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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The lost art of life...

Yesterday, I did something I've wanted to do for a long time. I went to the Philadephia Museum of Art and ran up the steps like Rocky all the way to the top. I turned around and put my fist in the air and pumped it up and down like a piston. On my insides, I was screaming out some battle cry. I stood there for a few minutes and just took in the city with all its smog and skyscrapers. It was a moment I will never forget. People were moving past me smirking and thinking to themselves, "Another Rocky wanna be trapped in a puny little frame. What a twirp." I then saw a bunch of people gathered around a newly erected statue of Rocky...I decided to go down and embrace this piece of copper or whatever alloy it was. It was so cool...come to find out, it was just put there in the last several months. I just saw the movie Rocky Balboa last week, so this only added to the pathos of this experience. I loved the last movie, by the by. It was way better than I feared it would be.

After I came down off my "Rocky" Mountain High (long live John Denver), I made my way through the massive pillars just before the entrace to the museum. I paid my dues and just staired at the architecture of this historic building. What a beautiful structure. I climbed a set of stairs to the first floor and spent the first of four hours in a newly added armer and arms section. It had all kinds of old guns and shields and swords from the early 1200's to the 16oo's...unreal. There were armors for horses, medieval spears, and jousting artifacts...I was in heaven. I then made my way to the European art wing...the oldest jewels of that time period...again, stunning and spellbinding. The paintings, the sculptures, the carvings...it was transcendant. Most of the material was religious in nature...centering around Jesus and the crucifixion. I was blown away with how pervasive that presence of Christ was in this museum. I would guess that 7o% of the art was representative of Christendom. It was a spiritual experience walking through each room and taking in afresh the ripple effect left by the life of Jesus.

I then went downstairs to the ground floor and sliced through the modern art section. It was less gripping for sure, but still pregnant with beauty. I guess I'm a sucker for things that date back to the 14th or 15th centuries and beyond. The newer stuff just hasn't stood the test of time...it's really only just begun to be historic. The American part of the museum was my last stop...this was my second favorite part of my self-given tour. By the time I left, I was drunk on art. That is something I would gladly place myself under the influence of any day of the week. I don't make enough time to inhale beauty in my life. It carries me through colorless and savorless days.

Days like this end too soon. But I guess that's what makes them special.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

This is what beauty does to me...

Christmas has come and gone. I'm sitting here with my iPod listening to the soundtrack from "the Fellowship of the Ring"...unreal. It's like I'm swept away into an alternate reality...a world all its own. The theme song from The Shire pierces parts of my soul that only it can. The first viewing of the movie comes flooding back to me and all that it represents. Ironically, I was here in New Jersey on Christmas vacation when I basked in the light of the bigscreen on a Monday afternoon. I was with my brother and it was one of those rare occasions where you go into something expecting nothing and getting something so otherworldly you can't recover from the beauty you've consumed. This movie/soundtrack just tore open parts of my soul that were untouched for over 27 years of my life. The music is haunting and seducing. The landscapes, the themes, the plot, the battle, the simplicity, the friendships, the idyllic community of Hobbiton...the imagination, the wonder...these characteristics aroused areas of my heart pining in a dark corner of my insides for something larger than life.

The mystical arrangement of this album is breathing into my ears something life sustaining. I can feel sound turning into salve for the soul. It trickles into my ear canal and somehow cascades down into my insides...it creates bumps on my arms and tingles in my spine. I feel whole...centered...awakened.

I wish to always feel this strange stirring. I can't imagine growing numb to music's power. There are days when I'm so caught up in the rituals of routine that I become estranged to the arts. And as I ignore my heart, I get ignorant.

I long to walk through the woods all my days...to resist the temptation to walk the trodden path of popularity. I want to venture out, to allow the wanderlust of my heart to find it's satisfaction in making it's way through uncharted territory. I want to drift toward desire and to let my heart be my guide. I don't want to see footprints. I want the virgin land to call out the explorer and lead me on an expedition away from normalcy and toward mystery. I want to wonder what's around the bend. I want take the road less travelled by, and experience the difference the auther speaks of. I want to feel lost in the middle of life. I want that to drive me to seek the truth...no matter where it leads me.

I remember getting lost in the woods several years back and feeling the fear fill my chest. I didn't know North from South, East from West. I ran through the forest and fields not knowing if I was running toward or away from home. I came upon an old broken down barn in the middle of a brush infested clearing. It was getting dark and I remember considering whether to stay there for the night until morning. I was so close to clearing out a corner in the dilapitated shed and creating a nest out in nature. I was scared...it felt invigorating compared to the known means and ends of my everyday existance. I decided to keep running toward the sunset imagining that it would lead to somewhere I would recognize...some backroad, some discernable landmark. Minutes later, I happened upon a large pond with a paddle boat...civilization!! I walked around the pond and toward what appeared to be a tractor path. As I crested the hill, I saw buildings of what looked like a camp. It was. It lead to a road, that lead to the house I was trying to get back to. When I finally walked through the door and told the story of my adventure...I was saddened.

You can't make yourself get lost and feel the same adrenaline I felt...I has to happen to you. I wished for more of that feeling...even if it wasn't physical, only spiritual. I wanted to feel lost somewhere that required me to find my way to where I wanted to go. I didn't want to keep feeling like I was letting someone else think for me, talk for me and act for me. Sometimes it just feels like everything's handed to you on a golden platter these days. Where is the virgin ground yet to be claimed? Where are the lines of logics and the systems of thoughts that need to be questioned and regurgitated for reevaluation? Where are the free thinkers who wander off the path of least resistance toward the mysteries of the dark woods of wonder? This is what beckons me as I listen to this intoxicating score of music written by someone who isn't taking his cues from Mozart, but asking the question, "What music has yet to be written? What must I do to hear it in my heart and put it on paper for the whole world to experience?" Shoot me if wanting this kind of life is juvinile.

Beauty. This is what it does to me.

Monday, December 18, 2006

II Corinthians 7:5
"This body of ours had no rest. We were harassed at every turn--conflicts on the outside, fears within."

"This body of ours had no rest...."
Wow! That is were it begins...the restlessness of the Christian many times starts with "lessrestness". Our minds are preoccupied, our schedules are crammed, our hearts are congested with dreams of what could be but is not, our souls are dry pieces of God-sod....and we are exhausted!! No rest is where things can get crass and business-like. Our walk with God is more like communism than communion. Our bodies are wasted and our quality of life is subject to question. We are existing...but that is about the extent of it. No rest catches up to you once the adrenaline wears off and the rush of what you were working toward fades into the past. You are left in a heap of hurt and people are passing you like you are standing still...oh, wait...you are!

"We were harassed at every turn..."
Once your body lacks rests...your outlook on life is skewed. You start dreading life instead of drinking life. You see what you believe rather than believing what you see. "Harassing" is a good word for the feeling...you feel played with and toyed with like a caught mouse who has become the entertainment of the victorious cat before he is devoured never to return. "At every turn"...yes, again a perfect decription by Paul of the feeling of being overwhelmed with the impossibility of escape at times. No matter where you go, you start adopting the attitude: "Something is going to go wrong, I just know it!" You feel weary of life and now your starting to feel leary of life...you feel like you are being taken over.

"Conflicts on the outside..."
I don't even have to elaborate on this phrase lest I insult your intelligence. Let's just say that you can't go anywhere without facing one conflict or another. It becomes a reality that compounded with fatigue and frustration can take you down for the count.

"Fears within."
This is where it culminates into paralysis. You becomes frozen in fear internally and all your spiritually energy is to keep yourself from falling apart. You fear everything:
1. What do they think of me?
2. Can I do it satisfactorily?
3. Who am I disappointing?
4. Why can't I measure up?
5. Why am I not getting it?
6. Am I missing out on something?
7. What am I going to do with my life?
8. I wonder if I will ever find someone to marry?
9. Does God really exist?
10. Why am I so messed up?

The list goes on and on...but who needs me to dredge up the repressed terror of the heart? I guess I just like verses like this that speak to the heart of what I face without pulling any punches. It's real and it effects each one of us at one time or another. I wonder if this verse happens in anyone elses life out there?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How Great is Our God--Christmas rewrite

I've never done this before, but I thought I'd post a song I rewrote this morning. I'm sure alot of you who read this (whoever you are), have some connection to music, church and worship. This may or may not come in handy for you in this holiday season.

I was thinking about the popular song, "How Great is our God" yesterday and had this idea to rewrite lyrics that fit the Christmas season and the birth of Jesus. I woke up at 5:30 this morning and I had a couple lines going through my mind. Instead of "clothed in majesty" I thought of "clothed in poverty" and another line that seemed to stick out to me was the line, "washed us white as snow". I never connected that to the Christmas season and I wanted to weave that into the song somehow. About 40 minutes ago, it all came together. I just wanted to share it with you in case if fit something you were doing in the next couple weeks.

When I create I feel God's pleasure...
---------------------------------------------------
How Great is Our God
Music by: Chris Tomlin
Lyrics by: Jason Holdridge/Chris Tomlin (chorus)

The King of Majesty, born in poverty
A stable for His home
A stable for His home

He wrapped Himself in flesh, skin held righteousness
The manger was His throne
The manger was His throne

Chorus:
How Great is our God, sing with me, How Great is our God
And all will see How great, How great is our God.

With heaven born to earth, hope began to birth
In every human soul
In every human soul

This little life contained, the blood to cleanse our stains
And wash us white as snow
And wash us white as snow

Bridge:
You’re the God who makes a way
In the darkest of our days
So my heart must say, “How great is our God!”
-------------------------------------------------------

I hope this encourages you in some way today...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Cost effectiveness...

What does it cost to stay alive? What price does a person of influence have to pay to maintain a spirit that is attractive and inspiring? What thoughts have to fill your soul in order to have a message to give to people on Sunday morning worth listening to? What torment must be endured to be a vessel of God that is fit for His use? What pain must be assumed and embraced to reach the masses that approach life with such a suspicion of the propaganda? What ridicule must a heart undergo in order to stay close to the heartbeat of the world? Is the "Shadow of Death" the address of the follower of Christ? What cross must be carried?

I had someone ask me if I understood the influence that I have on people. They asked me if I grasped the way my speaking touches the human spirit. I'm not sure that I do. But I immediately thought, "It's nice to feel like you're making a difference in someone's life, but the cost to keep my heart poised without being poisened sometimes causes me to question if it's worth it." The sleepless nights. The devil's advocate in me. The dangerous quest for truth, no matter where it leads. The gut wrenching heartache induced by a glance at the world around me. The angst I live with contunually...wrestling with contradictory thoughts about Christ and Christianity. These are the things that make me the vessel I am. Some days it seems worth it...others, I am left to wonder.

So whenever I have my ego stroked, I am quickly reminded that a minute of influence costs a day of questions. An hour of power costs a week of weakness. A day of ecstacy costs a year of agony. Only the human soul will know what I'm talking about in this excerpt.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I think Jesus was probably right...

It was a Monday not unlike most. I was hauling my daughters to school and asking them some probing questions to see how they felt about the past weekend and what they were feeling about the coming week. We were listening to Christmas music in the car and there was a song that was composed so creatively...I could tell Kami was intrigued with the modifications this particular composer made to this age old carol. I turned to her and said, "Isn't music amazing?" She smirked and nodded her head. She said, "I love music, dad." That made me happy. I want my kids to appreciate and love the arts, and little comments like that bring me to life.

We arrived at Aly's school plenty early. She leaned over my seat and gave me her prissy little kiss, lips tightly pursed, eyes squeezed shut. Kami grabbed her and put her in a head lock and gave her a kiss on the top of her head. She opened the door and away she went.

It was just Kami and I in the car for the next few minutes. As we made out way to her school, I could tell she was focused on something. I asked her what she was thinking about and she said that she couldn't wait to give her teacher her present. I forgot that she had a gift bag along with her backpack today. I asked her if she was excited and she said, "Totally." That reminded me of the mid-eighties, so I flashed back to 21 Jump Street and New Kids on the Block. She was smiling so I said, "Isn't giving gifts so much better than getting gifts?" She nodded her head. I then told her about how Jesus said that "You'll be more happy if you give than if you get" (Acts 20) She turned to me and quickly said, "I think he was probably right!" That he was.

I think Jesus is right about alot of things that we tend to forget about.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I have this urge again...

I saw a few people with shaved heads recently. I don't know if it was a movement of the Holy Spirit, or a curious draw to a more radical way of life, but I wanted to shave my head right down to the soft, supple surface. I don't know if this would work since I'm not actually bald or balding. I know many men who refuse to fight the hair-loss battle any longer and resign to the fact that shaving their head is a far better option than rationing out pockets of hair trying to comb it forward or sideways or what-have-ya...they cave in and just lop it all off much to the happiness of everyone around them. There is nothing that pains me more than seeing a man refuse to give in to the inevitable, holding on to every last hair and trying to be creative with hair bolstering alternatives. I applaud the man that puts down his comb and waves the white towel of surrender.

That is why this decision often causes such mixed feelings inside me. Will the hair on top of my head leave a dark shadow of stubble? Will certain lumps on my skull that I don't know are there make my head look ghastly? Will I have tons of little pimples on my head that everyone feels compelled to pop everytime they get within 4 feet of me? Is there dry scalp syndrome under there, a chaffing of dead skin just waiting to be freed from the canopy of soft, silky hair to be seen for what it really is? Are there birth marks under there that have the appearance of a rash or skin disease? Will I be surprised by a mole or two latently growing beneath the foliage? Will my moderate widows peak look funny? These are the questions that plague a man making this sort of asthetic move.

I also find myself thinking about the cold. I wonder if I'll regret this decision when the arctic winds of Michigan come against me. I wonder if I'll want to stick my hair back on with transparent scotch tape when all is said and done. I wonder if the hair growing out of the top of my ears will stand out even more. (I have nearly 9 aberrant hairs growing out of the cartilage on the tops of my ears). I wonder whether I will be able to keep my soul patch tucked under my bottom lip or if that will have to go with the rest of my head hair...I don't know if I can part with that. I wonder if there will be a distinct line between the tan of my face and neck and my snow white scalp giving me the look of Cruella Devil or a recent recruit to the army. I wonder if people will be able to listen to me when I'm speaking on Sundays or if they will get transfixed on my head and be transported into the Twilight Zone. I wonder if I'll be able to concentrate on anything but the lack of hair on my head when I'm talking to people. I wonder.

And yet, there is this underlying gravitational pull to just do it. To cast off all bonds and make a clean break. To run toward the unknown and embrace the risk on the other side of all these questions. I wonder if I will always wonder what it would have been like to be completely and utterly bald...if I will be on my death bed wondering what I may have missed, passed up in this hurried and frenetic life? What may have been in my marriage, my ministry and my future. What blessings were in store for me if only I would have trusted my instincts and not talked myself out of this barbaric, primal desire.

But what if I'm being summuned by the dark side. What if this is a ploy to disable me, render me imasculated and immobile? What if all that awaits me are sarcastic stabs and crossed eyeed glances of pity? What if I would look like Quassi Moto and be banished to the bell tower of society to live alone, cursed and undone? Would my wife cherish me the same, or would the very sight of me disgust her beyond recovery? Even when my hair grew back, would I be marred for life with a stigma? Would I ever truly be able to cover what has been blatently revealed? Would people walk by me and mutter under their breath, "I know what's under there, he can't fool me." I fear so.

My life hangs in the balance of this pesky thought this cold and careless morning.

Friday, December 01, 2006

10 years...

Heidi and I shared our 1oth anniversary together yesterday. It was awesome. It was everything I hoped it would be. Our time was filled with retelling old stories and reflecting on the things we love about being married to each other.

In the first month of our marriage I distinctly remember wondering if we could keep things fired up or if we would cave in to the crusty and cold emotions of familiarity like so many who enjoy/endure this blessed institution. I remember wondering if things would honestly get better or if we were at the peak and it would be a test of will power from here on. So many relationships at best stay together with little to no passion, at worst they wilt and fracture leaving hurt, hatred and hell to pay. Would sex get better or go south? Would our conversations get predictable and pressured? Would laughter be replaced with resignation? Would our children witness us leading independent lives like so many? Would we shift focus to running errands, paying bills and being on time for appointments? Would our attraction turn to tolerance? These are things that filled my mind in the beginning, not because it was already showing signs of atrophy, but because I couldn't help but look around me and fear the worst based on the bleak performance of American Marriages. (unfortunately throwing the adjective Christian in there doesn't make much of a difference)

But I'm here to tell you that marriage has never been better. Our trust of each other has never seen a better day. Our conversations are deeper, truer. Our home is filled with more peace and freedom. Our bedroom has never witnessed such passion. Our attraction to each other is over the top. Our girls aren't just seeing the permenance of marriage, they are seeing the pleasure of it. Our dates are just as enjoyable and refreshing. Our laughter still hurts our abs. Our tears still flow in the presence of each other when we're needing to vent. Our hope is still in tact. Our love is still abiding. I can't speak for others, but if I were to give a "State of our Union" it would be summed up with the word, "Matchless". I know of no one else who has it any better.

I can look at a couple just getting married and say with all honesty, "It's better today than ever." It feels good to say that and mean it. I couldn't stand the thought of offering false hope to people.

Last night was awesome in everyway. From the shopping, to the dinner, to the movie, to the bedroom and off into a peaceful night of sleep...I felt like we celebrated appropriately. I can't wait for the next ten years. I love you Heidi...for all my days, with all my heart.