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."