I’m gonna murtilize this internet.

About time. The internet here is quickly becoming one of my least favorite things. SIGH, but really all the things I have to say are good.

I went to a barbershop chorus rehearsal today, it was about an hour and a half of singing fun songs with a room of mostly elderly gentlemen. Everyone was really nice and as I walked in there were several moments in which I suspected that I had wandered into some kind of fictional story. Honestly. I don’t think I’ve been around that many lively older folks before. Some of them have been singing in the chorus for 50 years. Wow. I hope I’m doing that when I’m 85. We sang Christmas songs and I found myself able to give a pronunciation note on Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” Look at that.

The director of the choir is from Alberta. I don’t know what it is about Canadian women from Alberta, but I declare that they have one of the most attractive accents I know and for some reason they are all pretty. She was no different. Canada, can you explain how it is that this is the case? Should I just move to Alberta? I mean really…it seems to be that might be a great idea aside from the heaps of snow y’all get…

Immediately after arriving I decided that I’d be back. Not just because she’s the director, but more because I really enjoy singing. There was this one time I was talking to my friend Dan about one of the things I loved about choir. In reflecting I noted that choir is one of the places where everyone is different and that’s a good thing. You need people to have different voices to hit all the notes. A choir without basses would be lame, same as a choir without tenors. When everyone sings together you get something that is beyond the scope of any single singer to produce. If you’ve heard quality choral music you know how world-shatteringly good it can be.

I submit that this is a great allegory for the church. We all have different gifts to be used for the glory of God, but put all those gifts together under the direction of someone (in this case the Holy Spirit, not an attractive woman from Alberta) and it becomes something more than any of us could have hoped. Some of us can sing multiple parts, but for most of us there is a place that our gifts fit best in the chorus of the Lord and singing our part is what we’re to be about.

That might have been cheesy, but Paul talks about it as being parts of the body of Christ. Perhaps it could be equally well thought of as the harmony of Christ too?

In any case, I’m in a barbershop chorus. I’ll be back there next week.

I drove down from Bellingham this morning. Thanksgiving was a really good time to relax at home. I have some wonderful parents.

On my return however the grey reality of job hunting hit me. I dislike this process. Actively. If you think about it, I would love your prayers. I need to learn to trust God with this. It is a challenge….maybe a trip to Alberta would help…

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Quick thoughts on giving thanks.

It occured to me as I made a facebook “What I’m thinking” post about thanksgiving that there are people I know and love who don’t celebrate the holiday that we in the USA have assigned to the time when the pilgrims landed on the Mayflower. Shocking. Still, while I thought about this I realized that thanksgiving isn’t just a phrase bound to ideas of pumpkin pie, turkey, mashed potatoes,  gravy, and stuffing (though perhaps that would be nice…) it’s also a phrase with very biblical roots.

I’ve been reading the Psalms lately. Not to say that I’ve been reading all of them and saying to myself “Ah, so this is exactly what the Lord means…I thought so…” but rather that I notice within them trends which my life touches on every now and again. Like thanksgiving. In the Psalms God is praised. I mean PRAISED. Vast songs and poems all directed to the Lord that thank Him repeatedly for the things He has done and is doing on behalf of His people.

When I was thinking about our approach here in America to Thanksgiving I wondered if our fixation on Turkey and pie and time with family actually stopped us from actually giving thanks  in the fashion that the Psalms do. We call this day “Thanksgiving” and we sometimes say what we’re thankful for, but really do we understand and take those blessings in the context that they ought to carry?

The letter of James talks about “every good and perfect gift” coming from Our Father in Heaven. CS Lewis talks in Mere Christianity of our need to rid oursselves of the naivete that we can separate gifts and blessings that come from other people from the gifts and blessings that come from God. I think more often than not I catch myself in this general sense of “thankfulness” without actually directing it towards the One to whom thanks and praise are rifghtfully directed. I submit that we cannot adequately approach this or any holiday in which we celebrate blessings without remembering that it is God who gives us good and perfect gifts.

As think about my friends in other places who love the Lord Jesus and desire to be in relationship with Him I think that perhaps they understand better than I what thankfulness means. Perhaps my own context of having one day a year to focus on giving thanks with turkey and tasty treats makes my sense of thankfulness on this day limited. On the other hand, having another day to gather with family and friends in which I see evidence of the Lord’s blessings in and through them (and in turkey and pie) might just help me acknowledge where my blessings come from.

I guess all that is to say, whether we eat turkey, haggis, tapas, chicken,  baguettes, or bangers and mash (tee hee) on this day. Let’s do it as we thank God for His blessings. Let’s take time to think about the ways outside of the food that we are blessed and to think about the way in which we are called to share that blessing with others. Especially those who cannot gather together in the way we do to celebrate the manifold gifts of God.

It’s a wonderland.

Whenever I write about winter and snow the natural tendency I have is to say/think/sing/write “winter wonderland” to myself. I didn’t want to do it again with the title of the post, but I also didn’t not want to do it. Thus it is what it is.

That aside, the snow absorbed reality yesterday. I woke up to snow, drove around while it was non-committal and then got back to the house around 4 with the plan of going to barbershop chorus rehearsal. Yes. You heard it here first. I plan to join a barbershop chorus. I’ve been looking into being in a choir for a long time, but I always seem to miss the boat on my church’s choral opportunities, so in response to a well-placed advertisement I called and was invited to stop by and try out a group called the SeaChordsmen. Awesome. When I have a performance, I’ll let you know. I sound unusually confident, but that’s because A) I’m excited about it and B) the guy on the phone said, “You’re a bass 2? You should come.” That’s that.

At about 4 o’clock it became evident that going anywhere was not likely. The wind was creating those little snowdust trails on the roads. The roads which looked remarkably like something that was once wet and is now ice. I puttered around the house for a bit and decided to go walk around in the snow. I posted my plan on the facebook and received an invitation from my friend Trav to stop by his house. Trav and some friends from school live 2 blocks and about a 5 minute walk from where I live. Talk about awesome.

I put on my boots, fleece-line carhartt pants, big wooly socks, scarf, jacket, hat, and gloves and rolled on over. It was cold. Too cold. However, when I got to Trav’s house I found myself invited into an evening of friendship, food and drink, good conversation, thoughtfulness, and a movie to boot. The weather outside was frightful…

I was blessed to have walked less than 100 yards to discover a sense of neighborhood community. I learned more about the area as Trav, Patrick, Nick,  Brenna, and I (Pat and Nick live there, Brenna is Nick’s girlfriend) all walked to a german pub a ways up on Phinney Ridge and enjoyed a beer together on the coldest night I can easily remember in Seattle. I felt like a part of the team. I wasn’t an outsider. It was a great experience and one that I note now feels like a contrast compared to much of the time I spent wandering around in Europe. I didn’t make it home until around 1AM after we finished watching the Illusionist.

I got to see Jesus present in my life in and in friends here in Ballard. It’s nice a nice thing to remember that the wonderland that comes with winter is the blessing that flows from the hands of the Lord Himself. That friendship, community, and relationships are His gifts in which we are blessed to participate.

PS: The winter side of the wonderland is dangerous. My landlady slipped and fell on the ice resulting in a broken arm. Nothing permanent, but man. That sucks. Also, the cat that lives here needed medicine and was not pleased with the neighbor and I as we administered said medicine last night.

 

“Oh there you are Jesus!”

When you read the title maybe it’d be easier if you thought of the scene that I mean to blend my experience with. The lost boys are looking at an old Peter Pan who is now a chump of a lawyer who has lost the meaning of who he is. All the boys look at him and are on the verge of deciding that he isn’t Peter Pan. Then the youngest one comes forward. He takes Peter’s glasses off, plays with his face a bit until he makes Peter’s face into a large smile. At this point he says, “Oh there you are Peter!” I felt like my weekend was cast in this mold a bit.

I didn’t blog as planned on account of our leader retreat with the YMM youth leaders from church. The retreat was great and I had some very quality time with people that I really only get to see once a week in the context of hanging out with kids. I managed to give myself a nasty knock on the head whilst trying to not disturb conversation. I had to use the bathroom and tried to shuffle out of the room silent like, but a metal hood over a woodstove really put a damper on that plan as the entire room became witness to my cursing and mild disorientation thereafter. It wasn’t a concussion, but I needed to sit for a bit. Needless to say, the discussion was derailed.

All things considered, the retreat was great. I found myself in the strange role of the very traditional one who following the Lord’s Supper that we shared made sure that the elements were disposed of properly. You don’t just leave that around to be thrown out. Gotta finish it.

Ok, on to the Peter Pan allegory that really called my name earlier on. My weekend ( while great) was haunted by this inner theme of things going not the way I’d hoped they would. I’ll be a bit vague with details on purpose, but the short version of the story was that the manner in which I perceived a few things centered on my insecurities as opposed to trying to let understanding come to me. In essence I stole the chance for real encounter to take place between reality and me, and instead made assumptions that colored a good deal of the fun that I might have just had spending time with friends. That fun still happened, but there was this thing in the back of my mind that really served to give me some serious grief.

Buying my own assumptions led me to a place where I felt dejected, lonely, and confused. I felt confused because yet again the idea of God’s calling seemed to land me in a “This is the place you called me to?” sort of zone. The other parts came along with it. This is what I get for hearing my own insecurities manifest in thought and running with it: I think that I know that God has called me to an emotional place that He’d never really called me to to begin with. That and I get confused about the place God is really in the process of calling me to in the moment. A poopy situation.

Whatever the case may have been I went to bible study with my high school youth group guys, then youth group, then the 7pm service.  When the 7pm service started I found myself free to be able to worship through Gospel music. This is strange for me. If you don’t know my musical tastes when it comes to worship it can be easily described as “4 part harmony meets organ.” I typically have serious challenges with worship via the genre of music classified as Gospel. Tonight was different. I think I just wanted to let go.

I wanted to let go of the baggage I was carrying, I wanted to let go of my need to understand, I wanted to let go way that I usually participate in worship through song…and so I did. I just went with it. Pastor George brought a sweet sermon about living between our fears and our hopes, speaking to the half-built wall of Jerusalem in the portion of the book of Nehemiah he was dealing with. In the midst of this I heard a message about calling and how in any and every calling there will be temptation to give up. How in every vocation Christ can call us to there is vast quantities of challenge and trial and hardship, especially in discipleship.

Now, lately communion has been one of my favorite things about being in the church service. The reason being that it presents this very idea. The idea that God is calling me to being a part of his Kingdom. I am a Christian. No way around it. The Lord’s Supper is something I get to be a part of therein, but it’s always hard. With the Lord’s Supper we celebrate the death of Christ (see 1 Corinthians for the words of Institution). His death for all of us, and especially for me. When I accept the bread and wine I accept them as a Christian acknowledging that somehow this is me participating in the renewal of the covenant between God and His people, that Christ’s love for me is not a matter of debate or up to how good I feel about myself or if I find myself worthy to receive it. It just is. I am loved by God. Every time I take communion I am called to that reality in spite of the part of me that wants to run away from the overwhelming nature of God’s love for me. I am called to receive it.

You might say that in the moment of communion I accept a call. No doubt you do too. In accepting it you’re declaring yourself to be defined by the Lord’s love and sacrifice in spite of every other thing that you might feel better about thinking.

I came to this place a confused person about God’s calling (in a silly emotional sense and a deeper vocational sense.) I walked away from communion feeling a vast peace. Shortly after the service I saw a large quantity of people I love, and was able to let the emotional nonsense go after I realized my mistake in claiming my own assumptions as accurate portrayals of reality. People at church are great. They regularly facilitate God filling me with hope, love, and community. Money in the bank.

I went to compline at St. Mark’s cathedral after and listened. In the space of thinking about my weekend I felt like that Peter Pan scene came alive. I saw the work of the Lord in and through my own foolishness. I saw the way He had been faithful even though at the time I was unable to see it before. I was both the boy looking at Peter Pan and Peter Pan’s face. As I looked at the face (my weekend) and moved it around from the way I had perceived I realized that underneath it all was something I known before. It was the work of the Lord in my life. It was evident that He was doing things in and amongst my own failure to notice. It was in this moment that I thought to myself in the voice of this small boy in Hook, “Oh there you are Jesus.”

God working in mysterious ways is yet another sign of participating in Advent. Either that or I just want it to be.

 

Advent. I really like Advent. Lots

In life I find that there are people who are consistently used by the Lord to say things to me. My friend Tyler is one of those people. I love that.

Yesterday was a day in which I woke up, took care of some job-search related business and then saw my good friend Bob for lunch, watched one of my youth group kids ham it up on stage (shout out to Peter), and then met up with Tyler at the Matador for the nachos that ought to be world-famous if they aren’t already.

Lately I’ve been noticing that I’m strongly tempted to grab the future and decide what it will be. Do you know this feeling? The idea that if I decide thoroughly enough or really want it enough then I can discover God’s will for my life and run with it.

It’s pretty challenging to be looking for a job and not knowing exactly what I want out of life while lots of my friends are in grad school or working full-time. I guess that yesterday I felt the standard emotion that I think lots of people feel, the idea that I’m missing something. That my life doesn’t feel successful enough. It was strange and quite unpleasant. I moped a bit about it.

I was trying to figure out in the mopiness just how exactly my life fits into the church calendar. This is perhaps a strange exercise for some of you, but for me the church calendar is HUGE. It provides a framework to my life in a way that I don’t find in other contexts. We’re either in or drawing near to Advent. The time in which we as the community of the Risen Lord wait on the Lord.

I sat with Tyler talking at the Matador and stumbled upon several key realizations in the context of this thought process:

A) Waiting on the Lord means being faithful where you are, not fretting about where you’re not. I think that in the context of my friends who seem to be more successful than I do at this point I felt a tad out of place. But then while talking to Tyler I realized that I was reading something in the bible that made perfect sense in my context. In Numbers (otherwise known to be “that boring book of the bible with all the counting”) I was reading about how the Israelites followed the Lord through the desert. God descended as a cloud upon the tent of meeting/tabernacle. They camped until the cloud stopped resting on the tabernacle. The text literally says they waited “A day, a month, or for a longer time” until the cloud lifted. In other words they were called to be faithful where they were as long as the Lord chose that they should be there. Tired of waiting on the Lord? too bad. The we don’t break camp till He says so.

B) Faithfulness is not determined by my feeling successful. It’s just not the case. It really doesn’t matter if I have a fancy job that everyone thinks “Wow, that guy is awesome.” after hearing about it. There’s this verse in revelation that I believe to be in Chapter 12 (you can look for it) where the Lord is talking about the Martyrs of the faith and how they overcame the enemy, sin, and death through “The blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” and also that “they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” This is faithfulness defined at least in part.

How are we defined as overcoming? 3 parts. 1st part: The blood of Christ. The crucifixion. God’s sacrifice on our behalf. 2nd part: Word of our testimony. Testimony is linked to being a witness. We witness to the reality of God in and through our lives in word, thought, and deed. 3rd part: Not loving life so much as to see it as something that can ever be found separately and outside of God. If Jesus is source of our life, then death is irrelevant in terms of how we are called to witness.

What strikes me about those things is that the important things are done by the Lord. We only serve as witnesses to those things. We show what is already taking place. Even not shrinking from death implies that death is not the end of the story because the Lord has overcome death through the cross. You could even say that faithfulness is by abiding with God and seeking Him in the midst of where we happen to be.

C) God does big things and should be expected to do so. That’s the message of Advent isn’t it? That in the midst of a nearly hopeless situation of oppression, defeat, and seeming rejection God came in human form into the midst of our brokenness to redeem us. The faithful of the Jews at the time were awaiting the Messiah. He came. Not in any form that most of them expected or could understand, but He came anyway. That’s huge. God Himself. Coming to us to save us from ourselves? I think that statement ought to make me cry more than it does.

That being said, I have discovered that I am in the middle of Advent yet again. I’m waiting on the Lord to lift the cloud off the tabernacle, to do something big, to reveal Himself in the midst of my struggle to be faithful.

I love Advent. Here I am Lord, waiting…

 

The search continues in the SPU library

I applied to the modeling job. Conveniently enough all one must do is send several pictures their way via email. I popped onto the facebook and pulled a few good ones out (or so I thought) and sent them their way. I am now awaiting a response. I expect them to be breaking my door down soon out of sheer excitement at my glorious visage. hahaha. Okay, well I’d be flattered and pleased if they wanted me for the job.

As it is though in real world space, I’ve been writing cover letters and seeking professional references. I sent out messages for the references. Not everyone is speedy to reply. I’ve written several cover letters in the past few days and while I dislike the necessity of such things, I actually somewhat enjoy writing them. It’s a small challenge that I undertake each time I begin, and quite frankly I can write one in about an hour. I think that’s a pretty good time if you ask me.

Strangely enough, due to social engagements, lots of my work in job search land has been happening in the SPU library. I was here yesterday and now…yet again, here I am. I found jobs yesterday and today I wrote a cover letter. I am appreciative that vast quantities of money for attending the university still leaves a variety of options at my disposal hereabouts. The internet connection is absurdly fast. I like that. It’s odd that nearly 2 years after graduating I still find myself on campus every now and again visiting friends who were once just professors or seeing guys who were freshmen when I was a PA in Emerson Hall. The times are achangin’…but not that fast. I guess I feel the most different, the school still seems to be remarkably unaffected by the two years that have produced some large-scale changes in my life.

In talking with my friend Ed Smyth I realized that readjustment post-AmeriCorps is still happening. I am still in the process of finding my feet again after a long and drawn-out ass-kicking of a service year. I would love for the  feeling like I’m Rocky running up and down stairs to happen all at once like one of those flash-floods that happen out in the desert. Frustratingly though, it’s a process. Like faith, like life, and like learning to apply Star Wars quotes to as many parts of the day as possible. Process is hard for me, especially when I feel as though things in my life are good, but lacking the crisp “Aha! I’ve discovered you.” sort of feeling that I would love to have.

Perhaps that’s a cultural thing. I don’t know many people from here who are comfortable with not having the ability to be a “decider”. We all want things. We want to choose them. We don’t want surprises and we surely don’t want vagueness in the direction that we feel led. Lately though I’m thinking that the Lord probably doesn’t tell us everything on purpose. At the very least He doesn’t tell us all at once. Being led implies that He knows where we’re going whilst we do not. I don’t know where I got the idea that life had to be this mapped out sort of mixture of certainty and decisiveness, but my experience, the experience of my friends, and the biblical narrative seem to put that idea to death quite fast.

Not that what I believe is vague. I don’t think that’s the case. God is massive, mysterious, and infinite, but at the same time certain key things have been revealed to us through scripture, tradition, apostolic witness, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is Lord…but for me it’s harder to let Him be Lord over my confusion. It’s easier to let Him be Lord over that which I understand. Hmmm…

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to write another cover letter for that writing internship this evening. Should be fun…ish.

Prayer for the day: Lord Jesus, I don’t know where I’m going, but you do. Help me to trust in you knowing that my lack of total comprehension is going to be the case for as long as you lead me (always). Amen.

The extrovert’s dilemma

So, today I recieved an email from friends in London updating me on life and reminding me that people actually do read and sometimes enjoy reading my blog. I enjoy writing it. If these are the factors in play, then I choose to continue the daily ritual of blogging. Prepare yourselves. My daily life is no longer in Europe, but hopefully it should be relatively interesting.

The struggles of a life in the madness that is job searching are substantially different than that of most people. For one thing, I don’t have a lot going on. The amount of time I have for things is not an issue at present. Using that time though is sometimes rough. Example being, last night before bed I wanted to get up in time to go running before I started the day. When my alarm went off it did not feel like the time in which I ought to be awake. Following this moment there was a 45 minute battle to get up in which I arose the victor by calling a friend and asking him to tell me to “Go running.” He did, it worked, I got up, did pushups, then ran from my house to the Fremont Bridge.

Before you get about the business of saying “way to go!” I think I would appreciate it if you said “Healthy life choices.” and nodded in affirmation. This is a much more emotionally healthy way to congratulate me. With diabetes in the family, and the possibility of a career in modeling (I’ll get to that later) on the horizon. Running is a good thing.

On my run I visited Ben Troop at work, and had an extended conversation with the Lord Jesus. In this conversation I noted the fact that it’s super easy to be frustrated when one is jobless, in a period of transition, and recently awake without breakfast. In general though I note that it was for some reason much easier to live into habits of prayer when I was in Europe, now that I’ve returned it’s harder to make that happen. Though I submit that it’s still way necessary.

One possible reason is that it feels hard to actually relax and realize that God is the one who does things and I am the one who participates when I am looking for jobs. I find myself in this mental environment of “FIND A JOB! IT’S ALL ON YOU!” when really it ought to be “Be proactive, but trust in the Lord to provide for you.” It’s hard to put all blessings into the realm of things bestowed by the Lord, not that it’s hard to think about things that way…it’s just hard to remember. Like a lot of things I find that my ability to live in the reality that the Gospel presents us with requires remembering. It’s not something that comes without effort. It would appear that it takes work to relax and own the fact that it is God who really works.

I spent time with several friends this afternoon and found myself feeling much more alive than I did prior to that. I think this is the extrovert’s dilemma. People are absolutely necessary for me to remember key things like what was mentioned above. I need people to help me see grace, mercy, kindness, and just to be able to think well. When one lives in Ballard with people who are gone most of the day and is jobless otherwise…people are super important (as though it might have not been a fact otherwise…ha.) If I don’t get people time I start to go a little crazy. Feel free to give me a call to hang out, emails are good too.

After seeing friends I came to the SPU library to find a commentary on the book of Hosea (my bible study guys and I are going through it and I intend to have us really mean the word “study” in bible study. Vast quantities of bible studies often turn into bible “feeling sessions” without proper preparation.) I also looked for jobs and was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which I found some good options on Craigslist. Actually interesting and exciting ones.  Here’s the rundown if you want to know:

A) I applied for a position with Google. That would be SICK! Not a rough job at all. It’d be talking to people all day.

B) Various after-school Spanish tutoring jobs. Sounds like AmeriCorps but for real money with kids who (God willing) want to be there and get help.

C) Nanny in Laurelhurst. I might actually know the family. Helping fun kiddos out with homework and coloring seems cool to me.

D) A PAID WRITING INTERNSHIP IN LOWER QUEEN ANNE! That’d be incredible. Think of it…Paid…to…write…mmmmhmmmm. That’s good right there.

E) Modeling. Yes. I mean it. I’ll send them two pictures. That’s the easiest application ever. 2 hour shoot for $200 or something like that? I think so. One of my bible study guys thinks I’d be good at that. I’ll look into it on the facebook for some good photos.

In general I started the day really frustrated and through the Lord’s faithfulness I have jobs to apply for that I’m genuinely excited about, I saw people, and I got to write this blog. The internet at home was being fussy earlier. Hopefully it’s straightened out by now. That’s all for the moment.

PS: One last thing, I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning and he mentioned that we ought to spend more time in the OT to really get what the NT means. After reading this, I did that. Where as usually I read NT back to OT, today I read numbers, Psalms, John, 2 Thessalonians. It actually was pretty great. It helps that in the midst of the many biblical counting sessions that take place in Numbers there are a few bits of narrative thrown in. Interactions at Mt. Sinai always carry lots of weight in my mind…Okay, yes, I should probably go to seminary. That’s really all for now.