Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Music in my ears

I'm a big fan of music, in almost all its different forms, and I enjoy "finding" new artists and hearing different kinds of music. In the end, I think several things determine if I like a cd or not. The overall mood/theme of the disc is important to me. Not that songs can't be enjoyable by themselves, but i think music is so much stronger and does such a better job telling a story or relating an emotion when its packaged together with other songs. Lyrics are also quite important to me. I don't need every song to be a soul-searching, emotionally confessing tale, nor does it have to be an amazing story with all the right rhymes. No, to me, honesty is the more valuable thing here. You can tell when an artist is just singing, and when they are really pouring themselves into their work. The final element in music that I really notice is instrumentation. Is the instrumentation subtle and unassuming or is it bold, forthright, and demanding. WIth all of that said, I'm gonna talk about some of my favorite albums that I've recently discovered.

Over the Rhine - Ohio - Very few albums really explore music and how it affects the listener. Most musicians stick with what they're good at, and what they know. Few times, though, do I really feel as if I'm being taken on a creative ride that has some kind of purpose to it. Well with Ohio, Over the Rhine delivers such a strange concoction of beauty and enjoyment that its hard to pin down how exactly they do it. While I was first familiar with OtR through their more recent album, Drunkard's Prayer, this album sits a little differently with me. While Drunkard's Prayer had a generally mellow/introspective/moody feel to it, Ohio has a more exploratory, calm, feel to it. Songs like "Ohio", "Suitcase", and "She" make this double disc offering a real treat to listen to. Wheras Drunkard's Prayer and Trumpet Child delve more into jazz and blues, Ohio has its root in slow folk, alt-country, with only a tinge of jazz. The album as a whole has quite a melodic mood, and leaves me in a thoughtful, yet not overly narcissistic mood. It's just a good album. Listen to it!

The Weepies - Gotta Have You - Now here's an album that you're not going to come across unless you really do some looking. The Weepies are not a household name, and their music is admittedly hard to get used to. Its not the style, its the voice of the lead singer. She sings with a certain kind of honesty that is almost awkward in its transparency, but the more I listen to it, the more I like it. This is a simple album, rife with songs about love and wanting more in life. It doesn't pretend to explore huge issues, it just deals with the pains and struggles of a normal everyday person. Songs not to miss are "Gotta Have You", "World Spins Madly On", "Stars", and "Slow Pony Home". Give this album a try, its a wonderful blend of coffee-house folk tunes and honest lyrics.

Andrew Peterson - Behold the Lamb of God - Very rarely does an album come around that is really a work of art. If music is really art, though, Peterson's Behold the Lamb of God is one of the finest works you'll ever hear. He decided to do a Christmas album, but with a twist. He decided to tell the story of Christ's birth from beginning to end, starting in Genesis and working through the Old Testament, even including a song about the Begats in Matthew. What makes this album astounding to me is the scope. In roughly 11 songs, Peterson manages to convey the depth and breadth of the amazing Christmas story through the medium of song. If each song were a snapshot, then each picture contains more detail than you can possibly take in with just a quick glance. The theme that carries throughout is how each part of the story connects to the actual birth of Christ, tying the Bible together and giving the listener a glimpse into a rare kind of creativity. This is one of my top 5 albums that I own. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas post

I have a new cd playing softly as I peck away at my mac writing this new entry. It's a great cd that i've wanted to get my hands on for a while by the Weepies called "say I am you". It's a relaxing, folkish blend of acoustic melodies. I'm especially liking it right now because I've been in one of those super relaxed moods recently. Ever since getting back from London I've just been really relaxed and maybe even a little content. It's good to take days as they come and to let fresh things remind you of the speciality of life.

It's a bit weird having every ounce of 70 degree weather while the radio is playing Christmas jingles and stores are displaying red and green sales. I'm not sure that I really like it, because, frankly, I like the traditional chilly type of Christmas, replete with coats and scarves and a little bit of wind. But hey, I'm not complaining with 70 degrees either. It's just more like living in florida or arizona or some place tropical.

I have the next few weeks as open space before me. Nothing in particular to accomplish, but in that nothingness I think lots will get done. Here are a few suggestions I leave with you as Christmas hastens quickly and this post comes to an end:

1) get your hands on a copy of Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" and give it a good listen to during this season of advent. it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE. really.

2) keep listening to Christmas music after the 25th. it'll do wonders to your ears.

3) if you only buy two items of clothing this year, get a nice scarf and some nice shoes.

4) take a walk and do nothing but appreciate

5) watch some excellent college basketball matchups in the coming weeks

6) skip most of the dot com bowls this year

7) spend time well

8) read the Christmas Story in its entirety, starting with the beginning in Genesis.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


We are in the throes of fall. It's cold outside. It gets dark way too early. And I think the wind just woke up from a long nap. I spent most of the day in a state of discovery. I woke up ready to explore. Ready to be my own version of Lewis & Clark, except I didn't wander through dark forests and intimidating woods with large, feral animals. I was merely walking through the rather tame streets of London, taking in the sights and sounds, absorbing as much as I could into that great space we call memory.

I first ventured out into the unknown territory of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is huge, and I think I saw maybe 7.9 percent of the place. The rooms were great vacuums of all things old. And the lighting is that dim, barely-enough-to-read-those-tiny-labels- kind of light. It was vast, expansive, and too much for me to take in, so after I made my way through the Chinese and Japanese collections, I quickly found an exit and headed off to my next stop.

Next stop comfortable couch and warm drink. That meant heading to one of my favorite local bookstores/cafes. Grabbing a sandwich along the way, once inside the cafe I ordered my drink and sunk into a big, overstuffed couch. Yes. Now that the mood and atmosphere had been set, all that was left was for me to open my book and start reading. Which I gladly did, for over an hour. It just so happened that I had a great book with me, Lewis's "The Pilgrims Regress". I was quickly wrapped up in the story, stopping only to take sips from that wonderfully warm beverage I ordered (okay, it happened to be a chai latte...).

But the adventurous side of me would not let me stay there forever, so I found a good place to stop in the book and moved to my next task: figuring out what I would do with the rest of the afternoon. Then I suddenly had the bright idea to walk all the way back home from the bookstore. Not hard, I figured, it being a crisp, clear day, and me being young and energetic. Well yes, it turned out to be a great idea over all, just a great 2 hour idea. haha.

Allow me to go off on a tangent about walking for just a moment. You know, back in the states (oh goodness help me, I'm calling my home "the states", how goofy does that sound?) we just don't walk very much. From here to there is usually travelable by car, and startlingly few roads have sidewalks beside them. So it seems much easier to just drive places, even places that are within walking distances. But you know, I'm realizing this semester the tiny shards of happiness found in walking somewhere. As someone who I cant remember said, there is joy in the journey. To do when I get back to America: walk more.

Well after that rather exciting first half of the day, I decided to camp out at the house the rest of the day. Good choice. I read some more. I watched a movie. Had some soup. Unwound. You know, just enjoying being alive and being where I am. We must stop every now and again, or else we will miss the subtle things that happen all around us. After all, it's the little things in life. It's the little things.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Today I rediscovered my love for a good story. I watched the first two Lord of the RIng movies. It took literally all afternoon to do it, but it was really worth it. I realized how much those stories draw me in. I see the characters living so courageously and fearlessly, and I guess that just resonates with a desire deep down inside me, tucked away and reachable only by the avenue of story. I want to be that courageous, standing up for what I really believe and not just saying it. I want to be that loyal to those I love, ready to sacrifice and lay down my pride at the altar of humility. I want to see the world in terms of love, commitment, honesty, and TRUTH, not just selfishly detached in my own little existence.

And that's the power of the story, the power of a story like Lord of the Rings. It rings a bell somewhere deep inside me, drawing me in and not letting me go.

And I didn't even watch the final movie.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Everyday Events

This morning started out about the same as most days here in London. With my tiny little watch producing enough sound to wake me up. Not the gentle waking up that's preferred, but I guess it's just doing its job. After convincing myself, as I do everyday, that I must actually get out of bed to get something accomplished for the day, I geared up for the long walk down the stairs to the kitchen, and ultimately, breakfast.

And I mean gear up. Wow, it gets cold in this creaky, aged house. There are so many cracks in this house its almost as if the cool, damp air whispers at you to get up in the mornings. So i stuffed on my house shoes, which fit perfectly, like a sock but yet so much more comfortable. And the key in this whole gearing up is the sweatshirt. You must have the sweatshirt.

So I ambled down the stairs, taking note of the grey-sky backdrop from the window as I passed by, giving me another reminder that yes I am living in England and not Alabama. There was a chilly desolateness in the sky this morning, and the trees seemed so locked in slumber that even the wind could not wake them up with enough strong gusts.

Breakfast was good as usual, a nice start to a new day. Fills the stomach and gets me going. I feel like I am rediscovering breakfast this semester, because it's been a long time since I've been in a routine of eating breakfast every morning. I really like it. I realized how much I miss when I stay up too late and can't be awake in the mornings. There's a certain quietness in the mornings that you just don't get at any other time of day.

After breakfast it was almost time for class, which was pretty interesting today, a whole 2 hours on modernism as it relates to literature. I found myself coming in and out of the conversation, sort of like a having the news on and paying attention to only the highlights. I mean it was interesting, but i just couldn't quite focus on all the tiny detals or else I would get lost and not find my way to the bigger themes. I think that's what usually happens when I listen to people. I have to train myself to listen to the general theme, because I get caught up in lines and wordings that particularly interest me, and before long the speaker has left but I am still behind inspecting what has been left behind. I guess I'm like that kid in class who can't keep up with the group on field trips.

Once class finished I came back to my room, the tiny piece of property that I can call my own for these few short months. And it really is a wonderful thing to have this tiny spice. I can put on whatever music I am particualy keen to (right now it's lots of Rich Mullins and Andrew Peterson) and just be. Sometimes I like to open the curtains a little wider than I normally allow them to be and prop my feet up and read. Other times I'll just listen to the music, browsing websites that I enjoy reading. It's just a good space to be comfortable in.

And that's about everything in my day so far, as it is almost lunchtime and my stomach is rumbling like only it does for a 21 year old hungry, growing student. Maybe next time I write I'll pause a little longer on the influence of Rich Mullins and Andrew Peterson on my growing and evolving faith.

But I've got a life to live today, and tasks to be completed.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Under Construction

Okay, so this time I'm actually going to share with you how I'm doing and not just leave an ambiguous poem. By the way, the poem was kind of symbollic of me wanting to get to know God in a deepr way. or something along those lines. oh well. It's time, though, to share a little bit of what I'm learning.

Or maybe I should start in a better, but more difficult place, with what I'm unlearning. Being around people all the time this semester has shown me plenty of things about myself, and more than anything I've come to the realization that I am just a selfish person. Plain and simple. It's easier to mask at school because I have more control over when I see people and stuff like that, but I'm being exposed for the selfish person I am over here...

But you know what that's doing? It's driving me closer to Jesus.

I have never so much in my life felt the blessed detachment from people as I have for the past several weeks. Let me explain. You know when you find that drink at the coffee shop that you really like, how you just look forward to getting it whenever you can. At first you just get it every once in a while, and it's something that just brings you incredible joy (or at least it does to me), But then when you start drinking it more frequently it loses its novelty and you then drink it out of necessity.

I think that's a good picture of what I tend to do with people, and what God is helping me unlearn. God is helping me desire Him more than anything, to spend more time with Him than I do other people, to spend more time quietly alone. And through that, I can appreciate people more, like the coffee thing. But when I substitute people for God, I get like a coffee drinker who is addicted to coffee and no longer drinks it for enjoyment but drinks it for necessity. I start being around people and using relationships to GET things out of the interactions.

So I'm at this point where I feel wonderfully detached of people, but yet at the same time more able to see the beauty in relationships. I am finding that I want to spend more time alone quietly with God. I am learning to come closer to Him and let Him take care of all those other things in life.

and it is a BLESSING. I'm still, of course, making the same mistakes everyday of treating people with less compassion and respect than they deserve, but God is working in my heart. in other words, i'm


You know you are alive when you can feel the strings in your heart being tugged to the point of breaking, and you realize that it is just God making more room in your heart for Him and for other people. He's making your heart bigger. It hurts, but only through that pain will your heart grow to hold all the love that God has. And get ready, because God will only keep enlargening your heart because His love is such that we have no way to describe it and no way to measure it. It just keeps coming. so Lord, please keep me


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

.waiting for a rainstorm
ready for the sky to fall
the clouds to rumble
Hoping for a beautiful downpour.
The sounds of stillness grip the air.
Call it a prelude.
Expectation. I will find.
Everything else than I imagine.
So Much More.
Take my dreams. Simplify yet Expand
These moments do not define me.
I stand with my hope
And wait.

Friday, September 21, 2007

a little bit of Everything

t's been another good week here in London. This week I saw a little bit of everything. A good old rainstorm, fireworks over St. Paul's cathedral, John Mayer, and Stomp, just to name a few. If I didn't keep a journal of the places i've been, there would be no way I could keep up with everywhere we go.

Someone asked me the other day to share with them what I was learning so far in london. I figured that would be a good thing for me to write about, so i'm going to dive into what i've been learning so far. here we go.

1) i love having ryan hoffman and elliott dansby in the rooms on either side of mine.

2) I have grown in my appreciation for the small things. let me explain this a little bit. I think we have a tendency in life to diminish certain events in our lives and exalt other better times. It's hard not to really. No one wants to go through hard times, but we can't seem to get around them either. Here in London its easy for me to tell you about all the awesome things I'm doing. But I'm learning that whether I'm in London or whether i'm in Birmingham or wherever else I am, each season of life has its own unique quality to it. I don't want to get stuck in the habit of just "looking forward" to things in life. I want to be satisfied with where I am at. As Jim Elliott, former missionary, said, "wherever you are, be all there". That's been my motto for the semester, and I'm trying to ingrain that principle into my life. It's more or less living a philippians 4 lifestyle. Being content in any and every circumstance, knowing that I have Christ as my guide.

3) Good shoes are a good thing. especially when you walk miles every day

4) japanese style roll up beds are amazing

5) sweaters are a must as the temperature creeps lower

6) I love a good coffee shop. one of the things that just makes my day better is going every once in a while to the cafe down the street and getting a coffee and croissant or apple strudel....which leads to ...

7) oh my goodness i love pastries. and there are so many of them here. strawberry ones are the best, but really, any of them are great.

8) it is GOOD to praise the Lord. i love taking part in worship with the people here and learning how God's people love Him in different ways.

9) sitting down at least once a day to read a little bit of the paper or read a good book is essential for continuity. when you live in a house like this with 20 other people, you quickly find this out.

and here is a little bit of what the PEOPLE here have taught me...

ryan- rooming next to him is a blessing. and hearing him laugh is like watching a five year old laugh. its amazing.

andy - andy brings a certain consistency that is just so needed here. and he eats at least 24 sandwiches a week. and he thinks deeply too

elliott- at least a few times during the day i will hear elliott's harmonica. a nice reminder of the south.

crosson- not only does he fix computer things, but he's just a very considerate friend

trey - when he's not making a joke, he's either A) talking about how amazing a certain classical piece is or B) making tea and throwing ice cream into it....another just quality friend.

and i could go on. but i wont. this is a little taste of life here. i'm loving it. and i think i'm learning how to take it all in and not let it ooze out of my brain the next day.

thats it for now. grace and peace


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Perspective, the continual story

Something you realize more and more as you move into new circumstances is that life is a continual flow of movement and change. We were created for change. And we are in need of something that is Unchanging. It's a wonderfully simple paradox. Change is something that I so often resist, and I think i'm not the only one who does this. When you get comfortable somewhere, you just don't want to change. But then there are those times you do want things to change. So you've got this great-big continuum where the only constant is change.

Life is going to change, regardless of how we choose to look at it. I'm a different person than I was 1 year ago, physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. I've added new layers of experience that have shaped me in new ways. Going from being a sophomore at samford to interning with a relief organization to studying in london. That's just a little bit of change. But I don't want to harp on change too much, I want to focus instead on how I'm reacting to it.

Like many others who have done similar things like studying abroad have found, you dont just go overseas and "become a different person". Sure you change and enjoy new experiences and allow them to become a part of your life, but if anything, you also realize in a deeper way your core values. You rediscover, in a way, those things that at home have lost their novelty. They take on a new shine when you are away from them.

You can either sit and mope about missing them, or instead be thankful that they mean something to you. I'm talking about things like college football saturdays, caf meals, that friend who you talk to every once in a while who always makes you smile.

I'm finding that as I'm over here in London, there's a tendency I have as a human being to want to shift to either end of the spectrum, either ignoring those things I miss, or missing them too much. The cool thing is, though, that there's a balance somewhere in the middle where you begin to appreciate what either side can give the other. I can have those things I cherish as a sort of anchor that lets me sail on and try new things. I can be both entirely open and entirely secure at the same time, and thats the beauty of real perspective.

I'm going to continue this thought very soon here, but I think this is a good starting point for thinking about change and adaptation. I'll continue on soon.


Sunday, September 9, 2007


Well, I am going to tell you how things are going. Let me find some good music to play in the background as I write this. Okay, there we go. The Weepies will do for now.

Well, since I last wrote, much has happened. But it always works that way, regardless of whether I'm in London or Birmingham or Texas. Time moves forward and life changes. It just seems to change in a little more exciting manner when you're in a beautifully enchanting european city. And of course I happen to be living in one right now.

Life is different over here, quite different, in fact, than life in birmingham at samford. But in a good way. I'm slowly getting used to the continual noise of the cars outside my window and the constant sight of concrete, pavement, and large structures built many hundreds of years ago. The beautiful architecture, I'm sure, will get less exciting over time, but you know, I hope it doesn't. For the time being, everytime I pass by one, it's like i'm reminded again at the complex history that I am a living part of.

It's really the small things you appreciate in life, and it's no different in London. Sure the buildings are amazing, as are the big parks, but its still the small things that add the icing to the cake in life. The cup of good tea on a slow afternoon, a conversation with a new friend, moemnts when you realize a little more fully the magnificence of our Savior. These are things that make life so neat to me. Yes i used the word neat. haha.

I've always been a fan of really cool bookstores, and london is full of them. I actually need to get to reading though, for I am doing way too much browsing and too little reading. Oh well...

Boy is it a blessing having friends over here. It just makes life so much easier having people to share experiences with, unload to, and laugh with. I'm enjoying getting know everyone here better, even my good friends that I've known for a while now.

Okay, before I go on 100 tangents, I'll stop and tell you a little bit about my weekend trip to France.

You know, I've always had this terrible impression of French people from when I was in Paris for a few days as a young lad. I dont know why i developed such a bad impression, i guess it was the waiter who gave me the scornful look when i tried to order a coca cola. Anyway, those olds impressions were put to rest this weekend.

We started out flying to Tours, a city with so much history. But we couldn't stay and take it all in, because we had bigger and better things to do, like take a 3.5 hour train ride to Caen. Now let me stop here, and remind you that my French consists of all of about 7 statements. Mostly useful in getting around. But not too good with everyday conversation. So keep that in mind as I keep telling you about my weekend. Just imagine all the goofy, awkward conversations I had with French men and women. So after arriving in Caen, we decided to spend the night there, since it was too late to catch another train. The city was magnificent, with several large gothic cathedrals.

Then it was on to Bayeux, a small city outside of the famous beaches of Normandy. It's a fun word to say, Bayeux. think of it as saying " bay-you", with a nice french accent. and there you have it. Well, we didn't get to stay in bayeux, and only glimpsed the majestic cathedral from a few miles away. We wanted to see the beaches of normandy and the american cemetary instead. And it was a great choice. I had been there a few years back, but andy and trey hadn't been, so that was well worth the time.

Completing our weekend tour was the city of Mont. St. Michel, a unesco world heritage sight. It's absolutely amazing. I don't think i have a large enough vocabulary to adequetely describe it to you. In the words of andy farmer, "its just one of those places you just nearly stop when you see it for the first time". Yeah, its like that. Splendid, fantastic, majestic. Beautiful. Awe-inspiring. All of those things and more mixed into a nice big stone castle on an island.

Then we came back to London. A little tired but satisfied with our little excursion outside the British Isles. And coming back felt like coming home should feel, so thats another good sign that I'm adjusting better to London.

All in all, things are going well. So thats an update of what i've been up to, i'll try to post a few things here and there about my thoughts of being here, because i'm really trying to write more than i usually do, hoping it will make me a better writer. ha

okay, until next time, au revior!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

sunrise in London

As I look out my window this morning, I see one of the miracles of life that I so often overlook: sunrise. It's coming up through the trees, poking in between the branches, providing light that is both simple but yet still incredibly beautiful. Even in a crowded and bustling city like London, which boasts an utterly amazing skyline, nothing can compete with this simple act of beauty. It gives my eyes the reality that I read in the Scriptures in 1 John 1:5 : "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all". It's a good thing to see His creativity and character in action this morning.

It's hard to convey with words just how much I'm enjoying my time over here. I could tell you about all the amazing places and things I've done, but I don't really think that provides much of a picture of how amazing it is. See for me, it's not just about being in a cool city. Certainly this city has so much rich history and vibrant culture, but that's just one of the added bonuses. It's living here with people who have the same purpose as me, and who are fellow children of the living God. It's experiencing new things with different landscapes with people who love our unchanging and ever-faithful God.

With all that is going on around me, and with all the busyness of seeing a discovering a new city, it's so easy for me to leave the garden unattended, so to speak. My faith and my time with the Lord are so valuable to me, but it takes more effort to carve out that space for it. So much of me, I realize, is selfish and self-abosrbed. Like I read this morning from 1 John, "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (verses 8&9) That is the beauty of redemption through Christ, though, in that while I recognize how wrong I am, Christ cleanses me through the only true way of righteousness.

There is so much to learn, and so much to unlearn.

On to another day of exploring this new city, finding the hidden cool things, wondering with all the other people at the amazing big things, and finding those places which create a sense of belonging and which will allow me to call this place home if only for a few months.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Open skies and bigger waves

Tonight I am in a house in the relative calm of Dallas. The air conditioner hums tunes of cool air circulating in each room. It's the only sound I hear. My situation is far different tonight than the those residents all along the Yucatan peninsula. While the night sky outside rests peacefully suspended in the air, a meaner sky greets my neighbors to the south.

I was flipping through the channels, and a news broadcast came on announcing the imminent threat Hurricane Dean posed to the Yucatan peninsula, and alerted viewers that the hurricane had now risen to level 5 hurricane, the highest level they have to rate hurricanes. Gusts of nearly 200 miles per hour characterize level 5 hurricanes. This is no light event. Nothing to yawn about as my mind fades to thoughts of sleep.

It just amazes me how vast and varied our experiences are here on earth. I will soon go to sleep, and will probably awake to the sight of a normal sky laced with a normal, hot sun. Trees outside will still be rooted to the ground. Cars will be right side up, ready to drive. The lights will turn on and the shower will work. Tomorrow morning will be a far different story for those on the Yucatan.

And so goes life. We sometimes think that we can sympathize with others, but really, we can't. We can offer what limited condolences and small amounts of grief we can muster, but in the end, we are miles away from understanding each other. It's too easy to go to sleep tonight whispering prayers of safety and protection for the people of the peninsula, but I will wake up without the threat of a completely altered life.

For this reality to exist, though, magnifies the power of a far greater force, community. You see, each and every human being is placed within a circular realm of community, as crazy, unique, and intricate as each may be. Our webs of community each look as different as snowflakes under a microscope, but they are what bond us together. The experiences each community faces together reinforce and strengthen that common thread in the fabric of the community. It brings to life the vibrancy and texture of human relations.

As horrible and awful as things like hurricanes are, they are the yeast that gets in the dough to make it rise. Community is only as strong as it is in its weakest and most vulnerable moment. Maybe thats why the human spirit rallies when tragedies occur. For a few moments we put down our differences and decide to clothe ourselves with compassion, carefully tending the wounds that need healing. It's those memories that guide our communities forward, because we realize that in the end, while the world may not care, our community cares, and that is enough.

I can't understand what the people of the Yucatan are going through tonight, or how they will respond in the coming weeks. But I praise the Lord for providing us with communities that give that much needed support and comfort. I praise the Lord that many small groups of people will huddle together tomorrow, holding on to the most precious things in life, cherishing love, and realizing that life can move forward, as bleak as it may look. And I know that in some small way, the broader community surrounding the smaller webs can reach out and provide support in ways words cannot express. Simply caring, and acting on this compassion allows us to share in the piecing back of life for a broken community.

The response will be so deep, with so many layers, that it is hard to understand how healing occurs. But this I do know. The core of that healing is found in the community, where common experience paves the way for love, compassion, and help to take place. And surrounding that central core comes the healing found through external means, from other communities. And that, I realize, is what ultimately bonds us together as one giant community.

As different as we all are, as varied as our communities are, and as numerous as they may be, we all live on the same planet and breathe the same air. We all share the same need for love, community, and acceptance. And tonight I go to sleep marveling at the creativity of a God who orchestrated the design of community, knowing that we humans, as strong as we like to think we are, ultimately need each other more than we will ever know.

ho Kuriov mou kai ho Theos


Saturday, August 11, 2007

A little consistency

Well after a little more than two months in the sweltering heat of phoenix, i'm back at the home where I grew up in, back in Texas. I made the long, 16 hour drive in two days, and am grateful to not have to drive anywhere of significance for the next 4 months or so. That's right, London is coming up really soon. Spending all semester over in London is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, and it's quickly approaching. So the next week and half will be filled with resting, reading, some good old fashioned exercise, and packing/planning. Good's a little thing I wrote about a week ago while I was in phoenix. I wanted to share it, so here it is....

Do we get it? Do we actually get that we are children of the Living God? I so often find myself glazed by the sway of monotony, that I do not realize the astounding fact that I am bought with the precious blood of Christ. The blood. Real, flowing, deep red blood, that gushed from His hands, His head, His side, His feet, staining real wood cut by real people. I buy the lie, every day, that says that I am merely living for myself. I lose the perspective of eternity and the bright glow of truth that command nothing less than my full attention.

I love being out on the water. Especially out on the mighty ocean. Sailing through the ancient waters that have carried men and women on journeys since the dawning of time has a sort of expansive effect on your thinking. Some would call it freeing, I like to call it awakening. Like all those things in life that stir up distant rumblings in your soul, like a distant thundercloud bellowing deeply into the ever darkening sky, certain experiences wake us up to the novelty of life. We begin to sense that life in its most renewed form follows us like a shadow that is never noticed, but always there.

The few times I've been out into the great unknown I always had an epiphany-like thought that flew through my mind. A thought with wings that would perch upon a branch in my mind, if but for a few seconds, allowing me to take deeper breaths of living truth. I would get the image in my mind of me, standing on deck of a small sailboat, riding the rhythmic waves as a golden sun stealed away silently into the far horizon. I would put myself there, wondering why on earth I was imagining such a thing.

I think it's because this. In our world, we refuse to be small. We object to the slightest hint that we are not strong, empowered people. It is a degradation to be called weak or frail. These aren't things prized in our world. But deep inside us, there is a distant voice that sometimes catches our attention, and we realize with great certainty how small we indeed are. Like being caught in a heavy thunderstorm, with deep purple clouds swirling, wind howling, and rain throwing itself sideways. Or when you stand in a valley surrounded by tall, jagged peaks. I would imagine that people living through the World Wars would have felt this way constantly, especially those enduring heavy bombing of their cities, like Britain. The feeling that you have very little control over your life makes you feel small and frail.

It's something that we just do not realize very often in our lives, sometimes, sadly, until we stand at the brink of the end of human breath and see the vast canyon looming ahead, swallowing us up into its never ending abyss. This would be eternity, and so often we fail to live with it in mind. We get glimpses every once in a while, but we quickly busy ourselves again with the pestilence of life, not wanting to face the reality that haunts us to the core. That death is real, and will happen to every one of us.

But death calls a different song for those who find their identity solidified in Christ. It is not a moaning, gasping sound, but instead an enchanting melody of an eternal life with the Giver of Life and the Lover of Good. With that in mind, our existence here is precious, for we are not condemned in our living, but are instead freed to experience the richness of the Kingdom of God, right here on earth, through the Holy Spirit residing in each believer. Where, then, oh death, is your sting? The great resounding voice of Paul, echoed in the Scriptures rings true today:

But when this perishable will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your Victory? O Death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15: 54-56)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

lampposts and the sky

Do you ever feel small?

Tonight I had leftover pizza for dinner. Leftover pizza. Yum. Doesn't the sound of those words just make you want to eat? Okay if you didn't catch that, i was being sarcastic...Needless to say, the leftover pizza left me feeling a little "ehhh", so i figured a good walk would be in order. I threw some laundry in the washing machine and headed out the door. I was greeted by a gust of hot, stale wind, not the kind of breeze you envision when you picture a nice walk. The sun had just slipped past the mountains in the distance, and the sky held cascading layers of blue, moving from light to dark as the eye followed its path up to the awakening stars. It really was something to behold.

I tried to take in the entirety of the night sky in between lampposts. Add lampposts to the list of reasons why not to live in a suburb. I mean they are great if you are interested in safety and security, but they just block out the sky. it grew darker and all traces of sunlight ceased to exist, one thought slipped into my head. I began to think about how small I am in the grand scheme of things. If it's not already evident by the sheer numbers of other people in the world, or by the size of a mountain as you stand at its base, the vast expanse of the night sky sealed the deal for me. I am small, like grass, as the psalmist would say.

I began to think about all the ways that we try to magnify our existence into something bigger than it seems to us now. We are a people who will do anything to be recognized, and we crave attention, respect, and honor. I am the worst at this. I sometimes laugh at the way I put on heavy armor, trying to appear like a warrior, when all i really am is a little shepherd like David.

This idea of desiring to be something grand comes from a deeper desire to be known. We run ourselves ragged and spin around until we are dizzy just trying to be known. Why are so many people in this day and age so lonely, yet have so many friends and numbers in their cell phones? Something just doesn't add up.

We fall further away from love and acceptance by all our efforts. I don't slow down and breathe in the fact that I am known and loved by the Savior of the world enough. Too often my vision is blurred by the narcissism that plagues every one of us. Getting past that, though, I realize that through sheer grace I am known and loved and accepted.

The stars faded in and out as I walked past lamppost after lamppost, and as I finished the walk I felt small, yet at the same time size seemed to escape from my thinking, even if but for a few moments. I realized that in the end, that size, like so many things, points directly at God, revealing yet again that He reigns supreme over our world. And I am thankful for this tonight.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Back in the crisping heat of Phoenix, Japan seems so far away. The two geographies couldn't be any different. The hot, arid, desert like conditions of phoenix compared to the muggy, wet, and lush landscape of Japan. Heading from phoenix, i caught a plane to LA, then took the 13 hour flight to Taipei, Taiwan. The airport in Taipei was just massive, and the things I remember most (as much as you can remember after a bleary-eyed 13 hour flight) were the efficiency of the airport and the duty-free shops. I mean come on, whats up with duty free? haha. After waiting a bit, I flew back over the same waters I had just recently crossed into the land of Japan, to the city of Osaka. I was immediately just bombarded with a whole array of new sensations. There were so many people, so much technology, and so many signs that I could not understand.

After getting acclimated to Japan and my new surroundings for a few moments, I met up with the group I was traveling with and headed for the city of Kyoto via train. An interesting train ride ensued. The outer rings of Osaka were just littered with crammed communities and rice paddies. Every ounce of space in Japan is utilized. More on that later. As the city began to disappear, I started to see groves of lush green trees. It was amazing to see these trees right next to concrete structures. The landscape continued to meander as we made our way into Kyoto, with mountains now appearing in the distance. Kyoto station, where all the trains come through, was just utterly impressive. You get off the train and walk into a huge, cavernous gallery that at its highest point is 11 stories high. Huge escalators line both right and left as you exit into the bustling city center.

Our accomodations for the few days I was there were traditional Japanese Inns, called Ryokans. These consist of small, traditional Japanese rooms with roll-up mat beds. Sleeping on the ground on these roll up mattresses was a lot of fun. And thats in all seriousness. haha. The Ryokans are run by families, and getting that authentic side of Japan was really neat.

We spent a lot of time in local cafe's, where shopkeepers serve usually either breakfast or lunch and coffee throughout the day. These were small, 8-12 capacity rooms that were usually the ground floor of the owner's house. I loved hanging out in these cafe's. Most of the local cafe's were located away from the central shopping and business district of Kyoto, where huge global retailers like Tiffany and Armani had stores. This area was where everybody seemed to conglomerate on the weeekend. I enjoeyd getting to walk around the different parts of the city and experience both the authentic local cafe's and the more modern aspects of the city.

Our group took a train one day to the mountains on the east of the city. It was about a 30-45 minute train ride into the mountains, and the views were just spectacular once you got inside the mountain. Modern Kyoto seemed a distant memory as we glided into the lush forested mountains. We were able to get out and hike up a winding trail to an old Buddhist temple that sat on the upper edge of the mountain and looked out at several other nearby mountains. It was evidently a strategic religious and military locaiton back in the day. But you see, back in the day in Japan means a whole other thing than back in the day in America. They've just had so much more civilization history than America has, even though we had Native Americans here for such a long time.

I left Kyoto with a general impression of mystery. The ancient temples and shrines are everywhere in Kyoto, and they tell a story of deep-seeded Buddhism that intertwines culture and belief into one seemlessly woven tapestry. Old and new stand side by side in Kyoto, evidenced by the cafe's and temples right next to modern telecom companies. It just is a land of mystery to me, and after only a few days there, I can only leave with a huge appreciation for the intricate culture and interesting customs of this land. It was definetely an incredible experience.

Hopping back on the plane to the states, I realized just amazing it is to be able to continent hop with modern forms of travel. It just boggles my mind.

As the first part of my internship with Food for the Hungry, this trip springboards me into the rest of the summer. More to come later. Until then, Peace.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Fresh Days

It's summertime. Which means no school, long days, and new experiences. It also means that I have no idea what God has in store for the remaining months of summer. This always has the ability to both frighten me to death and encourage the deepest part of my soul. I'm frightened to death because one part of me wants to know exactly whats going to happen to me and how its going to happen. The other part of me screams in opposition, knowing that the passion and uniqueness of life is found in giving up my future to the Lord. I know with all that is within me that the promises that God inscribed on my heart through His powerful Word will guide me every day. And you know what? That's something I can take deep rest in.

You know, the funny thing is that the future is really just one moment away. The line between the present and future is blurred only by how we react to each new event. I can choose to saddle myself with the past and let that be the lens through which I experience the present and the future, or I can lay hold of the true promises of God and abandon myself to His glorious calling. See, life to me gets most complicated when I look inward instead of living outward. What i mean by that is this. We have a tendency to think and believe that life is all about us, when in reality it has everything to do with God. If we start with ourselves, we will never have the right foundation. It's only by grounding myself in Christ that I can be free of being dominated by the lures of the world.

All that to say, one of the most incredible things I've been experiencing lately is a deeper understanding of what it means to be in relationship with God. It's tough. I'm not good at it. I don't always desire Him as much as I wish I did. But what keeps me going is the limitless love He has shown me. How incredible!

I'm getting ready to go out and experience some new things this summer. I'm so excited, yet I have no idea what He's going to do with me. And that's exactly where I need to be.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Million New Beginnings

There is something that we are missing. I’m not talking about missing fireworks in the sky, I’m talking more about missing the shooting star at the edge of the horizon. It’s that something that eludes us each and every day, passing underneath our conscious thought like a quiet submarine. What I’m talking about is appreciation for the moment.
Today is more unique than a snowflake. There has never been a day like it in the past, and there will never be a day like it in the future. What an incredible thing to think about. Today holds opportunities that will never exist again. There is a new sunrise, and million new beginnings happening all across the globe, and there will be a new sunset. It’s the essence of what has happened for centuries, but wrapped each day in new packaging with a slightly different twist.
There is an appropriateness in realizing the tiny intricacies in life, for it is in these layers we find deeper significance to life. It’s not just the big events that add weight to the scale of our days. It’s in the short conversations, the abilities to see and to move, the simple pleasure of life itself.
I have a tendency to quickly shove these things aside and focus my attention on the “more important” things in life. I think you might have the same problem I have. I’m not sure that life was meant to be lived like this. Somewhere deep down I realize how much I hate the monotony of a dull life. The dull life isn’t easy to define, though. What may “seem” dull can actually be exciting, since we are each created with different passions and energies. Where the dull life manifests itself, though, is in the soul. The dull life can be just as real in the life of rich millionaire as in the life of a poor person.
I am reminded over and over again just how tied down we humans are to circumstances. There is great joy, though, in living beyond our circumstances, for that is where the real place of rest and fulfillment is found.
There are new things happening this day. There are new experiences occurring this day. I’m hoping that we can all learn to open our eyes a little wider and take in the beautiful mess that is happening all around us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I read something today that blew my brain out of its skull. The latest National Geographic has an article about the mysteries of stars and in particular how they explode and die. There’s this quote on one of the pages that says “once a second somewhere in the universe a star explodes with the brilliance of an entire galaxy”. After I let those words sink in, I had a hard time truly understanding the totality of that statement. Bam. Bam. Bam. Three stars billions and trillions of light years away just exploded. Huge explosions that would make anything we’ve seen look trivial in comparison.
My mind just got lost for a little while after I put the magazine down. I started thinking about how humongous our galaxy and universe our. Science has made amazing strides in understanding our surroundings in space, but we still have only scratched the surface of what is actually out there. I feel really small when I think about how big this universe is. I feel incredibly egocentric when I realize how much time I spend worrying about my own needs.
One of the most amazing things, though, comes when the realization hits that there is Someone in control of all these events, not to mention all this space. As my limited knowledge increases about these deep subjects, the Person behind it all becomes cleared. It’s almost as if the muddy confusion in the foreground of the picture just serves to highlight the magnificence of the God behind it. Behind our limited knowledge and our limitless questions stands a perfect God.
I have a hard time understanding that God can hold the universe in the palm of his hands. That just sends my mind into utter confusion. All these things, all these exploding stars, all these millions and billions and trillions of miles of space are under the control of the Almighty.
Today, the eyes of my heart see God much like David must have seen God when he wrote this Psalm. “You who are the trust of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest sea…You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy” (psalm 65:7,8). All of this stuff, all of these things, they point to God. I cannot say that with enough force.
I start to realize maybe my problems aren’t really as big as I make them seem. In the presence of the refulgent Light of God, my darkness is exposed at its core. All of this comes back to God. It all points to Him.
And He has allowed me to know Him. He who brought forth the ends of space extends His love to me. Wow.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

the desire to travel

I have this thing for travel shows. I don’t watch tv a whole lot, but when I do, if it’s not something sports related its almost guaranteed to be a travel show. I am fascinated by different places. There was this show on about southern France the other day. Every scene seemed to have some clichĂ© French thing, whether it be wine, art, or a street-side cafĂ©. I was particularly interested by the pace of life. In many of these towns, when there aren’t any tourists, the town looks ghost-like. From a person who grew up in a big city (dallas), slow paced life is something foreign to me. I wouldn’t really want to live all the time in this hyper-slow, ultra-relaxed atmosphere, because I would probably lose all sense of purpose and passion for existence, but these kinds of places are perfect for short, rejuvenating trips.

It’s almost like we were born with a desire to explore and go different places. As a kid, this came about through imagination. I would invent new places in my head all the time, and create their likeness from my living room couches and pillows. One time I imagined that my living room was the space station, and that the cardboard box I was sitting in was the most advanced space pod in the world. That seems like such a long time ago. Now I just wish for a weekend in a different place.

I think we’ve got something imbedded in us that tells us to go beyond where we are. And I don’t think this only applies to physical location. I think this has something to do with our hearts and souls as well. There is this unexplainable desire in my soul to move past where I’m at and to go someplace new. A lot of new music deals with this desire. Switchfoot’s song “meant to live” is a perfect metaphor for the desire to go beyond the normal. Somehow when things slow down and we have time to process what’s going on in our lives, we become aware of this desire for something more.

For me this is a spiritual journey. This desire that I have a hard time describing is born out of a desire to know God in a deeper way. I am deeply disturbed when I think about how little I relate to God. He knows my ins and outs and everything about me, but I barely ever struggle to get to know Him better.

I think this desire also extends to almost every area of our lives. At least at my age, being comfortable and content only gives temporary joy. It’s the struggle and unknown that drive my heart to experience a richer life. Whether its reading National Geographic so that I can know at least a little about the world around me, or getting out and running and throwing Frisbee, that desire to live a fuller life pervades every part of me.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think that in at least some ways, every human being desires a fresher, fuller, richer life. The hard part is that we can choose how we respond to this desire. We can let worldly desires rule our hearts and guide us down the path of selfishness. It happens all the time, and I’ve traveled down that road so many times. There’s just nothing there but dead ends.

I’m learning that the place I’m yearning for exists in a Source outside myself. The only way I can be satisfied is by a deeper connection with God. And that, I believe, is what drives us all, whether we know it or not.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Who likes to take blame? I can't really think of anyone that does. We like people to tell us what we're good at and what we've done well, but the minute blame starts happening we reach for our shovels to heap it on someone else. Blame turns into this goopy sludge that none of us want to be seen wearing.

But what if we started taking the blame for our mistakes? What if we owned our own failures and shortcomings instead of passing them off on anything that seems capable of bearing the load?

I don't like being blamed for things, even if I did make a big mistake. But it seems, if we'd all start owning our mistakes a little more, maybe we could get something done in this world.

Maybe I'm crazy, but why do all the problems and issues in the world have to be covered with so much sticky red tape. I think if we got down to the heart of matters, we'd start realizing that no one wants to take the blame.

So I'll start. I'm a sinner. I make a lot of mistakes, each and every day. I have a hard time putting faith in anything other than myself. I am a prideful person. So there. That's a small portion of the blame that I should take more often.

Let's quit focusing on saving so much face in life. Be real.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


A couple of years ago I drove through the state of Idaho on the way to yellowstone national park. I don't remember much about Idaho, except that it was flat, there was an incredible amount of farmland, and it seemed like time was under some sort of spell. I didn't really go into Idaho expecting to see any great natural beauty like beautiful forests, mountain peaks, or stunning canyons, and I'm sure that Idaho has some very lovely stuff. The part that I went through, though, was simply not captivating. But then I began to think about something. I'm sure Idahoans (sp?) find great pride and great beauty in their state. I'm sure many of them wouldn't want to live anywhere else, because the things I see as boring and yawn-worthy they see as home. This got me thinking about something I have a problem with: perspective.

I don't know if I'd say it's one of the biggest problems I see with people today, but the battle for perspective is certainly right up there with other nagging issues. We live in a society that is dominated by advertising. And what is the goal of advertising? To make you feel like you need something. We in America are bombarded by more advertisements than ever before. We get them through TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, and even cell phones. We are constantly told that we need something else in our life to make it truly "satistying". I think this kind of thinking has finally caught up to us and has caused us to really lose our perspective.

If I told you that over 3 billion people live on 2 dollars or less a day, would you suddenly consider yourself to be a little more financially comfortable. Or that several billion people go to sleep each night wondering where the next meal will come-if it will come at all. Would this change your perspective?

Don't we always get a sudden, strange appreciation for our lives when we hear stories of struggle and pain from other people? When we come into contact with other people's life situations, we then see our lives in a different light. It's as if we live our life with such tunnel vision that we don't have any peripheral vision to see whats happening in the world around us. I think if we did, we'd start to appreciate our lives in a little deeper context. We'd start realizing that all the things we consider normal in our lives are actually the greatest blessings of all. See, we've lost the perspective of contentment. Not the kind of contentment that is complacent and lazy, but the kind that realizes the small things in life are worth savoring.

I wonder where the struggle for perspective will take us in the future?