Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite of 2009 - Music


Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome

Derek's never been afraid of controversy and his latest is no exception. But of crazy and catchy electronic sounds and lyrics, Derek album covers a huge gamut of hot button issues, such as consumerism, date rape, the war and the way Christian treat homosexuals. Not only is it musically creative, but it stirs the mind and the heart. That's exactly why it's on list.



Steven Curtis Chapman - Beauty Will Rise

Let's be honest, SCC is old for the music industry, even the Christian music industry. Dude's been around for years. But there is a reason. He's just writes great music.

In the wake of his daughter's tragic death, I think we all wondered what his next album would be like. And it was amazing. The only way to first listen to this album is in one sitting, uninterrupted, where you can hear every lyric and every crack in his voice. (And don't forget the tissues.) Every song is about Maria, his family's wrestling with God's sovereignty in the midst of pain, and it is absolutely heart-breaking.



Switchfoot - Hello Hurricane.

The reason this album is on my list, even though I've failed to give it a really good and hard listen? Is this song: Always. Here are a taste of the lyrics:

Hallelujah!
I’m caving in
Hallelujah!
I’m in love again
Hallelujah!
I’m a wretched man
Hallelujah!
Every breath is a second chance


Oh, and it's produced by Charlie Peacock, so that alone gives it a spot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Answer Man

This semester I read a great book, A Matrix of Meanings, that significantly altered the way I view pop culture. And today I had had the experience of watching a movie through the matrix of meanings the authors write about.

In celebration of finishing up my finals for the semester I spent the afternoon watching The Answer Man, a tale of a reclusive famous author who wrote a book 20 years ago that people still remember and adore. According to his literary agent, he owns 10% of the "God" market, all because he wrote about the questions he asked God, and answers he claimed God gave him. Jeff Bridges and Lauren Graham are adorable in their roles, and much a the script is predictable. But every once and awhile, a small gem would appear.

Bridges plays the author, Arlen Faber, who's become a recluse in the 20 years since his success, hiding from the fact he made the whole bit about talking to God up. The character also lost his father to Alzheimer's five years ago, and it's obvious he shut down after this event in his life. He and Graham have a typical "meet cute" and on their first date, he show her a cabinet full of figurines - of monsters - he and his dad collected together. Graham urges him to take them out of the cabinet to enjoy them, and places one on his piano.

Later in the scene, she tries to kiss him. He jerks away, grabbing the monster figurine and tries to rush it back to the cabinet. He stops, "I'm blowing it again, aren't I?" he asks.

"No. I love it when I'm about to kiss someone and they leave me to protect a plastic toy." she replies.

"But I kiss so much better knowing they're safe."

Before I read A Matrix of Meanings, I think I would have seen this simply as a cute comeback to her witty remark. But as the book taught me, I looked closer. I saw a man who's a mess, with his own private "monsters" chasing him. Those monsters keep him from really knowing anyone, and from anyone really knowing him. And it's easy to keep them locked up, where no one can see them, least of all you.

Arlen was brave enough to show his monsters, and as we all have similar monsters plaguing us, we often feel safer when they are locked up, don't we?



Pop culture is a reflection of our world, and inside each creation of music, art, movies, is an expression of something.

And that something is to be paid attention to.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Seminary and Money

I hate that those two words even have to go together. But it's a very real issue I face every single day.

When I first left my full-time job and moved to St. Louis, the first thing that scared me to death was the lose of a paycheck. It's hard when your bank account first empties all the way, and you still have groceries to buy for the month, or gas to put in your car (the very car that you have to own in order to get to work (Don't get me wrong, St. Louis actually has a great public transportation - I love the Metro. But the closest station is actually just up the street from where I work, which is 11 miles away from where I live. Not having a car just wasn't an option for me.)

And it's not as if I made that much money before, anyway. Graphic Design sounds really cool, but it pay very little. But it was a regular pay check I could count on. I went from working 50 hours a week @ one full-time and one part-time job to working 10-15 hours a week as an intern to fulfill my field education requirement. Yikes.

God has been good to me. I've never doubted that. But I will leave this place will a big loan to pay off. And as a female in a male-dominated vocation (paid ministry) scholarships just don't come around that often. I applied at lots of places, and while only a couple worked out, the rest just put me on a bunch of mailing lists. I am really hoping that this seminary scholarship works out for me next semester. Money is just one aspect of what's been hard about seminary... but as you know, if you read any of my posts here, there are many more hard things I've gone through.

I am a perfectionist. And I'm really, really hard on myself. I live in a house with 5 girls, all very different and very much the same as me. I am working at a 2000+ church where the women I serve have very different lives than me. All I can think sometimes is, what can I possible offer them?

I came from a life where I was expected to performed on a regular basis, and perform flawlessly. The color on the cover of the catalog must be the right shade of grey, the photo of that kitchen must be altered to work just right for the application, the worship set must be so tight that everyone is engaged completely. And all the while I must do it with a freakin' big smile on my face like nothing is wrong.

I was so busy performing, and rarely receiving grace from anyone that I never gave grace to anyone. My heart was so wrapped up in getting it right that when others didn't I had no patience. "If I can do it, why can't they?"

I HATE what I turned into.

And now, in this season of seminary life, God had turn that upside-down for me. Because to live your life in grace is to live a life free from expectations. And that is what so often traps and imprisons us from not only enjoying life and being happy, but to being the person God created you to be in the first place. I was created to be a child of God, no longer enslaved to sin but set free in Christ, who loves me no matter now many times I don't perform.

It's taken me a long time to be okay with this, a long time to admit that seminary has done this for me. But it has.

And while the serving God in the church and this loving and serving his people thing that I pray comes out of these two years is good, I think that my lessons learned are also good. And worth every penny. (though i wish it cost much fewer pennies...)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Evergreen



Me and the trees, losing our leaves
Falling like blood on the ground
I want to be evergreen
Everything dies, I know last night
Part of me wasn't around
I want to be evergreen
Yeah, evergreen...

Waiting, and listening
Hoping and missing all of our time left alone
I'm the one cutting the rope
Frostbite in winter, 'cause like a splinter you come and follow me down
I'm the one cutting the rope

Holiday end, I'm here once again, and I'm left alone on the bus with my
head on the ground, in hopes that I'm found by you
this time around

The sun will rise soon and tackle the moon
Chasing it still in the sky
All that I've got is tonight
Excuses and reasons, and now tis the season
For all that I never got right
All that I've got is tonight

Holiday end, I'm here once again, and I'm left alone on the bus with my
head on the ground, in hopes that I'm found by you
this time around

The night is a crow, saying come hold me
All that I know is that I've been lonely for thee
All that I knew and all that I know, I found myself under your rain
I want to be evergreen
I want to be evergreen

Holiday end, I'm here once again, and I'm left alone on the bus with my
head on the ground, in hopes that I'm found by you
this time around
I want to be evergreen..

I want to live all year round
- "Evergreen" Switchfoot

For the past ten years, a strange little group out of the California surfer scene has been in my life. I found them by accident, one day wandering into an equally strange little music store in Colorado Springs. The owner shoved "The Legend of Chin" into my hands and I was hooked. Their music is weird, strong and wonderful, the lyrics poetic and insightful and dead on.

Now that I'm down waxing philosophical on music, I wanted to share these lyrics of their with you - it's a rare song from them, on the first volume of the Happy Christmas albums from Tooth and Nail records. It's classic Switchfoot - thoughtful lyrics with a great bass line. And it's yet another song of theirs that's affected my heart in an unexpected way. (24, Dare You to Move, This is Your Life, and Awakening are on that list.)

Evergreen trees are amazing creations. It seems no amount of hot or cold kills them and they remain green all year along. The definition of an evergreen according to Answers.com? "Perennially fresh or interesting; enduring."

I want to be evergreen.

I don't feel fresh and interesting. I want more than anything to be enduring. But above all that, I want to live all year long. Not just exist. Not just go through the motions. I want to live out the passion that burns deep within my heart. The passion that comes with living out a purpose and being someone who matters. It's been a common theme for the last few years of my life - this idea of inspiring others and myself to "be the change they seek" (to paraphrase Ghandi).

This December night, with snow on the ground and a chill in the air, I find myself not wanting to lose my leaves, not wanting to follow the earth's movement into the death of winter. Instead I long to awaken the parts of me I've allowed to die and rediscover life.

I'm afraid it's been too long to try to find the reasons why / I let my world close in around a smaller patch of fading sky / But now I've grown beyond the walls to where I've never been / And it's still winter in my wonderland

______________

I am reposting this from December 4, 2007. There is much in this post that still rings true for me, but there is one significant change:

Moving to St. Louis awakening things in me that were long gone. It's awakened so much in me, while I'm not sure I'm evergreen just yet, I am most certainly feeling fresh, and definitely feeling as though I'm enduring.

Maybe it's because "I've found myself under your rain". It has, after all, rained a lot since I moved here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Breathe In Breathe Out

I walked outside this morning, bundled up in a couple of sweatshirts, my coat, a scarf and my slippers. It was 6am and I sat on the porch swing hanging *under* our porch. I started to swing. I watched a few lone cars traveling west on 1-64, I saw the sun come up in the reflection on the chapel windows. I took a breath...

and then I smelled it. Winter.

This is my first Thanksgiving without my family. I realize this is something I need to prepare myself for, because it's likely the Lord will take me far, far away from them after I finish my degree. But sitting on that swing this morning, shivering under all my layers, trying hard to forget that I live in a city... I didn't want to be here. This is the first time I can honestly say that being in St. Louis wasn't what I wanted for the moment. Being away from what I know and where I am most comfortable is not where I wanted to be.

The smell of winter has its own life. It's crisp, cold, clean. For me, it's always held a promise it in. The promise of God making a dying land beautiful again, a promise of warm sweaters and hot chocolate, the promise of special time with friends, drinking wine and making Christmas cookies.

I need to remind myself to breathe.

Because there is promise in that breath.

I know this probably doesn't make sense to anyone. I think I just needed to write this for me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Winter

This is the winter I am used to. Driving on a gravel road, looking to my right or left and seeing the tracks of a combine, a truck or a tractor in the field. The shelter of trees in the background tell me that somewhere nearby is a house or a farm, even if you can't see it. These trees speckle a landscape of flat land, rolling hills and spacious skies. The bright sun doesn't offer much warmth, and there is the presence of bitter wind. The ground a usually dull shade of brown, dying form the frost, the cold... the winter. The winter's are harsh in Nebraska. But to me, they are worth it.

Winter in St. Louis is very different. It's cloudy, damp, and kinda sad. Things are green, red, yellow. But not brown. The birds are still outside chirping, you can still go outside without a coat (usually a scarf will suffice, maybe some gloves on an usually cold day). Always take an umbrella or wear your raincoat. Invest in rainboots or you'll spend two or three seasons with wet shoes, wet socks and wet feet.

But most people that I talk to about St. Louis weather, when I describe Nebraska winter they say they will take winter in St. Louis any day over snow. I just don't understand that. Snow is magical in my mind. It gives new life to a dead earth, it shines and shimmers and sparkles... it in a word, it's gorgeous. For me, it's home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why Be Vulnerable?

I’m good a keeping people at arms length. I’m fully aware of how this isn’t healthy behavior, but over years and years of getting hurt, I’ve found keeping people at arms length to be my survival technique.

My fear of being hurt can be controlled by me – by how close I let people get.

So as I think about chipping away at this wall, of letting go of this control, I cannot help but ask myself why? Why do I have to do this? Why is it important to be vulnerable with others? Why do I need to? What are the benefits?

Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Grieving the Loss

A common term I hear around the seminary, mainly from counseling students, is the idea of “grieving the loss.” I hadn’t taken much time to find out what it meant, nor did I assume it was something I needed. Until last week.

I have the opportunity to take advantage of free counseling that the seminary provides for students. My counselor is an intern going through the Masters in Counseling program, and her time with me is part of her degree. I’ve had nine sessions with her, and I’ve found her to be insightful, thought provoking, and just really good at what she does. But had my counseling really helped me very much? Not really. It helped me understand myself a little better, helped me get over not being willing to talk to another about my struggles, but that was about it.

Then God kicked me in the can.

In one of my classes I am learning about my identity as a leader in the church. Last week our reading had a chapter about “understanding your tuning” i.e., knowing what your triggers are and figuring out why they are a triggers and learning to cope with them. In this context, I found myself wondering why I so frequently have overly emotional responses to things that aren’t a very big deal. So as I began to examine my tuning, I found myself thinking about the last time I reacted strongly to a situation that didn’t merit it. It involved a professor making me feel as though I didn’t take a personality test right I found myself frustrated and dejected, even though everything I knew about this professor told my head that he didn’t mean to make me feel that way. But I did feel that way.

Here comes the hard part, because it’s awful and sad and cliché:

I grew up with two parents who regularly critiqued me for a poor performance – whether it was how I made the bed, how I vacuumed the living room, or how I sang my solo on Sunday morning or baked that bread for 4-H. This became so painful for me that I remembered asking them, after they would yell or critique me, if they still loved me. They typically dismissed my question as silly and moved on to the next thing.

So yes, my counselor led me to blaming my parents for my trouble. See what I mean by cliché?

But the trouble is still there. My heart explodes in fear and panic whenever I am criticized. When something I plan doesn’t go perfectly, I beat myself up. I realize that many, if not all people experience a measure of this, so maybe I’m not all that special. But these emotions have debilitated me unnecessarily. Parents are right to correct their children to help them do better the next time, but they are not to make their child’s worth lie in success. And even if my parents’ intent was never to do that, their reaction to my emotional response should never have been dismissive or disapproving of my emotions. The combination of the two have led me down a path of many years spent in sorrow for my failure, fear of being seen as incompetent, and a stunted ability to grow as a person.

So now what? Typically after I process through something this significant in my life, like this, naming it is enough for me. Or, more accurately, what I thought was the end of the road. Not that I would still experience the pain in some way, but naming it was what allowed me to move on. But I can’t do that now.

My counselor mention in our last session that she thought I was moving on too quickly from things that were painful and difficult. When I asked her what else I needed to do, she didn’t give me any answers (as good counselors do). She asked me to think about how I was emotionally attached or not attached to a situation that was difficult for me. She told me she didn’t think I was “sitting in the emotion” long enough to understand it or process it. (Did I mention she did this before I realized why I am triggered by the slightly hint of criticism?)

So, in short, here is the timeline: a professor triggered me. The next week my counselor asked me to think about why I consistently move on from difficult things (using the situation with my professor as her example). Five days later I read the chapter on “knowing your tuning” and that same day I examined the trigger and realize all this stuff about the way I was parented. To say that God was providential in this is an understatement.

This is the first thing, I believe, in my life where I’ve “grieved the loss”. I’ve spent the last seven days crying at the very thought of how hard it was to feel unloved as a child when I screwed up. I’ve grieved the loss of a joyful childhood where I could have felt delighted in by my father and loved unconditionally by my mother. I’ve grieved the loss of what I thought was a great relationship with my parents to one that is full of sugarcoated thoughts because I’ve buried this for so long.

As self-indulgent and whiny as this feels, I don’t care. This is the first time I’ve feel like I’m experiencing life rather than just going through the motions.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Process of Processing

This last week and a half has been a trying, stretching and interesting one. A week ago last Friday I gave a sermon on Self-Justification (Galatians 2:17-21 was my text). I had to give a shortened version of that sermon today for another smaller group of women. Last Friday I lead worship for a group of 70 or so women and if anything in the A/V area could have gone wrong, it did. (Plus my guitar broke three days before, so I was using someone else’s). Then today my Administration and Leadership in the Church class had the results of a “Leadership 360” test I asked several people to evaluate me on. Fun.

Those are just the simple, logistical aspects of what I’ve experienced, never mind a dozen other little things like conflict with a logo I designed for a church ministry event, a tough meeting establishing rules for the church newsletter which I design, an major “ethical” decision I had to make regarding said newsletter, and all the church politics that go along with that. Needless to say, I’m feeling a little like I’m on sensory overload when it comes to the grey areas of my life.

Something I don’t take enough time to do in my life is process. When something tough, emotional or otherwise, hits me I usually have two reactions – fight or flight. I retreat when I am not sure about how to deal with a situation. I fight when I’ve had to time to think, understand and evaluate that has happened. Both reactions typically make me appear quite cold-hearted and detached from the world and from people. Sometimes I intend to be that way, most of the time I don’t. Every time it does happen, I have no desire to hurt those around me. But I do, and many times without even being aware of it. And it kills me knowing I’ve hurt someone in the process.

One major area of thought I’m experiencing right now is my identity in ministry. What is my role as the leader? How can I remain objective without appear cold-hearted? How can I love tough people well? How can I be friends with those I lead without being so emotionally involved that I can’t see the dysfunction or sin in their lives? These very large questions are just a couple floating around in my mind as I seek to understand how to lead well within the framework of who I’m already hard-wired to be. I feel as though I’m consistently fighting against what is natural to me (and the RightPath4 and RightPath6 leadership personality test more or less confirmed what I already knew about myself,) I am left wondering what I can do to get rid of these awful, nasty feelings of trying to do what I should vs. doing what comes naturally to me… and how to stop my natural instincts from overtaking in high-stress situations.

With so many thing flying around in my head and my heart, I feel as though I’m struggling to survive, much less think, process and understand everything I need to think, process and understand. (Much less find time.) The three classes I have this semester plus my internship are not tough intellectually, but they require a lot of time to fully understand and apply. That’s killing me right now, and it feels like there is no end in sight. So I’m left just standing in the messiness of my heart, my sin and my life, unable to be objective and probably being too hard on myself. My feelings of inadequacy are overwhelming everything, and any encouragement I get simply makes me feel undeserving. It feels like a loose-loose situation, and I’m drowning in a pool with the heaviest woool sweater I own on my back.

This is part of my processing, I realize. I’m just so completely unsure of what step to take next.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Movies that are simply stories… with very little plot and action… can be hit or miss for me. Sometimes I relish the story, loose myself in it and enjoy the experience. Then sometimes I spend the 2 hrs in the theatre wondering when the point of the movie will begin only to find out there wasn’t one.

Whose to tell how one hits the mark and the other doesn’t? My mood? The company I’m with? The environment? I don’t know. It’s simply a puzzle to me.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is a simple story. And when the story is simple, you rely heavily on the depth of the characters and their relationships with each other to draw you in. That somewhat easier to do in a book than it is to do on screen with a limited amount of time. I think that’s what was missing for me in this – the nature of the story meant telling things backwards, which is fine, except that the story is about their relationship. Watching it unfold for one person backwards, while for another it’s already happened is tricky business.

Rachel McAdams is as likable as always, and the two actors that play her daughter are delightful. I’m on the fence for Eric Bana’s performance… I felt Ron Livingston upstaged him as the best friend.

The best part of the movie for me was the soundtrack. Lo’ How A Rose E’er Blooming is the focus of the compositions, and its melody recurs several times throughout the movie without every getting old. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s my favorite Christmas Carol, either, I’m sure.)

I don’t have a ratings system here, but if I did, I would give it two thumbs sideways. The movie was just…. “eh”.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm Moving...

over to wordpress. I feel the need to refocus ... or maybe I'm just getting antsy.

This may be temporary, because I am used to blogger. But in the meantime, you can find me here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stockholm Syndrome



I've had it for almost a week now and I can't stop listening. It's incredible.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Relationships

I read a book this last semester called The Relational Way: From small group structures to holistic life connections (by M. Scott Boren) for a one week class I had in January. The author talks about how there are four spaces or distances that determine how a person relates to others.

1.) The Public Space of Belonging
2.) The Social Space of Belonging
3.) The Personal Space of Belonging
4.) The Intimate Space of Belonging

Before I talk about these spaces, let me preface it by reminding you that Presbyterians... or maybe just the people around here, are really good at talking about their sin

There is pressure here for everyone to be in my intimate space of belonging. So much of it could be due to the season of life seminary is, but I am not really comfortable with that. As I realized this intimate space of belonging wasn't what was actually bothering me, I started to look at relationships differently.

To define the different spaces...

The public space of belonging is about connecting with a broad movement. (Perhaps something like a Lion's Club at the national level would be an example of this). This type of belonging does not require much participation, simply association with the movement. You may attend a meeting or two, but you do not invest time or money.

The social space of belonging is the next step, by connecting with groups of 70-120 people, called "neighbor relationships". You share small talk and may be willing to do small favors for this group.

The personal space of belonging is defined by groups of 10 or 12. Such groups become close friends, share each others' lives with one another, and they invest personal time and energy to see that the group succeeds.

The intimate space of belonging is the final level. To have two or three people in the space is normal, as it is where you "share 'naked' experience, feelings, and thoughts." (pg 179).

We like to think we have intimacy with a person when we really don't. We want to know about the person, their likes and dislikes, what's going on in their life. We want to know their views on political and theological issues and we maybe even want to know how they are doing from day to day. But is this real intimacy? I don't think so.

Real intimacy comes when your heart is laid bare, with all your glorious ruins out there for someone to see. Then beyond that they help you through what may be a great hurt in your life. They see you cry and scream and hate everyone, and are still there to walk alongside you when it's over. This is what the author calls "refrigerator rights" - the people who can come into your home, go to the fridge and help themselves without asking or worrying you'll be offended. The kind of people who you are willing to let see you without makeup and with your home a mess...

I recently deactivated my facebook account, for a period of about seven weeks (in the middle I came back for a few days, but then deactivated it again). I chose to do this because I was feeling some hard hits on my self-esteem as the community of people around the seminary were consistently talking about how great some of their get-togethers were, get-togethers to which I wasn't invited. (That's just one example... there were other things that bothered me, but they aren't important now) I decided it wasn't worth my self-esteem and gave facebook up. But this weekend I reactivated my account, and deleted nearly everyone of my seminary "friends". (It came to around 60 or so people. Crazy.) Part of it was because of my self-esteem, but tonight I realized a much bigger reason why.

Real relationships with people, especially people who are close to me geographically is becoming more and important to me. Facebook is great for keeping in touch with loved ones far away, but I think we can use it as a replacement friendship with people we are around every day. Instead of calling or visiting someone to find out how their week was, I would just check their facebook page. This made me feel like I had real friendships with people who in all honestly I was merely acquaintances with.

I don't want to have relationships like that. I don't was a social space of belonging, because it's too tempting to stop there. I have to push myself into personal and intimate spaces of belonging. I want people with refrigerator rights, I want people in personal and intimate space of belonging. These are the people who know how tired you are at the end of the day, the people who sit beside you on the couch and hold your hand when there are no words to say, the people who know what you're thinking just by hearing the tone of your voice or the look in your eyes.

God help me be this kind of person, and help me not to resent those who aren't willing to be that for me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Laughing at God



Who'd thought Regina Spector would have a hint of reformed faith in her music?

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It's funny what affects us...

What a great way to start my day.

Carlos, over at ragamuffinsoul.com posted last night about leaving his great and wonderful job aa Creative Programming Director at Buckhead Church.

So, I'm going through my reader this morning, see the post and so I head over there to see what the deal is. Per usual, God is doing something awesome, and I won't explain it here 'cuase it's too complicated.

But this exchange in the comments? Was a great way to start my day.

Sire's comment: "Carlos, you are a brave man."

Carlos' reply: "No, Sire. Brave would be staying when God says go."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Great quote...

"The problem is in the human heart, not in the gifts of God." - Jerram Barrs

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review of Mat Kearney's City of Black and White



My plan is to write my thoughts as I listen to each song. There seems to be no other way to really justify doing this review for such a long-awaited album (for me, anyway) and from one of my favorite artist, if not my top artist, which is saying a lot for someone like me who listen to way too much music.

I'm rating each song on a scale of 1 - 10. I wish I'd thought to do this at first listen, but maybe it will be better now that I've heard it a few times and can look for the layers. Alas, we shall see what comes out. FYI, I have the deluxe edition, which I pre-ordered two weeks ago, but I think it's still available on itunes.

1. All I Have

This song seems primed for radio play. It's a nice and easy arrangement, very radio-friendly, with his pop vocals in full-effect. Interestingly enough, though, the song seems "happy" but a lot of the lyrics are sad. "Tired of the same song everyone's singing/I'd rather be lost with you instead." While most of the lyrics are typical for him, this style of song is not. I'm on the fence. I like it, I don't love it. But I definitely don't hate it.

Rating: 8

2. Fire and Rain


Hmm... stylistically also very different for him. Also very radio-friendly, but not very much edge, which is what I'm used to. This sounds like a song that would be great on a movie soundtrack, which is not a bad thing at all. But different for him.

Do you ever think about me/Do you ever call my name/Ask me now I'll give you the reasons/My love will not fade/Through the fire and rain

Rating: 8.25

3. Closer To Love

This single was released back in April and I've listened to it many, many times. (It's also my new cell phone ring...) I really love this song. This is the closest to the old (not safe) Mat I've heard so far on the record. It's really beautiful with a touch of edginess.

For all the tears you've cried/You've been way too strong now for all your life/I'm gonna get there soon/You're gonna be there too.

I love the beat in this song, and I love the piano. Gorgeous.
Rating: 9

4. Here We Go


Oh, I really love this song. Really and truly. This man has had his heart broken, and by the same woman, several times. These kind of lyrics aren't born out of anything but heartbreak.

Bitter is the kiss that says goodbye/I can hear it in your voice/I can see it in your eyes...'Cause we've been this low and we've been around this bend/I don't to lose you all over again/We sing/"Oh, love, it's easy if you don't try to please me/If you don't want to see me any more"/We sing out/Oh, oh/Here we go again/I know how I lost a friend

Wow. That's just painful. But there's a lot of truth in it, which is why I love it.

Rating: 9.5

5. Lifeline

My first couple of listens to this song had me unsure of whether I liked it or not. Something about the lyrics seems a bit contrived to me. But, things that are contrived are also usually true. They are just over-done. Mat's first two albums were so unique, especially musically. We aren't getting too much musical innovation here, and the lyrics are a bit over-used, this is still a thoughtful song.

The world is too big to never ask why/The answers don't fall straight out of the sky/I'm fighting to live and feel alive/But I can't feel a thing without you by my side/Send me out a lifeline

Rating: 7.25

6. New York To California


The beginning of this sounds just like "Won't Back Down" from his second album. There is a glimmer of Mat's story-telling here, but it's reeled in a bit.

I don't want to live another day without you/You woke up and said baby I, had one of those dreams again/The rain came down and I lost you in the wind...If you find your self lost out in this world/Then I'll find a way to get back to your side

Again, so sad. There's a touch of hope here, like the relationship might actually be beginning and that's why he will go from New to California for her. A nice song; not a terribly memorable one for me.

Rating: 7.5

7. Runaway Car

This is another song where the music seems happier than what he is trying to say with the lyrics.

Stop this runaway car/Not that gone and we’re not that far/If it left you there then I left it all behind/'Cause all I'm feeling now/Is the weight of the world/bearing down/I don't have answers to any of my questions anymore

This song is really about regret, and it's in a major key instead of a minor, and has happy guitar strumming throughout. I think he's probably trying to convey the feeling of runaway emotions, because the song is about him recognizing a mistake the day after he made it - he made the choice to walk away from someone he loved. I think the song could be a touch better if he'd taken the key down a 1/2 step.

Rating: 7

8. Never Be Ready

This might be the best song on the album. This is a time where the lyrics and the music match quite well - because it's neither a happy or sad song. It's hopeful, which can go either way if we are honest with ourselves.

Come on and lay down these arms /All our best defenses /We're taking our chances here on the run/The fear is an anchor /Time is a stranger/Love isn't borrowed /We aren't promised tomorrow/We'll never be ready if we keep waiting /For the perfect time to come/Hold me steady, we'll never be ready /When we don't know, though we can't see /Just walk on down this road with me /Hold me steady, we'll never be ready

Anyone who's been hurt is afraid of letting down defenses and letting someone really love them understand this song. In a sense, we'll never be ready to take that leap because of how the fear grounds us, preventing us from taking that leap. He's asking her, in the lyrics, to hold him steady (he's acknowledging his own fear) and to know that they'll never feel ready. So they owe it to themselves to just try.

Oh? And the bridge on this one rocks.

Rating: 10

9. Annie

Here's the story of what inspired the song:

"I wrote that on in the back seat of a van headed away from a dirty show in Indianapolis. I had met this girl named Annie who told me a story about how she had to either leave her hometown or get swallowed by it. Leaving is hard when you are misunderstood, especially by your family."

This is a song about courage, and Mat does something really interesting with this. This song could have sounded really sad. He could have made it about being swallowed by the small town. But instead it's as if he wrote the song to give her encouragement to go, to change.

Cause Annie's got to get out/Before she never can/Holding the line from the back of the car/Miles and miles from where you are/Maybe the hardest things are the dreams that we've been given/And you scream and you sing and you shout/There one way in and there's one way out/Help me to find my way back down

Rating: 9

10. Straight Away

Mat tweeted a link to this song a day or two before the album release, so I was able to listen to it several times before the rest of the songs... and I must say, it gets better each time you listen to it. I adore this song. Never Be Ready is really good, but I like this one better. Because these are the kind of lyrics that every girl wants to hear from a man who loves her.

If I was wrong would you show me/Where all that I lost can be found?/Cause you can shoot me straight/straight to the heart/ 'Cause you already have it/ Say what you want to say/We're coming out of the grey/What goes around now/Is coming back down today/You can shoot my straight away

Ratig: 10

11. On And On

This song - the strumming, the mood - sounds a lot like Nothing Left to Loose, which is my favorite song from his second album.

On and on and on we pray/That we can break into a brighter day/Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy/On and on and on we go/I don’t understand this winding road/Nothing worth anything ever goes down easy/And we'll keep on keep on climbing/On down this narrow line/So we can see the other side

What I appreciate about this song so much is how there is a touch of reality in the love story. He loves her, she wants to run, and he's challenging her with some really tough questions. And then he says that he doesn't understand why things get tough, but that he's willing to keep trying. If only we all had attitudes like that...

Rating: 9.5

12. City Of Black & White

I love the entire composition of this song. The structure, the lyrics, the additional of the electric guitar at the end of the chorus... it's so well-done. Really, the structure is near-perfect.

I don't want to wait until tomorrow/To tell you how I'd feel the rest of my life/You don't want a waste another minute to realize/Walking on the dark side of the evening/maybe it is you that opened my eyes/Burning like a fire on the water/The city of black and white

He wrote this song quite a while ago (the earliest I heard about was back in 2007) so that could be the reason for it's great structure. I also love how he plays with colors in the song especially the opening stanza: "This whole city's black and white/Tell me what is your color./Could it be the same as mine?/Faded greens and blue street lights"

Rating: 10

13. Everyone I Know (Bonus Track)

Musically, this is a little different for Mat, opening with just an electric guitar. And it pretty much stays that way the whole time. It's very stripped down.

And I can hardly find the means for all the words I mean to speak/But still this fire inside of me seems too much for me alone to keep/Now the writing’s on the wall for God in Krylon cans/Will you send a prayer for me?/Will you help me to stay?/ Because I know what’s it’s like/'Cause everyone that I know and every place that I go/Every story that I’m told, /It’s love, it’s love, it’s love /That we’re looking for

There's huge sense of longing in his voice here that's heart-breaking. Beautiful.

Rating: 9

14. Here We Go (Acoustic Version, Bonus Track)

The opening of this is super slow, not at all like the plugged-in version. But once he hits the chorus, the temp picks up and the guitar comes in. I like that he did it this way. I can only hope when Mat comes to St. Louis in July that it will be an unplugged concert, because he's really at his best this way. Especially with this song.

Rating: 10

15. All I Have (Acoustic Version Bonus Track)

A video came with this for the deluxe version, which is fun to have. Mat actually tunes his guitar at the beginning... and they use a steel guitar in this, which sounds great.

This isn't a good as his acoustic version of Here We Go, but it's still nice. Part of it is that I just like Here We Go better.

Rating: 8


All in all, I really love this album. I miss some of Mat's great story-telling, and I miss the textures to his music (the hip-hop urban beats). There are some beautiful layers to his song craftsmanship overall - with music and lyrics playing well off of each other. Mat's voice in undeniable, and his lyrics are still beautiful and thoughtful. He had a lot to live up to, and since this was three years in the making, my hopes were pretty high.

The best description I've heard of Mat's voice is this: "He could sing about pipe bombs and exploding cars and there'd still be a placidity and warmness to his tone that would soothe and soften." (Gregory Robson, from absolutepunk.net) For me? Mat's voice just feels like home.

This album is worth getting. I suspect, that just like his last album, it will help me write my own story, and the songs in it will remind me of what I'll experience in the next year. His music has a history of doing that for me.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Women in the Church



N.T. Wright is a highly regarding theologian in the PCA/EPC circle in which I now run. As many times, since I've been in St. Louis, that I've heard arguments against women leading in the church, I was shocked to find Wright's position on this considering his fame in such a traditional circle.

Wright has connections to the Anglican church, a denomination known for it's liberal stance on several main issues including pacifism, view of scripture, etc. (J.I. Packer left the Anglican church, FYI, just last year). I realize within every denomination there is typical a far left and a far right. But knowing the regard people around here have for Wright, I am curious as to what they would say about this video.

Because it kinda makes me want to stand up and cheer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You know what I love about....

living in a big city?

Is seeing previews for movies like this and knowing I get to see them the weekend they open. Yea!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've been waiting for this day...

for a very, very long time.












More after I've had a full listen!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Top Ten Things I Love About House




10.This episode. Broke my heart.

9. His T-Shirt collection (mostly vintage, and somehow they all seem to do with death..)

8. The completely unrealistic medical traumas (one of my small group members is a doctor and he told me that none of the stuff they talk about on the show is even possible. awesome.)

7. House's musical ability

6. The stuff that makes me laugh.

5. The opening credits. I LOVE that song.

4. Jesse Spencer's accent

3. The Wilson/House dysfunctional friendship

2. Hugh Laurie's scruffy beard

1. His cell phone ring is Mmmm Bop by Hanson. That is, simply, the greatest thing ever.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Initiating

I've discovered something about myself recently that feels insurmountable.

I've been taking a class on Wednesday nights at my church on the book The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. As we finished up the book as a class, the last time we spent together was looking at confronting those who've hurt us and forgiving those who've hurt us. The further we delved into the material, and the deeper our discussion become, I realized why I've become a peace-faker instead of a peace-maker: I'm afraid of initiating in relationships.

I have on idea when this started, but one of my first thoughts is to blame it on Elizabeth Elliot. She was all the rage when I was in college, and I had the chance to hear her in a debate at the Urbana Missions conference regarding a woman's place in the church/mission field. She has very traditional views on a woman's place anywhere - in fact, she actually said during the debate that should would not speak in church unless she was with her husband. Yikes.

I read Quest for Love several years ago (I refused to read Passion and Purity out of principle), though Quest for Love was not much different, if what I heard about P & P was correct. One principle Elliot lives by is that a woman should never initiate relationships with men. If they are interested, they will pursue you. Makes sense, I guess. The problem is, I think I let myself believe that about everyone. Because now I don't even initiate friendships.

I was talking about my realization with my women's small group that meets on Mondays, and my dear friend Sue caught me afterwards and asked how she could help. once I talked with her about it, ever the goal-setter, she advised me to try "one a day". Make one initiation a day, just help me get over this hump.

And then, a wave of situations arise in my life this week where I am rejected (passively, as far as I know, unless there are a lot of people in my life who just don't want to be around me.) That does not help.

I don't usually write a post unless I feel some closure on an issue. But I am at a loss right now, because I am in the midst of finals, figuring out my summer schedule, and am feeling unable to flesh this out, find the root and climb over the mountain. I'm aware of it now, so that's something. But that's not much after the week I've had.



I’m taking a ride off to one side
It is a personal thing.
Where?
When I can’t stand
Up in this cage I’m not regretting.
I don’t need a better thing,
I’d settle for less,
It’s another thing for me,
I just have to wander through this world
Alone.

Stop before you fall
Into the hole that I have dug here,
Rest even as you
Are starting to feel the way I used to,
I don’t need a better thing
(Just to sound confused)
Don’t talk about everyone,
I am not amused by you.

I’m gonna lose you,
Yeah I’m gonna lose you
If I’m gonna lose you,
I’m gonna lose you,
Yeah I’m gonna lose you
If I’m gonna lose you
I’ll lose you now for good

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Lectio Divina


Lectio Divina (praying through scripture) isn’t something I practice a lot. I first tried it last fall, as part of a book I read for my youth ministry class: Contemplative Youth Ministry (highly recommended, by the way.) I taught last week and will teach tomorrow the “Prayer of the Heart” lesson from Gospel Transformation at my church, so the practice of it came back into my life. So this is what happened….

I got comfortable, squished pillows all around me so they were just right. I opened up my bible to Matthew (we were to pray through The Lord’s Prayer) and put it in my lap. I focused on clearing my mind, quieting my heart.

Clearing my mind took FOREVER. I keep thinking of all the stuff I had to do. (I have a running list in my head) I thought about encounters I had with people throughout the week, good and bad. I thought about my family, classes, church, just stuff. And about 7 or 8 times, while trying to clear my mind, I had to jolt myself out of these thoughts and remind myself of what I was doing trying to do. I think at one point I actually said to myself “I’m trying to be contemplative. Can’t you just do that for one little bit, Stephanie?” Yeah, there’s some irony there.

So… once my mind cleared? I promptly fell asleep. I admit it.

The business of our days, the reality we live in, where a hundred things need to get done and another hundred things are required of us, never mind the emotional, relational stuff we have to deal with, keeps us in motion. I was so in motion that when I finally cleared my mind and quieted my heart to pray, I fell asleep. I am used to being consistently in motion. This requires more being, rather than doing. Lectio Divina is contrary to all of that. And frankly, it was hard for me.

Actually, if I’m being really honest with you and myself, just prayer in general is hard for me. It is not a discipline that comes naturally to me at all. (I guess that’s why it’s called a discipline, right?) I’ve always felt lesser for it, always wondered what was wrong with me that everyone else around me seemed to have this whole prayer thing figured out. I’ve reflected a lot this week about why prayer has always been hard for me. And I’ve realized it lies in one of my biggest idols: the idol of perfection.

Not only do I want my prayers to be perfect, but also I don’t want to admit to myself that I’m not. We all know we’re not perfect, but I have also come to realize that I still think I’m better than the next person. And if I pray from my heart for all of the things I desire and all of the things I lack, the more that idol of perfection rears it’s ugly head. I’m revealing the desires and the sin to myself just as much as I’m admitting it to God. The difference is that God already knew about all that stuff, whereas I just pushed it down further into the corners of my mind and probably hadn’t admitted it yet.

Hannah was a woman who wanted a son, but God’s hadn’t granted her one. Her husband’s other wife was able to bore children, and Hannah went to the house of Lord, the other wife provoked her until she wept – because she had children and Hannah didn’t.

1 Samuel 1:12-16
12 As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine." 15 "Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."

We all have things we pray for desperately. Just like Hannah wept bitterly and laid-bare her deepest most intimate thoughts and desire to God, we have issues and people and sin that press on our hearts. Sometimes these things blind us, sometimes they hurt us, but nonetheless, they are ever-present. These issues cause us to cry out to God, sometimes in desperation. God knew of Hannah’s heart desire for a son – just like God knows our desires.

But what does it look like and feel like to lay that bare before God? How is it to be honest and admit our pain and anguish like Hannah did? It was in this question that I discovered the reason for my personal struggle with prayer – that idol of perfection.

I find myself so worried that the blackness of my own heart will be so exposed… and while I know in my mind God already sees that blackness, I’m more afraid of what that exposure means to me. I’m afraid of looking at my own sin, of staring it straight in the eye, of being honest and intimate with myself. Because when I am, I’m overwhelmed with just how wretched I am.

But this is what I think prayer of the heart actually looks like.

It looks like undignified, unadulterated laid-bare realizations and acceptance of just how far away we are from knowing and understanding the holiness of God. It’s in that facedown position, with no inhibitions, that we can respond to God in the way he wants us to. It’s the raw act of admission and submission before a God who deserves no less. Henri Nouwen describes it this way: “ To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you.” Hannah was honest before God, and she admitted her misery. She laid-bare her heart.

Sometimes, in our own misery, we can loose our words. We can be so hurt and broken that words escape us. And that’s okay. We don’t always have to talk. And that’s what I truly appreciate about Lectio Divina - how it emphasizes something that we don’t always understand about prayer: that it’s important for us to listen as well as talk. God’s word is such a beautiful and wonderful gift he’s given us. It’s how he communicates with us, to help us understand who he is. By being silent, quieting our heart (and trying not falling asleep) and letting God guide our hearts, you are allowing him to take over.

Lectio Divina helps us let go of our own agenda, and submit to what God is trying to show us. I’m not saying that it’s the only way or the best way to pray. It’s not. This kind of prayer can help us practice how to simply be with Jesus – and that time of focusing on him is transforming. This is a way of being with God that does not depend on us giving Him information, but about us resting and waiting. It is not fancy, nor is it particularly “righteous”. But God can use it to help us set aside our agenda, and center our hearts on His agenda. We are depending on him to initiate communication, instead of depending on the sound of our own voice and formation of our own words.

Bryan Chapell says (the president of my seminary, shameless plug...), in his book Praying Backwards, “Our prayers do not have to be long or formal to be acceptable and powerful. God certainly honors thoughtful, reverent prayer, but he also hears the anguish of our heart when we can voice no plea more articulate than calling his name.” Like Hannah, who wept in bitterness in anguish and grief, we can come to God as we are, and not be afraid to reveal our own desires and our own sin to him or to ourselves. No matter how ugly it is. We shouldn’t be afraid to be ugly or undignified before him in prayer, because there is redemption for that ugliness. Jesus’ blood covers that ugliness, he redeems our sin and he redeems our prayers.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Idolatry

(Okay... first I must say, about this image to the left. The Golden Calf in cereal? Awesome.)

I'm just finishing up a class on the book of Joshua, which has been a wonderful and fruitful experience this semester. (I was actually nostalgic last night when I finished up David M. Howard's commentary last night... my roommates thought I was a little nuts).

There are so many things I've taken away from the book, but one thing my professor said this morning will stay with me, especially in light of the bible study I've been doing since August with some of the women in my church. He said, "We make our idolatry so minimal."

World Harvest Mission wrote a study called Gospel Transformation, and in it there is one main lesson on identifying your idols (there are subsequent lessons to follow as well). That idol lesson is brought up almost every week when we meet; it has had such a profound impact on all of us. Then my professor's words this morning... just so much for me to ponder and process.

There is an idol behind every one of our sins. As someone who loves to name things, understanding the idols behind my sin is invaluable to helping me understanding not only what is behind my sin, but even why I am sinning. (Which I have an upcoming post about). Understanding why I sin gets at the root of the issue. It goes beyond the external and helps me understand the why and not just the how.

It's one thing to work on never committing the sin again, it's yet another to have your heart changed so the option of committing the sin again is just... gone from your sights. You just don't want to do it anymore, because the thought grieves your heart. The external part of sinning is only half of the sin, because even though you've stopped the act of the sin, it's another step to change how you feel about the sin inside. As I figured this out, I've realized this is where the "transformation" part of the curriculum title comes in. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

I make too little of my idols. I understand that so much more now in light of the two-fold nature of my sin. The fact that an idol lies behind everyone of my sins means I simply cannot make too little of my idolatry. It is ever-present - the root and cause of my sin. That's a pretty big deal. It's funny to think about making your idols a big deal (there's some irony in that) but to minimize the impact they have on my life (to borrow a phrase from my pastor) is perilous to the soul.

I've been privileged to help lead worship at Central Presbyterian Church's new site church in Chesterfield. Last week we did this song. Here are some of the lyrics:

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
my heart and my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord

I've had this album for two years. But the words to this song have never meant as much to me as they do now.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Messed Up

I've had the privilege to intern under, for the last year, a woman who defines the term "living in grace". Each week when she speaks to the women of the church I am in awe, not only of how she relates to them, but of how God uses her in so many areas of her life.

She's not afraid to admit she's messed up. She's not afraid to speak of her own sin and her own idols. She is grieved by them, her heart breaks for them. But she reminds us that Christ is bigger than them. And the women respond in ways I've never experienced. I see her speak into their lives and have watched how they have changed over the last few months. They relate to her struggles - they understand them, and they peel away the layers of their own sin to work and process together.

It's an amazing thing to see.

It's finally looking like Spring in St. Louis. The days are getting warmer (finally up to 80 degrees today) and as I walk from my street parking to the church or around campus on my way to class, I'm seeing flowers peek up everywhere. They are in every color God dreamed up. They are tiny and new; they are reborn in this Springtime.

In the same way, I am watching that happen at my church. I'm watching seeds that were planted years ago grow and bloom. I'm watching these people transform. I'm watching how God uses everything to change a person's life - whether it's messed up a lot or just a little.

There's something to be said for a leader who isn't afraid for their own weaknesses. And now that I've seen it in action, I'm not sure how else you can lead well in ministry. I thought, when I was in ministry before, I had to lead without mistakes and weaknesses. I thought it was the only way to lead well. I am now realizing it's only when we are broken can we help others accept their own brokenness and walk alongside them as God heals them.

Maybe we have to get a little messed up before we can step up.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Deliberate Sin


My pastor's been preaching a series on the fathers of the faith (the ones in Scripture, not the ones I hear all too often about here at seminary re: all the John's - Bunyan, Calvin, Owen, Edwards...) A few weeks ago he preached on King Solomon and something he said is still with me, and will be with me for a very long time. (If not the rest of my life.)

Dan (my pastor) was talking with a friend who asked if all sins are forgiven. He was asking about a specific sin (in this case, it was adultery) and was wondering just how much he could 'get away with' so to speak. My pastor's response was this: "Deliberate sin is perilous to the soul."

Now that's something to pause on.

My sin, deliberate or not, will always be forgiven. This is what I say to myself when I am at the crossroads of temptation. I haven't sinned yet, but it's right there, tempting me. The choice is before me and I know that I want to do the thing which leads to the sin. And I feel, in some dark corner of my heart, this forgiveness is what allows me to sin. But allow isn't even the right word, really. It's more like "makes it acceptable in my own mind." God's forgiveness of my deliberate sin doesn't allow anything. It just makes me know that I won't be held accountable.

Ah, here is where the rubber meets the road for me. Not living a life of grace (I'll get to that in a minute) means I am living a life of "sin = punishment". But there is no eternal punishment for me. And if there are present consequences, I don't see much of them. (There are some obvious consequences for more external sin, but I am referring to the sins that really only affect my own soul. The ones that are so easy to hide...) So basically, I am free to do as I like.

Obviously, this is putting the emphasis in the wrong place.

What this does mean - what this leads me to - is something I've known all my life. That my choice to sin or not can only be made with one thing in mind (from which all things flow): Is this what God deserves? (No) Is this honoring to him? (No) Do I love him above my own sin? (...probably not) If I did love him more than my sin, would I always choose him over it?

The answer to the last question feels like it should be "yes". But it's not, for one, it doesn't taken into account the Fall.

Before the Fall, Adam and Eve could choose to sin or not sin. After the Fall, we became so broken that our hearts would always choose sin over obedience. And as this last weekend (Easter) reminded us, I am now free to resist that sin.

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law,weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us,who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit."
Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)

Because of what Christ did, I no longer have the same relationship with sin I once did. As a disciple of Christ, I am no longer captive to sin. But sin is still very present in my heart and in the world around me. It will be until my death or the Lord's return. The sin and the flesh are constantly fighting the Spirit; this is an effect of the Fall, and an effect of Christ's death on the cross at the same time. The Fall broke me, Jesus reconciled me. But sin didn't disappear, nor did the temptation to sin disappear. God just made it so I could fight off the desire to sin with the help of the Spirit.

My old self could not help but sin. My new self has a choice in the matter. But my new self is still broken, and is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). But it is not fully renewed. (Side note: one of my professors - Dr. Agan - calls our hearts' "wanters" and often says in class "Our wanter is broken. It just wants the wrong things.")

As I drove to church this evening, and pondered this whole issue and tried to figure out exactly where it was I was hung up - what the flaw in my argument, if you will, was - I figured it out just as I was taking my seat. The issue is that I want my sin to have an element of "I just can't help it". I want an out. And just as I want my sin to have that much power over me, I also must keep into perspective that my love for Christ is not as powerful as I want it to be. Because none of this is about my ability to do anything. It's about my inability to do anything.

This is why deliberate sin is perilous to my soul. Because it lands me in a place of "The devil made me do it." Instead of a place that says "Jesus can overcome it." So the second reason why I will not always choose Jesus over sin is because I can't.

So we have a bit of a conundrum, just like much of the Christian life. The "already/not yet" the "sinner/saint" the "God's sovereignty/our responsibility", the "faith/works"- all these antimonies (unresolvable tensions) exist in the Christian faith. This is not what is perilous to my soul. What is perilous to my soul is deliberately choosing to sin when Jesus gives me the power not to. It's choosing to be the sinner when I can be the saint.

Sunday's Here



The resurrection is not an event, it is a person.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Disequilibration

Something is not right in my spirit right now. I don't know what that means, exactly, but I feel it in my gut. And I need to process.

What is disequilibrating to me, in my life, right now? My professor spoke about disequilibration in class a while ago, how Jesus used it to teach, how we much use it to teach. People tend to make the most progress when something doesn't makes sense, he said, because in it community is created.

Leaving community out of it for right now, let's focus on what kinds of affects disequilibration has on your life. For someone like me, it doesn't go over well, especially at first. I like being comfortable. I like safety. I do okay with change... as long as I know there is comfort right around the corner.

And I am learning that in order to follow Jesus I am never going to be comfortable again. And I just don't think I will be able to handle that.

I don't think I really know what is going on here. Actually, no. I do know what is going on here. It just might take me a while to write it out. The problem is my unwillingness to spend some serious time in repentance.

I am so tired of worrying about doing the right thing all the time.

I am so tired of people's opinion of me dictating my self-worth.

It is only through a "shocking" disequilibrating experience that the things you've struggled with for years to get to the point where you can't take them anymore. It is only in the unrest that we move forward. It is only in the breaking of our hearts and the noise over-taking our minds that change becomes evident.

After what I've been through in the last 5 weeks, it will be interesting to see what progresses from here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elsewhere

Elsewhere in blogland: Tony at don't call me veronica has an interesting post titled "stuff pastors don't talk about". I found his respond to Women's role in the church and home particularly short and sweet:

"A woman's role in church and home is to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength - and second, to love their neighbor as they love themselves.

Oddly enough, this is the same role a man is to have.

Wouldn't it be great if we lived that out? And as we did, wouldn't we find that we were complementing each other in such a way that we felt like an equal, not because we were the same but because the two had become "one flesh?"

Hmm...

Perhaps complementarianism and egalitarianism aren't competing ideas after all."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Commenting Policy

Sorry, everyone. Due to an unfortunate comment situation that happened yesterday, where some derogatory, inappropriate and very un-Christlike comments were made, I have now disabled anonymous comments, and enabled comment moderation.

Not a big deal for most of you wonderful people who read this faithfully. For me, however... well, but I just never wanted to go there. I hoped to create a place where differing views from mine or others are welcomed and not an exercise is tearing one another down unnecessarily, without moderation or needing an account. I've been blogging for over 3 years now and have never had a situation where I felt this was needed. But when someone attacks the character of a person they don't know, that is unacceptable to me.

All that said, I am taking a adapting a commenting policy from Shane over at Caffeinated Thoughts: Thanks, Shane.

-It is perfectly okay to disagree with me,and that isn't why I deleted the comments I did - though he/she might think that's why I did it. I expect and sometimes even hope for some to disagree with me. What I also expect (and demand, at this point) is that we disagree in an agreeable manner. I will not tolerate personal attacks on myself or others who comment (name calling and other offensive remarks). Let’s keep to the issue or post at hand. Name-calling is immature and does no one any good, and does not help build up the body of Christ.

- This hasn’t been a problem, but I thought I would include it - no vulgar language (profanity, sexist or racist remarks, etc.) will be permitted. You are free to use it, but as the blog owner I’m free to delete your comment.

- Please don’t comment numerous times when nobody is responding to you. Let’s call this for what it is - spam. I understand a couple of comments in a row if you forget to include something, have a typo, etc. But commenting 4,5, 6 times or more (in a row, without a response) is excessive. I will try to respond to comments as quickly as I can, but I am not a full-time blogger. I am full-time seminary student with a part-time job. My life is not here online.

I view blogging as journaling for me. I don't have a political agenda, or a desire to tear other views down. What does happen often here is my emotional response to what is happening in the world. (I cheered today when I found out Ms. Kennedy took her name of the list for the New York Senate seat, but that's neither here nor there.) I am often saddened by the state of the nation (see my post on Blog Action Day). I am often sadden by the state of my own heart (see my "I'm That Girl" post). And I often grapple with very difficult questions. (See my post on expectations, which was the most popular post here based on google search hits of 2008.) And I also ask difficult questions (see my post on infliction) and really hope we can have a conversation about it.

All that said... here's to hoping this won't happen again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

So We Do Not Lose Heart

My friends the Browns are in Africa with AIM. Andy works with On Field Media and here is there most recent project, a short film about the need for theological education in this war-torn country.

I'm so proud I can hardly stand it. Andy is so good at what he does, and he captured the heart of the Rwandan people in a very moving way. (Oh, and the cinematography isn't too bad either.)