Monday, December 24, 2007


The wind is persistent, steady like the passing of train, endlessly pouring from the horizon. It does not rest or gust, but it simply blows. Low clouds race across the sky with barely time to perceive their shape. They are in such a hurry I wonder if they know where they are going. And above it all the moon throws its pale blue to the earth below. It traces cloud, leaves no puddle without projection, and sets the rest into hard shadow. This is not moonlight that washes over everything, but some sort of heavenly street light in the midst of a cold, dark alley. Stories and tales of the darker things are born in a night like this, yet against this sinister canvas there is nothing looming, fearful, or wicked. The night is rare in its beauty, and rich in the senses. You do not breath of the air on a night like this, you drink it. It is standing in the awareness that the world is alive all around you and that something is driving it all, something big, something mysterious.

We really have very little to go on as to what kind of night it really was. We know that magi followed a star, but that is really about it. It may have been cold, the moon may or may not have been out in the night sky, it may have been cloudy, we just do not know. Yet when we think about Christmas Eve, we picture a night of endless stars, the moon beaming down through the cracks and the cold onto the birth of Christ, our Lord. We imagine because it is an event that is easily romanticized. I do not think this is a bad thing yet it is amazing how many assumptions we apply to an evening we really know very little about. In the scriptures we get only a few verses about that night, but there is one thing I am relatively certain about. In the culmination of the physical and emotion turmoil that was Mary’s teenage pregnancy, there must have been a tremendous sense of life and the world around them - something big, mysterious, and driving it all like a strong winter’s wind.

Imagine a world in which everyone lives with a sense of something bigger at hand, something more meaningful. When I picture this world, I picture a lot of happy people who seldom fret the woes of life. To engage all your senses is to experience the world with wonder, and to give yourself up to the inevitable is to live without care. I am convinced this is joy, living without regard to the petty things or even the dramatic, but rather with a healthy and gracious understanding of the bigger picture. When I imagine the Bethlehem sky and the couple in the manger, I have to believe they felt the same overwhelming peace and belonging, even in the midst of labor.

There are many focuses in the season of Advent. I have written about the prophecies and anticipation of Israel, and about peace, to no adequate effect, in some prior work. It is also common to hear sermons about hope, joy, the magi, and the shepherds, not to mention Mary and Joseph. I wanted to take the time to consider the weight and worth of this season, I wanted to change the way I looked at Christmas. But I quickly realized how incapable I am of truly capturing and considering everything there is to consider. The Old Testament alone tells of the hundreds upon hundreds of years of anticipation, then factor in all the players in the story and what makes them essential, and it is downright overwhelming. I do not want to over think Christmas.

Now I sit here in the dark in front of the Christmas tree at my parent’s house and I picture that moon, the wind, and the shadow. I listen to Andrew Peterson and picture the stable, what the sky must have looked like on that night Christ was born. I sink back into the couch and I rest in the knowledge of something big and mysterious, something driving it all. The ancient prophecy, the star-gazing magi, the dumbfounded shepherds, noble Joseph, and blessed Mary, it all fits together so well. The circumstances surrounding the birth of Christ were perfect in every way.

I originally planned to write something for every week of the Advent season, which I obviously did not do. This week was intended to be joy, but I am realizing that if joy is living gratefully in unconditional acceptance, then perhaps all these other aspects of the season fall right in. By living in joy, we experience peace and hope, and in these things we get a pretty good picture of Christ. But joy would not exist without love, and perhaps the most important thing I have been thinking about these last couple weeks is that the coming of the Christ was a tremendous act of love. Christ became man and squeezed into this world because He loved us enough to want us to be with Him.

As Christmas day is now upon us, it is my hope that we can all rest in the knowledge of God made man through the little baby boy born in a manger. Why God did such a thing is much bigger than us, yet it is a joy to be a part of it. I hope and I pray that this Christmas is filled with the knowledge of something big and mysterious made complete in that little boy. Behold the Lamb of God, never changing, never running astray, and upon him all the Glory of the world. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What's So Peaceful About Peace?

I hear so much talk of peace this time of year, and I cannot help but wonder where people are hanging out. Where are the sheep? Where are the stars? Where is the sweet and cooing baby Jesus to command a little silence? As far as my Christmas experience is going there might as well have been a marching band practicing on the other half of the manger, and the oboes are out of tune. The two burning candles on the Advent wreath have fallen out of their stands and are setting the carpet on fire. I can safely say that I am not experiencing much peace at the moment and either a peaceful Christmas is an illusion or its on a fast track to pass me by.

Now I must admit that I am being dramatic, but I must consider the circumstances. First there are the petty things, like how every morning I stick out my elbows and push my way onto Interstate 65 amidst dozens of people acting like they are driving their imaginary pregnant passenger to the hospital in a bumper car. This is probably the case all year long, but I have started a new job in the holiday build-up, and it is a rude awakening after the stillness of a breaking morning. I then sit at my desk and respond to a hundred or so emails and calls from edgy customers wondering where their Christmas gifts are. I once wrote a scathing letter to a manufacturer of a guitar I own because of a defect in the instrument, hoping that my words would sizzle on the page and in turn score me some kind of hand out. I was young and foolish, but it would appear what goes around comes around. We are in the throws of materialism and nothing shows the selfishness of man like people spending money. I am stressed out by the way people are spending money.

There is simply too much to do to make Christmas logistically happen. This is the busiest time of my year on every possible level. I work every day, have an engagement every night, and while this is a time for fellowship and celebration, I find myself looking for reasons to bug out. This is a time to give God glory for the intersection of mankind and the divine, yet we have so many obstacles in the way of getting there.

And then there are all the difficult things, the things that are outside of our control. This week was a week of unwelcome news, and a week of difficult lessons. I caught a glimpse of the depth of my selfishness and it hurt. At the same time our nation is fighting a war on two fronts, a war against an enemy that will never cease to exist. Democracy is failing in allied nations, civil war occurs the entire world over. Then there is the genocide in Sudan, children forced to be soldiers in Uganda, and the fact that 6,500 Africans die every day from a preventable disease. The truth of the matter is that this a world in which we have no peace, and a world that never will.

Israel, as I wrote previously, was a nation that never experienced a lasting peace. Isaiah speaks of the Messiah as the Prince of Peace, and we embrace this idea. After all, angels appeared to the shepherds below, saying, "Glory to God in the highest! Peace on Earth and good will towards men!" Our nativity scenes depict the most perfect of circumstances, carols invoke the calm, and even the high and peerless beacon of the night sky invokes a tremendous sense of purity and bliss. This picture of the birth of Christ is bursting with peaceful images and I wonder, how do I find the peace in this season?

A few nights ago I sat and watched a remarkable song cycle called “Behold the Lamb of God”. A local singer-songwriter named Andrew Peterson, along with a number of his friends, performed this telling of the birth of Christ, starting in the beginning of the Old Testament. The defining moment of the entire production is a song called “Labor of Love”, a song that is possibly the best lyrical telling of the birth of Christ I have ever heard. The song starts with the lyric, “It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.” And it continues:
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

A “labor of pain” is far from a peaceful thought, yet the child of Mary was in fact the Prince of Peace. Even God made man was born in the pains of labor, not to mention the abject squalor of a filthy manger.

In this second week of the Advent, I consider the Prince of Peace and the obstacles placed between us and a peaceful Christmas. In a world where violence, disease, and suffering is inevitable, it is the Christ child that embodies peace. Life is not peaceful, but the presence of God is peaceful, and one day this world will experience the lasting peace the Israelites longed for, and not just for those who believe, but for the entire Earth. Wars will end, the environment will be put into balance, and selfishness will cease to exist. In the birth of Jesus and the celebration of Christmas, we are intended to experience peace, if only for a moment. As I sit here and desperately try to slow down my thoughts, I do not wish for the sweetness of this season to pass me by. I long for the Prince of Peace, and it is my sincere hope that all the weight and noise imposed upon us during the Christmas season fade away, until all we are left with is the cries of a child, and a sky full of stars.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Advent: Anticipation

Oh Israel, you stubborn people! You are a nation of intermittent obedience, though you are no stranger to discipline. You are easily swayed by idols though you have dwelled under the mountain of the living God. How easy it is to forget the road you walk, even though it is led by cloud and fire. How easy it is to forget the provisions you receive, even as manna and quail appear from the sky. And in the very presence of God, how easy it is to long for Egypt and your days of slavery.

Oh Israel, if you only knew what your disobedience would bring! If you only knew how joyless your law would make you, waiting every day, year after year, for the law to save you. It is not the laws you break, for the law can be fulfilled by no man, but the spirit in which you break them. The arrogance of Israel says that a time comes in which the law no longer suffices, that a man must lead Israel, that some “god” of their neighbors will come to their aid, and I cannot help but wonder if every time Israel fell back into slavery, they mourned their words: Wouldn’t it be better to be back in Egypt? (Numbers 14:3). Israel longs for something lasting, and all the while their spirit crumbles.

Permanent is a word the children of Jacob must have often thought and seldom spoken. And who can blame them? They were nomadic herdsmen, ever moving towards a land they had been promised hundreds of years before. Once in the land, they lived in peace for a time, only to be assailed and divided, eventually destroyed. It seemed their progress culminated in the building of the Temple, a reward for the guidance of Godly leaders, and a beacon of Israel’s unity. Later kings would turn wicked and greedy, the nation would divide, and the Temple would crumble to the ground. Israel would find themselves in bondage again and they would long for redemption.

The voices in the wilderness are echoed in their leaders as Isaiah, like David before him, speaks of a coming redemption. Israel’s battle with the law has left their nation divided and weak, full of corruption and bitterness. Jacob’s children are primed for deliverance, and in the words of Isaiah they hear how the Lord will bring Israel back together. A king will rise who will throw down their enemies and gather all of the scattered back to the folds. Israel has seen kings come and go, but this is different, this seems permanent.

There are many prophecies in the Bible concerning the Messiah, and I possess not the knowledge or the words to convey their significance. Even still I am overcome with the burden that Christmas is so much more than the birth of Israel’s Messiah. Or maybe it is that Christmas is not an adequate means of expressing the coming of a savior. Christmas is a season, and though there are many great things about it, it is just a season. I find it interesting that people consider this time of year to be a time of reconciliation and restoration. Loners find their way home, families speak their peace, and the turmoil of life seems to suspend for a few moments. This event brings hope to people who do not subscribe to the spiritual, and even suspends the fields of war.

For Israel, the coming of the Christ was anything but a season, but rather a constant awareness and longing for deliverance. The writings of the Old Testament are full of this longing and the birth of the Messiah was a long time coming. When it finally did come it seems that no one was looking except for some star-gazers and some shepherds. I am saddened that Jacob’s children missed this, almost enraged at how a nation could be so lost in trying to save themselves that they would miss the birth of Christ, but I think I get it.

I once heard someone speak about the Pharisees, those pious punching bags we in kind look at down our noses. He posed the question, “Did you ever wonder why the Pharisees were the way they were?” I always just thought they were joyless for their pride, and ignorant to the way of everyday life for all their knowledge. Who does not like someone that has no redeeming qualities? After all, it makes us feel powerful and righteous, though we could not be further from truth. This man goes on to say that the Pharisees, as the leaders of the Jews, felt a responsibility to protect Israel. For hundreds of years Israel believed they suffered as the result of their sin, and in this time of Roman occupation, it made perfect sense that deliverance could only come when Israel lived righteously. The Pharisees would then feel that by living in extreme compliance with the law, the Messiah would come in triumph and forever remove the occupying forces of pagan nations. This is logical to me, and in this light the Pharisees do not appear prideful, but rather tragic.

As I consider the advent, I dwell on the season with various thoughts of Christmas, but this year I am burdened. I have been reading about the Law, and about Israel’s battle to keep it. I have read about the ways they atoned for their sin, and the way they even groveled for mercy. And when I consider the condition of the Israelites, I realize that the anticipation of a Messiah was not a season on the calendar, but a fact of life for many hundreds of years. I am burdened by the fact that I too live like an Israelite, burdened by a law I cannot keep, a law that has caused me immeasurable grief.

This year as Advent begins, I pray for the remembrance of Israel’s and my own condition, and the anticipation of the great Liberator, the King of Kings. May Christians everywhere not be lost in the chaos of this commercial time, but celebrate the coming Messiah. For all the beauty and peace found in that manger, may we anticipate our Lord like Israel did, and as we look forward to Christ’s next coming, it is my hope that we like the magi be found watching the sky and not buried in our books.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Hundreds of years ago, a group of religious idealists grew tired of their government and its gloomy oppression, and crossed the ocean to freedom. The pilgrims we place in Thanksgiving dioramas resemble quakers more than open ocean explorers yet they endured hardship for their faith that most hope they will never suffer. They weathered blistering sun and relentless seas, disease, and hunger while embarking on the reckless task of crossing an ocean with nothing more than stars, paper and strings to plot their course. When they finally reached land, they found a completely mysterious world filled with seemingly hostile people with whom they could not communicate. But rather than fearing what they did not understand, they had dinner.

The pilgrims embodied so much of what Christ called people to be. They stood up against oppression, they welcomed and endured suffering, and they sought peace and community with even the most discomforting of people. The pilgrims found their freedom, yet like most things that start well, there was corruption to be had. The pilgrims brought plagues that killed the natives, and their ancestors would steal their land, murdering along the way. The Bible would be treated as a weapon of judgment, a means of segregation, and the freedom the pilgrims fled their homes for would be bound up in false teaching. The people would forget where they came from and take their nation for granted, and as a result we today clearly live as a people with a loose and selfish grip on our freedom.

How can we properly give thanks for something that has cost us nothing? The heart of this day is good. It is a day where people gather with the ones they love, share food, drink, and stories of the paths that lead to this point. It is also a day where we think of what we are grateful for. A day for telling the people who matter to us how we feel. A day where the poor and homeless are fed. Again, the heart of Thanksgiving is good but the spirit of it is lost.

I have had the privilege of going to church in an improbably poor African community torn apart by HIV/AIDS. I have been broken by the joy of people worshiping in freedom as if they never were sick, never understood class, and never suffered under apartheid. Yet it was because they lived in all of those things and so much more that they did worship freely for the God who delivered them. Because they understood where they had been, they graciously shared their joy before God with all they met and all they did.

Today I consider how little I understand about where I have come from. I live in that selfish freedom and the expectation that what has always been there will always be there though I know that is not true. And because I live so selfishly I am often blind to the awesome deliverance I have experienced and the freedom that comes of it. Now we have to have a day set aside to show gratitude, and we sit and create lists in our minds and on paper of all the things that we a thankful for. While we certainly do have much to be thankful for, I rarely express my thanks to the spring of graciousness, but rather to the waters it yields, and that is idolatry.

So on this Thanksgiving day I recognize that the heart of this day is good, but that the spirit of this day is lost amidst the sea of everything I have to be thankful for. I hope to be the sort of person who gives thanks in the midst of suffering, like my friends at Masiphumalele, or the Pilgrims before them, but first I must learn to hold loosely to the things I historically thank God for and rather cling with white knuckles to the freedom that was given long ago. Today it is my hope we remember just where it was we came from and the ocean we crossed to get there.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


The mind can wander to all sorts of places, familiar and foreign, the tangible and the theoretical. Sometimes I wonder just how I got there and I struggle to draw a map in my brain of the unlikely route, lingering wisps of thought all that remain. And then there are those places clear as the sky on a perfect, cold day, where the vapor trails of jets gone by hang and the sunlight draws precise lines against all it touches. It is here I find myself standing in a field of wheat. The wind turns patterns in the heads of grain and through it I see myself from some lower vantage; my hair blows across my face and the image lingers. The clouds speed past and the whole scene repeats like weather radar. This is an image I have carried for many years and it haunts me to the core. At times this image is Africa, at other times it is California, and still others some great plain I have driven past. I sit on my couch and watch the television and suddenly the image takes over, yet today it is new.

I am thinking about baseball. And it is no longer wheat but corn and suddenly I am lost in a scene from a movie and I realize that I love baseball. I have not watched Field of Dreams in years and stumbled across it today only to be sucked completely in. Kevin Costner is at the bottom of my list however this movie has always tugged at some strings. It is a good movie with a continuously expanding sense of intrigue but near the end, Terrance Mann, the J.D. Salinger - inspired author played by James Earl Jones, gives this unbelievable speech about the transcendent nature of the game and the movie suddenly becomes great. By the time Ray’s father appears I am on the verge of tears, filled with nostalgia for the movie and the game it loves.

For the sake of honesty I am unfair to sports. I openly share my disdain for all forms of team competition, especially basketball, to anyone who will listen. I do not like the way people’s lives shut down around games or how we lend our pride and self-worth to some uniformed strangers we call by their first names like we have been friends from years. Yet in this moment I find myself talking to Sarah about how much I love baseball. The games, the parks, the hot dogs, the way no one player can carry a team as a weak player cannot be compensated for in the field or at the plate.

Sarah listens to me talk and sees right through my disguise. “I do not think it is baseball you are having such strong feelings about but the memories that surround it.” Interesting, I think to myself. Images start creeping into my mind, particularly having a catch with my dad in the front yard. He was my coach for many years and a capable one at that and while at home I would stand at one end of the yard, dad at the other. We used the natural slope of our hill as a pitcher’s mound and my dad would catch, giving signs. One for the heater, two for the slider, three for the curve, none of which I could really throw. I never was much of a pitcher, a third-baseman instead, but always wanted to be. Fireflies would fill the air and we would toss the ball until dark.

She is right. Rarely I tote my favorite ball team, the Red Sox, donning a hat on some worthy occasion. I once sat in a sports bar a yelled my guts out as the Sox beat the Yankees in such an improbable fashion a few years ago. Yet the truth is that the Red Sox were my favorite team long ago when I played little league ball. Today I never watch the highlights, I have no idea who is on the team, and I am as loyal a fan as a trophy blond is a loyal wife to her oil baron husband.

Competition puts my stomach in knots. I get stressed watching people compete. I hate the way I feel when I am placed in a competitive situation. Monstrous feelings seem to overwhelm me when I begin to apply my worth to the outcome. Dread preceded me on the baseball, lacrosse, swim, and even ultimate Frisbee teams I was a part of growing up. I did not like carrying the pressure to win as I put way too much of my own concerns and pride into it. I grew emotionally weak in those years and I had to walk away from all of it.

Good lengths of time passed before I felt the strength return to me. I learned to detach my worth from the things I did and instead found it in a worthy Creator. I cannot say I do not struggle with this from time to time but the overall shift has been extraordinary. When I think about Eric Liddell, the English sprinter in Chariots of Fire, I get chills. “God made me fast. When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” As I watched the movie, bedded down after having my wisdom teeth removed, I instantly knew it to be true. This quote changed my life.

Ray Cancella and his father play catch and I am on the verge of becoming a weepy mess. I am wondering why we cling to our innocence, why feelings may surface so strongly at the right stimuli. Is there some part of me that aches for the loss of those childhood years playing ball? Or maybe there is something natural about playing ball with your father; in his patience there is something timeless, something pure. It is good to stand in the fields of freedom and confidence, the wind blowing across your face and filling your nostrils with life, whatever the field may be. And for that, I love baseball.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

welcome to our world!

This weekend my sister gave birth to her first child. Samuel Matthew Scearce is 6lbs, 14oz, and 20 inches long. Baby and mother are well and I am an extremely proud uncle! As the first child born in our family in 25 years, I imagine there will be no shortage of gloating to come. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

wake up

I awoke early to a sky still full of stars and a moon so bright and full I would swear it was a street light. The rustling sounds of nylon indicate either a willingness to greet the impending dawn or a certain disdain for the cold Californian darkness. I am underdressed for the cold but I get up anyway. Down the the hill I find coffee and companions ready to join me in a quest for still water. We steal glimpses of the stars before the are lost and anticipate the sun.

I have come here for two years now to camp with a church group from Southern California. We drive north for hours to spend a week by the lake sharing in fellowship, worship and water skiing. There are no cabins here, no tents, only stars to cover our heads at night. I learned to wakeboard here the year before and this year am determined to ride without the shaky need for balance. The water is like glass this early in the day and behind the boat I am alone with morning. This is what cowboys must feel like.

If God is not in the morning he is not in anything I am convinced. There are days where watching the world reveal is to see it for the first time. I have never seen a sunrise and dreaded the day ahead of me, no matter what lie ahead. Since these mornings in California I have been able to greet the new day with frequency; in the mountains, on airplanes, in my own home. I have come to love the time of day I often cursed and during these moments of solitude I have done a lot of thinking.

To see something new is to see it with wonder. Rarely, if ever, do I find terror in the experience of the unknown, merely in the thought of it. To be alive, after all, is to constantly discover if your senses are open. I forget this often but never in the morning. Every sip of coffee, every word read, every song heard is vibrant and alive; time passes slowly with patience and no resentment.

How appropriate then God would consider spiritual experience to be a rebirth, that we are to be born again. How fitting the scriptures say that God “is making all things new!” I amazed to think that Christ left the tomb while most of the world slept, a time in which only those who sought him would find him. We were never intended to toil in the brutal sun and its scorching heat or under the heavy veil of constant darkness. In these moments it is as if the sun were to always be rising, to constantly revive the earth and expel darkness, making all things new.

It is for this reason we must live in the morning. I am growing in the conviction the day should not be slept away but that we should wake up with the world. John Lennon was right, living is easy with eyes closed, but all we miss in the dawn is symbolic of a better way to live. We are children of the dawn.

Friday, July 27, 2007

the dust bowl...

The middle of nowhere is hot and full of teenagers. Falls Creek camp brings nearly 7000 students every week to the middle of America to experience utter insanity. Southern Oklahoma is no place to spend a summer and I am grateful that this is my last day here. Tomorrow I fly to California to spend another week in an even more secluded area of the country with a small gathering of Orange Country teens with whom I will worship and wake-board, sleeping under the stars in a cool dry climate far from the sticky doldrums of the Texas-Oklahoma boarder. From California I fly to New Mexico to meet some friends for another week of camp before returning back home to Nashville. Tennessee feels so far away.

Some days it takes everything within me to look around and feel okay. I do not like living in a world where trust is so rarely rewarded. I logged into my computer for the first time this week and read through the news. Reports of indictments and mounting legal tension in the present administration seem to escalate daily. I’m tired of all this and am beyond passing it all off as some kind of political mud wrestling. I know partisan politics are fierce these days yet you can only hear so many stories of corruption and not believe it. It concerns me to see a top ranking government official leak secrets and get commuted while the victim of the leak gets her case thrown out in court. What a system! It would appear justice’s blindfold is falling off.

I guess it is a blessing to be unplugged for a few weeks. I am already experiencing the refreshment that comes with being out in creation, seeing mountains, and communing with friends and fellow believers. Plus I got to ride a mechanical bull and I've got the skinned knees to prove it (never ride a mechanical bull in shorts)! I get to spend the entire next week camping without the aid of so much as a tent. I lie on my back in those moments and consider the stars and what lies beyond with all the wonder I can give this creation. I have been to both these coming camps before and both were life-changing weeks. I simply cannot wait.

I finished the last Harry Potter yesterday, sad to reach the end of something so fun and endearing, and extremely satisfied with the finish. All of my concerns for the book seem to be appeased and I commend Rowling, while not the literary equivalent of Tolkien and Lewis who many feel apt to compare her to, on being an excellent story teller. I will revisit these books again and again over the years.

I am also getting to enjoy some new music while on the road. I’ve picked up the new Spoon and Interpol records, as well as the new Fountains of Wayne. Spoon is a brilliant alternative band out of Austin and the record warrants multiple listens. Interpol is a favorite amongst the new wave revival and Fountains may be the most clever and consistent source of solid pop music these days. Who else can write a song about a ‘92 Subaru and get away with it!

That the news from my world. I’ll check back in when I get to Glorietta but until then, Cheers!

Sunday, July 01, 2007


I just left Sarah, my girlfriend, and Scott, my roommate, at the airport here in Nashville (Sarah center, Scott perched between us. The girls to the right are on the trip as well). They are on their way to Moldova for an 11 day mission trip through our church. Moldova is nestled between Romania and the Ukraine and is the poorest nation of the former Soviet Union. Thousands of children live in orphanages there until the age of 16 when they are released by the state. 70% of girls are sold into the sex trade within their first year on the streets. 70% of boys turn to organized crime and of those, 10% commit suicide. Our church is sending three teams this year to three different parts of the country. There is tremendous hope in the gospel of Christ and I ask anyone who is willing to pray for them to do so while they are gone.

For further info, just follow the link to the team blogs on the right.

"If you get rid of the yoke from those around you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like the noonday. The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry. Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the resorer of streets where people live." - Isaiah 58:9-12

Monday, June 25, 2007


I just finished reading this book: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon (pronounced Shea as in stadium and bon as in Bon Jovi). Chabon has been my favorite novelist since I finished his brilliant homage to writer's block that is Wonder Boys, also a terrific movie starring Michael Douglas, Toby MacGuire, and Francis McDormand. The book, a straight ahead detective mystery, is at times historical fiction, humor and romance and extremely enjoyable to read. Chabon is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and none of his masterful structure and syntax is sacrificed for a mystery but rather demands the book be read at a pace where both the writing and the details of the plot can both be enjoyed simultaneously. This is first rate fiction and modern literature by one of the best contemporary writers around.

The book while set in the present day centers around a little known piece of American history. During World War 2, the American government devised a plan to create a temporary settlement in the Alaskan panhandle for the millions of Jews worldwide who were being forced from their homes. This was called Sitka and while this obviously never happened the book presupposes that it did. Fast forward to 2007 and 3 million Jews live in Sitka and everyone is facing deportation as the American government is reverting the land back to the state of Alaska. Detective Meyer Landsman finds a man murdered in the the hotel where he presently lives and while the plot never strays from this mystery, the sheer depth, surprise, and intrigue of the story matches no mystery and few books I have ever read. The Yiddish Policemen's Union could have been twice the length of its 400 pages and I would not have cared. I'm almost sorry I finished it.

I hope everyone has a nice week ahead of them. Cheers!

Monday, June 11, 2007

my dad has a blog!

The man who brought me into this world has decided to share his deep wisdom on all things spiritual with any willing reader. Please follow the link on the right and check it out! He's awesome, and smart, and an excellent writer. Cheers!

Friday, June 01, 2007

for the love!

I am a bit out of the loop these days, I cannot say by accident, and I suppose it's time for a little update. For you students of the Myers-Briggs school of thought, I am an INFP, a label I carry with pride for a variety of reasons; you may google it if you like. A primary manifestation of my personality is a need for solitude, a need I have felt to a larger degree over the last few weeks or maybe even months. I have not taken much joy in blogging, parties or other large social gatherings. Sarah and my roommates have been getting the bulk of my time, small gatherings all I seem to have the social energy for. I'm not sure why I've felt this way of late but I just have. I am reading and playing guitar more than I have in a long time which is certainly nice though I apologize if I have seemed distant. I've needed these last few weeks.

Gigs are more scarce this summer than the last though the past few weeks have been slammed as the next couple will be. I'm busy though it's hard sometimes to remember what all is going on. I've once heard my dad comment he's worried about his memory. I think it's hereditary though I don't think it's anything to worry about. I don't work at Griffin anymore and though I am more strapped for cash than before I am grateful as the mounting aches of tendonitis seem to have disappeared along with the constant tearing, folding, and taping of boxes. I enjoy the people there but it keeps me from playing in terms of both time and physical discomfort. I can also meet Sarah for lunch now which I've always enjoyed.

And speaking of Sarah we've been dating for over a year now! Much to the dismay and joy of long-time friends and relatives we are beating the odds. Because of Sarah I am now enjoying the presence of Sirius satellite radio in my car. These past few days I have wondered how I ever lived without it and am increasingly finding reasons to drive. If you've been sitting on the fence, gazing into the greener pastures of commercial-free radio and its nation-wide coverage of dozens upon dozens of niche music and talk stations, I encourage you to proceed.

I went to a movie yesterday in a desperate need to get out of the house and found my way into Hot Fuzz, which was FREAKING AWESOME! I've wanted to see it for over two months now and just haven't made it yet. My Regal Crown Club card provided me with a free popcorn and I had the theater to myself. This is my favorite way to see a movie I've been waiting a long time for and the next two hours were some of the most fun I've spent in a theater in a long time. For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's the new movie from Edgar Wright, the clever Brit who brought us Shawn of the Dead (one of my very favorite movies) and the fake trailer for Don't!!! in the Grindhouse intermission.

Containing much of the cast of Shawn, the story centers around Nick Angel, a hero cop from London who is transfered to a small village in the country because he's making the rest of the London metropolitan police look bad. He's obviously over-qualified and motivated with his by-the-book style for the demands of the small utopian town. His partner, an imature oaf named Danny, is a die hard fan of sensational cop films like Point Break and Bad Boys II and wants to live out his movie fantasies but new partner Angel hates guns and has unfortunately never fired one in slow motion while diving through the air. The job mostly consists of chasing pets around until a string of grizzly murders no one is willing to talk about threatens the sleepy utopia. Will Angel solve the crime? Will he gain the favor of the neighborhood watch association? Will he ever learn to fire his gun while turned doughnuts in a high speed pursuit? Only time will tell. Hot Fuzz is exciting, well-acted, and absolutely hilarious. Only a Brittish film could be this funny and this self-aware without resorting to cheap humor. Go see it.

I no longer make promises to blog because I am a liar. I do hope to finish writing and blogging about my trip to Africa as well as post some pictures. I'm also re-building my pedal board which may get a post as well. And speaking of building, I've decided to build an amplifier this summer, a replica of a late '60's Marshall 1987x Plexi. I'll be sure to post when I start. I hope all is well and I hope someone still reads this. Thanks for checking in. Cheers!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

My favorite satirist died yesterday. More than a satirist, Kurt Vonnegut has been one of my favorite writers since I was in high school and I confess I felt my heart sink upon seeing the headline. If you've never read him before, I suggest picking up a copy of Cat's Cradle or Slaghterhouse-FIve and see if it interests you. I think I may pull mine back out as well.

I'm heading back to Nashville tomorrow and I promise a couple of posts in the next few days. Cheers!

Friday, April 06, 2007

good friday...

Today we observe Good Friday. The name deceives us and I fear robs us the reality of a day like today. Yes, something very good historically happened today: Jesus Christ died for all people. But for the people present that day, I doubt they saw any good. I'd say the rioting mob was frightening when they demanded Jesus be executed, inviting a curse upon themselves saying His blood would be on them and their children. There was the scourging and brutal beating, the kind of violence that would make men and women alike weep. The parading of a broken man, suffering under the weight of a cross that he would ultimately die on, the bystanders hitting and spitting on Christ the entire way, and of course the execution itself. The Bible says there was darkness over the land for 3 hours, darkness in the middle of the day! For the disciples, the Jews, and the Romans alike, something deeply disturbing happened and the day was anything but good.

Easter eggs and pastel outfits have robbed this weekend of its power in my own life as I feel I have no true sense of the reality of this event. It is my hope that today Christians and non-Christians alike experience the despair of Christ's execution so that Easter Sunday will be a time of celebration like never before. I want us to know how the disciples felt. I want Easter to be our greatest hope in our greatest time of despair when Jesus Christ rises from the dead! May the glory of God be seen as never before this Easter. Many blessings and the hope of our Lord be with you all!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Living Hope - part 1

I’ve recently returned from Cape Town, South Africa, in what was one of the most unusual and probably best experiences of my life. It is implicitly clear that I have no idea how to accurately and concisely describe my trip which is difficult when most of the people who ask about the trip offer only a few moments attention. I say this without criticism but with sympathy as I know how life can be. Rather than formulating a two minute speech, I have decided to write my thoughts down and publish them through this blog to any of you who care to know more about the trip. I know my blogs can be quite long and I have decided to break this up into four or so blogs, this being the first, for the sake of you, the friend and reader.

I’m not going to break down the trip’s details day by day, I’m going to keep my reflections at a limit but if you are curious, I would highly encourage you to check out my team’s blog, It contains daily posts from the trip by people other than myself with views and voices of their own and entries of a more manageable length than my own. Plus, there are loads of sweet pictures that will give better visual aid than my own as I’m still stubborn and shot mostly film rather than digital; anyone have a scanner? AND people are still posting their various after thoughts, including our Zulu speaking driver Mandy who has recently joined in the fun. There is also information there about our church’s chapter of the Mocha Club. $7 a month is changing lives in Africa and I encourage you to please, please read what they are all about. Please.

Before I continue, I want to say one thing. I know that there is a growing stigma about Africa, especially in the culturally hip circles of the world, that it is the “in” place to be concerned and passionate about right now. I’ve heard people express their indifference to Africa as if it were the new Ashley Simpson record due to the celebrity attention (the majority of Africans don’t know where Malawi is but most Americans do) but it is dangerous to turn away. The need is real, it is great, our capacity to affect change is real, and above all, the charge of the Gospel of Christ is real. The gospel, however, is much bigger than Africa as China and India represent much larger mission fields with their own humanitarian and spiritual needs, not to mention the Americas and Europe. The entire planet aches for the loss that is our separation from God and I pray we see global missions through the same lens we view our neighbors through.

I went to Africa because a series of events over the last few years from college courses to personal experience placed Africa in my heart and the ever pressing need to see it in an attempt to understand. I struggled with the cost, wondering if the money would be better spent on things other than my trip but I am now convinced otherwise. The poor and sick need advocacy and seeing it first hand will change the way you care for the people there. Period. Every Christian needs to do missions in a strange place as it will give you perspective for even local missions that your pastor can never give you. More than this, it is a commandment to all Christians to be missionaries. That doesn’t mean you have to go out of the country to be obedient but it is a reminder that Jesus the carpenter built His church without walls and our ministry must reflect this. Now to South Africa.

The United Nations cited HIV/AIDS as the single greatest humanitarian threat in the world today. The epidemic is spreading rapidly throughout Asia, South America, Europe, and Russia but in no place is the issue as pressing as Africa. The continent is huge but one thing unites the dozens of nations together in a unique way from the rest of the world. African nations have long been the victims of European colonialists and as mostly independent nations in the present day, the entire continent is still rife with civil wars and drastically underdeveloped infrastructure as natives fight each other for a piece of the power and land they’ve long been deprived. While other parts of the world possess the resources to fight the spread of AIDS and are doing so quite well, Africa is decades behind in the fight which is why so much attention is given there over other places around the world though the UN addresses HIV/AIDS on every continent.

South Africa is one of the only first world nations on all the continent though most places in the country would indicate the third world is quite alive and well. Twenty percent of South Africans have HIV/AIDS meaning certain populations such as the people of Swaziland in the east have a 60% rate of infection. Imagine three out of five people in your local community with a chronic disease from which they will certainly die. The greater Cape Town area has a 25% infection average. Hundreds of thousands of people live in the squatter camps in Cape Town, some stretching over the visible horizon, entire cities unto themselves. Small tin shanties packed with people cover the city, containing the majority of the city’s HIV positive, ranging anywhere from 25-60% depending on the size of the community. The smaller the camp, the more sharing of partners and the higher rate of infection. Most HIV positive South Africans have tuberculosis as well, due to poor health and close living conditions. All of these numbers are based on known cases, not speculation, indicating the problem is probably much worse.

A South African cannot get a job if they are HIV positive. This means two things: first, unemployment is extremely high as it is in any poverty stricken area and second, most infected don’t tell anyone they have HIV, even their partners. Many don’t know they have it and those that do live in silence. The government has taken a stance of denial since the start of President Thabo Mbeki’s time in office due to poor advising concerning the relationship between HIV and AIDS and because at the end of the day, no one dies from AIDS, they die from TB, hepatitis, or even a cold contracted because they have AIDS. The climate in South Africa, despite its better infrastructure, puts the epidemic in much more of a crisis state than other African nations which are addressing the epidemic with much more success. Uganda is a shining example of this.

In the middle of all this is Living Hope, the organization my mission team worked with. My next blog will deal with Living Hope, their mission, and what we did while working with them. Thank you for reading so far and please check out the rest of the posts. Blessings!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


A trend is emerging and my life has shifted considerably. As each days blows by, I feel increasingly unsure of where the time is going and what I’ve even spent my time doing. I’ve never used drugs but I at times I wonder how different it would be though I will never find out. Confused? Let’s head back about 6 or 7 months ago.

The start of last spring saw the beginning of my first road gig, a two month tour with Plumb that I have referenced many times in this blog. A few days into the tour I blogged about my initial thoughts and joys over the experience. I remarked about how I have always felt insecure performing but that I was no longer feeling that way. I was excited to spend everyday doing what I had long been saying what I was supposed to do. On stage I felt no insecurity but rather joy and communion with God over using my gifts.

At tour’s end, I spent another month with my friends Clemency and have since done several weekends with the boys heading into the new year. Since then I have hardly played at all. To fill a gap I started working at Griffin Technology, a manufacturer of iPod accessories. I needed the money, the pay is pretty good, and they are flexible with my hours. I have been giving them full time labor since the first of December and come home tired. I have important friendships to maintain but have poorly done so and there is the ever increasingly important relationship with Sarah to invest in; it didn’t take long for me to be tired and lost inside the busiest schedule I’ve kept since college. It’s easier to do in college, by the way.

For the last three months I have hardly touched a guitar except to play at the occasional worship service and I am certainly not practicing. I have not been experiencing the joy and communion with God through music I wrote of six months ago and that has been a terribly hard thing for me.

Last Friday, the boys from Clemency and I spent the day recording for their new record. We had time booked in a studio owned by Paul Moak, one of my favorite local guitarists. Paul is a gear junky and his studio is full of guitars, amps, and effects I sit around drooling over. I was excited about recording but nervous over being so out of practice. I was worried about my creativity and ability to execute it. I was very inspired at first by the space but I quickly grew insecure as we started playing through songs and my ideas felt increasingly uninspired. We mostly tracked drums with an awesome player named Derek and the rest will be tracked later though I couldn’t help but feel discouraged. I guess I had but a lot of pressure on myself to play my way out of a slump but I didn’t.

Last week I had something of a revelation. I was sitting on my bed, playing a little bit on this acoustic I have. It’s the nicest instrument I own and unlike my other guitars has a very distinct personality about it. It’s the kind of guitar that only sounds great when I’m playing well but in those times in sounds better than any guitar I’ve ever played. When I’m out of practice, it fights back as if I were molesting it and reminds me of how poorly I’m playing. It’s kind of like a race car in the hands of an everyday someone who thinks he can handle it, unaware of how powerful it really is. A highly skilled driver is the only one who can get the most out of it. Make sense?

As I thought about this, I couldn’t help but see it as a metaphor for something larger as if the various elements of my life are that guitar and that I have no control over the way it’s pushing me around. Please don’t get confused, I’m not talking about my girlfriend or my friends being overbearing; they’re all so encouraging. I’m talking about work, about dreams, about faith and life and that it all is blowing by with nothing in my control and it depresses me. I do realize that God is in the details but I don’t feel as if I’m heading down a path that has me in God’s will. I know he wants me to be playing, to be investing in people, to be growing but instead I’m just trying to catch up.

My time in the studio taught me two things. First, I really have to play more and get my creative juices flowing. I have to get sharper, more precise, and aware. This will hopefully encourage me to start writing again, my other creative interest. The blog is a place for my dispense various thoughts I’m not writing about in greater detail and the lack of posting of the past few months should be a good indication of a failure to nourish creativity. Second, I poured over Paul’s studio and thought about all the various pieces of necessary gear in a professional studio and road player’s rig. I don’t desire all the gear Paul has but I am aware that to do this job the way I want to do it I do need to invest more money into it. There comes a point in which this stuff becomes tools in a giant tool box; there is no end all guitar or amp that does everything and the deeper you get into it, the more sensitive your ear gets and the more tools you need to get it right. To play the kinds of gigs and sessions I want, I need at least two more amps, a half dozen or so guitars, and a bunch of things that fit in between. It’s a long process I will work out as gigs pick up; I will never compulsively buy copious amounts of gear so don’t worry those of you who are concerned for my financial responsibility. I’ll spend years doing this. I’m also grateful for what I have and I have everything I need for this period in my career.

I’m not working this week and have been able to play a bunch and it’s exciting. I’m beginning to restructure my life in a way that will better nurture my soul and spirt first of all and also my relationships and interests. I’ll talk more about this as it unfolds but for now, that’s the news. I hope this doesn’t make me sound down; I’m actually in very high spirits and am presently making myself late for something so I must go. Cheers!

Friday, February 02, 2007

first snow...

Yesterday I expected snow but awoke to nothing. Today, however, the snow came and it is a lovely day out. I wont be enjoying it unfortunately as I am stuck inside with the flu. My whole body aches and I simply can't stay warm, no matter what I do. As I write this, I can't really give any consistent attention so I'm going to wrap this up. Winter was a long time coming but I'm glad it finally has. Have a nice weekend everyone.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


I know what day it is. I know that I neglect this blog. I know that I make empty promises with semi-regularity when I promise to blog. But today is a new day! I made a revelation today, an awareness of a promise I've long over looked. I'll get to it in a moment but for now I offer a sort of explanation.

I have a job now, moonlighting in the fullness of day as a warehouse worker at a local company. I like the job and the people there though packing boxes is contrary to my dreams of playing music full time and I don't intend to keep this job but for a couple more months. I have little time at home now, even less time to sit, think and write, and a comparable amount of time with an internet connection. Blogging has unfortunately fallen by the side of the road and I fear that today I am no Samaratin but rather a passing Pharisee with clean feet and every intention of keeping them that way. I do, however, promise to blog with more care and will elaborate on this in a moment. But first...

For many years I have struggled with the mystery of an unusual man who looks like this: His name is Meat Loaf and for years I have continued to pay homage to this man everytime I've taken a seat at a piano in spite of two years of college piano study. I have always been plagued by the ever lingering question of, "What is THAT?" Yes, the infamous that of "I wont do that," from the song "I Would Do Anything for Love." For years I have considered Meat a coward, a spineless man who would do anything for his love until the moment in which his selfishness would overcome him and he would no longer do anything for her at all. It was Meat Loaf's door to independence and the return to the glorious life of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Today, a co-worker and I waited for our lunch and the song came over the loudspeaker. He asked, "What is the that?" I said I wasn't sure but that I believe there was a duet in the song that may or may not answer the question. "The duet!" I thought. "How could I have forgotten?" We listened as she rattled off her requests and Meat promised in return. Eventually she asked if he would fool around on her, returning to the life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll when all of a sudden he says, "But I wont do that." It hit me that the title of the song was, in fact, a promise and that the coward Meat Loaf was actually galiantly balladeering his utter service and faithful devotion to this woman for the rest of his life. I had it all wrong!

There is something to be said for such a promise and I choose these words carefully. I promise to blog, soon, with as many as three new posts over the next week so please check back. I have many years of misunderstanding to repay Meat Loaf and I do not take this lightly. But for the time being, I am home, I'm extremely tired, chores are many, and I must go. Until then. Cheers!

Monday, January 01, 2007

it's the most wonderful time...

Christmas has come and gone with more haste than ever yet much is familiar. More so than any other time of year, tradition runs wild as some things never change and those that do become traditions unto themselves. On this day after Christmas, I am engaging in perhaps the latter of these. The 007 Days of Christmas is in full swing and I am compulsively engaged in “The Man With the Golden Gun”. I have mocked many a movie in my years yet this tale of kung fu, super spies, flying cars, and three nippled assassins garners respect as do the other 21 companion films. I know what you are thinking: “There are only 21 Bond films, not 22!” And yes, “Never Say Never Again” is an unofficial remake of “Thunderball”, not made by EON Productions, but it is still Bond and I will stand by it.

Presently I am enjoying a day with absolutely nothing to do. This is very unusual these days as the sum of my responsibility leaves me with little time alone and void of responsibility. Gone are the golden years of sitting home all day, desperately seeking something to do. If I, in fact, had a day at home, I would have no end of things needed doing but my good fortunes find me at my parent’s house in Chattanooga. This house is quite clean and filled with the charming reminder of Christmas. Vintage Garrison Keilor plays as my father and I clean our fly-fishing lines. My mother sleeps in front of the television. This is vacation.

In light of this time, I will blog. So here it is: my report of Christmas as it occurred, the standard, silly, and sacred, in the year of our Lord, 2006.

Sarah and I walk heedfully down the steep, slippery driveway, turn down the walk and come to a stop in front of the house. It is the house of my godfather, Charlie, and we are arriving at what is the first traditional gathering of Christmas in the Stiles family holiday comings and goings. Charlie runs the local soup kitchen for the homeless and he and his wife Cindy were my parent’s first friends as newly weds. Every year we gather either at our house or theirs and we celebrate Christmas. The stories inherent would take more time to tell than I have but over the years we have met many guests at Christmas with the Hughes family in the role of “significant other”. This year is my first time to bring such a guest in my 24 years of nearly 35 years of tradition. I turn to Sarah and say, “After you.” “No, you first,” she says. The night is wonderful, the friends old and rich and the Christmas season is in full swing.

Saturday morning, we drive across town to my grandmother’s house, my dad’s mom. This year my grandmother is married, unlike any year I can recall before. Another difference is Dad’s brother Cliff has made the journey from Pennsylvania, one of only two or three visits I can recall in my lifetime. He brings his third wife Tracy, baby Connor, and my mumbling nine year old hurricane of a cousin Donnie. I say none of this with any kind of cynicism in my heart but I would be lying if I said that Cliff has had a good relationship with the family over the years. It is obvious we don’t always know what to say, but as the morning progresses, I am reminded of the endurance of family. At Christmas the playing field is level. I know little of my family history and upon asking my sister am told I’m better off not knowing, but I also know that healing is occurring and that Cliff and his family are surviving and growing for, perhaps, the first time. Our time is chaotic yet good and it is a lovely day out.

The weather demands walking and Sarah, my parents, and I spend the afternoon wandering Chattanooga’s north and south shores. I am dismayed at the speed with which I forget what a simply charming town this is. Interesting stores, coffee shops, riverside parks, bridges, a striking aquarium and even an art museum of postmodern twists and corners line both sides of the river. We eventually settle at the movie theater downtown and watch “The Pursuit of Happyness” (actually spelled happiness; see the movie, it’ll make sense). The movie is sweet, tragic and inspiring yet as I’ve thought back on it, I am saddened for two reasons. The first is that the main character’s dream of happiness is intrinsically tied to wealth and I believe wealth to be no solution for happiness though a solution for most anything else. Success is not measured in wealth as I am often reminded by various people I admire like my father or our friend Charlie. The second source of my sadness is that for every one person who travels from filthy rags to riches hundreds and thousands remain on the streets waiting for a bed in a shelter or a seat at a table with food on it. And on a more anal note, I can’t stand un-necessary narrators.
Christmas Eve is a mellow day of church and family with a candle-lit evening service and a dinner at our house afterwards. The dinner is the only time both sides of the family get together. At one point, I am asked to play guitar for the family and I realize all too well that I don’t respond as well to being asked to play as I do being told what to play. I need to work on this. I am also terribly out of practice right now. I need to work on this.

One new tradition is that the intermediate family now has Christmas on Christmas Eve. As dinner winds down and extended family leaves, my parents, sister, and brother-in-law gather to exchange presents. I love being past the age tearing through presents and find watching other people open and react to theirs encouraging. We are all past the age of really wanting or asking for things and most gifts our given out of shear thoughtfulness and I love the reasons for gift giving. My father, for instance, gave my mother a lovely vacation they have only talked about for years and wrote a poem on the inside of a book that detailed the dates, destination, and even the issues of finance. I was given two gifts that corresponded specifically to an idea as well. The book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an author’s thoughts on moral life philosophy as he and his son rode their motorcycles across the American west. My dad and I have always talked of such a trip. I was also given George Harrison’s “All Things Shall Pass”, and was told that Harrison always felt he had no definite guitar style but would always try to play whatever it took to make the song most effective. I have always struggled with a musical identity and dad said this album reminded him of me. My parents are always extremely thoughtful and this Christmas was no exception on so many levels. These are the gifts I really treasure.

The remainder of the season was rather low key. I ran errands with my parents, got a hair cut, watched several movies, and did a variety of things I can’t really remember. Eventually, Sarah came back to join the family and we took her fly-fishing. It was a pleasant day on the river, overcast and cool. It was a beautiful winter scene and I hardly noticed the fish weren’t biting.

And apparently I have asthma. Well, I might, but near the end of my week, I went to see the doctor about my ever lingering cough. We discussed allergy problems and he listened to my breathing. “Hmm”, he would say with every exhale; this does not inspire confidence. “I think you have asthma,” he says, and I am sent to the hospital to take a lung capacity test. The lab technicians sat and talked gossip and their desire to drink margaritas at 10 in the morning. The woman actually manning the computer served more as a breathing coach, cheering me through each test like a hyper-active dog owner coaxing her new toy of a puppy through any number of tasks. “big breath, Big breath, BIG breath... BREATH OUT! GO GO GO!” I thought it hilarious. I had never been admitted to a hospital and wore my bracelet with pride for the remainder of the day.

I am now back in Nashville, having spent a nice, low key New Year’s Eve with some friends. I confess that when I started writing this blog that I thought I had a lot more to talk about but I can’t seem to remember any of it. You the reader may consider yourself fortunate. Before long, I will give a sort of “Year in Review” as I see it but we’ll take this one thing at a time. I will, instead, leave you with a few final thoughts.

I think we are quite fortunate to have a time of celebration that marks new life and rebirth. It is the coming of hope and a clean slate to make things right. I am reminded of this as I see my estranged uncle reintegrating into the family. I know that we shouldn’t rely on a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ but I think the reminder is worth while as our lives our distracting enough as it is and the holiday season is even more distracting. For the truth is such great news! The King, the long expected Saviour has come! “Then the one who sits on the throne said, ‘Look! I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:5). Great news indeed!

Happy New Year...