23 September 2010

I know my identity is in Jesus...

But how do you do anything with conviction without having some sense of self wrapped up in it?


What am I missing?

29 July 2010


Realizing that my general response to change or just the conditions around me is to acquiesce and feel resigned that it can't change for the better.

Thinking mostly about my day job lately, but I'm sure it applies to other things.

That said, if God raised Jesus from the dead, then there's hope for change in any situation, right?

28 July 2010


Yup, I still need Jesus more than anything else.


Also, perhaps I will get caught up here at some point. Mostly just the usual busy-ness, with an extra dose of day job crazy for the last couple months solid.

I'm doing ok overall.

30 March 2010

All's Lost, All's Found

I don't typically write reviews of stuff for public viewing, but it's another way that I can support my friends in their art in a concrete way, so I went ahead and did it.

My friend Ben recently digitally released a solo album (physical discs coming soon with package artwork by the fabulous Jodi Hays). It's really good. I played cello on it. I'm really proud of my contributions. As in, "I can't believe I sound that good right there and that moment gives me goosebumps" proud of it. Specifically, track 7.

Anyway, I went ahead and submitted my review to amazon and iTunes. I encourage you to get this album and to listen to it thoroughly.

Here's the review:

(Full disclosure: I play cello on some of these tracks, though I have no financial stake in it.)

I've listened to this album a few times over the last few days. It rewards focused listening from start to finish. There's flow and understated beauty throughout these songs that variously put a lens on individual lives and relationships and tell stories of love, failure, loss, family, brokenness, healing, and hope. There are gorgeous sonic moments throughout.

The album is half instrumental tracks and half songs with lyrics, and all the tracks have a thoroughly crafted sensibility--fully realized with different textures and colors, building layers judiciously at just the right moments, never with too much. Some tracks groove and drive; others breathe full and slow. These are rich, acoustic soundscapes, and there are stories in all the songs, even the ones without lyrics.

The opening track, As I Mused, the Fire Burned, pulls you in like a steady tide. For You I Wait (track 5) is a study in sparseness, drawing everything it can out of a simple electric guitar groove, with the slightest support from percussion and lovely highlights from spacey, meandering clarinet lines that weave in and out. Rain On Consequence (track 7) is a personal favorite. I Lie Silenced (track 9) is an instrumental signpost that points back to the opening track; instead of the insistent piano pattern of the opener, the song presents a slowed down melodic motif, carried by a clear violin and punctuated by a stately pulse of chords underneath. The effect is somewhat reminiscent of Michael Giacchino's score work on Lost. The Wreckage (track 12) is, as the title might imply, a bit gut-wrenching. The closing track, All's Lost, All's Found, takes the thread started in the opening track and carried in I Lie Silenced and turns it into a brief, haunted epilogue, bordering on a lament, but still a reminder that beauty endures despite life's hardships.

Ben is a talented guitarist and singer and multi-instrumentalist sideman for other artists. He has a producer's exacting sensibilities, and this album is the fruit of years of labor, finally putting forth a cohesive project that reflects his own artistic voice. I'm proud to have been a part of this project, I'm excited to see what he does next, and I look forward to supporting his work in the future.

12 March 2010

This could only be a true story.

Background details:

- In order to avoid ATM fees (I don't have a local bank here in Nashville), I typically withdraw lumps of cash at a time--$100 or so to keep at home--at a local credit union that has a reciprocal arrangement with my home credit union wherein I can withdraw cash from my account from the teller as if I were a member there.

- I only use cash when I have to and for tips and stuff, and otherwise I generally use my credit card as much as possible (and pay it off every month).

- I hadn't gotten cash in a little while, so I was running low--specifically, down to $10.

So, today:

I met up with my friend Charlie after work to rehearse a bit on our own before a wedding rehearsal. Due to circumstances that just happened to him over the course of the day, he really needed $10 to put into his bank account as soon as possible.

Cool, I had $10, so we went to the bank and took care of it, then went to the wedding rehearsal.

There I had a funny encounter (no one that you know) that left me feeling anxious and insecure. We went on to the rehearsal dinner (my first Monell's experience!) and had some time mingling outside over drinks, but the anxiety was definitely still weighing on me.

I had been encouraged by some things that a friend of mine shared on her blog about pouring out our crap to God and just talking with him about it--he knows it all and our hearts, but he desires to actually be in relationship with us.

So I decided to get some air and take a walk up the street for a couple blocks. I shared my insecurities to God, unburdening the ways that I was running over things in my mind and feeling anxious and fearful, then turned around and headed back toward the restaurant.

I was feeling some relief, continuing to pray that God would draw my focus from myself in all these various ways and to Jesus instead. And right then, I looked down at the pavement and saw a $10 bill folded in half on the street.

I laughed out loud and asked God something like, "Really, is this what you want to give me? I mean, I'll take it, but that's kinda funny." I got back and told Charlie that he didn't need to pay me back--that God had just given me the $10 that I had passed it on to him earlier.

Fast forward through a couple hours of fantastic food and company and toasts to the wedding couple:

I got home just as my housemate was heading out to a show at a local restaurant around the corner. He asked me, "Hey, do you have any cash? That way I won't have to go to the ATM right now."

I replied, "Sure, I got ten bucks."

06 March 2010

I lost my cell phone today.

I think I know how it happened, too, and if that's the case, then it is GONE.

So I've decided to move on, at least in terms of looking into getting a new phone in the morning.

I feel a bit annoyed at myself. And also anxious at the missed communications from the day and my current lack of ability to contact people. It's really really really not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's the situation that I'm currently living, and it feels sufficiently weighty that I'm wrestling with knots and frustrations inside and fading in and out of trusting Jesus in the midst of it.

It will be a hassle to put all the numbers back in my phone, but that's workable. I just got home from a fun little show that my church put on, and the house is quiet, and I'm realizing something about being cut off from people. I don't know most of my friends' numbers by memory--I just look for their names in my list of contacts, of course.

Something about names and people and feeling cut off. I'm sure it'll be fine, but I just wanted to put it down in writing while I was still feeling like a silly goober.

Oh, and I also accidentally (stupidly) chipped the tip of my cello bow during a rehearsal earlier today. It should be easily repairable, and maybe I'll use it as an excuse to get my bow re-haired (it's been a while).

Today had its goodness and beauty, for sure.

But still.


22 February 2010

Jesus Is My Portion

If I could fit this into a facebook status, I would, but I don't think I can, so I'll try here.

Tonight I shared the stage with some amazing musicians and people, playing cello for one song for this benefit show. I was up there with some Famous People & Real Musicians. I struggled with some deep deep insecurities, a sense that I totally didn't belong on the stage with them, as well as envy of their Talent and Success and yes, even the fact that they're all Married.

And just to be clear, they are all super gracious folks, a couple of whom I would even consider friends.

But I need to name my idols, so there you have it. All because I lose sight of the fact that Jesus is my portion. It was a real struggle, believing the lies that Satan was feeding me about my identity. So I prayed and reached out to a couple friends to pray for me, too. I worked through it and found some center and sufficiency in Jesus.

I am not my own. My gifts and talents are a gift of God's grace. It was an honor and a privilege and a joy to offer them up and be a part of the evening. I certainly couldn't have orchestrated having such a cool opportunity.

But it was a hard hard struggle inside, and I know it's not over. I know it'll happen again. Then again, I guess I know that I won't ever stop needing Jesus, either.

Oh yeah, and I got a free copy of Donald Miller's latest book out of the deal, too, so hey.

10 February 2010

Safety First

I've had some reminders lately of how important it is for me to be loved just the way I am. Yes, friends can desire my change for the better, but I have to know that they love me regardless--that it's always a safe place for me to just be me and to fall short of their expectations/desires, even as they encourage me for my good. The safe, loving environment has to come first, before any change might--especially since I'm generally so slow and reluctant to change. After all, "God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

05 February 2010

Sovereign God

God is sovereign over:

- my ailing car (after she did so well in the snow last weekend!)
- the cold, rainy weather
- my heart
- my insecurities
- my joys

He's teaching me to trust him more, with everything. I'm sort of learning, I hope. But he is good and gracious and so patient, and he loves me.

30 January 2010


I'm not trying to be cryptic, and I think I'll be able to flesh this out later, but right now it's just hints and things that I'm still processing.

I feel like God is being sweet and merciful and loving and kind to me, in ways that I can actually pay attention to in this season of my life. I feel like he's drawing me into his Word, like I knew I needed. He's working on my heart, I hope. Teaching me of his love, showing it to me. Teaching me that trials are there for my good--or, rather, helping me to believe it.

From my head down to my heart.

22 January 2010


People talk about putting God in a box (or letting him out of the box or whatever), so I'll tell you about one of mine.

I don't know if this would qualify as "artistic sensibilities," since I'm not exactly making a whole ton of art, but my disposition when I look at the world and try to put words to it is to focus on the brokenness. To see Jesus' redemption and God's truth, certainly, but to understand the lens of the fallenness of the world. Or something vaguely pretentious like that.

The downside (and I'm not sure I'm exactly reaping much of an upside) is that I fixate on my failures and fail to see God's redemptive work in the midst of the mess. For a very concrete example, there are a few people whom I see fairly regularly, since we share the same church community. These are people that I am no longer really friends with, almost entirely due to my foolish mistakes (at least, that's what I tell myself). We're not enemies, thankfully--we've worked out our conflicts and issues, at least to some kind of resolution. But we're not friends anymore, either, for sake of appropriate boundaries and continuing in community in some different way. We're acquaintances, or something, I don't even know what. And with a couple of these people, I deeply lament the loss and wish that we were friends the way we were before. The way things were before. I really screwed it up.

I don't see the redemption that God is working in those relationships. To be honest, I'm not really looking for it. It's tempting to say that I'd rather have a time machine more than redemption, but I don't know how to get past the whole thing about how even if I knew then what I knew now, I would still feel the scars, right? I could stop certain actions from taking place, but the damage inside would have already been felt (by my hypothetical time-traveling self--bear with me here).

What the heck am I talking about? I think I'm saying that I wish I didn't need Jesus quite so much. That I wish I could micro-manage my sinfulness and prevent it from bearing fruit in the first place so that I wouldn't screw it all up. Whatever "it" happens to be at the time. That's not the true Gospel, of course.

But in this case, I'm stuck. Stuck in the loss and the screw-up. Every time I see these people, that's what I think about, what I remember. I don't see God's redemptive hand. I do see how he delivered us from the conflict and the hurt, and I am grateful for that. But I don't feel like this new state of things is better than the old. As if I knew better than God, as if I could see with his omniscience.

So I fixate on the brokenness and blind myself to his good work. I don't know how to repent of that. And I know that there are always parts of me that don't want to. Because I've built it up over time into an idol ("my precious"), into my functional identity--the pain, the memories, the heartbreak, the longing. I'm stubborn, that's for sure.

I know from past experience that God can deliver me from the depths. But this doesn't feel so much like depths as much as mucky shallows that I tolerate. And in the meantime, I make my mud pies, because at least it's familiar ground, right?

I wish I were different. Is that a starting place? I wish so many things were different. Am I just holding on here until the ultimate restoration of all things? How am I to live in the meantime? I'm pretty sure that it's not supposed to be like my heart is now. How does that change? How will God break me in these particular struggles of pride and identity? When will I sing again, "I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see"?

I think engaging with his Word has something to do with it--letting it engage me. And I do believe that the destination is real. But the journey feels like a mystery. Or just too hard, too much for my fear and my laziness to contend with (lies, yes, but I give them power).

Am I still Eustace the Dragon? I guess he didn't just become a boy again--the same selfish, self-centered, mean-spirited, small-minded, small-hearted boy again. His heart changed and he was transformed. So I guess I don't really want to just go back to the way it was before. I guess I want to be whatever it is that God is making me through this. I just have no idea what that will look like, or how and when.

That said, Jesus assures me that his work will be completed, and that he loves me in the meantime, in the here and now, just as I am, a sinful man.

So stop fighting his love, you stubborn fool, and let it be enough for you.

(that's me talking to me, by the way--I certainly wouldn't call you a "stubborn fool")

(at least, not here)

18 January 2010

I am just the same

something something something about being simultaneously trigger happy and gun shy...whatever it is that I'm supposed to learn or have learned...if I knew, I would probably put it here...but since I don't, that's all I've got...peace...

11 January 2010

"captive to my own remorse..."

Earlier tonight as I was brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, a really vivid memory came back to me. Something from near the end of my time in college--one of the worst things that I've ever done, and hurtful to a lot of people. I was suddenly overwhelmed by guilt and shame and even fear that tightened up my chest. I told myself that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death." But, honestly, I didn't really believe that grace in that moment.

I remember the room. I remember generally what I did, but I don't remember everybody who was in the room or everything that I said. It wasn't until much later, probably even years, that I realized the gravity of my sin. I didn't apologize to everyone that I hurt--like I said, I don't even remember everyone who was in the room. And as with a lot of my painful memories, this one still carries a weight of guilt. Yes, Jesus has paid the penalty for my sin...and yet there are oftentimes earthly consequences to our sin--not punishments from God, no, but the effects of the Fall that we participate in. And also there are ways that we're called to make restitution and restoration of our earthly relationships in words and actions. Apologies have almost always been crazy hard for me to do. I don't think I'm alone in that weakness.

One of my favorite books is "The Great Divorce" by C.S. Lewis. Sandra McCracken wrote a song based on it called "The High Countries." And there's a line in there about how "we are just pilgrims of the great divorce / I am witness to the light, and I am captive to my own remorse." I am absolutely captive to my own remorse. Captive to the memories of the hurts that I've given and received. Captive to my past running on constant replay. I am both witness to the light of the world and someone whose gaze is fixed firmly in the darker parts of himself. And I fall to pieces fall to pieces fall to pieces, as it were.

She's currently working on a hymns album called "In Feast or Fallow," and we've sung one of her new songs a couple times at my church. It's something of an Advent hymn called "This is the Christ," and the chorus goes like this:

This is the Christ, our God and Lord
Who in all need shall aid afford
He will himself our Savior be
And from our sins will set us free

I have deep need of Jesus. I feel deep longing to be set free from my sin. I am a bundle of fear and repentance and grief and lamentation and hope and selfishness and love and doubt and too much of me and too little of Jesus.

Somehow, God has chosen to love me, though I was yet (and still) a sinner. Oh, for faith to stop and rest in Jesus.

10 January 2010

'Tis the Season

I played a friend's wedding back in October.

I attended a high school friend's wedding the day after Christmas.

I'm playing another friend's wedding at the end of this month, the same weekend that I'm missing a childhood friend's wedding out in Portland, OR.

I'm attending two more weddings in February.

I'm playing another friend's wedding in March, and then another one in June.

Anybody else gonna get married this year?

01 January 2010

What Just Happened?

It's 2010 (did you just say "twenty ten" or "two thousand ten"--I hope you didn't just say "two zero one zero" or look down at your watch).

I don't hear anyone calling the new decade the MMX's. I don't think it will catch on.

We had some folks over for New Year's Eve tonight, so I got to stay in and just enjoy good food and drink and company and games. Some of us played Quelf, the board game. I'm still not sure exactly what happened there.

I don't do resolutions. Though I do plan on taking almost all of January off from alcohol, at least. That's not so much a resolution as a plan. I did it for the first time last year, and since December is just full of extra parties and more than I drink in an average month, it makes sense for me to leave it all aside for a month. I enjoy alcohol, particularly with food and with friends, but it's good to know that it doesn't own me, that I don't have to have it.

Back to the non-resolutions. Not that I think these will happen, but it would be nice in 2010 to:

- not accidentally write "2009" on a check
- write more (songs or other)
- read more (Bible, in particular)
- dance more (at least in the privacy of my own room, perhaps even in public...though probably not)
- play more (music, games)
- live with integrity...um, more (this runs the gamut)

In 2009, I:

- turned 29. It's so arbitrary. Mostly meaningful in relative measures.
- got some different/new perspective on relationships with women.
- in light of said perspective, asked two girls out.
- got turned down by 1.5 of those girls.
- went on half a date.

I still crush on girls I have no business being interested in. Cause it's not gonna happen. And, yet. I still crush on girls I have no business being interested in. Cause it's not gonna happen. I think I just said that.

Tomorrow morning is just another day, and yet the symbolism of the New Year is still kinda powerful for me--clean slate, fresh start, personal resolutions, no more baggage. But it's just another day. Thankfully, at least, a day without work. So I will look forward to sleeping in. Waking up. And still being me.

Jesus, Jesus. Another year. How have you been faithful to me this year?

This year started out as the absolute worst yet of my life. 2008 was bad. Then it got super bad in December 2008 and kept getting worse until Easter 2009. Until the day after Easter, actually. Then God was who he is: merciful. "He brought me up out of the pit, out of the miry clay. I will sing, sing a new song."

I could be quoting Psalm 40 there, but I'm mostly hearing in my head an old U2 song called "40," off their "War" album.

I could to ramble some more, but I want to sleep, too.

Happy New Year. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.