30 December 2008

Ode to My Chicago Christmas Family Vacation in Chicago for Christmas with My Family

Chicago was good, Chicago was busy
Started out with flying down into the snowy city

At the Midway airport, met up with my mother
Had some time to kill before we'd get to see my brother

El into the Loop, to the art museum
I tell you what I saw, I tell you how I see 'em


Grant Wood: "American Gothic!"
(that's his daughter, folks, not his wife)

Ed Hopper: "Nighthawker!"
lonely times, it's true, in a big city life

Dan Burnham: "Chicago Planner!"
everything's so organized, every mile 8 streets

Georges Seurat: "Lazy Sunday!"
but tell me what is up, with that monkey on a leash?

Georgia O'Keeffe: "Clouds!"


Finally together, family tradition
Awesome sushi dinner, that's some mighty fine fishin'

Lunch the next day, all you can eat
Brazilian steakhouse = meat meat meat
(and a ridiculous salad bar with some really good sun-dried tomatoes and smoked salmon and hearts of palm and prosciutto and...)

Christmas Eve service, in three different tongues:
English, Spanish, Karen (that's a Burmese one)

Chillin' on Christmas, I'm glad that we came
But it's not the house I'm used to, so it's just not the same

Brunch with friends the next day, then later that night
Tapas and sangria, some delicious little bites

Early the next morning, we end our tale
Was supposed to go back home but for an airport fail

27 December 2008

SNAFU: Midway Airport Edition

While I was originally planning on being in Massachusetts right now, I am actually back in Nashville a few days early.

Evidently a whole lot of Southwest flights weren't able to make it to Midway airport in Chicago last night (weather, presumably), which meant that planes weren't physically on the ground this morning for more than half of their flights.

My mother and I got to the airport at 6:45am for an 8:15am flight, and there were probably 300-400 people already there by the time we arrived, with the line wrapping around all the way down nearby service corridors. Ours was among the flights canceled, and everybody had to try and fly standby to wherever they were going, so we waited in line for 4 hours before working out a Plan B with a representative.

Weighing the options, I decided to try to fly back to Nashville directly, instead of back to Massachusetts with my mother. I'm disappointed to cut short my travel plans, especially since I was really looking forward to catching up with some college friends while I was home. But we've both made it back safely to our respective destinations, and our time in Chicago with my brother was really good, so I'll take it.

I'll say more about the Chicago part of the trip sometime soon, but for now I'll just comment that there was some interesting people-watching while waiting in that line at the airport this morning. Various types of people there--the loud guy calling attention to himself complaining on his cell phone (loudly), the self-important guy who thinks he can cut the line for whatever reason, the guy who steps out of the line to stand up to that guy since nobody else is doing it.

Circumstances like that can bring out some of the worst of human nature, but it only got semi-ugly once. Still striking though, cause it was a little picture of how a mob can work and just how quickly things can turn into a little uproar. Human nature looking out for its own interests, not necessarily the interests of one's neighbor and how to love and serve them. Mea culpa.

Otherwise, typically, I'm a fan of Southwest. I fly with them because they usually have pretty cheap fares and it's straightforward. Their customer service is also generally agreeable. But customer service is relatively easy when everything is going smoothly. It's situations like today and how they handle the craziness that show their quality or lack. There was one employee who distinguished herself today, but for the most part, there was a real lack of preparedness and leadership, of management taking responsibility even just to corral the hordes and organize the lines uniformly. Today's unexpectedness was certainly a bit extreme, but not a complete anomaly for an airline. Not a good day for them.

Would I rather be back home in Massachusetts for a few days right now? Probably. But it was a tricky decision I made for various reasons, and so I'm here now.

More about Chicago fun later.

22 December 2008

If It Wasn't For The Night

Feeling rigor mortis setting in on my heart.

Bitterness taking root deeply deeply.

Feeling judged, misjudged, misunderstood, presumed upon, holier-than-thou'ed, and held up against hypocritical double standards.

And yes, I certainly did contribute to my predicaments.

And yet, Jesus bore far greater injustices than these.

He bore even these.

How much do I believe that truth vs. the more palpable reality of the immediate painful circumstances?

Still, I'd rather not have to deal with any of it.

Paying it down over and over.

But, this too shall be made right.

Not in a self-righteous way, but in a resting in Jesus way.

If I can let go and find myself there.

Hoping that it will be the death of me in all the good ways.

And not the rigor mortis way.

Thinking about a David Wilcox / Pierce Pettis song:

If it wasn't for the night
So cold this time of year
The stars would never shine so bright
So beautiful and clear

I have walked this road alone
My thin coat against the chill
When the light in me was gone
And my winter house was stilled

When I grieved for all I'd made
Out of all I had to give
On the eve of Christmas day
With no reason left to live

Even then somehow in the bitter wind and cold
Impossibly strong I know
Even then a bloom as tender as a rose
Was breaking through the snow
In the dark night of the soul
In the dark night of the soul

If it wasn't for the babe
Lying helpless on the straw
There would be no Christmas day
And the night would just go on

When it seems that death has won
Buried deep beneath the snow
Where the summer leaves have gone
The seed of hope will grow

16 December 2008

'Tis the Season

Slogging through December and all of its added social outings, Christmas parties and shows. It's been fun, but fatiguing. Feeling a bit partied out, and there's still plenty more to come this week. Trying a bit too hard--not that I'm entirely trying to be something or someone I'm not, but bringing out parts of my personality that don't come as naturally or have as much exercise. Conversational ebbs and flows, witty and no-so-witty remarks, inevitable feet in mouth on various occasions, or varying degrees of party fouls and indiscretions (as discreet as you can be spilling wine on yourself, for hypothetical example).

I don't think it's strictly just a matter of being secure in my identity in Christ or not--though that can be a large part of the picture of how I'm relating to my friends and acquaintances and strangers in a big groupy mess. But I think some of it is just a matter of personality and the typical demands of medium to large social gatherings. I can enjoy meeting new people and having all these fun conversations, it just exhausts my social energy.

Sidenote: a friend of mine remarked a few weeks ago that humor is the male cleavage. Often true, I think.

Otherwise, after a good month and a half or so, life might be settling back down to the baseline "blah" for 2008. And that's fine, it's workable, for now. It will be easier to reflect in January. My sleep schedule and my devotional reading (or reading of any kind) have definitely drifted off lately. Hard to believe that in a week I will be in Chicago, and a week after that Massachusetts. Then return to Nashville for the New Year.

I do love the Advent season, but perpetual Christmas festivities have definitely supplanted the waiting and the quiet so far this month.

04 December 2008


I suppose I'm a week late, but I am thankful for...opportunities to still be making music here in Nashville--doing it in community, living out that part of who I am, enjoying it. Worked on a friend's album last month, presumably to come out sometime next year. Played a Christmas show tonight with some friends. Looking forward to playing for another friend's CD release show sometime in February or March. Mostly cello, but even got to share a couple of my own songs at a show put on by my church a few weeks ago. I'm not awesome at the things I do, but I'm decent, and I do my homework to prepare myself for the most part. And sometimes I do some really solid work. So I'm thankful for all that--for still being in Nashville. For still wanting to be in Nashville (for now).

This month will fly by, undoubtedly. We'll be doing Christmas in Chicago this year, which will be new. My mother and I will fly up and converge there at my brother's place. Should be a fun time, though different.

I'm grateful that 2009 is almost here.

05 November 2008


More reminders that with the human heart, when one bitterness or fear or anxiety leaves, another one (or two or seven) will simply come and fill in the vacuum. One idol for another, unless it experiences what 19th-century Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers called "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"--something else greater and more true and more beautiful for a changed heart to seize upon and be captivated by. Some excerpts from Chalmers' text:

There is not one of these transformations in which the heart is left without an object. Its desire for one particular object may be conquered; but as to its desire for having some one object or other, this is unconquerable. Its adhesion to that on which it has fastened the preference of its regards cannot willingly be overcome by the rending away of a simple separation. It can be done only by the application of something else, to which it may feel the adhesion of a still stronger and more powerful preference. Such is the grasping tendency of the human heart, that it must have a something to lay hold of--and which, if wrested away without the substitution of another something in its place, would leave a void and a vacancy as painful to the mind as hunger is to the natural system. It may be dispossessed of one object, or of any, but it cannot be desolated of all. The heart must have something to cling to--and never, by its own voluntary consent, will it so denude itself of its attachments that there shall not be one remaining object that can draw or solicit it.

In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.

The love of God and the love of the world, are two affections, not merely in a state of rivalship, but in a state of enmity--and that so irreconcilable that they cannot dwell together in the same bosom. We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted; and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.

Also, my friend Beth reminds me where my center is and where power and love truly reside.

03 November 2008

Stumbling & Fumbling

"As long as your cry for relief is louder than your cry for a changed heart, you'll never mature as a man." (Dr. Dan Allender)

That was one of the "Reflection and Preparation" quotes on the first page of the church bulletin yesterday. How true. I've cried for relief far more often this year than I've prayed for a changed heart. The bad news of my life speaks more loudly, eloquently, and persistently to me than the Good News does beautifully or consistently. It would be nice to have a more than just a couple days in a row of simply resting in the joy of Christ before the next round of whatever it may be.

I need the discipline of looking to Jesus at every moment and reminding myself of God's true character, of perpetual repentance and dying to self over and over again, stripping off my self-right and my porcupine hard-heartedness, my idolatry of false saviors.

Towards the end of his sermon yesterday, our pastor reminded us that a phoenix rises from the ashes--not from a burned out stump or a partial loss, but from total ashes. We don't just need something to cover up the blackened spots or to build up from the hollowed out shell. We need a brand new thing.

It's getting dark even earlier now after daylight savings time ended this past weekend, and there'll be shorter and shorter days for another month and a half before things start slowly going the other direction. Heading into winter now, as much as I might want immediate changes in my external circumstances--something that I've thought about for a couple months now in terms of moving to a new city, something which may happen in a year or never--what I need right now regardless is a changed heart. From a heavy heart to one that believes in the abiding reality of joy. That promise of being in Christ and being a new creation. I am tired of me, and I am crying for a changed heart.

31 October 2008

"...what is the breadth and length and height and depth..."

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Sometimes I still get surprised by how broad and deep the brokenness of the world runs. So many things external to myself that I see and am involved in to varying degrees. Sometimes blindsided by Satan's ongoing work to sow dischord and division where we might least be attentive to it. All the systems and interconnected struggles just for the smallest changes and steps from darkness into light, the bearing of fruit in any given life. I'm being vague, and though I'm specifically thinking of other things, I suppose I could be talking about my own life, too.

I know I need to not make myself a savior in any of these situations. I also know that we are workers called into a plentiful harvest field, no matter where we are. Something about persisting through the long defeat, in the holy shadow of an almighty God's already assured victory. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3 goes on with an apt benediction pointing us to this true God--his faithful hand and his powerful work and his eternal glory.


I recently got an update from my friend who helps advise the campus ministry at our alma mater. I am heartened once again to read about the work that God is doing in a new generations of believers there. I reflect on His faithfulness before, during, and since my time there. I'm encouraged to hear about the alumni who have been returning for visits to share their experience, heart, and vision of God's kingdom work with the body of Christ in this small college town in Vermont. I really appreciate the hopeful reminders that God sends in the midst of other setbacks or frustrations.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

30 October 2008

Finding Center

There are some specific lies of Satan that I tend give a lot of power to, ways that I have always been prone to losing my center and my identity in Christ, the seeds of which were planted long before I came to faith. Issues with self-image and pride and where I look to find validation of my worth. This year most of those issues have been pretty near the surface with everything going on, and I've gotten to see just how deeply they run.

As some of the difficult situations have started to find some sort of resolution and even redemption these last couple weeks, I'm realizing that I've had so much of my identity lately wrapped up in the trials of this year, and now I need to learn how to let go of that rightly and focus all the more on Jesus' beauty and the ridiculous love that God has for me--to see myself as he sees me.

But even with certain storms passing, I'm already frustrated to be picking up right where I left off in finding old ways to be the same old broken me. The names and faces may have changed, but I have not. Hopefully, that means new ways to repent and new ways to turn to Jesus as my truth and center again and again.

My friend has some thoughts on her blog that I find to be encouraging Gospel truth, and so I re-read them occasionally here and here.

I've also been finding some comfort recently in Psalms 142 and 143.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

29 October 2008

Coming up for air.

Wrestling with joy.
Another round of dying to self.
Learning how to let myself lose and let joy win.
That's not a haiku.

25 July 2008

Taking a break...

I think I'll be taking a bit of a break from this space for the time being. There are probably a few things that I could say, but nothing pressing. I'll just process for a little while and chime back in at some point. Peace.

20 July 2008

The Inner Voice of Love

A friend of mine recently gave me this book by Henri Nouwen as a thank-you gift for some work that I did for his wedding. It's a collection of journal entries from the hardest, darkest time of Nouwen's life, December 1987 to June 1988. It's meant to be read slowly, savored and meditated upon. I've only read a handful of entries so far, each is a couple paragraphs to a couple pages long, and it's been rich and fulfilling and challenging reading. It puts succinct words to the core issues I'm dealing with this season--my relationship with God, with other people, with myself and my identity. It's a mixture of comfort and calling to action, even if that action is mostly just resting in God's love.

I am a restless person, so that can be a hard step of faith for me. Stepping out of my pride and fear, out of my right-ness, out of all the other things I look to to fill me up and make my life work. Taking God at His word, knowing what that even is. Something about the compromises of being human and fallen and having to love imperfectly. There is still and ever and always a perfect love, and I hope I'm re-learning to hear (and heed) His voice.

Our pastor at church started preaching on forgiveness and reconciliation last week, and he will be continuing that topic in his sermon this week. So today I'm re-listening to a Tim Keller sermon on the same theme that a good friend of mine gave to me when we were working through some issues last year. I've listened to it a handful of times since then, and it continues to be encouraging. I need it spoken into my life; I need to preach it to myself, the Gospel truth.

We'll be singing one of my favorite hymns at church tonight, "Abide With Me," a re-setting with a gorgeous new melody, so I'll close with these words by Henry Lyte:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

12 July 2008


I'm a little ambivalent about Stuff. I can certainly enjoy bright, shiny new things, but even with Stuff that I know I would be able to use (certain kitchen devices come to mind...or a bed, for that matter), if I don't already own it, I just get by without. A lot of my clothes are hand-me-downs, things that I've had for years, and I don't like to throw things out if they're still at least functional. I own virtually no furniture, so I have to depend on whatever else my house mates may have for the common spaces. So it's not that I don't believe in Stuff, I just try to avoid accumulating that much of it. The trend started in college, when every year I'd find myself taking more Stuff back home that I just didn't need. I moved to Nashville with just what could fit into my station wagon, plus a roof carrier thingee. Most of that space was my instruments, then kitchen things, then some clothes. I've gotten a bit more Stuff over the last year and a half, but even now I can still move everything I have in 3 loads of my car, no truck necessary.

It helps that I don't really enjoy shopping. Even buying groceries can take me an inordinate amount of time. And I don't tend to impulse buy. Potential purchases will sit in my amazon cart, saved for later, for months, or just on a list of things to pick up when the need arises.

Well, the time finally came to pick up a few of those things, so I geared myself up for a trip to Target right after work yesterday. I actually wasn't dreading it too much. Yes, this is all pretty mundane, but here is the list of Stuff I purchased. With annotations. In no particular order.
  • Drying Rack - one of those collapsible, multi-level thingees...growing up we had a clothesline, and using a clothes dryer is one of my big fat compromises...so I'm still using the dryer for my smaller things, but hanging up the larger pieces...
  • Clothespins - see above
  • Wastebasket - one of those cheap little plastic things...since I moved a month and a half ago, I've been hanging a plastic grocery bag on the doorknob...now I can put that plastic grocery bag in an appropriately sized plastic shell...
  • Black Curtain - I'm a light sleeper, and my eyes are particularly sensitive to light...the existing window covering--one of those bamboo slatted things--wasn't exactly made for blocking light, so I finally got the curtain to hopefully help me sleep a bit better...
  • Curtain Rod - see above
  • Safety Pins - in case I needed to pin up the excess curtain...and really, they're second only to duct tape in terms of potential utility...
  • House Slippers - I got a pair from a Target up in Massachusetts (I think) just before I moved down here in October 2006...the left slipper is still doing fine, but the right slipper has been on its last legs for a few months now, gradually falling apart in chunks, bit by bit...so I finally got another pair...
  • 9V Batteries - these things are never on sale, of course, which is understandable...our smoke detector has been beeping every morning for a couple weeks now...we pulled the battery last week, but it's probably a better idea to replace it and turn the alarm back on...which is what I did this morning...
  • Greeting Cards - I prefer using blank greeting cards for whatever occasion, so I'm usually on the lookout for nice ones if I see any...these can add up, though...grrr...
  • Plain White Unscented Candles - I have one non-functioning candle...these are its replacements...
  • Tablecloths - two of them, cotton, 5'x7', mismatched but on clearance for $3.24 a piece...I'm hosting a dinner gathering on Tuesday...I'll probably put two 4' tables together, one square, one round (because that's what we have in the house)...and it was cheaper to get the two cotton ones rather than one vinyl tablecloth that would have been long enough on its own...plus, cotton, mmm...
  • Junk Food - sigh, yes, I treated myself...I mean, some of you might be able to assemble that whole shopping cart in a matter of minutes...I was there for over two and a half hours...no, really...I don't even know how that happened...at least it was still light out when I left, thankfully...
Anyway, I could easily have spent much more money on a bunch more Stuff last night. Most of it would have even been useful, probably. There must be millions of dollars of Stuff in every big box retailer in the country. Like I said, I'm a little ambivalent about Stuff, that's all.

Tonight we'll be celebrating and sending off a friend of ours who's returning to New Zealand after working in Nashville and being a part of our community here for over a year. I have very much appreciated his friendship and his good-natured kindness, and he will be missed. I'm not crying, it's just raining. On my face.

In the meantime, I've been steadily crossing things off my to do list today:
  • Assemble drying rack--check
  • Clean off patio furniture--check
  • Blog--check

08 July 2008

There, But For The Grace Of God, Go I

I got some more experience with the Davidson County criminal justice system this evening after work.

I hardly know how to start processing it all, but I was at least struck by that first thought.

01 July 2008

Midway Point

We are halfway on our way to the year 4016. Here's a mid-year report.

I have lived at 4 different addresses so far this half-calendar year. That is unusual for me, but it's all made sense and felt like I was in the right place at each point, I think. And in my current place, sharing a house with a friend of mine, I finally feel comfortable in the space as a whole--able to be at rest and enjoy leisure and also be productive--not feeling like I need to retreat back to my room by default.

Looking back, I actually remember that in the weeks before the naissance of this blog (namely, January 2008) there was a good bit of unfamiliar life experience stuff going on for me, largely external to me but within my immediate circle of friends. I'll leave it ambiguous like that, but it was an eye-opening time that I was able to share with several of my friends who were also involved.

Otherwise, the half-year has seen some increased responsibilities at church, both deepening and estranged friendships, and the challenges of engaging in community across cultural boundaries in a semi-committed way . That's kinda vague (and uppity) to say it that way, but I do have concrete things in mind.

This current season is also marked by the fact of where I am not: Vermont. The Green Mountain State. More cows than people and refreshingly pungent cow-ish odors in the summertime. Middlebury, VT, is where I've been for 8 of the last 10 summers, both as a student and staff member for a French language immersion program at the college there. Some of my friends are there now starting another session this week, and I have a small nibblet of nostalgia to think that I could be there now as well. But I knew even before I returned last summer that it would be my last time there, and that was even more clear to me at the end of the session. I definitely burnt myself out last year, but my experiences as a whole were fantastic, with some great friendships, good hard work and challenges and learning both in and out of the classroom, and opportunities to reconnect with my home communities there, where I would feel welcome and at home after months and months away. Vous me manquez toutes et tous.

Nashville is where I'm supposed to be. Unless I decide to up and run away from all my troubles, in which case, you will find me in either Seattle or San Francisco, stirring up fresh trouble, of course.

But in the meantime, for the next few months, I will continue to receive fresh vegetables every week (at least one reason to stick it out here). Yum.

There's been a lot of music. And weddings. And music at weddings.

July will slow down. Please.

Lastly, here's a prayer I've been coming back to a good bit these last few months, from a book called The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou has brought me to the valley of vision,
     where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
     hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
     that the way down is the way up,
     that to be low is to be high,
     that the broken heart is the healed heart,
     that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
     that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
     that to have nothing is to possess all,
     that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
     that to give is to receive,
     that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime, stars can be seen from deepest wells,
     and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
     thy life in my death,
     thy joy in my sorrow,
     thy grace in my sin,
     thy riches in my poverty,
     thy glory in my valley.

19 June 2008


So, I have a job, one that I've had for a little over a year now, minus my escapades in Vermont last summer. Technically my current job is part-time, but it's more or less the standard 9 to 5 with some wiggle room, and it pays the bills. I feel like music is definitely another job for me, as it is for a whole ton of folks here in Nashville ("Music City," we call ourselves), where I'm sometimes putting in upwards of 10-15 hours in a given week for prep and rehearsal and gigging when it's busy. Plus the things I do for my church--another few hours a week, and generally pretty much always in the back of my mind. Everybody's (hopefully) got those things in their lives that are fruitful labors, monetarily remunerated or not, juggled together with everything else that fills up the hours and days--rest/sleep, cook/eat, play soccer, read, socialize, do nothing time--let alone be married and raise a family for some of you all.

The idea was floated out there of paying me a bit for the things that I do for church, especially as the reponsibilities (and stress) have grown a bit the last few months compared to the stuff I started with last fall. I haven't figured that one out yet--the whole idea of Paul's having the rights of an apostle to earn his living off the Gospel, but choosing not to so that the Gospel would be free to all (I Corinthians 9). This isn't exactly that situation, but I haven't figured it out yet. I mean, I've certainly accepted honorariums in the past for the work I've done for and with my two home churches in Vermont, leading worship or directing the choir for a season. And that felt right, I appreciated their gestures of thanks for my labors at the end of those seasons, and because those churches were small, I felt like it came from each of the congregations as a whole as a gift back to me. But if it were to be a regular weekly paid job-esque thing, hmm...

If this were the kind of blog that solicited comments, here's where I'd say, "So what do you all think?" But, alas, it is not. And I like the illusion of not knowing exactly who's reading this and then being pleasantly surprised when someone mentions it to me. I mean, it's out there and public, I know, and I have no qualms about that. But since I feel more comfortable with my online community (facebook, myspace, blog) reflecting my real-life (offline? non-cyberspace? supra-virtual?) community, you all for the most part know how to reach me by other means anyways.

Not that you need to, that's really just a side point and a corollary to the fact that I am a late adopter to new technologies.

That is all. Back to work, in one or more of its various guises.

16 June 2008


Great show tonight at The Rutledge playing with Taylor Sorensen's acoustic side project, Kyiv. We were minus our keyboard/accordion player, so I took a bit more of the instrumental slack on cello. And I felt pretty good about it, thought I played pretty well overall, with a few moments that felt really solid. Video may or may not show up here in a few days. We added a couple songs tonight that we didn't do earlier this month at the Basement show, songs from his other band, The Trigger Code. I charted them out as he played them for me after sound check tonight, then played them for the first time in the show itself. And it worked out, actually had some of my favorite moments there. We even got an encore from the appreciative crowd of friends--an encore in the old-school sense of the word, since we had already played all the songs we knew, so we played our first song encore une fois à la fin du concert.

Most of the time I am pretty hard on myself when it comes to my playing. All kinds of things that I can get down on myself about. But there are also times like tonight when, even with a few mistakes here and there, spontaneous and excellent things happen because a group of people are making music and trying to create honest beauty in a live setting, before a responsive and engaged and encouraging (albeit small) audience. It reminds me what I love about making music and creating. Or just listening to music for that matter--hearing some great David Wilcox songs that I hadn't heard before as my house mate played them for me this past weekend, for example.

My friend Eric is starting to record his new project, with Ben Shive producing. Ben's own long-awaited, long-in-the-making solo project finally comes out this week, "The Ill-Tempered Klavier." Matthew Jones has a new one coming out in August, "Swallow the Sea." Saw him play some of the new material live with a band last month, and it's fantastic. Hear a couple tracks on his myspace, plus some tracks from his excellent last record, "Throwing Punches in the Dark."

So much music out there, I love it. It's a lot of who I am, who and what I think I'm supposed to be, as best I can.

14 June 2008

In the meantime...

It's a dreary overcast day in Nashville. A good day for reading, watching Euro 2008, and procrastinating from some music homework that I should get done. Some comfort for the day:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

(Psalm 73:21-26)


Last night I went over to my friends' house for a surprise anniversary party that the husband was throwing for the wife. A lot of friends from our church community were there for the surprise and the grill-out and well-wishes and celebration of their marriage. It was a great time of hanging out and good conversation and just having fun together. One of my favorite moments was a hilarious conversation I had with a couple friends about movies--a chance to talk about something other than how sub-par I feel like I'm doing lately. Invaluable. And I needed the reminders that I am still a part of this community that I've started to get a little burnt out in lately.

At a certain point, the gathering transitioned into a second phase--most of the guests had left, someone plugged in their iPod, turned it up, and yes, we had a dance party in their living room. Just as things were starting to roll, a friend of mine was leaving, and I considered getting a quick ride home with her, since I had walked there. But I stayed, knowing that this would be one of the best opportunities for me to let go of some of my baggage.

Those of you who have known me for a while know that I do not dance in public. I enjoy dancing and movement when no one else is around, but I am just too self-conscious and inhibited in the company of other people, even good friends. When I'm around other people dancing to music that makes me want to move, I'll scurry on by and make some surreptitious, subtle body movements (in time to the music) as I make my way over to neutral ground.

But last night, instead of hanging back and hiding out in a side room, I willed myself into it, moving my arms and legs and hands and feet and head and body to the beat, just a handful of friends around. I certainly don't know any moves, was hardly familiar with the music that was playing, at times imitating the others, at times closing my eyes and just moving, at times unsure of myself. I have no idea how I looked to the other folks there. I also know that they didn't care one bit. Every now and then I'd get self-conscious, but for the first time in my life really, I would let it go and dance and enjoy it. Don't know what it'll be like the next time, but I am so grateful for the chance to find that moment of freedom and be a little bit more of myself.

04 June 2008


Show last night at the Basement with Old Bear and Kyiv was actually pretty solid, despite some minor mishaps and my own stumblings and intonation issues whenever I can't hear what's going on, which is semi-often when there's no time to do a sound check (that's just a cheap excuse--I'd have those problems on almost any gig involving a sound system, sigh). But a couple proud moments, too--I particularly liked a solo that I took on the last song of the night. Good music that I can enjoy with good friends whom I care about. I think it's the kind of gig that I'm looking for. I'm still figuring out where and how the music all fits into my life. Art. Beauty. Not sucking. But after a busy month and a half of rehearsals and gigs and recording, I've got a couple quieter weeks, I think, before things pick back up again in the second half of the month.

Went to a few of the plenary sessions of the Christian Community Health Fellowship annual conference here in Nashville last weekend, courtesy of the clinic I volunteer at. I am not a medical professional, of course, but since the central theme was the Kingdom of God, a lot of what the speakers were sharing was a broad call toward a focus on God's Kingdom and what we as followers of Christ are called to be/do in bringing that to bear in whatever spheres we find ourselves in. So it was good, I appreciated a lot of it, resonated with various things I've been thinking about as I've become steadily invested in my church community, its vision and my family there and our sense of place in East Nashville.

The weekend before that (Memorial Day weekend) I was a groomsman in a special little wedding here in town. A lot of folks poured out a lot of effort and energy and giftings to make it a really lovely celebration. All I had to do was show up in my tux. The next day I moved in with a friend of mine, so I'm finally a bit more settled, at least for the semi-indefinite future. Then spent the next day helping out a friend of mine from church who runs something called The Bridge (a program of the local YMCA), joining up with a bunch of folks for some cleaning and organizing and setting up for their summer enrichment program at a local middle school. Seems like it's pretty amazing and intense. They just started up this week.

What next? I might help out this weekend on a work project with some church friends for the Barefoot Republic summer camp. Or I might just have a quiet day. The push/pull of wanting to be busy and co-laboring with friends, but trying to take seriously my need for a bit of rest, too. We'll see, it's a game-time decision.

And yeah, I guess all those paragraphs are about things and programs and events and labors where you can see the Kingdom of God breaking through and transforming our life and culture and relationships, etc.

And it's June. Whaddya know.

21 May 2008

The Wilderness

I was working on a post last week all about the wilderness that I feel like I'm in right now. My friend calls it "the wasteland." I think I've been there since January or so, with a few good spells of refreshing (like the Lenten season). That's the short version, and I'll leave out all the blogtastically confessional melodramatic 'woe is me' details for now.

In the midst of the various things I'm dealing with and running away from, there is still the Gospel to contend with, of course. There are times when I'd rather actually be dealing with a whole wheelbarrow-ful of cow manure. But the truth of the Gospel isn't going away, and somehow it will bring redemption to the various fears and hurts and craziness. I feel like I need to run and hide a bit from various things and people (rightly or not), and hopefully the shelter I find is in the shadow of God's wings.

I'm learning about boasting all the more of my weaknesses (not one of my natural giftings). I'm definitely finding new things to boast about (I'll spare you here). Brick by brick, I need God to dismantle my false foundations--who I think I am, my identity and motivations apart from Christ. Who I'm being made into in Christ. I need to turn over every rock and repent. This could be a full time job.


I don't want for this to just be a blog o' my woes and emotional vomit (and yes, I do have other genuinely inter-personal channels in which to deal with my crap), so here are some good things going on:

  • in my current housing limbo, the Tullocks have graciously let me come and crash in their upstairs area for a couple weeks...the move a couple weekends ago was surprisingly smooth, and I've settled in as much as I can in just a two-week stay...I'll be moving again for the more indefinite future with another friend from church this coming Memorial Day weekend...
  • my mother and I have been vaguely talking about it for about a year now, but just recently things came together via my brother and his housemate (who works at an Apple store, I think) to get me a new MacBook Pro...I've been getting by for the last year and a half on a borrowed Tangerine iBook, so this is a bit of a step up...first things first: importing all my CDs into iTunes...
  • my friend Shannon and I are splitting a quarter-bushel share from the Community Supported Agriculture program of Avalon Acres farm...there's a food drop every Wednesday for 26 weeks...the first drop was a couple weeks ago, and the lettuce was scrumptious...last week's strawberries were amazing...I'm looking forward to the rest of the season's fun bounty...
  • my friends the Langsdorfs safely had their baby girl, Grace, last week...can't wait to meet her...
  • the unexpected (but not unwelcome) uptick in music stuff continues...I've been rehearsing with Seth Wood for an EP he's recording this weekend...I'll be rehearsing with Taylor Sorensen for his more acoustically-oriented side project, Kyiv, in preparation for a show in early June...and it's looking like I'll be sitting in on Treva and the Suits' CD release show at The Basement at the end of June...good stuff...but the extra work is keeping me up past my bedtime, for sure...

I suppose all of those could be summed up in the word Provision. Luxury, too, for some of them, but I'll tackle that idol another time.

Another little oasis was this past Friday evening. I went to my friends' wedding rehearsal over at the Tulip Street United Methodist Church here in East Nashville, and after the rehearsal they graciously let me crash the rehearsal dinner at The Acorn over by Centennial Park. At the end of that trying week, it was so good for me to be in the presence of so much joy and love among all kinds of family and friends, and I got to meet some great folks and just feel welcomed all around. The fellowship of the body of Christ, a beautiful blessed thing. And still but a shadow of the joy that awaits us. But thank God for those wonderful intimations of His abiding glory and presence. Things for me to remember in the midst of the soulache.

I know that Jesus is the answer. Sometimes I'm not sure how to get there, days when I feel more like I'm at the bottom of a pit. So He's going to have to come and rescue me. And I know that He is able.

He is able. Here's to a God whom death could not hold, who came to save His beloved, trading His glory to take on our skin and bones for a season out of eternity, who came to redeem what He created and created good. Let me rest assured of His beautiful love and favor upon me. Let me take Him at his word, that He will never leave me nor forsake me.

All other ground is sinking sand...

I have a new phone.

By which I mean, a new old phone. I am so averse to change, but my wireless plan (a since discontinued pay-as-you-go plan through Verizon that I've had for years now) was becoming less and less the bargain that it used to be as my usage has gone up, so I finally had to switch over to a conventional plan with a local Nashville area number.

My old phone will still be active for a while, with a voice mail greeting that tells you my new number. So please feel free to call that to get it, or email me, or ask me in person, "What's your new number? And what is that sexy new phone that you've got there?"

Speaking of which, I actually went through extra trouble to track down a recently discontinued model that has the closest interface to my old (long since discontinued) phone. The "new" one is an LG VX-3450. I don't even remember what my old model was--it was a gracious hand-me-down from my brother when I first got the aforementioned cell plan. And I only got that because I was going to be house-sitting for some friends for a few months in a place without a land line. I am a rather late adopter of new technologies. So be it.

01 May 2008

Patience is easy for the first 10 minutes.

Actually, I feel relatively good about life right now. Here's a more mundane update on some other things that have been going on the last couple weeks, particularly on the music front.

I've been sitting in on rehearsals and gigs with Charlie Murphey's new band, Old Bear, some combination of bass and cello stuff. Did a bit of recording for an EP he's working on, too. He does good stuff, and it's been neat to see his music take a certain shape with a band behind it, giving him a chance to rock out a bit more with a rhythm section. So the last couple weeks have seen gigs at the Mercy Lounge, 12th & Porter, and now tonight at the Rutledge, opening for Drew Holcomb and Matthew Perryman Jones. Should be a good one.

But first up after work this afternoon is Siloam Family Health Center's volunteer appreciation party. I've been going there every Friday morning for a year now, and I love it. Usually I'm printing up various lists from their system and pulling charts for the upcoming clinic days, sometimes I get redirected to other little things that they need done. I am not medically inclined whatsoever, and I'm realizing that I'm even more squeamish about a lot of things than I thought I was. And that's ok. I have a place and a work to do there. I can partner with them in small ways, join them in their prayer times, show up for the culture-gram lunches, just chat with all the folks that I've gotten to know this last year, some of whom go to my church.

There's definitely something to be said for just showing up week after week, and I feel both a sense of belonging to and ownership of their labors. I feel loved and appreciated, and there are so many great folks--both staff and volunteer--who commit so much of their time and talents in the service of Siloam's mission: "to share the love of Christ by serving those in need through health care."

29 April 2008

Your mistakes and your crimes...

...it hurts just to mention
Feel abandoned and alone in desert land
But every mess is a fruit that's ripe for redemption
If you only leave the harvest in his hands.

I'm starting to believe those last couple lines not just in the abstract, but in specific ways for my life. Something of a breakthrough. I tend to remember a lot of things really well, which can certainly be a good and useful thing, of course, but it can also mean holding on tightly to hurts and guilt and all that fun stuff. I'll leave it at that. Just to say that the long-term forecast is actually starting to look more than ok. God's ultimate victory over sin and death and darkness is already secured for us in Jesus Christ. Beautiful. Eric Peters has a song called "The Ending" (on his "Miracle of Forgetting" and "Bookmark" albums) that reminds me of this truth:

I want to know why we fall so hard
And why hope for tomorrow can seem so far away

Don't say it's over when the world's gone mad
I've seen the ending and it's not so bad
Don't say it's over when you lose your heart
'Cause the ending is where we start

Lent was a really good and fruitful time in terms of delving into Scripture, morning quiet times and evening writing times. I don't really know why, but since Easter it's been a pretty dry season, and I've just been riding it out this past month. But I feel like there's a renewing coming now, remembering and knowing that I am here to spend time with God, and what a true joy, peace, and comfort that can be. God's Kingdom breaking into my false little fortress. Thank God. I've had the U2 song "40" (off their "War" album) ringing in my head last night and this morning:

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song...

I read that psalm this morning and this was one of the verses that resonated--"my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me." I've definitely had a lot of heart failure of all sorts these last few months and weeks, reaping the fruit of my iniquities, falling down in repentance. And yet, there is ever and always God's steadfast love and faithfulness, His mercy, His grace.

I can wait. I think. I hope. God help.

24 April 2008

Wednesdays are for crisis management.

The last two Wednesdays I've gotten calls to jump into situations that various friends were in the middle of. It's involved a lot of driving around and taking care of things in person, making too many phone calls, all kinds of craziness and some measure of stress. In the in-between time, I've had my own personal crap to deal with--a resurging awareness of my judgmental heart, my idolatrous heart, my overvaluing of others' good opinion of me--a lot of the same stuff that I was swimming through back in January and February, plus some unexpected extra goodness. I've already mentioned Sunday's freakout/meltdown.

I wrestle with questions like the line between selfless love, self sacrifice, seeking the welfare of others even at your own expense vs. taking care of myself and my own interests, being healthy. How do you do it? Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to love myself? How and when to say no?

If only I were so sure of God's absolute love for me and his abiding favor toward me, secured on my behalf by Christ's perfect labors. If only I actually believed it. I would be set free from feeling like I need to elevate myself above others, from my idolatry, from trying to plug my lifeline into things that can't fulfill me. Everywhere I turn is another false savior. I'll catch myself, repent, then do it again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I would be set free to love completely and selflessly, without fear, without recoiling or judging, without agenda or self-interest. Set free to worship the only one who bears that ultimate worth. Set free to be wholly dependent on God. I keep on trying to smooth out my life so that I don't need Him, either by micro-managing my sin and avoiding certain situations, or by trying to do life all on my own.

On Tuesday, someone anonymously mailed me a gift card to a local organic grocery store called the Turnip Truck, with a note alluding to some of the ways I served last week (I assume last Wednesday's crisis). Under normal circumstances, I'd be curious to know who it was, but I could deal with the pleasant surprise, I think. But I wasn't really handling life too well just then and started minorly freaking out about it, just needing to know who it was so that I could clear out that bit of clutter in my headspace. I made some phone calls, no luck. I have a couple possible thoughts, but at this point, life has settled to a manageable level of inner turmoil where I don't have to know. I've been able to talk some things out with a couple friends, and it feels like there's a lot lot lot of work that God needs to do in my life about forgiveness, guilt, healing, paying it down, all across the board. And all the rest of it (see above). In the meantime, I'm just waiting for the next crisis. Probably another one of my own.

Give reviving, give refreshing, give the looked-for Jubilee...
- Albert Midlane ("Father, for Thy Promised Blessing")

21 April 2008

What Do You Expect?

I can understand when I'm disappointed by the expectations that I have of other people and situations when I can recognize that my expectations are foolish or unrealistic or inappropriately placed. But there are times when I get blindsided by unmet expectations that I didn't even realize I had, since they seemed so logical that I took them for granted and they were just part of my thought process.

I know in the moments when I have a bit of perspective that people will disappoint, it's inevitable in a fallen world, and I disappoint and fail as much as any other. And I can't just ditch all my expectations--they happen so naturally, and even if it were possible, it's probably not a good thing. Something about cynicism. It is what it is, and these are opportunities for me to turn again to God's faithfulness and sure and steady presence.

I suppose I'm saying all this against the backdrop of a sermon my pastor preached in early January where the central image was that of Jacob, laboring seven years for Rachel's hand in marriage, only to be hoodwinked by sneaky uncle Laban and wake up on that first wedding morning to Leah instead. All our Rachel expectations met by Leah disappointments. There's only one who is faithful and true. I am certainly not he.

Otherwise, I'm experiencing some of the same mysterious malaise that weighed me down back in January/February. I think I know what it is, but still, it's a bother. And some of the same tensions as always between human being vs. human doing. Put all that together and Sunday was a crazy day, with some unexpected falling apart.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

There's a brain/heart disconnect right now on knowing that that's true.

04 April 2008


It's been a month. Maybe I'll do better this month. Probably not. Though I finally put my taxes in the mail, so I feel more free to spend a bit of time here. I'm just not that good at quickly spitting out the minutiae of my life on a semi-daily basis. I'm sure you've missed me. I, on the other hand, spend a lot of time with me.

March went by just as quickly as February, and I felt it. A lot of burners going on at once right now, mostly church stuff. Grateful for my job. It's not ideal, but it (and life) could certainly be a whole lot worse.

Looking forward to the new Weepies album later this month, Hideaway. Heard a bit of Daniel Lanois' new one a couple months ago on the road to a gig with a friend. Here Is What Is. Also on the list. That and Tim Keller's "The Reason for God" and this collection of Puritan prayers called "The Valley of Vision."

Heading off shortly to a church retreat out at Camp NaCoMe this weekend. Should be an excellent time of getting away, spending time with friends, casting vision for our church. I went last year, and a year later I know more people and know them more deeply, so I'm certainly looking forward to it.

And they filmed me earlier this week doing silly things playing cello for some skit material. We shall see.

04 March 2008

Time will march its ordered way...

Steady steps of numbered days
And I will try to walk by faith
Unless my sight leads me astray

February flew by, even with the quadrennial bonus day. Went out to Percy Priest Lake with some friends to watch the lunar eclipse on Wednesday, February 20, 2008. Feels like astronomological phenomena require a full date. This is what I remember, encapsulated in an expression of my national poetry, le haiku.

Moon, where goest thou?
This is taking forever.
Let's find a Starbucks.

Actually, it was quite fun, cold but not too cold, good time hanging out, new friends, fun dog. I had been feeling myself getting sick over the course of that day, and that only progressed into a somewhat unpleasant flu over the next few days with a pretty high fever. I generally don't enjoy wacthing movies on my own, but forced bed rest time included re-watching Shadowlands (Attenborough/Hopkins/Winger version), watching Lifeboat (Hitchcock/Steinbeck, 1944), and re-watching Good Night, and Good Luck.

Went to Birmingham this past weekend to see a college friend and also to participate in a dance/music improvisation rehearsal that she was running for the Sanspointe Dance Company at the Children's Dance Foundation. Also enjoyed this natural foods grocery store called Tria and the excellent Continental Bakery. And some amazing spring/summer weather. Return visits to the city are in order. I still need to see the Vulcan Statue.

Just to clarify, I contributed music (upright & cello) to the creative process. Not dance. Not in public (though not for any theological reasons--I enjoy movement and dancing. As long as nobody's watching me.)

Got to sing on the worship team for the first time this past Sunday. That was a blast, particularly since I didn't have to lug all my instruments and gear. That was a treat.

On the docket for this week are:
  • Tonight: church prayer meeting
  • Thursday: pot luck and art project display with my neighborhood group at the middle school where we do our reading program
  • Saturday: church poverty simulation workshop
Also curious what today brings for the Democratic primary race.

14 February 2008

"L" is for...

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends."

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

I John 3:16-18, 23
Matthew 22:36-39
John 13:34-35, 15:13
Matthew 5:43-45
Ephesians 2:4-10
I John 4:7-12, 16-19

English Standard Version

05 February 2008

Yay for America

I voted today.

I have warm fuzzies inside for my country.

02 February 2008

In Memoriam

A year ago today one of my dear friends lost her brother in a car accident. A group of friends from church gathered at another friend's place to remember her brother, encourage and pray with her, share fellowship and worship God together, and just love her as best we could. Another friend baked some of her brother's favorite pies (Key Lime & Apple), and there was some wonderful time off hanging out and being in community and communion with each other.

I had only known her a couple weeks when the accident happened, and I didn't know her brother at all. They announced the news at church the Sunday after it happened--it was Super Bowl Sunday--and somehow I just wept and wept and wept when I heard, grieving deeply with her and for her and for her family. I had been reflecting on my father's death around that time, and so perhaps my heart was prepared to enter into another's mourning--weeping when others weep, as Paul says in Romans.

My father passed away nine years ago next Saturday. I suppose I don't think about it too much. It would be nice if he could see where I'm at and what I'm up to these days, there are a lot of milestones and things where his presence has been missing. But I do remember him fondly, that he loved me well, as best he could.

I try to hold onto the reality of heaven and the sure hope it presents, all possible because of Jesus' life and death and resurrection. Sometimes that hope and that reality are clear and beautiful in my sight. Most of the time I guess I get bogged down in the day-to-day, and I don't suppose that I'm "eagerly awaiting a Savior from there" (Phil.3:20) as much as slogging through and getting by--a mix of enjoying and lamenting life.

Against this backdrop of semi-complacency, I feel like God has been at times quietly and at times rather noisily breaking into my life these last few months. I hope so. I need my sight refocused, I need a new enthusiasm for dwelling on His Word, for actually desiring His Will, for praying and praying and praying some more. He is a good and right and true and just and faithful God. I need the power of his love and affection to rightly claim my heart--oh, that I would finally worship the only One worthy of worship.

The last couple days have had some fasting and praying and confusion and trials and rich blessings. Some excellent, fruitful time of talking things out with some friends, having wisdom and light spoken into my life and my uncertainties. God is faithful in so many ways, and I thank Him for the community of friends that I find myself in the midst of here in Nashville.

Thy Kingdom come.


Lastly, please pray for my dear friends, Tom & Megan Langsdorf. They were stuck in N'Djamena along with Megan's dad when the fighting broke out near and in the capital. We're awaiting updates on their blog. The waiting and my anxiety are showing me some more wrinkles about what it means to have faith.

Thy Will be done.

26 January 2008


Today was an unexpectedly difficult day. The last few weeks I feel like a lot of things have been catching up with me. Realizing that I don't forgive myself--like, ever (yes, I know it's like spitting in God's face and telling him that His forgiveness isn't good enough for me, I know...just another thing I struggle with). Other things going on at the moment, too, but that's the overarching one.

So this afternoon I got home and wrote out on a big sheet of paper: "WHAT DO I KNOW?" I started with "God is real, He exists" and went from there, trying to preach the Gospel to myself. This coming spring will be a challenging, hopefully growthful, season. I'm already looking forward to Easter.

25 January 2008

Florida Primary Debate

Last night after NG I went over to Shannon's to catch the second half of the Republican debate down in Florida. I am not terribly politically engaged at the moment, but I do enjoy keeping up on the news, in general, and so I was certainly game to learning a bit more about the remaining candidates in the Republican field. I am registered to vote here in TN, but not registered with either party. I don't plan on getting into politics too much in this space, not yet.

In any case, it was a fun time, I was entertained--probably more so since I had a friend to be the peanut gallery with and remark on good points, bad points, positions, styles. Shannon was one of the first people to welcome me at City Church a year ago when I started going there, and he's become a good friend. After the debate we talked about various issues and how we see them playing out in East Nashville, different approaches, socialism and libertarianism, foreign policy alternatives, it was an engaging time. He, like a good lot of my other friends, is very enthusiastic about Ron Paul. I'm not a super fan or anything, but I was still a bit offended by the way he barely got any air time, just in terms of his image on the screen (camera angles seemed to be individual shots of the five or some combination of Romney-McCain-Giuliani). But I'm not really complaining--NBC is a private entity and more than free to do what it wants.

Otherwise, it was a valuable time to simply spend in community with a friend and brother, airing out theological things we're wrestling with, life stuff, making fun of the candidates, figuring out how to be informed and engaged and rightly involved with the society we live in.

Speaking of which, I'm headed off shortly to a public forum/lecture type thing on poverty going on at a local coffeehouse called Portland Brew this evening, led by my pastor. Should be interesting.

On a scale of 1 to awesome, I'd rate this post a "boring." But it's a good exercise to write and post and try to gradually find a rhythm for communicating even the mundane. Perhaps more and better later. Or at least more.

23 January 2008

Lest I Forget

Little reminders that I need to be present more than I need to be blogging. Neat conversations with one of my house mates. Had a chance to share why I love my church so much--the focus on ministering to the local neighborhood we inhabit and the benevolence work toward justice in the society around us, laboring to both meet immediate needs and address deeper root causes of injustice; the intentionality of the liturgy and how there's time for people to read and consider texts before choosing whether or not to participate in corporate recitations and prayers and Communion, for example; and just the amazing community of people, such dear friends who have made Nashville home for me in a lot of ways. I said how much I loved my church, and he remarked that he could see my face light up just talking about it.

I realized after the conversation, though, that more importantly than those things I just listed is the fact that I really hear and experience the Gospel steadily with my church family--inside and outside of Sunday services. I need to hear it every day. I need to know that I am a wretched, broken mess (though this is usually an easier truth for me to grasp without so much prompting). And I desperately need to know that I do have a great Savior for my great need, that I have a God who is for me, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, that hope has a real and true foundation. I need to hear it every day.

My friend Steve up in Boston has a nice post to this end that I found really encouraging. Here was another person, a dear friend, preaching the Gospel to me, words that I need to hear for life. I need to remember that for whenever I might be sharing with my house mates these things of my life that carry me through struggles and offer the best of joy and comfort and peace in the midst of suffering a fallen world. More than all the other genuinely amazing things about my church, I need the Gospel. I need to hear it and know it's true over and over and over again.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tonight I saw a solo cello concert at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, Colin Carr playing a program of J.S. Bach--2 unaccompanied suites (#3 in C & #6 in D) and a transcription of the Chaconne from Violin Partita #2.

I walked into the recital hall and there was a single chair on stage. He walked out with his 18th-century Italian cello and filled the hall with so much beauty. Lovely colors and tone and phrasing, nearly flawless intonation, internal voices cleanly articulated through double- and triple-stops, amazing thumb position and some super-fast passages--technically awesome and musically rich, some really exquisite moments. So prodigiously talented, almost effortless. Some of the most beautiful music I've heard.

If I had to pick just one composer to be able to listen to for the rest of my life, it would probably be Beethoven. But Bach has always been at the top of the list, too, and nights like tonight remind me about the experience of art, beauty, truth, goodness, joy breaking into my life in moments where I can just sit and receive it. I've heard that he signed his manuscripts "SDG"--Soli Deo Gloria: Only to God be the glory.

I think when people think about pillars of the faith, first thoughts might tend toward great preachers and theologians of the past, laboring for the Kingdom and leaving a legacy of sermons and writings that continue to shape Christians in the present day. Bach likewise labored so diligently and created so much beauty, reflecting that truth into the world of his day with works of music that continue to speak into ours.

Tonight I had a chance to hear it again for myself and to know the restorative power of art in a fallen world. Beauty, truth, goodness, joy.


I Am...

Last week my neighborhood group (small group, cell group) met for the first time since the holidays to start up another season of fellowship, Bible study, service, prayer, and worship (I think that's the list) over at KIPP Academy (a charter school here in East Nashville). We'll start our reading program with the students tomorrow, and so last week was mostly a time to do a bit of work for the school and then just hang out and get to know each other some more. We're largely the same group that we were in the fall, with a couple new faces. I love my NG, it's great.

So our group leader brought a sort of getting-to-know-each-other, ice-breaker exercise--a poem sheet with about 20 lines or so, each starting with something like "I am...I wonder...I hear...I see..." and then a blank line to fill in. We wrote for about 10-15 minutes and then shared our poems with the rest of the group, and it was really cool.

Here's mine, a snapshot of part of where I'm at right now:

I am in process, and so
I wonder when will
I hear the one true voice of reassurance, when will
I see myself anew, until finally
I want to stop staring at myself in frustration at just how much
I am caught up in myself, and so
I pretend to be stable, even though
I feel much more deeply now than even a year ago. Whenever
I touch an unfortunate memory and remember too much, whenever
I worry again and again and again and again,
I cry out to a God that I block behind myself, because
I am stuck staring at myself. Now
I understand even less about how to pray and how to live, though
I say all manner of things to sound good, and
I dream the wrong dreams and chase the same idols over and over and over as
I try and try and try to make it work for me, so
I hope on a true hope without really knowing how, waiting for a day when
I am finally done staring at myself, because I will finally see glory for everything that He is.

22 January 2008

rhymes with Hitoshi

I figured I'd give it a whirl and selectively disclose aspects of my life to the world wide open Intertron Cyberweb.

Narcissism + Procrastinability = My Blog.


P.S. My friend Tom made the logo. As you can tell, he gave up a promising career as a graphic designer to become a missionary in Chad with his wife--theirs is among the "Blogs I Read."