.

Even though it may not be something you would have gone out and researched yourself, I want to share my final project for my undergrad math topics course, Mathematics and Music, with y’all because the subject is particularly fascinating and worthy of sharing.

Paradoxes make my heart so happy because everything that my faith sits on is a complete paradox. Seeing them occur in perceptual space-time is so incredible I can’t even. So here we go.

First things first, you need to listen to a Shepard Tone!

Now onto the nittygritty!

Musical Paradox – Auditory Illusions
Olivia Larson
MATH 495 – Project II
Nita – Spring 2014

Any musical composition is comprised of a pattern of notes that the composer sees fit to apply. Generally, one trusts a composer to have a competent understanding of tone agreement where the composition, when performed, is pleasing to listen to, full of consonant sounds, and sometimes paired with tastefully constructed dissonant sounds. Regardless of the structure of the composition, it should normally follow the paradigm that it consists of a variety of tones. When one listens to these variations, it is obvious to perceive the difference in pitches, such that the listener can identify higher and lower notes from each other. However, this is a common misconception.

Sensory perception is surprisingly deceptive in several ways. The most well known example of sensory misperception is the visual paradox of MC Escher’s “Ascending and Descending” lithograph (1.1.1) that depicts the infinitely descending Penrose Stairs (1.1.2). Though our minds confirm that the infinite staircase is fallible, our eyes contradict this notion entirely. Somehow, there is a perceptual paradox that creates something we know cannot exist in three-dimensional space to indeed exist in two dimensions.

Image

        Fig. 1.1.1 – “Ascending and Descending”

  Image

        Fig 1.1.2 – Impossible staircase

This two-dimension visual paradox transfers cleanly to the realm of aural space. Musical notes are often referred to as ascending and descending when placed in a specific order on the scale. One can hear ascending tones when a musician plays an “ascending” scale on their instrument. Analogous to walking up stairs, each tone is played by stepping up its staff. However, in a 12-tone scale, the ascension of notes linearly meet the exact note at which they began playing, but at a different pitch. This is known as the pitch class circle(1.2.1). Similar to the impossible staircase, the pitch class circle presents a visual paradox of what one would believe is aurally

Circle

Fig. 1.2.1 – Pitch class circle

impossible, based on the assumption that the notes are ascending. In order to validate the basis of musical ascension, both the linear and circular dimensions must be accounted for to create an adequate image of the pitch class circle(1.2.2)[6]. Understanding this concept, Roger Shepard reasoned that by dissecting

Helix

Fig. 1.2.2 – Pitch class helix

a complex frequency, one could create a tone comprised of ten partial harmonics that are spaced at one octave intervals[2]. The result is a Shepard tone, the sum of sinusoids whose frequencies are integer multiples of the original frequency. Another contributor to musical paradox, Diana Deutsch, considers Shepard to have created “banks of tones whose note names are clearly defined, but whose perceived heights are ambiguous.” The idea behind this height ambiguity allows the helix in 1.2.2 to collapse into the circle of 1.2.1, thus creating scales that ascend in pitch infinitely.

The mathematical construction of a Shepard tone begins first with understanding the source for the complex frequency from which it is created.[4]

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 3.06.05 AM

The Shepard tone, shaped by a single frequency, can be represented by its frequency decomposed into harmonics that are even integer multiples of the frequency, like so:

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 3.06.23 AM

Given each sinusoid’s amplitude is 1:

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 3.06.31 AM

However, because the amplitude differs on each sinusoid, further analysis of consecutive Shepard tones that have diverse amplitudes, shaped using a Gaussian envelope, looks mathematically equivalent to the equation below, where  is the center of the Gaussian, j is the Shepard tone that sits j semitones above the complex frequency, and i is the harmonic of the jth tone:

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 3.06.53 AM

The partials of a Shepard tone come together and are represented on a graph in the shape of a bell curve(1.3.1) as a result of modulated amplitude from filtering the partials so the middle partials are the loudest, and the first and last partials are made to quietly taper off. For a combination of Shepard tones, the filter is applied

Graph

Fig. 1.3.1

to each tone, so that with every octave progression, the sound shifts downward by one partial[1], such that the center of the Gaussian modifies the amplitudes of the harmonics in a such a way that makes the perceived sound infinitely ascend.

The Shepard tone opened many doors for understanding musical paradoxes. Several other auditory illusions were defined, including the Tritone Paradox[3], first discovered by Diana Deutsch in 1986. By playing two sequential Shepard tones distinct by a half-octave or tritone is aurally perceived as descending or ascending by different people.
A technique for implementing these musical paradoxes called “flanging[5]” is produced by mixing two identical tones together, delaying one of the signals by a small and slowly changing period of time. The audio effect this technique produces gives off the sound of what could be analogous to the concept of beats, caused by interference of two waves at the same point in space.
Overall, the realm of musical paradox is a fascinating and complex space in itself. Though one can explain the construction of the musical structure mathematically, it remains difficult to grasp the illogical sensory perception regardless of the explanation that accompanies it. Despite the prevalent confusion, many incredible contributions have been made to identifying and creating auditory illusions in order to bridge the gap between music, math and psychology.

Bibliography

[1]: Benson, Dave. “Music: A Mathematical Offering” http://www.maths.abdn.ac.uk/∼bensondj/html/maths-music.html‎. 14th December 2008.

[2]: “Shepard Tone” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard_tone. Wikipedia Commons. 20th April 2014.

[3]: “Tritone Paradox” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritone_paradox. Wikipedia Commons. 28th April 2014.

[4]: “Shepherd’s Tones” http://hebb.mit.edu/courses/9.29/2003/athena/auditory/shepard.html. 2003.

[5]: “Flanging” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanging#Artificial_flanging. Wikipedia Commons. 17th April 2014.

[6]: Deutsch, Diana. “Pitch Circularity” http://dianadeutsch.ucsd.edu/psychology/pages.php?i=213. 2013.

[7] Figure: Pitch Class Circle. http://www.bioscience.org/2007/v12/af/2402/fig7.jpg

[8] Figure: Partial Sine Wave. http://music.columbia.edu/cmc/musicandcomputers/images/chapter4/shep.tone.gif