Monday, April 11, 2011

Shadowy Specters.

When I began this blog, I intended to post twice a week. Clearly, I have fallen short of my goal. However, I want to write genuinely and not simply out of obligation (although having the obligation tends to kick-start creativity with much more frequency).
Amid the heaving throes of life, quietness seemingly flutters along the peripheral fringes. Teasingly, it darts in line of sight just long enough to noticeably disappear.  The tumult of surviving daily life affords little opportunity for the pursuit of serenity. Of quietness. Of clear-headedness. All too often, it appears that the frantic pace of life wrenches away enough energy to leave us too exhausted to even consider doing anything aside from degenerating before a television screen. Keeping up with jobs, with bills, with an overload of friendships (both real and cyber), with romances, and with our respective faiths are alone enough to overwhelm anyone. Not to mention the added burden of worry and stress that can accompany any of these. And all of these things, for the most part, are non-negotiable. It often appears that the only fashion in which they can be adjusted is by increase.

Where is the time for silence? When will the clatter of the world and the cares of the world hush so that the soul can be quieted? Where are the quiet streams and gentle breezes where text messages and financial woes and social expectation can be forgotten. Where the soul may find peace, if only for a little while. Personally, even when I find these rare moments, they tend to become overshadowed by thoughts of having to return to work, or of an ever-declining bank account, or of guilt for not using my time more efficiently. And these feelings effectively torpedo that brief little slice of life I might have enjoyed. The stress and the noise and constant visual stimulation every moment of the day leaves no time for our minds to unwind. There seems to be so little space to breathe.

I need an open field on a warm April evening, when the grass has just begun to grow and the budding trees sway in the soft breeze. An evening where the Dogwood blooms are drifting lazily, like springtime snowflakes dancing in the gold dusk-light. And I can hear the sound of a spring brook cascading over water-worn stones. Where I can be unencumbered, immersed in the silence and serenity of a world untainted by artificial noises and smells. Just quietness. Deep peaceful quietness as I lay my back upon the greening earth and stare at the heavens. At the emerging pin-pricks of light I remember so fondly from my childhood, when life was a much quieter place.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

the Things for Which We Long.

The gray chill of a mid-March Missouri afternoon. It hangs over the sluggish, brown fields and skeleton trees. Stray birds, returned early in anticipation of sun and warmth, strain to sing the spring out of its bashful reclusion. Trickles of rain-water cut divots in the soft, thawing earth, swelling creeks and streams, eager to nourish the almost-awakened trees and mosses and grasses.

But today, the gray vestiges of hibernation still linger, an unpleasant guest on an overstayed welcome. Today the earth waits. Its time has not yet come. But the burgeoning life within it cannot be suppressed long. The songs of the frogs and insects and the birds will recall this world to life, and the gray will dissipate into the glorious colors and smells of regenerate growth and virility.

On the threshold of this great awakening, we watch hopefully, eagerly. As though reflected in this physical change around us are harbingers of an impending renewal within ourselves. As though by osmosis we will absorb this fresh revitalization. Our hearts yearn to see the change. To see the passing of a season. To, perhaps in some sense, awaken a freshness within the confines of our individual humanity. To reignite zest and passion. To escape the routine. To catch the faintest taste of something intangible. To see that in the predictable, clinical confines of our technologically-bound lives, there still is a dusting of magic in the bosom of the earth. A clean, unencumbered hope that no gadget, invention, possession or luxury can imitate. The smell of budding trees, the feel of a newly warmed breeze, the sound of crickets in the evening grass. These are the things that inspire. And these are the things for which we long in the gray chill of a mid-March afternoon.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Fence, And Trying To Straddle It.

I've not blogged in quite a few days, primarily because I've been hoping to craft something intricate, beautiful, and thought-provoking. However, after so many days passing and still lacking an opus, I sit here tonight simply looking to air out my mind. The cobwebs in the corners of my brain that I try to avoid at all costs need a little attention. It has been one of those days that has probed beneath the facade of what I wish I was and has revealed a little more of who I actually am. Not always an encouraging experience. But most certainly a healthy one.

Perhaps illumination occured last night after a great evening spent with an good friend. We discussed many of the things with which I have been wrestling today, touching on topics such as the state of the contemporary church and briefly, but more relevantly, on the state of those filling the pews on Sunday morning. As I sat through services this morning, that conversation came to mind, sparking a very introspective look at who I am as a believer. A stock-taking of what fruit I am producing as a self-proclaimed Christian. Sadly, it did not take long to realize the dismal reality. And while I recognize that no Christian - no matter how seasoned or mature - will lead a spotless life, there are certain foundational principles and behaviors that have no place in a Christ-follower's walk. Yet there sat I in the house of worship, drenched in the unconfessed guilt and wretchedness of my self-righteousness. The realization of one's own depravity, or propensity toward it, is sobering and humbling. To sit in the house of God, to publicly claim the name of Christ while living in unrepentent carnality goes against every fiber of authentic Christianity. Sadly so many times, so many sunday mornings, I would sit and pass judgment on those I knew or suspected were living double lives. And now, I have finally had the blinders removed to see quite clearly that I am among the chiefest of them.

I'm not writing this for shock or to generate some sort of good will. I write this to encourage those that share my beliefs to examine themselves. Christianity is not merely a peripheral activity to fill in the cracks of our lives. Christianity is our lives. Everything else is secondary. I pray that God allows me the strength and the focus to seek growth and authenticity in my walk with him. And also the fortitude to deal with my shortcomings and harbored sins. Why be a Christian and not take it seriously? What could possibly be the point? Straddling the fence is no different than being on the wrong side of it. Christianity has to mean something, it has to be taken seriously. Otherwise it becomes no more than an extra, weekend activity.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Bird A Nest, the Spider A Web, Man Friendship.

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival."
                                         - C. S. Lewis

Loyalty. Such a rare character trait in people. For some reason, I have the notion in my head that in time past, it was not so uncommon. But people have always been people, and while certain ideals may have been held in more distinct regard, the core of human nature has not changed. Love of self is predominant in humanity as a whole. And that particular quality tends to outweigh all other facets of daily living. Especially in friendship.

To find a friend - and I mean "friend" in the truest sense of the idea, not merely an acquaintance - is not an easy task. There are plenty of individuals with whom I would consider myself friendly, but only a handful I would actually call friend. The concept of friendship is one that I hold in very high esteem. And I do not believe too high. It is something sacred and something to be cherished greatly. However, far too many people seem to overlook this truth. Instead of friendship being revered, it has been shockingly cheapened by becoming a simple social option, something to be cast by the wayside at the slightest whim or distraction. In my experience, to most people, friendship is the lowest form of human interaction, to be superseded whenever it becomes inconvenient. Whatever is shiniest attracts (or distracts) the attention, and I see that in so many people. Sadly, friendship becomes the safety net of other social ventures, kept around as the backup plan.
Naturally, it makes sense to conclude that those who hold such flaky opinions of friendship, whether consciously or not, should be kept at a distance. It saddens me deeply that this must be the case. But it is my own naivety that has allowed for this disillusionment in people. Why would someone not choose to invest in something so wholesome as friendship? Why must people live so desperately for themselves? A good friend is a rare thing. Not all we meet or grow to know should be considered such.
I do thank those who have been true friends to me and those who have sincerely tried. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Healthy Smattering of Fear.

19 Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver under it. 23 And they took them from the midst of the tent, brought them to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD. 24 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
26 Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor[b] to this day.

                                                                                                    - Joshua 7:19-26 (NKJV)

Fear of God. A topic adressed far too infrequently. Something I personally have an inclination to shelve when I consider God. I find it much more comforting to cherish the loving and caring much more than the fear and respect. However, it is only a fool who ignores the unflinching righteousness of God. As a man, with the nature of man, I am not, nor will I ever be, acceptable in God's sight without the righteousness of Christ. But that cloak of purity that God's son has draped over my shoulders does not grant me immunity to wrath of the Almighty. And it is often the quiet, hidden sins that grieve our God the most. The ones that no one may know about. The cancerous infidelities that we harbor in our souls and in our minds, aware of, yet making little effort to remedy or eradicate.

As I consider Achan, a man among God's chosen people, I am shaken by the reaction such an innocent indiscretion provoked. A secret treasure stolen from the heathen hidden safely under his tent. The consequences were catastrophic. Let us not as believers be deluded into thinking that we may keep vestiges of our former lives hidden beneath the veils of our outward lives. The eyes that looked upon Achan, that look upon a bleeding, dying messiah, look upon you and me as well.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Change Junkies and the generation thereof

The weight of the future looms as a thunderhead on the horizon. It carries with it the smell of change, adaptation, and, most unsettling of all, uncertainty. I pass the days, progressing toward but never quite reaching that vaporous tomorrow. And the wake of spent days that stretches out behind me serves only as a contrast to the unknown that is held by the coming minutes, days and hours.

I have observed a prominent characteristic among those of my generation - specifically those in their twenties: a desperate longing for change. Personally, I find it very difficult to be content with the routine, with day-to-day living in a post-college life. I crave something new, whether it be a new experience or a new face or a new location. The unknown holds so much mystery, and to a degree, excitement. But when, especially after college, fresh graduates settle into the "real world," it can be a very disheartening discovery to realize that the nine-to-five grind is the culmination of their youthful hopes and dreams. And so, in attempt to artificially stimulate some sort of new experience, these people rush around recklessly spending money, diving into relationships, or hopping from job to job. I see this behavior in those among whom I associate, but most prominently in myself. And it baffles me to see my parents or my friends' parents who have worked a single job for years or lived in the same town for years. Honestly, it scares me to think that my life may not be a rollercoaster of new experiences. Not that there is anything shameful or wrong with being steadfast and consistent in life. I believe it is both an honorable and noble characteristic. Nonetheless, it's hard for me to get my head around.

From what source does this addiction to change spring? Fingers can be pointed in many different directions, but for sake of space, let me address one that only recently came to my attention. College. Perhaps the most dynamic and volatile environment most people will ever experience, and one to which those with even a limited amount of experience can relate. From the very first day, a prospective student will arrive on campus, surrounded by a completely new environment peopled by an ocean of others who are sharing the same experience, and for the most part, the same age. Each hour a student's day changes with each new class he or she attends, with the magical prospect of the upcoming Thanksgiving and winter breaks, followed by a brand new semester with new faces and new classes and new challenges followed by spring break and summer break. And that cycle of changes continues for years until the conditioned student stumbles outside the collegiate gates, degree in hand, only to realize suddenly that the world changes much more slowly in real life. You don't get to change your office location every hour. You don't get to enjoy new set of challenges with new bosses and new co-workers every hour. Very few jobs allow as much vacation as school conditioned you to expect. And very few jobs have the same social pool as you probably had in school.

Transitioning into post-college life can be difficult. Rearranging one's mindset from 17 years of social overdrive is often very disillusioning. Even two years out of college, I still struggle with boring nights at home and quiet weekends with the same three or four faces. But who knows what the future holds? Who knows what surprise might be lurking in the minutes not yet passed? The hope of change, the mystery of what might be must become the focus. Otherwise, what may be the doldrums of now will pass far less pleasantly.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I now lend my musings to the overcrowded, overvoiced "radio waves" of our internet-enamored generation. In complete honesty, I do not feel that what I have to contribute as an emerging blogger is anything groundbreaking. It's not going to be profound, although I would prefer to flatter myself into thinking that occasionally it may wander that direction. I simply intend for it to be a collection of musings, thoughts that so often evaporate unexpressed from my mind. Perhaps it is simply that writer's vanity of assuming people want to read what I have to say that has prompted me to start this. Regardless, I have now joined the ever-swelling ocean of voices.

And so, to the wandering, anonymous eyes of the internet, I submit my thoughts for your voyeuristic pleasure.

In this, my innaugural blog, I see an excellent opportunity, not solely to justify my participation in this endeavor, but to briefly touch on my understanding of what it is that prompts us as people to wish so desperately to see and be seen. This principle undoubtedly forms the bedrock for the explosive growth of social media. For example, facebook. At first glance, it appears to be a spectacular tool for convenient interaction. It allows individuals to connect with others in a capacity incomprehensible to former generations. But let me also suggest, beyond the initial appearance of it being merely an electronic neighborhood, it feeds a desire much deeper, much more insidious than an innocent craving for attention. It subtly allows us to popularize ourselves, to feed our own ego with the conceit that the world really does want to watch us. To build unto ourselves our own shrines. Certainly, we enjoy browsing through our friends' profiles. But does commenting on a friend's profile provide the same excitement as seeing that someone has posted on ours? Social media is a dangerous enabler to the glorification of self.

Now, please understand, I am not trying to engage in "facebook-bashing." I have a profile. And I use it shamelessly. But I also believe that I am not immune to the very conceit that I mentioned above. I find secret comfort in thinking that people spend all day eagerly wishing to browse my pictures, religiously read my statuses and personal information. It is that same comfort that I, albeit presumably, feel with beginning this blog. The joy of hearing oneself talk. An appetite to which very few can claim immunity.

What then, you may ask, is the summation of this pretentious little diatribe? I have none. But that's not what I was hoping to achieve. All I wish to do is provide collections of thoughts that could possibly inspire the same in those that can muscle through reading them.