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Filtering by Tag: Jennifer Vasquez

The Only Courage We Need

Jennifer Vasquez

081233892259 All other creatures in my house are asleep — man, baby, beast. The thought crosses my mind that I am the one deserving an afternoon nap. But what do I really deserve? Do I deserve a handsome and loving husband, a beautiful child, home appliances, books to read, and a pantry full of food? 

My culture tells me I deserve it. I deserve to get my nails done, to buy expensive coffee drinks, and especially, to make my own choices. The cup holder on my expensive coffee drink even proclaims, "The only courage you need is the courage to live the life you want."

How could a thinking person possibly make that statement? Do those refugees watching their children die of starvation need only courage? Does that legless man begging on the street corner need only this courage? Does the orphaned girl left to fend for herself in the street or brothel need only this courage? Do I, faced with challenges and struggles great and small, need only this courage?

I could perhaps live the "life I want" by withdrawing from all relationships and commitments, living alone. But the suffering that flows from this fallen world and my own sin will still find me. However, thankfully, it doesn’t just find me. Suffering takes me out of myself and points me to my need of grace. Without that grace, I would just be more self-centered, more self-absorbed, and more self-focused.

The only courage I need is to enter each day with my sleeves rolled up, ready to get dirty — but not with a "can do" attitude. I can't do it. Someone has to do it for me. Someone has to be my strength and courage, receiving my praise and thanksgiving for choosing the “life I want” and need.

My thoughts drift back to the stillness of the house, and I realize that this quiet moment was a given beat of rest — a chance for a breath before diving back into the open water in which I live, move, and have my being.

(Photo by Martine Franck)

And then, the morning came.

Jennifer Vasquez

Edvard-Munch-The-Sun “[We] can only come to morning through the shadows.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

Right here in Central Florida, we have our very own mecca. Millions of pilgrims flock to it every year, but this mecca does not involve a deity, or worship, or a religion. Or does it?

It’s the mecca of happiness, where your dreams come true. These millions of pilgrims might not crawl there on their knees, but they often travel thousands of miles and pay a pretty price for their happiness, especially considering the cost of carrying a screaming baby around at 10:30 at night, while pushing two toddlers in a stroller, in an attempt to squeeze every bit of happiness out of the overpriced day.

Most of us worship our own happiness, maybe every day, or at least on occasion. We devote a lot of time and money towards it, but it’s always so elusive, so “just around the corner.”

And where does such a pursuit leave us when hard times come? When we lose a job. When a loved one dies. When, as much as we repeat and hear that “everything will be okay,” things still don’t work out as we had planned. When we just have a bad day.

There is no place for the pursuit of happiness in our quest. We will be forever treading water. The goal is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. This entails gratitude and thankfulness for where we are and what we have – even, or probably especially, for the hard stuff. This is very difficult. It is discipline. It requires the greatest effort. It is impossible…on our own.

He was despised and acquainted with grief. And then, the morning came.

(Painting by Edvard Munch)

The Book Thief

Jennifer Vasquez

1_641698792545571_1610777287_n A train winds its way through a wintry forest; nine-year-old Liesel watches as her young brother dies in their mother’s arms. After the burial, the book thief’s first acquisition is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, fallen from the pocket of the gravedigger. Just as Great Expectations begins in a graveyard, the film The Book Thief begins with this unavoidable end of all earthly quests.

Liesel is soon separated from her mother, whose political views attract the unwanted attention of the Fuhrer. She is assigned a foster family, an elderly couple living on Himmelstrasse –  Heaven Street.  There she finds a gentle foster father who teaches her to read and to sing through fear, and a stern but sacrificial foster mother who teaches her to love, though haunted by insecurity. And there she also finds a true friend who teaches her to hate evil and cling to good.

Liesel is not the same girl at the end of The Book Thief. She is a young German girl seeing the War from the perspective of Max, a Jew her foster family hides in their basement. And she sees her beloved Papa conscripted into the army in retaliation for defending a Jewish neighbor. She knows suffering. She is acquainted with grief. But Liesel also sees that even in a bomb shelter, hope can flow from an accordion, and comfort sometimes comes with the telling of a story.

It does not require a spoiler alert to reveal that this film, like others set during World War II, ends where it began — with death.  Most well made war movies (think Apocalypse Now) do not view death with the modern, sentimental, but false notion that death is simply a natural (and even beautiful!) part of life – that’s difficult in the midst of so much death and dying. For many, this shadow of death leads to darkness and despair.

Our own quests cannot bypass The Valley, but our Inspired stories, Inspired music, and Inspired poetry promise green pastures and still waters. Knowing that, is there any room for despair?

Play, the basis of culture?

Jennifer Vasquez

18 Children's Games

Play comes naturally to young things – like these piglets, equally happy playing with their Christmas gifts or with the wrapping paper.  Or children, who effortlessly play all day at housekeeping, firefighting, fort-dwelling, save-the-worlding….

When did we lose this?  Why did we lose this?

Was it way back when working the soil became toil with sweat, when the burden of childbearing came down?  Maybe occupational labor was originally occupational play – 9 to 5 of fun and games.  Did we forget how to play when, like Tom Hanks in “Big,” we permitted “important responsibilities” to make us forget who we really are?  If so, is there anything left to be redeemed?

When adults use the word “play” as in, “We played at the beach all weekend,” it sounds strange to me, although it is hard to nail down why – is it that adults don’t have the capability to play or shouldn’t be playing?  Have we simply permitted a bent and distracted world to shame it out of us?

My husband informed me that the word “play” in Spanish as it refers to musical instruments is the same word as “touch,” so that, for example, you touch the trumpet or touch the oboe.  Play implicates the physical world, but it probably comes a lot easier for most adults to play in their minds with ideas, inspirations, wonder – although most of us could probably play more in this area as well.

I liked this idea of linking play to an object – that even performance art is tactile, although in a different sense than painting, or weaving, or landscaping.  A lot goes on in the mind during such play, for sure, and is connected to the body, to movement, to the incarnate.

Could it be that just as children are learning how to become adults through play, art is a blessing that survived the curse, or maybe one of the blessings that accompanied the curse, giving us the playing field for learning to be re-creators, learning how to come into our status as image-bearers?