Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Are You, Christmas?

It's weird how fast Christmas has come upon us yet how un-Christmasy I feel tonight. The days seem as though they've turned liquid, flowing down insanely fast to this most holy of days. I don't know if it's been the simply pitter patter of life that's crafted it's own beat that's muffled the passage of time or what but I do know that it's gotten here quick!

Yet, as I'd mentioned, I'm sort of missing the Yuletide spirit. Okay, that's not entirely true; I've got a bit. But, I don't know, I just kind of feel like I keep missing the true spirit of Christmas. I had great intentions of truly celebrating Advent this year but that aforementioned pitter patter got in the way. So here we are, almost at Christmas Eve, and the bulk of my worship and remembrance has occurred in hurried prayers on the way to work. Sad.

The thing about it is that I love Christmas. It's probably my favorite time of year with the whole deal. I love the cool air, the shopping for loved one's, and the simple vibe of cheer that seems to permeate things. Yet, for whatever reason, I'm a little out of the loop right now. Now, it could just be that it's been a long day and a crazy week but I'm just saying...

I don't know...I could ramble on and on incoherently but you don't want to read that and neither do I. So until I've something useful to offer, I'll just shut up...

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's been said that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. Interesting....

Writing for Wrecked

I've added a new site to my writing resume, Wrecked For the Ordinary. Ironically, it was through one of the artists we reviewed over at Soul-Audio that I came to know of the site but they seemed to have a mindset similar to mine. And no, Mom, they don't pay. And yes, I probably have the largest resume of non-paying gigs in history. But at least someone likes my work...

Here's the first review I've done for them of Jim Palmer's Divine Nobodies.

On a Different Note...

Despite my frustration over the overplayed Mariah Carey Christmas jam this year, I've snagged a new track to my Christmas favorites. It's Dan Fogelberg's "Same Auld Lang Syne." Have you heard this? What a wonderfully written song! And poignant to the point of being painful. Here're the lyrics:

"Same Auld Lang Syne"

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling christmas eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods
And I touched her on the sleeve

She didnt recognize the face at first
But then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged
We stood there lost in our embarrassment
As the conversation dragged.

We went to have ourselves a drink or two
But couldnt find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store
And we drank it in her car.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didnt like to lie.

I said the years had been a friend to her
And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasnt sure if I saw
Doubt or gratitude.

She said she saw me in the record stores
And that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly
But the traveling was hell.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness
But neither one knew how.

We drank a toast to innocence
We drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence
Another auld lang syne..

.The beer was empty and our tongues were tired
And running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out
And I watched her drive away.

Just for a moment I was back at school
And felt that old familiar pain
And as I turned to make my way back home
The snow turned into rain --

Simply beautiful.


So it's officially 3:21 AM and yes, I am awake. I don't wish to be awake; in fact, I wish that I was snug in my bed, dreaming of a fluffy cloud land and various nighttime pleasures while allowing my body some much needed rest but, alas, I am not in control of the universe. Actually, I'm finding that I'm in less and less control of pretty damn near everything these days and it's driving me a little crazy. That, and that pesky early mid-life crisis thing and the fact that I can find zero time to myself these days.

I don't mean to be cranky but, like I said, it is 3 in the morning and well, I'm just not all sunshine and roses right now. I think that part of this bit of insomnia is simply my brain working overtime, pondering, thinking, compiling. It's frustrating, this particular phase of life. I want to have some greater sense of direction, of knowing at least which way is North. Yet, I feel like I've landed in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and am watching my compass spin wildly with abandon. And I hardly have time to even look at it.

In good Christian fashion, because I always have to assume the possibility that my sleeplessness is being caused by Someone greater than me, I turned to the bible this early, early morning to see if God had something to say. I guess, in a way, he did. Here's the passage I ended up with:

Ephesians 1:22-23 (The Voice) : "God has placed all things beneath His feet and anointed Him as the head over all things for His church. This church is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all."

There was more prior but, well, I don't feel like typing it all out right now. Suffice it to say that it was a prayer of the Apostle Paul for the church at Ephesus to embrace the wisdom of God and so on. I want to embrace the wisdom. I want to be a part of something. But something is holding me back. Is it pride? I don't know, maybe. Is it fear? In some ways, yes. I don't want to experience the hurt again. I just don't know.

Yet, I know I have to do something about it. Erin shared with me last night that she really misses being in church. My kids need to be in church. Yet, here I stand, reluctant. Why is it that I can love God yet find His people and places so frustrating? I know it's not fair to paint all believers with so wide a brush but I just see so much crap. And I know I contribute my share as well.

God help us all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

...is for them to stop playing that "All I Want For Christmas Is You!"

It's a good song but, come on! Every three songs? I can't take that much Mariah!

Sunday, December 07, 2008


Perhaps it's the Christmas season or just my recent frame of mind but I found myself thinking about my children a bit this week. I'm petrified of the day when they lose their innocence. Now, by legal standards, neither of them are really all that innocent. I mean, they've fully indulged in the wonders of lies, assault, and other fun stuff that kids learn right out of the womb. Yet, I'm talking more about that full-on, veil lifted from the eyes painful revealing that shows you how much darker the world really is. Now, if that sounds a bit, well, cynical, it is.

But I hope that day is a long time coming. I hope that my son will still love playing with his Star Wars toys and zapping bad guys for a long time to come. I hope that a game of UNO with his dad or a 30-minute episode of Blue's Clues will continue to bring delight to my kids' eyes forever. I fear so much for that time when they become over-busy, cynical (yes, like me), and scarred. The freshness of their youth, the wonder of the world around them, I don't want them to ever lose that.

Yet, how do we as parents help them to avoid those paths? Do we help them to avoid them or simply follow along that it's just the way the world works? I don't want to shelter my kids because that's simply foolish, and quite frankly keeps them from so many other wonders that they may experience. But I don't want them to just jump out there either, for as soon as they do, I fear they'll be swept up into the rat race, desensitized and run dry. It's a quandry for sure.

As I was thinking about some of this, the words of Jesus came to me:

Luke 18:15-17 (MSG) : People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."

What is that simplicity? What is it about a child that makes them so readily available to the Kingdom of God? I think it's the ability to focus, to allow the one thing to really become your all. And to maintain a sense of wonder, of trust. We, or at least I, have lost that to some degree in this hurried world. Who can we trust? The government? Our churches? Our friends? Our jobs? All will let us down eventually. All will ask more of us than we truthfully feel we can give. And we will run ourselves ragged looking for acceptance, money, pleasure, and more.

Yet, the little child, while still having so many of these same needs, learns to trust that he will be provided for. He doesn't lose sleep over where his next meal, his next set of clothes, or his next toy will come from; that's Mom and Dad's job. He also finds glory and wonder in all that is around him. The simple sculpture of sand in a sandbox provides amazement for the child as does a simple song or time spent coloring. And the darkness of this world? Again, Mom and Dad will protect us!

I mentioned focus but neglected to flesh it out. If you've ever been around a kid or, God bless you, have a child who's set his or her mind to something like, say, going somewhere or doing something, you know what I mean. This thought, this idea, becomes the driving force for that child. It never leaves their mind, nor their lips, as they constantly remind you of it. And as I think of our relationship to Christ, and our reluctant reliance upon him, this is the quality that we most lack, that of focus. We need to learn to make our relationship, our time, our desires, to be his and his alone. Only then when we do that will we find true peace.

It's funny because so often I'm excited to be teaching my kids new things, letters, numbers, words, and more. Yet, it seems, I'd do better off learning from them.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Great Heaviness

I'm sensing a theme here as of late within my updated blogs and it seems to be one of heaviness. There's a sense of weight, and an ensuing fatigue that seems to be following me here as of late. I'm not entirely sure why that is but it certainly seems to be holding fast.

This week, it's been the idea of "church" that's been looming over my head. Perhaps it's the time of year, this remembrance of the Incarnation and it's beauty that makes me long for renewal, for that true sense of community. I don't know but the concept, or at the very least our lack of involvement in the concept, keeps nagging me.

"Maybe you're afraid," you're thinking. You're right; I am. There is definitely a part of me that is scared to dive back into that fracas. We were wounded by the institution, something I keep trying to lay down and constantly find myself picking back up, absentminedly running my hands over the scars, but that's not entirely it. I'm just not sure where I stand anymore.

We've been to church off and on since our ministry time, and in those times have tried our best to be faithful to the fellowship we were attending, present time excluded, of course. Yet, in those times, we just haven't been able to connect. And truthfully, it just feels hollow, wasteful, almost worthless. Yet, there are all of these other people who lock in, who seem to get "plugged in" and have these life-changing experiences. And this is coming out of communities that (yes this is spoken with cynicism) by and large tend toward fairly shallow teaching and the like. What gives?

I realize that I've just entered into a rambling state here (truly the mark of a great writer) yet bear with me. Yes, part of me is scared. Yes, as I approach the entrance to the building, my chest tightens up and my defenses go up, to some degree. Yet, there's more. There's an idealogical change that's taken place in me over the past several years that I can't quite put words to yet will here in this meandering blog.

I'm not sure that I believe in the institutional church anymore. I love people, usually, but I'm fed up with our services, our programs, and our events. They're not what God has called us to. We're called to live our lives out together, sharing and, here's the biggie, caring for not only one another but for the "least of these." While some may point to XXX retreat that they just did or XXX small group or XXX event that was just held with the purpose of doing that, it just doesn't seem to be the overall heartbeat anymore. Service and love can't be contained in a program or an event; sure they can be part of them sometimes but just because you've held this event doesn't mean you've hit your quota. It's a lifestyle!

Add to that our certainty, our obnoxious "I've got it figured out and you don't" mentality that allows us to decide the eternal fate of others based solely upon a few questions and I'm just not sure I fit in anymore. Yet, what else is there? Do we simply leave the team, joining free agency and hoping to find something better? That's not really my style. Yet, what do we do? What do I do? Thus far, I feel as though I've been wearing concrete shoes and long for something meaningful, something of worth. And I do feel as though I've something to give, something to offer that will make a difference. But where? How?

Forgive the over the top rambling but, like I said, just feeling a little heavy today...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Meanest, Worst Parents in the World

"You guys are the meanest, worst parents in the world!"

Thus were the words that sealed my son's fate the other night as he was quickly ushered to bed and forbidden television the next day. The outburst came as the result of our asking him to (gasp! the nerve!) go in his bedroom and study his spelling words. He apparently thought this had breached the every tenuous line of cruel and unusual punishment and opted to let us know his thoughts on the issue.

At the time, I was relatively nonchalant on the outburst and allowed Erin to vent the steam. Yet, as I pondered those words later, I found myself a little sad on the inside. Granted, Erin later found out that Tyler was, to some degree, repeating a sarcastic slogan that yours truly tends to throw around when the kids are in a wonderfully whiny mood but, either way, those words found some purchase deep inside.

Now, I know that my son didn't mean what he said. In fact, I bet that he doesn't even remember what he said at this point. But that doesn't matter. It stung. I don't want to be that guy, the one who pushes his kids away, who is more of the authority figure, looming over their every movement with the threat of retaliation. I want to be the dad that my kids love, whom they respect, and obey thusly.

Yet, as of late, I find my fuse short with the kids. Maybe it's because we haven't really had much time as adults together and are simply at the refueling point. Maybe it's just that it's been a long haul here as of late and we just need some sleep. I don't know but I do know that I don't want to be that guy. For those who look at the cuddly Christmas pictures on cards this year, be forewarned: Despite the window dressing, parenting is HARD WORK!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

This I Can Get Behind...

We all know that I've had my issues in recent years with the church and elements of the faithful but, in all honesty, this is a message I can stand behind:

My wife's response? "He's insane." Pray for me...

Gotta Love Groucho

Just a great quote I stumbled upon today:

"Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot." - Groucho Marx

So true, so true...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Running Through My Mind

This song has been running through my mind lately, giving me pause for thought. It's from Switchfoot, entitled "This Is Your Life."

"yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
yesterday is a promise that you've broken
don't close your eyes, don't close your eyes
this is your life and today is all you've got now
yeah, and today is all you'll ever have
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
yesterday is a kid in the corner
yesterday is dead and over
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
don't close your eyes
this is your life are you who you want to be
this is your life are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, are you who you want to be
this is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be
when the world was younger and you had everything to lose
and you had everything to lose"

Good question....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Disappointed and Ashamed

Those are the two emotions I've been keeping under wraps here today after some revelations yesterday. Erin and I had the chance to spend a few hours together, grabbing some dinner at the always fabulous El Adobe and then swinging by Best Buy for me to pick up the previously mentioned David Cook album. While at the Best Buy, we happened upon the display for the Playstation 3. I grabbed Erin and let her know that I would really like to get one for Tyler for Christmas to which she emphatically replied, "We just can't afford it!"

Now, I'm not going to lie; my disappointment wasn't all for my boy. I too enjoy a video game then and again as I simple stress reliever myself. And quite frankly, as one who has watched the games evolve from the Atari 2600 (Pitfall, anyone?) to the uber-realistic graphics and gameplay of today, I'm in awe of these machines. Plus, they're a Blu-Ray DVD player as well which, in my opinion, sets us up for the next big purchase in a flat-panel TV. But, in further honesty, video games have provided Tyler and I a way to bond and spend some good time together. We've tackled Storm Troopers together, found the Lost Ark of the Covenant together, and have even boxed one another a time or two. Of course, that's before the Playstation 2 broke. Twice. And since then, we've just been waiting. And waiting. And hoping.

Now that's the disappointment part of our show. The ashamed emotions come from the fact that I'm allowing myself to get even the slightest bit bummed about our not being able to procure some potentially overpriced toy for my son and I while others are just thankful to be getting a meal, hot or cold, during this holiday season. This morning I was greeted with the local news which pontificated over the poor economy, the rising homeless rate, and the plight of the everyday citizen to just make ends meet. And I was ashamed.

I was ashamed because I am blessed. I'm eating steak and corn and rice for dinner tonight, the ingredients of which I bought fresh from a local grocery store with money we earned from our jobs. Tonight we'll sleep in warm, comfortable beds after tucking our healthy children into their warm beds. Tomorrow we'll rise and drive to work in our cars which run, which are full of gas, which will convey us to our jobs which we're more than fortunate to have. It's so easy to forget the blessings we have. And it's not that it's wrong to want things or to desire some material possession but when we look around, it just reminds of us how much we DO have.

So do I still want a Playstation 3? Sure I do. But will I lose sleep over it? Not this Christmas. I really want to focus on the things that are important and truly remember the blessings I have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't Judge Me...

...because I just picked up the new David Cook album and am three songs in and still like it....
Just don't judge me!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It Can't Rain All the Time

Every now and then, there is a silver lining, even in a crappy week like this has been...

Tonight, on The Office, Toby's back! Woo hoo!

200 B.P.M.'s

A week or so ago my wife and I had the chance to sit down and watch the latest Incredible Hulk movie. I've always been a fan of the Hulk, from reading the comic books to watching the old school television show with Lou Ferrigno and Bill Bixby. I will admit that the Ang Lee adaption of the franchise left me wanting, really wanting. But as we watched the latest featuring Edward Norton, one of the more underrated actors in my opinion, I found myself pleased as I munched my popcorn.

I think the thing that has always intrigued me about the Hulk is the ongoing battle between Dr. Banner and his alter-ego. Banner is constantly warring within himself, recalling truths a certain apostle seemed to pen nearly 2000 years ago. That's a battle that I'm more than familiar with and the over the top comic book rendering of it simply hits home for me.

Lately it's hit home more than I like. I'm generally a pretty even-keel kind of guy, patient to a fault, some might say. But in more recent weeks, that's been far from the truth. While I've still maintained some sense of decorum, I find my inner workings struggling against outside influences. It's as though outside stimuli, noises, kids, idiot drivers, and more are all working doubletime to get under my skin. And it's working, and I find myself, like Banner, watching my heart rate rise and rise, approaching that 200 b.p.m. danger zone.

Okay, so I'm not sure if I'm really having my heart pump that hard but the bottom line is that I'm just struggling with maintaining my sanity amongst all this stuff as of late. Normally, I can just shrug things off or just, and this is great, stuff it deep inside until I can let it out in sports or some other venue like WRITING IN ALL CAPS. But it's like a filters been removed and I just can't let it slide, can't shove it down; it's almost as though I'm trying to stuff the trash down into the can and it just won't take any more.

I'm not sure what's going on, and, yes Mom, I am praying about it, but for now, don't make me angry. Trust me, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So I'm Pretty Proud...

In the giant gap between my blogging history, my amazing wife decided that she was going to walk for the cure, the cure for breast cancer, that is. So, for the better part of this year, she's been training with her group called "Walking in Sunshine." They're one of the more prominent 3-Day groups in the Tampa Bay area and really provided a wonderful experience and friendship for Erin. They trained primarily each weekend, beginning with some smaller distances building to distances along the lines of 18 miles or so toward the end. It was some serious training.

On top of that, the walkers had to raise $2200 each just to walk. I was so proud of Erin as she worked with her friends to organize fundraisers and work toward bringing the very real curse of breast cancer closer to it's end. Her team alone ended up raising over $120,000 toward the cure. The real moment of pride came as we headed up to St. Pete for the closing ceremonies and joined the huge crowd of family and friends as we greeted our loved ones who had spent the last three days walking 60 miles in hopes of eradicating breast cancer.

I love my wife. She's an amazing woman. Just wanted to share that...

Midlife Crisis

I'm not entirely sure why but this morning as I drove into work I was reminded of the failures that have taken place in my life. Granted, it wasn't every failure that came to mind but it was the one's that, for whatever reason, still seem to haunt my memory. And it's not like these are things that I dwell on or that keep me up late at night, chewing my fingernails and causing me untold anguish, but, well, sometimes remembering them just simply gives me the blues. So here are some of the thoughts that came to mind...

...the time that I gashed my hand open the week before a beach volleyball tournament, when my partner and I were probably at the best playing level we'd ever be at...

...the tournament that found us playing to move into the semifinals where we rallied only to lose due to an errant serve to my partner...

...the tournament this past year that I "played" and then got benched to watch the team go down in further flames...(not too mention the open gym I attended shortly thereafter and simply played the worst I've played in years!)

(Lots of sport failures in there...)

Those were some of the more vivid one's that came to mind. Along with them came thoughts of missed, at least in perception, opportunities like my parting with ministry life. Or different financial things.

I don't know, I guess that sometimes I just find myself having failed one heck of a lot more than I've succeeded. The only things I've done right are marry my wife and father my two pretty great kids but that's better attributed to the grace of God than to any merit that I might have. I've just found myself as of late really longing to make an impact, to do something of substance with the ideas, thoughts, and dreams that I have. I don't want to have my dreams crash and burn like those of my youth. Yet, some days, I'm not even sure what those dreams are...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Miss This...

It's funny but I just found myself, after pounding out email after email on the laptop, working feverishly on our little fledgling website, longing to blog something. Anything really. The truth is, I've missed my little rendezvous' with this little diary of mine. I miss having someplace to simply unpack my thoughts, my feelings, and little points of happenstance that have come along my way. Yet, I feel that more often than not, there's just not any time for those sort of things. And even more so, I wonder if I anyone cares what I've got to say anyway...

But the truth is, I miss just having the very time to share my thoughts. Forums like this give me an attempt to put my whirling thoughts onto paper, in a manner of speaking, and allow me a chance to see where I've been and where I'm at, hopefully pointing the way to where I'm going. When I don't have those opportunities (see the last year, virtually!) I feel a bit lost, like I'm mismanaging my time and more.

So, I took the time. And, you know what? I feel just a little better for it. Now I'm going to close this laptop up and go crawl into bed with a good book. Ah, it feels good to have some time...:)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Nine Years Ago Today...

...I had no idea what an adventure I was getting myself into. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, my life went from docile and boring to something rivaling any Indiana Jones movie. The culprit? Taking the hand of my lovely wife in marriage.

The road has certainly been, well, interesting, with this past year or so upping the ante every moment. Whether we're juggling rugrats, rushing to and fro, venting, or whatever, it's still a beautiful thing because we're doing it together. It was pretty cheesy in Jerry Maguire when he delivered the "You complete me" speech but, after living these past several years with Erin, I dare say that I could make that claim.

She's my best friend, my lover, my confidant, my favorite face to see in the morning and my favorite face to see at night. She understands me (most of the time!), puts up with me, and still loves me. Plus, she eats my cooking. She's a wonderful woman and I count myself among the luckiest of men.

Today, I celebrate our love and thank God for the blessing that He's given me in you, sweetheart. I love you!

Check out Soul-Audio!

It's taken me forever to have a few minutes to be able to jump over here and blog a bit but the reason I've been so busy, life notwithstanding, is that I've been working hard at this new gig I've got over at Soul-Audio. My good friend Matt approached me some time ago about it's prospects and we officially launched in April and have been getting consistently busier as the days go by.

Our initial target is the CCM (contemporary Christian music, for those not in the 'know') market with expansions into artists of faith working in the mainstream as well. Plus, in the future, there's the chance for book, movie, and whatever else reviews and coverage we can offer. So, come check us out! We'd love to hear your feedback!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Recent Writing...

It's been some time since I've really posted any links to anything that I've been working on so I thought maybe we could work our way back and let me reestablish that, yes, I have been writing some. Actually, I'm looking forward to unveiling something that I'm really excited about in the next couple of days but, in the meantime, allow me to share some of what I've been at work on most recently.

Let's begin with my recent work for Stereo Subversion.

First up is a review for longtime party jammers, The B-52's new album, Funplex. It's just what you'd expect from the group: quirky, progressive, and fun.

Next is a review of Paul Thorn and band's latest effort, A Long Way From Tupelo. For my money, Thorn is one of the most underrated artists working in the industry today. Let's hope new management and this album help him to overcome that monkey on his back.

And last but not least, for the moment, is my review of alt-country chanteusse Tift Merritt's most recent work, Another Country. It's soulful, light, and refreshing. It's a wonderful sonic retreat for those in need of some respite from the day-to-day grind.

More to come...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Random Bulletpoints of Honesty

  • I still get misty when I rewatch movies like Titanic and Armageddon.
  • I am secretly addicted to YouTube.
  • If there were an election for candy bars, I still hold that Whatchamacallit with Twix as it's running mate is the way to go.
  • Sometimes I wonder if the indie scene isn't just a little bit overrated.
  • Occasionally I wonder, "What if...?"
  • And other days, "Why?"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Like A Ship Without A Sail...

That's pretty much how I've felt as of late, like that proverbial ship floating in the ocean without any impetus to get him anywhere. It's one of, if not the, most frustrating thing in my life right now. All through my life, beginning about halfway through middle school, I've had something to push me on, to pursue, some vision to hope to see fulfilled. Then it was to become the best volleyball player I could. Yeah, it's kind of basic and simple and a little bit childish but that simple drive pushed me to so many cool experiences and, in the meantime, I got to be a pretty damn good player too. Moving alongside that as I got older was a passion for God and the Church, ministry in particular. While that journey was a bumpy one, I eventually found myself in a ministry position and pursuing what I was after.

But somewhere along that journey, my vision shifted. It wasn't that I took my eyes off of God, as some will and surely have suggested, but rather that as I encountered more of Him along with thinking honestly and openly about the things we tend to ascribe to Him via the Church that I began to see things in a different perspective. I began to see the emperor's new clothes for what they are and, as I began to call into question some of the shaky dogmatic foundations of my faith, I found my perspective shifting. This is where things get dicey.

The circumstances that propelled me out of direct "ministry" are such that have been tossed around more than once here and aren't worth going into again. And I'll admit that it's an easy solution to simply say that my lack of vision, my frustration with everything I'm doing, is due to the fact that I'm "out of God's will," that His will is for me to be in some regular ministry. And, I'm not discounting the idea that this may be true. But the corollary to that is that, perhaps, my dissonance with the modern Church is actually based upon something of substance and that is what prevents me from diving wholeheartedly back into the pool. Either way you cut it, I'm left adrift, not sure which way to turn and feeling unfulfilled and at times like a failure at most junctures.

One of my thoughts regarding regaining some sense of focus was that I need to reclaim or rediscover what it is I'm truly passionate about. What are the things I want to focus on or do in my spare time? What subjects truly interest me? So, I began to think about what books are on my to-buy shelf at my workplace. Now, keep in mind that I work for a full-bore Christian retail outlet so that'll be reflected but, just for kicks, here's what there:

Postmodernity by Lakeland
Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces by Pahl
The Prymer by Webber
The Jesus Creed by McKnight
What Does the Bible Really Say About Hell? by Klassen
The Suburban Christian by Hsu
Practitioners by Russinger and Field
Letters to a Diminished Church by Sayers
Selected Writings by Eckhart
Divine Nobodies by Palmer
Hood by Lawhead
Penguins and Golden Calves by L'Engle
Everyday Theology by Vanhoozer
Entertainment Theology by Taylor
Jesus for President by Claiborne
The New Christians by Jones

It's a decent list and within the simple content there I see a thread of love, of hope, and interest in the Church. Yet, like many, I can't return to the church of my youth. As much as I'm thankful for the experiences there, I can't go back. I want to be part of the bigger picture, of the true vision Christ has set out there. And, something tells me, that doesn't take place in big buildings with flashy lights and all the glitz and glamour. Rather, it takes place in the trenches, among the least of these. I long for direction. I long for courage. I long for peace and rest. I long for Him.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great American Equalizer

For the most part, I'm not a guy who really puts on airs. I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and have, by and large, maintained a fair disposition with those from all walks of life. Race nor sexual orientation really play a part in those that I call friends or defend. Essentially what I'm saying is that I pretty much get along with everyone and don't think too much of myself in the meantime.

There's only one place that this tends to slip, and that's at the great American equalizer, the flea market, a place my wife, daughter, and I chanced upon for the first time in a long time. I'd forgotten the joy that is the local flea market, the greasy-fried smell of food in the air, the more than eclectic array of wares for sale, and, oh yeah, the people. I can honestly say, and I'm not particularly proud of this truth, that the flea market is the one place where, no matter where I'm at in life, my pride gets a little adrenaline boost. It's a rather harsh statement but it's true. There are some, ah, unusual folks that can be found at the flea market. In fact, it's not even the customers that are the most interesting. Rather, it's the vendors themselves.

Like a carnival that's dropped it's tent stakes for the last time, those that man the booths possess a certain quality that just sets them apart. They're out making an honest, in most cases, living and are by and large hard workers. But, I don't know, some of them are just, weird. Consider the guy selling new, and yes, used spas. Or what about the guy on the corner with the handwritten sign on orange construction paper that reads, "Stun Gun Sail!" These are not your average folks. It's a sideshow element that appears when you can buy a "God Bless America" t-shirt from the Chinese vendor and homegrown produce from the young man who looks in dire need of a green card. What an experience.

Now, just as a disclaimer, I don't honestly think of myself as better than any of these people. They're doing the best with what they have and are doing very well. But there are obvious differences in us all as a human population and those differences make for some great stories!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shifting Perspectives...and Rambo

It continues to amaze me as I grow older how much my perspectives on life and all it's assorted adventures have continued to shift. Everything from my view on politics, theology, love, and everything in between seems to be susceptible to the charm of change. Recently, I saw this in how I viewed two bits of media that I came into contact with.

The first was when my darling wife and I headed off to our local metroplex in order to catch the latest installment of the Rambo series, aptly entitled, Rambo. Now, I'd done my homework going in and knew that, if anything, this was going to be a slightly more grisly Rambo than the films I'd grew up with. Now, it's important to note that those films played a huge part in my adolescent development. Perhaps that's a sad statement but it's nonetheless true. Sylvester Stallone and David Morrell's lonely yet deadly Vietnam vet helped to shape the young man sitting at this keyboard before you. Deal with it. Anyway, we headed into the film. Wow. Not quite the film we were expecting. From the get-go, this is a film that is rife with violence, gore, and tragedy. Truthfully, it's tough to find a sense of hope anywhere within. Now, that's not to say that I didn't find worth in the film. As a matter of fact, I think it's a powerfully anti-violence manifesto that sends it's message across with it's graphic images. But, it's definitely not the hero of my youth.

The second media encounter was somewhat different. At work I took home a damaged copy of a book by author Robert Liparulo entitled Deadfall. I'd read some of his stuff earlier and enjoyed the fact that, while it's written by a Christian author, it offered up stories that were both exciting and honest without being preachy and bland as much Christian fiction can be. Deadfall is a fantastical tale of a town overcome by a band of bloodthirsty young men and women who are in possession of a lethal weapon of futuristic proportions. A band of friends out camping are all that stand in the way between them and the complete annhiliation of the town. It's a riveting read, fast-paced and tailor made for the silver screen. Yet, as I finished, I found myself wrestling with a thought or two.

The problem I encountered in both these works of fiction was that both tales portrayed the bad guys as nothing but that, just bad. While Deadfall at least allowed for a few of it's baddies to show a sense of reality, the chief bad guy is simply an evil man, continually starved for killing and violence. Likewise, Rambo portrays it's bad guys, the Burmese occupiers, as cold-blooded and evil through and through despite the fact that it also shows the all-too-true reality that many of the soldiers fostered into service are forced into that very service. And the chief baddie? Not a redeeming quality is to be found.

Two retorts come to mind as I ponder these thoughts. The first is simply that these are movies, works of fiction that, for all intents and purposes are designed to entertain their consumers. And, to some degree or anther, they do. Yet, while entertaining, movies do influence us if we stop thinking about them. I've no beef with interacting with popular culture; my beef is when we begin to interact with that culture without running it through the proverbial sieve. The second question to ponder is the idea that these are depraved people who are portrayed here who have committed remarkable atrocities. This is true and this thinking is not to in any way condone or belittle those atrocties. But, we must face the question, what are we teaching ourselves to think?

And this, finally, is where my shift of perspective rolls in. There was a time when I would be cheering for the bad guys to get theirs. In fact, I even experienced a bit of a rise of that in me as I watched this latest Rambo. But then I got to thinking (always a dangerous endeavor) of what I was really encouraging in my mind. Was I willing to cheer for and celebrate the violent takedown of another human life, no matter how evil they were perceived to be? Now, you might be saying to yourself that I'm simply going soft and that I just can't understand true evil. False. I do get what I'm saying. I understand the depravity of the heart of man quite well for I understand, to some degree, the depravity of my own heart. Yet, I also look within and see that within me, as I believe is within all of us, is a desire, albeit fleeting at times, to do right and to do good. I also lean to the idea that, like it or not, we are all created in the "image of God" and that this very image resides upon the meek, the humble, the proud, the powerful, the good, and yes, the evil. I've come to a place where I can't speak for what God is doing in the life of another because I honestly don't know what He's doing. Yet, I can stand up for that life, loving them unconditionally as He has me, showing them grace even when they don't deserve, because that's exactly what He's done for me. Would it cost me my life if those things were real and the threat were before me? Perhaps, but it seems as though one far more wise than I once said, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Trying to See in the Dark

There was a time when I, to some degree, thought I had some things figured out. I had nailed down some points of religion and faith, had settled down with a wife and kids, and seemed focused on something ahead. But, somewhere along the line, despite all those things, it feels like someone turned the lights out. And now, like some figurative Helen Keller, I feel deaf and blind, immune to any outside input to share direction. In a way, it feels like I've lost the ability to dream.

I've had some friends ask me that recently, that one-time easily answered, "If you could do what you want right now, what would that be?", but now, I'm not so sure. Of course, I have some simple things I'd like to do but, ultimately, they still feel hollow. It's a weird place to be in, of having no direction and no GPS to guide me. I've prayed, I've read, I've sought counsel and still, to this day, nothing. A few friends suggest that perhaps this place of frustration and confusion is just where I'm supposed to be, that it's a place I've been put in to help develop my character, my integrity, and eventually draw me closer to God. That may be true but it doesn't take the edge off in the meantime.

It's a scary place, wandering in the dark. I'm constantly trying to attune my senses to those things around me, trying to feel my way around and find some handhold on something tangible that I can touch and feel. Every now and then I latch onto something only to have it quickly slip away, almost taunting me with it's going. I'm not exactly sure how one regains the ability to dream, to think big thoughts and to pursue them, but I'm pretty sure I need to figure it out. If I don't, I'm afraid of what will happen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm Back, Finally...

This will be a short post but I think it's a step in the right direction. Those few faithful readers will note that, well, my blogposts have been few and far between as of late. In fact, it's been nearly three months since I've posted anything of remote substance. That fast, if you will, was both self-imposed and frustrating. Life hit a little series of random bumps that kept stealing my time away and frustrating my efforts to sit down and write something for myself. Now a few of those rough spots have been smoothed over although I'm certain there's more to come. But, either way, I want to get this thing going again. I've continued to wrestle with issues regarding church, theology, and life in general and intend to throw those things back into the fray along with the occasional, although it may be more frequent, YouTube video that you just can't miss. So, this has essentially been a self-serving bit of fluff to read here but it's basically my way of saying stay tuned, there's more to come...