Friday, December 17, 2010

The Fourth Day of Christmas...

Tired, but inspired by holiday concerts...
This doesn't have to be synthesized, you CAN play this live. I learned that tonight.
Amy Grant is a true a '69 mustang, but for Christmas parties.
Kenny has been with us almost as long as Amy Grant "Home for the Holidays"
also inspired by these quotes by Brock:
Holiday Beverages:
"Wassail is delicious, but can clash with Egg Nog."
Holiday Shopping:
"Well, I can tell you this much...if you can't get it on Amazon (*pause*) then you aren't getting it from me."
Holiday Spirit:
"I like the  holidays! I like holiday spirit! ... I just don't like people."

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.-Isaiah 9:6
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. - John 1:4

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On the third day of Christmas...

A little extra time on your hands!

Christmas in the South: If You Can't Fry it, Spray Paint it Gold

Showing off the House: One of the more bizarre things about life in the South is how a dinner inevitably leads to a tour of the house.  This is equally true of antibellum  and double-wide homes.

Advertising the Family Name: This is the only time of year when five bucks and a poinsettia can get the family name in the church bulletin.

Promoting the Family Name: From January to Thanksgiving only real estate agents, attorneys and hookers can freely distribute photos of themselves...Christmas, however, is open season.

Holidays On Ice

The woman at Macy's asked, "Would you be interested in full-time elf or evening and weekend elf?"
I said "Full time"
I have an appointment next Wednesday at noon.
I am a thirty-three year old man applying for a job as an elf.

Speaking of Ice
So many tv specials.  It is hard to pick between them.

Who Dat?
Committed, that's who.

O Holy Third Day
It is only right to include this on this day.  It's not every festive gathering that you hear caroling with a didgeridoo.  Sadly, it is synthesized. Is nothing real anymore?

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Da stürzte Gott aus seinem Hinterhalt

First a childhood, limitless and without
renunciation or goals. O unselfconscious joy.
Then suddenly terror, barriers, schools, drudgery,
and collapse into temptation and loss.

Defiance. The one bent becomes the bender,
and thrusts upon others that which it suffered.
Loved, feared, rescuer, fighter, winner
and conqueror, blow by blow.
And then alone in cold, light, open space,
yet still deep within the mature erected form,
a gasping for the clear air of the first one, the old one...
Then God leaps out from behind his hiding place.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Moldy Muffins

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. - Romans 14:19
To my friend, Gwen, on her birthday.
Listening: Bjork and Anthony in "Dull Flame of Desire"

Some people you know you are going to like from the second you meet them. Gwen is one of these people for me. I still remember the day I met her...on the leather couches,"Hiyeh! I'm Abigail. Do you play bassoon?" I loudly included myself into her first day at the next major step in her life..."I noticed the case!"
It all sounds so lame now, to remember...

Gwen and I became fast friends, mostly out of necessity (mostly HER necessity), you see...I had a car at school and she had taken the greyhound from Canada and did not. One of the first days of school, I remember taking her Canadian self to FIESTA!

I talked the entire way there, the entire time we shopped, and the entire way back.  I think she still had her 500lb bassoon case with her and she looked a little in shock from me and Texas and the school, but nevertheless, she was very nice. I think I said things like, "You'll be fine." "It is really difficult at first, I remember my first week." "We will all HAVE to be friends, you see." "I think it is gonna be a great studio." "Well, Andrew knows Fei, so I think they are living together." "Where are you staying?" "Who's your roomate? some flute player?? Oh, so you like Bjork? Me too." 

One thing I have learned about Gwen is that she doesn't like gossip and she is a fairly private person.  She was kind to let me ask her all of these questions, she still lets me ask questions.  

I know I tired her out.  I still do sometimes, but at this moment, she tolerated me - I think she could tell I was at least trying to help...even if it was coming across as a little arrogant.  
Sweet Gwen. 

I want to share my favorite scripture in all of the Bible today. This passage truly reminds me of my friend, Gwen, and her understated willingness to incorporate all different types of people into her concept of life.  And because she lives in a different country, I will send this message over the internets instead of sending a box full of muffins that are moldy when they finally arrive at her door (note: this tragedy has already occurred and I learned my lesson).

I am going to paraphrase a little:

Everybody has different gifts and ways of doing things, but all of these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and they are specially given to each one as God decides.  

The body (of Christ's church in this case) is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body...

If the foot says to the hand, "Because I'm not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of that body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? 

As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor...

God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Gwen is definitely the hand to my eye. We are quite different people.  But, I just wanted to share a couple of remembrances on her birthday:
-An incredible voice on the bassoon.  Gwen plays with incredible passion and sincerity.  Every note has significance. She plays like she lives, noticing everything and appreciating what there is to appreciate.
-Being yelled at while getting ice cream at Amy's by a belligerent guy wearing a pretentious hat.
-Teaching Gwen to drive at my parent's house over the holidays.
-Having her stop the car and get out and say that she had done enough driving.
-Always bringing up meat as a topic of conversation almost every time we speak even though she is of the vegetarian persuasion.
-Sending moldy blueberry muffins across the continent along with a bouquet of 4th of July paraphernalia so that Gwen could have a proper celebration.
...Gwen not telling me they were moldy until I persisted on how she liked their taste. ;)
-A beautiful hand drawn, hand folded note after my recital that said such uplifting, lovely things that it clearly reflected more on the sender than on the recipient.
-Homeschool Band Concert in Pensacola, Fl. Mignone Duet.
-Bad, Bad cane and Bad, Bad days with reeds in 2007-2008
-Another edifying note given at just the right time.
-Canada! and Addictively good Chocolate Gelato that she wouldn't eat.
-A gondola?!
-Loads of talk about squirrels and other woodland creatures.
-Coffee in the student center...or rather me walking to the student center in search of her knowing that she would be there getting coffee to ramp up for another late night at the studio.
-Star Pizza 
-No cell phone. :(
-Bjork (particularly the Bjork song that is at the top of the page)
-skyping with LOUD kitty accompaniment. and last, but not least...
-being far away from my friend

Monday, November 8, 2010

There is something amazing about fear: A Communion Post

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; 
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." - Isaiah 11:1
When I am really, really afraid I feel broken.  I feel like I can't go back and moving forward puts me at a greater risk than staying put.  I feel like screaming and keeping very quiet at the same time.  I feel imminence and a great cloud of grayness.  I feel dead.  I feel like a stump of tree that used to thrive.

"A shoot will come up from the stump..."
Listening to: Disconnect the Dots by Of Montreal 

There is something about fear that is amazing.  I'm not just talking about looking back and realizing how it all worked out.  I hate it when people tell me that everything will be ok or it will all work out - I feel like by that time I will be scared of something new and won't remember to enjoy what I gained from THIS fear. So, sounding just a little jaded, I will try to explain why FEAR, real actual fear is AMAZING. 

There are fears that are intoxicating, addictive, and undeniably appetizing.  For example, I will eat things that are way too spicy for my digestive system and there are people, not myself, who jump out of airplanes and thrust themselves into deep waters with sharks only relying on a heavy tank of sinking air.  This is a type of amazing fear, but...not really the fear I am talking about here.

The fear I speak of is when you have everything set up just right, you have done everything you are supposed to do, you have a husband, a kid, a job, a fantastic instrument, an amazing family, a great church, really good friends, good food, a house with a front door and windows and beds and things, cool weather and you are sad.

The fear I speak of is when I am fighting with my husband, my family won't tell me why they can't be around me right now, my friends are acting weird, my car doesn't have ac and it is 90 degrees outside, I don't know where stuff is, I have to do someone else's laundry, I am tired all the time, I feel stuck with my life, I feel like everyone else is doing better than I am doing right now, I always say the wrong thing to my in-laws and I don't know what to do about it, when I can't get comfortable because the weather is always changing, there are toys all over the floor, everything I eat makes me feel good and bad at the same time and something is seriously wrong when I drink milk.  

The fear I speak of is when things are not supposed to be difficult, but they are anyways.  I think this fear is important.  And I am really starting to think it is amazing.  

It makes my throat growl and my shoulders squish together tensely and fall limply forward at the same time.  This fear includes everything that is real and important and it means something very important to be feeling this fear, but for the life of me I don't know what it means - I just know it is very important.  

The fear I speak of many times is completely unappealing, difficult and annoyingly unproductive.
"The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord and he will delight in the fear of the Lord - He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears." - Isaiah 11:2-3

My sister says that there is a point where you realize that being happy is a decision, not a reward.  

This is in that fear, this statement is the gem inside that dirty geode rock that you find.  But that gem has been hidden, it has been beat down by all of the currents of life's streams and right now, it just looks like a dirty stupid rock. I want to say something about how it has to be broken to be discovered and seen and how life breaks you, but that's not really my point.  

My point is the amazingness of fear.
For the next part, listen to: Wayward Song by The Earlies

My point is that there is a gem.  That there is a new shoot in your stump (See Isaiah verse at top of page).  
My point is: 

"Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege. I had said in my alarm, I am driven far from your sight. But you heard my supplications when I cried out to you for help." - Psalm 31:21-22

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." - Proverbs 16:33

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will make [what is right in you] shine like the dawn.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways...Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret -- it leads only to [bad things].  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land." -Psalm 37:3-9

Honestly, it has taken me a long time and will probably continue to take me longer to learn that happiness is not getting what I want, it is not having no pain, nor is it having everyone love and understand me when I try to love and understand them, it's not always getting the job I think I deserve, or making the amount of money that I think my quality of life needs and it might not even be feeling validated or important at all. Happiness is not a lot of things that I expect it to be.  

God does not ever promise that we will not have fear, or be scared, He doesn't even promise that we won't be sad or feel pain.  But He does promise us that we can have hope that our fear comes from the Lord and it does not come from all of the unpredictable evil in this world.  It may seem like it does sometimes, just like - I'm sure - that geode rock thinks the rough currents and rocks that it tumbles over are the cause of its ugliness. If I were that geode, I would assume my insides looked like my outside.  But ultimately, in the end, no matter what that little stone thinks, the beauty will still lye within and the rough travel will only serve to give the gems inside time to get more beautiful!

The fear of the Lord is: 
The beginning of wisdom
A fountain of Life
Teaches a man wisdom, humility and comes before honor
Pure and enduring forever
It is able to turn us from the "snares of death"
The key to salvation, wisdom and knowledge

It isn't necessarily contentment, happy happy and singing.  It might really hurt, like a bullet or a hammer or just like life hurts sometimes in that scary way.

In THAT fear, the one that is in the grips of God, we can feel secure that it is for good reason.  That we are more alive inside and we are becoming more beautiful and wise because of this fear.  

Fear is amazing because it makes the good things really noticeable and it makes us think about them and wish for them and watch out for them to come, but is also amazing because it is good.  Fear in itself is good. Not because of what we get out of it, not because it makes us try harder to avoid is good, because it is part of the Character of God. 

Mark says that Jesus told his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34)" then he asked God if it would be possible to do this in any other way (vs. 36)

To me, it seems like at this moment, Jesus felt fear and even though He knew why - He didn't want to be feeling it or even face the next step ahead.

I heard a quote the other day about discipline that blew my mind: 

"Discipline should be for reconciliation, not destruction." 

My whole life, I have been the one that others were disciplining, now, the roles are reversed. I look back to my own experiences and I can easily remember that it certainly does not feel good to be disciplined, especially when you cannot see why you need to learn that discipline.  I see that feeling very tangibly when I try to discipline my 9 month old son...he doesn't like it. But, discipline ultimately brings freedom and it has allowed me to achieve goals that I could not have achieved before, but more importantly it has given me a structure for reconciling my undisciplined self with a person that is capable of achieving those goals on a regular basis.  It also is a fact, that the more disciplined I become, the stronger and more capable I feel...the teacher in me calls that freedom. 

Ultimately, if I and my son had our heads on straight, we would see that discipline is hope.  And fear of not knowing and waiting and being sad, that is hope as well.  

I call this a communion post because it makes me remember that the blood of Jesus Christ has something to do with me.  It represents Him dying so that He and those He loved could truly live.  It represents the fear of death and the knowledge of the life within that death.  As I take communion and feel the burn of bad wine go down the back of my throat and into the inmost parts of my being, I remember that gem and I think on THAT thing in the midst of the deeply gray clouds of my amazing fear.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Let's Make a Deal...

Let's Make a Deal...

Listening to the "It's Blitz" album by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah's 
I recommend these three songs while you read if you like: 
Soft Shock

        This has been a really tough week for me.

This week made me fully aware of the struggle that the author, Paul talks about in Romans 7.  How sometimes you can't make life do what you think you want for it to work:
8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment (rules of life), produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate, that is what I end up doing. -selected from Romans 7
Me, Me, Me, Me, etc.

You know those pictures on facebook that show all the facial expressions and you are supposed to tag-match each friend to their appropriate emoticon? Well, I will post one, because I know my mom will not know what I am talking about and I am hoping that she will read this post, this thing:

Well, I have expressed each of those little faces to my tried and true husband THIS week.

I was gonna blog about it, but I didn't want to be THAT blogger...and also, every time I tried, I ended up realizing my logic was more optimistic than realistic, so I didn't.

In the true spirit of pragmatism, instead of the spirit of blogging, I went to a movie:

It's Kind of a Funny Story (I especially like 1:35 and 2:23)
There is a quote in the movie where Craig is trying to help Bobby figure out his positive qualities and they come up with pragmatic.  He's trying to gain access to a shelter upon being released from the mental ward so that he doesn't have to be homeless, so he can get his "accountant's" daughter back...I don't wanna give anything away, so that is all I will say.  Point being, that is why I started inserting the word "pragmatic" into as many sentences as possible this week and especially when referring to my husband because he looks exactly like Zach Galifianakis and is actually, quite pragmatic himself.

Trying to be more pragmatic so that I wouldn't be as crazematic, I hung out with friends, cleaned my house, cooked a lot, practiced scales and Bach, taught a bassoon lesson, hung ten with W baby, went to Sam's, went grocery shopping and...

I was invited to participate in a garage sale today...well, I invited myself, who ever knows how these things happen.

I spent the majority of Thursday and Friday getting stuff together for the sale - I was gonna turn things around for myself. I was going to clean, wake up early and facilitate people's access to treasures!

I was up until 2:30 putting prices on things after watching the Rangers game while playing Power Grid with friends. All are very important parts to my pre-garage sale routine. I think, this was, in all first time to actually donate and sell my own stuff at a garage sale.

Things were going great. People were buying old lotions, old women were hulking over me wide-eyed while I pulled out unopened gift sets from a cardboard was really happening...I was part of one of the "good ones."

I had this tv that I wanted to sell.

Re-enactment of Sony TV on table at Garage sale
It was my tv from college, which was in electronic terms...ages ago.
It was outdated and it was really heavy.

To make a long story short, I dremeled a lock, borrowed my mom's car, almost injured myself and W baby lifting it from the storage unit floor onto the moving cart with no breaks and then, in an act of supernatural strength, lifted it into my mom's car, then set it up just right on the table at the garage sale and debated over the asking price, $50??? (too high - people won't ask lower and I would go lower), $25??? (too low), $35??? (I think people will just ask $30 if I put that), $40??? (ok. That sounds approachable and I would go down a bit from there, $40 it is.)

As I am walking away from a tarp full of toiletries and old t-shirts looking at my phone to text Buster, I pull out my money to count and look for change. I have already made $41 bucks!!!  Holy cow. It's only like 9am. This is fun and awesome and I feel great.

It is around this time I notice my MIL pointing a young-ish man wearing "Hip-Comf" in my direction.

"Hip-Comf" - slightly thought out, young person clothing that is fitted while maintaining it's Prime Objective of being comfortable.  Worn for occasions where you need to be approachable and in touch, but warm and fuzzy at the same time. "Hip-Comf." 

Let's call him Juan.

Juan: "Will you take $10?"
Me: "$20?? and I can prove that it will work."
"I cannot return. I will not drive all the way back if it breaks."
"I promise you...
"How about "$15?"
"No. I mean, you know? I will not come back, once I buy...I do not come back."
"Well, ok. I will just wait for someone else then. Thank you."
...pause...Juan walks away...
Juan returns, "$12?"
"Ok. You can just take it for $12..."

Then money - a big wad of it. Words. $1's. Hands. Fanny packs. $20's...$5's...

Juan exits stage left, truck. I look down and I am holding $23.

No money in my pocket. No money in the change makin' fanny pack.

                     23 dollars.

MIL and I review the transaction. I start feeling sick. I realize I am making a Michael Scott type of awkwardness for the other treasure hunters, so I decide to get in the car and return my mom's car that I had borrowed to hawl the tv and other garage sale peripherals.  I continue to review the transaction. I start to feel my brain turning into ever-tightening static. I can't stop being mad, upset, sad. I can't stop thinking about all the work I had done for the garage sale and how cheap I was letting stuff go just to have my "Big-Ticket Item" ripped from my hands along with my money. I couldn't stop thinking about that guy and the wrong he had committed me.  When he said he liked my Ray-Bans was he really saying, "You clearly don't need my money, and I should get your tv."

I couldn't quiet it.

"Stop! Don't worry about it! Don't let him have your day as well as your money."  nothing worked. I was sad, unstoppably sad. I was degrading and I was degrading pretty fast. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, maybe I just hate the smell of eggs...stop.

"Jesus, take my stupid brain away." I cried at the changing red light.

I got to my mom's house and *hug* and *hi. oh, fine. you?* and *French Toast sandwiches with chocolate inside* and *inhale smell of said deliciousness* and

"I got swindled." :( ):
that is a frown followed by a mirrored empathetic frown given by my mom

"I just don't know how to be ok. I can't figure out what happened. If I don't make that $20 back it will ruin my day. Ughh. I wish I could just not think about it."

Dad: "You were victimized. He wronged you. It is ok."
then he told me a very interesting, but too long to post story about my Papa's tactics against swindlers in his restaurant. "...He just shut the register..." "One at a time..."


Mom: *reaches in top drawer of cabinet and pulls out a twenty and hands it to me.
Me: "No, mom. It wasn't your fault. I don't need your money. I just want to be ok in my head."
Mom: *insisting
Dad: *Gets wallet out and pulls out a $10
Me: "No, I don't want the money. It's not...
Dad: *Gives mom the ten.

*it is better and we eat...

After the toast and a couple of bites of "extra-crispy/blackened" bacon, I head back to the sale. I think about what my parents just did, how they fixed me. How they heard my concern for what it was, not the money - not even the guy, but the justice.

The fact that my excitement was killed, my joy was stripped from me by the wrong of this Juan guy.  He doesn't even deserve to be worried over.  I know this, and I just feel my dad lowering his eyebrows and flattening his smile as I imagine myself complaining again to my MIL. I won't do it.

I will enjoy this day BECAUSE of what they did for me. They paid to me the price I was stuck paying because of something I couldn't control, so I wouldn't have to pay it for the rest of the day.

This is exactly what Christ did.  This is the gospel of Jesus Christ as it affected me today.

There are tons of verses that apply here...just go to and look up the word "salvation" or "propitiation" or "gospel" - but, because I don't like to be too predictable, I will go with this one:

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be LIFTED UP. - John 3:14
They were getting eaten by these snakes and God told Moses to make a brass snake and lift it up. If the Israelites simply looked at the snake they would be healed from the wounds inflicted upon them by the other snakes.  Lifting up the snake was an act of obedience on the part of Moses, looking at the snake that Moses lifted up was an act of faith on the part of the Israelites.  

Today, I simply had to let my mom and dad demonstrate Christ to me (she held up the brass snake) and by allowing her to love me, I was healed.  The implications of this are significant.

I started out by talking about Romans 7, Paul describes how he is always wanting to do one thing, but really wanting to do another (*imagine the struggle of eating healthy, verse eating delicious non-healthy things - this is a similar struggle to what I was dealing with life problems.) In Romans 8 he starts to piece some things together, here is a summary of what Paul, Juan and my parents taught me today.

Everyone sins. (Romans 3:23)

No one doesn't sin. (Romans 3:10-18)

The price of sin is death [as set by God], but God offers life through the act of Jesus. (Romans 6:23)

The act was Jesus dying for us and paying the price of our sin...(Romans 5:8)

If you can recognize in your heart that Jesus paying that price really fixed your hurts, and you are willing to admit it with your mouth, things WILL GET BETTER. -Romans 10:9
I had to stay in tune with my feelings while talking to my parents so that I could honestly examine what I could control and what I couldn't and so that I could recognize when I felt things ease up.  Self examination is another topic for another day, but being completely aware of your true feelings so that you relinquish your emotions of the powers they hold over your mind...that's kind of the idea.

So, Paul continues, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:13)

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1)

"THEREFORE, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)

Christ love in the form of Chocolate stuffed French Toast
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

I found this button on a Christian web site:

They wanted you to push it and then enter a bunch of personal details so that they could pray for you and send you emails about Jesus.  As much as I don't like the fact that it existed on that website as a type of polling mechanism, It applied to me today. I mean to say, I started accepting him a long time ago, but because I accepted and believed Christ through the love, generosity and gentleness of my parents today, I was healed from myself, from Juan and from just a couple other things that I can't talk to YOU about.

I used the name Juan because of the obvious ease of insertion into puns (as seen above), the guy had a Mexican-sounding accent, but most importantly because John was the man, in the Bible, who came to prepare the world for Jesus to come and Juan did just that in his own "hip-comf" way for me today.  

"We are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement. Through faith in his blood." -Romans 3:24-25

"For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." - Romans 7:22-25

At some point, the pragmatic brain fails us.  It is at this point that we have to look at the snake and be open to how Christ's love will heal us.  All we have to say is

...Let's Make a Deal

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fear of Commitment

A tremendous commitment...

Marriage is hard work.

It is like an emotional mirror that feels like talking, but won't stop staring.

The closer you get to someone, the more intensely difficult the separation feels when you have to be alone...or at least that's what I used to think.

listen to this while reading

My friends parents had a great marriage.  They were constantly gushing over one another and kissing in public. Yuck. I remember when we were in high school it seemed like every month they were going to another marriage workshop. One day I finally got up the nerve to ask my friend why they had to go to so many workshops, because it really seemed like they were getting along just fine.  He said something unsatisfying, but passable like "they like to get away from the house" or "I think they help out young couples" or something like that.  I forgot about it and we went downstairs to play more foosball.

The summer after my first year of college I went to a music festival in Sarasota, Fl. About half way through the festival I got a call saying my friend's dad had died suddenly, leaving five kids and a lovely wife behind.  He had moved down to central Florida for a work project and had contracted a severe illness quite suddenly and before anyone knew it, he was gone.  

I went up to the funeral, it was only a couple hours away and this was a very close friend.  It was very sad, but oddly - everyone seemed ok.  I mean, they were tender, but it seemed like they were fine.  We spent time waiting there with the grief, went to a relative's house and played cards while the adults talked about fond remembrances and then I got in the car and drove back to Sarasota to continue my festival.

A few years later I was riding in a car with my friend and I asked him, I said, "at your dad's funeral, you were really strong and supportive and seemed to be handling the tragedy really well, but you couldn't really have been well? Were you ok? Are you ok now?" and after hesitating long enough that I could tell he was being sincere he said, "yeah. I mean, I miss my dad, but I guess I am just living on."

Now, I knew my friend really loved his dad and would prefer not to think or talk about the dying part of his dad's life, but he was really living on.  I thought about those afternoons at his house and his parent's kissing and going to those workshops.  I have thought about that many times since then.

I have to wonder, is it possible that the constant commitment to expressing love to each other and the consistent dedication and integration of their marriage to God created a love that was so alive and invested in their family that it lived on even when the husband did not? Is it possible that they actually had a love that conquered death?

The Bible says: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love casteth out fear." - 1 John 4:18

I know so many people, myself included that are constantly thinking about the dangers of getting too close to someone because they might lose them.  This is especially hard when you have lost something or someone that you truly loved.

I choose to think about this family every time I think about losing someone or missing someone or having to feel that loneliness of true self-reflection. I choose to remember that their love made something that didn't escape with life into that great emptiness of grief and lifelessness.  What I love matters. Who I put effort into loving matters.  Where I choose to express my love matters.  The love that is given to me is an eternal gift and I need to be grateful for it and not let it slip by unnoticed. 

The Song of Solomon is the Bible's love story.  It is by far the racy-ist of the Biblical is analogous of Christ's love for His church.  The man initially is seeking the woman, then she tells him to go away and when she feels like she may have lost him for good because she can't see him roaming around her windows anymore, she goes into the streets and starts asking everyone if they have seen him. During this process she has to explain what he is like to all these people and realizes that he is really actually kind of great. Finally she realizes that she knows where he has gone.  He has escaped to the garden to pick flowers for her.  When she gets to the garden she tells her friends not to wake him up until he is ready to be woken up - confirming her faith, trust and confidence in his plan for their love...and then she says it,

"Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."

If we dedicate ourselves to each other and fully embrace loving, we are promised that our hearts will never be quenched.  Christ's love is the ingredient that makes that love eternally divine and reaches out and teaches us exactly how to love each other.

...a tremendous commitment

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Surfing the Tide

Peter Cole circa 1968 - he keeps this picture in his wallet
For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
-Romans 8:19

Peter Cole says, "But actually, I don't think we're underestimating waves. I think we're overestimating them. Nowadays they call it face."

He is referring to how people try so hard to scientifically evaluate a wave that they try to measure it and they neglect the type of knowledge they actually need to ride it.

Christians do this all the time. I do it all the time. I try to think about things that, while important, are casting a huge scientific shadow on the things that will make the Christian life come alive to me. It is essential to question God and seek His understanding in life, but these questions can never be substituted for getting on a board and riding the actual wave. Cole says this quote about overestimation because a surfer who fancied himself a scientist actually died because, in part, he thought too hard and rode too soft.

I think that we need to live the characteristics of Jesus Christ (as seen in the four gospels and in the fruits of the Spirit) not just figure out what they are - but actually embody them and be motivated to call ourselves out when we do not live up to them. Today, I purposefully tried to think about them and how I could be more patient and joyful and loving and was amazing how far an attempt to think about something can go.

We need to let Christ transform our hearts and minds from the inside out if we really want to learn why He is so important to human life.   We need to stand up on our board so that we can be swept away and fully energized simultaneously by the tide of true religion.


My teacher with one of his teachers (instrument is an old Contra Bassoon)
These three words were drilled into my brain every day of my life between 2004 and 2007... they are a faint pounding behind the resonance of my metronome and my unquenchable desire to practice things accurately and patiently.

A metronome that is also a tuner.
As a student they feel like a wet blanket.
As a teacher they feel like black magic.
and as an alumni they feel like confidence and empowerment.

My teacher performing a piece called "Dead Elvis"
The fundamentals of music are scales, intervals and long tones. 
Practiced with attentiveness and priority they will enable you to play music without hesitating, they will free you to express yourself within the creativity of the composer's expression, they will liberate you to improvise.

The fundamentals of the Christian life are called the fruits of the Spirit and are the characteristics of God: Love, Joy, Patience, Faithfulness, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Kindness, Self Control, and Goodness. Practiced with attentiveness and priority they will enable you to live free of hesitation, they will free you to express yourself within the creativity of God's universe, they will liberate you to improvise.

But you must practice them.
So, the point?
How about another picture instead:
The Fundamentals-Learning Process

After I started REALLY, ACTUALLY, FOR REALS, NO KIDDING practicing my fundamentals, something amazing happened...I could see something new, everywhere. In every piece I played, I was no longer concerned with the me part of performing, I only (well mostly only) thought of the music, the ensemble, the connecting of the two.  It was amazing. It still is - when I practice my fundamentals correctly and consistently, my musical life is better and as things improve in my musical life I kinda crave my fundamentals practice time.

Repetitive Fruit Picture

If you practice the fruits of the Spirit, the same thing will happen. Understanding and enabling the mind of God in your life takes practice and complete trust that God knows what He is doing and means for you to be as capable as you can ever be.  Just like my teacher wants every student to see, open and walk through the doors that lead to their talent being heard and used in the world, God wants each of us to be unique and useful, to be connected, but do different roles.  Just because I practiced the exact same things as all 7 other students and the dozens of students before and after me at my school, no two of us can ever sound alike or maybe more importantly - we can never sound different than ourselves, we just become more free to express all that we are.  You can identify similarities because they have a similar admiration for the same master teacher, but each person sounds different and uses their talent in a very different way. My teacher is an enabler, and he enables through extreme practice of the fundamentals.  God is not unsimilar.  Seeking the fruits of the Spirit and honoring them as priority in our lives will look vastly different to every Christian - each person will have to be patient for their own individual struggles, they will suffer for a long time or be in love for totally different reasons and they will be faithful to different ambitions.

These two links demonstrate vary different types, styles and sounds of playing from four people all studying at Rice:
"Dead Elvis" by Michael Daugherty performed by Rice bassoonist, TK DeWitt
Three Rice Bassoonists playing a bassoon trio by Julius Weissenborn

My teacher asked me two questions during the first week of school.
Keep in mind, I was a pretty good bassoon player at this point.  I had been accepted into his studio as well as a few other prestigious studios around the country and I had an identity in music, I had a thorough understanding of that identity and music as a whole.  I don't say this to be arrogant. I say this to be honest.  No one is perfect...but I thought I was pretty close. And I didn't want to change anything, I wanted to add to what I had already made - I certainly didn't want to destroy any of the main components of my playing.  I think a lot of Christians feel this way and close their mind and most importantly, their hearts, to the idea of being reborn.  Being "Saved" doesn't mean a one time decision, but a continuous priority to choose to do what is right.  Think of your longest relationship with anyone...I bet you, when it is good, you are thinking about those fundamental fruits and forgiving the other person when they aren't - or maybe they are doing that for you.  Selfishness or self obsession is rarely at the root of relationship gold.

I recommend that everyone asks someone the following two questions during their lives at some point.  God puts people in our lives to teach  us and in August of 2004, when asked these two questions by my bassoon teacher, in relation to my bassoon playing, I said yes and I am forever grateful for it.

The questions were:
Question 1: Are you willing to change?
Question 2: Do you trust me?

Ask yourself those two questions about God.

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. - John 3:3

you must submit to the changing before you can know the value of the changing, the purpose of it is hidden...this is faith. 

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. - John 3:6
I couldn't understand my teachers perspective until I trusted him and continually demonstrated that respect through practicing the fundamental exercises that he gave me to do.  


More Slow Practice