Archive for the ‘ life ’ Category

goodbye and hello

So it’s been pointed out to me several times now that I haven’t blogged recently. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

In truth I’ve been taking a bit of an intentional “sabbatical” from writing because, well, because I wanted to. And it’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed stepping away from feeling the pressure to keep on the blog from week to week. Also, I’ve been embracing the world of micro-blogging via Twitter, and that’s been fun too, keeping the world up to date 140 characters at a time.

So I would say the biggest news from the last month is the fact that we had to retire our dear purple Cavalier – the fine piece of American machinery that we purchased from good friend and ex-blogger Timmy a few years ago. We pushed it past 200,000 miles earlier this spring, but the transmission finally gave in on us, and it just cost too much to fix.

So, we went out searching and in one short weekend actually found a car that we really liked! We landed on an 2003 Mitsubishi Galant that we picked up from a used car dealer in Murphreesboro. We like it a lot, and it’s treating us well. Can I just say that I truly enjoy entering the 21st Century by now having a car that has power windows, power locks, tinted windows, and brakes that don’t shake like an earthquake every time I try to stop. And as much as I like a manual transmission, I don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic arguing with a clutch anymore, and that is glorious.

Thanks for bearing with me through my sabbatical. I hope to offer up additional reading material soon.

culture shock

I had a disturbing conversation with Steph this morning that I felt the need to share. It started as an offhand discussion we had this weekend regarding race and marriage and whether or not it was acceptable for people of different races to marry each other.

Both Steph and I are from Minnesota, so I think our views of this are in general a little more accepting than maybe other parts of the country. Neither of us think that interracial marriage is inherently wrong. If two people love one another and they want to get married, then they should, regardless of what color their skin is.

Steph works outside of the city (Nashville) – that is to say, she works with a handful of true red-blooded Southerners. She decided to do a little investigation Monday and get their take on the whole interracial marriage bit. What she discovered really shocked me. I was naively living under the assumption that we’ve made great strides in overcoming racism over the past few decades in America. I was wrong. Here’s a smattering of responses:

  • “My dad would kill me if I brought a black man home for dinner.”
  • “My pastor taught us growing up that it was wrong to marry black people.”
  • “If you spend too much time with black people you start to act and talk like them.”
  • “The Bible says not to associate with people from different cultures.”
  • “I don’t want to hang around black people because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.
  • “There’s a difference between black people and niggers. There are some good black people, but then niggers are like the black version of white-trash, and it’s just not right to associate with those people.”
  • “It’s a sin for people of different races to marry.”

Allow me to be very clear here: If you agree with any of these statements you are wrong and you disgust me.

I cannot believe that in 2008 we are still using the Bible to justify our cowardly selfish racist mindsets. That is absolutely utterly shocking to me. I’m sorry I was so naive to think that we had progressed beyond this sick and disgusting state. I also can’t believe that I have to spend a blog post outlining why the above statements are the most ridiculous and stupid things I have ever heard.

Specifically my comments are aimed at white Christian Americans who find themselves agreeing with some semblance of the above statements:

God Does Not Operate On A Class System:
At the core of all these statements is this sentiment that one race is better than another – that somehow God has selected white American’s as the preferred culture of people, and all other races are lesser and degraded forms of the above. Sounds like a Nazi propaganda if you ask me… while we’re at it, should we weed out the blond haired, blue eyed folks and just do off with the rest of us?

When it comes to a “chosen” race in the eyes of God, I assure you it’s not white Protestant Americans… it’s the Jewish people of ancient Israel. This is a culture through which God first spoke and demonstrated his love – and wrath. What color do you think their skin was? The great thing for all races though is that he made His love accessible to all of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus… this is the reason we all get to share in the blessings of God. The Apostle Paul effectively tore down the barriers of race throughout his life and persistent ministry to those outside the Jewish culture. All are welcome at God’s table.

It Is Not A Sin To Associate With Other Races:
I’m having trouble figuring this one out – where did this idea come from that white people aren’t to associate with black people, or anyone else of another race? Since when are Christians isolationists? Weren’t Christ’s last words on earth “Go into all the world and preach the good news”? This doesn’t sound like separation to me… rather, this sounds like a command to start making some diverse groups of friends. And no, I don’t simply mean a four day mission trip to Columbia – the gospel of Christ is a genuine message of relationship that speaks to true lasting friendships and acceptance of people from all walks of life.

It Is Not A Sin To Marry Outside Your Race:
I understand that precedent and tradition have led to a general societal taboo of interracial marriages, and that is what it is. But it doesn’t make these marriages wrong. For Christian’s to take a verse like Genesis 28:1, “So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman,'” and then improperly conclude that God has commanded Christians not to marry individuals of other races are incorrect in their interpretation.

This command, and ones like it, speak to spiritual matters – not racial matters. The Canaanite culture of the time was known for their blatant disregard of God, and as such, it would not be right for a Jewish person to be married to someone who did not share their worldview and belief set. Likewise, it would be unwise for a Christian to pledge their life to an individual who does not share their beliefs, but again I emphasize, this has nothing to do with race.

It really saddens and frustrates me that thoughts like the ones I listed above are prevalent in our culture – it really irritates me that I’m hearing these thoughts from a group of self-professed Christians. I’m certainly not trying to say that Christians are “morally better” than the rest of society, however, Christians have been given an example in the Bible as to how we should treat and interact with the people around us. We need to strive towards this and as a faith-group set a positive example of how to treat those around us with respect and without prejudice.

You tell me if you think I’m out of line here, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an argument that holds water.

we are the beggars (part 2)

I spent my last post outlining the various methods by which the homeless beg for money – intentionally a little tongue-in-cheek, though I acknowledge that the root problem is truly not at all funny. As I was writing, an interesting parallel popped into my mind that has proven extremely difficult to get out in words:

The homeless, in the way they approach us for money, are not all that different from us in the way we approach God for salvation.

I think a lot of times we feel spiritually homeless in this world – like we’re in a place we don’t quite belong but we have to do what we can to get by. We call it home, but it’s not quite home.

Those of us who are Christians are quick to point out that our promise of salvation is “by grace, through faith” – that God is the one who reached down to us and offered a way out. And we’re quite satisfied with that, for a time…

But before too long we get wrapped up in Bible studies, and serving at church, and going on mission trips, and working with the youth group, and making sure we’re listening to the right music, and making sure we’re reading the right books. We pick up a new vocabulary, a new group of friends, a new schedule for our week.

And then we start to judge ourselves based on the actions of our week… Did I pray enough? Did I read enough? Did I say the right things?

The answer is always ‘no’.

Of course you didn’t. You did not pray enough. You did not read enough. You did not say the right things… you certainly didn’t think the right things.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us in this awkward, guilt-ridden state where we spend our days conning ourselves into thinking that we can beg our way back into God’s good graces. And so we musicians strap on a guitar and sing another worship song. We wanderer’s sign up for another mission trip and go halfway around the world for a week. We spiritually-insane run from one ministry to the next, spinning our wheels trying to give a piece of ourselves in a youth-group here, a small group there, a devotional study here.

Most of us simply stand by pitifully, motionless as the days and weeks pass by, unable to move out of the guilt engulfed grip sin has on our lives. As Brennan Manning has said,

“We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door.”

As much as we want to believe we are “saved by grace through faith”, we live as though we can work our way in. But we simply can’t. Grace is grace, and as for all our charades and all our antics, He looks past it all and grasps for the tiniest bit of faith that we still show in our hearts, and then pulls us in.

The last post posed the question, “What do we do when we’re confronted with the homeless?” I’m not at all certain of the answer, still. Yet here I am, as homeless and miserable as anyone, and God’s answer to me has been and always will be complete and absolute grace. And I fail to comprehend that. Most of the time I even fail to accept it. But I’m convinced that where He is ultimately leading me is a place of such desolation and helplessness that eventually I will finally realize that the only remaining constant there has been through my 26 years of missteps, mistrust, and mis-faith has been grace. And when I do finally get it, it is going to radically shift my life.

We are the beggars at the foot of God’s door, and he has welcomed us in.

we are the beggars (part 1)

It was pointed out to me that San Francisco has a lot of homeless people… more than many cities, I presume largely because of the temperate climate year round. As I was wandering around downtown the other night, I couldn’t help but notice the different methods by which the homeless would beg for money. There are five main ones that I’ve noticed over time, as follows…

The Musician: Probably the most common, or well known, way to solicit money is by demonstrating talent as a street musician. It’s unobtrusive in that they don’t need to hassle anyone for cash. It’s just a matter of setting up shop on some well trafficked corner, putting out a guitar case (or saxophone case, or accordion case) and making music for hours on end. Sometimes these guys are quite good – there was this one street musician in San Fran who was working a corner by my hotel playing all sorts of buckets as drums… very tribal, I actually kind of liked it.

The Tour Guide: Steph and I ran across one of these in Atlanta one time. We were there celebrating Valentine’s Day, looking for a place to eat downtown, and this nice friendly guy walks up to us and welcomes us to the fine city of Atlanta. He asks a little bit about us, and then inquires if we are looking for a nice place to eat – we say we are – and he proceeds to give us about 8 different, and well qualified, suggestions. Then about five minutes later he moves in for the hard-sell… “Hey, I helped you find a place to eat… can I get a little cash?” These guys target the tourists and travelers who aren’t well acquainted with the city, and generally have a business sense about them that is less abrasive than other methods.

The Wanderer: The Wanderer’s are the few who live with hope. Their lot in life will be changed as soon as they get enough money to board a bus, or hitch a ride, to insert random city name here . For them they believe it’s a location problem… their troubles will be solved in Chicago, or Memphis, or Phoenix, and naturally they have some long-lost relative who is going to help them get their start in random city , and I’m certain that relative is truly looking forward to seeing them.

The Insane: These guys are crazy, literally. They’re on the move and cover more square blocks in one night than most taxi drivers. These are the guys who have a coffee can permanently affixed to their left hand, and with their right arm they are running up and down the sidewalk at lighting speed shouting, waving, and in general, acting extremely animated in attempts to get your attention. You cannot understand a single word they say. I imagine these guys are generally the drug-seekers… you know, the one’s who promise you that all they need to move on in life is to go down to the McDonald’s and get a hamburger… until you offer to buy them a hamburger and suddenly getting food is the worst idea they have ever heard.

The Pitiful: These ones make your heart break. They’re retired Musicians and Tour Guides. They’re Wanderer’s who got to their destination and realized it wasn’t any different than the city they came from. They’re Insanes who have grown weary. If they’re lucky they have a jacket. Their shoulders are slumped, and they don’t move very fast anymore. The coffee can is long gone – they only stick out a hand in silence, their only indication that they need money from you because they do not, or can not, speak.

San Francisco was interesting in this regard. I definitely saw all types, and you always wonder… ‘Do I give him money, or am I just adding fuel to the problem?’ I don’t know what the answer is, even after living in big cities for 10 years now. I will say one thing though… I never saw so many people actually lying down on the sidewalk to sleep on a bed of newspapers. You had to wonder if some of them are even alive.

So now I ask you, fine readers, what do you do? Do you give them the cash? Do you ignore them and walk on by?

Christians are called to help the poor, which sounds good on paper, but when the situation arises, we’re hurrying on our way to some important place, and we don’t have the time to take them down to the local shelter, or buy them a burger at McDonalds… or even just take a moment to treat them like a real human being and listen to their story.

random monday update

I’m just going to tell you right now this will be a boring post. If you want to be really bored, keep on reading:

I go to San Francisco this week for a sales meeting with a fruit company. That should be interesting.

Gotta give props to Flash for the great recommendation on the band Stateless… really liking this self-titled album. It’s an interesting blend of Brit-rock, electronic trip-hop, and ambient soundscapes. There are elements of Radiohead, Massive Attack, and a hint of Sigur Ros throughout… all good influences.

While I’m talking about Flash, head on over to his blog to answer his question of the week about embryonic stem cell research. I don’t know what my answer is yet.

Twitter is interesting. I find this strange compulsion to broadcast my rageful inner thoughts on the thing, and somehow at the last second find the willpower to not press ‘send’.

I’ve heard of people having internet addictions. I wonder if I’m coming down with one.

Prison Break is over for this season. I really thought they were going to end it this time around, but looks like we will have another season. I like the show a lot, though the beginning of this their third season was a little far fetched. Oh well, just a TV show right?

Something walloped our house in the middle of the night two nights ago. Like really hard… I thought there would be a dent in the side of the house. There wasn’t.

George Bush Sr. “endorses John McCain” today. Goodie.

I agree with Tim that the Knight Rider movie Sunday night was an absolute travesty. I gotta admit that I was really looking forward to it, and also gotta admit that I couldn’t stand more than about 8 minutes of that horrendous show.

Tim also says piano playing is for stupid heads… yeah, I’m just gonna let that one sit.

back from the dead

Tim, your car nearly died this week. [I drive Tim’s old car]

I was backing out of my parking spot on Tuesday, put it into first gear, then went to second, and I wasn’t able to shift from there. It was permanently stuck in second – couldn’t even get it to neutral. I figured that was it, the transmission was blown, it would cost untold thousands to fix, and that would be the end. Tuesday night I drove it for three miles in second gear through Brentwood to the mechanic – Steph drove behind me in her boss’s truck, we both had our flashers on – I said to her, “It’s like we’re in a parade… a parade of losers.”

Turns out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The shifter cable had frayed and broken, resulting in my inability to remove it from gear. And while it hurt financially to fix it, it wasn’t as bad as a new transmission, and certainly not as bad as having to buy a new car on the spot.

I’m determined to get this car to 200,000 miles… then I’ll feel like I accomplished something. We’re extremely close. At the same time, it was a reminder that we probably ought to start shopping for a second car, so we’re going to do that.

autumn in five hundred words or more

Autumn does weird things to me. Autumn is the best season of the year, but I find that I’m generally the most dissatisfied with life during these months. Something about the changing colors of the leaves, the coolness in the air, rainy afternoons, darkness coming earlier. It makes me quiet.

Autumn is the season of time slipping away.I find myself listening to highly emotive music during autumn: Sigur Ros, Fionn Regan, The Frames, the new Radiohead album. This music seems to capture everything I feel, but I can’t tell you what those things are. That’s just between me and the song.

It’s raining right now. I’m sitting at a coffeeshop outside of Chicago. Radiohead’s song “Reckoner” sounds like the sun rising.

I wonder if artists ever give thought to the time of year that they release their albums. Music has a season. Well, I should say, that certain types of music remind you of certain seasons of life. Autumn is not the season of pop music. Autumn is for Sigur Ros, Fionn Regan, The Frames, and the new Radiohead album. This is when they should release their album. Matchbox20 should have waited until summer. But labels don’t think about that – they just want to get it out in time for Christmas so that their stock price goes up and shareholders are happy.

Work has difficult recently. With so much music, much of it sounding the same and mediocre, it’s easy to get jaded. Many of these artists are legit, and they mean what they write, but I’m so far removed from all that that it’s often hard to tell the difference. “Can you get me homepage on iTunes?” I don’t know… maybe… can you make your album not suck?

I think I’ll get some coffee.

I’m not sure what I’m passionate about right now. Some days it’s music, some days it’s climbing mountains. Some days it’s theology, and others it’s… well, whatever… I feel mediocre at a lot of things. I hate mediocrity. I have trouble staying focused on things. Time is slipping away with the autumn and I want to keep moving. I do not want to sit in a cubicle anymore.

I’m in Chicago this weekend helping Beau book some gigs with college campuses. I love talking to the college kids, I wish we had more time to do it. That’s hands on music industry right there.

If I could make some of these side businesses profitable I could easily get passionate about that. They don’t seem to want to be profitable right now. I might be stuck in the cubicle for a while.

I think we should move to Montana, live off the land, and climb mountains.

And study theology.

And write music.

Autumn just makes me feel empty. I’m happy that the colors are changing and that the air is cool, but I don’t feel happy. The rain and darkness do not make me feel sad. It’s just quiet and quiet equals empty, and I’d rather not talk about it. It’s good for a drive, across Indiana – long, flat, boring, endless Indiana, with the rain coming down and Radiohead’s song “Reckoner” playing asking the sun to rise.

so much to do, so little time

So I’m starting something new… at Jon’s prompting, I’ve begun my list of “101 Things To Do in 1001 Days”. You can check out the list as it takes shape at


Two years ago my friend Ashley was diagnosed with cancer… again. When she was in highschool (before I knew her) she had already had a bout with it, but with a lot of cemo came through it ok. But this time was really bad. It had gotten into her bones and was affecting her spine and the base of her tailbone. I don’t know a lot about cancer, but I know that when it gets that deep it’s not a good thing. Medically they were out of options.

The doctor’s gave her three months to live, and we braced for the worst.

Ashley is one of the sweetest, most caring, Godly girls I know, and like it always does with people like that, it just pains you to face the reality that they could die very soon. I remember in those first few weeks I was so diligent about praying for her. I took it upon myself to be her prayer warrior (as many did I’m sure). There were days I would pray multiple times, begging God on her behalf to heal her in the midst of such a tragic outlook. Other days I would be really rushed, but would not fail to pray at least once, even if just for a few seconds. It was a good experience to be so closely and purposefully tied to something I was praying for – a lot times I feel my prayers are meaningless, and drifting off into empty space. But praying for someone’s life wasn’t meaningless. I remember feeling good about myself as I prayed daily for her – one month turned into two, which turned into three.

Summer rolled around, and I figured she was living on borrowed time. I was grateful for that, for her sake – more time to spend with her family and such. And as the weeks drew on, my habitual praying eventually slowed down and then altogether stopped. It’s weird how that works. The first few months I was in such a driven, almost panicked state, but then as time goes on the sense of urgency dwindles.

Over the summer Ashley and her mom started looking into some alternative treatments for the cancer. They looked into a lot of nutritionally based stuff, and some really advanced radiation treatment. Some stuff seemed to help, but it was hard to tell. Ashley’s mom would send us email updates from her clinic in Houston, and you know how those are… she tries to stay really positive but you can read between the lines and know things aren’t going all that well.

Time goes on. Six months turns into a year, which turns into a year and a half… in October we get an email saying that the most recent scans show that the tumors have spread and grown. One is pushing against her pancreas. Another is located at the base of her neck – not a good place for a tumor. And while I want to stay positive, and stay faithful, deep down I know it’s just a matter of time. They’ve been doing some pretty invasive cemo on her, and I know it’s getting her down – emotionally, physically, etc.

And now it’s December. I haven’t heard an update from Ashley in quite a while, which honestly is typical… when things aren’t going all that well, the updates are a lot less frequent.

So I’m walking out of my house this morning and I get a text from my friend Brian that says, “Ashley is healed! The cancer is gone!”. WHAT! I call him up and get the full story – it’s true, the cancer is gone. Ashley took a step of faith a couple months ago and decided to stop the radiation for the time being… and what do you know, the girl doesn’t have one trace of a tumor in her. They did a full CT scan last week and she’s completely clean! Amazing.

I’m awed and amazed. I’m so happy for Ashley. I’m disappointed in myself for not continuing to have faith throughout the whole thing. I can’t comprehend the power of supernatural healing, but I’m glad it still happens.

Merry Christmas Ashley.

oh, by the way…

I applied for a new job within my company a few weeks ago… actually, it was two months ago, literally. That is point of frustration #1, but oh well… I understand it takes time to decide these things. So I applied for the job – I felt really good about it too – figured I was a perfect candidate, and it was something I was really interested in. Figured I had a good relationship with the guy that was hiring. But in the end I didn’t get the job. I’m ok with that I guess. I was excited about the possibility of something new, but I also appreciate what I have.

But the thing that really frustrates me about all this is the way I found out that I didn’t get it. I was out of the office Thursday and Friday last week, and on Friday I start getting all of these messages from my friends in the office (who knew I had applied) saying that the “new girl” was there and was being introduced to everyone. The guy had never said anything to me… it would have been nice to know I hadn’t gotten the job and get some feedback, but I got nothing. I mean, they probably made the decision two weeks ago – that should have been plenty of time to talk to me. I figured that was standard HR protocol. And then to top it all off, I have a regularly scheduled meeting with this guy at 9:15 this morning, so I walk into the meeting and new girl is there, and he introduces us, plays it off like it’s completely normal, and that’s that – end of story.

Alright, I vented. Now I’m going to write a nice and calm note to HR and then be done with it.