1.25.2014

Cycles

I do apologize for the delay.

It occurred to me during my hiatus of writing that this blog has served its purpose. I wasn't even really sure it had a purpose, but whatever it was... well, I think it is done. But more on that later.

It also occurred to me how everything is so cyclical. I think that we humans are creatures made up of circles, spinning around, and every revolution is a slightly different iteration of last time. I know I'm talking rather metaphorically. All I mean to say is that everything in life circles back on itself. Maybe this is so we are reminded of times past, or maybe so that we have some sort of structure that we count on. Our brains are wired by our hypothalamus to expect cycles. I know some people anticipate the change in season like a religion. They post on facebook or twitter or instagram, first snow, first spring thunderstorm, first pumpkin spice latte...

Ah.. Seasons. Seasons have such a unique feeling to them. For me, there is always a soundtrack and a smell to each season. In the summer, the smell of mugginess, hot asphalt, and grass accompany the soundtrack of pop punk and the occasional top 40 hit. Fall brings a brisk smell, almost like laundry done with scentless detergent. Jack's Mannequin provides the soundtrack. Winter smells like dry and dust to me, accompanied by alternative rock. In the spring, I can't smell anything on account of my allergies, but I listen to more popular music during this time.

I've been told a few times that my sense of smell is rather acute. It's hard to say though, because the sense of smell is not given much importance in comparison to the other senses. From an evolutionary standpoint, the sense of smell is almost trivial. That is to say, a creature with an impaired sense of vision or feeling is far more stunted in terms of survival than one that cannot smell, at least for humans.

I guess all this thinking about cycles has also got me thinking about doldrums and exciting periods of time in our lives. Sometimes it gets me down to be in the doldrums, you know? But it is only just a cycle. I think it is pretty natural. Summer will come again. Fall too, and then winter. I think that the realization that we are bound to oscillating moods is rather uplifting: this too will pass. Joy and peace will come again. Maybe not now or tomorrow, but sometime they will. It also makes things seem more important, because you might be here again. So take some notes. Get comfortable. Next time around you'll be better.

Maybe, possibly, you have been through all those things you have been through just to get to here.

I suppose this might be terribly obvious to any reader who has already considered the obvious fact that our feelings are not static, but it is just what I have been thinking recently.

But, as I said, this blog has served it's purpose. I think I started it to externalize what I believe, but I don't think I like that anymore. I'll keep writing, but it will be a new blog, and the purpose of that blog will be far more mundane: I'll write about what happens. I think I will enjoy chronicling the mundane and commonplace.

Maybe a season will come and I will return here.

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

8.17.2013

Home

I feel like part of the reason you need to travel every now and then is so that coming home means something.

8.11.2013

Testimony

I've kind of always had it in my head that my testimony was a bit on the weak side. Didn't the influential modern saints have some tragedy that they lived through, or didn't they get caught in some sin that they triumphed over? God does it like this so that when other people say "well, why do you follow Christ?", they have a heartfelt story to tell. Aren't God's stories the most beautiful anyway?

Well, when I became a Christian, I was a quiet preacher's kid. I didn't do drugs, I didn't have sex, both of my biological parents are still happily married to each other. I was at a youth retreat in Birmingham and when I came home, I was baptized because I fell in love. 

Sometimes it sneaks up on me, then, that my faith might still be fresh out of spiritual kindergarten, right there with the new converts, the gentiles, and Simon the sorcerer. We might be a bit obtuse, you know? We might try to buy the Holy Spirit and sometimes we have to repeat ourselves three times until people believe us. And if someone asked me personally about Jesus the only thing I could talk about was love and not really any big way that I had screwed up or got screwed up. 

It follows, logically then, that my weaknesses are the quieter ones, those of bitterness and apathy. I see them throw the huge parties for the prodigal and I just kind of scowl. Maybe I don't want to come inside and join the party. I don't eat very much meat anyway.  

I think that the willingness within me is clouded by the fact that I fear that I am ineffectual without the testimony of critical brokenness. Or, at least broken as far as the world is concerned. And, here, I nearly tread Pharisaical grounds! But I am not saying I am not broken; I am just broken in a way that the fundamentalist church would probably deem "safe". No, I am quite broken. The millenials, however, wouldn't touch me with a ten foot pole. They would say I am nonintellectual, lacking both true faith due to mine's untested nature and, of course, empirical evidence for a greater power.  And thus, neatly, tidily, my "safe" upbringing renders me ineffectual to everyone except perhaps the only demographic I am disillusioned with. 

But I'm getting away from that poisonous thinking, thankfully.

Sometimes I think it takes a bigger person than I really am to gulp my pride down and realize how much of a blessing it is to have dwelled in God's house for my whole life.

I think, recently, that this is what God has tried to show me, that steadiness has its place, that more people respect it than I realize, and that my testimony is more powerful than I had thought. It takes a lot of faith to really believe that, but I've got to believe it. There needs to be some way that I embrace that, and also let my bitterness dissipate and let myself exist sweetly in the soul. I suppose this can be an example of faith in some complicated way.

What was it that the father said to the elder son, anyway? Oh yes... 

'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.'

7.24.2013

Of Self

Every now and then I get stuck when it comes to loving myself. I know I've written about it before, but the whole thing seems to come and go in phases, and I'm back to where I once was.

I'm not entirely sure what it is. I think that I'm almost being too self-indulging when I see myself the way God does- you know, holy and blameless and beautiful. Of course, in reality, I am doing the mysterious grace of God a childish disservice. Besides that, I know how I have failed in the past and it is hard to reconcile these failures alongside the divine beauty that exists within me and is me. Even typing that is difficult at this moment in time.

Yesterday, I had this thought that I sometimes don't want the responsibility of loving myself. I know how furiously I can love people and ideas and things, and that's a big expectation on myself! That's hard to work out as well.

Anyways, as I was trying to figure out how to have that healthy sense of confidence and love-of-self that seems to come and go like the wind for me (this is surely one of my flaws), God said I needed to work on receiving love. I knew in my heart that this was true, but it takes effort to accept the beams of love and let them flow around your being sometimes. But I'm making a little progress here and there.

I also thought about something Julia the brave said to me once: "You need to give yourself the grace I've seen you give others."

6.10.2013

Keep Rising

So they plugged my wires in
And told me I was born to fight

6.06.2013

Augustine and Music

So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do – sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice. If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living. Sing then, but keep going.

My dear sister was married recently. I was told to bring along my guitar, and I played it briefly at the wedding. Due to complicated circumstances regarding regional airplanes and cabin space, I had to part with my instrument for a while when I came home and she was in transit (yeah.. she refers to the guitar right there).

I was honestly surprised at how much I missed it.

It was like when the witches in His Dark Materials part with their dæmons for a bit.

Okay, maybe not that bad, but it was really, really bad.

It made me think of when Autumn handed me her guitar and it was like she was passing off her spirit for a moment. She watched me handle it carefully: my hands feeling the play of the strings, the depth and slide of the action, comparing the warmth of the tone against my Ibanez. Then I handed it back to her; returning the soul to its rightful owner.

I think music, for me, had sort of become a a siphon through which emotion could be extracted from the soul. For pain, it could draw out venom like a brilliant, rhythmic antidote. For praise, it calls forth steadiness, peace, and joy, from places that might of been forgotten had God not taught us songs to sing, to join along with.

I recently began taking music lessons for the first time in my life. My teacher quickly escalated from being a person I respect to someone I dearly love, because she is interested in how music relates to the world and how that plays out in my life. I think I needed that more than I even needed technical advice, because I care about communicating more than sounding good. Of course, I'm hoping I'll end up at least decent at both.

Anyway, yesterday I sat in my room and thought about why worship is such a critical part of faith. I think the most incredible thing about music is how when you sing things and mean them, or at least mean them with as much of your being as you possibly can, you begin to sing them into truth. That is the beauty of praise.

The same is true of lament: of despairing songs, we become despaired. But there is healing in dwelling in the truth and gravity of pain for a moment. It is like a catharsis that only comes after facing heartache.

But for God, we sing because it draws out what we believe and makes it true for us: that God is great, that he sustains us, and that we adore him. For if we would not proclaim it, the rocks would testify that he is great, that he sustains us, that we adore him, and we would listen to truth sung to us.

5.08.2013

Train

I'm stealing a line from Forest: Marta is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.

Actually, that's not entirely true, because its very likely you will be delayed some variable amount of time, and you may as well count on that. But besides that, well, Marta is a quite a temperamental beast. 

Many people put in headphones and shut out the world, and who can blame them? The train is a little bleak. But I like to look around, observing the faces. I have classified the people I see into two groups: those that ride the same train every day, as I do, and the one-offs, perhaps making a trip to the airport or wherever. For the regulars, I attribute clever names and memorize where they sit (or at least the area in which they prefer to occupy). I can't really help it; I just catch on to all these things.

On the way up to the Ellis Street exit there is some signage for a hair salon. The woman featured is wearing a rather revealing outfit. I do not like this woman. Although not an actual human, I have named her Janet, and I say good morning to her. 

But on the train are strange little happenings, vignettes, if you will. Tiny conflicts upon which tiny climaxes reside, forcing themselves into tiny resolution by the next train stop. You have to look for them sometimes, but they are there. 

Today, I got to talking to someone who had gone to my high school, and hated it. He said it was full of preppy hypocrites. He was mostly right. I went to an expensive private christian school that was such a mishmash of the modern flavors of Christianity that I'm sure half the faculty looked like they had no backbone. I also owe it to the school, however, because this was where I did much weeding out of theology that did not stand up to my scrutiny. For the most part, I rejected the flavor of "popular Christianity" that thrived there. It was this contrast to what I believed that made me more stubborn in my faith, so I suppose I owe something to that. I definitely didn't hate the place as much as this kid did. 

I felt a little bad, as though I needed to apologize for the hypocritical teachers and flippant theology. I don't blame him at all. I suppose once some of those kids get off on their own they will undergo a sort of spiritual hemorrhaging and the roots will get stripped out. It was an odd feeling, at any rate. 

Last week I saw an extremely old man trying to get off the train and struggling to stand up. I put forth my hand just as he finally uprighted himself. It took a good ten seconds to finally communicate that I was just offering some help in getting up. After finally understanding my intentions, he said "you're a good man," and labored off the train. That caught me off guard a bit. There was something in the way he said it that was strange. I thought perhaps "thanks" or "I'm good now!" but he selected these words and uttered them with an almost resigned finality.

I also am beginning to suspect one regular might be an angel or a delusion or something. I saw her again out of the corner of my eye today as I said "good morning, Janet." I think she is either imaginary or a celestial being because she never interacts with anyone, ever. She does not talk to or look at anyone! And I mean, for a month straight. She catches the same southbound and northbound as me. It is quite strange. 

And then on Fridays there's this evangelist who preaches. Its never the Jonathan Edwards you're gonna burn stuff, but he gets close sometimes. This guy wears me out more than anything. All the people on the train collectively avert their gaze to the windows and turn up the music in their ears. Those unfortunate enough to not own headphones just bow their heads. I wanted to ask the guy if he really thought Jesus wanted him to say the stuff he was saying and that the people on this train are so worn already and that I think his best testimony would be how he loves people and God. Everything he says makes me so sad.

Maybe next Friday. There are many tiny stories to live on the train before then. So I turn up my music, too.