Merry Christmas

The Christmas season is definitely my favorite of the year. Greater than fall, summer, winter, or spring. If you dare to argue that Christmas is not really a season, not one of the four and all that, ok maybe you would be right. But with all that it has taken on in our culture it is given enough to be a season, even if it doesn't signify any weather.

Now being Christmas night, there tends to be that little bit of disappointment knowing that Christmas is now over and the bitter cold of winter lies ahead with nothing really to anticipate. That is the great thing about the Christmas season, the anticipation. And Christmas Eve is the height of that. It is my favorite night of the year, and last night was no letdown. It's always such a spiritual time.

But now the anticipation is over, and Christmas is over. Which is actually a bit ironic if you think about it. Because if Christmas really isn't about the presents or the day or the decorations--but instead is truly about Immanuel, God with us and the beauty that is, then there should be no letdown. The beauty of Christmas is the reminder of that amazing reality, that God would come among us and subject himself to our nature. And that is all the more real on December 26 as it is every day of the calender.

Let Christmas then be what it really is about, and live tomorrow under the reality that God is with you, and he has given himself for that. That'll be a lot better than any after-sales.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Ad being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8


The Kingdom

The Kingdom of Heaven. What do you think of hearing those words? The movie?

Or perhaps a mustard seed or a great pearl for those of you a bit more "religious"?

Today I went to The Bullet Hole, a shooting range here in KC. Shot several different types of pistols with my dad. I have several feelings about this--the two pervading ones: the kid in me goes back to the video games and the manliness of weapons, and someone else in me recoils at the idea of guns and shooting at things like this:
Yeah that's a person. Of course it's far worse in video games, but then again you can't put your finger through the holes in those graphics. He's all blacked out and doesn't even have ears, all the subtle ways to forget it's the figure of a person. But that gun kicking back against you and the loud bang that stays in your ears a few moments keeps the reminder fresh.

Earlier this year I read Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You, the book Ghandi read that inspired his nonviolent protest--the same man who said “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.” Instead this is the face of "traditional values" today:Ok not really, but honestly, if this is our antithesis to 'godless liberals,' then I shudder to think how Jesus feels about all this. Oh wait, I know. But I digress. . .

Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God is Within You is all about the teachings of Christ against war and violence and calls for an adherence to pacifism. I'm not going to go into all the arguments. I would tell you to read the book but it was really dry and you probably wouldn't make it very far through it. I know there ideas of Just War, and that if someone came in my home to kill my family I would probably shoot them. I might think it's wrong but I probably would. (So stay out you creepy crawlers!!!). But after reading this and other things, I don't think I could willingly participate in any war. Maybe I'd feel differently if I was in WWII times, but still.

The point of the matter is that the Kingdom of God is within you. Or have we not learned anything from the crusades? Is petrol the new holy grail? Or maybe it's called democracy.

It's not really about the war in Iraq though. It's about the entire way we live. Was Ghandi right? Is Christianity simply the greatest moral code that if truly followed would yield utopia? Well the only one who ever did follow it fully was killed. . .

Jesus talks all about the Kingdom of God. Are we living in it? No sorry, I don't think he meant America. Wrong answer. And guns and swords aren't going to expand it at all. What is the Kingdom of God? I think Christmas has something to do with it--all i want for christmas is you...shoot, no. oh yeah! hark the herald. newborn king. in a cave.

The tragedy of our Kingdom is that we think that we are peasants, living distant from an uninterested king mildly tending to our country, instead of royal knights charged with the gravest of duties essential to any hope for victory. Or do we think we've already won? Just open your eyes and look at anything in our culture and try to think that seriously. Wait, but it's within us? And yes, those are Jesus' words, not Tolstoy. He was quoting.

That blows my mind. The Kingdom. This realm of Jesus. It's inside me. It's inside you. The fullness of it. I can't even say anything more about it.

What is the Kingdom of God to you?


i really don't think there is much else in the world better than sitting by a warm fireplace on a cold night. and no, the tv fireplace channel is no substitute!


the mitchell report

does anyone else think our senators have better things they should be doing besides going on a witch hunt for baseball players using steroids? sure i don't think steroids are right or anything, but really is this what our government is really for? anybody?



i think there's a great deal of significance in the moments just before we fall asleep. lying in your bed, preparing yourself finally to receive sleep, what goes on in your mind? it is one of the few absolutely settled moments in our lives. there is nothing else to do ahead, just sleep--which of course is extremely elusive to direct seeking. i think these moments say a lot about our lives.

are you already looking ahead to the next day, working over what will need to be done? then perhaps the present is not rich enough, though some might just find that prudent. i've heard of someone who takes 20 minutes every night to reflect on every moment in the day and another 20 to plan how to improve his mistakes. do you do something like this? then perhaps you are trying to hard to be perfect, though some might find that admirable. are you so tired that by the time you fall in bed you are already asleep? then perhaps you are far too busy, though some might just think it is efficient. we could just keep going...

maybe it's wrong to make judgments upon the way we spend this time. maybe not.

is it going to far to say that these moments reflect what is most important to us in life at the time? in the silence our heart naturally draws toward speaking what we have such a hard time hearing all the rest of the time. unless we count sheep or listen to music or any other way to just pass this time. i used to fall asleep to music, but these moments are far too precious to pass over.

this used to be somewhat of a darker time for me. my mind would gravitate toward selfish desires, things i wanted, people i was mad at, things like that. that was when there was a lot missing in my heart, and a lot of other things came in to try and fill it--things like anger and lust, which comes from a deep dissatisfaction with life says Rob Bell. i think these moments really did reveal where my heart was.

in the past i've sought to recapture this time, as my heart. i tried to go to sleep praying every night--which i think puts you to sleep faster than counting sheep! no not really. i still do this often, but far less intentionally. if we're too intentional then we don't allow ourselves to listen to what our hearts are really saying.

disclaimer: this post in not g-rated.

random thought: do these moments change when you get married? since you're sleeping with someone else now? hmmm...

actually that relates to something. lately the same thought is coming to me as i go to fall asleep, or feeling rather. maybe it's because i'm getting older, and maybe because of a lot of other things too, but this time is becoming one that increasingly lonely. i don't want to go to bed alone anymore. i'm not talking about sex. but there is something in sleeping next to someone, sleeping with them. sharing in those mystical hours joins you in some way, some way that cannot be expressed in words. your dreams finally have a partner to their crazy dance. the bars fall back on our ribcages, though we're too asleep to feel it. and by the time we wake up our chests are solid, and we are unaware. even more unaware the longer this goes on.

too romantic? perhaps. i mean, really what do i know about this experience? i know that when we were kids we had to be trained to sleep alone, looking for every excuse to go in with our parents. this is of course right and good, necessary. but we were not meant to sleep alone.

i often think about how in ancient hebrew culture they got married at 13 and 14, which seems ridiculously young to us. we've doubled that and wonder why people cannot wait till marriage to have sex. it's not passion, it's longing for intimacy. and i'm sure some of it's cultural. but doesn't it somehow make sense that sex would line up with puberty? as weird and taboo as that may sound.

so i go to sleep these days, most nights thinking about the empty spot next to me. and my heart is truly speaking.

i was going to just end it there but that is far too sad. maybe my next post will be all about joy, and all the great things i have in my life. not just to put a positive spin on this all or anything like that. but because this is a subject related much about the future, and joy comes from what God has already done in our lives--and that is much. i wonder if those things could come to mind before i fall asleep. i'm sure they could. but for now, this is where i'm at. and this is my post. is it too personal?

what's in your mind and heart as you fall asleep?


night ice

well it was about 12:30 the other night and i was quite tired, but realizing it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, i trekked out into the night to take some pictures. three and a half hours later i came back. here is a sampling:

well I didn't almost die this time or anything, but I did wipe out brutally on a patch of ice. i noticed it and walked around it the first time, but then on the way back i just walked right out on it. no idea why. i said to myself, "i really shouldn't be walking on thi--ahh!" I held my tripod high in the air for safety, allowing all my weight to land on my knee. it's a bit sore, and i didn't get the wave of adrenaline and euphoria like when the branch fell by me. no, this time i got a wave of throbbing. nice. oh, it's fine now.



it's over. the storm has subsided and only the ice remains. my house happened to be one of the very few in manhattan that kept power throughout the whole ordeal. which, actually was a little anti-climactic for me. so i had to go out and make my own adventure!

i walked probably 3 miles before my battery went out, about which i was not very happy. i got a ride home and recuperated for just enough time before heading back out to the konza. it was ice covered and wonderful. we had the whole place to ourselves.

it was a great snow day. oh, except for the fact that i almost died. yeah, i was taking pictures under a tree of a broken branch when all the sudden there was crackling all around me. i froze. there was nowhere to go. the trunk was a step to my left, and a giant branch fell just on the other side of that. pretty crazy. pretty exhilarating.

i feel like i had other things to say, but i can't remember them. so...pictures!


What Would Jesus Buy

I really want to see this. Anyone else in for when I go back to kc? Or it's also playing in Lawrence next sunday night...might make a trip.

I spent about 2 hours watching youtube videos on this guy, and he seems pretty legit--ridiculous, but legit. I appreciate the satire as an affective means for change. And I think it does a good job of being accessible to many.

On another note, I've recently discovered that I like almonds. In fact, that I like pretty much any kind of nut. Hm, go figure.



it's a little long but well worth the read...

"The experience of 'dread,' 'nothingness' and 'night' in the heart of man is the awareness of infidelity to the truth of our life."

"Even the best of men, and perhaps especially they, when they return to a frank and undisguised self-awareness, confront themselves as naked, insufficient, disgruntled and malicious beings. They see their stubborn attachment to the lie in themselves, their disposition to infidelity, their fear of truth and of the risks it demands. This is all the more true when sincerity and a good life have removed those actual habits of sin which can be identified and rejected as sources of guilt and remorse. Even without acts of sin, we have in ourselves an inclination to sin and rebellion, an inclination to falsity and to evasion.

It is in some ways a comfort to be able to assign one's discontent to definite causes. Remorse is easier to bear than dread, for it is at least centered on something definite. But the worst emptiness is the emptiness of the faithful Christian who, when he has done what he had to do and has seriously sought God, responding conscientiously to the graces and tasks of life, still realizes even more acutely than before that he is an unprofitable servant. More than the sinner, more than the insincere one who can escape into the delusion of his own rightness, this man faces radical dread in his own being: the naked dread that is indefinite because is seems to be coextensive with his whole being and his whole life. Such a one sees that no virtue of his own, no good intentions, no ideals, no philosophy, no mystical elevation can rescue him from the futility, the apparent despair of his emptiness without God."

"So he struggles, sometimes frantically, to recover a sense of comfort and conviction in formulated truths or familiar religious practices . . . Finally he loses even the power to struggle."

"His efforts to seek peace and light are carried on not in a realm of relative security, in a geography of certitude, but over the face of a thinly-veiled abyss of disoriented nothingness, into which he quickly falls when he finds himself without the total support of reassuring and familiar ideas of himself and his world. Nevertheless, it is precisely this support that we must learn to sacrifice."

"This deep dread and night must then be seen for what it is: not as punishment, but as purification and as grace. Indeed it is a great gift of God, for it is the precise point of our encounter with his fullness."

"Dread is an expression of our insecurity in this earthly life, a realization that we are never and can never be completely 'sure' in the sense of possessing a definitive and established spiritual status. It means that we cannot any longer hope in ourselves, in our wisdom, our virtues, our fidelity. We see too clearly that all that is 'ours' is nothing, and can completely fail us. In other words we no longer rely on what we 'have,' what has been given by our past, what has been required. We are open to God and to his mercy in the inscrutable future and our trust is entirely in his grace, which will support our liberty in the emptiness where we will confront unforeseen decisions. Only when we have descended in dread to the center of our own nothingness, by his grace and his guidance, can we be led by him, in his own time, to find him in losing ourselves."

"It is this dread that proves the real seriousness of our love of God and prayer, for those who simply fall into coldness and indifference show they have little real desire to know him."

"What we need is not a false peace which enables us to evade the implacable light of judgment, but the grace courageously to accept the bitter truth that is revealed to us; to abandon our inertia, our egoism and submit entirely to the demands of the Spirit, praying earnestly for help, and giving ourselves generously to every effort asked of us by God."

--Thomas Merton


the thicket

not long ago i was lost on a hike. in the moment of clarity i saw the path's before me. i sensed the deeper significance only days later. the quicker path back to the road, i followed. less of an adventure. safer. saved time. and time was definitely a commodity.

but that is not my path. on through the thicket, where there is no path. i think i'm finding the deeper thorns.

if i just lay here and not move, then i can't be cut anymore.

i really want to see "into the wild." you know they rarely tell you about those adventure stories that end up in death. and not any heroic sort of death, but alone and sick. a cruel realist begrudges the movies for their deception, preying on those innocent Romantics. damn fools.

is God the last Romantic? to quote over the rhine.

do all the Romantics die here, lying in the thicket, unable to move or see beyond the layered webs? the road no longer visible. is it here they must grow up? here where they put away hope and dreams and other lofty words? time to live by the rules, the laws to get them out of this tangled mess. the safety of the well-cleared path.

i suppose crawling is an option. but how to really know which is the right direction? there's not much i can see. and if i get lost, the cost will be great. the sun is all that can pierce through, so i'll follow that. but it's such less painful not to move at all.

i will find the way, as soon as i allow myself to listen for it. i will bear the presence i somehow seem to dread, for it is the only way. i will hope, though it seems so foolish, because that is what i've heard so far. i will hang on. i believe in the dawn.


just in cases

I watched this movie tonight. Classic. Though I gotta say, the spotlighting of that terrible mariah carey song that is a disgrace to Christmas songs all around almost ruins it. Almost. Ok well not really at all, but it isn't good.

I love this movie because Kiera Knightley is really pretty. Wait. No...

I love this movie because it's real. Sure it has its depictions of grand love acquisition, but it also has the heartache of love, the loss of love, the sacrifice of love, the work of love.

A couple years ago I wanted to be a student of love. I wanted to learn what I could of it for when that time arose to finally give it. I read books like The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and Works of Love by Soren Kierkegaard. I thought a lot about it. I talked to older married people, some who had been divorced, some who stayed single.

I'm sure a fair amount of all of that came from fear. I think part of me still believes that you can love someone well enough to ensure their continued love in return. I don't think it's true. But it's too scary that it's not. How does someone wake up one day and 'realize' they don't love their spouse anymore? And that happens. That terrifies me.

I want someone who will fight for life--and for love.

"A heart resolved to love can radiate goodness without limits." Love is what all of this is really about. Life. How do we settle for less? For television. For watching love stories instead of living our own. To avoid fear by eliminating want. And whenever that is stirred within us, how will it keep stirring if we shut it off every time? What stirs in you when you watch something like Love Actually, or Braveheart, or The Shawshank Redemption, or You've Got Mail? (Yes I said You've Got Mail).

I find it interesting how people look to find security in God. Isn't that contrary to faith? Isn't that God serving us? But we are to serve him. Yes he blesses us, but what do we know about true blessing? A wife and kids? A good paying job? A 401k? Yeah I don't know what Ezekiel would say about that after God told him he was taking away his wife, the delight of his eyes. Oh yeah, and that he shouldn't weep over it (Ez 24).

"The strangest paradox in Christianity is that it is a mingling of infinite agony and infinite bliss." As such is love. To live for God is to love, and to do that we need to truly learn how to love. The education continues. Though I'm not doing much reading these days.

Don't we all do what we can to be ready for that, or to continue in it as best we can? Would you learn another language? When things get tough, will you fight? What wouldn't you do? Where can you draw the line with love? Can you?

I stood at the airport not long ago, watching the arrivals, people greeting one another. And I watched the people with no one to greet them walk past quickly. If there's anything that marks this world more than the dynamic power of full love, it's the absence of it and the longing when it's lost. Love actually is all around, but do we know it? Is it in our hearts truly? Are we too selfish to really possess love?

What have you learned of love?



no no i'm not engaged. a lot of others seem to be though. i guess it's that time in life. i'm not complaining or bitching about it, it's just a little crazy sometimes. i'm so happy for all of my friends. and i would do nothing to take away from any of their joy.

there are always those of us though, the stragglers. we're a little behind it seems. and there's something of a stigma to it. it's like going to college a little. those still in high school can't really understand what it is like to be in college, even though there might only be a year age difference--or in this case none at all, or even younger. i don't think it is a conscious thing mostly. but there is a sense of having reached the 'next level' or something like that.

be good to your single friends my coupled comrades!

i read some eldredge that really spoke to me today. as men there is a time in life when we are awakened to beauty, often by that beautiful woman who you see with those different eyes all of the sudden, or from the onset. but that romance must continue into our awakening to the Divine Romance, falling in love with God. knowing him as the lover of my soul, feeling my heart burn for the Lord. it is hard with the male image of God.

i know something of love now after this last year. sure i had read a lot about it before then and had family and friends. but after discovering a entirely new love, i think i am finally able to learn something of a new love for God. like a part of myself i am suddenly able to feel, as if only just now discovered, and in that there is something new to offer to my Lord. i want to.

maybe that's touching on the edge of that heightened experienced those soon to be married have come to know--not that you have to be engaged to come into that.

i believe one day i'll be there, at the brink of a new adventure in life, getting to ride the big kid rides. i'll just keep enjoying the wacky worm for now. (worlds of fun reference...anyone?)

ha. no it's not that bad. single life is a treasure of its own. kind of like being a pirate. it's cool to ride on the ship and have a peg leg and say cool things like "arrgh a mast ye maties!" but ultimately you're still after the gold, right? oh i have lots of thoughts on marriage--too touchy for a blog? maybe another time. ahoy!

as for me, i'm good for now. i'll stick with treasuring my adorable niece!


monday's hike: afterthoughts

I took a hike on a path the other day. It weaved through the woods, trees hanging overhead and around, but I was out of reach. The path dipped and rose. Occasionally it had rocks jutting out of the ground, or piles of leaves engulfing it. Nothing dangerous though. It eventually led to a nice paved road.

The road led us down to a camping site, with pull-ins and hook-ups for trailers and campers. There were picnic tables and fire pits for hikers and campers. Tuttle Lake's upper fingers stretched into the surrounding fields. My paved road receded to gravel as I turned back parallel to the direction I came. A large bridge spanned the water not far in front of me. Should I take the same path back? I only have 20 minutes before I need to be going. Further along the gravel. It's the right direction. Surely there will be another path going into the woods, back to the base.

I'm below the bridge now. It connects to the road I came in on. It's where I want to be. It's where I need to be to get going. But there are no cut paths. Up the hill. Through the trees. Through the branches. My arms and legs catch their scrapes. I begin to sweat. It's practically an army crawl up at this point. Eventually the branches start to have bushy needles on them, which feel much better--but leave their own marks. It smells like Christmas. It starts to clear a little and I rejoice, continuing up until I can finally stand and look out. I'm now above the road, and the path straight down to it is far too steep.

Do I go back down? Taking the short route to the road and walking along it till I reach the turnoff to my car? Or do I keep going forward, alongside the road in the same direction? There are more trees, but I've already climbed this far. If I keep going it will eventually descend back down by the road before my turnoff. But it will be harder. More of an adventure perhaps, but has it been an adventure enough?

Others have made it to the road. I can see them from my point overhead. Most of them have taken the path. It was easier. Maybe smarter. I can't begrudge them though, even while there is thicket around me either way.

How badly do I want to reach the road? I don't even know where it will go, but I won't be alone. I don't feel alone now, standing up above it. Just a little lost. I can't see over the hill through the trees, but I can see the road run along it. Is it worth it? I don't know. But there is something calling me to go forward, not back down--even if I will reach the road faster. Does it make sense? Does it make sense to climb a mountain?

A man can climb a mountain for many reasons I suppose. But the way I see it, a man doesn't climb a mountain for the sense of accomplishment, nor for the adventure of it, nor for the view at the top. No, a man climbs a mountain because there is something inside of him that will not let him stay below. And if he doesn't, that something will die. Oh how many let that die in the plains. Or just take the gondola up. The few climbers below see those cars overhead, and they grimace. And then, well, maybe then maybe later, they smile. Perhaps when they see them at the top. For it was quite a different journey.

Here's to the hike ahead.



"We can never reach the innermost center of another being. We are always alone, each for himself. But we can reach it in a movement that rises first to God and then returns from Him to the other self. In this way man's aloneness is not removed, but taken into the community with that in which the centers of all beings rest, and so into community with all of them. Even love is reborn in solitude. For only in solitude are those who are alone able to reach those from whom they are separated. Only the presence of the eternal can break through the walls that isolate the temporal from the temporal. One hour of solitude may bring us closer to those we love than many hours of communication. We can take them with us to the hills of eternity." --Paul Tillich

Do you believe it? Cause I don't know if I do. But I want to.

It's been good to be alone this weekend. Taking a night away last night. Today, remaining in solitude even in the midst of people at times. I guess I keep trying to climb those hills.


what we forget

"Life, without pushing the past into the past, would be altogether impossible."

I was recently asked the question (by whom I don't remember), if I was the sort that lives in the past, present, or future. Well I'm not very good at looking ahead, and I don't particularly want to be too much. The present is in a sense transitory of course, so staying there is quite hard. But I tend to stay there--or at least in the not so distant past. But there have definitely been times when I have been stuck by the past. Where do you live?

"Forgetting by repression does not liberate us, but seems to cut us off from what makes us suffer. We are not entirely successful, however, because the memory is buried within us, and influences every moment of our growth. And sometimes it breaks through its prison and strikes at us directly and painfully."

I've been remembering my brother-in-law recently. Somewhat strange maybe, considering all else that I could be forgetting or remembering. I really want to visit him over christmas break.

"Then there is a forgetting that liberates us not from the memory of the past guilt but from the pain it brings. The grand old name for this kind of forgetting is repentance. Today, repentance is associated with a half-painful, half-voluptuous emotional concentration on one's guilt, and not with a liberating forgetfulness. But originally it meant a "turning around," leaving behind the wrong way and turning towards the right. It means pushing the consciousness and pain of guilt into the past, not by repressing it, but by acknowledging it, and receiving the word of acceptance in spite of it. If we are able to repent, we are able to forget, not because the forgotten act was unimportant, and not because we repress what we cannot endure, but because we have acknowledged our guilt and can now live with it. For it is eternally forgotten."

I used to not understand grace for the believer. I only had the narrow conception of grace as it is that provides salvation. I could thank my evangelical fundamentalist upbringing for that, or that could just be a cop out. I'm learning the other side of grace though. Oh how I need it to be my breath. I could say more, but I couldn't say it much better than this:

"Forgetting in spite of remembering is forgiveness. We can live only because our guilt is forgiven and thus eternally forgotten. And we can love only because we forgive and are forgiven."

...if you haven't, and you probably haven't, I highly recommend checking out Paul Tillich--though he isn't the easiest of reads at all. It's philosophy and quite challenging beyond that. For the more accessible, and the quotes here, start with The Eternal Now.


old staduim

I think it's one of my favorite places on this earth. Living so close to it has been absolutely incredible. Late at night I often walk over to it and spend some time there alone with my thoughts and God. The cement stands climb up to not much of a view, but it's high enough to feel a good wind. The few lights cast suspect shadows in occasional places. I love the smell of the turf against my back. Tonight it was too cloudy to see the stars, and it was slightly damp. But that didn't bother me at all.

Someone might see me there late and night, and every now and then someone else is there, and maybe to them it might seem a little creepy. That is sad. Fear grows in our world on every patch of ground, simply because it has a place in some.

I saw a couple arrive there on their bikes. They walked to the center of the field and laid on their backs, looking up at the sky. I've laid there before, longing to share that with someone. I watched them (not in a creepy way) from the concrete steps, the superior digging into my back. Someday maybe.

Does it make sense that somehow it is harder that God is there, that he continues to speak and be present? For some reason there is a part of me that thinks it would be easier if God really did abandon me, because then it would be like I would have something to hold against him. But nope. He's still there, still with me. So I'm left with no choice but to have faith, damn it. Ok maybe that's a little tongue and cheek, but just trying to make light of it a bit. And no, that doesn't mean I actually want God to disappear on me. Just a weird sentiment.

(I hope you've enjoyed these pictures I took late one night back in august. I always find it funny when people take pictures of themselves, so don't think I take myself too seriously )


applebees is lame

So who can guess which of the following happened on a recent trip to a nearby "neighborhood restaurant"?
a. we were told a wait of 20 minutes, but actually waited an hour
b. we had an obnoxious waiter who yelled across the long table (with 12 people) to take our orders
c. a table of 15 guys all came over and sang happy birthday to one brittany in our group
d. the whole ordeal took over 3 hours

Well i'm sure the clever among you know that the answer is e. all of the above. and while c. was actually somewhat enjoyable, it was probably the one redeeming moment of the night (aside from the wonderful company of course). I could probably have added a few more letters, but no need to get too bitchy.

I hadn't been to Applebees in some time. I was completely overwhelmed by the noise of that place. It's everywhere, all over the walls, the tvs, the balloons, the lighting, the people. What is it that makes us want to go to it in a place like that? Is it that there is so much going on around us that we don't have to hear the silence of a quiet meal? All so we can eat over-priced mass produced food with no character or individuality?

There was a young family at the table next to us. A couple with two small children, one still a baby. They were mostly quiet. The little girl enjoyed her dessert. The man sat with a lost stare on his face. It seemed as if he couldn't hear any of the noise around, or perhaps it all thundered out anything else. Or maybe he was just tired from waking up in the night to attend to his children. I didn't see the couple make eye contact most of the meal.

Nights like that sometimes make me think that I don't quite fit into a culture like this. Maybe I would do better in a place like Europe. But then I think about those around the table and others I love, and getting away to eat amazing bbq in a gas station, and I smile. There's a whole lot of culture here in this country--even in a place like manhattan kansas. And you really get to pick your own a lot of the time. Some of it is an illusion of choice yes. But then at the same time we all have the opportunity to create our own culture. We really do. Maybe you can do that anywhere, but for some reason in all my travels I feel like that is something unique about here. Maybe just because here is home and I know people who want to do that too, but maybe it's more than that.


latter thoughts

Our minds it seems often don't let us forget that which we might tuck away. The strangest or simplest thing will trigger the memory of something long ago--and I'm not even that old. Perhaps the most common is that song or album that is for whatever reason completely associated with a certain time or place. There is an album that whenever I listen to it I feel like I am back in Lugano wandering the streets, stopping at a stand for a slice of sicilian-style pizza--or maybe a pastry.

Tonight I was shuffling a deck of cards a certain way. It was the way my brother-in-law always used to shuffle. Some simple, mellow music was drifting over. The room was for the moment a silent group, stilled by the late hour and various others' private thoughts. No one knew what sank in me as the cards dropped, back to front to back. I saw him, sitting, doing the same--shuffling the cards late into the night with nothing else to do, alone in his cell.

On another note, here's a quote by D.A. Carson that I found a little hard to ignore:

"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to scripture, faith and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."


an afternoon in the park

Sitting in a bed of soft pine needles. They feel wonderful on my feet. The wind blows and more fall around and on me. The sun is filtered by those still grasping, and the light shimmers on the ones still green. The burnt-yellow ones highlight and accent. As the time passes I'm strewn with bunches of five that look like high-speed shuttlecocks. And my sandals become more buried, just as the pine cones gasp with one or two scales.

There is a bright red leaf in the field in front of me. No--a spoon from Sonic, plastic. I toss it in disgust, disappointed at being so fooled. Well, that and the irony and litter. But I'm consoled by the actual red leaf from earlier, which I have pressed in a book I brought with me.

A gust of wind changes west, and the needles drift away from me into the field. But shortly they return to continue their christening.

There is a fallen branch, with a stick protruding up from it almost vertically. It's slight angle makes it seem like a sundial, though its angle lies directly in the shade of the trunk.

The bark feels rough against my back. A few ladybugs have fallen on me and this journal. They are yellow like the fading needles that make my bed. I clear a few pine cones so I can lie down. They bounce on the needles and rest gently on top, breathing fully. The needles tickle my arms--strange that they don't my feet. Then the smell rushes on. Deep pine. A few bunches twirl down gently in the moments of stillness. Then the wind comes and they drop as missiles all around my face. The branches wave at me, greeting me with their urge for me to be silent. In the hush I curl my toes in their gifts, and I feel the prickle of a buried cone. If I lay here long enough, will my toes be scales poking up for breath? I feel like a transcendentalist.

Then the explosions start. Oh it's just the fort not far out of town. There's no real threat here in this, nature's bed. But the continual pounding cannot be drown out by more and more needles falling, nor by their blowing hush. It lasts only a few minutes. Then it is the silence again. A dog barks. A motorcycle a few streets away. The slight hum of a plane overhead. And still the needles fall. And here I sit at 24. Like one in the Black Forest in '44. But I have no gun before me. And needles do not make very good trenches. Still, I send my share of bullets. And the only ones that can hit me are in bunches of five. And if I close my eyes, then there really is no danger.



Renewal rends the rust.

i hate alliteration.

I don't hate a lot of things though. In fact, the problem now seems to be I love too much.

I'm glad to write again. My life is not only interesting by it's surroundings. A year later nearly. I can hardly believe it.

as this stone rolls to a stop, there may be no moss--but it's still a rock.

how did that happen?
i thought i was more prepared.
i thought it wouldn't be so hard--in either way.

am I still neutral? i suppose for now. we'll see though.

I'm ready for something. Is it coming?