December 28, 2004


So the rumers you've heard are true - I did run our Subaru Legacy off the road this past sunday. Liz and I were unhurt, save for a sore back (me) and whiplash (Liz). Our poor car is totaled. Here's what happened.

We're driving along on 490 heading home, very slowly (since it was crappy weather out) when I hit a small patch of black ice just over a bridge. I fishtailed and then we ploughed right into the guard rail, hitting it twice: first with the left nose of the car, then with the back left, implanting the guard rail into the back of our car. We barely missed a flock of cars and one very large truck that nearly hit us.

The guardrail remains unscratched.

Kudos to Kevin, the very kind Biaggi's cook that stopped to help us when we crashed. He drove us to a gas station to call my dad and then to our apartment on his way home. I learned something about helping others on Sunday from Kevin; it just takes stopping your own life a little to make someone else feel safer.

Meanwhile, the car is totaled and there's no real chance of getting it back, though we will have to replace it. The engine took the brunt of the damage, but there are so many issues with the sides of the car that it's just not worth rebuilding. But what we've been facing the past two days has been hard: uncertainty. Worry.


I can't tell you how much this threw me for a loop. We were almost home, and then it happened. Totally out of the blue, it was over in a few seconds. I thank God for sparing our lives and even for sparing our bodies any real harm. But the question remains - now what?

We spent two days debating that question, being worried, being afraid of the unknown. We didn't know what to do. I kept telling myself that everything would be ok, that we'd work it out. But it's tough to make yourself believe that when everything feels so hopeless.

It's amazing the tricks the enemy plays with your mind. I definitely had times when I believed that everything would be ok, but there were also definitely times when I totally broke down and began worrying about what would come next. This worries me ... which is sorta ironic, cause I don't want to be worrying at ALL. Biblically you're not supposed to worry.

I guess the key is that if you worry about something, just keep reminding yourself that it's going to work out. It may not work out how you want it to, but it WILL work out. And sometimes it works out better than you could've hoped.

See, we're getting a new car, and the choices are way cool: Hyundai Santa Fe, Pontiac Vibe, and possibly others that we haven't found yet. But I can't wait to see how it pans out - God is good!!

December 24, 2004


Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope that amidst all of the great food, the family, the fun, and yes, the presents, that you remember why we do this every year.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from the days of eternity ..." ~Micah 5:2

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." ~John 1:14

The ruler of eternity has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand! This Christmas, may you be blessed to understand the truth in these words - Jesus the Christ has come! Rejoice!

December 23, 2004


I heard this song on the radio today, and as it turns out, not owning a TV has its disadvantages. I mean, sure, I avoid all the crap that's on (including the news, sometimes), but I missed this one. Kelly Clarkson was apparently on this show called "American Idol" that I never watched. Even I heard about the show, but I never heard the song till today. And somehow it helps to have heard it. I wish I could say that it was from a Christian song that I found some inspiration, but today it was from what appears to be the secular world.

I think this sort of confirms my growing suspician - the secular and the Christian worlds really aren't very different. In fact, the only thing different is that Christians - at least, true Jesus-Followers - claim grace from a God who loves them, and the secular world refuses to have anything to do with Him. But something about this song struck me as wholly inspiring and even something Jesus might approve of. It speaks to those who grew up in tough places. Now, I grew up in a loving home, with wonderful parents and a wonderful sister, but it speaks to me too. It reminds me of those not as fortunate as me, and it reminds me that I have to grow up and move onto the stuff God's got planned for me away from home, away from comfort, away from all that is familiar: "take a risk, take a chance, and break away."

Anyway, the song. Enjoy.

Breakaway, by Kelly Clarkson

Grew up in a small town, and when the rain would fall down,
I'd just stare out my window.
Dreaming of what could be, and if I'd end up happy,
I would pray.

Try hard to reach out, but when I tried to speak out,
Felt like no-one could hear me.
Wanted to belong here, but something felt so wrong here.
So I'd pray, I could break away.

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly,
I'll do what it takes till I touch the sky,
And I'll make a wish, take a chance,
Make a change, and break away.
Out of the darkness and into the sun,
I won't forget all the ones that I love.
I've gotta take a risk, take a chance,
Make a change, and break away.

Wanna feel the warm breeze, sleep under a palm tree,
Feel the rush of the ocean.
Get onboard a fast train, travel on a jetplane,
Faraway, and break away.


Buildings with a 100 floors,
Swinging around revolving doors,
Maybe I don't know where they'll take me.
But I gotta keep moving on moving on,
Fly away, break away.

(chorus) ...

The music video (and hear it):

December 21, 2004

An Age of Mystery

Our culture is fascinated by mystery. I know I talked about this a bit in my last post, but I think it's something worth exploring. What is mystery? It's the unexplored, the stuff we don't know, it's the unexplainable.

Previously, Americans were obsessed with factualism - I know the answer and that's that. In their culture, especially in the church, this translated into a somewhat legalistic framework, complete with diagrams and slogans. But now, you can see the fascination with mystery in every aspect of American postmodernist culture; in science, in art, and in society. Modernist science was about having your hypothesis proven right, and so many scientists would make up information to make their data fit their thesis. These days, this has changed. Scientists have become (or are becoming) more concerned with what the data SAYS and formulating their hypothesis around it. My guess is that they realized it was easier to just tell what their experiements said than try to make up information and stick to it.

But science is ALL about exploration. It's about finding out the stuff we don't know - NASA and the space station, neurobiologists and brain research, the human genome project, deep space exploration, chaos theory, chemical engineering, and quantum physics, just to name a few. It's about revealing mystery.

I read a blog today by a guy - a Jesus-follower - who said he worried about the US putting funds into NASA and the waste that happens. There was a response from one of his friends that said that he shouldn't be so critical, that exploring the vastness of creation was a good thing to fuel humility in the face of our small-ness. I tend to agree - I find that the more science reveals about the complexity (irreduceable complexity, you might say) of the universe, the more in awe I stand at the knife-edge upon which the universe sits, the equilibrium it must maintain for life to exist. I am amazed by the precision by which it must be maintained - and all of this is God's fault. It's incredible! If the earth wobbles just a little bit, we all go boom. If we were just a little closer or a little farther from the sun, we'd be either fried or frozen (respectively).

In postmodern art, you can see how mystery is a big element - just listen to Caedmon Call's "Beautiful Mystery" and you'll get the picture, or listen to anything by David Crowder or Chris Tomlin. In physical expression, in dance and in painting, the newest uses of color and texture and movement all convey a sense of mystery, that the artwork isn't revealing all that it's telling. In plays and movies, there is mystery in plot lines, in the conflict that arises, in the way that the play resolves - or doesn't.

This age is an age of mystery, of questions - it's ok to not know the outcome, because it's more enchanting that way. God is mysterious, and I think sometimes He likes it that way. Humility is what happens if one is honest in the face of the vast amount of stuff they don't know. If the postmoderns got anything right, that's what it would be.

December 20, 2004

The Enchanting Mystery

"Dude, i don't know where God's leading you with all the stuff you been reading and doing lately, but it kinda scares me, and i think i want to tag along."

So began my weekend, and I've been thinking about that statement, from a very dear friend of mine, for the better part of two days now. On the one hand, it makes me very excited - I think I finally noticed that I really am starting to change, to feel something deeper. On the other hand, it scares the living daylights out of me; I don't want to lead anyone astray, but I know that I can't contain my questions, my insights, my thoughts, my feelings - my concerns - anymore.

And so I begin to change. It's funny how God does that. We read this book about evolution a little while ago, I may have mentioned it. Anyway, the guy - his name was David - talks about evolution as more or less this thing that everyone knows about already: change. Stuff (the very scientific word that we apparently couldn't get away with using in our paper) changes to fit the place it calls home. If it doesn't change when home changes, it either moves to another place or stays and dies. That's evolution in a nutshell.

And it occurred to me that it can't possibly work quite like that. I mean, it's a nice observation for salamanders and orange guppies and things like that, but for people it seems to work the other way around. For starters, think about welfare - all the people who don't get a job go on welfare and they survive to breed more people who can't get a job. And it's nice for some people who really can't make a living and are really trying to get a job and can't, but for the rest of them, it's a free ride.

And then there's Christians. Or rather, there's followers of Jesus. I'm tired of using the term "Christian;" there are too many people (all of them) who have a different opinion about what this word means, and for most of them, it's bad. And so I'll talk about those people who follow Jesus. When a person becomes a Jesus-follower in today's American culture (not to mention anywhere else, like Iraq), they tend to become "maladaptive," as they say in cultured circles; they get one step closer to kicking the bucket, and kicking it hard. For lots of people, the minute you say "I'm a Christian," you're denounced as some kind of raving fundamentalist lunatic because of a few nice old guys who wear white collared shirts and use other people's money to talk on TV, as opposed to all those other people who really try to make the world a better place.

Or is it that we're adapting to a bigger world than that? When a person becomes a Jesus-follower (again, I use the term because lots of people say they're Christians and couldn't give a flying hoot about Jesus or what He said was a good thing to do), do they adapt to some kind of larger world that has stuff we can't see? Is it some kind of adaptation to know Jesus?

Incidentally, I hate the term "adaptation," it's so ... blah. It has no excitement, and I tend to find life a whole lot more exciting than merely surviving and hoping my few better qualities get passed on to some little versions of me and my wife (and ironically, even that description sounds more exciting than most biologists put it - they must live boring lives). But I digress.

Both sides have their issues. The modernists are mostly legalists, people who want it cut-and-dry, in a world where there is no such thing, regardless of what they want. Yet postmodernists tend to reject most, if not all, of what their predecessors had to say because it rubs them the wrong way. I hate to break it to both sides, but you're all missing something by ignoring each other. The modernists forget that there IS a mystery and a deep enchantment to the gospel, while the postmodernists forget that sin is not to be tolerated; love one another, but do not tolerate sin (the postmodernist reaction to the legalist modes of dealing with sin is really harsh, and I think they swung the pendulum a little too far to the right when they more or less say to ignore another person's sin since yours is just as bad).

I've been most distressed as of late, about this whole process of change that I feel like I've begun, this journey upon which I've embarked, for lands unknown. Every book I've read has talked about how the modernist church wanted these cut-and-dry answers to protect themselves from the great unknown, to avoid the mystery in life. And yet the new generation wants that mystery, they want it to be exciting and fulfilling and emotional - and spiritual.

I hate that. I always knew the answers growing up, or I could fake it and pass something random off as the answer until I could figure it out. I hate not knowing something, but when I really stop and think, I'm really more fulfilled by the process of finding the answer. I love to think deep about it; I'm enchanted by its mystery.

So I guess one of my conclusions is that what's important is the journey - how one arrives at an answer, as much as the answer itself is important. If you do it wrong, you'll probably get a lot less out of it, and learn a lot less along the way. I hope that on this journey I've begun, others will be drawn to my questions and seek the answers themselves, that my curiosity will be insatiable. I'm fascinated by the gospel, by its paradox and yet its truth, by its beauty - by its enchanting mystery.

December 17, 2004

Passionate about Nothing

I would like to submit something from my reading that I found extraordinarily poignient. I'll let the text explain itself. It's from Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.

"The thing I have to work on in myself is this issue of belief. Gandhi believed Jesus whne He said to turn the other cheek. Gandhi brought down the British empire, deeply injured the caste system, and changed the world. ... Peter finally believed the gospel after he got yelled at by Paul. Peter and Paul changed the world by starting churches in godless towns.

Eminem believes he is a better rapper than other rappers. Profound. Let's all follow Eminem.

Here is the trick, and here is my point. Satan ... wants us to believe meaningless things for meaningless reasons. Can you imagine if Christians actually believed that God was trying to rescue us from the pit of our own self-addiction? ... The trouble with deep belief is that it costs something. And there is something inside of me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn't like the truth at all because it carries responsibility, and if I actually believe these things I have to do something about them.... The problem with Christian belief [for seekers] ... is that it is not a fashionable thing to believe.

A friend of mine, a young pastor who recently started a church, talks to me from time to time about the new face of church in America - about the postmodern church. He says the new church will be different from the old one, that we will be relevant to culture and to human struggle. I don't think any church has ever been relevant to culture, to the human struggle, unless it believed in Jesus and the power of His gospel. If the supposed new church believes in trendy music and cool web pages, then it is not relevant to culture either. It's just another tool of satan to get people to be passionate about nothing."

It's a bit harsh in some aspects, but in others, he's right on. I think he's saying the same thing (to some extent) as Brian McLaren, who says that "maybe we should concentrate on removing the plank from our own eyes before we try to remove the speck of dust from somebody else's."

This doesn't mean that we don't tell others about the gospel - it means that we not only tell them about it but actually show it. We show them how Christ was accepting of everyone, regardless of their walk in life, their race, their profession ... their orientation, their sin. He calls ALL to Him. Yes, you have to believe in Jesus to get to heaven. But do you have to be a Christian? Like, a religious Christian? I'm starting to wonder ... I've never liked the idea of religion that much, but that's only insofar as the definition of religion is something along the lines of the the rules and regulations that are associated with your belief. Belief is cool. Rules and stuff ... it never seemed to me that Jesus obeyed that many rules. He definitely broke lots of Jewish rules, and He was Jewish. And He definitely disobeyed the whole "once dead, stay dead" rule. Have we been thinking about Him all wrong?

A Song

A while ago I wrote about my artistic tendencies and how they'd dried up. If you've been praying for me, I much appreciate it, because this morning I wrote a song. I thought that I'd share it with you.

As you read it, please don't be depressed. If it seems at all forlorn, it's because I've been on a bit of a journey to get to where I am, and where I am is at a place of peace. This song is about hope, but it's a journey you can only make with God.

Who Am I?

It’s all your fault; I spent the morning crying, and
Tossing in pain. I can’t explain what’s come
over me today, I’m overwhelmed

I find I love you, and yet I find I hurt
And somehow you don’t blame me for that at all
What is it I’m missing? How can I find you lost in the woods
Who am I? Who am I?

I see your stars in the sky, they’re beautiful
And all that I ever wished, was to be beautiful
Have I always been the one standing between us with that
That look in my eyes. Who am I?

What have I learned? It’s by grace that I am saved
and in humility I live, I live with You, ‘cause
'cause you accepted me, and You did it first.
Who am I? Who am I?
I am Yours. I am Yours.

December 16, 2004

On Bluffing

I work at a coffee shop called Cole & Parks. I rather enjoy working there, to the extent that I don't have to do all the dishes on my shift, but I tend to find a few things rather annoying.

Have you ever noticed (especially those of you who work in food services) that people will do what is minimally required of them in any given situation? This includes coworkers and also the people you serve.

But I'm not here to whine about my job. I'm here to tell about something I find amusing.

We have a sandwich called a "panini." As I write this, you just translated how that is said in your head, however you would pronounce it. It is this that I find amusing. It's an italian word that more or less means "grilled sandwich," and people try so hard to get it right the first time they see it. You can always tell a newbie by the way they pronounce "panini." Some say "pah-nih-nih," or "pah-ni-NIGH", or even more amusing, "PAH-ni-NEE". Sometimes they'll really goof up and emphasize every syallable; I guess they assume that if they don't know how to pronounce it, they'll just say it really loudly and maybe I'll know what they're talking about (as opposed to the only other food we have, soups and wraps). The smart ones will either know how to pronounce it ("pah-NEE-nee") or will ask, not afraid to look the fool.

I love it when people ask - it means that they don't think they know everything. It's surprising how many people walk into the store and look at something and say "ah yes, just like at home," when in fact there's nothing remotely like what they're looking at "at home."

I find this particularly amusing when it's somebody I know.

The correlary to this is a story my music history TA told me. He was telling me about a book that he had which describes how to bluff your way through any musical conversation. For example, if someone says something to the effect of "I just LOVE Bach," you're supposed to lean back in your chair reflectively, a slighly dazed (yet insightfuly, looking far-off into the distance) expression on your face, rub your chin, and say (again, reflectively and knowingly), "ahhh ... Bach." Apparently you no longer have an obligation to contribute to the conversation after this - your work is finished.

I plan on using this the rest of my life.

Who knew it could be so easy? You can literally bluff your way through a conversation about anything! "Ahhh, nuclear fusion," or "ahhhhhh, monet" or "ahhhhhh, social security." Heck, it could even degenerate to the point of "ahhhh ... muffins." See the potential? Unless of course, you goof up - there's always those darn words like "panini" to keep you on your toes ...

The Beauty/Curse of No Limitations

So we had our first alternative service meeting tonight. Well, second if you count the one that was with the head-honchos, telling us to "go forth and research" (which naturally I couldn't make because I had class). But I have to say, it was probably the meeting where I had the most fun of any meeting ever. Why? Because I got to dream. I got to say "this is what I want!" and there was naught a limitation. None. Nada.

And so I wonder what the future holds. There are tons of way cool things that I want to do, and yet I can only do one thing, maybe two, at a time. I have to graduate first. Well, I don't have to (don't tell my parents I said that), but I really kinda want to. Then the sky's the limit.

I can take my wife and leave for Australia (after much work to raise missionary funds). I could go to seminary (once again, I will take my wife, and for the record, that goes without saying on all of these). I could work for a while and stay in the Victor/Canandaigua/Rochester area. I could wander off to some other state and live there and work for whatever reason. I could stay in Canandaigua, work, and maybe figure out a way to help with the new alternative service (or heck, even be a pastor for it, if things went well). We could backpack the appalacian trail and decide then.

And yet I have no clue.

Australia is definitely in the works. I feel like it would be a useful thing for a lot of reasons for us to go, both to serve God and to let Him teach us a lot of things. Yet somehow I feel needed here in upstate NY still ... especially at church.

I guess the question comes down to, when does a place that need you not really NEED you, so much as they really want you cause it makes things feel easier? If a place really does need you, does that mean that God's actually saying "stay there" or could God be telling you to go somewhere else?

Or let's make it harder (cause right now it just IS). How do you choose between two places that you really want to go and whom both seem to need you equally?

Right now I have no idea. I'm being torn in a bunch of directions, and not only my future, but also the future of the beautiful woman I married depends upon my decision. If it was just me it was hard. It's two of us though. And we have to think through stuff like "when do we have kids?"


For those of you with answers, I'll be glad to know them, and you can post comments.

I guess this is the part of life that still boggles me. We are apparently free to say "I don't know" in God's church. I've never liked those three words. "I don't know." "I", meaning me, Chris, the guy who has always 'known' everything to some degree (or conned myself and others into thinking I did), "don't," meaning do not, a negative statement, and "know", meaning have knowledge of. I have no friggin' clue what to do. None. Nada. It's funny how so few limitations can be a blessing sometimes and a curse in others.

So I'll just say it: "I don't know."

It occurred to me that sometimes God will open a door in the face of a lot of closed doors. Other times He'll have lots of open doors and then slowly close them one-by-one. And they're both just as frustrating.

And so it begins ...

December 14, 2004

Eyes Open for Pennies

It was only yesterday that it suddenly dawned on me: I'm actually married! I know, four months into the game is a long time for something that serious to settle in, but ... somehow, it makes sense that the bigger the change, the longer it takes to figure out. And since it's marriage, it's going to take the rest of my life to figure out. But at least I realize that I am, in fact, married.

I'm not sure what specifically made me come to this rather remarkable (if somewhat rediculously obvious) revelation. It might have been Liz's comment, something along the lines of "sometimes I still can't believe we're finally married." Or it might have been grocery shopping. But honestly, I think it's actually the fact that we put up our first Christmas tree and decorated it last night.

It started on the aforementioned grocery shopping trip, this past sunday. As it turns out, Wegman's really does have just about everything - including Christmas trees. Who knew? We sat there staring at a Christmas tree display wondering "can we afford our own?" Obviously we decided that we could. It's nothing much, it's just a 6' fake (politically correct: "artificial") tree with the lights already strung (which is really great cause neither of us have the time to string lights yet).

We got home and Liz insisted that I set it up while she did something else (maybe made food, I don't remember). But after I'd finally wrestled this thing into place, we ooh'd and aahh'd over it. Then we realized we had no extension cord with which to plug it in. So of course, Monday comes along, and Liz manages to scrape up a bunch of decorations from home. One trip to target later (and the small argument about which colors to use), we have some garland and various ornamental balls and such things. And a new extension cord.

But that night was the coolest night for me. We got home and spent three hours figuring out how to make the decorations we had fit onto this pathetic little tree. And about 12:15 we sit down on the couch to admire our handiwork. And it was gorgeous ... the tree had totally been transformed into a work of art. I think we stared at it until like, 1am, and yet time didn't feel like it passed. At all.

It was then that I realized that this - our marriage - was permanent. And I couldn't have been more pleased.

I'm reminded once again of my friend Rob's question: what did any of us (our little trio of guys, that is) do to deserve such wonderful women? Mike's right; it's a lot like Grace. We did nothing to deserve this, and probably a lot of things that would make any lesser god punish us with all he had.

But not my God.

I've been blessed beyond expectation, beyond my wildest dreams. My wife is only a small part of that, but she's one of the ways I can see my blessings in everyday life.

I couldn't help but think about the tree and its transformation. One minute it's this semi-pathetic looking lump of wire and green stuff, the next we plug it into the wall and it starts to glow. And then we decorated it, turning it into a work of art rivaling the trees our parents have put up every year for our whole lives. Feel the metaphor coming on? Be transformed, and let your creator make of you a work of art.

We had a sermon at church a few weeks ago that made a rather interesting impact on me. Our pastor gave everyone a penny and then told a story about how excited her kids got to find a penny on the sidewalk every so often. She told us to keep the penny we'd been given to remind us of the pennies of happiness that God gives us, even in the hard times. Sometimes He gives us rolls of pennies, sometimes just one or two. But you have to keep your eye peeled for them.

The Reward

A little story that I found in my files. It's a true story, about a friend of mine (the sunday school teacher). I hope you learn something from it; I did.

A sunday school teacher of a high school class started the class by telling her students, "now guys, here's the deal. I want you this class to raise your hand before you say anything, at all. However, if you don't, you get a skittle, and if you're really bad and talk out of turn, you'll get two." The kids were slightly confused by this, but agreed.

Throughout the course of the class, most students tried to obey and raise their hands, but many became impatient at one point or another, and for this they got a skittle. Some sat and said nothing, neither raising their hands nor saying anything.

By the end of the class, but one student remained who had obeyed the entire class. To this student the teacher handed a rather large chocolate bar.

"This is the reward that you didn't see at the end of the path." She explained. "Those of you who gave into the temptation for instant gratification of the little skittles were giving up a much more satisfying experience at the end. Had you only been patient, and obeyed, you too would have gotten a candy bar."

Adventures in Missing the Point

So I know that in the past I've kinda knocked around liberals a bit, and probably rightly so. But this time I have a bone to pick with conservatives. Particularly, the Christian right.

Now, I'm a Christian. And I'm pretty conservative. So why, you ask, would I be picking a bone with the people who I support?

See, I got this email today that seems to kind of embody the entire Christian culture modernist attitude that I can't stand. I had never really liked Christian culture since I was introduced to it a few years ago when I moved to my new church, but the church itself doesn't really encourage modernist thought, so much as a lot of its older members are rooted in modernism. The email said something along the lines of "the Passion of the Christ movie is up for some award, let's show hollywood how much we like it".

I almost threw up.

They just don't get it! If they think that some movie about Jesus is going to make everyone nicer towards them so they can feel more "in", they've got another thing comin' to them. I really liked the Passion, it deeply moved me on an aspect of Jesus I'd never really thought of before. Suffering is a tough subject, and while a lot of more liberal Christians said "we didn't need that, the suffering wasn't the point, Jesus is supposed to make us happy so let's all be happy," I tend to think that Christ is a whole lot bigger; the suffering was just as important as the resurrection, but just as important as His life on earth. No one aspect can be really taken on its own, but one can only do so much in a two hour movie, so Mel Gibson picked one aspect that usually gets ignored by modernists and went with it. Kudos to him, I enjoyed it. Well, not enjoyed it, more like sickened by it (which I think was partially the point), but was moved by it and felt like I learned something important.

What the email so perfectly showed was the modernist attitude: "everyone should like Christianity, aren't we so nice? We're just as much fun as secular culture, and we really want you to like us. In fact, we really want you to join us, so don't worry, you don't have to invest yourself, you can just come along for the fun and talk about Jesus and how happy He makes us all. We'll sing some trendy songs, we'll talk about love and peace, we'll invent some really great phrases to show that you're part of the "in-group," not those silly pagans that run America."

Your horrified stares amuse me.

Yeah. I know, it's frightening. It's from the modernists that we get Christian bookstores, Christian radio, Christian merchendising, Christian ... fill in your own blank here, I think that anything that is labeled as repulsively "Christian" by most of today's culture is probably a result of modernists. This isn't entirely true, but one could make a fairly sweeping generalization and get away with it without arguing too hard.

They missed the point. Entirely. I haven't read Brian McLaren's Adventures in Missing the Point yet, but I'm sure it addresses this issue. Modernist Christians got absorbed in their little culture. They decided that they were tired of being harassed, so they invented their own "in-group" (to speak psychologically) and rejected the secular culture which threatened their safe existence.

It's not about being safe. Nor is it about feeling good. Yes, Christ is the joy within us; I was reminded of that this weekend in a sermon. But people, joy doesn't have to make you feel good in a happy-go-lucky sense. Joy makes us radiate. Joy isn't happiness, because Joy doesn't come from our surroundings. I could be entirely miserable with the world I live in, I could be tortured and flayed and burnt, and yet I could still be joyful. Likewise, I could be happy, but not joyful.

Modern Christianity missed a lot. They made it about themselves - about being safe, about being happy, about being accepted. Ironically, the only thing that happened was that they became another, albeit more boring version of the secular culture in which they lived.

I'm a postmodernist. It was only recently when I started researching "postmodern Christianity" (a term that I use lightly, since it's just a word to apply a lot of old concepts to a new generation) for my senior honors thesis that I realized what had bugged me about modernists. I had never been able to quite put words to it, but every church I went to that encouraged this "safe-and-happy" mentality bugged me.

Now, postmodernism does encourage "christian culture." But it's nothing like the modernist culture. Instead of the "we'll all be safe together" mentality, it's "do life together in a community." The modernist mentality sprung from a similar concept (who knew, it was drawn from Acts 2), but somehow they missed the part where it says that it's not about the community. Ancient manuscripts by Justinian (the Roman emperor at the time) show this quite clearly. He gets all frustrated with the Christians for more or less showing him up - during all of the many plauges that hit Rome in the first and second century, they not only took care of their own sick, but also all of the Roman sick! They were so focused on helping PEOPLE that they didn't distinguish between those who believed and those who didn't.

That's the biggest part of modernism that screwed up - they succumbed to the "us-them" mentality of secular culture. All of this springs from this problematic attitude. Jesus made no distinction between the pharisees and Rome. In fact, he was more harsh with His own people because they knew better! He even calls the Pharisees "sons of Hell" at one point. Frankly, the picture was reminiscent of the modernists - legalism to the hilt. You gotta DO everything right (which didn't happen) even if your HEART isn't right. It became so focused on the individual that they forgot about everyone else - EXACTLY what Jesus says NOT to do.

It's not about you. Really. I mean, it's great that God is so forgiving, but stop worrying about your own purity and go help somebody! With the right heart, stuff will start falling into place a lot better than you might think - and you won't even notice.

December 10, 2004

The Evolution of Me

Barring the paper I have to edit, I'm completely done with my penultimate semester of college.

I'm very excited about this, in one regard. Partially because it means that our theories presentation went REALLY well last night, and my music history final went really well yesterday afternoon. This also means that I'm virtually stress-free at the moment (which is sure to not last) and can focus my attention on my wife, who has whole-heartedly missed me for the last two weeks.

On the other hand, I'm starting to realize that I'm really almost done, and it has a sort of hollow feel to it - like I'm going to miss it. It started last night when I realized that I was done with theories, which was a moment for rejoicing, at first, but then I came to realize - it was probably my favorite class of college. I've never had to think so hard in my entire life, a feat I found most enjoyable, if somewhat draining. And while I'm glad it's over so I can have a break, I wouldn't mind having to think that hard again. Granted, this doesn't prevent me from doing the work on my own and thinking just as hard, if not beyond my current mental state (which wouldn't be that difficult, as my brain is mush right now), but ... there isn't the same sense of urgency in the real world. This doesn't mean that the urgency isn't there, but mostly means that people ignore it. "Oh, we'll be fine, what's the harm in taking a nap?" I've noticed this mentality a lot in our generation.

But the thing that hit me last night which bothered me the most came from the discussion we had on evolution. Evolution more or less IS change, or the process by which change happens. How does an organism adapt to a new environment?

It occurred to me last night that I'm about to have to evolve. When college finishes, my environment is going to radically change and I'm going to have to either adapt to those changes or face ... ah, well, maybe not "extinction," but at least, a big slap in my proverbial face. I'll be entirely "on my own". Yes, I know, I'll have my wife, but there won't be any parents or grandparents to tell me what to do, and nobody to save my butt if I screw up. I'll be responsible. What a word that is. I'll be in charge of my own life, I'll have to make decisions that will alter my world dramatically depending on what I choose. Not only that - every choice I make will not only affect me, it will also affect my wife.

How friggin' hard is that?

I have to make decisions that, if I choose wrong, could mean bad things happen to my wife. Who really wants that kind of awesome responsibility? It's almost incapacitating! I know lots of people have done it before, but ... how many of us really realize what we've gotten ourselves into until we're either way deep in over our heads or are on the other side? I'm not saying I'm totally getting it, which, of course, frightens me all the more - what DON'T I know??

I'm so glad that God is gracious - He'll excuse me for making mistakes, because He knows I WILL make them. He also knows that I'll learn from them, probably why it's ok. It's like an adventure where you can jump out of the window and know you'll be ok, maybe a bruise or two, maybe even a broken leg, but they'll all heal in time and you'll be that much stronger.

And so I submit myself to a trial-by-fire. And I can't wait!

December 7, 2004

Trial by Fire

I think that I'm finally beginning to understand the meaning of the word "overwhelmed." Being the scientifically-minded person that I am, I require emperical evidence before arriving at a conclusion of any kind, especially one relating to feelings. In other words, I've had a lot of experiences lately that tell me how one can feel "overwhelmed".

We'll skip the part where I yell about how me and science don't get along too well anymore.

For instance, my week thus far has been an exercise in discipline - how long can I stay awake and focused without either falling asleep or drifting off? The answer would seem to be "about fifteen minutes," which is, of course, shorter than my usual twenty, and is probably due to the amount of stress I'm under. Our group project is due tomorrow, one that has taken many painstaking hours of work and not a few arguments with some of my closest friends about the book. My music history final is tomorrow, which frankly I'm very scared of, as my history with music history is somewhat dismal - I can't remember wrote facts like everyone else unless the professor talked about it extensively (which for the most part, she didn't).

Or, take another example: early this afternoon we had our last Bible study of the semester. Now, it's not a "Bible study" in the proper sense of the term, since we've been reading a book, and so "small group" is probably a better term, but that's just semantics - it's the book itself that is my focus here. The book is called Intercessory Prayer, by Dutch Sheets. As the title implies, the book is about prayer ... not just "hey, you should pray," but "hey, these are all the things prayer can do, and you should pray in lots of ways because God wants and needs you to."

But Chris, how is this overwhelming? You know you're supposed to pray?

Duh. However, the book has impressed upon me how very important my role in God's kingdom is, as is everyone who is part of it. It's not just that we're supposed to be nice to people and try to stay out of trouble, but we play an active part in bringing God's kingdom to earth. Heresy? Not really, it's all in the Bible. God doesn't disobey His own rules, and if He says "you guys are going to be the way I work, so if you don't help, I'm not going to help."

It freaked me out. Maybe "utterly terrified me" would be a better way of saying it. Mr. Sheets describes so many things that prayer is like and how it works and why it's important and it suddenly dawned on me what an awesome responsibility I've been given. On the one hand, I share the responsibility with other Christians, but at the same time, I'm the only one that matters, because I'm the only one I can make do this stuff. And sometimes (or lots of the time) I can't even make myself do it!

And that's what terrified me.

I feel inadequate to the task. No, this isn't just some bout of humility, I really feel (often enough) that there is no chance in hell (or heaven) that I'll be any use to God when He asks me to do something. I know God works with us, and doesn't give us stuff we're totally incapable of (in one sense), but in another sense, He does! He'll give us stuff we can only accomplish with His help.

It's kinda like exercise, a topic I'm only familiar with (sadly) in concept rather than in practice. When you exercise a muscle to make it stronger, you have to push it slightly beyond its ability for it to actually grow; it has to break down before it can grow back stronger. I hate the analogy and what it implies - God has to totally break me (spiritually) before I can grow again.

That really sucks.

Yet somehow it's comforting to me right now ... I'm definitely feeling broken, so where else can I go but back up? I know I've been praying for God to help me grow, to see Him, to learn to be like Him. I didn't count on this at all, and go figure, I figure it out while I'm down. Does He honestly expect me to want to grow again after this?


But I think He also knows that I'll do it. Nothing else satisfies like growing with God, as hard as it is to accept. Somehow I think that's what "trial by fire" means - the silver smith refining his silver over a fire to just the right temperature (very hot, I might add) so that it becomes pure and oh-so-shiny, not to mention stronger. What other kind of silver would you use for pretty things? I can't think of any. Can you?

December 6, 2004

On Reheating Chicken

I have just discovered why one should not eat chicken alone.

As it turns out, chicken, when cooked whole (stuffed, of course) is really tasty. This is not why you should not eat chicken alone. Nor is my next comment. It is almost as good reheated (assuming you do it right) as it was when you first made it.

I didn't do it right. That's one reason you shouldn't eat chicken alone - at least, assuming you are male - because you are a guy, and you can't cook to save your life, nor can you reconstitute food into its pre-refridgerated form without serious self-injury.

Ok, so I burnt my tongue. Stuff it.

Anyway, I figured this would be the best time to say yes, guys, love your wives with everything you've got. Because you never know when they'll have to stay at work until late in the evening and say "oh, honey, just reheat some leftovers" and assume you'll be fine.

You won't.

I've just had an experience with this. See, as I see it, guys really DO need women. If this wasn't the case, we wouldn't do things like burn our tongue on overheated mashed potatoes, we wouldn't put the gravy in with everything else to heat up (as it turns out, everything else takes less time to heat up than gravy does), and we wouldn't eat the chicken with our fingers.

If my wife had been here, I would've eaten with a fork and knife and the food would've tasted almost like it did when she made it two days ago. But alas, my wife had to stay late for work today. But ya know, I think it's a good reminder of how entirely helpless I am by myself. I SAY that I'd be fine, that I can take care of myself, but who am I to judge such things?

Perhaps this was God's way of telling guys how much we need Him. I mean, we call Him "father" all the time, but that's just another way of saying "parent." We're entirely helpless without our parents when we're children. Heck, the Bible's always calling us "children of God." I'd say that's not just one of those cute little phrases, but that it's got WAY more implied in it than you might think. As a child of God, I'm entirely dependent upon God for everything: life, liberty, happiness, and especially properly reconstituted leftovers. How else would I eat? It's by the grace of God alone that I managed to stomach what I created!

All that said, I'm still hungry and I'm going to pray harder next time - and I'll do it before I reheat the leftovers.

Silly Liberals, Emotional Tizzies are for Kids!

Ah, yes, more from my wandering mind. Lovely.

So where do I start? I'm rather saddened by this week's episode ... sorry, edition ... of the CT (campus times at UR, for all you non-university folks). I couldn't help but notice that there are still a lot of people who can't find it in themselves to get past the election.

Now, UR is not exactly the utopia of republicanism, and I'm the first to notice this ... well, maybe first after Rob or Mike. But I digress. UR is most assuradly a liberal's paradise, full of other liberals to whom he or she can complain and unleash their powers of analysis: "I hate Bush!" or "we've re-elected the worst president in the history of the US!" I'm no poilitical scholar, but I do know a little something about the English lanuage, and I can tell you for certain that the hyperbole is unnecessary.

Up until this point I've been amused by watching the liberals drive themselves into emotional frenzies over how "unjust" the election was, or how the country is "becoming a theocracy" or how they're going to "move to Canada." As it turns out, it's all just talk - unfortunately, they won't be leaving.

I almost deleted the last sentence, out of respect for my liberal friends and coworkers (and of course, fellow education-suffering students). But then it occurred to me - if you're going to claim you're going to move to Canada if Bush wins (and many did, pre-election) and then continue to rant about it post-election, there's something wrong with you. Either DO something or shut up your whining and let the rest of us live in peace.

Isn't peace something you're all gung-ho about anyway?

I mean, honestly, if you aren't going to make good about the stuff you say you'll do, why bother saying it in the first place? I don't care if you're "blowing off your steam" or whatever, it's just obnoxious to say "I'm moving to Canada", getting the rest of us all hopeful about peace and quiet from liberal whining, and then NOT going! "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no."


Yes, I'm quoting scripture. I know most liberals don't understand why I would do such a horribly intolerant thing, but face it: you're still living in a country full of people who still believe in God. I honestly believe that tolerance is a religion unto itself, as is science. People who cling to the idae that the "world will embrace all that is tolerance and reject the religious bigots!" ... hypocritical? I think so.

So stop throwing your incorrect "facts" at me, stop throwing your emotional fits and LISTEN for a change - it has its rewards. I know you're worried about being corrupted by the conservative perspective, but I'm a little confused as to when we stopped trying to figure out what's TRUE and started trying to maintain the illusion of our own making despite all the evidence presented to the contrary.


Back to my liberal books.

December 2, 2004

The Face of God

I just finished reading the most amazing book. I know you've heard me speak of Bill Myers' work before, but this one moved me more than the others up till now. Maybe this is because God's been changing me through these books, but ... I feel like I should talk about the book.

It's called The Face of God. Daniel Lawson is the pastor of a "mega-church" of over 4000 people. But on a trip to Israel, his wife is killed by terrorists. As in most of Myers' work, dreams play a prominant role. His wife, before she died, had a dream that Daniel would hear the voice of God; which is remarkable since he finds a stone left by one of the vendors he and his wife went to - a stone from the breastplate of the high priest of Israel, the breastplate that, when intact, allowed the priest to hear the voice of God Himself.

Another guy is looking for this breastplate as well. His name is Ibrahim el-Magd, and he is the leader of a strong muslim sect who are convinced that the final Jihad is at hand, and that Allah has chosen them to be the hand of His wrath. He seeks the breastplate (as well as the twelve stones of the tribes of Israel and the Urim and Thummim that go with them) to recieve God's final command to unleash Hell upon earth.

That, generally speaking, is the precept of the book. I might add that Myers finished the first draft of this book on 9/11 - kind of creepy, if you ask me. The major theme that runs through the book is that of compassion - compassion for one's neighbors, of loving one's enemies, of learning to love people who are different than you. Especially of the difference between legalism and faith - of loving others as God loved them, not of striving only for holiness and purity at the expense of love for God.

I felt very moved by this book. I identified with many of the characters from my own life, especially with many of their faults. Prejudice and legalism are easy traps to fall into, and I know that I've been guilty of them on many occasions.

But this book was mostly about freedom - the true freedom of expressing Christ's love for the world. The solution to becoming the person God wants me to be is not within myself. Rather, it is in seeking God - to be like Jesus. In seeking His character He will transform me; I cannot do this myself but by His power, by His grace, by His love - by His blood.

November 29, 2004

Why Artists Should Not Write

Today I had a revelation. As it turns out, I've been having those quite often lately. This time it was about musicologists. Where these people get off calling themselves scientific, I'll never know; I think they're really a bunch of artists experiencing a personality crisis because of modern scientific culture.


Musicologists shouldn't write papers. It's plain and simple as that. This applies to all literature (with the exception of poetry and political discourse, since nobody understands either of them anyway), because all written word is really one form of paper or another; this includes papers, theses, books, articles, periodicals, and every other kind of written word in which they express their opinion about the history of music.

They just can't do it.

Their opinion matters to me, of course. Obviously they have a unique understanding of what happened. But man, write a song about it or something! Their textbooks are rambling of thoughts which can only graciously be called run-on sentences with accompanying musical examples and shiny covers.

I hate my textbook - it's what inspired this rant.

With all due respect to Mr. Atlas and Mr. Yudkin, I feel like these people are trying to be scientific about their field, but failing miserably. When you write a textbook, you don't interject your own opinions on things - you say "this is what happened" and then leave it to those of us who aren't total artists to care about such things as "interpretation" and so forth.

Artists are fun people. I'm an artist, or try to be. But I also have that pesky background in neurobiology to contend with too. Yes, I feel like my mind is always arguing (creative vs. logical) about something or another (do I follow the recipe or add lots more cheese?), but it has its advantages. 1) I can communicate between both worlds: arts and sciences. 2) I like to study both worlds and even participate in discussion about them. The downside is that I have to listen to people from either world not-understand the opposite.

Oh well.

Should you care, Jonah Goldberg wrote a fantastic article on this very subject ... or at least, one like it.

A Mystic Experience

Let's talk mysticism.

Ok, I'm sorry, I know it's a terrible topic, but hey, I just got out of a recitation for a class where we've just read two articles on the topic. One guy (Katz) says that the mystic experience is bogus, that it's shaped by pre-existent culture and by one's previous experience, as well as by one's own post-experience interpretation. The other guy (Forman) says that Katz is, and I quote, a "moron", and that mystic experience is, for the most part, dependent entirely on the opposite. I guess the problem they have with each other is that one guy says that everyone's experience is different, and the other says everyone's experience is the same.

I'm inclined to agree with both.

This obviously means that I disagree with both as well. A problem? Not really. The issue is really this: which parts of the experience are similar, and which parts are different? I noticed that neither breaks apart the experience into any sort of components, other than "before, during, and after." Does the experience (and by using the singular, it's hard to say that there are no similarities) have components that are similar to other experiences? Yes. Does the experience have components that are different from other experiences?


See, by calling any "mystical experience" just that, Katz implies an underlying similarity which he then denies. And by saying "there are lots of people who have these experiences, their accounts are basically the same," Forman says that yes, experiences are not necessarily identical.

In other words, both are being stupid. I'm sorry if calling "smart" people "stupid" upsets some of you (all three of my readers), but I find it rediculous that they would both put what they call reality in such absolute and obviously self-contradicting terms.

I'm tired of them. I think I'm going to have my own mystic experience by finishing my cookie.


November 26, 2004

A Day of Thanks

I thought that perhaps, since I went out of season with my last column on Christmas, I should again go out of season with a column about thanksgiving. Yes, it's Black Friday, and technically yes, we're now in the "Christmas season", but I was too busy thanksgiving day to talk about things I'm thankful for (oh the irony), so I'm going to do it now.

First and formost, I'm thankful for my faith. God has seen fit to show me a few good things in my life to lead me to Him, and apparently I was at least smart enough to take the hint. I'm thankful that He is my shepherd, my king, my father, my commanding officer, and my friend. And I am thankful for the grace He bestows upon me with His mercy, though I do not deserve it.

I'm thankful for my new wife. She's been a huge blessing in my life for a year and a few months, and yet it feels like I've known her forever. Truly, she is my best friend and confindant, the love of my life, and my partner in crime.

I'm thankful that I am a citizen of not one, but two countries where I am free to exercise my faith without any persecution from the law. This does not mean I am not persecuted, but I am free to believe as I will, no strings attached. Here's to the United States of America, and the Swiss Confederation!

I am thankful for my family. For my parents and sister especially (and I already mentioned my wife, but she gets to go in here twice), but also for my grandparents on both sides (that I can even know them all, since many my age never know their grandparents), my uncles and aunts and cousins. For my inlaws (something I never thought one could be thankful for, but my wife has a cool family).

I'm thankful for my church family. This is as small as my close friends whom I see every week, but also extends to the body of Christ I worship the Lord with on a regular basis (at Crosswinds), and then to the greater body in the world - the one Church. I don't know who they all are by name and face, but nonetheless I am thankful that they continue to make this world a better place in the name of Jesus.

I am thankful for my friends. There are too many to list right away, but especially for Mike, Rob, Sue, Eric, and the many others that support me through thick and thin, I am thankful. They have been there in my darkest hours (and cried with me) and have been with me through my most triumphant moments.

I am thankful for politics. Now, those of you who know me are probably taken aback by such a statement, since you know how I hate the political game. But I have learned a great deal about life from politics. From the republicans I learned that there are others who share my own views, even if very few of them are at my school. From the democrats I learned to value the freedoms I have, lest they take them away from me. And from the independents I learned to keep plugging away, even if I feel like it's hopeless (ruthless optimism really is a good thing).

Lastly, I'm thankful for life. I have a great life! I do not deserve the life I got, nor do I deserve all the people in it, the opportunities I've had, or the chance I have to serve.

God bless you All.

November 25, 2004

A World of Absolutes

I'm a Christian, which means that I'm not supposed to like the culture that surrounds me. Most people in the church tend to say it by saying something along the lines of "be in the world, not of it." Obviously I agree with the general sentiment of this statement, that "the world" is a sinful one and we, as followers of Christ, are supposed to try to live up to Jesus' standard of thought and action.

However, this does not mean that we can't learn anything from the culture around us. I've been toying with a few ideas lately, and one of the thoughts I had (as dumb as it sounds, in the shower of all places) is that this world has its vocabulary confused. With one word in particular: relativism.

The thing about relativism is that its definition is exactly the opposite of what it seems to be actually saying; it is, in a word, a paradox. While relativists claim "you can have your truth and we can have ours (or I can have mine and everyone can have their own) and everyone will be happy!", what they really are saying is "I will live by what I perceive to be true and you can live by what you percieve to be true, just don't try to change my mind." In other words, we are living in a world of absolutes. We used to live in a world of an absolute truth, now we live in a world with lots of absolutes.

The difference? In today's postmodern all-you-can-eat society, everybody seems to have their own set of absolute guidelines - absolutely do not impinge upon my moral world, because you won't understand it. We all have things that we say to ourselves "you can do this, you cannot do this, you will not do this (and do it anyway)." In some ways, I could argue that it's always been like this, and the double standard is only now becoming erased (behaving one way in church and another outside of church); you may notice that this society is an awful lot like Rome was.

But honestly, isn't that interesting? A world of absolutes. We call it relative, but really, the truth is not relative to anything! It's absolute in everyone's own personal world. It may change from time to time, but the rules tend to stay fixed IN EACH WORLD. Our little frameworks would demand no less.

This brings me to my next nugget of insight. I've been taking a class called "Theories of Religion" and it's a doozie. It's insanely hard, namely because we have to read these books by guys who knew how to write so that nobody could understnad them. Then we have to write it down so that somebody can understand us. Hard?


I've discovered that I've learned some stuff from this class. And while that may go against a traditional Christian framework (the world can only corrupt you), I think that a lot of these guys have some good things to say! I don't think that's being a heretic, merely pointing out that God can and does inspire ideas in everybody; some of us just choose to follow him. As it turns out, you can arrive at a correct conclusion from false premises and logic. I'll give you an example:

From Wayne Proudfoot I learned that there are two ways to tell somebody that "I think you're wrong." There's the blunt way, saying "sorry, you're wrong." He calls it "descriptive reduction." Then there's the other way of saying "you're wrong." When I first heard it described, I thought that it was simply another way of saying "you're wrong" and making it sound nicer. Turns out I misjudged him. He calls this "explanatory reduction", and it works something like this: "I can see why you'd say that, but I think you're wrong and here's why." As it turns out, Most people tend to do the first kind. Why? It's easier. You don't have to say why you think somebody's wrong, that would just involve thinking, which (as quite a few liberals have shown me) is a waste of time. Explanatory reduction means that you first have to understand what a person is saying from their point of view before you gently correct them with the reasons for their fault.

I don't think Christians do this much, the same as most of the rest of the world doesn't do it at all. As followers of Jesus, we have a responsibility to understand a person before we tell them they're wrong. As Paul said, "always be ready with an answer." To tell a person they're wrong, you have to know what they're REALLY saying.

I'm ashamed to say that when I read Proudfoot, I didn't try this. Now that I've finally come to understand much of his argument, I can say "sorry Wayne, you missed a few things", but I can also say "here's what you did right." If we were talking face to face, I'm sure this would make him more ready to listen to what I had to say, rather than a blatent attack on his life's work.

So next time you're having a discussion with somebody, whether or not you're a Christian, and whether or not they are, try to understand what they're saying. Don't let your own biases get in the way. See, if you're right, you've got nothing to lose by considering their point of view. But if you're wrong and they're right, then you have everything to gain. Don't reject the truth because it doesn't fit what you like to believe - accept it because it's true!

November 24, 2004

An Artist in Winter

It's a frustrating time for an artist when he lacks inspiration.

With that line, you may be amused or saddened. Amused, because you know me and you probably don't consider me an artist. In truth, it's probably only a self-attributed deception that I consider myself some kind of artist, but I like to think that sometimes I can write a decent song. And I love it when I get to glorify God through my creations, since ultimately He's the real artist, not me.

All the same, those of you who are saddened to hear that statement have it about right. Personally, I've been feeling drained of inspiration lately. I've always just written down what I was feeling and somehow it turned into music. Some pieces took a lot more thought, but eventually they turned out even better than I'd hoped. That's what happened to the song I used to propose to my wife.

But lately I find that I am uninspired.

This is not to say that there's nothing inspiring around me. On the contrary, there is so much around me that should inspire me: my wonderful wife, my friends, the beauty of nature (yes, even in Rochester, it's there), and, more generally, the Glory of God. Somebody once said "what else would you WANT to write about?" And that's how I feel; why would I want to write about some dumb girlfriend (appolagies to my ex's) that screwed me over when I could write about God's amazing mercy, His grace, and His creation?

And yet I am uninspired.

Nothing is coming out on paper when I sit down to write. Which, I admit, is rare. I'm sure that the frequency of my attempts have partially led to the dry-spell, but I often find myself in writer's-block, even after hours of contemplation. I have lots of random ideas about what I could write about, but nothing comes out. So I write down the ideas, and hope someday they'll inspire something.

Maybe this blog thing is my new creative outlet. I did just write a new poem for the description of my little site:

A place for me to rant and rave, a place for me to misbehave
A place for me to share my mind, a place for me to come unwind
A place for me to speak my thoughts, a place to tell of what I ought
A place for me to come and rest, a place for me to give my best

And maybe this is why I suddenly start waxing philosophical about art. I love art, I've loved it my entire life. I can't think of a time in my life when I wasn't fascinated by beauty, by sound (albeit, only most sound, I have my limits - country music, oboe solos, and the harpsichord all set my nerves on edge). I remember as a little kid, sitting around in my room just listening to the various cassette tapes (yes, remember those?) my parents had bought me. Mostly they were instrumental music, but sometimes singing too. I loved to think someday I could create art as beautiful as that.

And then I became a Christian. While I grew up in a Christian household and did the whole church thing, it wasn't until I was 14 that I really began to understand who God is, and it wasn't even until I was a sophomore in college that I started to really ask God Himself. It's been a bumpy road, but I think it's finally starting to look like a road instead of a fairly large forest with the occasional deer path. Now that I was a Christian, I had a whole lot of new stuff I could maybe work with ... and then the words began to flow. My first song took me two years to write (lyrics), and is still not finished. But since then I've had periods of intense writing, where I wrote song after song and barely had time to think about how I really wanted the chords to flow together. I've had times of break, little roadblocks where very little came out, but inevitably I'd come back into some kind of inspiration.

But not this time.

It's almost like I'm doomed to play somebody else's music for the rest of my life. And it's not like I've even gotten to play much lately, I listen to music in the car on the way to work or wherever. But I haven't written any of my own.

To everyone who hates whiners, I appologise profusely. I know this sounds like a rant or whatever (and if you decided that it was worth it to read it, you should've read my poem first), but I'm honestly trying to get to the point. As Rob would say "Chris, just shut up and sing" ... and yet that's precisely the problem.

I really like the music I listen to - David Crowder and Chris Tomlin are fantastic artists, and way more people should listen to their stuff (they've been an addiction for me lately, though up there on my list is still Caedmon's Call and Jars of Clay). And I really want to be able to write so well that my lyrics can be so simple and convey such astounding Truth. For example, Tomlin:

The cross before me, the world behind
No turning back, raise the banner high – it’s not for me, it’s all for You.
Let the heavens shake and split the sky
Let the people clap their hands and cry – it’s not for us, it’s all for You.

Or Crowder:

How great, Your love for us
How great, our love for You
That Grace would cover us
How great, Your love ...

They're amazing! The music goes as well with these words as penut butter with jelly, as milk and cookies, as cheese and ... well, about anything if you're me, but that's besides the point. My honest to goodness point is that I really want to figure out why my inspiration is gone. Is it stress? Is it lack of sleep? Is it God saying "time to do something else"? The last one I already discounted, because two years ago God called me to music as a ministry and said "learn to do this well." Makes ya wonder doesn't it?

Maybe this is just to show all of you that Christians, as much as we talk about God's unfailing love sometimes lose sight of it. We often forget that He'll take care of us when we're in a period of winter in life. We too can be down to earth and say "this is wrong, why can't it just be right?" and can wrestle with the hard questions.

Yet we're dreamers with our eyes in the clouds, artists with our heads tilted backwards looking higher than we've been and saying "let's go there!" And here is where my ramble comes to an end, for CS Lewis, another man whose writing I aspire to model, wrote these timeless words in the last book of his Narnia Series. Words that inspire me to keep plodding on, no matter what the consequence, no matter how bleak the winter, and no matter how far away the spring:

"Further up and farther in!"

November 23, 2004

A Gift that Counts

Let's talk about Christmas for a sec, hey? I mean, cause that would make a whole lot of sense, since it's only a few days before thanksgiving. Or not so much. But this is precisely my problem.

See, my wife and I were wandering the mall the other day (as I graciously emptied my wallet so she can have some - a lot of - new clothes) and I couldn't help but notice all the hideous decorations they put up. Again. And I found myself saying something that worried me:

"ya know, I hate the Christmas season."

If that's not a red flag for a Christian, I don't know what is. But the truth is that I've been saying that for years. When I said it she had a shocked expression and asked "why??" And it's funny, I'd only sort of tried to think about it before then. The only answer I could give her at the time was some mumbled response about hideous decorations and crowds.

But frankly, the real problem is consumerism. I wish that I didn't have to deal with secular society's mass mis-use of the Christmas season as a time for personal gain. The hideous decorations don't help much, but they're really just a hint at the real problem. The fact that we put them up before Thanksgiving in anticipation of "Black Friday" (one of the busiest days of the year in the public malls in America) is pathetic. I've even seen many places getting ready before halloween.

Now, I love getting presents as much as the next guy, and I even found myself doing my Christmas shopping really early this year. This is partially because I knew exactly what I wanted to get my wife, partially because I really wanted to impress her (before I knew she'd try to search our apartment trying to find it, but thank goodness I'd had it mailed to my parents' house), but mostly because I knew I'd never get what I wanted to get for her if I didn't do it early. People go out and buy so much stuff before Christmas - stuff for every member of the family, in large quantity - that nothing is left for those of us who are so busy with getting ready for the stuff the Church does on Christmas (and consequently can't shop for people until Dec. 24, and even then, if we get up at 8am).

This brings me to Christmas itself. Yes, I'm sick of the consumerism. This doesn't make gifts a terrible thing. I really like to give stuff to people. Like I said, I'm done shopping for my wife because I can't wait to give her a gift.

Or three.

I come from a swiss family. This does not necessarily mean that we really like swiss cheese, watches, and chocolate (though we do), but it does mean that we celebrate on Christmas eve. Remember Christmas eve? The night Jesus was born? I've never been one for traditions, but I love hearing my grandmother (or whoever is elected that year) reading the Christmas story.

My uncle has even come up with a fantastic tradition for opening presents. He too, was sick of consumerism, but didn't want that to detract from the spirit of giving. So instead of the mass chaos that happens so often when opening presents as a big family, he took his little unit of five (well, now four or six, depending on the year, since Josh got married) and they open presents one present at a time. This way everyone gets to appreciate the gift, and the person who gave it gets to really express what they meant by the gift.

Consequently, gift giving means more to them. It gets drawn out all day (they have other traditions on Christmas eve), but hey, isn't that a cool way to do it? Prolong the fun and make your gift mean more?


So this Christmas season, try to think about what matters. Two thousand years ago, God gave Himself to us to reclaim our world for Him: the ultimate gift. Draw it out a little. Or a lot! Make His gift to us count. Above all, remember that your gift back to Him can only try to match His gift - you'll have to give all of yourself. Believe me, it'll make His day.

November 22, 2004

The Memory of a Fish: An Ammendment

So I want to ammend what I wrote yesterday. As it turns out, I left out one very crucial component to talking about my life as relating to sleep: I often screw it up. More specifically, I often screw up the balance that has to naturally come with the amount of stuff I do, especially in my priorities.

For weeks now, I have been trying to balance my classes, my work schedule, and maybe see my wife once in a while. I failed. I decided to make it up to her by spending a day with her to be just us.

That worked.

However, it seems that in the process, I neglected a rather important part of my studies as well. While it doesn't matter which part it is, it's important for me to take away a lesson from this: BALANCE IS CRUCIAL.

I forgot that I had to balance everything over time. Not that it would just eventually balance itself out, but I didn't make sure to think about all of the aspects of what I was doing. I realize that I have the memory of a fish and so naturally I forget to do half the stuff I'm supposed to. This pretty much guarentees that I cannot multitask.

This is a bad thing.

I guess I'm just tired of it all. But that doesn't mean I can't keep going. I will endeavor to work harder at this, but I guess at this point it means playing "catch-up". For this, I simply ask your patience and your indulgence when I ask you "what did I say I was about to do?"

The memory of a fish, I swear.