Thursday, December 28, 2006

Therapy of the confession...

I used to rail against the secrets that would come in the form of blogs whose sordid realities would never caress the tenderness of a friends ear. I'm still no great proponent of speaking of such upon the web that would never be spoken of upon the person, though I still find great delight in reading others' secrets.

Last night, I read a short interview with Frank Warren [of
postsecret notoriety] on A wonderfully insightful quote reads, "...I think these cards represent something more than we can see. Maybe for these people, sharing their secret is a search for grace."

I think that it's such a beautiful thing to search for grace, but the indication and impetus that he's placed on his writers is that so many of them are writing their secrets out of a deeply ingrained and socially damning guilt. Why would you, or I, or anyone else search for grace if we didn't feel like we've all done something terribly wrong to someone else or something terribly wrong period? Maybe it goes without saying, but I agree with F. Warren. I think that my agreement moves beyond the bounds of his website and really encompasses much of the web community.

So much of what I read is an escape from what actually
is. Words, thoughts, feelings, and implied actions tend to be so disjoint from the same in the physical world. I thought about going on with a discourse on the subject, but BP sums it up best on the front page of his blog saying, " blogworld, I can attempt to replace everyone else's perception of me with my imagined self." In that, he is describing this great disconnect of who we are and who we perceive ourselves to be. Blogs, pages, and similar venues tend to be rife with the sort of assumption of the recreation of self without the hindrances of outward assessment.

This isn't all bad, however.

On a fundamental level, the quasi-anonymity that people believe they have while surfing the web works to lower the social guards that people use in attempts to deflect embarrassment and shame [That's essentially what F. Warren says in his interview anyways]. Being the case, t
here is a sense that man [or man with the wo-, as the case may or may not be] is subsequently fundamentally deeper than what is generally revealed in social settings. What the web provides then, in this "search for grace," is the general acceptance and encouragement that we need in order to bring this "deeper self" to the forefront.

What the web doesn't provide [except in rare cases, as I've heard] is the accountability that's usually provided when a close friend comes to you after a comment or an action and says, "Wow, that's not really like you."

Gene Veith says that the postmodernist would say that our identities are linked solely to the situations that we may be involved in so that my person as an employee may not be the same as my person as a father or a husband and that who I portray myself to be is an act to fill the conditions of my social identity [though, I don't believe he is a proponent of the view]. I would say that we
are who people think we are and not who we necessarily believe ourselves to be [though, there are some exceptions to the rule]. It's not to say that we are defined by our societal responsibilities and stations. It is to say that our societal responsibilities and stations tend to actually reveal the jewels and junk that are buried in our character.

The web offers this atmosphere that doesn't judge, criticize, or correct. Generally, we are free to create our realities as we wish them to be.

Maybe the hope of some who send their secrets into the oblivion of the WWW really believe that their guilt has been cleansed through the act of confession, but there's no grace with that...there's no redemption there. The act of confession therein is equitable to splitting doves and cattle, salting the meat, and burning an offering on an altar. The act as described is a strange work of righteousness t
hat alleviates the consciousness of guilt without really addressing the root of the action that caused the guilt in the first place.

Of course, this is all on the assumption that folks are posting their secrets and searching for grace.

*a few books by the authors mentioned in this post:

Monday, December 11, 2006

I was once a bully...

I grew up in a kind of rough neighborhood in Huntsville. It wasn't the worst, but it was not the best by a long shot. I never knew it, but I kind of remember my dad saying something about not really liking living in Huntsville after we moved out to the burbs. There was an apartment complex nearby called Jackson Square - my parents never wanted me or my sister to go there. Part of their fear [and I kid you not] was the fact that mostly black people lived there. Part of their fear, too, was the drug dealing that was going on there. Part of their fear was the violence.

To be honest, I didn't hang at Jackson Square much. I just didn't have any interest.

I did, however, hang out with the kids who lived behind me a lot. We used to always pick on this kid named Donald. I was a real jerk to him. Every now and again we would just beat on him - looking back, I can't even understand why we would put a child through so much hellish brutality or why that same child would just keep coming back for more.

The "ringleader," so to speak, was a guy named Ron. Ron was pretty indiscriminate with his blows though. I think I probably received the hardest hit from him of us all in more ways than one. I remember that he was once so mad at me that he just walked up to me and hit me in my face [really, on my chin] and then he just walked away.

There was a time when I seemed to simply thrive off of violence - whether dealt or endured. When we moved out to the burbs, however, all that seemed to change [kind of]. I wasn't as much of a jerk as I was before. To be honest... a lot of that changed when I moved from elementary to middle school. I had changed from a neighborhood bully to a band geek.

I know God's forgiven me for all that crap that I put other people through, and I'd like to think that he could give me the ability to forgive others in the same fashion. In college, I remember being overcome with conviction so much to the point that I hand wrote a letter to Donald - a letter apologizing for what I did to him. He wrote me back. He said he forgave me. He said that the whole neighborhood had changed during the decade that I was gone. He said that Ron became a Christian and that everyone was better. He talked about how good everything was now.

That was nice, but I'm not sure I believe him.
Just like the bully - always right in his own.

My wife and I were talking one day about her artwork. She is incorporating a lot of people, events and artifacts from her past in this piece she's working on now. We discussed how we are the sum of our experiences and how who we are now communicates who we were. The Christian is more than the sum of his own [or her own] experiences though. What makes a Christian is not so much this one experience with a God who swears He was once a man, but a hope of an experience that can come all at once or never in our lifetime that has it's roots in another experience that happened all at once so long ago. Even in a world that doesn't acknowledge God, there is a sense that we are more than the mere sum of our experiences.

When I loved violence as a child, I didn't necessarily love it because I experienced it. I observed it. I had knowledge of it. But I didn't experience it first hand. Is knowledge the same as experience? I would think no. I watched westerns and war movies with my dad - he had experience with violence as a soldier. He would tell me stories of some of the actors - how this man had fought in this war and what was significant about this move and the heroes portrayed. Those were men and times who were familiar with the experience of violence. So, when I inflicted violence upon others, was it necessarily because I had experienced violence?


It may be hard to follow - but we are more than what we can see. We are more than what we are doing, or what we have done. A similar thought came over me last night as I was walking through a local K-Mart [yeah, they still have those here]. I looked at all the people wearing red vests. I thought about how they drone about. Then I started to wonder where they live. I wondered if the corporate heads tried to make them seem inhuman by making them dress in uniform. I wondered if there was a more devious motivation to all of it. I digress. Here again, these are more than the sum of what they do. They are more than the sum of their experience.

In a way, I guess we are a sum of all of human experience in a non-reincarnate way. As a Christian, I believe that part of who I am is built upon the experience of Adam in the garden in his disobedience. As a Christian, I believe that who I have become and who I am becoming is built upon the experience of Christ in the garden in his prayer of obedience.

So...sorry for going from entertainment to deep thoughts. Caught me by surprise too.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Theology of the grocery...

I was standing in line a Bruno’s in Inverness earlier this week. This particular Bruno’s [for those of you who aren’t from the Southeastern United States, Bruno’s is a grocery store] is outfitted with 4 “Self Checkout,” lines. I usually gravitate towards these lines so I don’t have to make awkward conversation with the people who work at any given grocery store.

This day, there were only three functioning lines. But to clarify, apparently none of them were truly functioning correctly as all of them had workers assisting the people who were using them. Unfortunately, there was only one line which was not “Self Checkout,” but it wasn’t moving any faster.

I had two bags of beef jerky, a small iced sweetened [with Splenda] tea, and a Krispy Kreme Donut [the urge hit me while in the store].

And I stood and watched while three middle age plus women struggled to work machines labled “Self Check Out.” Needless to say, I was becoming impatient.

I love technology.
I love technology that frees people up – makes things simpler and what not.
I love people learning how to use new technologies [I love that people learn period].

I hate contradictory situations that stand in the face of logic. Part of this is that I believe that God has created things in a logical [albeit, a supranatural (yes, supra-, look it up)] fashion. Men and women whom require the help of cashiers in a “Self Checkout” line are simply living in sin because they’re striving against the naturalness of things.

My turn did come. I scanned everything with little dallying. I had to look up the donut as they don’t come equipped with UPC symbols. As I was selecting the item one of the cashiers walked up and said, “Oh, you found the donut?”

“Yes, thank you.”
I swiped my card, and left.

The analysis, I suppose, is found here: I should have been more thankful – right? Maybe a little more longsuffering? The things, or concepts, which seem to come most natural are often those same things or concepts wherein we find the least amount of patience within ourselves – at least, that’s my human predicament. I walked away complaining in my heart. I complained in my truck on my way back to work. I complained to my wife. And now, presuming that you’ve read this, I’ve complained to you. There’s little distance that this complaining has brought any of us, to no surprise. In the very essence and nature of complaining, I’ve live against God’s design even as these middle aged plus women have.

Is it at all right for me to complain? Not to throw out a Clintonism, but it really does matter what your definition of right is. In a technical sense I may object to the fact that these women have technically breached the law of the line – it was clearly a self service line and they were clearly taking a full service approach. In a moral sense I may object because these women were clearly rebelling against authority. If Christ is the head of all authority as the writer of Colossians states, then these folks are in a bit of a predicament as they have clearly run against the authority who has placed the sign that states “Self Checkout,” in this store.

In a technical and moral sense, however, Christ would have me to be patient with all men and women. The conundrum in which many Christians find themselves is that they are little willing to show any of the same patience, love, and transcendence that Christ has shown to Christians. Therein lies one of the biggest weaknesses within the Church – the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of grace. There is a sense wherein the call to holiness is seen as a calling to live and work as the bleach that would purge the sinfulness from the human race rather than showing the human race the One who would gladly wash those who would believe in His own blood – making them so crimson…so clean. My anger towards these women is exemplary of the same anger, impatience, and misunderstanding that we as the Church [as I would count myself as one amongst the Chruch] would hold over, against, and towards a dying world.

In the same way, Christ is our hope – our salvation.
Regarding the way I acted…or felt in my heart of hearts…I am an awful man.
Thanks be to God that he would show grace to this awful man.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I've noticed a lot of complaining coming out of my mouth. It's not the first time I've noticed [which is altogether sad at that]. Undoubtedly, it will not be the last.

Everyday I listen to various problems of varied seriousness and intensity. More often than not, the problems are not as serious as those who are involved make them out to be. Truth be told, most of the problems revolve around material possession and the comfort of the American dream.

A woman I talked to this weekend told me, "It just amazes me when I see a young person who is sincerely thankful for anything. Younger people have generally been given so much to them and they don't know how to communicate thankfulness."

I was not the young person she was talking about.

Just like anyone else, I get wrapped up in the circumstances affecting me. To think about the root of the word brings up an interesting point [circum- being around; stance being a place or position] in that circumstances aren't within us, but come from what is apart from us. More oft than not it seems that the outward events are far more important than the inner man. Being the case, life seems so hopeless and barren. Why can those things that are apart from me have so much bearing and weight upon that which is within me?

David Camera [Briarwood's new pastor of discipleship] spoke on thankfulness last night. Last night, there was also a time where people are allowed to come to one of two microphones in the middle of the pews to tell what they are thankful for. Last night is usually the type of night that this writer tends to avoid in regards to church attendance.

Last night, I heard how one man was thankful for his wife...and how God had brought healing in their relationship after being separated for 16 years. Last night I heard how one visitor was thankful to see men in the church - there are apparently few to none where she is from. Last night I heard one girl get up and read scripture - it was the part in Romans where Paul's saying something about "...we are more than conquerors." She then explained what she was thankful for [not excluding that God had given her mother Leukemia]. Her mother stepped up later and explained how God was using this sickness to break them.

Today, I walked into work and complained in my heart. Tonight, I walked in from the grocery store and sulked. Right now, I feel that I am in the company of One of whom I am not worthy.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I have a tendency towards extremes when I become overwhelmed. Sometime I will tend towards the extremity of action - those are the times when I feel really successful at what I'm doing due to the quantity of work I am able to accomplish.

Right now, I am gravitating more towards the extremity of intellectual inaction, however.

I think that I set expectations really high for myself with the series. This is not to be misconstrued as the "Gene is a quitter," post [though, that may come later]. This is to communicate that there will be more reprieves between the surges of thought so as to keep the blog a little more current.

That being said, I encourage you to check out My wife recommended this to me [before her IT department came down on the whole company to say, "No more streaming videos, no more music downloads, no more satellite radio via the web, no more etc."' and I've been trying to get the word out.

The site is self explanatory. Sometimes it what I wish life to be like - just plug in your favorites and it spits out other things you might like. Visit it...for the love of homogeny!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Western-Centricity [Macro part 1]

La and I attended a talk and presentation by Laurie Anderson [a multimedia and performance artist] at the McWane Center last night in Birmingham. She said a lot of things that stuck with me, but two in particular are relevant here.

First, she mentioned that she worked for a while with the main architect who is currently attempting the rebuilding of the Parthenon in Athens [in Greece, not Alabama, no Georgia] by picking up the pieces and seeing where they fit. She was awed by the amount of philosophical thought that has been borne out of that area [she quoted it as being 14 schools of thought] and asked why the architect thought that the world wasn’t a better place for it.

His response was that years ago folks would bring statues and sacrifices to worship the Greek goddess Athena. The sacrifices didn’t seem to bring about any worry or strife within the people. The statues, however, did. Apparently [as human nature directs] people would come about to build and bring bigger and better statues. The place was filled with them. The area of the Parthenon was so filled with them that people stopped coming to this place of worship altogether. One of the worshippers was asked why he didn’t come to worship and he said, “I cannot worship in an art gallery.”

The point in what she was saying was that more often we are satisfied with merely believing rather than knowing.

The second point [which was actually made prior to the first] was bought up in a comparison between the eastern culture of the Japanese and the western culture of the United States. Out of our Greco-Roman heritage there is always a central and identifiable hero. There is always an antithesis to that hero. In our story of the hero there is a beginning, climax, and an end. In the Japanese culture there’s no definite story line of beginning, middle, and end. There’s not often a definite hero. The society and belief system function in a peculiar way [to us] wherein things exist but do not often find a solid or happy resolution [that is, if they ever find resolution at all].

When we talk about Christianity, we often equate it with Western thinking without realizing that our faith was borne out of the middle of east. Currently, when Christianity is preached it is spoken of as the creation of man as the beginning of its epoch, the first incarnation and coming of the Messiah in the flesh as our climax [and hero], and His second coming as His glorious victory. The truth, however, is much broader than this in its scope. If we look at the implications of what we know about God as per the Bible, we see that God is. He not only is, He has always been and ever will be.

Scripture, in this, communicates the characteristic of God in his infinitude.

It only seems proper to start there as it seems a good base to understanding [or understanding our lack of comprehension] God’s attributes. If God is infinite in his being [existing from eternity’s past unto eternity’s future] then his attributes must be similarly thus. Things get sticky for us, I think, when we say “God has done X because we have done Y.” In fact, we really don’t know the specifics of why God has done X. We can look through scripture and understand that God acts upon, intervenes in, and sets forth everything in creation. We can understand that all things are from, through, and to Christ. We cannot say with much certainty that God will do X if Y is performed by us, however.

Here’s the crux of the issue; in modern American Christianity we make out many antitheses to our central hero [Christ]. So then, the Muslims become our enemies because they hate Christians. Gays become our enemies because they are not living according to God’s prescription of right living. Abortionists become our enemies because they are killing all of God’s children. Anyone who is against America and American Christian values is a part of the formula of absolute and spiritual death.

What is so revolutionary about Christianity is the fact that not all enemies are enemies and not all friends are friends. Sometimes the people who seem to be closest to us can be so far from the truth, and those who are against us will be turn from an absolute hardness of heart unto life.

Some of us we’ll take portions of Scripture and end the search of knowledge with the characteristics we understand. God is holy and hates sin, therefore he condemns and punishes those more quickly who are involved in gross sin. The obvious examples of this are those who would assume that natural acts are judgments of God against the heathen scum of the Earth. What it is, in fact, is a statement of belief formed by shallow reading rather than a true knowledge formed by intimation and delving into the infinite character of God.

What the gospel tells us is that God takes those very enemies and makes them into children [that is, the gospel that is described in the old and new testaments of the Bible]. That being the case, the lines in the plot get a little more blurry as we never really understand of terrorist X, abortionist Y, or homosexual Z will be an enemy forever. The impetus for us to love the very people that hate us is that God has done the same thing for Joe American Christian. The storylines become blurred as beginnings are no longer beginnings – everything really starts off backwards compared to the optimistic hope of utopianism. We come into existence still borne, at some point we are shown what is real and what is fake, and then we progress from being less alive and less aware to more alive and more aware.

What we are called to is even more of the antithesis of how “faith” functions in most circles. “Faith” doesn’t tell me to believe that infinite characteristics lead to specific actions. Faith tells me that Christ must be the object of my affections to some degree and that what I believe about Christ has been generally quite misconstrued. Faith tells me that while I can believe in something that has happened historically, I can’t necessarily place the same mold on every subsequent event that happens.

Now, you may feel like I am babbling about this, but I have a point. The truth is that Christianity isn’t necessarily about belief. Our convictions should be changing [a better word would be “progressing,” perhaps]. There are historical points wherein we can say, “I believe that,” but to say that our faith is about mere belief is pretty foolish. What makes this idea of “faith,” so impoverished is its redundancies in belief. “Look at how wealthy America is, it is so because God has blessed us for our belief!” as it is stated. We take acts of God from the past and apply them to the present as truth, and that is a redundancy in belief as it does not take the infinitude of God’s character into account.

We take what has happened in western culture and we ask, “What is God trying to communicate to us in this.” We take these happenings and say “God is thus and must be saying etcetera.” Given the infinitude of God, how can any man necessarily know the mind of God in his current actions? What we are called to as Christians is to know God, not to believe in God’s attributes. The difference between the two is that of definition and intimacy. If we believe in his attributes, we might be able to recount various verses to define those attributes. In knowing God, we move beyond the mere definition of who He is unto a deeper intimacy than that which can be necessarily defined. There’s a lot more to be said about this, but I’ll end with the incomplete thought for now as this is almost 2 ½ pages.

What are your thoughts? We’ll camp out on this for more than tonight’s blog...

*If you liked the illustration, visit here for more.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


In the book I’m reading right now [Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen] a reference is made at one point wherein Machen harkens to a time 75 years preceding his own where times were “better” and cultures more “Christian.” Growing up in Huntsville, we had a wonderful and devoted youth leader who decried the sin of our times and looked back to an era that looked more to Christ. Even now I hear people around me talking about how things in the past were not only different, but better and more spiritual.

I don’t think that the arguments are wrong. There may have been a time where our culture seemed to be more influenced by Christianity. What ends up happening so often is the scare that our lives, as we know it, will end. Endemic in the modern American church is the modern American mindset. It is not only western-centric, but also individualistic, consumer driven, and very often myopic in its scope of culture and society.

Instead of pointing the finger, I would like to open up my heart to you a bit [but no more than necessary]. When I look at myself, I am often western-centric, individualistic, consumer driven, and very often myopic in my scope of culture and society.

Over the next few blogs, I’d like to explore these four areas in a micro and macro sense. Fell free to voice your opinion or response. To let you know, I am choosing to span it out because if I put all the thought into one blog, I doubt anyone would read it [though, I sometimes doubt if anyone reads it as it is].

What had me thinking about it is the way I’ve been regarding a lot of the complaints I’ve been reading in other areas of the web. It makes me sick to think of how putrid some of the thoughts of the church are. It makes me sick to think about how putrid some of my own acts towards those who are in the church are. My aim then, instead of complaining, is critical analysis.

I don’t think this will be extremely entertaining, but I’ll try to make it engaging as best I can.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vanity and the pride of life...

I’m listening to Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

I’ve started a new blog.
No worries [as if you have any], I intend to remain dedicated to both. The natures of the two are such that I do not believe they’ll intersect in content.

Our trip to Colorado was wonderful. You should be able to check out our pictures here. The Rockies are just a strange and beautiful place altogether. There are some there who have ancestral roots to miners who worked themselves to death for the hope of finding the “mother lode.” Then you have others whose wealth defines their existence – those who will shell out a few [or more] million bones for a winter home.

There’s so much that I learned about myself and my family – much of which won’t be shared here because I don’t think that it would be appropriate to share [that’s called discretion].

One of the conversations La and I had while driving alone through the mountains was about creation. We had a bit of an argument about it. What was borne through it was evidence of our sin [beyond the argument]. A question I posed that was brought back to me was whether or not I thought about God the creator when I look at his creation.

“No. No, I don’t think I do,” is how I responded.
“But I’m trying. I’m praying that He would help me to.”

This wasn’t the first time I had driven through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. I’m sure that it wasn’t the first theological conversation I’ve had there. Hopefully, it won’t be the last.

So often, however, the gloss of creation sates my appetite for the magnificent.
So often I find myself praying, “I believe, but help my unbelief.”

It’s so easy not to think about Him – because when I do, there are hard questions that I feel like He has to answer. In fact, He’s probably answered them in some way or another, but I want to be the clay that tends to buck at the potter and in the economy of God, that doesn’t really work. I am so easily duped into believing that God likes me more when I act like an ass even though he hasn’t called me to be his work horse.

He’s called be to be His child.
He’s called me to be a good brother to others.
He’s called me to be a good husband – to have my relationship with my wife model His relationship to His people.
He hasn't called me to be his mule.

In my enjoyment of creation, He reminded me that I just don’t think about what He’s called me to enough. In my enjoyment, He reminded me that maybe I’m too easily amused.

Friday, October 06, 2006

re: Weddings

This may be a little known fact: I love weddings.

Another interesting fact is that I witnessed more people crying at my marriage to La than and other I’ve been too. There were literally people coming up to me afterwards who told me that they usually don’t cry at weddings, but that they did at ours.

It probably didn’t help that there was a six foot tall, one hundred ninety pound groom crying at the time [that would be me].

There are certain passages of scripture that imprint themselves onto the fabric of my soul. For the longest time [and even now] Christ’s sermon on the mount was one of those [particularly the section wherein He reminds me that whatever I do to the least of these, I do unto him]. Another is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he writes about the relationship of a husband and a wife as a reflection of Christ’s relationship to the Church.

I don’t care much for the fluff of weddings. My favorite are where Christ centered sermons are preached and wonderful hymns sung. My favorite part of the wedding is to see the rear doors of the sanctuary open, to see the bride in radiant white burst through, and to see her walking towards the man who has decided to die to on life so that his bride might live for a new one.

When La walked in, I thought of Christ who has pursued me. I remembered how I loved her before she cared for me – and how Christ did the same. I remembered how much more deep His love is [however] and that while I don’t deserve it, it is mine for the taking. I wept because I was reminded that one day Christ will come again to claim His bride – His bride that He has washed, and cultivated, and loved.

The difference is that He has never been the one to stand and wait for her to walk down an aisle. He’s the one who runs out of the Holy place to bring His bride out of the whore house that she’s decided to make her home. He’s the one who purchases her freedom from that life, who makes her clean and who promises that he will keep her forever.

For me, the wedding isn’t about all the pomp. It’s about the representation of Christ coming to His bride, of his whispering of redemption, and of His bold actions to break his bride from her captor.

Today, I’m sitting in Vail, CO. It’s the furthest I’ve ever traveled for a wedding.
In two hours, I will see a picture of the reality that my spirit longs for.

[***Of note: New header; expect them to change as often as the seasons as long as my wife continues to be as interested in the blog as I am. Soon to come: a blog on running - keep a lookout].

Friday, September 29, 2006

So...why does he keep giving me rocks?

What father among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone.. [Luke 11:11]

I was driving down the road between work and home. The road wasn’t as filled with monsters made of steel an rubber as it usually is during my commute. Then again, I wasn’t driving home as I usually did either.

It was somewhere around 10:30am.
La was sick, and I didn’t know why.
She was sick, and I didn’t know when she would be well.

After we returned from South Korea, or maybe some time before we left that country, my wife became ill. At first we thought it was travelers’ diarrhea [which is what I apparently had]. When she woke up on September 12 with a fever of 102.9 [I said .8 in an earlier post, she tells me it was .9], it all seemed to be a little more serious.

Over the course of the week, she frequented doctors’ offices more than any healthy person should. By the end of the week [Friday, September 15] she was in the hospital with an IV slowly dripping nutrients and antibiotics into her blood stream. Sometimes she would cry. The only thing she wanted was to be well and the only thing she seemed to complain about was the difficulty she had sleeping with an IV in her arm.

During a few of my many trips to the hospitals, to her room, to our home…I had a lot of time to reflect and pray. I asked God, very frankly, “Why are you giving me stones?” I asked Him about Eric. I asked Him about my wife. I asked Him about so many times where I had asked and the answer always came as, “No.”

You might be on the end that says, “God was using the, ‘No’ as an element of teaching.”
You might be on the end that asks, “Why is God, the good Father, giving me stones…too?”
Doctrinally, I can tell you why.
Experientially, I am hard pressed.

If you know me, I don’t try to base much on experience either.

One post we came to in the road held an arrow. Another held a mirror. The one with the arrow seemed to be the easiest to look at but made me so angry because I always came to think that it oversimplified the problem. The post with the mirror was so difficult to look at because it reminded me of how unfit I was. When I looked at the arrow I didn’t have to think about my needs, I only needed to walk. When I looked into the mirror, my needs were made immediately apparent. It hurt to look into the mirror, but the answer is what I needed so much more.

When I looked at Laura in her hospital bed, I thought about how impoverished my soul is. I thought about how much it has been starved from the substance of Christ and the character of God. I thought about how poor of a leader I had been in our relationship and how far from a picture of Christ and the Church our marriage was.

Then, I prayed more boldly then I ever have before.

My heart holds not the belief that God will make me healthy and monetary wealthy through faith. I think that belief neglects the millions of Christians who live in developing countries who are starving to death – those who seemingly have no hope, or health, or wealth.

What I was reminded of in the mirror, what I was reminded of by my wife’s sickness, and what enabled me to pray as I did was the still small voice that reminded me that Christ’s blood – God’s blood – is really sufficient.

Over the course of 4 days, Laura’s health increased significantly. I do not attribute this to my prayers; I do attribute this to God’s mercy. When people ask about Laura, I tell them that God has been merciful to us because I believe that to be true. He was merciful to draw me in as a child, to show me what sort of putrid wretch I was and to remind me of what a cherished son and heir I am. He was merciful to make Laura well in a fairly quick manner despite the foul-ups of her respective nurses. He was merciful not to strike me down for my disrespect in yelling at him as I drove alone in my truck.

He was merciful to show me that the easy answer is not always the right one.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A bird, a bird, a bird, and a duck…

[I'm listening to The Avalanche by Sufjan Stevens]

A Bird

La was ill – not in the sense that she was angry at me, but in the sense that she had a fever of 102.8 F at one point followed by days of stomach problems. In the midst of her tears and despite her infirmed situation she looked at me and said, “I have a surprise for you.”

It was all a bit surreal. “Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“A couple of months ago I bought you two tickets to the Sufjan concert in Atlanta. I’ve already talked to your manager, he said everything would be fine for you to go. I also rented a room at the Marquis.” She said this with a beaming and simultaneously sickly smile.

This just wasn’t registering. Partly, because I just did not know if and when she would be better. Partly because I was so much more concerned with how she was doing. A couple of days later she was in the hospital with an IV strapped to her. It wasn’t – just some Salt, Calcium, and antibiotics for her stomach. But it was – the IV being changed often, seeing my wife in a hospital bed, praying and feeling like a good Father was giving me stones instead of bread.

Progress ensued.

We went into the hospital on a Friday afternoon. We left on a Monday morning. Sufjan was playing on Wednesday night and we were going on a road trip.

God was merciful to the undeserving.

A Bird

It was exciting to be in a situation where I really didn’t know what to expect. The stage was sparsely decorated with a large projection screen hanging and adorned on either side by what seemed to be the longest streams of tinsel I’ve ever seen. During the opening act of My Brightest Diamond I admired the architecture and detail of the Fox Theater in Atlanta. I followed the curves of the crafted wood into the reaches of the cavernous ceiling that was painted to resemble a night sky.

After some time, Sufjan came onto the stage with his musical entourage. Violins and a standing bass were on his left after the two trumpet players and the trombone. There was a grand piano directly behind him and a drummer behind it. No one was yet on the piano. To his right were the electric bass player and the lead singer for My Brightest [she was on guitar]. The stage was filled with fifteen two eighteen musicians.

The stage was filled with musicians who were wearing blue jeans, grey shirts, masks, and both butterfly wings and bird wings. They refused to take them off throughout the course of the concert. It didn’t matter; this gift from my wife was the best concert I have ever been. Sufjan utilized video [mostly textures as my video-editing friend put into words for us] to accentuate the themes of his music [as if the composition wasn’t already detailed enough]. All together, I had the opportunity to listen to one of the best story tellers I’ve heard in a period.

Sufjan, like my wife is afraid of birds.

He became what he feared – adorning birds’ wings and singing his beautiful and sometimes enigmatic songs.

An Annoying Bird

He was playing The Transfiguration.
She was telling her date about her siblings.
I was trying to tune her out.
I was thinking of how I could cause offense without insinuating that I meant it.
“No offense, but my wife didn’t pay for us to come and listen to you in Atlanta, we’re here for the concert.”
In my mind I said, “After this song…”

Halfway through one of the worst screeching sounds I’ve ever heard in my life occurs – to the cheers of the audience and the well handled consternation of Sufjan.

When I look back, the awful cawing buzzing bird behind me has left [or moved] with her three friends.

And a Duck

This is a bit disjoint, but I thought it fit with the theme.

I was on my way out for a morning run yesterday – too lazy to put on my contacts and too concerned to put on my glasses. I walked down the steps with a bag of garbage in my hand trying to wake despite the dark. At the bottom of the steps, I sidestepped to avoid what looked like a bundle of rags in the dark.

Coming back from my run, I crouched to look at the rags [I am fairly to quite nearsighted]. To my great astonishment, there was a medium sized deceased duck in front of the house we live in!

I have nothing to say upon this as it is altogether strange.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


What do you get when you take one couple, add one sister and one brother to that couple, then add 2 children to that couple, and add a niece and nephew to that couple. For those who are not astute mathematicians, that equals eight people. More than that, it encompasses the population of one apartment during our stay in South Korea.

There was one television. There was one computer. There were two bathrooms.

I kind of have this sense that if you had the same situation in the states that there would also be a chaotic mess to deal with. The apartment wasn’t necessarily small, but it wasn’t huge either. It actually had 3 distinct bedrooms [all which are small according to our standards], but everyone got along comfortably.


If you’ve ever seen an Asian culture in action [for most of you, this would probably be on your respective television sets or in magazines, I assume] you might notice a lot of hand holding and a special closeness.

But in America, we yearn for what we consider to be freedom.

What’s amazing is that when there’s something that rocks your life, maybe that freedom isn’t valued as much anymore. Sorry, there won’t be much more than that – I know that it really isn’t much of a follow up, but I’m still trying to get over the flight back on top of hay fever.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

[Finished Theodore Rex. You can check out my review here]

We’ve had a wonderful time while staying in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula, but in a couple of hours, we’ll begin our journey “home.” La has been an absolute champ in the way that she’s acclimated to this culture and to a few [somewhat] uncomfortable circumstances. I’m not going to throw out a list of things that we did while we were here, but our site will be updated as soon as we can transfer our pictures onto a hard drive.

There’s not a whole lot that I’ve missed about being in the U.S., but there are two very significant things that La and I have discussed that have been hard to do without.

The first involves the language gap. Growing up, I was given quite a few opportunities to learn Han Gul [the Korean name for the Korean language] but never applied myself to it – I was a pretty rebellious son-a-b as a child. Opposed to seemingly popular opinion, the rest of the word does not [in fact] speak English.

[as an aside, we have been tempted on more than one occasion to speak to people in Spanish and Portuguese – which is just dumb]

The second is our loss of autonomy. It has been difficult for us to try to go anywhere alone. When we do, and if we are gone for an extended period, we are asked “what happened.” This is a difficulty as La and I love to explore our surroundings when we’re in a new place. On the good end, my mother’s family have been so unbelievably accommodating in shuttling us around or leading us through different areas. Their kindness has made this trip sweet.

All in all, leaving is sort of bitter sweet.

You come to love people that you’re related to – the same people that you only get to see [apparently] every decade or so. On the other hand, you get to leave the people that you have no social history or common language with.

You have to leave the extreme kindness of your family and new found friends. Conversely, you’re free to live again.

When it comes down to it, that’s what we want though [right]? Don’t most of us in our individualized culture yearn for freedom? Trust me, this will bleed into my next blog.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reporting from South Korea...

[Finished reading The Religious Life of the Theological Student by Benjamin B. Warfield]

With understandable caution, airports around the United States are “randomly searching” passengers before they enter terminals. Considering the assumption of what those charged in England are purported to have planned, Airlines are now also “randomly searching” passengers before they enter into their respective planes.

Shortly after 9/11, I was searched at pretty much any airport I walked through. If I was flying, I was usually with a lot of my Anglo friends; with my thick eyebrows, darker complexion, and crazy eyes I guess I feel like I was often the one singled out to be searched. It wasn’t a big deal to me, I figured that it was just part and parcel of the traveling process.

After that first year, I don’t think I’ve been singled out since. I was singled out this morning when entering the plane to ensure that I wasn’t carrying any liquids onto our flight, but that’s not where I want to go with this.

La was on her way to freshen up. On the way to the ladies’ room, she noticed that a man had been singled out to be checked. They were, as the standards go, patting him down and rummaging through his carry on. That is, they were patting this elderly Caucasian man down after they had him stand up from his motorized wheel chair.

Now he was a candidate for world terrorism if I’ve ever seen one.
It’s a good thing they checked him; who knows what kind of violence he had the potential of causing?

As of late, I’ve thought often of how off base our government is in handling our business and safety concerns. This man is a prime example. In the vein of seeking a politically correct solution, we put forth a “randomized” process where anyone may be searched at any time by process of indiscriminate selection.

Well, at least we can say that there is no race-gendered-socioeconomic-age profiling in our airports. Chalk one up for the good guys.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Slowing down...

[I’m listening to White Ladder by David Gray.]

We had just left from taking in good coffee and conversation at Eclipse Coffee. I knew that I wanted to spend more time with her, but I wasn’t entirely sure how I could go about it.

“Do you want to go for a walk in the park?”

So we walked. This park had so many memories for me. My freshman year, I laid here looking at the stars with my first college room mate, a high school friend, and a girl that I haven’t talked to in 4 years. My senior year, we convinced a friend to ride her bike into the creek while we video taped her…at night…in December.

Now, I was walking with my future wife. She was walking too fast.

“Slow down.”
“When I walk, I like to exercise.”
“But don’t you ever just slow down? Don’t you ever just…stop and look into the sky?”

We stared into the depths of the night as the stars stared back in a sort of brilliance dimmed by the town’s lights. In slowing down, in stopping and looking, in listening to her breathe…I think I knew that I loved her.

We still walk fast sometimes. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we run from each other. But when we slow down, when we stop and look, when we listen…we know we love each other.

That’s part of what defines us, isn’t it? When we have the capacity to take in the world and can do so in such a way that we admire the marvel of ingenuity and creativity expressed, then isn’t life just a little better? When I was running along on Monday, all I could hear was my own breath and my feet hitting pavement [along with the occasional passing car]. I’ve loved these early morning runs [whether I’m alone or not] because it affords me the opportunity to see a Birmingham that isn’t mired in poor bureaucracy, it allows me to see a city that isn’t brim-filled with noise pollution and late August heat.

What I see when I run are the wisps of clouds painted deep purple, orange, and red as the sun rises. I see the lines filled with mortar that separate bricks on a house that’s over one hundred years old. When I run by the firehouse mission, I see men who are hungry and eagerly awaiting the opening of doors of kind generosity. I see police who are coming to protect and serve their community. When I run by the Merita Bread Bakery I can smell the wonderful aromas of mass produced bread.

Going a little slower, I get to notice all the wonderful things that I never see when driving to work with the purposed intent of arriving early enough to check out my gold box on

With the good, I see the bad too.

I see the man who has build his bed out of boxes under the Red Mountain Expressway. I see the shanty home built behind a fence under cover of brush across the street from an attorney’s office. I experience the indifference of drivers when they don’t see me running in the crosswalk and nearly move me one step closer to meeting my Savior and Friend. I can smell the factory emissions [when I’m not by the bread factory]. I see that shady guy who is sitting in his car on the bridge of Richard Arrington that separates the North side of downtown from the South side of downtown. I see that guy walking down the street with a large stick to protect himself. When I walk the same way he does after my run, I can see the fear in his face and feel the tension between us.

Tomorrow is Thursday. Two days from now is Friday. On that Day, people will say, “I can’t wait until this day is over.” Out of the other side of their mouths they will say, “I am so afraid of dying.” I just think it’s so strange – it’s so strange that I would work so hard through my day without telling my wife how much I love her. It’s so strange that young lovers would walk through the night without admiring the richness of the sky above them. It’s so strange…

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Forgetful Jones...

[I'm reading Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris]

When I was growing up, my parents bed was positioned in a sort of funny way. If you can imagine it, the headboard was positioned so that it worked as the hypotenuse of a triangle formed by it and a corner of their bed room.

You might imagine this as an absolutely wonderful hiding place for a small child.
Children, however, don’t stay small forever.

One day, I climbed over the head board and placed my foot on the guitar (much as I had always done). Much to my chagrin, the guitar was no longer capable of withstanding the enormity of my weight and I had one crushed guitar under my foot.

For quite some time, no one knew that there was a broken guitar behind my parents’ bed – well, I knew.

It was the sort of secret that couldn’t be kept for too long. My dad never played the guitar (I never really knew where he bought this one), but he was aware of his possessions and he eventually found out.

Here’s the kicker though, I only remember two things about the guitar. I don’t remember where or why he bought it. I don’t remember what kind it was, or even what color the pick guard was (or if it even had one). I just remember my dad picking it up one day as acting as if he was playing it and how much fun it was to “make believe.” The other memory is obvious – I remember breaking our toy.

It’s always interesting to think of how selective our memories are, and to think of what we keep in our catalog of thoughts. I sort of think about this text where Christ is talking to His disciples about loving their enemies. He talks about how easy it is to love your friends and how divine it is to love your enemies.

Jesus portrays this profound idea of God’s mercy, right? He tells us that God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust – on those who are good and on those who are awful jerks. If we are to love for and pray for our enemies [as Christ is talking about in Matthew 5:43-48] then we effectively live out an aspect of God’s character in his mercy to man.

See, the guitar had many attributes. Maybe it had metal strings, maybe it had nylon strings. Maybe it was made of poplar, or pine, or birch. But I can only remember my dad and I play with it [rather than playing it] and that I broke it.

More often than not, we don’t remember some of the wonderful characteristics of God, other than the fact that He lets us play with religion and that we broke this relationship we were supposed to have with Him. What Christ proposes here is not a sort of laissez-faire attitude towards life and sin, but seriousness in our comprehension of God’s character.

See, the life of people who tend to think of themselves as “religious,” or “spiritual,” also comes off as a bit judgmental at times. Much of this is borne [I’m convinced] by the fact that we believe that God loves our religion. It’s easy for me to forget that He loves me. It’s easy to forget that I was His enemy and that He has brought forth peace for me through Christ.

It’s easy to forget that when Christ was praying for His enemies, that He was praying for me too.

So, I don’t remember the guitar because we threw it away – it was worthless. My hope for myself is that I do not become so careless with my understanding of the different aspects of who God is. I guess you can say that it’s a hope borne out of a sort of fear.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A menagerie of sorts...

I’m listening to Ray LaMontagne’s Trouble.

In addition to listening to music, I also like to read.

Right now, I’m reading Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. I don’t really know how this strange love for things related to American History started, but I think that it has yielded some spectacular role models. Of course, every man has his flaws (otherwise, he would be no man at all – more of a figment of your imagination), though Roosevelt was a man of supreme intelligence, wit, and progressive thinking.

Do you know who the first black man to visit the white house on official invitation was? Theodore Roosevelt had Booker T. Washington (not to be confused with the wrestler, Booker T) over for dinner during Roosevelt’s first year as President. TR (as Roosevelt will be referred to from here on out) was elevated to the office of Commander-in-chief after William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz in 1901. Let’s go back to Booker T. Washington though – because he was the sort of guy that a lot of people did not agree with. You see, Washington believed that for his time, segregation was the way to go. He looked at the relationship between whites, blacks, and the nation at large much like fingers on a hand. Whites were one finger while blacks were another – they were separate but equal.

This led me to think of the body of Christ in an odd sort of way, for, ”As it is there are many parts, yet one body.” Now, the hand that BT Washington spoke of and the body of Christ are completely different, or at least they should be. Washington’s point of view was that power would be accumulated through perseverance and education. From the perspective of the body of Christ, you must believe that the accumulation of power in the vain of which he spoke isn’t all that…important.

The body at large, however, does believe that power is important.
The body at large believes that property is important.

What is seen most often, really, is that the body doesn’t see itself as a body at all. In that, there is certainly no appeal to the head for wisdom or guidance. We are, as I’ve heard recently (if you know the source then let me know as it’s slipped my mind) a group of people who so critical of others that we are blind to the fact that we are all being changed by the same process. The implication is that we demand perfection from others – from other Christians, from those who are not Christians, from our family, from our friends, from our customers and employers, etc.

In my own life, time and time again, I find that I am having to ask my wife for forgiveness because of how I have not let God work out Christ in her life in this process. Time and time again, I become angry and lose this honest sense that all is how it should be now considering the fact that we live in a world whose nature is to be pretty screwed up.

The visit of Washington to the White House was not only momentous, it was also scandalous for his time. Blacks were seen as brutes – they were uneducated and hadn’t evolved into the same capabilities of understanding as the white man. They were believed to be controlled by mere instinct and appetite rather than by reason.

I have to believe that things were sort of the same when Christ came to me.
If I forget that, then I forget or neglect my need for a Messiah altogether.

That’s the beauty of this Christian life, isn’t it? Christ has come and invited this brute of a man who is so often guided by his lusts and appetites to sit at a feast with a group who has moved beyond. He has opened the gates of this wonderful city to me and He has promised that I belong here just as much as anyone else (Just as TR told Washington).

When I think of that, when I think that I belong to something bigger, it’s a wonderful feeling. And when He says that to me, it’s not because He thinks I’ve lived this spectacular life of service – He knows I’m a pretty screwed up guy. No, when I sit across the table and He gives me a glass of wine and says, “This is my blood,” and gives me a piece of bread and says, “This is my flesh,” He is telling me that His blood and His flesh are how I came to belong here.

I know...that’s a long way from Roosevelt.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


[I'm listening to X & Y by Coldplay]

In your relationships, do you gauge your commitment by your emotive state or is commitment an action based on something so much more transcendent? Laura and I were talking about this while driving tonight [long night-time drives always make me tired and they always enhance my desire to think and speak]. My hypothesis is that most relationships that fail do so because one [or both] of those who are involved expected that the relationship would be…perfect. At least, they expect that it will be near perfect.

The problem is that by our very nature, no perfect relationship is humanly possible.

Day in and day out, whether at work or at home, I struggle to have control. That very struggle creates such a wonderfully deep and earnest tension in things that relate to the relationships.

But I’m not in control.
I can rarely even control myself.

On possible solution is to be committed to the purpose of the relationship. My emotions will fail me. My wife will fail me. I will fail my wife. My convictions, sad as it sounds, will fail me. But if the purpose of the relationship is transcendent – if it is above me and comes down to my level – then it’s sort of incorruptible, right?

I can misconstrue the purpose altogether, and if I do it’s not that the purpose has failed me, I’ve failed the purpose. I think that this is why you’ll see the figures quoted wherein it is stated that marriages in states [or nations, or dogmas, or political entities] that prescribe prearranged marriages have a lower rate of divorce than democratic, or relative, state.

In the relative state, our attention to the relationship may be directed to the purpose to which we attribute to the relationship. In respect to marriage, the designated purpose may be to raise children. It may be to seek economic ease or stability. It may be to satisfy the base lust of the flesh. It may be just because you think that you really gel with someone, or that you really think that “this must be the one.”

In a static state, however, there may be less room to designate various purposes as the meaning for marriage. I would think that the Christian sense would provide for a static state in marriage. From what I understand, the purpose of my marriage is transcendent as it is a picture [whether fair or poor] of the relationship that Christ has to the Church. Those purposes listed in the relative state may be benefits of the static state [or of each other], but if my commitment is to finances then my commitment fails when I stop cashing in. If my commitment is to children, then I leave the nest as soon as my little chicks do. If the sole purpose is the satisfaction of my lusts, then my commitment is drawn away as quickly as my eyes are.

My opinion is that the marriages that are really making it are the ones that are drawn to the transcendent purpose. Of course, that purpose is given different parameters by different systems of belief. I don’t think that Christian marriages are better by association [far from it, too many fail], but I do think that the static state holds far better and away than any other system.

In the idea that my marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church, you see the death of Christ for the sake of the Church. You see the death of the Church and of the self for the sake of Christ. It’s a sort of paradox of sacrifice, right?

In the idea of general relationships, you see the same paradox in the static state of Christianity. When Paul writes a letter to a church in a town called Philippi, he tells them to consider the other guy as better that themselves – as more significant.

If I can keep that in mind, then my relationships [both in and out of marriage] become simultaneously more simple and still yet difficult. On the end of simplicity, I don’t have to look at the people around me [or the woman beside me] and judge them by the measure of self. Still yet difficult because my deepest desire is to be better than the people around me [or the woman beside me].

More simple because I have a different sort of freedom that allows me to do this.
More difficult because now there is this fight in the depth of my heart to do the right things and to want to do the wrong things.

What makes it worth the hope that all of this is real though, right? What makes my death in relationships worth the sacrifice is the belief that Christ has done the same thing. If it is the case that Christ hasn’t – if it’s the case that He really hasn’t prepared digs in His city for me then [frankly], I’m wasting my time altogether and you can feel free to pity me for it.

So then, the hope for my marriage is this idea that it its transcendent purpose is to model an incredibly transcendent relationship. That’s a bit heavy, and now it is late.

Thank God I have the freedom to try this.
Thank God I have the freedom to fail [because I will, over…and over…and over].

Monday, August 14, 2006

If I should be so bold...

[I am reading Sidewalks in the Kingdom... by Eric O. Jacobsen]

Something that Laura and I talk about is the strange world that people who blog tend to live in. You might know it as that world where you would write to millions of people the very sort of thing you’d never say to those same people in person?

I’ve seen on my blog (and on others) the phrase, “Thank you for your transparency.” I mean no offence to the person[s] from which the phrase has come, but when I write this blog, there is some vague sense of anonymity. When I read other blogs and see the sort of things that I don’t believe people would ever tell me in person, I tend to think that they believe that they are writing anon as well.

This lends to what I really don’t want my blog to be, and to what most blogs really are – an arena for venting your frustrations. I guess the medium exists due to the very fact that so many of us feel so absolutely disjoint from our fellow human beings.

The question begs, “Have my friendships become so superficial that I feel my only hope for respite is found on some hard drive in Mountain View, CA?”

I don’t think that I’m being very vulnerable if I write my thoughts and feelings online. The next time I see you, the conversation we have probably won’t revolve around what you’ve written on your blog unless one of us brings it up. Sadly, it’s a heck of a lot easier for folks just to ignore what’s written in the blogosphere and never have a real dialogue about what’s really on their hearts and minds.

I’m not trying to buck the medium.

I’m not trying to rant (of which the artist formerly known as West Coast Rev will say that I am).

What I am saying is that vulnerability here is not real vulnerability unless I am willing to come to you as a fellow human being and lay my life naked before you – in person. There is no true transparency on the web because all of us are sitting away from the pressures, from the questions, and from the judgments of others when we tippity-type from our computers.

It is always easier for any of us to write whatever we wish when there is no one staring us in the face asking, “What?” or “Why?” Still, we propagate the strange construal that writing anything in the blogosphere is akin to bearing our hearts.

*note, I assure you that this blog has nothing to do with what anyone has written about me; I am speaking of generalities. As far as I know there are no derogatory comments about me in the blogosphere @ this time. If you know of any, feel free to let me know.