Monday, January 26, 2009

thoughts while sipping coffee at starbucks

(sort of a continuation from my ramblings earlier in the week while waiting for an oil change)

PT. 2: sitting in a starbucks @ Washington square, sipping on a mocha and thinking about life and cool breezes and oversized comfy chairs. friday morning, 1.23.09

We are all put here n this green earth of ours for a reason. Finding that reason is a major part of our life’s quest. Our questions are tied to that reason. Our reason is tied to the questions. We don’t always know what to ask or where to search. we don’t always realize what the end result will be. But we know that there is a purpose.. a direction… a plan designed just for us. In the days of GPS navigation systems, you’d think it’d be a whole heck of a lot easier to find our way. Yet we still wander aimlessly.

Your hand in mine. As I type ‘your hand in mine’, an instrumental track by the band Explosions in the Sky is playing.

I find it to apply to my thoughts at the moment. We are none of us alone. You’ll never walk alone. We were never meant to be alone. But we’ve all felt alone. Much of my adolescence I felt alone, I think. At least I seem to recall feeling that way… maybe my memories are skewed… but even today there are many times when I think that no one understands me or the thoughts or ideas in my head.

Last on Greys Anatomy (my wife makes me watch it) Meredith said to Derek something like ‘ I know you don’t understand me… I don’t understnd me!’

I felt that way. Many people do, too, I believe. But WE ARE NOT ALONE… nor were we meant to be or feel alone. But feelings can deceive us so much of the time.

Thinking about Adam and Eve and the action steps they took after they disobeyed God. What did they do? they hid. They pulled themselves away and brought on the feeling and reality of aloneness (is that a word?). They retreated. They pulled back. They hid. And God took away, because of their disobedient hearts, the very thing that they desired most. The comfortable resting place for their mind, body and spirit.

I wonder if there is a connection to ‘feeling alone’ and ‘not knowing the path God has laid out for us?’

I wonder if aloneness, or the feelings of alone-ness are connected to the quest?

Certainly, part of the quest is ‘doing it alone’… or so it seems or feels. But maybe that is not the intended way. I don’t know. In movies and in books you always have this character who ‘has to make it on my own.’… who has to prove to the world and to themselves that they can do it.

But how tragic that can end up. I am thinking of Christopher McCandless, the true story of a man, featured in the book and movie Into the Wild, who ran off on his own on a quest to find himself. He wound up in Alaska… alone… lost… abandoned… trapped… and eventually he died there.

One of his final written words was this: “happiness only real when shared with others.”

How true. How true.

Thoughts of the prodigal son… or the lost sheep come to mind. The lost sheep was not meant to be abandoned. The shepherd goes after him… leaving 99. That lost one was just as important.

The prodigal son… he chose to leave… chose to go it alone. And it took some trials and tragedy before he came to his senses and returned home, like a bad dog with his head between his knees… but the Father was there with open arms.

The Quest brought him full circle. The Father was there with loving arms… was that or is that the fulfillment of the quest? Of our quest in life?

To return home?

Ironically, the song that no plays is ‘The Only Moment We Were Alone’ by Explosions in the Sky. Beautiful.

WE and ALONE in the same sentence, those words are kind of opposites.

We and Alone. Maybe it could be a metaphor… and I am taking creative license here… but maybe it is symbolic of the homecoming… of which the FATHER greets us with the kind of embrace that fills the heart with love and grace and peace and comfort and protection and purpose and willingness and desire.

Together WE – the Father in Heaven and ME… and I… whatever. Together we are alone. That is the plan? Is it not? Is that the culmination of salvation and love that God promises? Is that the rejoiced moment we await?

Friday, January 23, 2009

thoughts while waiting for an oil change.

[random, free expression, written wednesday, jan. 21, 2009 while waiting for the oil to be changed in our van. i can't say what was written is coherent or worth reading or complete for that matter... but they are thoughts... my thoughts. read if you like... but i've come to know that blogging is often done even though many might not even ever read it. so maybe this random post was for me. maybe it was therapeutic. maybe it was just talking things out, without using my voice. alas...]

Sitting here waiting for the oil to get changed in my car and I’m thinking a lot about change. Yesterday we witnessed the beginning of the appearance and/or the hope of change to come in our country. Barack Obama was sworn into office as the 44th President of the United States. He represents so much to so many, but never has there been or will there be more pressure put upon one man to lead our nation. We are not in the best of times. Frankly, being President might not be the dream job when you look at the task at hand.

Regardless, this whole change thing that has filled my mind has more to do with the other things of life. As a matter of fact, change has been on my mind for a while now. It’s been on the forefront for at least the past 21 days. With the dawning of a new year just 3 weeks ago we’ve all been thinking about change and about resolutions and about dreams and goals and things we’d like to do differently.

And yet here we are… here we stand… here I stand, 3 weeks in, already thinking about how I’ve yet to do anything. My mind has been full but my action has been empty.

Everyone seems to embraces the idea of change, but not the actual activity itself. Well, there are obviously some who reject it whole heartily… sometimes it appears that those who have been around longer are least likely to embrace change. That attitude easily seeps into the young, apparently through the water they drink? Who knows why, but I’ve met my fill of young folk who openly resist anything different, too.

We are a people made up of mostly talkers with little walkers.

And where am I in the mix? Not where I want to be. I’m on the cusp of my 35th birthday and I can’t help but wonder when the mid-life crisis will come. When I say ‘crisis’ I am meaning that place where I begin to wonder and question and figure out what it is I was placed on this earth to do.

Heck, I’ve been having those thoughts for years.

I don’t view this coming period as a crisis per-sey, but more of a reality that is or will be upon me or any man who gets this far in life and can’t help but wonder ‘ how the heck did my parents do this?’ how did they do the whole ‘raising a family, holding down a job and being the productive people that they were?’

The scary thing is the realization that things are different and really cant be compared. Young people (or might I clarify, people my age) don’t seem to join the Rotary or civic clubs. We don’t really interact in community or neighborhoods like our parents did. We don’t do things the same way – but yet we aren’t much different. We are still filled with the same hopes and fears of our fathers and mothers and those who paved the way before them.

I can’t help but wonder how God will take care of me and my family when the future arrives. I can’t lie… that is a point of worry at times… but not that I spend too much time worrying about that. Who has time to worry about the future, anyway?
But that fact is I’ve chosen a profession that doesn’t pay, I’d say,. I’m not in it for the money. I’d be a fool if I were. But youth ministry isn’t the kind of career that has the benefits of others. No union. No real pension. No long term plan. Heck, most youth workers are long removed from that form of ministry by the time they hit mid-life.

I won’t really have much when that time comes to ‘hang it up’. I got a statement from my pension plan the other day. Right now, I’ve got enough to survive for roughly 1 month after I would retire. So yeah, youth ministry doesn’t hold long term stability, in the financial sense.

But that is not why I chose this profession. Money isn’t everything. Not that I fully believe that all of the time. But I know in my heart of hearts that there is more to life than cash money.

So I guess as I write this and think about change, I guess I am forcing myself to think about when certain changes do come in my life and in the life o my family, it will truly place us in the hands of God… in the midst of his loving care. I can only hope that he will, over time, reveal more and more his grace and love to me so that I may be comforted about future endeavors. Maybe I am being shown what it will look like to truly be a child of God – even as my years go by.

Got to maintain that hope though. You take away a man’s hope and you take away his life. I learned that lesson from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

But alas, this post was and is about change. I could talk for hours. Change in the church. Change in the way we do youth ministry. Change in the way we attempt to reach the non-churched, young and old. Those questions are heavy on my heart. But at the heart of any ‘real’ question is a quest.

My quest is appearing to be long and hard and full of more questions.

Friday, January 09, 2009

when i was 12

this past summer while on vacation, the television remained off and in my moments of quiet, i read a book. and then another book. and then i began another... that third book was the Stephen King novella Different Seasons. the third of four short stories (titled 'The Body') in that novella was the longest of the stories.

vacation came and went before i finished it and i didn't pick it back up until the last month of the year. i finished 'The Body' before Christmas and couldn't wait to watch the film variation of the story, titled Stand By Me, to see how it compared.

Now in my younger years I had seen Stand By Me repeatedly... although it was the tv version in which all of the swear words and whatnot were replaced or removed. So i knew the story. Frankly, that is what made 'The Body' all the more enjoyable. As i read it, i was hearing the narration of Richard Dreyfuss and i was picturing the boys from the movie in my mind's eye. (The same was true when i read 'Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption'... i was hearing the narration of Morgan Freeman and picturing Tim Robbins... and when i recently finished the Autobiography of Johnny Cash, i was sad to put it down, because i knew the voice of Johnny Cash would disappear with it).

Without saying too much, Stand By Me or The Body is a really a story about 4 11 or 12 year old boys as they venture out to find the missing dead body of a peer who had tragically been hit by a train. it's less about the body and more the quest... even more about the life and times and important things of a 12 year old's childhood... many conversations about which super hero is best, ragging on one's mom and a plethora of one-up-man ship.

it's raw and real... the book more than the movie... but it's about the hopes and fears and weights placed upon the shoulders of young men who aren't really men at all. not yet anyway.

i connect with that story, as do many grown men like me. why? we connect with it because we were all once 12 years old. and we are sad that we can not go back... never go back to that age of innocence and discovery.

there was a quote from the story... i can hear Dreyfuss narrating it now: "I never had friends later on in life like i did when i was 12. God, does anyone?"

i remember my friends back then. i go back often... in my mind, that is. i am taken back to that small town in mid-Ohio, were i grew up. i think of the many adventures i once shared with them: Billy and Donnie, David and Mikey, Patrick and Bobby... and the assortment of other characters with whom my path once crossed. We'd ride bikes, walk the tracks, play war, camp out, build forts and club houses (we must have had 3 or 4 different ones over the years), head up to the Rainbow 7 for some ice cream and a game of Donkey Kong, climb trees and talk about girls or music or what was happening on the latest episode of The A-Team... we had full lives.

One of us is now gone. He drowned in the Whetstone Creek a few years after I moved away. I've lost contact with pretty much all of those guys now.

I've been back to that small town a hand full of times over the last 20+ years. In fact, i took my new bride there soon after we were married... wanted to show here where i grew up and tell her all about the things we did. We pulled into town and everything looked different.

you can never go back. i learned that one then and there. but my mind has not forgotten. so much happened and it seemed so important then.

maybe it still is.

to be 12 again... who wouldn't want to go back?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

quotes from last nite's episode of Friday Night Lights

"you're going to win... or you're going to lose. either way, the sun's going to come up in the morning."
(by the coaches wife, the night before the state championship game)


"years ago, i was afraid of wanting anything.
i figured wanting would lead to trying and trying would lead to failure.
but now i find i can't stop wanting.
i want to fly somewhere in first class.
i want to travel to europe on a business trip.
i want to get invited to the white house.
i want to learn about the world.
i want to surprise myself.
i want to be important.
i want to be the best person i can be.
i want to define myself, instead of having others define me.
i want to win and have people be happy for me.
i want to lose and get over it.
i want to not be afraid of the unknown.
i want to grow up and be generous and big-hearted the way that people have been with me.
i want an interesting and exciting life.
it's not that i think that i'm going to get all of these things.
i just want the possibility of getting them.
(the future) represents possibility.
the possibility that things are going to change.
i can't wait."*

(spoken by Trya - as part of her entrance to college essay... i've adapted it slightly ... i'm going to give this to my seniors to read at the end of the school year - as i think they will relate to it quite well)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

the randomness of whatnot and so on and so forth

the blog template update didn't go exactly as planned - but i'm sticking with it for now. i wanted the banner to be at the top of the page and to stretch across the page, but blogger wasn't cooperating... and i grew tired of trying to fix it.

i am compelled to blog more this year... well maybe not blog more - but blog about more things that matter to life. i want to share in conversations... about faith... about life... about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in this day and age.

i am sitting here watching Adaptation. frankly it is not ending like i thought... or hoped even... i guess. i had heard so much about it and now... it's sort of been tainted by what i would call it's own foolishness. to be fair - it hasn't ended yet. maybe some crazy twist will change my perception.

i've got 9 more bucks in my iTunes account... it's almost hard to give it up... with those last purchases, i want them to be right.

everyone is Twitting. not sure if that is another path i'll go down. not sure if i'm that important. it's hard to keep track of so many social networks on the net. here is an article about aligning lifestreams.

i watched 160+ moveis in 2008. here's to more blessed movie watching experiences in 2009.

peace and love and i'm out.

post script: Adaptation is now over. meh.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Update in Progress

i'm in the middle of updating the look of the blog... be patient... i'll hope to finish tuesday.

best of 2008

my top 12 albums of 2008
12. Sigur Rós Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
11. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
10. Jon Foreman - Limbs and Branches (from the Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer EP's)
9. Alias - Resurgam
8. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
7. South - You Are Here
6. Unkle - End Titles...Stories for Film
5. Keane - Perfect Symmetry
4. Portishead - Third
3. The Stills - Oceans Will Rise
2. Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid
1. Coldplay - Viva La Vida

EP's worth mentioning: Coldplay - Prospekt's March, Jars of Clay - Closer, Wheat - That's Exactly What I Wanted

Edit: The Fireman might be a late addition to this best of list... listening to it now and liking it a lot...

LAST FM: most played 2008
Coldplay - 337
Explosions in the Sky - 300
Radiohead - 275

Top Song: Viva La Vida - Coldplay

Top TV Shows: Friday Night Lights, Generation Kill, The Office

Top Movie: Wall-E

My Top Albums: 2004 2005 2006 2007