About Me

Phoenix, AZ, United States

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

like a thousand brush strokes...

Today has been quite a roller coaster of emotions... the peculiarity is in the fact that nothing out of the ordinary occured. I woke up this morning to the sound of my alarm clock just as the 100 or so days behind, bathed and headed to school, attended classes and hung out with friends, laughed and conversed... and almost out of habit, camped out in the library until night fall reading lenghty dissertations on metaphysics... That was what occured on the outside at least... internally I came together and fell apart repeatedly and honestly lost count... like an oscillating universe.

I think I'm ok though, honestly this is no new territory for me and I intend on pulling through. Sure some days are worse than others...and there are severely intense moments when the air feels as heavy as lead...but I get through them too placing one foot in front of the other, taking one laborious breathe after another.
And what can I conclude? But that this is life and as the fatalist would proclaim: "we must have it any way it comes."

I am back to embracing the small moments, the moments we often take for granted because of the subtly of their nature. People generally live for the grand moments, weddings, graduations, promotions and births...and these may rightfully bring us great pleasure... but we often risk missing out on the nuances of life... perhaps it is these nuances that provide for the grander experiences... like the thousands of tiny brush strokes it takes for a painting to mean anything.

This evening I drove home with the windows down because the city didn't feel real enough...I needed to hear the sound of bustling cars and find the smell of gasoline burning in the air... As I turned the dark corner into my neighborhood, the scent of burning wood and the feeling of cold reached my senses, immediately causing my mind to bring up the fondest holiday memories I have to date...memories of cold evenings spent with my warm family... I saw my grandmother's house for a brief moment, which was always decorated to a beautiful excess. The cotton snow that covered her armoires, the tiny village of houses that lit up and the collection of soldiers that filled the house with songs of Christmas by rining bells in a programmed succession... I could even smell cookies warming in the oven-teasing our appetites... Most of all I saw my parents when they were younger and still appeared to me invincible, my beloved cousins, brother, and my Uncle Jim, Aunt Lottie, and my Grandmother all together in that old house under the soft glow of Christmas lights... and though I knew that I was simply having a recollection, I couldn't help but smile and feel pleasantly nostalgic.

Of course it's been years since we've all been together like that... and time has taken from me three of my loved ones. For those of us that still remain, we've all grown older. And the holidays have taken a much different form... there is less mystery, less anticipation... the things that seem to fade with age...

The human brain is said to store memories of specific incidences in the temporal cortex, which is the lower portion of the organ. It is true that some unpleasant experiences are to be found here, but we need this area to recall all the moments we long deeply to hold on to... and these moments that we have grown to cherish are more than random images that have been impressed on our minds... so long as we may keep them, they may be a source for the subtle joys I spoke of... where the whispers of pleasure are released...where the shadows of happiness are cast... And tonight I relish this moment, even though it is but a memory.


3 years ago, my beloved grandmother passed away. She was a tremendous person and I was blessed to have had her in my life...she would be so thrilled that I was back in school...

How I wish that I could be sitting with her at this moment, over a mexican pizza (with extra guacamole) at Nino's. She would be asking me about my courses, my love life and whether I had music for her...then listening intently to my boring stories she would peer at me through her large plastic glasses, revealing a warm adoration in her eyes. At moments she might grab the hair on my chin and tickle me just to see me smile...and at every opportunity afforded to her, she would tell me how wonderful I was, how much I meant to her...and how proud she was of me... never has walked a gentler, more beautiful woman...and I miss her deeply right now.

Here is a blog that I wrote only a few days after her passing, I guess I just want to remember her...

i am alone, in an empty store...gazing into the cloudy autumn sky. It was a long weekend...and it seems to have carried over. Thursday evening, my grandmother passed away. She was very dear to me...to all of us and now we are forced to deal with this tremendous loss.

It was a very strange and strenuous weekend for me. I find only now as I sit here restlessly...with many hours ahead...that i feel up to the task of talking about this at all. For the most part I kept it to myself...in the days shortly following this event. I just didn't want to talk about it... I didn't care to hear what anyone (outside of the family) had to say about it. I didn't want condolences...i didn't want to hear that she had lived a long life...that it was her time, that she was now in heaven... i simply wanted time to mourn...and i still do.

I have started to tell some of my friends...for pragmatic reasons...since the rest of this week is going to be dedicated to memorial services and family affairs, i have had to cancel some things... but i'm still not up to really talking about how i feel with anyone...

I don't feel like i can't live. I don't feel overwhelmed.

I just feel a deep pain at the center of my being. Like something was torn out suddenly- something I cherished, something i needed, something i can't ever have back.

and nothing feels quite the same. The world just seems somehow flatter... greyer... and everything seems to move just a little bit slower.

Friday and Saturday were beautiful days....they were blessed by clear blue skies, and mildly warm weather... and i could see this... i mean objectively...they were... but i couldn't feel them...i couldn't feel the soothing breezes, or the warmth of sun against my skin... i couldn't feel how wonderful the days were...i just had to trust my eyes...that this was the case.

and now it's overcast...and i feel somehow this weather is more justified.

Attempting to continue my routine is at once therapeutic and equally painful. I have been going on long aimless drives these last few nights... although I don't feel very much like hanging out with friends... i feel restless when i stay in...and the open road, the movement, the scenery, the unknown, it seems to provide me some solace.

The last two evenings i have taken a particular road north...for miles and miles until it ends.
After sometime through the city it leads to a curvy expanding road.. with small hills to the east... it's a liberating drive...wide, open, empty...w/ very few other vehicles... i like most, to stare into the openess, into the deep...the quiet.

As I persist for several more minutes i end up in a remote housing development... There are at most, a handful of tenants occupying several square miles...because the community is still in early development. More hills surround the area...particularly to the north...opposing the development are miles and miles of desert. I have come here, to sit in solitude... i'm not sure what it is i'm looking for. i don't know that i'm looking for anything at all... somehow coming here, alone... makes me feel a bit more calm. It's so serene, so different from the city...you can hear the wind as it passes by caressing the leaves... i watch tiny aeroplanes passing by and every now and then a tiny sound of what seems to be a vehicle can be heard...but all of this, everything, is at a distance.

I witnessed a coyote walking through the development late last night and i imagined it strolling through the ghostly neighborhood, staring at the bizarre structures... and lights, trying to make sense of the uninvited suburban development that was taking over what used to be his backyard. I thought it tragic to consider one day he would simply have nowhere to go. When he noticed me he took a more immediate pace...making his way back to the hills... i followed with my eyes in wonder...until he faded into the night... until it was time for me to head back.

This is my mourning. I love you grammy and I miss you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


by Ani Difranco

The sky is grey,
the sand is grey,
and the ocean is grey.
I feel right at home
in this stunning monochrome,
alone in my way.

I smoke and I drink
and every time I blink,
I have a tiny dream.
But as bad as I am,
I'm proud of the fact,
that I'm worse than I seem.

What kind of paradise am I looking for?
I've got everything I want and still I want more.
Maybe some tiny, shiny thing will wash up on the shore.

You walk through my walls,
like a ghost on tv.
You penetrate me...
And my little pink heart,
is on its little brown raft,
floating out to sea.

And what can I say?
but I'm wired this way,
and you're wired to me.
And what can I do,
but wallow in you unintentionally?

What kind of paradise am I looking for?
I've got everything I want and still I want more.
Maybe some tiny, shiny key will wash up on the shore.

Regretfully, I guess I've got
three simple things to say.
Why me? Why this now? Why this way?
Overtone's ringing,
undertow's pulling away.

Under a sky that is grey,
on sand that is grey,
by an ocean that's grey...


Saturday, October 4, 2008

I want to evaporate...

It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I find myself at the library preparing for two midterm exams I will have to face on Monday. It's been some months since I was able to drive with the windows down, but it's finally in the 80's and we are assured that we have seen the last of triple digit temperatures for the year. I say, halleujah!

As i drove to school, it began to sprinkle and I held my left arm out of the window to feel the first of autumn showers...It felt cold and refreshing against my tired skin... I had Max Richter (a modern composer) playing on the stereo... his short composition "Horizon Variations" is so richly, beautiful... a two minute piano piece that seems to capture the complex mix of emotions that I am feeling these days, and this without even a single word. As I waited at a stop light, the song repeated for the fourth time and I stared up above in search of even a speck of blue amidst the thick, rain-laden clouds... but a brewing storm caused a wide impervious barrier of mild darkness to wash over every trace of color, and I imagined that life today would be pale and moody for the millions living in this great city of the sun.

Upon arriving on campus, I walked the hundred yards to the library. Being the weekend, the journey was quiet and lonely. A strange idleness filled the school from building to building... empty tables were surrounded by empty chairs, and the walkways and sidewalks and the halls of this crowded university, were calm and hollow save the distant echoes of monday morning chatter.

At the moment I am in the library and I should be studying, but I find my thoughts to be miles from anything academic. I feel abstract not analytical today...As strange as it all may sound, I feel as though I want to come undone... to be pulled apart into a hundred million particles.... to evaporate, with tiny pieces of me scattered into the ocean, upon giant trees, falling into dust

and then floating into the air, where you could breathe me in...

Hindu's believe that God is everything... "Brahman" represents all of matter, and God -and the two are inseparable... in essence we are one with all, the universe and God... extensions, not distinctions. And this appeals to me right now, at least the idea. I want to feel a part of everything because everything feels so painfully disconnected...or rather I feel so separated from all, everything and everyone. I would venture to say that we all struggle with this... that it is the fundamental, existential dilemma of humanity...and perhaps this is why pantheistic, systems have their appeal... it (at least in concept) ties us to this enormous universe...the unconscious cosmos that seems at times so cold, unpredictable, and apathetic to our lives... The Christian message is that all of this was in some way created for us... as an expression of God's glory and as an expression of ours. We are highly distinctive from all matter, and it was not for the stars or planets, or created order that Christ shed his blood, but for humanity alone...and it is humanity alone, not animals or the trees or even the endless galaxies, that is called into a love affair with God... that is called the apple of His eye... and I think that is quite beautiful. The difficulty is that everything in this life seems to try and tear man away from God... and again, we are so highly distinctive of the Divine, how can we be united in our brokenness to His perfection?

...Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. -Ephesians 2:12-18

It is a beautiful day, and I guess I'll try and search for whatever it might mean to enjoy it.


Thursday, September 25, 2008


Christendom speaks of a personal God whom reaches out across the eternal stretch between the infinite and the finite...the noumenal and the phenomenal. It was Christ afterall who had to enter our world as a vulnerable man because we could not in all our collective brillance and effort reach out to find the very creator of our souls...

but what happens when God feels like a shadow? Like a fuzzy memory of someone I once knew... He is still strangely quiet, though I am told that all of creation shouts of his splendor... Perhaps God is reluctant, whispering under His breathe now...perhaps he has not left his sabbath after setting the firmarments... or perhaps we've chased Him away...

The Deists like Thomas Jefferson believed that God formed the world and then removed Himself from it's affairs entirely. In a sense, a form of functional atheism; God had no relevance to existence and I guess at the moment I can sympathize with their peculiar view... A friend of mine shared with me that someone in her family had been in a serious accident yesterday. Today a midst all the doubts I have been having lately, I managed to mutter a feable prayer through my warm tears... I pleaded with God that He might reveal his mercy and power...his relevance... I told God that I had no idea what His will was in this situation, but that I just really wanted this person to be delivered and asked Him to hear me... early this evening, the person in question passed away...and the news echoes in my mind...

At this moment, it follows that I feel I am in for another disappointment. It looms just around the corner....feeling so inevitable, like it will stream through the cracks of my window, with the early morning rays... And the dawn will bring with it a strange sickness to my stomach, a dull ache that will follow me through the days, throwing fits of sharp pain between the tenants of my demanding schedule...it will hit me hardest in the idelness of afternoon...under the autumn skies... as I drive home leaving another day behind...

And I know, I'll be fine, that things will work themselves out as they seem to...or at least as we have grown to accept.

Time it swallows everything, from the mighty to the meager things...
-Amos Lee

and I will evolve and change and grow...again. The seasons will continue to unfold, new people will enter and the old exit, cars will fill the motorways and planes the skies, the suburban sprawl will widen it's wings, news will still travel at lightning speed... time will drizzle away just as it always has...and life as I know it will take one clumsy step after another...it will keep going...

and I know that this will not be the last of my challenges...nor is it strange and unusual, but simply that which is common to man...I know all of this...and yet it brings me no level of comfort, no sleep tonight. Perhaps I am afraid to close my eyes now...afraid of the morning, afraid of what that will mean...or what I will come to realize... perhaps I am quite comfortable here, now... in the purgatory of late evening...suspended in limbo, alone. Perhaps I will stay here just a little bit longer...until the dawn breaks me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Looking for More.

I am beyond tired and I really should be going to bed right about now, but I just got home, found myself famished, and so I cooked myself a late dinner. I generally get an upset stomach if I sleep immediately following a meal so here I am typing away about nothing.

We had club tonight and there was quite a number in attendance. I was asked to sign people up for small group, which meant that I was running around with clip boards and applications. I don't very much care for this type of task, mainly because I feel like I'm selling something. I can kind of see it in the eyes of some of the people I talk to, that they might perceive me that way... they walk in the door, get rushed by smiling folks wanting to make them a name tag, then pulled to a table to sign up for college weekend, and then there I am trying to talk over all the noise about the great benefits of being in a small group. It's a madhouse, and sometimes I feel like I'm in the middle of the stock exchange floor.

We had a guest speaker for the message this evening, he leads a high school Younglife in town. I've heard him speak a few times now and the students always seem to enjoy him. He seems genuinely sincere and likeable and passionate about sharing his faith. But the truth is I found the contents of his message troubling for me personally. As I've mentioned before, I've been having a real crisis of faith these past few months mainly in terms of the nature of God. Consequently, when I hear people talking about their understanding of God, His function in their lives I listen intently. Truth be told, often I simply cannot relate to what I hear and I wonder if we seek after the same being...

My professor of religion believes that there are 3 levels to religious beliefs. The popular, historical and the philosohpical. The popular level deals solely with practical and psychological needs, it is shallow and wide and is the point where people use a system of faith to function daily in a highly pragmatic sense. The philosophical on the other hand has to do with the challenges and questions that go further, deeper beyond the day to day functions.

I often hear people talk about God as if He were a genie in a bottle, but one that is very limited in scope. They tell me that they prayed for a specific car, and the exact shape and color and number of miles were granted, like a wish come true... and they feel that God loves them immensely because he even considered the meticulous details... far less often (maybe twice in my entire life) have I heard of someone praying for a friend or family member who is severely ill or in immense suffering, and their relentless prayers were answered. And I struggle with this fact... and I have to wonder if it is that God more readily answers our trivial prayers... or if it may be true that we more often obsess over nonesense and attain things out of sheer stubborness of will and then attribute it to God to keep our faith system (however faulty) intact.

I say all of this because the speaker tonight talked about how God would bless people if they would truly follow Him. In sharing with us about what it was like to follow Christ, he chose to mention that God had blessed him with finances and two houses and a vehicle. But it all seemed to trivialize God to some extent. To make our religion, popular. Is that really what we're spending our time praying for? More stuff? Is that reason enough for to follow the cross? Are there not larger battles to fight, more imperative ones?

Is this what Christendom has been reduced to? Follow Jesus and he will hook you up?


Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Weight of Beauty

This blog finds me sitting in a coffee shop in Flagstaff. My weekend was surrounded by the beauty of Williams, which sits about 30 miles to the west of my current location. I drove up Friday evening to attend a Leadership camp for Young Life and Friday quickly led to Sunday morning, when bags were clumsily stuffed with dirtied clothes and memories... It was an interesting weekend though and for the most part it was enjoyable. The days were filled with activities, interesting conversations, seminars, poor sleep and indoor volleyball... and I am glad I made the trip, though it means that I have a great deal of studying to catch up on this evening. It was enjoyable and yet not without pain and struggle...not without longing, as it seems with so many things in life... at least this has been my experience thus far.

Perhaps beauty has an intrinsic cost. An artist can create an amazing work of art, a painting that may strike awe in a great number of others, inspire them, make them fall in love and yet her soar arms and joints, the paint under her fingernails, the paint smeared over her arms and clothing speak of a price... the labor, albeit a labor of love. The painting is no less beautiful, and perhaps some might even conclude that it is all the more so in light of the pain involved... but it often seems romanticized from the perspective of the witness, not by the one whom has struggled.

As I headed home (and obviously i didn't make it very far) I drove with the windows down and stereo off, which if you know much about me, you realize it is a rare thing for me to exclude music from my experiences. The highway pierced narrowly through fields of golden dandelions swaying softly in the wind, as if they were dancing to a song, a song that was felt but unheard... The summer skies spread the pale clouds out across the hills...and the vivid colors, the shapes and textures swirled inside my very soul. I was journeying into a painting so glorious that it pointed up above where time and imagination serve as tools and not limitations. But I couldn't help wondering then of the costs... if our broken lives have been our share in the labor, if His broken body, the price...

The air was cool and light, pleasantly curling around my head, like a soft, empathetic hand- it touched my shoulders and grazed my neck as the cabin of my truck took deep breathes to drink in the breeze. It was within such a moment that I decided I would stop in Flagstaff to do my studies instead of hurrying home. I'm not ready to leave the forest... but I may never be.

It was also during this short, but moving drive that I had a strange thought to quit school. It was but a passing thought I admit, and yet a real one. I guess I was thinking about just how structured it all seems, pursuing a degree that is... and though I am interested in the material I don't enjoy the way I have to arrive at it. It seems unlike me, to sit in a stuffy classroom and make note cards and cram for exams... I want to be walking along the ocean, the warm sand against my feet thinking about why it feels so good and why there is such beauty in the world... to ponder why it is we are here and why we keep getting hurt... I want to be strumming my guitar and the chords in my throat, sending waves into the universe...and pouring out songs of how I just keep falling apart... I want the sum of my time, the culmination of my days and years to mean more than a respectable job, a shiny new car and finding the American Dream... but this isn't because I am in some way enlightened or closer to dying to myself... I wish it were... The truth is, I arrive at this conclusion mostly for selfish reasons, because that lifestyle seems rather drab and dull to me... the status quo rubs me like indistinguishable shades of grey.... and I want to dream in color... And though I have no idea what that looks like...I do know what it doesn't resemble.

But like I mentioned, though I had a good time, I felt torn this weekend. To be among natural splendor and the tranquility of the mountains, among good natured people who were engaging and well intentioned and yet still feeling like I was somehow cosmically lost, like a star that had ventured too far out into space, too far to give off any light... too far to be considered a star any longer. I struggled because God still seemed so distant... a great distance from real and present and it was killing me, I guess it still is. Perhaps I am living in a paradox, I'm living in that space between...beyond what is reconcilable, I am living in a gap and I just want it to stop hurting, for it to stop kicking the crap out of me. Sometimes I wonder if this might be my lot in life... for we must all bear a cross each of and everyone one of us... perhaps it is my cost, the price I must pay, my weight of beauty. If this were the case, I can only hope that at the end of this weary life, something amazing would result, something of worth that might allow others to feel awe, be inspired and to fall in love...

Christ promises living water from which streams would flow, reaching unto eternity... but I thirst.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stars beyond the scope of vision.

So here I am in my second week of school and thus I have been holed up in the library the last 12 or so days, for hours at a time. It is from this very library, from a very familiar seat -with window view, that I type this, as I break away from my studies momentarily. It is warm and murky outside and I find myself fighting two heavy eyelids and a wandering mind, both indications that I have not had ample sleep the last few nights.

Following two-back to back Ethics lectures, I headed over to the cafe for a meal and watched the news for a few moments as they interviewed "experts" on their opinions regarding Governor Palin; the question at hand- whether she would be overwhelmed with the Vice Presidency considering her familial responsibilities. Strangely this story was quite the welcomed escape for me because the discussion at hand was about something so highly specific and immediately practical. For the last several days I have been knee deep in lectures and readings offered by Plato, Immanuel Kant, Confucius, J.S. Mill, and St. Thomas Aquinas on topics raging from the plausibility of the existence of God, to varying theories and counter theories on Morality/Ethics and the philosophy of religion itself... I actually feel on edge somehow, as if I must critically analyze every passing thought... to the point of feeling as though I want to fold to the nonsensical belief of true skepticism.

After this short break, I journeyed through the center of our modest sized campus where many of the different student clubs had set up tables to appeal to the students passing by. Colorful banners, loud pop music and cheap, useless incentives littered the courtyard making the University look more like a bustling flea market than an institution for higher learning. There were religious/spiritual clubs, fraternities, sororities, an African American association, and a number of event based organizations; a myriad of groups crying out for attention. And I thought for a second how we all just want the sense that we belong somewhere, that we are not alone.

A friend of mine recently admitted to me his greatest fear in life was to be alone and this is evident in the fact that he is constantly surrounding himself with company and I mean that not as a criticism, but rather matter-of-factly. On the other hand I have been inconsistent about company and have spent a great deal of my time without in recent months... and in some ways I began to pride myself in the fact that I did not need to be around other people all of the time... I guess I thought this meant that I was more independent somehow and not so afraid of being alone... but I think this has been a false conclusion.

The truth is I hate feeling alone probably just as much as the next person, just as much as my friend... and I do fear it, I fear it a great deal... or at least fear that it could get worse or be a perpetual state. But the thing is, to me loneliness has always been more of a philosophical problem than an environmental one. What I mean is that it is far deeper a dilemma that may have little to do with whether you are with people or in solitude. I think a person may feel alone in the company of his/her closest friends, sitting around the dinner table with a loving family, in the arms of true love.. at least I have found this to be true. This is not to say that being physically isolated isn't problematic, it does in fact have psychological consequences, but what I'm considering at the moment is the converse, why people can feel alone when they are not in fact alone. But I speak from my experience, never having to have faced actual, physical isolation for any substantial periods of time...so I may be incomplete in my thinking.

Lately, "Community" has become the big buzz word among Evangelical circles. The emergent church writers have filled our bookshelves with seemingly radical ideas on "doing life together" as a fundamental part of what Jesus taught and I think it is a beautiful concept that does permeate the scriptures. Yet I can't help but wonder if we might often view it as some kind of a solution to this problem of loneliness. So when we hear of someone who is struggling with feeling alone, we think that they should immerse themselves in the busyness of community...we think that if we can make them feel loved and accepted, understood and heard and a part of something that they will begin to feel better... it seems quite obvious, if someone feels alone, they must be in need to be with and around other people right? but perhaps this isn't always the case... If I am correct in asserting the idea that loneliness is in fact primarily a philosophical problem then it would follow that merely changing the circumstances wouldn't do the trick... But again perhaps I overstate my idea... I don't know if in fact it is more of a philosophical problem than a material one...or more of a circumstantial problem than an existential one... I think I can, for the time being safely say that it is likely to be at least as much a problem of the soul as it is of the body... back to the books, but maybe I'll touch on this more later....

I leave you with an excerpt from D.H. Lawrence's controversial book, Women In Love:

[A conversation between Ursula and Rupert who are romantically involved.]

"Love gives out in the last issues?" she asked, feeling numb to the lips.

"Yes, it does. At the very last, one is alone, beyond the influence of love. There is a real impersonal me, that is beyond love, beyond any emotional relationship. So it is with you. But we want to delude ourselves that love is the root. It isn't. It is only the branches. The root is beyond love, a naked kind of isolation, an isolated me, that does not meet and mingle, and never can."

She watched him with wide, troubled eyes. His face was incandescent in its abstract earnestness.

"And you mean you can't love?" she asked, in trepidation.

"Yes, if you like. I have loved. But there is a beyond, where there is not love."

She could not submit to this. She felt it swooning over her. But she could not submit.

"But how do you know -- if you have never really loved?" she asked.

"It is true, what I say; there is a beyond, in you, in me, which is further than love, beyond the scope, as stars are beyond the scope of vision, some of them."


Monday, August 4, 2008


I haven't blogged in sometime now...rather I haven't published any blogs recently. There hasn't been any profound reason for my lack of posting, at the same time I haven't felt like I have had anything substantial to share either, if I'm honest I guess I never really do, rather I close my eyes, type wildly and hope for the best... But alas, regardless of my absence...both the small and substantial events of life move along as always like a steady stream of cars on a dimly lit interstate... and I make a concerted effort to process them as they come... but soon and inevitably, the happenings and non happenings, situations and changes are often too numerous or too much to digest employing my limited faculties. Try as I may, I encounter a bottleneck, congestion...and soon the steady flow of motorists are nudging one another for more elbow room and priority... and more often than not I feel as though there just isn't the time, or capacity to encounter even a small portion of what constitutes this life...and perhaps this only speaks of a larger idea... an idea that I have not been shy about discussing here...the chasm that exists in our reality and the reality that we are one day promised...

Often I think that in this life we flirt with eternity in rare moments... as we look upon stars that no longer are, but continue to shine through the inconceivable distances of space...or when we fall in love with the sight of the sun as it retires behind the horizon, setting the skies aflame and filling our souls with colors so vibrant and mysterious that they moisten our eyes...and we conceive and philosophize about timelessness and a heaven beyond reach and by doing so perhaps we drive around it's boundless edges... and it seems apparent to me that we deeply long for it...for something like nothing we know. To be engulfed and changed by the eternal and to be lost in it's endlessness. If you ask any number of people about their deepest desires, the desires they may be initially too embarrassed to share...I think that more often than not, somewhere in between the lines of their words you will see a profound ache for the celestial... the rub though, the difficult reality, is that we cannot have it, no, not yet...and so we fight with an awesome tension...all the days of our lives... and this is life, enduring through this tension... carrying a cross on the hills of our own calvary... and trading it one day for a crown.

I had this idea further illustrated to me on my recent trip to Idaho Falls. We drove a total of 1800 miles in the course of 4 days...driving up through Northern Arizona, in through Utah and then up to Eastern Idaho... we also made our way up to Montana to experience West Yellowstone. I must have taken about 800 photographs or more... there was so much wild majesty...that I often found myself questioning whether I could trust my eyes.

Here is a little bit of what I wrote on my trip:

Northern arizona changes quickly from huge plots of desert land to a deep evergreen forest, guarded by giant armies of pines, mountains covered in them. Soon, the landscape will shift again and my eyes quickly adjust to accept the alterations in color and rock formations...the dark mountains turn into mineral rich, brick-red cliffs...and just as one begins to grasp the views...again the surroundings of the interstate give way to great piles of peculiar grey sediment interrupted by strange canyons... I have a persistent impulse to pull over every mile or so and explore the details of each crack and crevice and canyon... and I imagine each of these canyon giving birth to another and then another...until it is too deep and profound for the eye to see...I imagine that I could follow the cuts of earth and travel as Jules Verne once wrote, to the center of the earth...

As we exit the desert state that hardly seems to be a desert at all, we drive straight through two strong cliffs that stand only a narrow lane apart... and as we pierce through this wonder, closed in by divine barriers, I feel as though the earth herself has whispered to me a secret...something personal and sacred...something that leaves her a bit more vulnerable to me than before. A dozen miles beyond, the canyons increase...in distance and in size...they are giant walls that appear to hold the weight of heaven on their broad shoulders...and I am simply, breathless.

Utah is another dramatic change in topography. The canyons begin to disappear...as if God were somehow paying attention to our imaginary dotted lines...our man made borders... The mountains are sharper, their edges more pronounced, chiseled like the faces and bodies of our pop culture icons. The mormon church considers this the place of Zion, the new Jerusalem... and I begin to see why one might have such a thought. The green and charcoal hills look as though they are the result of great intention and focus, as if sculpted by the hands of a master... At one point, we found a deserted plain... the mountains receded to the distance... and I got that feeling you get when you sit on a beach and stare at the ocean that seems to wrap around all of existence....I sighed at gorgeous fields of green meadows... and then dense thunderclouds rolled in from the east and the west in perfect harmony, as if they had determined to meet there at that very hour... they covered the skies from one end to the other...creating a blanket over all... it was as if they were trying to trap in every drop of beauty set before me...

In light of that, I came to realize something, admittedly an unusual thought. All this splendor and glory was simply too much...

The thing is, I am a nature freak. In fact, I can hardly stay put in the city...I am always driving out of town...I love aesthetic beauty... creation...the work of His hands...and yet after a while...after having been completely immersed in it...I actually felt overwhelmed. It is as if I could not begin to understand the beauty in even one small region of the world, I could no longer process it. My senses went numb, my mind grew tired... And so I wonder if even the beauty I so deeply desire at the core of my being is too infinite for me in fact.

The bible tells us that one day, we will be given new minds and new bodies, heavenly ones and this resonates with me... and I'd imagine that this transformation will mean we will receive beauty differently...perhaps even more comprehensively... and I like this idea... I like the thought of being able to swim in the skies...

And I guess I've said all of that to illustrate that there seems to exists an unreconcilable space between how things are and how they should be...I feel it everyday, I see it in my experience and that of others and in fact, the world seems unable to escape this predicament. It is this space between the finite and the infinite, between the most desperate cries of our hearts and that which might quench their insatiable thirsts, the space between the life we dream about and the one we must endure...

between our hopes and our hopelessness...

between man and God...

and it is this space that stands between who I am and who you wanted me to be...


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sleepless in Salt Lake City...

I'm sitting up in a bed that feels too foreign to offer me any amount of comfort. Though I am no stranger to travels, this room, perhaps this City feels particularly alien to me for some reason... I know one of my wise ass friends is going to blame it on the mormons...

I've left the light off as I type this so as not to disturb my brother who is in the adjacent bed, sound asleep. And so it is dark, and motionless and for a moment I can forget where I am entirely...

For a moment I imagine I am far from everything that I have come to know as reality... I imagine that I am lost in the truest sense of the word, lost from everyone and everything I know... I imagine that I am floating out in space, weightless, liberated from gravity...I am swimming among the countless stars and information hungry satellites... only my movements are not cumbersome at all, for I am not fighting against any water...just endless space...leading to more endless space... I am matter suspended mysteriously in non matter... I am changing without choice, I must change here, my body, my mind, my understanding won't do...I am questioning everything and I am relearning everything, I am wasting away....I am being born again. I am a supernova, and a nebula.

And out here in the cosmos, having been altered, reincarnated, somehow I have come to understand more, more about life and God and the universe... It is as though I am now physically closer to Truth, physically closer to God...not in my being, but in vicinity...and life, existence, and even death have regained a level of coherence...a level of objective meaning... and light has painted over every darkly shadow, washed over the enigmatic...

This peculiar fantasy of mine is interrupted by the noise of semi trucks, that pass by like a gust of wind outside my window... and I am jolted back into reality, and I remember again that I am in Utah, in a cheap motel room too close to the Interstate, I remember that I am caught between four walls, constrained by physical laws, I am in tension and at a loss for words, and limited in my cognitive finitude. I can't fathom much of anything or make heads from tails, I can't fly and I remain so painfully far from making any sense of this life, so far in fact from God...

most of all, I can't sleep.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Today began with errands, as I am preparing to head to Idaho Falls on Monday. I had the tires on my truck rotated, picked up some last minute items and spent the day making cd's for my beloved cousins whom I will be with in a couple days. It began this way, but is ending a bit differently...

Since most of my audience is made up of close friends, most of you will know that some weeks ago I had a difficult incident occur, involving a friend. I've alluded to it of course in my recent writings, but haven't really talked about it directly... I have described it as the worst day of my life so far...and that it still remains. You see, one of the guys in my small group had a psychotic break in my backyard, and I had to make some very difficult decisions, and I had to do things that I pray I will never again have to repeat... It ended in a pretty serious physical altercation, a swarm of policeman and firefighters, a long night at the hospital and a court hearing at a behavorial health center...and that has been my last month... My friend has a heavy cross to bear...heavier than most are given...and I've tried this last year to help lighten the weight...I've tried the best that I can I think... but that evening, in one instance I felt my heart break into tiny fragments, the way that fine glass shatters when dropped against a dense surface...

Something changed in me from this day forward... I have begun to withold my love for people that is unless I have deeemed them "safe to love." I have kept people at a distance...I have been afraid to care too much because I had realized that love freakin' hurts...

I have been trying to hang on to God...to find Him in all of this...only God didn't seem big enough anymore...

I so desperately needed God to be larger than I had previously known Him to be...larger than the feeling you get at a worship service, larger than a neat bible study...larger than a $.20 raise on someone's paycheck...larger than a Monster.com, and larger yet than a Cupid...I needed God to step in and bring healing and restoration on a life that was severely broken...and hopeless without him...and I still need this.

But this afternoon, I wonder if I have had a glimpse...

Thing is, I have not met one on one with my friend since the difficult ordeal...I'm not sure precisely the reasons... I think I've been afraid...afraid of being hurt again in this way... and with some reluctance we shared a late lunch... and we talked.

Because neither of us are very good at small talk, we discussed difficult things...you know the things that really matter...(which I had thought I wanted to avoid at all costs)...but it was good. We sat together through moments of involved conversation...and moments of stillness and quiet reflection....I slowly sipped Dr. Pepper through a red, plastic straw and chewed on ice and he often stared out the large window behind me...Soon, afternoon gave way to early evening and I watched as the summer spoils settled in the streets... I could see that he was hurting deeply, it was written in his heavy eyes and the lines on his face...and I recall thinking at that moment, that I just really cared about him...and I wanted to walk by his side to share the weight again, because it was getting really heavy for him to do it alone..and I wanted him to know that he mattered...I wanted him to know how Jesus felt about him.

So where is glimspe?

I suppose it's what was uncovered underneath the carnage of everything that has and hasn't occured this year...a midst the swirl of fear and doubt...somewhere along a trail of tears...I found it again...when I thought it was finally lost....it is the cornerstone of our lives: His Love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

House of cards...

It's a warm Monday evening... and the dark streets are empty but full of peace, excepting the intermittent flash of lights and an ocassional car that passes by at a distance, carrying a weary, third-shift worker or late night visitor. And though I sit at a vacant table, upon a nicely swept sidewalk, I can almost feel the asphalt as it sweats off another long summer day. The city sleeps early tonight...but I am wide awake. I have been unable to fully sleep for weeks now and though my body aches of fatigue and my mind is hardly able to lend itself to the basic function of coherence, I find that I am still far from my bed... still so far from the weaving of dreams.

Though I have been laboring through several books in recent weeks, I cracked open a new one just hours ago and completed it in a single sitting... I was strongly prompted by a friend last night, to read it and to read it with urgency... and I found that once begun, it was difficult to put down. It is one of those rare books that makes everything else in life seem like an interruption and for a time you want to be completely lost, not to emerge again until you have turned the final page.

C.S. Lewis fell in love late in life only to lose her too early... during his mourning he turned to writing in a journal, portions of which were later published as A Grief Observed. I tried to describe the book to a friend tonight, and was at a loss for words... I actually called it "good" and immediately started back peddling, because "good" seemed too lighthearted and inconsequential a term. I think it is profound. Life altering if one is willing... but it is a difficult book...and you will feel your heart break over and over again...that is if you have blood still coursing through your veins...from the foreward and the introduction to the very last word...

At the moment, I feel sad. And while I know that so many of my friends would just like me to feel better because I've been struggling lately... I can't say that I feel any better about anything, but my sorrow is at the least, different now and I think that is a good thing.

Recently, I wrote about faith being tried by fire... and it is something I have been pondering a great deal. Lewis in A Grief..., actually echoes this idea (or rather I echo his) by describing his faith being like a house of cards... Lewis had just buried the love of his life and was struggling immensely. He was actually feeling overwhelmed. And though in the past he had been able to hold strong and steady in his commitment to God at the pain of others, it was now so very different. In a razor sharp moment of vulnerability (as only deep pain affords) he admits that there had been a distancing from the pain of others and though he presumed to sincerely care about their sorrow, nothing was on the line for him personally, but now suddenly all was different. His house was crumbling...and so the elements of their construction were to be questioned...
Lewis writes:
Meanwhile, where is God?... When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be-or so it feels-welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside...

He further adds:

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about him...

After finishing the book, I met a friend for dinner/dessert and on my drive home I started to wonder about my house of cards...

See, my faith, the faith that I thought I had is being broken now...at least this is how it feels. It has been built upon some truths for sure, but probably as many falsities...built upon my own dreams and ambitions, my hopes and plans to get my share in this life. I've wanted to follow God because I thought it would mean that I could fulfill my wildest dreams and one day find a great wife, a gratifying job and have a wonderful, loving family, but mostly I've wanted to be shielded from the long winters of life, the agony and heartbreak. The truth is, these are all seemingly moral desires, and they seem common among all of humanity, but how soon do they fall to become a barrier in our fallen state? And how soon do they simply fall? Maybe my faith then has been built upon a God reduced to my limited ideas, ideas that made my decision to follow Christ more manageable and easier to swallow, my self-serving savior. The thing is, all of this has been hidden underneath a blanket, and perhaps this blanket has been my pride in the fact that I abstain from the apparent immoralities of the world, in my choosing to accept the truth of the gospel and thereby being a follower of Christ. As a result, the problematic tenants of my faith have gone undetected having been overshadowed by a camoflauged religiosity of sorts.

So the weak foundations of my faith may be my hope for a "good life," one free from too much trauma, in so far as it influences my allegiance to Christ. It is a subtle evil I think, and therefore all the more dangerous because it becomes easy to justify...And I'm not proposing that it's wrong for believers to seek happiness,...rather that we musn't seek happiness on our terms and by our incomplete definitions. Our definitions must be revolutionized, to seek His will above all else, at all costs...but it's so hard, nothing could be more demanding...

And now I consider with heavy countenance, that after all that I had thought I had learned these years... my "surrender" to God is still so very contingent on the fulfillment of my will, and therefore in fact no surrender at all...for I've come to the altar, but have kept my hands clenched tightly and hidden behind my back and have offered all of myself, all but everything that means anything.

And yet we see no sign of this in Jesus...who was obedient to the very end...

"The problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that is has been found difficult and left untried"- G.K. Chesterton

The truth is, the gospel message is probably about as difficult as it gets. So much so that one day Jesus' disciples asked in wonder, "who then can enter the kingdom?" they were in utter disbelief at His teachings... And Jesus said things like, He had come to bring a sword, and that if we loved our father or mother more than Him we were not worthy of him...and that he was basically blazing a trail for us when he walked the hills of calvary with a heavy cross on his back after having been beaten, later to be nailed to it and hung to die (Matt 10:37-39). He called the road to salvation a narrow path and described two people in a field, that one would be taken and the other left... and said that whoever sought to save his life would lose it, but that whoever lost his life for His sake would find it... therein, 11 of the 12 disciples that He chose, his dearest friends were martyred. I've said all that to say that maybe we shouldn't be too suprised at a really painful life...and if we are, as I often am by trials, then maybe we have a lot of presuppositions about God...(1 Peter 4:12) And I think that is what Lewis is saying in his book. His house of cards, his supposed faith was something of an imagination...as perhaps mine has been...

And so I am at a fork in the road, arrived at by a sober look at life... a life that is in constant tension between joy and pain... and as I journeyed through the words of Lewis' journal I got the sense that perhaps our greatest joys in life lead to the deepest wounds and I think this is painted most poignantly in the example of lovers all of whom must one day be separated by death...
If this should be our cold reality, then I can no longer conform God to my image of Him... it just doesn't make sense...not matter how hard I try...it doesn't seem to fit... and so once again, the walls of my faith must be torn down...to be rebuilt...and again I must lift my eyes up beyond the city skies, beyond the clouds, and stars, to another world, where laughter is not to be followed by tears...

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I've been staring at a blank "page" for over half an hour. The thing is, I feel this intense need to write and yet have no idea what it is I'd like to express. It's been sometime since I've posted anything (though I have continued to write) and there is no guarantee that these "scribblings" today will find any different end. It's strange to think that technology is changing our language... how "scribbling" and "page" among a number of other words don't directly relate to writing anymore... instead we "type" onto "webpages" or "emails" now.

I have found myself in peculiar moods lately. For the most part I've been pretty numb emotionally. I think maybe I *decided that caring too much and feeling too much is too costly...and so perhaps I've resigned in fear to distancing myself from my experience and the experience of others. I know this isn't the healthiest approach. And maybe "decided" isn't the best word to describe my experience... I didn't exactly sit down one day and resolve to take a new approach to life... it just sort of happened...At the same time I haven't been fighting these inclinations because that takes courage, and courage I don't really have at the moment...and so perhaps my passivity is my voice in the matter...my choice.

I attended club last night only to feel displaced. It was good to see people that I care about and the people that care about me... but I felt this wall of separation...this strange invisible barrier. Maybe because I thought that their lives looked somehow a little nicer, neater or more hopeful than mine...even though I know that is far from the truth. Experience tells me that we are all deeply wounded people... And I'm not sure what to make of all of this. Perhaps I feel somehow tainted because of all my doubts these days... and perhaps I fear that some of this will somehow rub off on their nicely pressed clothes, their nicely pressed lives...

David gave a message about finding God... he talked about Job and Paul and Abraham and about cutting the foreskins off wieners. But he mentioned these men to point out their unique encounters with God... how they found him under very different circumstances... Job as a righteous man found God through immense suffering, Abraham through deep obedience and trust and Paul in the midst of his rebellion... We had a time of quiet reflection and worship following the message and we were encouraged to consider how we might encounter God... and I looked across the room to see heads bowed, eyes closed...some rocking softly to the rhythm of the guitar..... and then I raised my eyes up above because I wanted to see God...but my eyes were met with the reality of a cold, impenetrable ceiling made of wood and plaster ... this barrier between me and God. People began singing...and it was beautiful...like the sound of angels...and I thought for a moment that it sounded like how I imagine heaven to be... but my eyes remained on the ceiling... carefully studying the design and I'm not sure why... maybe I was looking for a hole or crevice...any flaw that might serve as a sign that this stiff barrier was in some way porous, vulnerable. That I might find even a drop of grace falling through...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pilgrim's Progress

Along his pilgrimage Christian meets two characters, Timorous and Mistrust.

Timorous and Mistrust reveal that they were also journeying, but had decided to turn back for fear of their very lives...

Timorous: But the farther we go the more danger we meet with; wherefore we turned, and are going back again.

Mistrust: Yes, for just before us lie a couple of lions in the way...

Christian: You make me afraid; but wither shall I flee to be safe? If I go back to my own country, that is prepared for fire and brimstone, and I shall certainly perish there. If I can get to the Celestial city, I am sure to be in safety there. I must venture. To go back is nothing but death; to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it: I will yet go forward.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Burning Man

This morning started with yet another trip to the airport. I know, three trips in the last seven days...and somehow I continue to find myself still in Phoenix.

It's beyond warm today and I wonder how any of us will make it through another long summer. There is nothing redeeming about this season in the desert... and from this day forward, everyone I run into will helplessly talk about how unbearable the weather is and I will of course agree. Here in the valley, with regards to small talk, climate tops the list of most common topics, that and how bad the Cardinals are playing this year. But, everybody really does talk about weather, all the time, everywhere... and now that I pointed it out to you (you fellow Phoenicians), it's likely that you will begin to notice it even more, funny things our brains...

Speaking of brains, I've had a great deal to think about lately. I suppose that was implied in my previous entry...

I am starting to wonder if doubt is so much more than I initially thought it was and what I mean by that is I wonder just how broadly sweeping the consequences of doubt may be. As I wrote in my last entry, I am wrestling with real questions, fundamental ones. And what I'm finding is just how much it changes my interaction with reality. Life just feels so entirely different now, my interactions with other people, the sunset, music, the bible... and I wonder if doubt might actually be a state of being...not simply an emotional or cognitive response... although one might argue that our emotional and cognitive responses do alter our states of being... well, so much for that.

In many ways, I feel as though I am in a surrealist state...everything is dream-like. Not necessarily in that things don't seem real...but rather that nothing seems to make much sense anymore.

I haven't wanted to be alone much and so I've found myself consistently with company since the difficult incident last monday. And I've been with kind hearted believers who have tried to encourage me and be there for me... naturally we talk about God and Christ and attempt to piece things together through a Christian perspective... Very naturally do the ideas and words flow through me...because it has been my life for so many years now...I have been engulfed in this culture with it's theological terms, memory scriptures, and C.S. Lewis quotes. Truthfully though, at the end of a conversation, I feel to a certain extent, insincere...because these days, I'm wondering if God is real...if there ever was a man named Jesus who was crucified... and if it means anything to us.

I visited the Christian bookstore yesterday with my friend Ludlum. We had been there some time browsing the shelves when my companion came across a devotional book for Nascar Dads. No joke. We didn't have time to open it, but I'd be quite suprised if there weren't at least one chapter dedicated to "Pit Stop Prayers." Then we ventured to the clothing section and found an entire line of Christian shirts, belts, jewelry, even shoes...

As I was checking out, the girl at the counter tried to sell me on a presale Third Day cd which included a discounted price and a t-shirt. Ludlum came over to me with a sheepish grin handing me an energy bar labeled "Noah's Nuggets." And I started to think that Christians have this entire subculture, this bubble of sorts... now I'm not knocking Nascar dad's doing quiet time to racing metaphors, or shoes featuring Jesus fish on them or even Noah's delectable nuggets... I just started wondering how much of my Christian faith was real and sincere and how much of it I might hold onto because of it's implications to my identity...

Last night, I attended a group bible study and at the conclusion of the message, we broke into smaller sections of 3 or 4. Within these intimate meetings, we shared personal struggles of forgiveness and then offered up prayers for one another... and I did it, and I think I meant what I said...but I just wasn't sure if it was heard by anyone, or worth any more than the change of sound pressure resulting from my larynx... I started thinking that when we pray aloud for others it often sounds like we are actually talking to the people around us, just with our eyes closed and with a more official voice and again I wanted to know what of my faith was real...

Maybe my faith is being "tried by fire," as Peter wrote in his first epistle.

Fire has long been the object of great wonder and beauty; one of the four elements that puzzled the ancient world, a mysterious chemical reaction of energy that provides warmth and light. On a recent camping trip, the guys in my small group filled their cameras with pictures of the camp fire... and though we had all seen dozens of them before, we often found ourselves huddled around the warmth, enamored by the colors and fluid shapes, the crackling of fuel and nostalgic smell of wood burning.

But fire is dichotomous...

The Ancient Greeks defined the element by opposing categories. Fire was creative and associated with many of the gods and goddesses, but it was also destructive like that of Hades. I recall some years ago watching in wonder at the subdued glow of a mountain side that was burning...It was an amazing sight... and the deep orange embers pulsated against the dark of night took my breathe away...but it was also quite devastating.

This fire that Peter alludes to is fierce, wild, searing...and perhaps even all consuming.

And I wonder in this life, if we must all walk through a furnace, if even my severe doubts are a part of something true, but simply beyond my comprehension... and I wonder if I will endure to the end to find that the flames have produced something meaningful and of great worth. I wonder when the heat has settled and the dense pile of cinders washed away, if there will be nothing left or if I will find a tiny grain of gold so pure that it no longer resists the light...


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Help my unbelief...

I woke up to my phone ringing this morning. I quickly jumped out of bed and my eyes noticed that it was still dark out and so I thought such an untimely call must be urgent. I glanced at the clock and it read 4 a.m. I was anxious and felt my heart pound for a second before I remembered that I had promised to take a friend to the airport this morning. I know, two visit to the airport in one week.

After dropping off the excited traveler I drove around by the airport for a bit, taking pictures of the early dawn as it mixed with the city... I know it's probably unusual for someone to take pictures of a city they've inhabited for 14 years, but I think I just wanted to find something beautiful this morning... if such a thing should exist.

It's been a hellish week and I don't use that term lightly. What is more, I have no idea how things are going to work themselves out or if they even will. I'm just being honest. The very foundations of my faith are being shaken and I'm wondering now if everything that I have held so close and dear to me, everything that I have held as truth and have tried to live has been a falsity, something imagined...

"Take this sinking boat and point it home
we've still got time..." - Glen Hansard

Tracey asked me if I was hurt and angry at the events of this week and I admitted I was...I know that I am deeply distraught. Elliot told me he would be worried if I weren't. But I don't know that my doubts are only rooted in emotion. I wish it were that simple... I am starting to wonder if the reality in the bible is a real representation of the reality in my experience...in all our experiences... This is a real struggle one grounded in reason and I guess that's what scares me the most. To pursue truth is to pursue it with integrity even when it is severely difficult... we must be honest with ourselves even if it should shake the rudiments of our being.

I wonder if this life is really the result of the divine providence a loving God. and I wondering if our prayers do more than echo between four walls...words just blowing in the wind of an apathetic universe... if there is real meaning in everything...if there is hope...

Maybe "life is a bitch and then you die" as Michael Johnson and Tupac once said... and maybe that makes as much sense as anything right now. I'm trying though, trying with what little energy I have at the moment...

"That's me in the corner,
that's me in the spotlight,
I'm losing my religion..." -R.E.M.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Touch and Go.

I find myself slouching down in a brown, semi comfy, leather, chair at Sky Harbor Airport. Every several minutes or so my thoughts are interrupted by a muffled announcement over the loudspeaker about TSA regulations. Other than that, it's quiet and I'm starting to feel that dinner time is near. The baggage claim carousels sit as empty as my stomach; the walkways are still and the restaurants and bars abandoned save that of a janitor sweeping the floors. But things will soon change as the next set of planes land... a rush of weary travelers, wheeling heavy luggage will bring this place again to life, and signs will light up, workers will run around and it will feel like a carnival...and then again it will sit
too quiet.

I'm here to pick up a friend who will be flying in from Houston in about an hour. I arrived here early in an attempt to avoid rush hour traffic. But I really don't mind the wait. Airports top my list of places I like to be. I know it's a bit odd, but they make me feel things... I've been this way since I was a child... And some of my fondest memories were in one way or another related to them...

They also make me feel really alone...

In a recent conversation, Elliot shared with me that he found himself to be a "touch and go" person. And I think what he meant by that was that he doesn't really feel like he belongs anywhere, not deeply. By jumping around and not sticking around long enough or often enough he avoids growing roots. And he wasn't talking about geography, necessarily.

I think Airports are very "touch and go." Transitory is a good word for it.

People filter through airports, they don't plan a stay (at least not normally). And though I've met some neat people and held some great conversations over the years in airports, there has always been an entirely unspoken, but mutual understanding that our relationship would last only the length of a flight or layover.

And I think life has been a lot like this for me lately... "touch and go."

We all want to feel rooted somewhere, not imprisoned or chained, but connected to something or someone or else we're just floating along aimlessly. But then again I have started to think that what I am looking for, the type of interconnectedness that I long for to this world, to existence and with other people doesn't actually exist. I mean not for the interim. And I like thinking of life as the interim. A lot of people won't agree with this idea, I'm sure, but I'm not trying to convince anybody. If this life is wonderfully fulfilling for you, then more power to you. I'm just saying that I honestly don't feel that way...

Life to me is an airport, an interim and I'm not denying there is goodness and joy and beauty in it... but it's all very imperfect...like an imperfect version of the deepest longings of my soul. Like a "poor reflection."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thinking out loud.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect day in terms of the climate. It's cold, deeply overcast and sprinkling rain. It reminds me of my short time in Seattle and I remember again just how much I loved it there.

I woke up this morning in a strange mood. My initial feelings were that of disbelief. That somehow my ambitions for the career I had set out were really not going to pan out and it put me in a good deal of unrest. I used to dream about being on tour and performing night after night... I even had specific cities and venues in mind... and all of these visualizations started pouring into my mind...only I knew that they were in vain now. I've talked about all this before, so this is nothing too new, but the experience was different somehow.

It's difficult to describe...but I suppose we have all known our share of disappointment in this life. You can love something (or someone) so sincerely, so intensely, but that in no way insures any amount of permanence. Life will shift like the colors of new seasons with or without our permission.

My friend once told me that I was a boxer forced into early retirement... and though I find myself a million miles away from the ring, though my gloves have long ago been hung on the wall to collect cobwebs, I am still a boxer at heart... and I have to imagine God made me this way for a reason. But why...?

At the moment, I'm considering a substantial move, to a foreign country. This morning I imagined what it might be like living abroad, and playing my tired old guitar in coffee shops...filled with strangers, singing my tired old songs. And I thought for a moment that things would be vastly different, not perfect by any means, just different...but I feared at the same time that they might be the same.

If I do leave...this home that I have known for well over a decade what would I be leaving behind? And what exactly would I be going to? It's scary to think about, but maybe that's a good thing. On my recent camping trip, we ascended a mountain that put a real amount of fear in me and my company... but the journey was amazing and reaching the top felt indescribable. And maybe life affords us these opportunities to plunge into the unknown...and we will make of it what we will. We can shrink down and resign in fear or we can face it head on...

The better part of a year has passed since I began my involvement in a ministry here. Something relatively minor, leading a small group and I have seen God working through it. What he has done is nothing short of a miracle, in fact...but somehow I feel at a loss now. I wonder if this is really what I am meant to be doing...I guess my doubts come in because I feel displaced and probably more alone than I have ever felt. Maybe that is ok or all just a part of it...but maybe not?

I find myself in a bit of a bind... longing to be a part of something meaningful and real, something that will make real use of the way God has designed me before he laid the foundations of this world... I want to feel God and celebrate the destiny he has imagined... and maybe I'm doing that in differing ways now...I don't know.

I know that I don't want to runaway from anything...

I do dream of a community...a community that I have not found here so far. Of people who are intense about changing the world. People who aren't content with simply enjoying their lives and carrying about business as usual... I want to live side by side and co labor with people who want to fulfill the call in Isaiah to "loosen the chains of social injustice and to set the oppressed free" to watch over "oprhans and widows" as the book of James defines authentic faith. And I want to be inspired...challenged by the dreams of others...

But I'm starting to question whether I will find that here... and I don't mean to be critical and I realize that I haven't met even the majority of people here... but when sociologists, psychologists, doctors and statisticians conduct surveys they use a sample to represent the populous... could that apply here...for surely it isn't possible for me to meet everyone in town. Based on my sample, the general attitude among most people here is to live a good life. Get married, raise a family, get a job that affords you to live comfortably, furnish your house with IKEA and go to church on Sunday mornings...and I'm not saying there's anything immoral or intrinsically wrong with those ambitions...but it just doesn't tug at my soul as an imperative. I find no amount of passion or deep desire for that way of life.

Last night, my small group went through the 1st epistle from Peter. And we talked about how Peter says "The end of all things is near." This was in the first century, I think like 77 A.D. He felt an urgency as did Paul and James, and John... we are nearly 2000 years removed now...and I wonder if it shows in our general attitudes...

I guess people are people where ever I go... and this is more a problem with modern man...not Phoenicians or Americans... and so I need to be reasonable about this. It is a problem within my own heart too... but at times I feel the slow, calm pace of Arizona starting to wear on me... and I find it easier to resign to this way...Arizona is like peacefully floating down the Salt river on an inner tube on a warm summer day.... but I think I might be looking to face wild, feral rapids...to fear for my life and experience sheer reverence... I think I may be looking for more.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fighting for dear life.

As I type this I sit outside on the verge of shivering from the cold. Spring had taken over as summer eagerly loomed....but late winter lashed out a final chilly breathe so as not to be forgotten quite yet.

It rained today in splotches, just enough to dirty our windows and fill the air with that smell...the smell of wet dirt and asphalt...that isn't necessarily pleasant, but still well received because of what it means to people living in a barren land.

And now it's cooled off dramatically, but I find less joy in the experience than I'd like, but I"m unsure why.

It's a quiet night where I'm stationed... and I watch little rabbits scurrying through an empty field...a small plot of sonoran desert sandwiched between a newly renovated business plaza and a suburban community. Industrialization is a strange thing when you consider it... We plow over acres of God's beautiful land to build odd looking structures in their stead (and everyone has to have a piece of their own) only then we recreate an artificial, manageable version of what once was to decorate a front and backyard... and then we retreat often times to the mountains, forests, the ocean...again to the natural, the natural we keep wiping away.

I've been trying to keep my head above water and the weeks have been quite difficult... and over and over again I find that I continue to forget the rudiments of my faith.

And I passively allow the world to convince me that I am incomplete, or inadequate or missing out on some portion of life... And it's pretty silly when you think about it...to allow this upside down world that much influence.

I think if the devil ever decided on a career change he might do well to seriously consider a job in marketing. The lies, the poison is all so cleverly packaged... so are the assaults. And that is one thing I've come to learn. That I have to be vigilant at protecting myself from these, at protecting truth.

You see, through a bible study, a church service, a scripture or the latest best-selling Christian literature I may experience profound moments of epiphany... and it feels like a veil has suddenly been lifted, the truth resonates deeply within and I get excited and intensely hopeful all at once... but through the course of days, weeks and months...before I have realized it...the rich truth has been snuffed out and bartered for a cheap falsity. And I can't even pin down exactly when I went wrong...or how... it just sort of happens... and I find myself again going about things as before... replacing God with the hopes
of finding a mate or a successful career or what have you... my demigods.

And so I feel that we must guard our hearts as the Proverbs advise, above all else.... For truth is ever sacred, but so easy to lose especially in a world of smoke and mirrors...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flying or Free Fallin' ?

I'm equal parts terrified, anxious, scared, uncertain, excited and free...I have no idea where life will take me now...could be anywhere, could be anything... I feel a swirl in the pit of my stomach and moisture on my palms...at the thought, but it's also exhilarating. I'm standing at the edge of an enormous cliff... the canyon below so profound, that it knocks the wind out of me...and I peer off the edge every scrupulously... I'm throwing little pebbles down to see if I can hear them hit against a surface any surface, but nothing...

Here's to a new chapter, where everything is different.

Learning to Fly by Tom Petty

Well I started out down a dirty road,
Started out all alone.
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill.
The town lit up, the world got still.

I'm learning to fly, but I aint got wings,
Comin down is the hardest thing.

Well the good old days may not return,
And the rocks might melt, and the sea may burn.

I'm learning to fly, but I aint got wings
Comin down is the hardest thing.

Well some say life will beat you down,
Break your heart, steal your crown.
So I started out- for God knows where?
But I guess I'll know when I get there.

I'm learning to fly around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down.

I'm learning to fly, but I aint got wings.
Comin down is the hardest thing.
I'm learning to fly around the clouds,
But what goes up must come down.

Im learning to fly
Im learning to fly...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Is this what it means?

Somedays, Life hurts, plain and simple. And this Christian lifestyle, this attempt to know and follow God seems insurmounable. To add insult to injury, we have an enemy who wants nothing more than to see our ruin... Walking by faith, holding to the unseen, well, it ain't no walk in the park. It's hard, really hard.

In all honesty, at the moment, I feel like I'm ready to let the tide overwhelm me... I want to give up...

It appears to me like i've been walking in lonely circles...having to learn and relearn, change and again change... only to change some more...only to find that what I've had is not enough...I'm walking a desolate trail, and finding the floor is full of thorns... and my shoes, well I lost them somewhere along the way... Last night, a friend sat with me on a cold, cement parking block and he echoed this sentiment. Not only did he feel like he was outlining a desert, he was doing so by night and being blindsided by obstacles... as he spoke these words, I stared into the late evening...into the abyss, searching desperately for the stars...or a satellite...anything that might reflect even a flicker of light...

Some days you feel on top of the world... like anything is possible. And you see God working...He seems close and real...He even speaks to you. And you feel His love in the sunset, in the rain, in His word and expressed through those around you...All of creation seems to shout of His presence...His relevance and goodness.

Other times God seems abstract, like a distant star, an idea...or loose concept...maybe even a fable... You feel alone and empty and like you just don't have what it takes to endure...at least for the long haul. You begin to question everything, even the progress you thought you'd made, it all seems pointless... and a strong impulse to runaway, to find a quiet place to hide overtakes you...

But perhaps this is what it means to be a Christian... this is the conflict, the grind. And it's not always pretty, or beautiful, but often messy and tumultuous. And our voices not only made for pleasant songs, but shouts in darkness...desperate cries for help. Perhaps our faith has to be tried by fire...and thus not always expressed in extravagant ways... perhaps sometimes, faith and hope are expressed in this:

That we come home...

After a long night of wandering the streets...

and though our hearts are broken, countenances burdened, prayers weak... through the thick haze of doubt, the shroud of heartache...we somehow manage to muster up enough syllables to call to the one, who saves.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bless the Lord.

Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies...

There's not much else to say today!


Monday, April 14, 2008

Driving through the gap.

I have put countless miles on my truck this last year. Of course, my work is greatly responsible for that, but I've also found driving to be a common past time for me. I love being on the road...and I tend to feel stale and restless sitting at a starbucks these days...so I drive.

I rarely have a destination and prefer to let the moment lead me where it may. Perhaps I've grown a little weary of planning. And while nothing is ever solved upon my return, I feel a strange pressure building on my soul from time to time and the long stretch of miles is like a slow, gradual exhalation.

Last night, I ended up in Fountain Hills, gazing upon the dark silhouette of a mountain surrounded by a sea of city lights, they twinkled in the night like lowly stars fallen from heaven... and I looked for meaning in it all. I watched two young lover clinging to one another, whispering empty promises into the wind and I waited patiently for nothing in particular.

Soon my heavy eyes told me it was time to head back, but I avoided the hurried highways and searched for surface streets, hoping to keep my thoughts from going too deep.

It was late and the city had long ago rested her heavy countenance upon a pillow of soft dreams...eyes calmly closed, a gentle half smile on her lips, she looked so serene but I couldn't relate.

The roads were barren.

I had "The Shadowlands" by Ryan Adams on repeat and opened the windows because the song needed air to breathe...it was cold, but soothing and I wondered where my soul was.
Sometimes you just can't be a man when you're living in the darkness of the shadowlands... - Ryan Adams

Many miles passed before I met another vehicle. I could make out the headlights from a distance, brightly displaced against the evening asphalt. We passed one another like lonely travelers and though less than a stranger to me, the passing cold steal and fiberglass, brought me a level of comfort, reminding me that there was other life out there...

It's been said that God communicates to us in our pain and this is something we must all learn. But sometimes I feel like there is a gap between the time we feel the initial sting and the time we find Him. These are the sleepless nights we spend tossing and turning, the hours we pace the floor wearing out the carpets of our minds... perhaps it is also this gap that causes us to stretch to the eternal.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Author and perfecter...

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...
-Hebrews 12:2

I have always sought to figure life out... I guess we all do, but for me this whole thing has always appeared to be like a puzzle, one of those 3-dimensional ones, with about a million jagged pieces. Consequently, I thought that if I could find the appropriate matches for each portion that it might start to all come together...each blob would build upon another to form something definite. Something polished. Life then, was a problem to be solved... and one that could be.

Perhaps this still rings true to an extent, in that there are truths once realized and applied, will provide a more vivid picture of what life is all about and how we might best go about enduring it. But what I'm learning to accept is that it will never come together like one of those cardboard castles, where every piece is used for the very purpose it was designed...and once finished looks just like the picture on the box... No, life is messier than that... through the building process, we will spill our coffee and ruin some of the parts, we'll lose others in the mysterious black hole that exists between couch cushions and some pieces that should interlock, just won't...and often at least in my life, entire sections that we thought were completed will have to be torn down to rubble...and it will hurt and the reconstruction will be slow and uncomfortable.

In the end, we'll have lop sided structures with holes in the walls, doors held in with scotch tape and entire wings will have gone missing... and perhaps this the best we can hope for...that something, anything at all is standing above ground when it is finished... when we have endured the long, arduous journey through the desert. And yet somehow, the promise remains that one day we will be perfected...

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12


Monday, April 7, 2008

Thank You

I spent most of this weekend locked up in a 20'x 20' room, listening to the same four songs over and over again and trying my hardest not to lose my mind as I carried out the sometimes tedious tasks. It took a lot out of me, and it can be quite isolating, but I found a level of satisfaction in my work. On Saturday, I recall feeling lightheaded at one point. I looked up at the computer screen to check the time and it told me that I had skipped lunch and dinner without a thought... Sunday was spent similarly with the exception of service.

Church was thought provoking, it usually is and I've grown very fond of the ministry there. Pastor Don spoke on persecution...and even quoted the portion of Hebrews that I cited in my last blog....I smiled at the coincidence.

I was deeply moved during communion though. I kept thinking about how grateful I was to God for saving someone like me... for being so patient with me over the years...that somehow, in spite of the huge mess of a life that I have led, though my soul is so prone to wander, He still reaches out and rescues me... I felt overwhelmed at this thought and my eyes welled up with tears...under my breathe I whispered, "God, don't give up on me..."

The church band offered a song and I closed my eyes for a few moments to listen to the words. It was a beautiful song.

And then I tried to say "thank you," you know, to God. And though it was sincere, it somehow felt so empty like a feeble attempt at something grand...I say "thank you" when a stranger holds the door open for me at the convenience store...or when a friend buys me a soda...it is so commonplace... But to Christ what would these vague words mean? I struggled for a moment to consider it...how could I possibly express the gratitude that I feel for His amazing grace...?

And then I realized at that very moment, what this whole worship thing is all about.

We live a life of worship...when words are simply not enough...

Archbisop William Temple summed up worship in these words:

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.
It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness;
the nourishment of mind with His truth;
the purifying of the imagination by His beauty;
the opening of the heart to His love;
the surrender of will to His purpose -
and all of this gathered up in adoration,
the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable,
and therefore the chief remedy
of that self-centeredness
which is our original sin
and the source of all actual sin.


Thursday, April 3, 2008


I've been reading in the book of Hebrews over the last week. It's a profound book to say the least. Here is a portion that really struck a chord with me.

...Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated- the world was not worhty of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground... Hebrews 11:35-38

Upon reading this passage, I began to picture what the early followers had endured...and the suffering the cross embodies. It made me think about the groundwork that has been laid for us. Paid for in blood...and cries of anguish.

Consider the apostles and disciples for a moment. They were human just like you and I, but wanted so deeply to follow Christ and desired so earnestly to spread the truth, that they labored night and day, went hungry, fought immense lonliness, were shackled in chains and beaten, brutally murdered...

and I struggle with giving to others when it's inconvenient or when I'm tired...

I love the part about the world not being worthy of them... it wasn't. They loved a world that they didn't belong to...a world that hated them.

Paul would write this about his ministry:
...known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on, beaten and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possesing everything... 2 Corinthians 6:9-10

That is the foundation that has been laid for you and I that we might know God...how fortunate we are.

Monday, March 31, 2008


It's my favorite day of the week again...just kidding. Somehow though, today is sitting better with me... I'm in the quiet of an empty store enjoying a peanut butter sandwich, (not a fan of jelly) sipping on coffee and trying to enjoy a moment of tranquility. I have work to do, but nothing sounds better than putting that off for a time.

It was a busy weekend, but one spent with friends...and it was an active one that concluded on Sunday with an impromptu- 2 on 2 football game...I nearly died because I'm so out of shape. A piece of that conversation:

Me: (Through heavy panting) "dude, my lungs hurt!"

Changsta:(In a tone suggesting an obvious answer) "Why do you think that is Joe?"

Me: "Oh probably the pollution in the air, allergies, maybe the dust...?"

Changsta, Elliot and Ludlum shake their heads in unison. :)

Saturday was moving day for Louie and Vic. There were quite a few people involved and this illicted much laughter. Especially when me and Chris were talking about tasting Louie's "Noni." I know it sounds awfull, which is why it's funny, but it's just a multi-level marketing, dietary supplement with a really poor name. Speaking of Chris, the man never slows down... I kept fantasizing about shooting blow darts at his neck...

I also got to catch up with an old friend last night, Chrissy the playwright who's been living in Brooklyn in a building full of Russian immigrants for the last few years. We had coffee with Chang and Teli and then went for a drive. She makes me laugh and we have a lot of silly memories that make up our history. Like the time she puked in my neighbors lawn from having too many cigarrettes and Tim and I just sat there and watched in disbelief, like it was a side show at a circus. I found it interesting how two people can hold on to very different details of one incident.

I also had hawaiian fast food for the first time, yes in Peoria, Arizona, which is kind of what makes this country so great...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


There stands a sign outside the store window, a sign unfamiliar to me. Red and black letters, and the phone number of some realtor, nailed to a white wooden post.

It is a sign that things are again changing in my life.

A few moments ago I said goodbye to a couple that I have come to grow very fond of over the last 2 months. They are snow birds who enjoyed their summer in the valley and today, they will begin their trek back to Iowa. The ice and snow has melted now along the giant miles of farmland and a new found season invites them back to the place they call home...

We shared many a great talks together and their hugs felt real.
I will miss them and with the business closing, my future hanging in the balance of uncertainty, I'm not sure when I will see them again...

There is no permanence...

It was the French scientist Blaise Pascal, who penned these words in his Pensees:

We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end. When we think to attach ourselves to any point and to fasten to it, it wavers and leaves us; and if we follow it, it eludes our grasp, slips past us and vanished forever. Nothing stays for us...

Where will life take me from here? At the end of April, the final pages of this story, this business venture of nearly 6 years will be written. It will become a thing of the past, merely a resevoir from which I will draw distant memories...and I will begin to speak about it in the past tense. Too soon, a time will come when effort is required in the retelling of a funny or strange incident that occured and upon sharing such an anecdote with a friend, I will find myself questioning the clarity of the details... I will hesitate and close my eyes and journey through a scattered rolodex...and perhaps mistake real moments for elements of a dream.

I long for eternity today.