Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moving day...

100 posts. I started this blog at the beginning of 2006 and have posted inconsistently ever since. I'll be honest and say that while I'm proud of many of the posts written here, I was always disappointed by the lack of discipline in which I posted. I started strong, lost steam and have been wrestling with how to get it back ever since.

I think I found the answer: My blogs tend to be long, and the longer I go without writing one, the greater I feel the need to write something meaningful. The truth is, there are a lot of things I want to write about that are meaningful to me for different reasons; some require much explanation and some don't, but I believe it all to be connected. And to encourage the pursuit of this connection, I've decided to start a new blog.

I will gradually expound on the why in the new blog, and there's even a post or two already there to get you started. From now on, my blogging will live at and I hope you'll follow me there.

If you're reading this, you've stuck with this blog and I thank you. You've allowed me to share my thoughts freely: some things that were true to me at the time and many things that hold true now. I hope you find your way over to the new one, and that you find a lot more to read over there.

Cheers and a very happy New Year...

Monday, September 28, 2009

writing in the sky...

For the last week, I have been reading Pirsig’s thoughts rather intently. I’ve a ways to go and intend to discuss it at length in due time, but here, from this altitude, I can’t help but feel it is time for my own. He was right–windows have a way of framing the world, like looking into some moving photograph. I am a spectator, not a participant at this altitude, from this seat.

When the plane is surrounded entirely by cloud, you always feel like it’s turning, spiraling, or diving for the ground. Without the earth below, there is no sense of orientation; I get why pilots lose their bearing and disappear all together. The plane finally clears the cloud, like a break high in an alpine canyon wall, to reveal the valley below: fields and river beds, crevasses made of cloud like cotton stuffing stretched thin. Large nimbus puffs look like the great rust hued rock monuments of the American west. We still cannot see the ground below but this is a world unto itself.

I wonder what the clouds are telling us and wish I paid better attention in Earth science. I imagine the ground below and what the weather is like there. Above this cottony bed is a high mass of definition-less white and gray–no real shape to speak of but certainly the same type of cloud that bounced us around earlier. Above that, higher still are the thin wisps of cirrus, I believe. My memory tells me those clouds are ice, drifting through atmosphere reserved for spy planes, astronauts or something divine.

I’m presently disappointed by my inability to predict the ground weather, to read the clouds I have such a fortunate view of. I’ve lived my whole life watching them, often cursing their offerings, assigning personality and shape to them. Why this sudden interest in their meaning?

Perhaps I am tired of rain. All these clouds certainly mean moisture and Nashville has looked more like Seattle this month; I am quite tired of it. But maybe it is something else entirely. Fall is close and I can feel it coming. Every year I wait for it. I long for it. I have even prayed for it. Something happens as the trees prepare and begin their seasonal death like magic; I come alive. Summer heat sits heavy on me, less so this year on account of an insanely joyful summer, but by September, my heart and spirit grow heavy and ache for fall breezes, long nights on the porch and mountain air. It comes every year and I need it.

If I knew more about the clouds, perhaps I could see the weather ahead, read Fall’s fortune for a glimpse of hope that it is waiting for me on the ground below. I love Tennessee in the Fall.

But deeper still, my heart is wondering what’s ahead, looking for signs of the next season. Perhaps God sits over the weather, raising and stirring the clouds to write directions in the sky. Through this window, it’s hard to tell what is a picture and what is experience but I can’t help but look anyway.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Out of the Silent Planet

Prior to the honeymoon, Sarah and I made a trip to Borders where I picked up this book. It is the first installment of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy and the first book I've read to completion in several months. It was a good feeling.

This book grabbed me from the moment I saw it on the shelf. Out of the Silent Planet. What a great name for a book! The third book also bodes well–That Hideous Strength. I really think a writer could spend their whole life trying to come up with titles that strong and compelling and I think they're right up there with books like Bonfire of the Vanities and The Sound and the Fury. But I digress.

The book tells the story of Ransom, a philologist who is walking cross country on his summer vacation. The story opens on a damp road, gray like ash and shining from a setting sun and fresh rain. Ransom, to keep a promise, works his way into the garden of a shabby home, only to find two professors, Weston and Devine, with whom he is professionally acquainted. The two men are clearly up to something, but before Ransom figures it out, he is drugged and rendered unconscious. Upon waking, it rapidly becomes clear he has been kidnapped by Weston and Devine and is traveling on a space ship, landing, after several weeks, on a planet called Malacandra. The gravity is less there, and plants, mountains and creatures grow like spires in a way the heavier pull of Earth cannot allow.

As you might guess then, Earth is "The Silent Planet". Ransom is perplexed by this name, as was I, but a few different characters put the pieces together. Without giving too much away, there is a spiritual side to the story, a larger idea that connects the various planets together. Earth, or Thulcandra as these characters call it, became a place where evil, or bent people thrived. As this progressed, Earth lost contact with the greater entity of the planets, becoming intellectually closed off and self-interested. Earth grew silent.

While I do not wish to spoil anything else in the story, I must express my attachment, in the wake of this novel, to Malacandra. Lewis paints such a vivid picture of an unfamiliar landscape and ecology, and probes the roots of the human soul and the divine consequences of evil. This is so much more than science fiction and I'm glad to have read it.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

good morning from great falls...

Hello there, it's been a while. This is that post that bloggers write after months of inactivity, in which I pledge my desire to update more regularly. Simply put, 2009 has been the craziest, most wonderful year of my life. Where blogging has typically been the result of a lot of free time—they're usually long, I'll be honest–free time has been scarce, and what time I've had hasn't been spent this way, but that's been fine with me. So, here's a post, but no promises.

It's August 15th and I just took a walk in 47 degree air. I cannot begin to express how good it felt. I don't like to sweat unless I'm doing something that warrants it, and while I love Tennessee, the summers really wear me out. As a wedding gift, Sarah gave me a replacement for this old blue Patagonia fleece of mine, which has been my version of Linus's blanket. I've worn it constantly for years, all over the world. It's been repaired by the factory twice, and it's wearing thin. Most of you who have known me know this fleece, and Sarah, in a very touching gesture, gave me a new black one for me to wear out during the course of our life together. Where the Tennessee summer hasn't allowed me to really wear it, this northern Montana air is perfect, so here I sit on my motel bed, window open, black fleece on, taking in the first bit of prolonged solitude I've had in several months; taking in, but not necessarily relishing.

I am fiercely introverted, easily exhausted by the constant presence of a lot of people and consider the time I have to myself precious. I shut down sometimes talking to people after a busy or long day, get quiet, glaze over; if you've known me long enough to know the "blue fleece", you've probably noticed this too. The wedding season, as you might imagine, has been exhausting; wonderful, but exhausting. Where Sarah and I had little time to really allow for much solitude, we replaced it with each other–hanging out, working out wedding plans, running errands, whatever it was. Before the wedding, our lives really started to become our life. Our wedding was amazing and worth all the work, but with every passing day, we longed more and more, not for our individual solitude, but for the collective peace and privacy of a life together. Now we have it, and two months into the marriage, it's hard to remember what life was like before it.

So here I am, traveling for the weekend in Montana, with the cool, western air blowing through my window, and I feel restless. Pre-marriage Whit would have begged for this, but now I honestly don't know what to do with all this time. I miss my wife...

While everyone of us needs to be alone with our thoughts from time to time, and while I know my inner introvert could use this time emotionally and spiritually, I am having to learn how to do this all over again. Where this quest for solitude was once the point, not only of this blog, but of much of my spare time, it has very quickly become a supplement to a greater point. I couldn't begin to explain marriage and do it any sort of justice, but what I do know is that two months of marriage has rendered 26 years of being single obsolete; I love being married. So here's to rediscovering solitude, but even more, here's to discovering the more perfect picture that now is my life. Cheers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


We’re right in the middle January, the coldest night of the year so far, and the metro schools are closed tomorrow. I’m sure it’s because the school buses don’t have adequate heat for the kids, but it still seems irrational to me. Maybe I’m just jealous because jobs don’t have snow days written into the budget. Truth be told I love these bitter (in the Tennessee sense), cold nights; the entire winter could be just like this. I like to look at the moon on a night like tonight - it always seems brighter somehow, it’s light hard and crisp, like the earth gives up a measure of its darkness. A moon on a night like tonight leads a man to wonder. Tonight, sadly, I can’t see it anywhere.

It’s hard to believe two full weeks of 2009 have already passed. 2008 ended and the new year began without the first inclination that any change had happened. Sarah's and my wedding is only five months and five days away and we’ve been engaged four months now, yet in my mind, it still feels like something happening next year. I never really believed people who told me that life only gets faster and faster as you get old, but I think it’s finally sinking in. I can’t wait till June, it can’t get here fast enough, which is probably why it still feels so far away, but every time stop to think about how long it actually is, it’s much closer than I think. This is the year I get married and as I consider 2009, it’s the only thing I can think about.

Now this is the time in the blog where you start talking about resolutions. I don’t have many this year to specifically speak of. Most of them are things I don’t consider resolution worthy, just life worthy. I’ve resolved in the past to run and get in shape, but I’ve never done it and I’ve always felt guilty about it. This year something funny happened, however, and I all of a sudden started working out and now three months later here I am going to the Y every day. This was no resolution, just a decision I made one day and it stuck. I wanted to get in shape this past year (I’m still not but I’m working on it) and I really think it’s sticking because I finally entered a place in my life where I really wanted it. I want to take ownership over my finances. I want to memorize an entire book of the Bible. I want to be a better steward of my gifts. I want to practice and play guitar more, not just trying to maintain a level of consistency in my playing, which I’m not, but actually work to a point where I’m growing in my musicianship again. I want to write more consistently, shorter thoughts if I have to, just something to help me find time for contemplation in the midst of such a busy season. But I can’t just resolve to these things, I have to want them. I have to do them.

All that being said, I’m excited for what this year holds. Marriage is the most exciting thing I have ever had to look forward to, and I can’t wait to share more about it in the coming months. I really do want to do this more, the whole blog thing, but I’ve been saying that a lot of the last year. I’ve got some ideas for some posts coming up so please do check back and we’ll see what happens. For now, it’s late - sort of - and I’m tired and I think I’d like to turn the lights out for a few minutes before I fall asleep and see if I can catch a glimpse of moon. Happy new year.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Work is a persistent fellow with no real regard for the needs of a tired soul. For the last thirteen months, I have worked at a computer and taken no days off that were not days spent working or traveling in some capacity. That is until today. As Nashville awoke to find its first frost this morning, I find myself in Portland Brew, a Monday ritual I practiced every week prior to taking my position at Griffin. I have missed this time. Most of my reading and blogging occurred during my Monday coffee (you can read back on the earlier years of this blog and note all the entries posted on Mondays), and it only seems fitting to write a bit this morning.

One of the reasons my soul is tired is the absence of the natural side of creation in my day to day life. The office has my back to our only window and in this post-daylight savings, it is dark more than an hour before I ever leave the office. I experience God in the falling and crunching of leaves, the running of rivers, and the setting of suns, the stench of dirt, and the chill of cold. Autumn is often a spiritual experience for me as God is reminding me that while summer’s fruits die off for a season, the soul awakes, hungers, and grows ever still. I miss this more than I miss my Monday coffee.

About an hour northeast of my parent’s home is a river called the Hiwassee. Winding down out of the Smokey Mountains towards the Tennessee, the Hiwassee has more in common with its western counterparts than most rivers in this state. It is wide and shallow with water so clear you could photograph the river bottom. Amidst the contoured rock, chutes, and tall grass Sandhill Cranes spread their wings and Rainbow Trout hide unless lured out by the chance of a meal. For years, my dad and I have waded these waters in pursuit of the trout, sometimes fruitlessly, but mostly successfully. The river lacks the management a great trout stream requires as the Tennessee Valley Authority has a vested interest in power production, not fishing, but for this part of the country, it is as good as any river gets.

Yesterday I donned my waders and boots and assembled my rod like an infantryman might his rifle. An artificial fly is a work of art, as is the knot that connects it to my line. Fly-fishing as a whole is an art form worthy and demanding of discipline in technique, patience, and love of the water. There is nothing quite like fishing from the middle of a river rather than the bank, pulling your fish in to you, only to release it in the water running between and around your legs. Today the water is shallow, no more than knee deep, and this means the fish are timid. For much of the afternoon, I work my line across the deeper runs in the river to no avail. The light gets ever lower and the hardwood-covered hills burn with the colors of autumn. The sun glares on the water, running wide and winding out of view. I don’t care about catching fish as today is all about remembering the creation I so seldom see. This time is worshipful; I am grateful for it.

Eventually the river yields two small Rainbows from the same hole, and the magic fly I tied on snags and breaks off on the river bottom. I catch no more fish and the sun sets, forcing us off the river in the last traces of light. As my dad and I twist out of the hills towards home, I feel rest in a way I’ve not felt in months. I pray this peace continue through the rest of this week’s vacation, and I thank God for the reminder that no dam can reduce a river’s majesty, and no office can confine nature’s glory. Cheers!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Who Would Jesus Vote For?

In the last couple of weeks I have heard a lot of contradicting statements with no less authority on either side. The media does this every day, it’s how they make money, and at this point the media is about as realistic a representation of the ins and outs of life and politics as a pornographic movie is a guide to healthy sexuality between spouses. This is not about the media. This is about Christians. Some Christians, friends and prominent leaders will say that no Christian in good conscience could vote for John McCain, the war mongering, opponent-bashing heir to President Bush. Others will say that no Christian in their right mind could vote for Barak Obama and his deep liberal voting record and support of infanticide. I sit and wonder who Jesus would vote for, and why, and it seems as good a time as any to dwell on this for a while.

The politics of this country are divisive by design. Pundits will tell you that there is no riding the fence, if you are a moderate you are not a Republican/Democrat, as if all the values of a couple hundred million Americans can be split into two categories. Senators Obama and McCain tout unity as major points of their campaigns, but there is no option to vote for the middle of the road as when you cast your vote, you are aligning yourself with everything the candidate stands for. You cannot vote for Obama’s tax cuts without voting for the protection of partial birth abortions, and McCain’s energy policy goes hand in hand with his foreign policy. The concept of a melting pot turns into a dish of oil and water when we give our voice, and our country is the weaker for it.

Christianity, on the other hand, is all about unity. This is in theory, of course, as the politics of the Church, religion, have fractured and splintered the original fellowship so many times over you could earn an advanced degree in the study of it. Christians seem to be proud of their differences too, as can be clearly seen from the street looking in on the building or the sign out front. We are quick to tell other denominations they are doing it wrong, reading the scriptures wrong, presenting themselves to the rest of the world in a way that makes the rest of us look bad. Some Christians will even go as far to say other Christians aren’t actually Christians. This is a daring and dangerously arrogant thing to do. This was never the intention. Before being taken into custody, Jesus prayed over his disciples, “That they may be one as We are one” (John 17:11). Jesus’ desire for us is that we would be united as Christ is to the Father, one in the same. The Church is the earthly presence of God’s dwelling among man, but it often shows little of the character of God, and this leads to discord and disbelief. Freidrich Nietzsche once said, “I will believe in your redeemer when you look more redeemed,” and I don’t need tell you what he believed.

So if Christians are supposed to be unified in thought and action, why are we talking about politics? Why do we engage in the debates and self-righteous arguments over our decision? How can we be content to dehumanize a candidate in the name of our faith, yet turn a blind eye to the equal sins of the one we support? What do our beliefs contribute to the voting process? These are valid questions for Christians to be asking, and important ones to be considering during these times. But there is another question to consider, a question you might hear a lot of different answers to depending on who you ask. Who would Jesus vote for?

The Bible doesn’t say much about politics, and says nothing about anything that looks like voting for public office. Christians are left with no choice but to use their faith to form political opinions, but these are not intended to go together. Jesus lived during the occupation of a hostile government, an era ripe with political controversy yet he did not speak out against the Romans. Jesus chose to speak about spiritual bondage, and pointed people towards freedom through teaching, community, and miracles, but left the bondage imposed by the Romans alone. Pretty interesting, considering Isaiah’s claim, “The Government will be upon his shoulders.”

On one occasion, Jesus is approached by the Jewish elite regarding taxes. You know this story - the Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus asks for a coin, then asks the crowd who’s face is on it. “Caesar’s”, they said, to which Jesus replies, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the thing’s that are God’s.” And that’s really about it. Jesus allows the Roman military to crucify him, and then he overcomes death and challenges his followers to sacrifice all, not for God and country as they saying goes, but for God.

Many times I have heard or read that if Jesus was alive today, he would certainly be an activist. I don’t think this is true, at least not in the traditional sense. Jesus would certainly still associate with beggars and homeless, prostitutes, addicts, cheats, friends and family, but he would not be carrying picket signs or speaking out against the war. Jesus’ mission was much more focused on the people around him, the people who would be at these rallies, or even the politicians themselves, but with no aspirations of political influence. He never petitioned the government to give food to the poor, or create programs for the homeless and addicts, and he never instructed anybody on how to vote, just how to live.

I am not entirely certain why we take politics and voting so personally. Perhaps the political process is the highest stake game of I told you so we have available to us, an instance where we place our pride on the line because when it comes down to the “proper” direction of this country, we want to be right. Both political parties have had their fair share of time in power and this country is still moving forward, yet we continue to fight very personal and nasty battles on our way to the polls. That’s pride, not objectivity driving the voices of the most powerful nation in the world. I don’t know about you, but that’s a scary thing to think about.

Christians certainly take politics personally too. It’s very easy to see how our pride affects the church - just ask someone who quit going to church - and it only makes sense that when it comes to a Christian perspective on politics, we want to be just as right about Roe v. Wade as we do predestination. Republican Christians want Jesus for president and Democratic Christians want the government to be the Church. If Jesus were alive today, however, he would retreat from political power and tell the Church to be Church in spite of the government. In other words, Jesus taught a faith and way of life that had nothing to do with the government in power. The Church is designed to flourish in a democracy or a dictatorship. This is an important thing to remember, and I cannot stress this enough. As far as we Christians are concerned, it does not matter who wins this election.

To revisit the question, “Who would Jesus vote for?” Honestly, I don’t think Jesus would vote. If all authority on heaven and earth is his, why in the world would he cast a vote for the authority of a man? Sure, each candidate represents certain things that call upon the teachings of Jesus, but only certain things, plus some other very un-Christlike issues as well. There are far more important and personal concerns for our Savior, things we should be more concerned about than the current political process, because whether we live in the US, China, or Iran, these things would remain and bind us as believers.

Now I’m not saying you should not vote. Paul talked about his Roman citizenship on several occasions, and it afforded Paul certain advantages in his ministry. It did not define him, however, and neither can our American citizenship. I say cast the vote for the candidate who you feel will do the most to preserve and advance the constitutional identity and purpose of this country. That’s probably the closest way to vote in a “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” mentality that I can think of. We live in a country that affords us the freedom to practice our faith without persecution, but even if it didn’t, a government does not have the power to take our faith and values away from us, so please do not vote fearfully as if it does. Live your faith and values, don’t pridefully vote them, because even if the candidate you want to win wins, he will certainly let you down in the end. It’s just like Tammy Wynette once said, “After all, he’s just a man.”