About Me

Phoenix, AZ, United States

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Certainly uncertain

I was blessed with another beautiful, overcast morning. It is under these conditions that I seem to come to life in some unexplainable way. There was a time when I disliked sunny days, it was always too bright for my eyes so as a default I welcomed today's conditions, but I don't necessarily feel that way any more. Lately, I prefer the clouds because here in Arizona, they are a pure novelty... people love the novel. With a small stretch of the imagination I can imagine I'm somewhere, well anywhere but here... perhaps Seattle, I've always wanted to head that way.

Nearing the end of Donald Millers book, I picked up a new one this weekend. It's one that was recommended to me by Tracey titled, A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. I like the sound of his last name, it's kind of fun to say aloud, try it.

Now to say this is a "good" book would be like calling Monet's Water Lillies, "pretty." Not only a gross understatement, it just wouldn't be quite accurate. I think C.S. Lewis makes a similar distinction in his Abolition of Man, where he quotes a comment Samuel Colderidge made regarding proper adjectives used to depict a waterfall. Although descriptions may appear purely subjective, perhaps some are closer to the truth than others.

Honestly, I haven't been able to put the book down. It's brought me laughter, heart ache and tears, to feeling warm and fuzzy, to places of deep reflection. It's a memoir, so it's non fiction, but truly reads like a grand novel. Vanauken is an intelligent writer, interweaving great moments of truth, with creative story telling and poetry. This book is a love story, a conversion story, a story about immense loss and ultimate surrender, a story about life.

I'll have to dedicate a blog to some of the ideas, but perhaps at a later time.

At the moment, I just have so much going on in my head, in my soul... I want to put words to it, but I don't know really where to begin.

I feel ok. Perhaps quite restless and completely disconnected... but in some strange way, I feel comfortable with that. I feel like a drifter, though I live in surroundings almost too familiar to me at times. I feel liberated from neediness, though on any given day I may fall on my knees on numerous occasions. I feel free even though I fight a constant threat of being closed in...And though I deeply long for community, I am also becoming ok with allowing the longing to be left unfulfilled, In some ways I feel a strange freedom from others.

This is not to say I don't appreciate my friendships, I just don't need a group of people surrounding me to give me a false sense of worth... I don't need to be everybody's favorite person, life isn't a political campaign, and to borrow from Donald Miller, a lifeboat or a circus.

At the end of the day, I feel that I am at least nearly doing the best I can with the cards I've been dealt... and I must find contentment in what I have and also in that which I don't (of course i'm not talking about literal possesions). Everybody is dealt a hand in this life...and I'm learning we all have our own unique situations, different destinies, realities...and these are in turn influenced by a number of other factors (who we are) which only provides more possible cards in the deck. (I realize I could define this more succinctly but I'm choosing to remain somewhat ambiguous intentionally.)

When all is said and done we have to be ok with our place in life we have to be ok with life, our lives... I must do life, I must do my life. It may not in anyway reflect the reality of another, at least in specific terms, but it's what I have.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Heights nor depths

I ran into the phrase "heights and depths" a couple times today. Once during my Quiet time this morning and then again in a book I'm reading, but the idea didn't fully affect me until I was driving home from a delivery this evening...

Life is filled with a good degree of both. I can start on a mountain top in the morning and feel like I'm lost in a valley by early afternoon... the inverse occurs equally as often.

During my long commute home from East Mesa (it's amazing how enormous this city is) I had a thought in passing that it really is something to know that neither Heights nor depths can separate us from His love.

I am consistently inconsistent. I waiver daily. I doubt, I struggle with each passing hour. I feel immense highs and severe lows...and everything in between each and every day. Somedays I truly desire to lay down my life in serving others for His name sake, others I simply want to lay down my life so I don't have to face another moment... in spite of this topsy turvy, whirlwind, roller coaster ride i call my existence... through my endless fears, my doubts, successes and failures, joys and perils, my angels and my demons, in my darkest hour...God is with me. Sometimes very apparently, other times almost too distantly... yet He remains.

I have nothing without you...

I wish I could say I'm doing well. but I think i'm just barely getting by. I wish I could say that life was grand, but it isn't, it's mostly disappointing and discouraging and wearing me thin.

But nothing, nothing can separate me from His tender love, His beauty, His mercy... for that, I will give thanks. For that I offer a song of praise.

blessed are the broken in spirit, for they shall be comforted...

Friday, November 16, 2007

wow blog, continued....

Continuing the discussion...

Miller in subsequent chapters adds:

A child learns early there is a fashionable and an unfashionable in the world, an ugly and a pretty, a valued and an unvalued. Where this system comes from, God only knows, but it is rarely questioned, and though completely illogical and agreed upon by everyone as evil, it remains in play... And here is what is terrible: There will be a sort of punishment being dealt to those at the end of the line, each person dealing out castigation as a way of dissociation from the geeks, driven by the fear that associating with somebody at the end of the line might cost them position...

This really touched a nerve with me.

See it's quite apparent in grade school. There is a system with clear boundaries that separates the cool with the uncool, the attractive and the unattractive...we have all had our share of experiences...regardless of what side of the spectrum we belonged too...

The thing is, I am forced to ask myself at this moment...how much of this is still going on in my life today, albeit in more subtle ways? Are we still in such a system?

Association vs. Disassociation.

The author states that we associate with those on the upper end of the scale and disassociate with those on the lower for fear of it hurting our "position..."

Now let me take an honest look at how this might play out in real life...

Being nice to a homeless person and spending time with someone less fortunate...well that's almost easy. People will only perceive you as an altruist, and think highly of you for helping and associating with the homeless or less fortunate. I wonder though about the socially akward, or the person that nobody likes to be around, the "unatrractive," the outcast I think that's a truer example. Am I not to some level inhibitied because I'm afraid of what people will think about me based on my association with them? Sure one part of it is that I might not greatly enjoy my time with someone I and others think of as a "weirdo," but maybe there remains a part of me that is afraid of my "position" in this invisible, social hierachical chain. Because I myself want to be valued, loved, thought of highly by others, my friends, family, and complete strangers. I am concerned about my place in this system... because what these people think and say about me (the people also in the system) defines me and my value.

Miller writes:
Here are some of the things the alien pointed out to Grant and me, you know about how to be loved on earth.

1) Slam Dunking a basketball
2) Good looks
3) Intelligence
4) Wealth
5) Rightness

He expanded on each of those points, but I think you get the jist from the list.

Lifeboat theory? Miller expands on the discussion with these words:

When I was in elementary school my teacher, Mrs. Wunch, asked our class a question that I've come back to about a million times, trying to figure out the answer: If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mome, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person would we choose? I don't remember which person we threw out of the boat. I think it came down to the lawyer, but I do remember however, that the class did not hesitate in deciding who had value and who didn't. The idea that all people are equal never came up...

I wanted to feel what it would be like to explain to everybody else in a lifeboat why I shouldn't be thrown over board. The reason I wanted to feel this was because I wondered if those emotions, the emotions you would feel in a lifeboat, were anything like the feelings we all feel when we are living our lives, just hanging out at the house or going to the grocery store. The thing is, if people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passaionately about being a good person and all is because if they aren't they are going to be thrown overboard; they are going to be killed...when you really think about it, these wants we have, like wanting to be right, wanting to be good, wanting to be perceived as humble, wanting to be important to be people and wanting to be loved, feel perilous, as though by not getting them something terrible is going to happen. People wouldn't get upset about being disrespected if there weren't some kind of penalty at play.

How much of my actions, the way I relate to people, talk to people, the clothes I wear, the words I use, the things i purchase, things I do and the way that I do them...is influenced by this fear of being thrown out of the lifeboat? How much of it is about my self worth, about receving validation from others? Don't I want to be perceived as Intelligent? Attractive? Charming? Kind? Generous? Strong? Humourous? Whether from those closest to me or complete strangers...And when I feel that I have not received such positive feedback from others how does it make me feel...? Pretty worthless at times...other imperfect, fundamentally insecure people dictate to me my very value...

Just some thoughts...but sure to be continued...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


What a beautiful morning it is. I woke up as usual, showered and then sat in my chair. I have this tacky, red velvety chair inherited from my dad. He had it before we became a part of his family and we've kept it through the years. Of course my mom changed most of his house around when it became their house..but this item somehow survived through the years. I can't seem to part with it, I mean it's not even comfortable and it's bulky and tall and has an unsightly dark brown frame, but it's a chair that reminds me of our old house, the house I grew up in and when we used to do things as a family. Once upon a time, when my dad was still full of life... when he was passionate about life, and painted, took photographs, when we'd take trips to the lake...

i love that chair.

I often sit in it to do my quiet time in the morning, or just sit and ponder and it's set up right beside my bedroom window. My bedroom looks out from the second floor of the house, I enjoy the elevated view even if it's of a suburban neighborhood in which every house looks identical. Anyway, this morning I was pleasantly suprised to see the skies were dark and grey, filled with clouds... The drive to work was exhilirating, I blared music with my windows rolled down and found comfort in the cold, wintry air... and I felt God. Today was a day that He had specifically crafted... each intricate detail the work of His hands- the temperature, the scents, the colours, the clouds... my soul.

So I'm wrapping up the last few pages of Miller's book, Searching For God Knows What. Like Miller's other works, it is a written in a very accesible way, and some might consider his style to be sophmoric or what have you, but I think he expresses some significant ideas here... I've been pondering some of them the last couple of days, one major string of concepts in particular has grabbed my attention.

See the main concept of Miller's book, to give you a little context, is that we seek our value and self worth in other people. This is no radical idea, but I really don't think people give it much thought.

At least for me, this is true. See I didn't realize the extent of how much the opinions of others determined my self worth, or if I did, I didn't see it as necessarily being a problem. I always told myself, "we all want to be loved and accepted and appreciated" and left it at that...without seeing the imperative.

In one chapter, Miller imagines being an alien who comes down to earth and sits with him and his roommate Grant. The author thinks an alien might make some observations about our "normal" ways of life, with some objectivity i suppose. He writes (in alien voice):

But after I got over all of this and sat down to have a beer with some people, really finding out what they were interested in, what they loved and hated, there would be one thing I would notice that would kind of explain everything. And by everything, I mean all the stuff that makes a person want to live his life a certain way or the stuff that drives a person's thoughts... I told Grant that I would say to the head alien, "The thing that defines human personalities is that they are constantly comparing themselves to one another." That is how an alien would see the world, in my opinion It is obvious to me there is something wrong with us; there is something incomplete.

Miller carries on this imaginary pow wow with his roomate Grant and the alien. They are watching the Trailblazers game on t.v. and the alien just can't understand why 20,000 people go to see who the better team is. They flip through shows like Rank, that ranks people based on their physical features, and Survivor, The Bachelor, Fear factor...etc. All of course have similar themes... comparing people... comparing their value, worth...

More on this later...so stay tuned.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Recently having finished the books that I've previously mentioned in this blog... I found a strange void this weekend. I don't know how people go without literature... So I went to Borders last night and picked up a couple new writings.

Searching for GOD knows What, by Donald Miller and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.
I started on the former today...and read a great deal of it. I enjoy Miller's writing style, although I think he tends to meander at times on tangents- which i realize is part of his charm for some. Not so much with this reader. I think I like his authenticity, he writes with a hint of hopeful cynicism and quirky humor that I can relate to and presents ideas of Christianity in a very accessible way that I really appreciate. In the 70 or so pages I got through, he's been talking about his own journey in evaluating his concept of the nature of God. I've been hearing that theme a great deal lately and it's one that's definitely been hitting home for me. As I struggle each day to evaluate my own thoughts on who God really is. Sometimes it seems simply absurd to even begin to pontificate on such an enormous entity as the Alpha and Omega... sometimes it seems pointless... but through and through it is the most significant pursuit...

That sentence had to end there... I had more typed in an attempt to clarify this thought I had in my mind, but it didn't seem quite fitting...

I hope by saying less, I expressed much more...

This weekend proved to be quite difficult for me. I woke up this morning feeling like I hardly wanted to stick around...I'm just being real honest. I wanted to run away, flee this town, flee the country and every thing and everyone that was familiar to me... I wanted to flee life itself. As I sat at the store in the morning, I started reading Miller's book. And it spoke to me... it comforted me not because it's full of enormous revelations although I think he has some great ideas... it was more like someone sitting next to me at a coffee shop...listening to my heart and telling me they felt the same way I did... and left it at that. Quiet validation. I just felt less alone.

It was a long day of work...and I'm home now. Fighting, but mostly ok. I can't help feeling like an enormous mess of a person in many regards. I downloaded a few songs recently that incidentally had similar themes, both writers in their own words expressing an anxiety about God finding them once again where they started... I fear that at times myself. God found me years ago in a very dark place...and I've come quite a ways... but it lurks over me at times...this fear that I might fall again.

Church was interesting this Sabbath. I learned this church does communion every week...and I really like that idea. When you consider it was a command from Christ himself the night he was arrested... I don't think we can do it often enough, really.

How amazing would it be if every time a group of believers got together...whether for a social event or a service...or just to hang out... we participated in communion...just spent a few moments remembering what He did for us...I think that was the idea...just a thought.

Today I had a rockstar in my store. No not me... :) David Ellefson. I know didn't ring a bell for me either, but he was really famous at one time. He was a founding member and bassist for Megadeth. They were huge at one time... anyway his wife has been coming to my store for a couple weeks now...I just had no idea she was married to a metal god. He was a neat guy and didn't play up who he was or anything like that... and I appreciated that. If it were me I'd probably be extremely proud...because i'm flawed and insecure like that.

Oh, the second book I got sounds quite profound. I guess that kind of goes with out saying since it was penned by C.S. Lewis. Although Victoria told me it might not be the best time for me to read something so heart wrenching. Lewis wrote that book as he dealt with the loss of his wife.

The other day Tracey and I were talking about relationships and she stated a very obvious but profound thought...actually it was the way she said it that struck a cord with me. She said that every single relationship would one day be broken in my life... in all our lives. I have shared that idea with many others when expressing the idea that only God can be our center...because relationships would fail us...inevitably...but the way she put it was in some ways more tangible...and focused the attention on loss as the incurable existential dilemma... it was jarring and made me gasp for air. Take a moment to think about it.

Also, going back to Donald Miller's book again for a moment I have to mention an idea that he has regarding modern Christianity. He takes several pages to state how we often look to the bible as if it contained a simple formula... like if we follow a few steps then we'll be sure to succeed in life and gain riches and live a wonderful life. God becomes our magic genie in a bottle... the bible reduced to a chart...I really like this observation. Instead, Miller offers that we risk losing when we take this approach. The bible is God communicating to us in the richness of language and literature. It is God relating to us. I would add that the bible isn't a quick how to get what you want... rather a deep explanation of what it means to live... i mean really live...

The bible is God communicating to us what it actually means and looks like to live in a dying world... as eternal beings, in a temporary life, in a temporary, wretched body, in light of His holiness and in light of the life to come. Worship.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The mystery of divine personality...

An Excerpt from James Stewart (The Strong Name)

He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men. Yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding, was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin.

A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees, how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell.

He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of us self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples' feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.