Monday, July 26, 2010

Halfway to Christmas

August is almost here. And august, at least for students and teachers, is a transition month. I've gotten used to the day to day routines of summer life, but those are about to go away. I don't really know what to expect with this new school year. I'm nervous and excited all at the same time, which isn't really any different than how things were last year.

This time around, some of my dearest and closest friends won't be around for the day to day and week to week. We're all setting out in different directions (well, at least they are) and it seems adventurous and exciting to see them go and follow where they've been led. Every now and then a good shake-up is what you need in life, and even though I'm a mixture of sad and hopeful about this next year, I'm comforted when I look back and remember what God has done in the past when I've felt similar apprehension about the future.

Things won't be the same, but they don't need to be. I try to remind myself of Moses and Abraham and Joshua, how they all must have felt as they set off in new directions. In a way, you've got to be kind of crazy to really follow where God leads.

Lifelong friends are a precious gift from God. They are the people who you can come in and out of life with, not see for long periods of time, and still find warmth and connection. People are the best gift God gives to us outside of our relationship with him, and I feel so blessed to have people in my life who I can share life with, listen to, and share struggles.

To my friends who have moved and are moving (the farmers, James, Paul and Andrew) I want you to know how much I love y'all. You have blessed me beyond measure, and it's been an honor to be your friend.

I look forward to the new roads ahead, and to following where the Lord leads.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Walking, not running

I was out running the other night, making my way through a dark trail because in Texas you have to wait until the sun is long gone before it's remotely possible to enjoy outdoor activities not including water. Things were going along smoothly until about 10 minutes into the run. That's when I started to realize that I should have waited an extra 30 or so minutes because dinner wasn't done digesting. What I thought would be a good long run turned into a walk instead.

But it was awesome. It was great to be forced to slow down, to actually hear the crickets chirping and the water moving in the creek by my side, to hear the big swoosh of tree limbs as they swayed with the force of wind. I had wanted to run, but it turns out I needed to have that walk, instead. I sort of laughed because this happens to me a lot. I want one thing, but it turns out it's not really what I need. A great reminder to me that being in control isn't always the best thing.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It's beautiful when you can come back to a place you've been before and find something new. As you realize new dimensions to a familiar thing, that familiar thing becomes something more dear to your heart. It's why friendships and relationships get better with time. It's why the best music gets better the more you listen to it. It's why you keep coming back to something long after the initial thrill of excitement has worn off.

And it's something that I am discovering in my walk with God, too. I read a few chapters from Hebrews last night, and the Word spoke to me anew, even though I've read it before. I guess I am learning to be thankful that walking with God isn't a transactional thing, where I learn a set of precepts once and then go on about my life. I'm more like a small pile of embers that continually needs to be fanned into flame by the Spirit.

And as I continue to apply myself to reading the Word and doing what it says I am involving myself in the process of rediscovery. I make too many mistakes and fall too often for my walk with God to be defined in terms of progress of some sort. I am infinitely glad this day that the progress that our world defines itself by and prides itself in is not the benchmark of faith.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I have a hard time being content

"But wherever it is recognized that the power of death has been broken, wherever the world of death is illumined by the miracle of the resurrection and of the new life, there no eternities are demanded of life but one takes of life what it offers, not all or nothing but good and evil, the important and the unimportant, joy and sorrow; one neither clings convulsively to life nor casts it frivolously away. One is content with the allotted span and one does not invest earthly things with the title of eternity; one allows to death the limited rights which it still posses. It is from beyond death that one expects the coming of the new man and of the new world, from the power by which death has been vanquished."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Ethics

I read this and stopped and thought about it for a moment, because I have a tendency to think of the boring or dull moments in my life as things to be avoided. I want it all to be exciting, "meaningful", when in reality it is all meaningful already. To find God in the everyday is sometimes the hardest thing to do when I'm blinded by my own expectations.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What was it like, for you?

So it's Saturday morning. I'm finishing up my little pot of coffee I made earlier, enjoying the quietness of the morning. Summer has flown by, don't you think? I realized just the other day that summer is already half way over, and the way that realization dawned upon me it was as if I had been spinning my wheels inside a windowless room, unaware of time.

The pace of life during school this past semester was always hard to describe. It would be slow and steady some weeks, while others were just horrendously jam-packed. One week I'd be able to enjoy and think about the stuff I was assigned to read and write about, while the next I was trying my hardest to cram it all in and crank a decent paper out. This summer though, has been different. Very steady pace, with limited variation. And you know what? I'm finding that I like both.

But one of the constants among the two different paces of life has been weekend retreat. A few years ago I went on a spiritual formation retreat where the speaker talked about Sabbath and how we as busy college kids could learn a lot from the habits of ancient Christians who practiced rest, solitude, and reflection. At the time it was a revolutionary concept to me. It sort of took me by storm. At first I had to be really make an effort to make time during the weekend for sabbath rest. Then, slowly, it sort of sunk into me and became something I looked forward to, anticipating throughout the week.

Everybody has a different idea of what Sabbath is, and I think that's one of the great things about it. Some people really get into the solitude thing, while others just enjoy feeling free from work. I've found that I just really like the openness of the time. What I mean is that I like having (even if it's brief) unscheduled time, time where I can sit and hang out with friends if that's what's going on, or time to read a good book, or any number of things that brings rest and relaxation.

If i don't watch it, it becomes difficult for me to unplug. I know most people have an easy time just hanging out and doing fun stuff, but for some reason I find it sort of difficult after a heavy week in the books to disengage. That's where the unscheduled time comes in. I found that most of the time I needed a bit of time to fully unwind, and that's where the old habit of sabbath came back to help me.

I was thinking about all this as I was sitting down with my coffee this morning. The quiet all around me, unscheduled time before me. It's good to work hard, to be stretched, to do something hard. Because that's when the rest really becomes valuable. It's when you're able to appreciate the people and blessings in your life that they start to mean more, and sometimes it takes a little unscheduled time in order to count those blessings.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

all kinds of debt

I recently had lunch with a good friend of mine who is a successful banker. He has an MBA and is working towards a doctorate, and I was enjoying soaking up his knowledge and wisdom about all things economics. In just a few short minutes I realized how much I do not know about all that kind of stuff, and how much I base my decisions about both personal and governmental finance on large generalizations I've made through the years. Needless to say it's great to have friends who are gifted and knowledgeable about things that I am not.

One thing he recommended me to do was to start reading some business magazines. He said the Economist was usually pretty trustworthy and went in depth in its articles. I decided to pick up a copy, and I've spent some time this week reading through its sections. Just last night I finished their special section on debt. Each week they tackle a specific issue or country with about 20 pages of analysis, and while it's a bit overwhelming at first, the writing style was easy to read and i found that i was beginning to understand how debt works and how it has affected our world so much in the past few years.

But I'm not interested in just the pure economics of debt. I'm interested in what it has done to us as people, as individuals within a system, living and breathing and making real-time decisions. As I was reading the article, it became clear to me that the culture of debt that we live in has seeped through to every part of our lives, and affects us in more ways than we even realize.

One of the reasons we have piled up such an enormous public and private debt as a country is because of our "buy now, find the money later" attitude. Since there are so many ways to finance something, buying a product doesn't seem like a monumental decision in the moment. We learn to buy from impulse, and the whole business world has learned to cater to this impulse nature by focusing on design and aesthetics in a product, figuring out how to make us become emotionally attached to the products they are selling. As a result, many of our purchasing decisions are made on the surface, on the fly, if you will.

Because I believe that habits in one part of life affect every part of life, I think that the "impulse buy attitude" we've cultivated in our society permeates all parts of our lives. It's clearly a part of social networking, where we learn to connect on multiple fronts with tons of people, but few of the interactions achieve a level of meaning that a personal interaction achieves. It's a part of our educational system, where learning how to skip and flit through large tomes of data by boiling them down to the "essential points" has adversely caused us to misrepresent and mischaracterize entire movements of thoughts. Our society values nimble thought, and we've learned how to achieve it.

You may not see the connection as intertwined as I see it, but I think our shopping (read: consumeristic) habits have bled into our entire lives and led us down pathways with consequences we haven't quite fully realized. We are people, in many ways, dealing with all kinds of debt. Learning how to save and be smart with resources is the same remedy that would help us with many of our other social problems as well. Learning how to value and invest in people, diving deeply into subjects of interest and becoming good at them. Overcoming these kinds of impulse habits doesn't happen overnight, and doesn't require us to chuck the baby out with the bathwater. Impulse is a positive part of our human nature, as is our ability to critically think and evaluate. But we need to learn how to effectively achieve a balance between the two.