28 December 2009


I think about boundaries a fair amount, in the context of a handful of relationships. Some friends recently introduced me to this book, and I intend to read it sometime. I wonder about freedom in Christ, and about how to love people. I wonder when my boundaries are good and right and healthy, and when I'm living as if grace weren't real and powerful and redemption deeply possible. I am in this for the long haul, after all.

24 December 2009

Living with Integrity

One of the themes of the last few months for me has been the idea of living with integrity. In everything. Feeling convicted about that in different spheres of my life this fall and how all-encompassing that can be. And how it can be exhausting to pursue that on your own strength. But good and humbling to be convicted of new ways that I don't live with integrity--new revelations of how I need Jesus.

Some time ago, my friend introduced me to this blog by a friend of hers. For whatever reason, the last few posts only just showed up in my google reader feed a couple days ago, but here are a couple excerpts that I found encouraging:

God grew in those moments (or maybe I finally shrank). I realized how big he was, and how small I was. He is in control and I can enjoy breathing. I can enjoy Him. Nothing is required of me. I am accepted by that which is greater than me. And I am safe there.

Intimacy with Christ often leads us to go backwards in comparison with what the world values. Though God may want to teach much through me, give much, love much, and perform much at some point, I appreciate so much this emphasis on being unimportant, unwise, and irrelevant.

Community is always around, and it has been my pride that has hindered me from experiencing it. I believe a lie that others care about me only for what I do, and not who I am. In reality, I believe that lie about myself: I am only valuable for what I do. I have based my own value in my productivity, instead of my relationships.

It's Christmas Eve. I plan on seeing Where The Wild Things Are this afternoon at the second run theater near my home, and then my mother and I will be picking my brother up from the airport. We've been a family of three for over ten years now. It still feels a little strange. We have a lot in common, and a lot that's different, of course. Family is so interesting. It happens in so many different ways, and then there's this whole other story of being adopted into God's family, becoming co-heirs with Jesus. But family is that weird thing that you don't choose, for all its blessings and dysfunctions.

I've neglected the beauty and anticipation of Advent this year. And suddenly Christmas is here. I do want Jesus to come and restore all things once and for all. But there are things that I want to see happen before then, right? Ways for the Kingdom to come and take shape around me and in my life and in the lives of those I love, before the end of our time. Maybe you know what I mean.

Here he comes, let us adore him.

23 December 2009

Night Vision

I think I dozed off even before the plane took off from the Nashville airport last night, and about an hour into the flight, I woke up somewhere over the Chesapeake, I think. It was all craggy like that.

It was a really gorgeous view--there was a bit of haze, and we were high enough that you couldn't make out any moving lights from cars, just this foreign landscape of pockets of city lights against the pitch black of water as we moved up the Atlantic coastline.

Everything looked so still, and there was this illusion of moving slowly, flying so far up. But then as we passed over one city--maybe Baltimore?--there were a couple planes flying below us, and you could see just how fast we were all going. Shortly thereafter, the pilot told us to keep an eye out for Philadelphia and then New York, and it was really just a matter of minutes from the announcement before I recognized Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. Times Square was super bright, even from that far away.

I don't remember the last time that I had a night flight. For whatever reason, it made me think a bit about death (I do tend to think about death fairly easily). Not that think that I'm supposed to die anytime soon, but I don't think I'm that afraid of it, for the most part. I think about the inevitability of my family dying, or my friends, or myself.

The views from the plane last night made me think of the endless grey city at the start of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce." Maybe it was the anonymity of floating so high above. But here it was really lovely to see, taking in miles and miles all around.

22 December 2009


The main character in Avatar and I share a birthday. I'm about 150 years older than he is.

True story.

Also: the dreaded/cryptic CHECK ENGINE light came on in my car on my way to work this morning. I don't even remember the last time that's happened. Sigh. I'll just have to deal with it when I get back to town next week.

21 December 2009

Hello Good-bye

I saw Avatar tonight with a few friends, in 3-D (non-IMAX). I had moderate expectations, and I liked it well enough. I wasn't over-cheesed. It wasn't a mind-blowing spectacle, but I enjoyed the ride. Lots of pretty colors to look at.

I also said good-bye to a friend tonight for the third or fourth time in as many days. The last few days have been a protracted packing up and saying good-bye to Nashville for her as she gets ready to move to Denver. I guess it's been a little less traumatic each time, but it still sucks. I leave for home tomorrow right after work (still need to finish packing myself), so I don't think I will see her until she comes back to visit in April. In the meantime, I have a couple ounces of triple sec in a mini-tupperware to remember her by.

Good-bye. God be with you.

20 December 2009


A few months ago, I looked at a friend of mine's blogroll and saw that I had been added to the list with the accompanying blurblet, "Hitoshi - Honesty and wisdom." How flattering!

Then a few weeks ago, I looked there again and saw that my blurblet had changed to "Hitoshi - The occasional entry." How true!

It's been over two months since the last post, and this is certainly not a resolution to post more frequently. But I have, amazingly, a wide open Sunday with no obligations for today's church service, and I'm looking forward to just being able to show up. So I'll spend a bit of time here.

The usual re-cap: lots of holiday parties and some great shows, both playing and watching. Day job has been very full and busy. I managed to make it through the entire day after Thanksgiving without getting out of my PJs. I have no idea when the last time that happened was.

Life overall feels stable--I'm not counting on that or anything, but I appreciate it in this season. I head back to MA on Tuesday for a little less than a week at home. A high school friend of mine is getting married in the Boston area the day after Christmas, so that should be a fun time. I'm looking forward to going home, but it's kinda snuck up on me in the crazy busy-ness of the month. A reflective season of Advent this has not been.

What am I doing here in Nashville? Lately, for various reasons and excuses, I've been keeping God at bay. There have been a few stretches of discipline in my devotions, but for the most part it's been a dry season.

I'm not really sure what to make of 2009. It was downright terrible up until the day after Easter. Then it's been the usual everything since then. Lots of ways that I'm content and grateful, lots of ways that I'm not.

What's the point? Keep on doing life and growing in the grace and goodness of God, being sanctified and changed, fighting the long defeat wherever we happen to be? I'm fairly confident that I'm supposed to be in Nashville. But I'm definitely lacking perspective right now on where I've been and what God is doing and where he's leading me. I don't feel like I'm changing.

I think I'm weary, maybe. And I'm not necessarily finding my rest in Jesus, or anywhere, for that matter. I find myself often wishing for a "pause" button so that I can get things done or take a nap. So I'm laboring, and striving, and some of that is good, and some of that is just spinning my wheels.

I do not have my stuff together. That's a given. And there are seasons when I'm pretty ok with that. But now is a time when I'm more unsettled by it. The usual identity issues--girls, music--where I look for validation and meaning in my life. Clearly, that's not working out for me, and I am grateful, honestly, cause I don't want to ever forget that I need need need this good and faithful God over every part of my life. Tiresome as that can sometimes feel.

Lately I think one of my main overarching/underlying struggles is that I live more by fear than by love. Sometimes I see it, and I preach the gospel to myself and remind myself the ways that "perfect love casts out fear." But I stumble on that one a lot, walking in fear instead of love.

My brain is an instant replay machine, with the repeat button stuck. I feel like my strong, incessant memory problem has gotten worse over the course of this year. Harder and harder to just let something happen and move on. Constantly replaying and parsing.

How have I grown in good ways this year? I don't know. Maybe straightforwardness and matter-of-factness in some things. Is the difference between boldness and foolishness just in the outcome?

I'm weary, I think that's it. 2010 feels like it's going to be more of the same. But I do have hope for God's sovereignty over it all.

19 October 2009

The Catch-Up

I've been remiss. I'm ok with that. Here's a bit of mostly outdated news.

I've been playing about a show a week since the start of September. That's a decent amount for me. It's been great. Mostly pro bono work, but stuff that I want to be involved with--friends whose company I enjoy and whose art I want to support. Venue shows, outdoor shows, church shows, coffee shop shows, house shows. Cello, upright bass, electric bass. Even led worship at my church a couple weeks ago--while playing electric. That was a fun challenge for me. And leading worship is often one of the ways that I most experience joy in Christ.

The last couple months of shows have clarified my take on music in my life here in Nashville. I want to be involved with stuff I want to be involved with. I want to support my friends in their art-making. If that's the case, then pro bono is fine. Money is an added bonus.

This past Saturday, I played a surprise wedding with a friend. Guests thought they were coming for a nice dressy engagement party. But partway through, the couple announced that they were going to have the wedding right then and there in the house. There was a break to set up the room and change into the wedding dress, then Charlie and I played "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You" (from the Garden State soundtrack) for the processional. Less than 10 minutes later: married. And awesome.

Less awesome was finally finding the mouse that had been decomposing in our house for a couple days. My housemate and I searched all over--up in the attic, down in the basement, all over the kitchen. Until finally we pulled the oven from the wall, unscrewed the back panel to open it up, and--

Yeah, it was nice and bloated, stuck up in some wiring. Gross. But, situation resolved.

Less resolved has been some unusual stuff at work. An ethical lapse on the part of a co-worker. We're working through the fallout there, and we're a pretty small department. It's been tricky. But I have a clearer picture now than 24 hours ago of God's capacity to bring redemption out of it. We'll see how it plays out. But that's been hard.

I've been listening to Sara Groves' forthcoming album, Fireflies and Songs. It's mellow. It suits me right now.

I leave on Wednesday for the Christian Community Development Association conference up in Cincinnati. A bunch of folks from my church are going this year, so that's great. The road trip and getting away a bit will be nice, too.

Gang and gun crime hit really close to home a couple weeks ago. A teenager I know whose picture is up on the Nashville Police press release website, charged with attempted homicide. There's more to it, of course. But it's pretty heart-breaking--not just the event itself, but all sorts of circumstances around it and in the aftermath. All the ways that this is almost normal--or at least very much within the realm of understandable reality--for his family. It's gotten me re-engaged with the family, though, which has been good. I hadn't seen them as much lately.

I could say more about how I'm changing and how I'm not changing. Mostly how I'm not changing. But not right now. I probably don't have the perspective, anyway.

Lastly, I leave you with another music video. I played a show on bass for Charlie a couple weeks ago. He is one of the artists on a music subscription service called Brite Revolution--$5 flat monthly fee, for which you get mostly unreleased/exclusive content from their whole roster of artists.

Anyway, Brite had a showcase for the Next Big Nashville 4-day quasi-music festival--tons of shows in a whole lot of venues all over the city. Buy a bracelet, see whatever you want. I learned the night before the gig that I was getting a free bracelet out of it, which was awesome, since I wasn't up for paying $40 for one just on my own. I saw great shows all four nights, including Sarah Siskind and The Civil Wars.

Back to Charlie. He wanted to do a Smashing Pumpkins cover--a song I had never heard before (sorry, my 90's friends)--"Bullet with Butterfly Wings." Here you go:

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. My glasses fell into a fire over the weekend and burned like awesome. So I had to wear my sports glasses for the last couple days. Thankfully my new ones (that I had already ordered before said fire incident) arrived today. Although I was mentally preparing myself for going to CCDA in my rec specs and meeting all sorts of new people and telling them what planet I was from. Or challenging them to a game of racquetball right then and there.

29 September 2009

Poison, Wine, & Honey

I will say more about my September soon, I think.

But for now, here's a very recent video of me and my friend Haley playing one of her newest songs together. We'd only rehearsed a couple times in preparation for a house show that we played together just this past Sunday night (our first time doing a show together). I really enjoyed working out parts and ideas and figuring out ways to complement her songs, and I'm proud of my contributions to this one. She's lovely and talented, as you will see.

30 August 2009

Control Freak

I don't like not being in control. I don't like not knowing what's going on. I give grace with strings attached, conditions for future change, or else resentment when people fail to meet up to my standards. I am very much unlike God, and yet I still manage to make myself god. How pitiful and pathetic.

I know that the antidote to these particular bits of selfishness is to trust in Jesus. But it's so much easier for me to trust in the things that I can see and touch: money, friends, job, whatever. Even though I know that they will let me down--moreover, that trusting in those finite, fleeting things (not necessarily evil things) will be the death of me. Really.

I think it's because I don't know my Savior. I could expand on that any number of ways, but right now I'll try to rest in the fact that he knows me. Deeply and truly, better than I know myself. He knows me. He loves me. Even when I don't feel it. He is present.

But where is he? It's not that I feel completely untethered from him, but I certainly don't feel deeply connected. Oh, that he would reveal himself to me more and more. That I would be open and obedient to his wooing me. That his mercies would truly be new to me every day. That I would know the depth of his love, the limitlessness of his peace, and the sufficiency of his grace in my every weakness.

Oh, me of little faith! Oh, soul, call upon--and fall upon--your great savior: Jesus Christ!

29 August 2009

little gods with little g's

my heart is an idol factory. it takes things--people, possessions, goals, whatever--and elevates them beyond their right worth. elevates them to be little gods in my life. little gods that i must have and control on my own terms, and all the while they control me. i feel disappointment and elation, self-confidence and self-worthlessness, all based on how they're going in my life from moment to moment. they own me, and i don't let them get away easily. cause i'm stubborn stubborn stubborn.

i give my heart away so easily. mostly to people (read: girls). i sometimes wonder if i have an even greater predilection for it than most other guys. replaying interactions to parse the subtle signs. daydreaming imaginary conversations. i see it happening step by step--churning out another idol off the production line.

in every instance, how quickly do i turn away from the false twist i make--even of true and good and right things in life--and turn back to Jesus. my compass. my light. my peace. my shepherd. my savior. the only one who fully knows everything that is good for me. who desires and ordains all this good for me.


i know that i can't change me. i can only have confidence in God's ability to change me. to humble my proud heart. to draw me deeper and deeper into love and worship of him. away from the false gods of my own shoddy making. i have no other true hope.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth

Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been

Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee

Surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do

If with His love He befriend thee.

24 August 2009


Today was a pretty emotionally draining day, and not because it was/is my birthday.

I finally got my car back after nearly two weeks in the shop and a lot of minor frustrations along the way. I'm grateful to have it back, and I'm grateful for various things that made it a manageable expense right now. I was able to get by without it in the interim, and that was great, but I realized that one of the reasons I like having a car is the flexibility to respond to needs to serve when they pop up unexpectedly.

Like tonight.

A late semi-crisis that made me heartbroken, then distressed, then angry, all while brainstorming solutions. Thankfully, it's reached a temporary stable point for a couple days, and we'll try to find a more medium- and then long-term solution soon. It wasn't a personal crisis, but it was within the body of Christ that I am a part of, and I felt deep deep grief over it, to the point of tears. This is the body of Christ; this is family. I couldn't possibly go and do what I was planning on doing--treating myself to a late meal and a glass of wine at a nice restaurant--when someone who is my family was in the middle of a life-consuming shit-storm and on the verge of homelessness.

I'm being stupidly vague. Before that there was an earlier non-personal-but-family non-crisis that I was powerless to do anything about, though I was on the phone a bit trying to figure out solutions. Sort of.

More stupid vagueness. I'm feeling emotionally drained, and it's just Monday, and this week is looking to be quite full.

I recently put a finger on the fact that service is one of the ways that I experience joy in Christ.

Jesus loves me.

I'll leave it at that.

09 August 2009


Plenty going on, but not a whole ton to say.

This past week was pretty exhausting with birthday parties, dinner parties, a show (on bass--I haven't done that in a while), and a recording session (on cello) for a worship project that I'm a part of. Plus a full weekend with the East Nashville Tomato Art Festival going on (say what?) and seeing a friend play a show last night and then playing again myself tonight after church with this guy.

I think/hope God is teaching me about: discipline (as in, being disciplined), patience and not pushing my agendas, holding my ground when I need to, my insecurities when it comes to music, all sorts of stuff.

I've got a college friend coming into town this week for a couple days, so I'm looking forward to that visit and taking her around my city. Lots of good shows to catch the rest of this month, too.

23 July 2009

I have no end of need for Jesus.

Sometimes that truth is wonderfully freeing, redemptive, beautiful, comforting, a steady light in the swirling darkness.

Other times it feels like a frustrating burden, tiring in its cycles, probably because I'd rather save myself some other way or just have my way, period.

Just being honest.

08 July 2009

Run Some More ?!?

I'm mostly just posting this to achieve for the first time ever four consecutive days of posting something.

I ran with the East Nasties this evening, my first time doing that. It's the local running group that my friend Mark organizes, and I know various folks from church who trained for the half-marathon back in April with this running group. They do Wednesday evening and Sunday morning runs. This was today's route, more or less. I had stopped by Mark's house on my way home after work, so we caught up a bit and he convinced me to come out for the run. It's not something that I would have been able to do back a few months ago, so I'm grateful for those past personal burdens having been lifted so that I could feel more free to step out in a new way.

I only knew a handful of the 50-70 people there, so I was a bit intimidated at first, but then the run started, and I chatted with a friend, met a new friend, made it back, hung around a bit, then ran the almost-mile from the rendez-vous point back to my house. It was good--I will plan on doing this again whenever I'm able.

Tomorrow I'm planning on seeing Sandra McCracken do her CD release show (a live album of a house show she did back in the winter) down at 3rd and Lindsley. Should be excellent.

Perhaps I will blog about it afterwards. Or not.

07 July 2009

Stockholm Syndrome

It's finally here and definitely worth checking out.

06 July 2009


Actually, I suppose the exclamation point is a bit unnecessary. I'm generally not that enthused about running. I do it to keep in slightly better shape that I otherwise would be. I started running back in December, and I usually run 0-2 times per week (by myself), typically around 4.5 miles each time out. I'm pretty slow, usually around a 10-minute mile pace.

So today after work I took the industrial route. 6 miles in about 65 minutes (I've only done 6+ miles one other time). I always try to have at least some part of the run be something that I haven't run before. This time I headed south from my house and followed the river west towards downtown. The riverfront on the east side is not like the riverfront near downtown. It's an underutilized industrial zone with warehouses and a scrap metal processing plant and a Citgo gasoline receiving station with immense cylindrical tanks. If it were darker, I might have been a bit more apprehensive, running underneath highway overpasses and past vacant commercial buildings before I reached the local football stadium around the halfway mark. But I enjoyed seeing some new places--you always notice more when you walk or run than on a drive.

For example, on Main Street (again, Main Street on the east side is not like Broadway downtown) I took a closer look at the most random old billboard that I know I've driven past dozens of times. It was for Holiday World--where they have the world's largest or tallest or otherwise most superlative (who's checking, really?) water ride or something. In Santa Claus, Indiana. Three hours away. I don't know if they really thought through their marketing strategy when they decided to advertise their attraction right near our favorite sketchy liquor store.

I also ran by a couple walk-up (non-enclosed) phone booths, with the word "Phone" on a placard at the top. It made me think about technology and obsolescence and blah blah blah (or Bob Loblaw). I also imagined putting a little "i" in front of the sign and how silly it would be to see an "iPhone Booth" somewhere out there. I'm sure there's an app for that, too.

I was a bit undercaloried today, so the run definitely tuckered me out. Good night.

05 July 2009

Non Sequiturs

I tend to replay my interactions with various people in my mind a lot. Occasionally the introspection is useful. Most of the time it's not that constructive. Probably even counter-productive to a healthy inner life. I need to tell myself to get past it and keep moving on, not get stuck in the past, etc. And slap myself in the face.

We have a new housemate as of last weekend, just for the next few months before he can move into another place with friends in October. It's been cool with three of us in the house.

I haven't been sleeping that well in general, and my body doesn't really let me sleep in, even when it would be pretty useful. So I try to do something for an hour or so (like blog, read, eat breakfast, do devotions) before attempting a re-nap, or at least rest for my eyes and mind.

Yesterday evening was spent with a few friends at a pot-luck grill-out sit-down dinner on a front porch--thankfully covered from the huge rain. Fireworks could be seen only via television. It was a lovely time, a far cry from the total freak-out I remember having last year on July 4th weekend.

A couple months ago a friend called me over to take care of a dead mouse in her basement. Last night I think I had a dream where this same friend called me over to help her with a calculus problem. Mercifully, my dream seemed to have then moved on to something else entirely and spared my subconscious the angst of actually trying to solve the derivative. That might have qualified as a nightmare.

I'm currently reading a friend's copy of "Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. Not life-changing, but I've been enjoying it. It's fun reading other people's books when they've made underlinings and notes in the margins. Little glimpses into their thoughts.

I'll be going home to Massachusetts for a week later this month, where I plan to find my copy of Harry Potter VI that I left there and start re-reading it. I could use a good fun read for my imagination. Although it does get pretty intense at the end in that cave. Ugh.

On Friday I went to see a documentary on the making of Derek Webb's forthcoming album, Stockholm Syndrome. The hour-long film was excellent, and I learned in the end credits that it was made by a very talented friend of mine. Well done, Brannon.

Then I got to listen to the album start to finish at a local coffeeshop where they played it over a PA. Full of electronic sounds and programmed beats with a bit of an edge. I really dig it. Makes me want to dance. Or blast it in my car driving at night. A couple of songs with soaringly beautiful lines. Some heartwrenching calls to love the other. Trademark DW writing. Street date on the hard copy album is September 1, but release date for digital download is this Tuesday (7/7/09).

A few months ago I set my Facebook to display in French. I like it.

That is all. It's been a good long weekend so far, restful and not restless, for the most part. But I feel the Sunday restlessness coming on. Perhaps I can go back to bed now.

25 June 2009

No time for blog, Dr. Jones!

There has been more going on in the last couple weeks, for sure, but here are some quick highlights:
  • been watching plenty of soccer games (from halfway around the world)
  • played a couple shows with the usual suspects (music + friends = happy)
  • watched my friend take charge at The Bluebird ("I'd rather be alone...than wish that I was")
  • asked a girl out on a date (!)
  • went on said date (that's all that I'll say about that)
  • co-lead worship at my church for the first time (pretty special for me)
That is all. This blog is like a feeble, malnourished plant. At least for the time being.

14 June 2009

It's Summer

Friday night I cut my hair. Pretty short.

Saturday night I went with a couple dozen friends to the local minor league ball park to cheer on the hometown Nashville Sounds (AAA affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers). My first game of the season--an extra-innings win, followed by post-game fireworks and more hanging out.

Today I went off to the park with friends to play kickball, followed by my first taste of Las Paletas (I had the creamy lime popsicle).

It's definitely summer.

09 June 2009

I Love Music, I Love Nashville

It's the late end of a long day, so this is short.

I saw a great show tonight at one of my favorite venues.

I had heard great things about the headliner, Madi Diaz, and she and her band delivered. Rock-edged pop songs with great hooks and textures and execution. Good stuff.

Keegan Dewitt (with 4-piece string section) and Jacob Jones were also solid.

But the awesome unexpected pleasant surprise of the evening was Vandaveer. A guy and a girl + one guitar, but with so many colors and so much power and huge vitality. Folk ballads with a cool and varied Euro troubadour tinge. They have an album coming out in August that I am definitely looking forward to. Seeing their set put a big fat joyful smile on my face that I just couldn't help.

I'm kinda wired now. Good luck with sleeping.

07 June 2009

I lost my dignity somewhere outside Atlanta.

Friday I drove down to Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta, with Treva and Ben for a show at Eddie's Attic. I'd never played there before, but I had seen it a bunch of times on various folks' tour listings, so I was looking forward to the mini-road trip and gig. We slogged through some rush-hour traffic, got there, and loaded in while a quality band from South Carolina called Tent Revival did their sound check.

Strike 1:
Within 30 seconds of seeing the other band sound check, I definitely started to feel insecure about myself because they had a pretty killer cellist / electric guitar player who is way better than me. Now, most players are better than me, and I at least project a degree of being ok with that, just as a matter of fact in recognizing my limits. I go back and forth between wishing that I had other people's gigs and being content with where I'm at--in terms of my abilities and the great opportunities that I've already had to make music with my friends. I'm good at simultaneously projecting confidence and self-doubt.

Strike 2:
Within 30 seconds of our own sound check, the sound guy started giving me a hard time and really disrespecting me. After the third remark, I just stopped him and calmly said something like, "I feel like you're talking to me really condescendingly, and you don't need to treat me like that." He mumbled something about how he was stressing out with the craziness of trying to sound check four acts that night, and he backed off a bit after that, though he never apologized. For my part, before and after I called him out, I complimented the sound and thanked him multiple times.

So it didn't exactly make for a fun time in the lead up to the show. I was already a bit uncomfortable cause I was going to be running through the other cellist's setup. And I've mentioned the insecurities. And now out of nowhere, the sound guy was getting on my case. It took a lot of self-control to not go off on him. I knew that would only make things worse, but I definitely wanted to throw a fit and tell him in no uncertain terms that he was being a big fat jerkface. Instead, I bottled up that angry response--which usually means that I'm on the verge of getting emotional--and I just spoke calmly and clearly on the outside. I didn't dwell on it and try to shame him over and over--I just called him out then and there.

Anyway, after sound check, Treva and Ben and I sat down to dinner (at least the venue does take care of its artists with a meal coupon and two drinks), and they both commended me not only for speaking up and saying something, but for saying it kindly (Ben got a bit of the same treatment from the sound guy, too, but I definitely bore the brunt). Praying grace together was a good reminder of God's sovereign presence over us and our desire for him to be glorified even when things are getting messy like that.

The show itself was pretty solid, a couple misses but mostly strong. Though since we didn't really know everybody else on the bill, it definitely had a different feel from shows that you do with your friends as the other acts, where you're really able to make music in community and just be really supportive of each other without agendas. Otherwise, I think the music thing can get a bit mercenary (mea culpa)--preoccupations with swapping shows (you play with me when you come to my city, I'll play with you when I go to your city) and who's playing whose drum set and the order of the lineup and all that business of advancing yourselves.

Otherwise, hanging out with Treva and Ben was great, the food and drink were solid, it was a treat to hear a bunch of live music in a listening room environment where the audience is really attentive to it--but it was still a lot to process internally. I know that I'm still a bit hurt/angry for the way the sound guy treated me. For the fact that he never apologized or even offered me a perfunctory "hey, nice job, you guys sounded good" just to openly push the reset button and try to start over. Like I said, I reached out a couple times--thanked him right after our set, but he didn't even make eye contact with me that time, then thanked him again outside in the parking lot at the end of the night. I don't even remember what he said back--maybe "sure thing"...?

Treva and Ben saw me go up to him that last time in the parking lot just before we left, and when I got back to the car, she said something like, "You're a sweet man, Hitoshi." And all I could come up with was, "No no, I just know the transforming love of Jesus Christ, and that makes all the difference." And yet, I hyper-analyze, and I am way too thin-skinned--I wish it were easier for me to just let go of crap like that and brush it off. But it usually leaves a mark and can be hard for me to move on a lot of the time. To be honest, given the opportunity to play there again, I wouldn't want to go, at least not right now. So pray for me, if you're inclined, that I might let this go, truly forgive and make peace in my heart in the face of all this stuff.

That's only the half of it, of course. Somewhere in the whole mix of all that craziness going on, seeing the other band and their cellist, it really did bring up so much self-doubt, to the point where I was overwhelmed by an acute feeling that I had nothing to offer God right then and there. I'm trying to figure out what about that is true and what isn't. I think at least part of that is something to be ok with: if I were stripped of everything that I have--even the good things that I might use for the building up of God's kingdom--and all that I were left with was Jesus, that would be ok. He is my life and my praise. And only I can give God the praise the he desires of me.

Just as we started playing our first song, I felt pretty helpless (useless?) and prayed to God that somehow this would bring him honor and he would use this to be glorified. It doesn't make sense to me that my shortcomings and all my lack can be used to bring God glory--I feel like I have to play well and not make mistakes and create beauty as best I can. But so often, I just can't, can't do it well. At the least, even if no one else is blessed by my not-super-awesome playing (and I mean that in a very straightforward way), and even if no one else can see it, I trust that he is doing a work in my heart--maybe something of what it means for me to worship him in spirit and in truth.

01 June 2009

Another Day in the Life

Today after work I ran some errands with some of my Nashville family. It was the usual mix of the planned and the unplanned. Intersections of poverty and healthy food choices and limited resources and budgeting. And I didn't especially think of it in these terms before, but Panera is definitely a middle-class institution.

Anyway, the most unexpected moment was when I was with a child in a Chinese restaurant. We were waiting for a take-out order that we had just placed, and the child first asked me if I was Chinese. I told them that I was Japanese. A few minutes later, the child asked me, somewhat tentatively (I had to ask again to be sure that I heard it right), "How come all Chinese people look alike?"

I rhetorically but gently asked back, "How would you feel if I asked you, 'How come all black people look alike?' Do you think that all black people look alike?" I said a few more things about how I didn't think that all Chinese people looked alike, or all black people or all white people for that matter, and how if you see more and more of them, you start to see the differences. I'm not sure that the child got what I was getting at, but I think that the child's mother did get my point, so there's that, at least.

I honestly wasn't that offended, and I appreciated the little teaching moment that presented itself. But it was a reminder that you have to learn to engage with difference--it's not something that just comes naturally. Granted, it was a child who asked the question, so perhaps it's not as sad as if an adult had asked it. But the thing that struck me, in part because it was a child who asked, was that it points to how, from the start, we don't by default look at others the way we look at ourselves--I don't say about my own people group, "well, I think we all look the same." We don't recognize the common denominator of our being made in God's image--all of us uniquely (and beautifully). And on an everyday level, that's something that I lose sight of plenty of times, not just with strangers but even with my friends whom I can judge and look down on for whatever reason at any given moment. Mea culpa.

Otherwise, the Chinese restaurant was also an interesting little side lens on the immigrant experience in America: there was a seating area near the main entrance where the tables had been set up with a portable DVD player and various toys for keeping the employees' children occupied while their parents worked.

Eventually I came home and went for a short run.

And then watched Conan's first show.

16 May 2009

All Things New

So I've had that visual of a flower growing out of ashes stuck in my head, and I decided to do an art project for myself along that theme/image. I sketched out the rough idea on some paper and thought about the medium.

Now, I am not a visual art person. I have no skills or experience with painting or drawing or any physical craft. But I went to a store with a couple possible ideas in my head and ended up buying some paints and brushes and a couple ready-to-go 4"x5" mini canvases.

Last weekend, I painted the background colors and some texture and then set it aside and waited for that to dry so that I could finish it up this weekend. It turned out to be another rainy Saturday here in Nashville, so I took it up on the kitchen table and added the rest just now. I actually had two of the same thing going simultaneously--in case of catastrophic failure on one, I'd still have another to salvage the project. I rushed a bit at the end, since I was ready to wrap it up and didn't feel like waiting for some parts to really dry and have to draw it out into a third stage.

But they each turned out ok. By which I mean, of course they're terrible--conceptually simplistic with different flaws and clear lack of ability in both of them. But I'm still glad to have done the project. I had something inside me that I needed to see created outside of me, different from the usual musical sub-creation that I gravitate toward.

So there, my rainy Saturday project. Last night was a bit tricky for me personally at our church Family Dinner (pot luck+congregational meeting). I need to see Jesus all the more, need to be reminded that my screw-ups aren't the be all end all of my life, need to see beauty being redeemed from the ashes, even if it's just my sad little paintings with so many flaws themselves.

04 May 2009

It's True

A friend shared a bit of their testimony with me recently.

Thinking about it now, my heart aches.

But I also see a picture of beauty rising from the ashes. A flower coming up for air from cinders and soot.

Jesus is real. He is actually risen from having been actually dead. I don't know how often I throw myself into that freakish mystery without some sense of reservation in my brain.

But my friend's story reminds me that it's true. It's True--new life, joy, redemption, wholeness. The darkness is not the end of the story. It's terrible and painful and can steal so much life away, and no one goes through life unscathed. But it's not the end.

Jesus is the light in the darkness.
Jesus is the healing balm.
Jesus is comfort and help in time of need.
Jesus is beauty and mercy and grace and perfect love.
Jesus is the lover we long for.

Jesus will usher in a new heavens and a new earth, tangible realities for our resurrected physical bodies to enjoy and explore for eternity. All the darkness that weighs down our minds and spirits and bodies these halfway days--all the hurts we've inflicted on others and all the hurts we've suffered ourselves--will be left behind and become untrue.

Following him doesn't mean that life right now will be sunshine and roses from here on out, or that the scars from the past necessarily disappear overnight. But he does promise never to forsake us, never to leave us. And he bore our injustices, our falsehoods and sins, on the cross of his sacrifice in order to free us from the darkness and its suffocating chains.

Only he is able.

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory.

19 April 2009

Coming to Life

It's a bit late, and I'm a bit tired, so I'll try to be quick-ish.

I really feel like I had a little (big?) miracle in my life last Monday morning. I woke up the day after Easter and had a huge weight of anger and bitterness just lifted off me. As I've started to tell some folks, I still feel like there's a lot of pain and grief to deal with, the problems haven't necessarily gone away, but my framework for entering into it is 180 degrees turned around from where I was. And all I did was wake up. I don't know how it happened--it feels as mysterious and as external to me as that saving faith to believe upon Jesus in the first place, I suppose.

Where was I, for the last four months especially? I didn't love God. I didn't believe that he loved me. Jesus wasn't particularly precious to me, not to my heart at least. I had a mental understanding of the Gospel and tried to preach it to myself here and elsewhere, but not so much faith in it. I showed up as much as I could will myself to church and small group, but I didn't open up, didn't enjoy it, didn't ever know if I would stay to the end, couldn't worship, couldn't pray, didn't feel like reading the Bible. I still had fun here and there with friends and with music, but life wasn't working, and I was just treading water, lamely at that. I was full of anger and bitterness, hatred, self-loathing, heartache, soulache, helplessness, hopelessness, brokenness, resignation.

So coming out of it was a gift. I couldn't make it happen. I couldn't work hard enough to fix my eyes on Jesus. I couldn't make myself stop being angry and bitter. Not to say that I'm not still responsible for my actions during this time, by any stretch. But it makes me wonder just how much control I have, even in my reactions to the circumstances of my life. I honestly feel like I couldn't will myself out of it, couldn't deliver myself by praying harder, engaging with scripture more (or at all). And all those inward/outward things feel like they have limited value if the heart simply doesn't love God--isn't truly captured by His love. I was hollow, incapable of making myself love God (of course).

I'm still unpacking this latest season of life and what that all means, so I don't know. Something about God's sovereignty. And my need/helplessness. But also--should I be more unsettled than I am by my deliverance? Or more at peace than I am? At the moment, I feel kind of in the middle.

In the meantime, like I said, there are still plenty of broken things to deal with, plenty of painful, hurtful things that I'll try to take one at a time as they come up on the radar. It still hurts plenty, but it's different now. I still really like that I wrote everything that I wrote in the last four months, the last year. And I still feel a clear continuity through that whole arc of reflections and struggling to where I am now. I don't know what's coming next, but I'll try to remember this little miracle and let myself be held by my Deliverer through it all.


So, in light of all that, tonight at church I took Communion for the first time in a long time. I would've given the offering that I've been setting aside for a while, too, except there was some unexpected busyness right before church, and so I forgot. But I'm looking forward to being able to give that.

I made it through the whole service, sang out in worship, even hung out afterward and mingled with friends--I've always been leaving immediately for the last few months so as to avoid engaging with anyone if I can help it. All of that really is such a miracle to me, God drawing me out of darkness. I honestly couldn't have imagined ever feeling ok again at my church.

Speaking of Communion, I had a thought about it a few weeks ago, as I was feeling a real need for the bread and the wine, but still felt a deep alienation from my church community and just didn't feel right about presenting myself to the altar to receive:

There's no such thing as self-serve communion, right? It has to be served to you. You receive it in public, before other brothers and sisters in the faith--it's a declaration, not something done alone after everybody else has left the building. Which is a good thing.


Sidenote: I played cello for the morning services at Christ Community Church (in a suburb south of Nashville) this morning, and after the services, Steve Green came up to me, introduced himself, and asked for my info, mentioning that he goes on the road sometimes. Not having grown up listening to Christian music, I didn't recognize him, but I have since googled him, and my friends seem to remember him primarily as the first lead singer for White Heart back in the 80's. In any case, I gave him my info, so who knows.

13 April 2009

The Purpose of This Blog

I realized last night that the reason why I have this blog at all is to give me another outlet by which to preach the Gospel to myself, more than anything, I think.


Also, I woke up this morning about an hour earlier than usual, feeling a bit under the weather. I felt it coming on last night, and I'm trying to figure out if it's just another cold or something that might actually need a prescription. So I spent the extra time looking into my health insurance plan a bit more, just trying to remember how it works. I enjoyed the quiet at home and headed out to work a little early. Of course, now that I'm there I'm a bit sleepy...

But I had a bit of peace this morning. I wasn't expecting that, some grace washing over my anger. A little miracle? I'll try to let my heart rest in that. There's still plenty left to deal with, but a Resurrected Savior does make so many selfish things seem not quite so important.

12 April 2009

Reasons Why I Don't Blog More

I'm not necessarily able to make the mundane stuff sound interesting, so I tend toward more weighty posts (not to say that that's inherently more interesting, but I at least find it helpful for me to process). I self-censor a fair amount of what I could write here because some people might be able to read into details and fill in the names and faces of mutually known persons.

I value discretion and privacy and generally err on the side of keeping things to myself if it might reflect negatively on a third party. I was raised with that adage that "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." A friend has remarked that I have such a built-in anti-gossip mechanism that I don't even like to gossip about myself, share about my own life. Which can be to my detriment, for sure--I tend to bottle things up more often than deal with them healthily and constructively, especially if I'm not sure of how to do that in a given situation.


That said, I'll recap my long Easter weekend by saying that it was, by and large, really terrible. I tend to cuss a fair amount these days, but I don't like the way cuss words look in print, so I'll spare that language for now. Mostly as an aesthetic consideration than any particular sense of modesty.

Thursday night I had a conversation that I was not particularly looking forward to. One of the people that I am currently estranged from reached out to me about a month and a half ago, asking if we could talk. I said no. A few weeks later, I assented, on the condition that one of the elders at our church could be there as a witness. So we looked at our calendars and finally had that talk on Thursday. There were some fruitful things about it, but on the whole, I wish it hadn't happened. The cons outweighed the pros for me, and it definitely stirred up some old heartache.

Friday night I played cello at a Good Friday service put on by my church and a sister church in a suburb south of Nashville. I think it was a good service overall. But I felt awful, in part due to the aftermath of the previous night's talk. Driving to a friend's party afterward (yes, I know, nothing says party like Good Friday), I broke down in the car and raged at the intrusion of hell in my life this current season. Feels like Lent and Easter should be reminding me of just the opposite. Alas.

Sunday morning early I walked to a sunrise service that my church was doing at a local park. Same crappiness inside. Anger building on anger. Bitterness hardening.


There were a few good things, too, though. I had Friday off from work, so I hung out at a friend's place where she was hosting a Good Friday potluck for some of her international students and teaching colleagues, along with an Easter egg hunt that included short readings explaining the meaning of Easter.

And I feel like I was almost ready to take Communion this Sunday evening. I don't know how I'll know when I'm ready. "Just as I am"--but with my huge load of anger and resentment, that I refuse to leave at the Cross, that I hold more tightly and dearly than Jesus? My church makes a frequent point that we're not there to play church--we're there to be the church. So I second-guess myself a lot, my heart's motivations. I try to stick it out as much as possible, at least show up at the services, compelled by this tiny thread of hope that God can work in me, draw me to life again. But I always leave carrying more pain and grief.

How am I supposed to approach the throne of grace? What are the pre-conditions? I know the right answer is "nothing," no pre-conditions--nothing can keep us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. His love is not dependent on my goodness, nor is it hindered by my sin. His perfect work on my behalf is full and complete.

But don't I need to repent? Turn away from myself and my debilitating bitterness, turn to Jesus as my only hope and salvation? Isn't that what I would be declaring by going to the Communion table to receive him, to worship him as my only true God? How can I do that in good conscience when I harbor such bitterness toward some of my brothers and sisters in the faith? I have left my offering and withdrawn myself from the table for months. How long, O Lord? Where is that faith, the faith that is itself a gift from God, something that I can't produce of my own power, faith to throw myself on his mercies and actually believe in God's love for me? For me.

Every day I feel reminders of what I perceive as injustices inflicted on me in the recent past. I see doors closed by others and by myself for ways to deal with the issues. And I choose not to pay it down myself. I choose to let the wounds fester. I choose to hate, rather than cast myself on Jesus' love and sufficiency--that he bore wounds and injustices even greater than that ones that I have born (and inflicted on others), all so that I would be healed. That he went to the lowest depths of death and back, all to rescue me from even beyond my deepest pits.

I don't even know how to turn to Jesus anymore. I am a poison to those around me. Every day I feel more and more convicted that I am too stubborn to be a Christian. And oftentimes, I earnestly wish that I had never been born--I didn't ask for it, and my resentment turns on God for creating me in the first place.

I want life, I do. Unfortunately, I want it on my terms, my rightness. Either Jesus will become even more real to me as he delivers me through all this trial. Or else I'll become a character in "The Great Divorce"--spiteful, narrow-minded, self-consumed, foolishly refusing to ever give or receive mercy.

How long, O Lord?

28 March 2009

Why Not

It's been a month, so in the interest of remembering the original mission of this blog (narcissism + procrastinability), here are some semi-sequiturs:

I started running a little bit back in December. I don't consider myself a runner. I run on average 0-2 times per week, just on my own, usually somewhere between 2-5 miles per run (my longest so far is 6.3). I average 10-minute miles, but that's an uneven pace. I don't necessarily care to become a more skilled or self-aware runner. I just want to be in moderately better shape, what with my sedentary desk job.

I've noticed over the last couple weeks that I've gained some weight somewhere in the last few months. Not much weight, maybe 5 pounds, but it's definitely fat, and I feel it in both my appetite and my clothes. Trying not to worry about it, but I am slightly more mindful of my calorie intake and energy exertion now in the broadest swaths. Alas, my magical metabolism has evidently started to slow down. It was fun while it lasted.

I'm playing shows on back to back nights next week at The Basement. Looking forward to it, though I imagine I will be quite tired by Friday.

My housemate's major jaw surgery is also next week, so there will be some substantial changes around the house, and I'll try to be as helpful as possible. It's going to be a busy week.

Here's some free music that I think is worth checking out.

On the weightier matters, I'm kinda hanging in there. I think the word for it is that I'm in stasis with a lot of things. Not just church stuff--keeping myself from taking Communion or giving my offering--or on my own with reading scripture or hardly praying, but also not really spending any time on personal writing or much reading or that kind of stuff. Everything's just kinda on hold while I (don't) figure things out. I've kept myself semi-busy with music stuff here and there, but otherwise keep myself as sedated as possible.

There have been thaws and re-freezes, a bit of motion on a couple fronts, but I am still reluctant to let go / forgive myself / believe in God's love for me, etc., and so I'm still angrier than I would like to be. There is going to be a Conversation with a couple folks in a couple weeks, we'll see how that goes.

Anyway, I'm off to pick up a bottle of wine and visit with some friends this evening.

Except there's a tornado siren and a thunder storm off in the not-too-distance.


28 February 2009

The New Performance Standard

I appreciate how my church eschews false gospels of new laws masquerading as Gospel truth: the subtle twists and pulls that ultimately leave you with "do more of this, be more of that, and God will love and bless and save you more."

The truth that the pastor preaches often is to look to Jesus all the more. But sometimes it feels like that message can become its own burden--to do that better, harder, more. Turning my eyes upon Jesus is a true thing that I need to hear and do. It's absolutely vital to my life as a believer to recalibrate my standards and my gaze off myself and the world around me, back to the source of all truth and goodness and faith, to the one who did everything that I would ever need to do. But sometimes that can be hard to do. And what I feel is missing sometimes is some loving encouragement in the way that message is spoken, at least for the particular frailties of my own heart.

I do a decent job of preaching the facts of the Gospel to myself, at least in my head. I recognize the importance of being able to do that. But I don't love myself well--I don't preach and believe God's great big beautiful, pursuing, unrelenting, unconditional love for me:

"I see you struggling. I see that it's hard for you to fall down at the cross right now, to fall upon Jesus' love, to repent and believe and be set free. We both know that's the truth you need. And I see that it's hard for you in this season of your life, and I love you anyway."

So it was a real refreshment several weeks ago when a friend down in Peru pointed me to some truth that I needed, while also simply loving me, no strings attached. Some others have been encouraging along the way in the quiet ways I need, letting me know I'm not alone.

Anyway, that's how I feel sometimes.

22 February 2009

Affirmation / Negation

There's a balance, a scale.

On one side: "Life is great! Things are looking up!"

On the other side: "Life sucks! This is never going to get any better!"

And I'm pushing down on the good side.

But all the while I'm sitting on the other side.

Church is happening now and I'm at home. I never know how far into the service I'll make it before I can't take it anymore and have to leave. Today I made it to the second song. Sometimes I get as far as the offering, or even the sermon and Communion. I don't remember the last full service that I made it through--I guess it was a few weeks ago when I was on the worship team (blah). I've had rehearsals and gigs the last couple Sundays, too, so that was a welcome excuse not to make it to church at all.

I feel like God has been pouring out blessings in my life this last month or so--the tangible, easy to grasp kind of blessings. Good time spent with friends, some great music, fun movies, cool art, even a bit of unexpected French. I also have a biweekly Sunday brunch + book club with a few guys from church, which is very much a blessing.

But there are other things. Unresolved things for which I don't have any hope for resolution anytime soon. Things I don't feel like I can talk about with anybody (including my pastor), for various reasons. And so I dread Sundays:

Step 1: Go to church.
Step 2: Get overwhelmed and freak out.
Step 3: Leave early and come home.
Step 4: Have a one-sided, closed-minded, lie-believing, self-defeating screaming match with God.
Step 5: Settle down and breathe again.

"The gift is not like the trespass." Christ's work is greater than Adam's (and my) sin. But these days I have a tendency to turn the lesser gifts and blessings into curses. Much worldly sorrow.

Music is one of my lifelines, for sure, my current drug of choice. (TV, too--as I wrote on our fridge with some magnetic poetry words: "TV is my junk anesthetic")

People are reaching out to me. God is speaking comfort and conviction and truth from a variety of sources. I just don't really want it right now. Or I want it to sound a little different--on my terms. I'm still angry, and bitter, and hurt, and broken, and sad, and afraid, about those aforementioned things. Things that feel insurmountable, too big for Jesus to make right, at least anytime soon. My daily reality is more defined by my pain than by my Redeemer. I'm not letting go and getting over it. I don't really want to engage with God. I don't want to read Scripture. I don't want to pray. I am being willful, stubborn, and self-destructive, and my focus isn't on Jesus.

But I'm like a runaway child who can only run as far as the next block, and then he just sits there, wondering what to do next. Too much is true for me to abandon my faith. Too much feels hypocritical and painful for me to feel like I have a place in this community anymore.

But my self-righteousness is a false shelter. I do want things to get better, and there are moments when I feel my hard heart melting. But then certain triggers will just re-open the wounds, and I don't want to do the work of paying it down over and over and over again. Looking back on the last couple years, I couldn't have planned it to be more messy than it is. It's uncanny.

But really, the historical details aren't the most important part. The question is whether or not I believe that God loves me deeply deeply, that Jesus is everything that I need, that grace is there for the healing. I do have some hope that God's pursuing love will save me, set me free. But I think it will be a very bumpy road, and so in the meantime...?

09 February 2009

Ten Years

Hiroshi Yamaguchi
March 13, 1938 - February 9, 1999

30 January 2009

Worshiping Jesus Now

I know you're out there, a few of you, and I'm well aware that this space is in the wide open Internet web world, and that's ok. I use this blog partly as a pressure valve for my brain-emotions-ideas-melodrama, for when I wake up in the middle of the night and need to sketch out my thoughts in order to quiet my mind down again for sleep.


Sunday night at church was a lot of everything that I need to hear. One of the things I appreciate about my church is that the sermons--through whatever theme or text--are consistently about Jesus, about commending him and the sufficiency of his gracious work for us, his beloved. So on Sunday our pastor gave an overview of Hebrews as a lead up to a more detailed study of the book for this next season of preaching.

Towards the end, he demonstrated from some Hebrews passages the practice of Robert Murray M'Cheyne's exhortation that for every one look we take at ourselves and our sin, we should look tenfold upon our savior. I may be __________, but in lieu of harping on that over and over to myself, I will gaze upon Jesus Christ: the heir of all things; the creator of all things by the power of his word; the redeemer who made complete purification for sins; the incarnate one who suffered and was tempted--all the more than we because he knew a perfect glory before being born a man--yet remained sinless; and so on the pastor continued, quickly unpacking each snippet's little radiances.


I generally feel inclined to making music and writing songs that chronicle the brokenness of the world and look for redemption in the various ways that we fight the fall (the execution of that is another matter, but that's at least where my head space is at artistically). But in the course of lamenting the loss of Eden, I somehow missed the later message about persevering in suffering, boasting in weakness, and being content in hardship. While I am able to dial up my suck-it-up-and-deal quotient as needed (particularly when I'm traveling), in general I've always been a wuss about life. The existence of even small hardships can bring on a mini existential crisis. I hate that crap happens at all, and sometimes my reaction is to feel like giving up.


I said that at the church service there was a lot of everything that I need to hear. But I still couldn't receive and believe it, couldn't quite let go just yet. I struggled with being on the worship team that night and pretty much mailed it in on every level--not sure that I'll be doing that again for a while.

This latest season of life (how long has it been? when did it start?), I feel like my capacity for joy and love has been crippled. Lying in bed that night after church, I got overwhelmed by a sense that life is meaningless, that nothing I do or anyone else does matters. It passed, but it was pretty convincing there for a good while. I suppose part of the reason for this blog is to call out those persistent demons in mundane words like that.

The idea that people's most prominent strengths can also potentially be their deepest weaknesses, depending on how those gifts are applied, or restrained, or the situation--I think that my main "blessing/curse" is my memory. I'm bad with immediate social encounters and remembering names in the short term, and some things I need to write down to not forget them, but other than that, if you and I have a difference of opinion on how some shared past experience happened--well, um, I'm probably right. Just sayin'. There is no easy answer for me for that ice-breaker question of "what's the most embarrassing moment of your life?" The entire collage of every bad or embarrassing moment is there, and out of the blue something will trigger a memory, which will domino into another, and they all still stir up shame or anger to varying degrees.

So I've been replaying various events of the last two years in Nashville, seeing how I got to where I am. Maybe I'll dig into that more in this space at some point. But not for now. I feel like I've talked it out a good amount already with various folks, and it's just the way it is.

I've had a couple good lifelines the last couple weeks, friends from outside who've known me. One who was empathetic and identified with my current struggle with hardness of heart and bitterness. Another who didn't leave me where I was, pointing me to some truth in a gentle, humble way--but still loved me right where I was, regardless.


I am too convicted and convinced that what I know is true is true (and yes, that could be dangerous, too) to let it all go.

I know that God is real. I see dispatches from the mission field abroad that testify to his active presence. I see and hear it around me here in Nashville--that Jesus is the risen Lord, that the Kingdom is breaking in.

(Though some days I definitely see more discouragement and defeat than victory.)

I know how the song goes:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control:
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

(Though I don't know that I always make it to the "it is well" part.)

This is me feebly preaching the Gospel to myself, pointing myself to look to Jesus and ask myself the question:

"How do I worship Jesus right now?"

I don't mean to focus on how much I love God or anything (and at the moment, that would be pretty uninspiring), but rather, "How am I responding to his love--do I worship him in every way that he is worthy? Over and above my pride and my pain, will I pay that down, forgive and love my enemies, forgive and love myself? Will I worship Jesus?"

So I think that question will be the theme of my life for at least the next five minutes.

19 January 2009

The Wrong Kind of Dying

There is a dying to self that I simply refuse to do. It hurts too much right now.

Like Eustace assenting to Aslan's painfully clawing away his dragon scales, I know that there is true relief and peace and growth on the other side of that seemingly impossible change. But from where I am right now, it honestly does seem impossible. And it's not greed that's transformed me.

I give up. Talking it out is my natural tendency, but I think I'm done with the cycles of the same conversations over and over--with the people I feel wronged by, with my pastor, with my former or current small group leaders. That hasn't stopped me from spinning through it all in my head, in hypothetical arguments with imaginary people or actual raging at a very real God (though I don't particularly feel his presence or his love most of the time). But the conversations don't resolve anything--or they only start another round of grievances and misunderstandings--and I feel like I know the answer anyway:

I need to repent. To turn to Jesus and trust him. Accept his goodness and love for me--let it transform my heart to love my enemies, to love even myself.

But I refuse. Evidently, I cherish my hatred and hurt more dearly. I am unwilling to submit to the Lordship of Christ--even though I know it's for my good.

Being a Christian involves repentance. Repentance involves humility. I've always been prideful, and there are time when I know that I am just too stubborn to be a Christian.

How long can I keep on worshiping my mess? Forever? I faith to know that that won't be the case, that I am held and upheld by a strength and power and goodness far greater than my fiercest rebellion. Only by the grace of God do I even stand and breathe and speak out my heart's heresies.

My only hope is Jesus. But what does that mean for the here and now, in the aftermath and the everyday bits and pieces? I just don't know how to be a Christian anymore. I've been realizing the last few months how tremendously wide the gulf is between what I know in my head and what I believe in my heart--like I am (at least) two different people.

I give up. Toward the end of the worship service last night, I couldn't take it anymore and I literally RAN away from the church and back to my house. I don't know where that leaves me, kind of treading water, waiting for a thaw (do I even want it?). I have a few ideas, but no real clue. In the meantime, it's not exactly going away or getting any better. And I'm not changing right now, that's for sure.

Tin Man, Tin Man, would you even take this heart of stone?
It isn't doing anything inside this stack of dry bones.

It'll make you think you're living, it'll teach you love and hate.

You might not feel it beating, but I'm sure you'll feel the weight.

Oh, Tin Man, Tin Man...

13 January 2009

Remind Me

I thought about doing a "looking back on 2008" or "looking ahead to 2009" post, but really, it's all felt the same to me and I didn't know what to say. I'm currently working out a more weighty post that may or may not take shape, but in the meantime, here's a bit of spontaneous list-making to help me take stock of some of the positive outward elements of my life, in whatever order--things that I am grateful for, to some degree or other:
  • job
  • cubicle area with a window and lots of natural light
  • income that covers my cost of living
  • friends
  • familiarity (geographical and otherwise)
  • music to see and be a part of
  • church that suits me and that I believe in, more or less
  • living within walking distance of church, friends, coffee shops, etc.--and a short commute to work
  • functioning car
And on the other side of the balance? Um, well...

Admittedly, every one of those things has a flip side or a disconnect or a yearning for more or for change or whatever else (clearly I'm missing something about Paul's idea of contentment in Philippians 4). Plus so much else that I could add to that side of the scale. I wasn't going to do that list anyway, but hmm...

I do have a life here. Just not sure what to make of it right now.