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. 

3.24.2013

Golf

I think I finally figured it out after my boss' boss was in front of me examining a golf club, turning it this way and that, the office lights shimmering along the polished rod. Then he looked up and I gave a brief smile before looking back at my monitor.

Corporate America is such a joke. It really is. Corporate America for the Single Christian. No one's written it yet, but I would buy it if there was such a book.

Nothing about my job bothered me inherently. I actually liked my responsibilities and duties for the most part. They were reasonable and interesting and I was paid well. But something was vaguely haunting knowing that this occupation was what I had worked so hard for. This was it. Because I felt like a foreigner in the bloodstream of young professionals and the white blood cells had caught on to me. Maybe it's how they like to talk about fast cars and steaks and pro football or how money is everything and advancement or whatever. I couldn't tell you.

But when Brad ran his hand up and down that iron picturing the Georgia greens, I decided this wasn't it. It's like when Merry looks over and says "I think we might have made a mistake leaving the Shire, Pippin."

I need to write a new future. I'm not quitting my job. But I've decided that that's what it is: a job. It isn't anything near the culmination of my identity. I hate it so much that America says the opposite. That's the poison that I hate so much: Your job is the culmination of your identity and money is the icing on the cake. Don't ever buy that. Never. Bob Goff says it pretty well:

Some time ago I stopped thinking about being a lawyer as a career. Instead, I think of it as just a day job. Thinking about work as a day job has made a big difference in the way I approach what I do. It's also helped me not to confuse who I am with what I do.

3.03.2013

twice


This is a personal project of mine I've been working on. Like the rest of this blog, it isn't really meant for anyone else. But I'll put it here anyway. I sure wish I had a studio.

twice - summerour

  1. [transit]
  2. sunday morning
  3. belmont blvd
  4. lucky (something less)
  5. Walter Lee
  6. my racing thoughts (jack's)

2.19.2013

Grace Revisited

The beginning of my professional career draws ever nearer. I feel like I'm trying to influence the last few variables of what I am now calling my "identity formation." Most of the numbers have already been filled in: my education, experience, upbringing. I feel like it's a little late to decide who I want to be, which is a terrible, terrible thing for a twenty two year old to say. But I feel like I'm trying to get closure on a bunch of things before I venture into the chasm of American capitalism.

I took a very last minute trip to Nashville to see the United States women's national team play against Scotland (it's a darn shame that Rapinoe is lesbian). Nashville being the home of my alma mater, I paid a visit to my roommate and other friends there. But the hours long drive put me in a very contemplative mood. 

I specifically thought about the last sermon I had heard at my home church and how it had unnerved me quite a bit. Dusty spoke about a man who accidentally killed a young girl with his vehicle while driving home in the night. He had hardly felt a bump under his tire. When the police had determined that it was indeed this man that struck the little girl, the father of the child told the police he would press no charges. Furthermore, the father wanted a house to be built for the man in an act of unwavering forgiveness.

The part that really bothered me was when Dusty put up a video of an interview the guy and his wife. His wife was stricken and apologetic. They asked her about the grace of the father of the little girl, and she nearly wept. But when they panned over to the guy, he was smiling, boisterous even. He answered the questions with a jaunty carelessness. 

I didn't like that one bit at first. I felt like he needed some decency and gratitude, you know, some healthy penitence.

It dawned on me somewhere near Chattanooga that my compass of grace is critically and utterly broken. This man exists in the place of forgiveness, and is living it quite fully. I could do to learn a bit from him. It's like I'm a cross between the prodigal's older brother and Jonah, confused at the endless persistence of forgiveness all while grudgingly adhering to commands I know. I still don't like that younger brother sometimes, if I'm being honest. 

My obtuseness in regards to grace seems to be a product of my high internal standards and ingrained fundamentalism. I have a tough time shaking it. But I guess this guy gets it, to a large extent. I think at some point I'll figure it out... but its a very difficult thing for me. Grace is so great. 

2.09.2013

Lost

What if you aren't really lost when you have nowhere to be because where you are is just as good as anywhere else?

1.31.2013

Courage

So I'm starting to wonder when people ask "how are you?" and I respond with anything that is even slightly negative if I'm the only one that feels that way. Or, perhaps, I'm just the only one who is being honest.

My default response these days has been "I'm doing alright, how are you?" This answer of course, is just positive enough for the conversation to keep rolling along but slightly ambiguous as well, as though I am prompting the thoughtful mind to consider what lies underneath the tip of the Freudian iceberg. But who would want to explore down there.

I took a trip to the ocean with a friend of mine, and I immediately plopped down and fell asleep on the sands of Tybee. I had one of those experiences where you dream you are somewhere else and when you awake you are totally lost, just for a moment. It's like when Ellen Paige tries to remember where she is and the baskets of vegetables start exploding. Of course, in real life, you just remember that you drove to the beach or you are riding the red eye to Heathrow or you are in your bed at home and nothing explodes. In that moment when you are totally lost though, it's bliss to me, as though the continuity of my spirit gets to take a break and I have no responsibility.

Actually, it wasn't even once it happened, but three times as I dosed on the beach. I was in my dorm back before I graduated, then a jolt, where am I? Oh yes, the beach. Then I was home, and then I was in Searcy watching the preaching majors tossing their frisbees. I told my friend if he knew that feeling, when you are lost when you wake up because you dreamed you were somewhere else, and that it just happened three times in about forty minutes. He remarked "I guess that just shows the transient nature of this point in your life" and chuckled a bit.

I realized how true this was, and at what a significant crossroads I have arrived. I just graduated, and I am home for a little while until I figure out what I'm doing. Home is a little too much credit, though. My interim house is a better descriptor. Regardless, this rite of passage is proving wearying for me.

But in this transient point, I've decided the iceberg is surely worth exploring and that people don't do it enough (this is a common theme in my musings). For people like me, the underside of the the surface reveals loss and doubt as to the direction for the future. It spits in the face of the American formality of "how are you?" and autopilot answers.

I also think people need to care because it is so hard to properly see the merit of oneself. A friend of mine asked me to pray for courage. This was difficult for me to understand because this person is literally one of the bravest people I've ever met. My other friend needs clarity, and I see this person as having a distinct and steady sense of discernment. It almost seems to be a common theme that my friends pray for the things that they are the best example of. Would it not encourage them to tell them so?

I think so, anyway. So I've been trying to tell those people what I see in them but it's a tough sometimes.

A few asides: it is a difficult process to search for jobs. For me, the worst isn't even the fact that my bank account is dwindling, but rather the endless flux between lazy days and tie and shirt interview sprees. Some days I sleep until eleven. Other days I'm interviewing at nine. The tension is annoying. I've been listening to My Head is An Animal, and it has sort of become my escape in my Atlantean adventures. It is a terribly good album. I would definitely marry Nanna if she would have me and she's a great replacement for Zooey anyway.

1.06.2013

Beliefs

I was reading this article that chastised the millenial generation for being too ironic. The author noted that so much of what my generation did was indifferently self deprecating so as to avoid the conflict of true beliefs and ideals. Instead, we purposefully dress nostalgically or strangely (or hipster), we disclaim our scruples with a backbone-less agnosticism, and we politely avoid meaningful interaction by filling our conversations with pop culture references and sarcasm.

Each point was interesting, and I think the author is very much on the right track. However, I feel that the real ailment of our western culture is that it just isn't accepted to believe in anything anymore. Tolerance has become paramount, and this isn't necessarily wrong at all by itself, but somehow tolerance has become mutually exclusive with personal belief as though the two are mortal enemies. It isn't really cool anymore to really stick up for something, especially if everyone else has to hear about it. Don't offend anyone, stay nice and tolerant.

Last Friday I was invited to see a film with some friends of mine. The movie happened to be an extremely stylized action flick about a slave-turned-bounty-hunter in the late 1800's. I assumed the rather unpopular position of actually not wanting to see the film due to its explicit content, but I searched for some reason I could get out of it... Perhaps some other friends could make some more tame plans so I could dodge the movie.

I realized then that my supposed "intolerance", along with other demonstrations of personal conviction, are extrapolated into a disdainful condemning somehow... But I'm not condemning anything. You can do what you want; I don't care. But the problem remains that if people actually stand up for things they are labeled bigoted and intolerant.

I used to be wary of people who believe in things, and I still am a little bit. It's pretty uncomfortable to see other people who are passionate about things if you haven't decided what you think, or at least it was for me. It was kind of annoying to have to deal with those people, you know? To decide what you are going to do and think. I think us millenials are raised to just do what we want.

Really recently I realized again why so much of Christianity deals with love. The people who don't have love and believe in things give off that aura drenched of... dare I say it, intolerance. They are fingernails on chalkboards.

But the people who do have love and passion at the same time are immense in character and spirit. That's the difference. I guess a lot of people don't have love anymore, and that's why all us young adults would rather you just shut up and let everyone do their own thing.