Sunday, January 20, 2008


Sarah has a new job working for a ministry that connects churches with the community in non-churchy sort of ways. This is a noble mission for many people see the church as a quarantine - isolated, cold, and ominous on corners of many streets. The woman at the well in John 4 is a testament to this when she says, “Our ancestors worshiped God on this mountain, but the Jews say that Jerusalem is the only place for worship.” We have many Jerusalems and Connect Ministries seeks to tear their walls down.

Last night all the partners and camp directors went bowling with their spouses and significants. Shortly after arriving, an older man of about 60 passed Sarah and looked her head to toe. He was very skinny and tan, and he spoke disrespectfully to her. At first we all talked about awkward it was, eventually shaking off. We laughed as the 5 year old daughter of a man present innocently showed us the bandage on her middle finger. We got our lanes and sat down.

The man just so happened to be in the lane next to us and he spoke unintelligibly as we passed. He then proceed to stare at Sarah the entire time we bowled. We tried our best to ignore him, but it was difficult. At one point, I got up to bowl as Sarah left for the restroom with a co-worker. I turned in the lane and watched as the man got up and followed Sarah to the other side of the building. I quickly got rid of the ball and walked to the bathroom. The man lingered at the door and when Sarah came out, he approached her, leaned his head in close in began talking to her, when I walked up and pointed at him. My blood boiled and I spoke with more anger than I have ever spoken to anyone in my life, stuttering and shaking. “Don’t talk to her! Get away from her! I’ve heard what you’ve been saying, you don’t talk to her like that!” The man then reached out and put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “What was I saying?” and again, “What was I saying?” He knew what he said, but I was nearly speechless from my anger at this point. Sarah grabbed my other arm and pulled me away.

I cannot imagine how Sarah felt, and I do not think that I ever could. I felt the cold chill of evil and dirty intentions as it threatened the one I love. It reminded me of a time when I was on a mission trip as an 8th grader. The youth group played putt-putt and a man in his mid-twenties approached a girl in our group, no more than 12. He asked her if she wanted to come to bed with him, and she began to sob uncontrollably. I could feel the sickness then just like I felt it last night, and I am reminded of the disease that is sin.

A police officer sat at our table for the rest of the time we bowled, and the man continued to stare until he eventually left. As we put our shoes back on, Gabe, one of Sarah’s bosses, said, “That’s what we would be without Christ.” In this moment, I am reminded of how treacherous the devil is, how sin poisons who we are until all that is left is a feeble frame with a vulgar tongue. Gabe’s words convicted me to pray for the man.

The world is full of so much beauty, but for all the good we try to create around our selves there is much darkness. We medicate ourselves against the sorrow, and focus on what makes us feel happy. An environment is created, seemingly impervious, but in reality porous and submerged in pain, darkness, and suffering. “Life is good,” some people say, but I don’t know if this is entirely correct. My friend Dave says that life is hard, which is true. Life can really suck sometimes, and for a lot of different reasons. But in the midst of everything, we are given the power to weather, and to endure.

Sarah and I walked into the parking lot at the end of the night and looked around. We ran to the car holding hands, smiling for the first time in a couple of hours. I knew the man wasn’t there, but I could still feel his presence; it was heavy on my chest. The rest of the evening was a battle against my anger, and it took hours to fall asleep. Gradually the man faded from my mind, my eyes slowly closed, and I slipped into sleep. In the morning, he was gone.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

your best suit or dress

All over the world people dress for an occasion, and make company with the choicest of friends. Plans may be simple or extravagant yet there is a common theme happening the whole world over. This is celebration. Raise your glass into the air and speak blessings of the year to come, declare your hopes for the future, and turn your back to the disappointments of the last year. “Maybe this year will be better than the last,” and everyone drinks their approval. It happens every year.

Two things seem dangerously prevalent with the passing of each New Year’s Eve. The first is that we are all too eager to sweep the last year under the rug, all of its lessons and experiences. The second is that we are setting ourselves up to fail. This is the point of resolutions, making up for last year’s failures and creating the opportunity to screw it up this time around. I do not intended to make a sweeping generalization, but rather an assessment of seasonal sentiments at large. It is a cycle I wish to avoid this year, and as I consider the last year and the year to come, I have some thoughts.

2007 was an interesting year for me. From a professional point of view, I worked much less this past year than in the year before it. I thought I had found my in, and with the start of 2007 I anticipated even more work with better pay and exposure. This was not the case, however, and I spent much of the year with time in my hands. I cannot say I grew musically in 2007, but my desire to express myself creatively has not diminished by any means.

I went to South Africa in February for two and a half weeks, and I was not prepared for the place. There may be nowhere on this planet that better exemplifies the contrast of beauty and disaster, but I saw a glimpse of the measure of God’s love there. Hope is in no short supply, even though HIV/AIDS, TB, and poverty are rampant. Cape Town and the western cape of South Africa is as stunning as anywhere in the world, and I was blessed to see it. And there at the collision of two oceans I saw God meet the earth in a way I never could have imagined. Hope upon hope, life upon life, and joy in its purest state of existence.

Like I said before, I had a lot of time on my hands this year and I am afraid that the lessons of that wild place gradually washed away. I can remember the gigs I traveled to, yet so much of this past year was a blur, which is probably normal. It is just that I came home so motivated and inspired to write, play, love, and live with so much joy and excellence, but I let my inactivity get the best of me. You can ask Sarah and anyone else who spends much time with me, and they will tell you how down on myself and in a shell I can be, either in word or demeanor. No room should be made for regret so I say this not to medicate myself, but to confess and be done with it. There is much work to be done for those who are willing and 2007 has taught me how necessary it is to be willing.

Highlights of the year include some pleasant travels with some of my favorite people. These include a week on a lake in central California, and another week in the mountains of New Mexico. I long for these places, especially now that the days have become so short. I also got to watch life come into being in the form of Sarah’s joyful nephew Noah, as well as my sister’s first child, Sam. He is beautiful and I have felt my heart grow with his presence.

I also started my first real job in 2007. When I say real job, I mean real job, the kind with salary and benefits. I finally decided that I was not playing enough to warrant not having one. I want to continue with my life, not wait on it, and the opportunity at Griffin promised a chance to proceed and plan. And, as I mentioned above, I had time on my hands and it was costing me far more than money. After two and half months, it is still good to work, and I am enjoying the structure I have no truly known since high school. I sleep better, get up earlier, and waste little time; it feels so very good. I still wish to play and pursue music, and I cannot listen to something good without loosing myself in the urge to create. My parents generously gifted me a gorgeous, inspiring Gretsch guitar, and told me to go do something with it. I intend to.

A little over a week ago Sarah and I had dinner to celebrate Christmas together, and she asked me what I resolved for 2008. Like I said above, resolutions are often an invitation to failure, so I thought carefully. If I eat better or exercise more, so be it, but I want real goals for this year, things that would shape the course of everyday life through the expansion of my spirit and mind. I then told Sarah that I want to start and complete some form of writing project (as of yet undetermined!), that I want to finish 2008 a better guitarist than I started the year (something that did not happen this past year), and that I want to learn to pray like I actually believe prayer is what the Bible says it is.

As I look to the next year, I want to continue to build upon the foundations God has laid in my life, not let life’s lessons dilute in a solution of apathy and frustration. I do not wish to wait for something to come to me that I can go and get for myself. I do not wish to waste the time that I have. Not this year. I am going to put on my best, raise my glass, toast my friends and loved ones, the year gone by, and the new year that is really no more than another day. So to 2008 and each new day I say, “Welcome. You’ll be gone before I know it so let’s make the most of it.” Happy New Year. Cheers!