i just had to get to 40 posts this month. i promise i will never do that again...i hope.

wait, wait...again

yeah so another nouwen, with more still i just have to share later. i have a feeling you can't even get enough of it anyway. this one i was going to put on here with last night's, but it is much better now. thank the Lord for refreshment today.

"But if you see your weakness as that which makes you worth loving, and if you are always prepared to be surprised at the power the other gives you, you will discover through praying that living means living together."

nouwen (again)

"The paradox of the Christian community is that people are gathered together in voluntary displacement. The togetherness of those who form a Christian community is being-gathered-in-displacement. According to Webster's dictionary, discplacement means "to move or to shift from the ordinary or proper place." This becomes a telling definition when we realize the extent to which we are preoccupied with adapting ourselves to the prevalent norms and values of our milieu...

...In voluntary discplacement, we cast off the illusion of 'having it together' and thus begin to experience our true condition, which is that we, like everyone else, are pilgrims on the way, sinners in need of grace. Through voluntary displacement, we counteract the tendency to become settled in a false comfort and to forget the fundamentally unsettled position that we share with all people. Voluntary displacement leads us to the existential recognition of our inner brokenness and thus brings us to a deeper solidarity with the brokenness of our fellow human beings. Community, as the place of compassion, therefore always requires displacement. The Greek word for church, ekklesia--from ek=out, and kaleo=call--indicates that, as a Christian community, we are people who together are called out of our familiar places to unknown territories, out of our ordinary and proper places to the places where people hurt and where we can experience with them our common human brokenness and our common need for healing."

more on healing from nouwen another time. anyone else long for a community like this...?


a song of lament

a broken string sets the whole thing askew,
is tension what really creates music?

the tugging of my heart strings me along,
so distrust slakens the cord;
prongs clinging but down,
like a light switch i cannot seem to find.

the chords go still,
though vocals resound around
the outside of my chest--
silence is my heart's new song.

others' only tempt me with emotion,
in their heart felt cries
i find my own solace;
a misleading catharsis.

strum the chords of tension
and sing your praise song loud--
oh the work of your hands!
that leave mine outstretched.

for my own good,
if i just had perspective;
what symphony will comfort the lonely?
what magnum opus redeems the years?

string me back up again,
and whip me with your bow--
a great tale will we make to tell,
a life lost to save one from hell.

your 99 left on the hillside,
a harp to sooth their ills.

"when it falls apart the pieces fit
but you won't see it till your blinded,
you can let it go or hold on tight
when you lose your life you will find it."

take this blindfold off my heart,
for the moment i am tired of playing my part.



"All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.

Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love."

i just read this--sometimes timing is just too perfect.

growing up

i watched a very funny movie tonight--just what i thought i would be doing in coming down to oklahoma. no but staying with johnny b. tonight and he went off to play a soccer game so tyler and i watched "death at a funeral." it is hilarious and i would recommend it if you care for a laugh.

i wanted to write something tonight--and earlier it seems i couldn't really find the words to express how i'm feeling right now. so i watched the movie thinking i would set all that aside, or maybe that i would catch something in the movie itself. of course, it being a comedy i wasn't exactly thinking it would strike these emotions. but oddly enough it just so happened that perhaps it did.

in a film full of self-absorbed people (british comedy) the final eulogy was sort of denouncing all of that. how it relates to the film isn't all that important, but one thing was said--and that was that in the end you have to grow up all by yourself. you are released by your parents and the people around you are in this case too preoccupied with themselves or in other cases just simply limited in what they can really give you. in the end, yes, you have to do the work yourself.

i think what i'm coming to grips with is just that this process takes so long. will i ever feel grown up? yeah, i'm sure i will. i think the hard part is just knowing that i have to get there alone. even if i was married i would still have to get there myself, in some ways it might even be harder. but it doesn't feel that way. it is hard to be alone, certainly it is. and i would probably prefer it different--but while i have it i want to do what i can with it to grow into myself so much more. maybe that sounds kind of lame but that's about the best i can figure right now.

does everyone feel this way about being grown up? or did i just miss some developmental maturity memo that you all got?

some of it might just be this stage of life. but some of it certainly is myself and where i'm at right now. i keep coming back to something i read once that said the main longing of adolescence is belonging and the main longing of adulthood is intimacy. and i feel a tension between those two in me. maybe as i long for the latter more that means i am growing up. but it's for some reason hard to feel that way in this stage of life if you are still single. maybe that's just me.

how can i battle the feeling of being alone? not lonely as much as just feeling alone, out on this island in manhattan with a few people who have been great--but leaving behind so much in the rest of life. i know i'm not alone, but so often it is hard to feel that. nouwen says sometimes we need those human hands to convey that belonging and intimacy to us. but right now i guess i can try to learn to feel that from God. maybe in some ways i feel more grown up with God and i feel more of an adolescent in life. maybe. or just an unfulfilled adult in that sense. though that longing feels very adolescent. i don't know.

i think that's all i got at the moment. i apologize for the somewhat jumbled thoughts if you feel like you wasted your time reading them all :). i don't know if i can express how, but somehow this has been helpful for me.


katie herzig

"wish you well"


something new

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God...
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives'...that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it...
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 12--selections

it's been quite a couple days. last night was truly such a cool experience. this past month at ichthus we have been praying and forming communities around different missions, and yesterday was the launching of them. there were so many cool groups and good things that will be happening through them. people were excited and had a hard time picking just one--i also wished that i could be part of the other ones as well.

afterwards we went out to tuttle and had a bonfire--something that came about because of images God gave us in prayer. people wrote sins and barriers and entanglements on pieces of wood and tossed them into the fire. people confessed. people received prayer. we sang. we worshipped. it was more than just an emotional experience. people found freedom, healing, and release. oh, and rocks exploded in the fire--luckily no one lost an eye.

something feels new today. last night i released some things to be consumed by the fire, by God. i think one of the biggest things i released was control. my life is not my own, and i so often forget that. it's not my own not because it was taken from me, but because i have given it over with joy and gladness to him who can truly keep it.

in the last two years i have been learning how i seek to control people and situations much more than i had realized. as i've been finding myself growing in that at least some, i've given other people more freedom--but i haven't been giving that to God. i will follow him when he directs me, but that doesn't mean i will necessarily like it. because in a way, complaining is a very subtle undermining of control. it is saying, "you can have control, but if you mess up (in my eyes) i'm not going to like it and i will doubt your control." it is a way of holding onto myself as my own. i still hold the control over judgment. and i feel like that's the thing to work on now.

i also tried to burn up despair, and that might be something of a hope. but it's connected to the other--and there is no need to despair even in grief, because there is that trust of giving up control over what i see is going to lead to good and what isn't.

there's something else new today as well--fear. one of the biggest surprises for me in this whole journey of ichthus lifegroups is that i'm going to be leading one now. God just told me yesterday, in the morning--so i had a good 8 hours to know before i announced it. i have been and am really excited about it. the group will be about going to the tough places in and around manhattan--the places where there is good soil because people have a lot of fertilizer in their lives. that's the name of the group actually--fertilizer. courtesy of neil cole in organic church. it's those sorts of stories that i want to be a part of and experience.

it's going to give the gospel--not in a shove it down your throat way but also not in a passive here is a tract i'm leaving now way either. it is asking people if we can pray for them, and when they say asking who in their neighborhood they think would need prayer. it is getting doors slammed in your face 30 times but having it opened once. no suits with nametags or presentations, but prayer for the broken and the needy. we will go to trailer parks, low-income housing, campus(?), bars(?), parks--wherever God leads us to go.

we might seem a little crazy. a little fear there. but we won't be offensive any more than the gospel can be. we might get shotguns pointed in our face. a little fear there too. no i have no idea what might happen. but i have no idea what might happen! i get excited when i think about it. but i also am fearful when i realize i have no idea how to do this or lead a group like this--i do not have the gift of evangelism. but there will be some cool people with me pushing each other along. and at the very least i'll have some crazy stories to tell people and write on here.

it's a cool time, and tomorrow i leave for oklahoma for 5 days for a retreat that should be really refreshing--which sounds so good right now. i'm sure i'll have lots of thoughts and such from that which probably means more long posts. i'll pause for your collective sighs.

it's time for something new, a new season. not everything is changing and i still have lots of hopes from things in my life in the past. but right now this is what God has set before me, and i will not complain. no, i will rejoice and be thankful. and i'll probably be a little terrified too.

ps i hate my new blog colors. changes soon.


out of the shadows

ok so this has to be the last mpj song i put on here, otherwise you wouldn't then need to get the album yourself. i really could put so many of these on here--but this one...i can sometimes make it to the bridge before tearing up, but not always.

"and there's a heart that still can beat
with every breath that's inside me
and find the spark that's buried deep
and won't go out, so please..."

george macdonald

(i kind of wish i could put this whole chapter up, it spoke to me so much--but then you wouldn't read all of it now would you? too long. and i am not typing that much. so i'll try to piece my favorite parts together somewhat.)

'I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly' john 10:10

Weary with feebleness, he calls upon death, but in reality it is life he wants. It is but the encroaching death in him that desires death. He longs for rest, but death cannot rest; death would be as much an end to rest as to weariness: even weakness cannot rest; it takes strength as well as weariness to rest...Why does the poor, worn, out-worn suicide seek death? Is it not in reality to escape from death?--from the death of homelessness and hunger and cold; the death of failure, disappointment, and distraction; the death of the exhaustion of passion; the death of madness--of a household he cannot rule; the death of crime and fear of discovery?
'More life!' is the unconscious prayer of all creation, groaning and travailing...

Hence the final end of the separation is not individuality; that is but a means to it; the final end is oneness--an impossibility without it. For there can be no unity, no delight of love, no harmony, no good in being, where there is but one. Two at least are needed for oneness; and the greater the number of individuals, the greater, the lovelier, the richer, the diviner is the possible unity.

'In the midst of life we are in death,' said one; it is more true that in the midst of death we are in life. Life is the only reality; what men call death is but a shadow...death can be a cure for nothing, the cure for everything must be life--the ills which come with existence, are from its imperfections, not of itself--what we need is more of it. We who are, have nothing to do with death; our relations are alone with life. The thing that can mourn can mourn only from lack; it cannot mourn because of being, but because of not enough being. We are vessels of life, not yet full of the wine of life; where the wine does not reach, there the clay cracks, and aches, and is distressed. Who would therefore pour out the wine that is there, instead of filling to the brim with more wine!

but the man to whom God is all in all, who feels his life-roots hid with Christ in God, who knows himself the inheritor of all wealth and worlds and ages, yea, of power essential and in itself, that man has begun to be alive indeed.

He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death, not for the repose of forgetfulness, but for strength to fight; for more power, more consciousness of being, more God in him; who, when sorest wounded, says with Sir Andrew Barton in the old ballad:--
Fight on my men, says Sir Andrew Barton,
I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I'll rise and fight again;
--and that with no silly notion of playing the hero--what have creatures like us to do wtih heroism who are not yet barely honest!--but because so to fight is the truth, and the only way.

To trust in the strength of God in our weakness; to say, 'I am weak: so let me be: God is strong;' to seek from him who is our life, as the natural, simple cure of all that is amiss with us, power to do, and be, and live, even when we are weary,--this is the victory that overcometh the world. To believe in God our strength in the face of all seeming denial, to believe in him out of the heart of weakness and unbelief, in spite of numbness and all the stupefying, enervating, distorting dream; to will to wake, when the very being seems athirst for a godless repose;--these are the broken steps up to the high fields where repose is but a form of strength, strength but a form of joy, joy but a form of love. 'I am weak," says the true soul, 'but not so weak that I would not be strong; not so sleepy that I would not see the sun rise; not so lame but that I would walk! Thanks be to him who perfects strength in weakness, and gives to his beloved while they sleep!'

If ever sunlit, sail-crowded sea, under blue heaven flecked with wind-chased white, filled your soul as with a new gift of life, think what sense of existence must be yours, if he whose thought has but fringed its garment with the outburst of such a show, take his abode with you, and while thinking the gladness of a God inside your being, let you know and feel that he is carrying you as a father in his bosom!


life at the moment

i'm just waiting for my car to be destoyed. it's already halfway there maybe, but it seems to be the next step. apparently whatever i was supposed to have gathered back in january i somehow missed. car stuff just seems to be the icing on the cake of my misfortune, as i got a speeding ticket on my way back to manhattan sunday night. right after the speed change, had cruise control on. common story. my own fault of course, but now was that really necessary?

a ticket is a like a sock to the stomach (who says "sock" for punch anymore anyway? and can you be "socked" anywhere besides the stomach?). insult to injury. here, throw this money away. i had that same sick feeling for a bit. but then i almost just didn't care. even looking at the ticket now and thinking about all i could have used that money for in another event--it doesn't really matter.

i spent awhile later that night in lawrence with my friend. the ticket faded away, along with so many things in the depths of a conversation that sat in deep, difficult questions. i think the heart of it is a question i find myself asking these days--what is it that ultimately matters? what is really going to fulfill me? not in a selfish way of my needs and all that, but truly what will make life worth it? when i am old and look back on my life, what will really matter then?

and is that even the way to think about it? hebrews 11 talks about all the great people of faith and how they didn't receive what they hoped for in their lifetime. they died without the promise being fulfilled. but then again, we are none of us abraham.

i guess you can start to think about these things in your life when it is all falling away. the map program i was pretty sure i was going to do isn't happening. there goes that one external thing that wasn't fragmented. in many ways i am in a place of death. there are worse places to be--and God is even there.
"Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."
Psalm 139: 7-8

but as you watch these things go, especially as little is left sticking around, you can see what it would be like if you lost those few things too. and you are able to really ask what matters. what do i really want in life?

i don't have the answer to that question. i feel drawn to the "lesser things" in so many ways. i say it that way because that's how christianity has you see them. but they don't seem so small. and at times, they are so much more appealing than what is coming from following.

what will it really matter if there is a great revival and movement? will that fulfill me? or would that be just another expression of the real prosperity gospel? what are we looking for? maybe i just need to see lives transformed. maybe then it will seem worth it. "for who hopes for what he already sees? but if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it." rom. 8:24-25

i need that perserverance. i need that strength. how much longer must i do it alone?

ultimately our hope has to be in God alone, for he is the only thing that will not go. but we need other things too, and so we hope in the lesser things, because we need them--we really do. but they will go, perhaps not always all at once and we will have enough of them to get by, to think that we can get through life with our hope in these things. God too, but these things. whatever they are--a spouse, a vocation, a friendship, a community, toys, knowledge.

but what happens if they are all gone? you may never be brought to that place at once, but if you are? who will have the peace that is able to withstand it all? when you scrape all the sand away will there be the treasure buried there? or just concrete? is the treasure worth it? is the pearl that great?

this is the verse that was both grace and challenge to me today:

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Hebrews 12:12


confessional corner 2

ok, ok, ok. this one has been coming. and quite frankly i'm pretty embarrassed here. perhaps our worst confessions are those that make us seem hypocritical, but in all fairness we are all of us hypocrits to one degree or another. does that lesson my crime? no. will it stop any of you for jumping on me about this? no. but it will give me solidarity with those other hypocrits out there who acknowledge it in themselves and then go right on doing it.

i watch hereos. now, you may be thinking to yourself, "what's so bad about that? lots of people watch hereos. it seems like a good show." and if you thought that you'd be partly right. but if you know me very well you also know that i am overtly critical of the majority of tv shows right now--especially dramas, as well as some movies (usually action) that have gone beyond the point of being over the top. i have particularly focused this on the show "lost."

my problem: the show is representative of so many others in being so over-the-top that it looks down on rain. every break before a commercial is a cliff-hanger. there are so many characters that it's impossible to really go into any depth with them. they will always end up being inter-related somehow. they never actually tell you what is going on but leave you with little bits of information that never really accumulate in any satisfactory way. acting is bad. writing is commercial. etc. (one other previous favorite show not withstanding)

now is hereos any different? sadly no, not really. it is also sadly just a remake of a combination of x-men, the butterfly effect, your bad slasher b-movie, and days of our lives. and i'm hooked.

it's one of those painful addictions--i see how bad it is in the midst of it. i can't even enjoy it until the inevitable fall-out afterwards. i have to see the bad acting. i have to see the plot twists that are cheap excuses for narrative. damn my english degree! and every other episode has to fit in some sort of half-naked woman--they have significant upped the number of attractive women on the show since it started. and they try to cater to so many different audiences it's a little annoying. but i guess it works since it's so popular.

maybe i should just embrace it and the community of people i watch it with. or maybe i could spend that hour watching/reading something substantial. i'll just do that after. and i you can take stuff from anything. the best quote from the show so far that i've seen mean much of anything: "people need hope, but they trust fear."


Lord, conquer the grave in me.



saw a really good film last night. it was about the hunt for the ivory-billed woodpecker down in arkansas. if you are a fan of any christopher guest films, you would really love this. it might be a little hard to get ahold of for awhile, but it's definitely going to be a purchase of mine. so if you get the chance, see Woodpecker. it will make for a good time with your friends--especially if one of them goes the whole movie thinking it's real. (sorry g i just couldn't resist)


henri nouwen

(after about a month or two away from reading him, i ordered 4 more of his books, so you can probably expect a nice healthy dosage in the time to come :) )

Maybe we can remember the few occasions in our life in which we were able to show someone we love our real self: not only our great successes but also our weaknesses and pains, not only our good intentions but also our bitter motives, not only our radiant face but also our dark shadow. It takes a lot of courage, but it might just open a new horizon, a new way of living. It is this breaking though the closed circle, often described as a conversion experience, which may come suddenly and unexpectedly or slowly and gradually. People might call us a crazy idealist, an unrealistic dreamer, a first-class romanticist, but it does not touch us very deeply because we know with a new form of certainty which we had never experienced before that peace, forgiveness, justice, and inner freedom are more than mere words. Conversion is the discovery of the possibility of love.



"the pearl"

jon foreman

"love isn't made"



a few days ago i wrote this in my journal, "heart is the fusion of feeling and wisdom by the Spirit." i had been wondering how it is that we "take heart," and how to live from my heart. i've been seeing that this is perhaps where the problem lies. without wisdom my heart is so weak and self-seeking.

lately i've also been realizing just how much of a damn fool i really am. "although they claimed to be wise, they became fools." i've never really claimed myself as wise--though people have said that to me and it's come up on spiritual gifts tests--ha. no but i always thought it would be good to be wise, something to seek after. instead i have built up knowledge--read many books seeking greater truth. i don't know how wisdom and truth interplay to be honest.

i heard somewhere once that wisdom isn't having the answers and knowing what to say, but rather knowing when not to say something. i have always found that profound--probably because i have no ability whatsoever to do that. perhaps this post is an example of that. i think, "truth! truth! the truth must be known. it is always better to be open and express what you're feeling or offer the thoughts you have." what seems like wisdom is only foolishness. insecurities masquerading as sincerity.

perhaps wisdom is only truly gained with age and experience. but our society says nope, you've got your college degree, you are ready to go out into the real world and now you've been educated and prepared. you can make decisions. you can begin to really lead your own life, truly independent. you have to be wise now--that or fall back on all the money you start making all of the sudden with nothing to spend it on, except maybe college loans. it would be nice if we didn't have to pretend to be so grown up and wise and that we have come through our years of education equipped and confident.

but we don't seriously look to education for wisdom really. rather how about the Bible, "do not deceive yourselves. if any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a 'fool' so that he may become wise" (i cor. 3:18). yeah. let's be "fools for Christ." there's probably a cheesy christian song to pump me up for it (there is). whatever that means. paul meant it as enduring suffering and ridicule. and don't believe that "christians being mocked in the media" or "friends thinking i'm different" is any sort of persecution. read a few proverbs a day, maybe that will get us there.

wisdom is more than cerebral. it is more than our idea of a stoic old greek man. it is deeply connected to our heart and i think especially to our non-instinctual emotions--hope, love, faith. whoa how did faith get in there--is that an emotion? all of our classifying, talk about foolishness.

wisdom is also not about knowing things to make life better or easier. i have a suspision that true wisdom is much harder than being without it. we think of wisdom as a tool to guide us through life, but no, "the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure" (ecc. 7:4).

man that really makes me want to seek after wisdom. unfortunately these are the verses that are resonating with me now:

Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king's successor do
than what has already been done?
I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
The wise man has eyes in his head,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.
Then I thought in my heart,
"The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?"
I said in my heart,
"This too is meaningless."
Ecclesiastes 2:12-15

what good does wisdom do? helping a few others on the path? making you money so that you can buy things that will leave you empty. what we all want and need is to love and be loved, and wisdom will not gain you with either one of those.


"don't die in me"


a story

well i've never posted anything i've written before, but i thought this somewhat connected to some things i've been thinking and writing about. i wrote this two years ago, and it's definitely interesting to go back and look at it now. i'm not sure how i feel about it. anyway, i know it's especially long for a blog post, so feel free not to read it. but if you do i would love to hear any thoughts or comments--especially on what you think it's about. thanks. (oh and sorry for the formatting, it won't do tabs and spacing is weird for whatever reason)

The Pearl of Our Price

His son had certainly outdone him this time. Nine brides. More like concubines really. But what could the feeble old man do? Was he not just the same? Are the generations destined to follow their father?
He looked out a gap in the stone wall that served as an opening. A windmill blew steadily in the distance. He watched each wing descend and rise again. The breeze barely blew, but the spokes continued to turn. He picked up the flute from his lap and started to play. A soft melody rose in the air, bringing him a peace he used to give to others.
He paused for a moment as he heard someone calling from below. It was a woman’s voice, one he recognized almost before she spoke. It was his fourth wife.
“Where are you? Come down here. Do you here me? David.”

* * *

“Estoy Aqui.” the boy ventured to the voice calling him.
She found him hiding just below the small mound she had just climbed. “What are you doing out here? I have been looking all over for you.” She slid down the sand and walked up next to him. He was sitting against the bank next to a cactus bush. “Have you been out here all night?”
He raised his head and found her eyes cast down upon him. She stood with her hands behind her back. His hands instinctively found the sand below him. “I…I’m tired Ramona.” He turned and crawled up the hill just enough to see over it. “Did anyone come with you? Were you followed?”
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“He wants to kill me. I never thought…” He turned back to her with a fear in his eyes she had never seen before. “Why? I don’t understand. Why would you…”
She took a step toward him, but he drew back. She stopped. “I would never hurt you. You know that.”
“How can I be sure?”
“Because we are friends. We are the best of friends. And maybe someday—”
“But he is your father,” he cut her off. “Your father is trying to kill me.”
She stepped forward again, but this time he did not move. He saw tenderness in her eyes that wasn’t there before. She smiled, and then walked up right in front of him. From behind her back she brought forth a small flower with red petals and a yellow center. She dropped it at his feet and walked past him up the mound.
He picked up the flower and climbed to the top. She was still walking away, slowly but noticeably steady. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get any words out her voice filled the dry air.
“Adios Jonathon.”

* * *

The horn sounded, which meant they were coming into port. She leaned against the boat railing, waiting for her husband to come up with the bags. The waves chopped below as the boat rocked up and down. She was used to it by now though. Her time of getting sick on board was well past. The blue of the ocean water filled her with a sense of tranquility, but the choppy waves kept disturbing her stare. She looked down further at her hands on the railing. She raised them up in front of her, examining them closely. The lines were beginning to become deeper. She sighed and slipped off her wedding ring. She was always proud of it in front of the other women. A sign of my husbands true ingenuity, she would tell them. The band was ivory, and a perfectly sized shiny white pearl sat mounted atop it. Formed from waves like this.
Her husband came up from the stairs carrying all their bags. His forehead was moist from sweat and his glasses had half fallen off his face. She walked over to help him but he refused. “Just fix my glasses dear.”
She pulled them off and began wiping them with her handkerchief, then wiped the sweat off his brow. “You don’t have to work so hard on my account you know.”
“But that is precisely what I do and always have done,” he said. “You are a lady and a man should do all he can to make sure—”
“Yes, Yes, I know Frank. And now that we can vote I’m sure you will help me in that as well.” She turned away after she said this. The ship was docked into the harbor and the ramp was being lowered. She hated that she said that. Why do I snap at him like that?
They walked over to the ramp and stood waiting for the many passengers to get off. She fiddled with her ring while he held the luggage. As he started down the ramp she paused for a moment and watched him walk down. He could have been so much if he had not married me. And now look at him, practically a servant. Was it me who took away his greatness ten years ago today?
A woman stood behind her that they had become friendly with throughout the cruise. “It’s sad to see it over with isn’t it dear? But it’s only your 10th anniversary. You’ll have plenty more to come. It was just a fabulous cruise though wasn’t it honey? I tell you I have never had better shrimp than they served…” She continued on, but only because she didn’t want to get off the boat either.
Frank reached the bottom of the ramp and turned around. “Are you coming?”
“Yes, dear.” And she made her way down the ramp. She reached her husband and kissed him after her first step on solid land. “Thank you so much.”
“Of course. I love you Helen.”

* * *

“Let me tell you all a riddle,” he said.
They were all sitting at the dinner table. The meal had finished some time ago, but the conversation had continued and laughter and stories filled the room. The group had grown quiet for a moment, a common lull that frequently happens in conversation. So Peter decided to make things interesting. His wife sat across the table from him, and he looked only at her as he said these words.
“A riddle?” one man said, “But it’s much too late for a riddle.”
“Ok. A story then. A story with two endings where you decide which ending is better. Does that sound good?” A couple of people laughed and smiled, but all held their attention on Peter. All except one.
“So here’s how it goes. It takes place some two hundred years ago in Africa. There was a hunter. A fierce man they called ‘Chisulo,’ which in fact means, ‘strong as steel.’ Well this man, Chisulo, was the greatest hunter in the whole land. From a very young age he killed lions and cheetahs and every sort of animal. He was the best on the hunting trips and the best at defending the village and its herds from wild beast attacks. It was even said that he could take down an elephant with a spear, something no one man had ever done before. ‘He alone can hit it in just the right place,’ they said. As he grew up the village hailed him with honor and fortune. All the women of the village wanted to be Chisulo’s wife, but he seemed uninterested in all of them. None of them could ‘turn his head,’ so to speak.”
“Sounds just like my adolescence!” one of the men said. Most of the table laughed. Peter smiled and paused a moment before continuing. She was not smiling, and her head was still bowed.
He continued. “So one day Chisulo was on a hunt alone, which by the way was nearly unheard of in those times. Well he was stalking a group of gazelles when they became spooked by a predator. They began to take off westward. Well Chisulo was not going to let the village down, so he began to run as fast as he could after these gazelles. With amazing speed and endurance he chased down the herd and took down two of the beasts. Throwing one over each shoulder, he began to make his way back. But to his surprise he saw a small well not far from a cluster of trees by him. He was far enough from his village that this was not their well, but one from another village. As he approached the well a woman was there drawing water. Instantly he was struck by her. He moved closer and began to approach the well. All alone and seeing a man from another village, the woman began pulling the water up faster and faster. He stopped and held up his hands. This only slightly reassured her. He walked slowly not far from her, by her things. He then sat down one of the gazelles next to the first bucket of water she had drawn. He smiled and she seemed not so afraid. He motioned for a drink of water, and she brought it to him cautiously.”
“Are you telling us a love story?” One of the men sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“Oh be quiet Herm,” his wife said as she jabbed him in the side. “I’m liking this. Please continue Peter.”
“Well to make a long story a little shorter. It wasn’t long before they were laughing with one another at the well. They couldn’t speak one another’s language, but they had fallen in love in that short time. She took him back to her village, which was quite small, and he left her with one of the beasts. Arrangements were made and he promised to return shortly while she prepared for the ceremony. Her family was very happy and doted over the girl after he left. He marked out the way back to his own village and kept it in mind.”
“Not a week later the elders of the village came to Chisulo very frightened. ‘There are wild elephants on the loose, they have been angered by some evil spirit,’ they said. ‘They are charging through the wilderness and we fear they are headed for our village.’ You see a spooked elephant is driven by the scent of food, and during these rare times the villages can be very vulnerable. Or, as the elders were always afraid, a witch had cast them upon the village. So Chisulo grabbed two spears and headed into the direction the elders pointed. Out in the wilderness, he came to the high point. In the distance he could make out two elephants, but they were not together. One was headed to his right, the other to his left. It was then he realized that they had caught two different scents. One was headed for his town, the other for the town of his newfound bride-to-be. The elephants were too far apart to be able to kill them both, so Chisulo had a choice. Which village did he save?”
There were a few laughs and chuckles from around the table. One man said, “It’s a simple ethical question you’ve put to us Peter. But why all the fluff? You could have just said the part at the end?”
Another woman was staring intently at her plate, apparently deep in thought. “Would he sacrifice all that?” she said almost to herself.
Peter might have seen her eyes watering up if he would have been looking. But he was staring straight down the table at his wife. She still had not looked up. “What would you do honey?” he asked her. She didn’t move. “You were listening to my story weren’t you?”
She finally raised her head and looked him straight in the eye. Her expression was firm and very serious. Her face revealed no anger or amusement. Only in her eyes there flashed a moment of sadness, but then it was gone. She did not say anything.
He looked at her mercilessly. “Well? Which would it be? Do you have an answer?” The rest of the table had grown completely quiet.
Peter’s face shifted. “Abigail?”

* * *

He threw another rock into the waves. Then another. Then another. He could just make out the bottle’s reflection in the dim light from the sleepy town behind him. He had thrown probably fifty rocks trying to hit it. The splashes would be close and then far away; the bottle would float close and then far away. Sheba sat behind him laughing. She was lounging in one of the beach chairs, another bottle of wine in her own hands sat resting in her lap.
“Maybe if I throw this one out there too then maybe you will be able to hit one of them.” She laughed again. He continuously stumbled as he threw, and she could not stop giggling at him. “I shouldn’t have brought you out here tonight. You have your test tomorrow and look what I’ve brought you to.”
He chucked another rock into the air. “My arm hurts.” He staggered over to her and took the bottle from her hands, but not before sliding his hands across her leg. “You’re doing a great job helping me study Sheba.” He laughed as he raised the bottle above his head.
She smiled too, but only partly; her giggle was running away. “I don’t know if you should…”
“I’m going to hit that bottle if it’s the last thing I ever do!” he yelled. He handed her the bottle and picked up five smooth stones as he made his way back to the shoreline.
She watched him go, bringing her lips together. “But your test,” she yelled. The waves were crashing and he couldn’t hear her anymore.
The rocks fell far from the bottle and he sank to his knees. “I can’t hit it Sheba! I can’t do it!” He put his hands into the air, reaching towards the moon. “Med school here I come!” he yelled.
She had walked up behind him now. “Maybe you should get some sleep. I mean tomorrow—”
“It’s too late!” he said.
“What do you mean? You still have two hours. The sun will be up soon but drink a little coffee and—”
“No! I mean the bottle’s gone. See. It’s floated off to sea.” He pointed off into the distance, but the bottle was closer to shore than it had been all night. She didn’t say anything to him as he leaned back and started to fall asleep. She watched the bottle wash up onto shore with the changing tide.
“You have to get up.” She shook him but it was no use. “Get up! Dave!”

* * *

David stood below the windmill, watching it rotate slowly. He sat down and began playing his flute, keeping an eye on the flock nearby him. The flute would calm the sheep and make them feel safe. But he knew that if a lion or any other animal were to threaten he would be able to defend them. He was an old shepherd, but he had done nothing but that since he was a boy. He knew he could have done other things. He knew he had his chance. He could have been king over more than just these sheep. Did he give it all up for her? Or did she take it from him? He bent down by the base of the windmill and picked a flower. He held the red petals up against his ivory flute. He smiled and stuck the flower in a hole, and continued to play. The petals of the flower shook in the intervals of his breath. His song filled the air and carried up by the turn of a windmill. The wings rocked like the steady waves of the ocean. And he dreamed of the sea, the rocks below turning to pearls.

"how firm a foundation"

When through deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for i will be with thee, they troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

and please enjoy another sufjan song, perhaps one you haven't heard before:




(i've been in kind of hyper-blog mode recently. i guess i just have a lot to say at the moment, writing has been a good thing. but i apologize to any casual readers out there who haven't been able to keep up.)

i've been reading kierkegaard's Purity of Heart recently, as you might have guessed from my last post. it has been really incredible, like pretty much all of his that i read. but it has also been somewhat frustrating--even more frustrating than his more difficult books where i understand about 1/3 of it if i'm lucky. the full title of the book (or rather section of a much larger work) is "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." and over half the book is about the different forms of double-mindedness and ways that we will many things and therefore are not truly pure in heart.

you see i've been feeling really fragmented lately. feeling like there are parts of me kind of all over the place, in every direction. it's mostly inward, which is quite a change from my general little plan outward what am i going to do with my life next mentality. i think i know where i am, am glad to be here, and excited about what is next--i think i will probably end up doing this ministry apprenticeship program thing that is sort of like seminary. it starts in january and i'll still be doing ichthus here in manhattan. not finalized yet, but it looks like it's going to happen. i kind of know where my life is going at the moment.

yet at the same time a part of me feels very lost. i feel good vocationally, but fairly lost relationally. part of me wonders where a lot of my friends are, but part of me just wants to be by myself right now and i feel alienated in groups of people. part of me feels depressed and lost, and part of me feels hopeful and patient. spiritually part of me feels angry and frustrated, and part of me feels excited about some other things that are happening with ichthus. sadly, i could go on for awhile with things like this.

how can i will one thing when there is so much that i seem to be wrestling with? it's not just an over-arching wanting to follow God, it's a deeply integrated singularity of purpose and direction that leads to purity. and i am all over the place and so far from being there.

some of that is just adolescence, right? that's part of growing up--yes i'm still there at 25. some of that is just where i'm at right now personally, right? i'm just in a tough place. some of those conflicts are still kind of external, right? you're bound to have differences of opinions within yourself regarding other things. "double-mindedness!" kierkegaard would cry! that's the clever man making excuses.

but the fact is i am not there. not even close. i can't even seem to manage to focus on any one thing for very long at this point in time. i'm in a season of brokenness, and that is going to create some fragments. if my heart is not whole, how can it be pure? how can it be put back together? how can life spring anew? i don't even know what i would hope for at this point. i am of two minds there too, or i guess maybe a few altogether.

where will i find myself? what will happen? what am i left with? i don't want to be fragmented. i don't want to wander anymore. i'm tired of feeling like it's not enough. and i don't even know how to go forward in finding healing. all i feel like i can do is just lay down. my will is weak. my commitment feels spurned. the longer i lay here...

and then the quote from the last post comes back to me. and i think i can take just that one step. maybe soon. i hope so. of course then i have to figure out what that step is... damn it.


soren kierkegaard

Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing
"Another says 'I have not the strength to risk all." Again evasion, an evasion by the aid of the word "all."  For the Good is quite capable of reckoning and computing its demand in relation to the strength that this man has.  And what is more, if he will venutre in all sincerity, then he will certainly receive strength enough in the act of decision...And in a spiritual sense, a person is only really out at sea who is willing to do all, irrespective of whether he is the highest or the least." 
"So then, go with God to God, continually take that one step more, that single step that even you, who cannot move a limb, are still able to take; that single step, that even the prisoner, who has lost his freedom, even the one in chains, whose feet are not free, is still able to take: and you are committed to the Good." 

pearl snap buttons

"Holy obedience is the insatiable God-hunger that will make a person dissatisfied with anything less than the pearl of great price."
~Richard Foster

About 9 months ago I went to Texas, which by all accounts was a pretty dreadful trip. I wrote an entry about it (and much more) then, which part of me feels like I almost need to write again for my own sake, but I'll spare you that here.

I don't think it's that I doubt the goodness of God. I feel like I've snapped that top button, even if it chokes me every now and then. Maybe it's more that I'm wondering about the cost.

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." --Matthew 13:43-46

He sold all that he had. He sold everything. Of course the catch being that in return he gets the pearl of great price and ends up all the better for it. And if you think I'm talking about the prosperity gospel there's a video down a few posts you can watch. No, we sell what we have to gain something far greater in return. That is the deal.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" --Matthew 16:24-26

I have always found these verses simultaneously inspiring and terrifying. I have to lose my life? I have to sell everything? But I know it doesn't do any good to gain the world and lose my soul--but sometimes it seems like I have to give my soul too. No, it's never a "half to" really I guess. But if you really want to live... There's a dangerous prayer that I have prayed before and several times after--"whatever it takes. Whatever it takes for you Lord, do it." And several times I've come to the edge of regretting that, knowing that it is always something I can pull back from. The Lord is good and he would give me that. Yet still I will not take back that prayer.

But I can still complain about it! I know I said whatever but really, how hard do you want it to be? Would you have me wander around these pillars for years to come? Would you keep my eyes in darkness and not tell me your way? Am I your friend or just your simple servant who needs no explanation? Why set the plate before me if you take it away after only a tease? I've heard how you treat your prophets, do I really want to be your servant? Where is your deliverance? Where is your true peace--why is it so fleeting? Where is your joy? Where is the abundant life? I've been waiting. Are my prayers in vain? Is my hope merely deception? Am I such a fool? Why do you stand so far off?

What more can I give? I have submitted my life to you and followed you wherever you have led me. What more do you want from me? I feel like I don't have anything left.

Yet still I will snap the buttons. Still I long for that pearl. I don't want to float through life. I don't want to swim to the shore and quit. That is death I know--life, but death. The river is death, but life. I wish it could be a quick death, but no, we take up our cross every day. No one ever said life was going to be easy. Let me discover you as the refuge and strong tower you can be.


(i am afraid to share this, and know that my problems are nothing compared with so many others so i probably sound like a whining idiot. but the laments of the psalms are often no less unreasonable, and far more public. can we be a people who can share our laments? or is it too much for you to hear? i hope not. oh and don't worry about me. i'll be ok.)

and i love this song.



strength comes when you least expect it
or rather
when you need it most.

God's crumbs are like that sometimes--
when you feel malnourished
forgetting your invitation
they are a feast brought to your door.

i wish i was stronger
but sometimes i guess we have to be fed
usually when we're not looking for it.

i wish i was ok
being alone with myself
not spiting the joy of others,
and bearing patience a little softer.

and the notecard on my windowsill
is faded,
but i can still make out the words.
though i have them memorized by now
i still seem to need to see them.

"A heart resolved to love can radiate goodness without limits"
"Life is filled with serene beauty for whoever strives to love with trust"

and this monk's dying words
still seem just as elusive as they always have been,
with no years in a monastery to practice.

but that's the hope
and the aim
and the trust.

so the next step forward
means another day
and another surrender.


greg laswell

how the day sounds. good song. video worth watching too.

kathleen edwards

"sure as shit"


it is what it is

someone i know once got their hair chopped off, and when the initial cuts went a little shorter than previously expected all the hair-dresser kept saying was "it is what it is." now this might not have been the most concerting thing to hear for the person actually getting her hair cut, but it was the truth and there was no changing it now. still it might mean a little more coming from the person who had to live with the consequences of what "it is."

there's really something to that statement though. it's the plain, bare truth without any spin or cushion. there is great power in being able to call things as they are. it conveys a trust in the person that they can handle the reality of the situation for exactly that--the reality. so often we want to try to make things look good, or just a little better than they actually are. or we want to build it into something that makes for a grander story, perhaps in hope that it will make our lives feel like they have a little more meaning. we all of us for the most part color our lives and situations for others in hopes that they'll see us a little better. then they'll like us.

even worse perhaps is the way we do this to ourselves. i think with others it is quite a bit more understandable. but why do we allow ourselves to make the subtle twists in our own minds or hearts? why do we allow what is really a form of self-deception?

it is what it is. i just don't care enough about it to put forth the effort. i actually don't like that person. it was a mistake. he said no. a broken heart.

sometimes things happen and we can't seem to let ourselves accept the reality of them. we fight against deception and try to figure out what's really going on. some things we can easily know and say what is the truth, if we would allow ourselves. but so many other things are just too complex to be able to truly name. the label does not do it justice. the language is insufficient. but we have to make sense of it somehow, right? so we come up with some sort of story because we are unable to live in the tension that is created by the fear of the unknown. in this way we try to control our lives. and if we tell the story well enough we can usually get ourselves to believe it. it may even actually be mostly true.

but is it better to leave things unnamed than to fill in the blanks? or is that what we must do in this fragmented life full of mystery? would we get anywhere if we didn't close the gaps and push on ahead? but then it creates such a strong tendency to paint those missing parts in the colors we want, transforming the picture to look a lot more like we want it to look than perhaps it actually probably is in truth. and in that way we live a lie. but it's just a little white lie right? when were those ever so bad?

it is what it is. i want to name the things in my life. i want to be able to name things in others' lives as a gift, not a burden. i don't want to let deception flourish. i want to be ok with living in the tension and the pain of the unknown. i don't want to soften the blow. i don't want to protect myself or others when it is really not trusting them or myself. i want to be genuine. and i don't just want others to see me as genuine but i want to feel it myself. i want to let the gaps be gaps and the darkness darkness and the foolishness foolishness.

oh give me the eyes to see with this sort of clarity.


saddest commercial ever

watching tv the other when some sort of cable or tv commercial comes on touting the amazing benefits of HD tv or service. and the golden retriever is the one narrating the whole thing, watching all of his human family run into the living room and pile together on the couch to watch tv.

at the end you can see the family in the background watching tv while the dog plops down in the kitchen. his eyes are drooping as a ball falls out of his mouth and rolls away. he says, "i don't know what HD is, but i don't like it."

i wish i remembered who the commercial was for so i could boycott them.


a poem and a prayer

While faith is in me, I am blest;
It turns my darkest night to day;
But, while I clasp it to my breast,
I often feel it slide away.

What shall I do if all my love,
My hopes, my toil, are cast away?
And if there be no God above
To hear and bless me when I pray?

Oh, help me, God! For thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve.
Forsake it not: it is thine own,
Though weak, yet longing to believe.

~Anne Brontë

"In winter the roots of the tree plunge deeper into the ground."
~Madame Guyon

this is just too good

you absolutely have to watch the first two, and i strongly recommend the third as well. unreal. come jam with the lamb!

courtesy of rustin via im


anna dorable: the diva

so my niece is 5 now. she's quite cute, especially in pictures. don't get me wrong, i'm not saying she isn't cute in person too--she is. oh but she is a little firecracker. as they sometimes say, this one's going to be trouble. let me just tell a few exemplary stories from her first few years of life.

when she was 2: anna had a little bean bag chair that she loved to sit in and watch "toons." it was her beloved little chair and she was just a little possessive of it. finding someone else sitting there she would often throw fits and cry. one day she wandered into the living room to find her 32 year-old dad sitting in it watching television. "out!" she proclaimed. daddy shook his head. "out!" he didn't move. "anna i'm sitting here now, you can't just make people move." so anna waddles her way over to the couch and lays down. she pulls the blanket up around her and says, "daddy!" todd looks over to see anna smiling. "nuggle!" todd smiles and gets up to cuddle with his beautiful little daughter. he lays down behind her, at which point she gets up and runs over to the bean bag and sits down. then she turns back to daddy and smiles. she was 2.
when she was 3: anna was watching television, probably so you think you can dance? her favorite show at the time. she is watching with her family when she suddenly points at the screen and says, "i like her shoes."
when she was 4: anna was out with her mother shopping for clothes. lauren picked up a few things that were anna's size and took her to the dressing room. they go in and anna is whimpering away all of the sudden. lauren looks at her somewhat alarmed by the sudden change in mood for no apparent reason, "anna what's wrong? why are you crying?" and anna looks up through her tears and says, "because you are going to make me try on those pants i don't like!"
now that she is 5: anna is truly the independent woman. she loves to do everything herself. so apparently she decided that it was time to change her look. she went to get her haircut and told the woman exactly what she wanted, chopped to an exact length and shorter in the middle in the back. and she got it.
oh what this girl will be like at 15!


paul tillich

"Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
I Corinthians 13:8-12

The creative man, in all realms of life, is like a child, who dares to inquire beyond the limits of conventional answers. He discovers the fragmentary character of all these answers, a character darkly and subconsciously felt by all men. He may destroy, by means of one fundamental question, a whole, well-organized system of life and society, of ethics and religion. He may show that what people believed to be a whole is nothing but a fragment of a fragment. Th misery of man lies in the fragmentary character of his life and knowledge; the greatness of man lies in his ability to know that his being is fragmentary and enigmatic. For man is able to be puzzled and to ask, to go beyond the fragments, seeking the perfect. Yet, in being able to do so, he feels at the same time the tragedy implicit in his being, the tragedy of the riddle and the fragment. Man is subject, with all beings, to the law of vanity. But man alone is conscious of that law. He is therefore infinitely more miserable than all other beings in the servitude to that law; on the other hand, he is infinitely superior, because he alone knows that there is something beyond vanity and decay, beyond riddles and enigma. This is felt by Paul, when he says that the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of decay into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.

Man is a fragment and a riddle to himself. The more he experiencs and knows that fact, the more he is really man. Paul experienced the breakdown of a system of life and thought which he believed to be a whole, a perfect truth without riddle or gaps. He then found himself buried under the pieces of his knowledge and his morals. But Paul never tried again to build up a new, comfortable house out of the pieces. He dwelt with the pieces. He realized always that fragments remain fragments, even if one attempts to reorganize them. The unity to which they belong lies beyond them; it's grasped through hope, but not face to face.

How could Paul endure life, as it lay in fragments? He endured it because the fragments bore a new meaning to him. The pictures in the mirror pointed to something new for him; they anticipated the perfect, the reality of love. Through the pieces of his knowledge and morality, love appeared to him. And the power of love transformed the tormenting riddles into symbols of truth, the tragic fragments into symbols of the whole.


frederick buechner


Guilt is the responsibility for wrongdoing. Apart from the wrong we are each of us responsible for personally, in a sense no wrong is done anywhere which we are not all of us responsible for collectively. With or without knowing it, either through what we have done or what we have failed to do, we have all helped create the kind of world mess that makes wrongdoing inevitable.

The danger of our guilt, both personal and collective, is less that we won't take it to heart than that we'll take it to heart overmuch and let it fester there in ways that we ourselves often fail to regognize. We condemn in others the wrong we don't want to face in ourselves. We grow vindictive against the right for showing up our wrong as wrong. The sense of our own inner brokenness estranges us from the very ones who could help patch us together again. We steer clear of setting things right with the people we have wronged since their mere presence is a thorn in our flesh. Our desire to be clobberred for our guilt and thus rid of it tempts us to do things we will be clobbered for. The dismal variations are endless. More often than not, guilt is not merely the consequence of wrongdoing but the extension of it.

It is about as hard to absolve yourself of your own guilt as it is to sit in your own lap. Wrongdoing sparks guilt sparks wrongdoing ad nauseum, and we all try to disguise in the grim process from both ourselves and everybody else. In order to break the circuit we need friends before whom we can put aside the disguise, trusting that when they see us for what we fully are, they won't run away screaming with, in nothing worse, laughter. Our trust in them leads us to trust their trust in us. In their presence the fact of our guilt no longer makes us feel and act out our guiltiness. For a moment at least the vicious circle stops circling and we can step down onto the firm ground of their acceptance, where maybe we'll be able to walk a straight line again. "Your sins are forgiven," Jesus said to the paralytic, then "Rise," whereupon the man picked up his bed and went home (Matthew 9:2-7).



"I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33
I don't know what it is within us that makes us think that life will be easy. Oh sure on the surface we will acknowledge that it isn't easy and we will run into our struggles. But somewhere behind it all we can so easily think that life will go just as we planned it to. All of our little schemes and well-laid plans can fall apart at the slightest thing, and still we have no control over it. Who's to stop a car from running a red light or cancer falling on the one we thought would be with us the rest of our life? But what can we do? Not bother seeking happiness? Pursue gingerly while we live in fear of all the many ways it could all suddenly change? So still we plan.
And we'll even work that knowledge into our plans a little. A savings account. A life insurance policy to really take care of those who would miss us. A little security in an anarchy of chaos. Chances are you'll make it awhile. Perhaps some will be lucky enough to go long enough into life to really get some enjoyment out of it before it begins to crumble by the water in the seams. You will have tribulation.
So why do we run? Why do we just pursue happiness like we can keep it? Are those few moments, those few years enough to satisfy our life while later we will cope with the pain through distraction, trying to push off the depression, despair, and anger? Or will we have the peace to pull us through? Will our roots go down deep enough or our anchor of hope be heavy enough? How the hell do we take hold of our hearts?
One of the observations I feel like I've made a lot over the past year or so is how surprised I am that people do not really expect to face opposition. If something doesn't work out it is just that "door being closed" by the Lord. Is it really now? Or are we just forgetting that any truly good work will be resisted? In fact it is probably more often the truth that the greater the resistance the more important the work is. Things drift away or are abandoned because we aren't ready to fight, or we would just rather do something a little easier.
The funny thing is that I somehow completely miss that about my own life too. I have always been a fighter--or at least I like to think that about myself. But then that's not really the answer is it? So much of the opposition will not be anything you can really fight against, and trying to do so will only leave you fighting yourself or God. Giving up is always much harder for me to do, but then surrender is perhaps often more important than fighting--in the way of Jesus. Against such what can opposition truly do?
Jesus says it twice in Matthew, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it," but i suppose that means we truly have to lose it for his sake and not just to get a life that is more rich. I miss that part sometimes.
But how do you take heart? Especially when the world seems anything but overcome. What is there to take hold in? My personal momentary transitory joys? No no no. In finding hope again. Hope that is only worth it if it is unseen, in the darkness, fighting away against resistance. Fighting that looks a lot more like laying down. Maybe. That sounds kind of nice. That I can do. Sure maybe there's a bit more than that, but we'll start there for now.


there comes a time when another
notch on the doorpost
bleeds darker than faded childhood,
and what doesn't kill you
makes for some pretty strong wood
laid across the screen door,
that blew open with gusto--
then banging a little
too often.

they leave the house
with warm goodbyes
i heard before they came.
though now the seats are warm
and the couch still soft,
until time cools and darkness passes.
my spine is stiff
from a sinking mattress,
pushed down when i slept
on the couch.
and character is no sheet
warmer than fat,
holding tight
in all the right places.

maybe that's why i run,
and back again
my heart beating my heart
into shape.
rending faith
in myself,
until they all return--
goodbyes through the door.
above my mark
i invite them in,
offering a spot on the couch.


confessional corner

welcome to a new segment on this blog--well, kinda new. i've done it before somewhat less structured when i just had to confess something. a blog is a good place for these types of silly yet important confessions because you get the relief of letting the secret out without the shame or degradation of having to look someone in the face while you do it. and since no one can talk about "blog world" in the real world, i figure i've got a good little system here. we all have these little secrets in our lives--things that are for the most part inconsequential but yet somehow say a great deal about a part of us. i think it's fun to share them every now and then. so occasionally i'll ask you to don the vestments of my confessor, and hear my sad and tragic failures.

today i have to get something off my chest. it is something that has taken control of my life to one degree or another. i even dreamed about it last night, and fulfilled that dream today. was i prophetic? well about this certain secret delight i'm afraid it can only be taken so seriously. i have a secret love...chinese buffet donuts!

yes i actually had a dream about chinese donuts last night--and no not a dream with them in it, an actual dream where they were the center of what the dream was about. there were several of us at the buffet, and we went to get dessert. most of them went for the ice cream first...oh those poor fools. the guy in front of me scooped all the donuts into the corner and took like 7 of them! he saw me standing behind him so he decided to leave two. i never did see the face of this terrible man, but he was about 5'10" and about 265lbs with brown hair and thin glasses. let me know if you see him! so back to my table with my two precious donuts, which i thoroughly enjoyed. everyone else was upset with me for taking the last donuts and they would hear nothing of the gluttonous hoard before me. i told them we could go back later, they would make more. but when i went back they were shutting down the buffet. so sad. of course, i wasn't all that distraught--after all, i did get my two donuts. (dream somewhat reflected an actual event also to be noted)

then tonight my roommate tyler planned a dinner with a group of people. the destination (of which i had no part in choosing): hunam chinese buffet and mongolian grill. if you are in manhattan, this is the place to go. you get the sweet benefit of the mongolian grill with great vegetables and noodles and sauces, plus the entire chinese buffet (though i really only eat crab rangoon and donuts off it)! AND it's all for the low price including $2 student (or $1 faculty if i'm being honest--which i am!) discount of $7.25 with a drink! does it get any better? i submit that it cannot!

so tonight i watched those donuts carefully while i ate the rest of my food, careful to see that they would not run out. time for dessert came and i edged in front of my friends. though it didn't matter--they headed for the ice cream those fools! as i walked up a man clutched the tongs of my beloved bin of sugary fried goodness. i cringed. he picked up a couple, inspecting them and walked away with only one. a sigh of relief. but wait, what was wrong with the ones he inspected!?!? i approached. four remained. they were covered in sugar and looked mighty tasty. they were still warm too and not at all hard, which makes a big difference. i went back to my table satisfied with my rewards while the other fools felt their hands cramp while scooping ice cream. they didn't even want any donuts!

i was quite full from my huge mongolian plate, but the tasty delights had no troubled overcoming my slight lack of hunger. the donuts were half gone before the others even returned--partially because i really wanted them, partially because i didn't want them to know how many i ate. so, in my confession, i had a plate full of 3 chinese donuts tonight. it could have been a lot worse i know, even on top of a very full meal. and i even left one for someone else!

today i got by--not perfectly by any means. in fact, it probably was still too much. so will you help me my confessor? absolve me of my wrong-doing! save my arteries for the future! stop me in any degree you are able!

...that or teach me how to make them myself. better yet, make them for me!!! :)


it's beautiful!

yes i am talking about fall! i walked outside today and the weather was just so good. it is windy and storms loom in scattered directions. but most importantly there was that crispness to the air that only means that summer is saying its goodbyes. i love summer and this was a great one, but oh fall you are my favorite. i threw my hands in the air in joy and delight! i had a dream last night i was getting ready for a soccer game, another reason i love fall--soccer season.

let the leaves fall from the trees
the cicadas climb out of their shells
and the footballs fly through the air!

also loved this quote from alli rogers' blog (yes this is a second-stealing):
"Not all those that wander are lost."
-J.R.R. Tolkien


You see, there are two kinds of losses in life. The first is shared by all mankind—the losses that come to us. Call them what you will—accidents, fate, acts of God. The point is that we have no control over them. The second kind is known only to the pilgrim. They are losses that we choose. A chosen loss is different from repentance, when we give up something that was never ours to have. With a chosen loss, we place on the altar something very dear to us, something innocent, whose only danger is in its goodness, that we might come to love it too much. It is the act of consecration, where little by little or all at once, we give over our lives to the only One who can truly keep them.
Spiritual surrender is not resignation. It is not choosing to care no longer. Nor is it Eastern mysticism, an attempt to get beyond the suffering of this life by going completely numb. As my dear friend Jan describes, “It is surrender with desire, or in desire.” Desire is still present, felt, welcomed even. But the will to secure is made subject to the divine will in an act of abandoned trust.
True surrender is not an easy out, calling it quits early in the game. This kind of surrender comes only after the night of wrestling. It comes only after we open our hearts to care deeply. Then we choose to surrender, or give over, our deepest desires to God. And with them we give over our hearts, our deepest selves. The freedom and beauty and rest that follow are among the greatest of all surprises.

John Eldredge

Your only assignment is to be strong in faith, no matter what your weaknesses. “When I am weak,” says Paul, “then am I strong.” Strength is made perfect in weakness. So your weakness will turn out to be your strength if you accept it humbly.
Let me tell you what real surrender is. It is simply resting in the love of God, as a little baby rests in its mother’s arms. A perfect surrender must even be willing to quit surrendering, if that is what God wants! We renounce ourselves, and yet, God never lets us know when it is complete. If we knew, it would no longer be complete, for there is nothing that bolsters the ego quite so much as knowing that it is fully surrendered!
Surrender consists, not in doing great, heroic deeds about which the self can brag, but simply in accepting whatever God sends, and not seeking to change it (unless it is His will for it to be changed). Full surrender is full peace. If we are restless and concerned about things formerly renounced, we have not genuinely surrendered. Surrender is the source of true peace; if we aren’t at peace, it is because our surrender is not complete.

François Fénelon