.posthidden {display:none} .postshown {display:inline} By His Own Hand. . .


Rhythm Pyramids

This post has been long in coming, but between my crazy Jan/Feb and needing to keep open mental space for all of the music I've had to learn as of late, it has just been simmering in the background.  Also, the couple of times I've tried to sit down and write I'm just completely empty in figuring out how to describe things, and the other problem is that I needed to find an analogy that would help me be able to tell multiple stories. So today something finally clicked and now I have specific imagery that at least makes sense to me.

So I've been making some intentional changes in life again, as people often do when a new year starts.  Something happened in the fall, and my life started falling apart behind the scenes.  I did finally figure out what it was about a month ago (because I am a firm believer that every emotional discharge has a root cause. . . more on what happened later), but what was happening and what I'm doing now is best described as thus:

Imagine that your life is a big flat room full of pyramids.  Each of the different parts of life is represented by a different pyramid (relationships, work, hobbies, family, church, entertainment, whatever).  These pyramids aren't on a flat face though- they are each balancing on a point.  I originally came up with this idea when I was in college, that life is basically you running around and trying to keep these pyramids from falling over.  When you have a balanced life, all the pyramids are more or less standing on their own, and you just go and fix the ones that start to topple.  However, when you start to let one lean too far, and you have to put the effort to fix that thing, other pyramids start falling.  While it is not the end of the world to let a pyramid fall down completely, trying to get it back up from zero is very difficult and ultimately will just continue to spiral out of control.

But there's more to just you trying to balance the pyramids.  You also fill the pyramids (this is the new idea that hit me today).  And when you fill the pyramids with the right things, they stay balanced better because the inside of it has the arrangement of priorities and tasks correct.  But when you load it incorrectly, it topples out of control much faster.

A lot of what I've been doing since Cam died was just getting all those pyramids back up.  It would take a great deal of personal reflection for me to analyze where I'm at in that process. . . but I think I can safely say that 90-95% of the pyramids are up.  Maybe they all are, I'm not sure.  But a lot of those pyramids I have filled with the wrong things, or in the wrong way, and I know that's the case because of what happened this fall.  The hurricane hit in September, and while it messed me up a little financially (a week and a half off of work when you are self-employed as a performer is huge) it physically messed up my room when it flooded.  Being forced to move all my stuff out of the room, once the carpet was replaced and the water was gone, I went ahead and did some cleaning/purging/reorganizing (because, why not?).  And that is where the trouble began, because I found so much regalia and mementos of things that I have kept with me but had not really looked at in two years.  And while reminiscing and remembering is an important thing, I found myself just grieving in isolation.  And I started carrying that un-dealt with grief and leaving pieces of it in all the pyramids.

And so the pyramids all got way out of balance.

So what I've been trying to do the past couple months is to put healthy rhythms back into the pyramids.  Replacing self-pity with outward focus.  Replacing angry questions with thanksgiving.  Replacing bitterness with joy.  And I'm still figuring these things out.  Some things are easier to change or give up or replace than others, and I'm still struggling with a few things that look helpful but really just keep making the pyramid tumble back and forth.  But the big factor is going back to doing things God's way.  Because doing it my way doesn't work.  Simple things like reading the Bible daily becomes less of a chore and more of a joy when you stop accusing God of being hands off when the truth is that you've just been doing things on your own and not allowing Him to speak into your life.

I'm not sure if I've said it here before but I've been reading through The Message and it's been really good- so things like Psalm 56:8 get a whole new flavor:

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.

God cares so deeply for me, for everyone. . . and it doesn't make sense.  But because of His love we can hope to say,

"God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart.  You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom.  Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life." (Psalm 56:12-13 MSG)


Spring has sprung

It may be LESS THAN 40 DEGREES OUTSIDE (!!!! actually I don't hate it, it's just odd), but for me, spring has definitely began.  That special time of year where I work basically every day.  Part of it is because I like to stay busy.  Part of it is choice/figuring out life, because I know while I will make lots of money in the spring, I will not make very much money in the summer, and so, like the coke-induced nut gathering of the squirrels, I'm preparing my stock.

So mostly I am writing this to remind myself to keep margin, to make time for important things and not give up habits that I've been developing for the past few weeks, to breathe, to look for God opportunities, but mostly, to not complain.  I literally get to go around and make music for a living (LIVE!!!!), and while it's not always the most amazing thing, it certainly isn't a bad thing.

I just have to remember that, when I look at my calendar and see that I don't have a day off for several weeks in a row. . . I did it to myself.  And this has been the norm for the past couple of years.  I'm just not mentally ready for it. . . or rather, I am almost ready for it, but it kind of snuck up on me.

I'm just rambling. . . mostly because I need to go to bed, but I also am getting off the show high so I'm not going to be able to sleep for a little bit.


Another marathon

As I stated in a previous post, my experience in running marathons tends to be representative of the year that led up to it.  My time for this year was 5:21:07, my second best time, and in so many ways that overall result fits well.  This past year was a year that I choose to engage in life again, not to just float through and complete tasks, but to be alive.  And making that shift had great results. . . but it was not without its difficulties.  I lost weight, ran two half marathons (1:59 and 2:08), got to spend a week in Canada with another church plant, kept up a 4.0 on the master's degree, made new friends. . . from an eagle-eye perspective, the total outcome of the year was very positive.

But let's break the comparison down even further.

During the first half of the race I was running about a 10-minute mile for quite a while, which is about right for me as I spent more months of the year running than not.  I kept that pace until somewhere between mile 14 and 15, where I finally stopped to walk.  I attempted to run when it felt OK, but around 17 I was "done."  I walked most of the next two miles, not miserably, but with pain and difficulty.  I ran some between 19 and 21, and then walked most of the rest of the race until I passed marker 25, which I then ran almost that whole final mile.

My year started out well- I lost weight, I got engaged in the Word and with Grace Life, I was balancing a lot of things at once but never completely overwhelmed.  Things were good through the first part of the summer. . . and then Heather died (mile 14).  I think that was really the first big blow to my emotional/mental state.  But, in spite of the pain, I kept going (miles 15-17).  But then the fall (miles 17-25). . . maybe recognizing at Cam's birthday that I had out-survived her (which, when I just typed that, my reaction was visceral. . . so yeah, probably that) (also, why my brain is weird and didn't think about it until then, I couldn't tell you, but seems par for the course), fighting the crazy battles at church as we sought to pray and disciple our people, none of this stopped me completely but certainly was difficult.  And then it all came crashing down, and I'm not still sure exactly why. . . the "wall" of depression, anger, loneliness, it all compiled. . . . but this past couple of weeks, I've rallied (mile 26).  Not that everything is fixed, not that life is not without pain. . . but I'm not lost in a quagmire of lies and inner death.  Not waking up in the morning and telling myself "no one cares about you" or "there's no results to your labor."

And so this year, the question I'm asking myself is: how do I deal with pain?

I mean it in two perspectives- what is it that I actually do, and what do I need to do differently?

I've started to recognize that, as much as my mind enjoys staying busy, it is absolutely a way of coping more than it is a lifestyle I truly enjoy.  Because I do enjoy it. . . when it's a couple weeks at a time.  I thrive in the 85% full calendar, a place with margin but greatly filled with activity.  And when I objectively find 85%, things are great.  But when things aren't great. . . I stretch that 85 into 90, 95, 98. . . and pretend like it's normal.  And for four or five weeks out of the year, sure, that can work.  But I stop saying "no" when I'm upset because doing things keeps me from thinking about processing.  Because then I convince myself I don't have to deal with anything; there's no time.  The problem is sometimes that works. . . but most of the time it does not.

So what do I need to do differently?

That new thing that happened at this race. . . the running at the end. . . it's very much reminiscent of Isaiah 43:

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history.  Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.  Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’—the coyotes and the buzzards—because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me."

(I started reading through the Message at some point last year, partially to give me a little different perspective on Scripture and partially as an attempt to keep myself slipping into the hole I still ended up in, but actually it's been great)

So I see the new thing. . . and what I have to do is go to it.  Jump on board.  Run to it.  Ignore all the other distractions.  Plunge myself into the nourishment I know I need and know is the only true Source.

My word for this year: rooted.


I was too busy in the fall to come up with a good title

I've been writing this in my head for the past few days, but every time I look at the computer, I keep hesitating, because I feel like I may not have a point or a cohesive story to tell.

But then I remember that the reason I write is for me to process, and considering I haven't written in a long time, it is fair to say I haven't processed much from this fall.

I'm not sure exactly when it began, but I do remember October being a strange month where I entered the desert.  Definitely had a couple tough weeks then.  And then I rallied at the beginning of November, but after that things started going downhill again.  The past couple weeks I have been horribly depressed.

It's easy to get caught up in figuring out how I got there from here, perhaps because I like to analyze with the hope of not making the same missteps.  But which findings are worthwhile, and which are superfluous?  It's hard to tell.  I think it's important to recognize that this isn't something that occurred acutely by any means, but has been several months of swallowing tiny lies and half-truths from the devil (sin is better, you've been doing ___ for so long so you can take a little break) until you get to the point of eating up the dumbest lies (what you are doing is meaningless, no one really cares about you).  Couple that with the small voice way in the back that keeps saying "the bottom is going to fall out and you're eventually going to lose your mind" and you end up thinking that the best way to deal with problems is by disappearing, because isolating when you feel alone makes a whole lot of sense, right?  The screaming silence and the silent screaming.


What I did find that I need to act on are as follows:
- I get pretty stuck in one perspective, at least when it comes to my own life issues.  The grand irony of being flexible in art is finding how inflexible I am in other things. . . Cam was always great about listening and offering a new perspective.  And not that there isn't anyone in my life who does that, but there isn't anyone that does it regularly.  But part of that is due to my not being an "initiator" in conversation.
So. . .
- I've got to do better at talking to people.  Part of it is having to learn to trust new people. . . unfortunately it seems like the people who have spoken into my life in the past few years have disappeared.  I take responsibility for a large part of that, I know that a phone works both ways. . . but the flip side of that is that being ignored several times in a row sends a clear message.
- Preaching the gospel to myself has to never cease.  I think it's John Piper who said something to the effect that you have to continually tell yourself gospel truths to your head until your heart takes hold of them.
- I've either got to start searching deeper for answers to the questions that plague me or learn different questions to ask.  Even before the cancer diagnosis, the BIG QUESTION on my mind was "what if I'm a widower before I'm 30?"  And we talked about it, it wasn't the most fun conversation, and there definitely was no conclusion reached.  But as she was dying, she said, "I just want to make sure you're taken care of."  Selfless to the end, but also, trying to find an answer to that BIG QUESTION.  It's still the BIG QUESTION.  But there are all sorts of questions that fit into that: Will I ever be a dad?  Will I get married again?  What's life look like in five years?  Or even next year?
Which leads me to a final thought:
- What does it mean that my life is not my own?  Because I have lived that way, but I know I'm not living that way currently.  So why did I grasp control back?  What's keeping me from letting go?

That's where I'm at.


The quiet chaos (part 1)

In the stillness of the morning, before the birds are awake, amidst the buzzing insects and gentle breeze, you can hear it.

It's a sound you're familiar with, always present and always changing, yet always uniquely identifiable.

The quiet chaos.

The inner struggle, the war of flesh against spirit, the battle that feels eternal and yet we know is temporal.

It's the sound of light versus dark.

Selfishness versus selflessness.

Worldly lust versus zealous obedience.

Life versus death.

You try and pretend that it's not from you.  It's the outside: the circumstances of life, the daily grind, the environment you're forced into.  It certainly isn't you.  But that sound isn't coming from outside.

So you try to cover it.  It's quiet, after all, and if you can fill the space with louder noises, then you won't notice it.  But you can only keep the white noise for so long.

So then you try to ignore it.  It's easy to ignore at first, no more than a minor annoyance.  But the consistency of unbridled chaos cooks at the back of your mind and boils your heart.

You start to look at what is causing the chaos, and though you may not want to admit it, many of them have come out of your own heart.  But you see some new faces among the familiar ones.  Regardless of where they came from, they are beating you down, old and new; they are united against you.

So you have a choice: do I stay down, or do I step up and fight?

The battle armor seems heavier, your arm feels sluggish as you try to use your sword.  But you can't stay down, even if you keep getting knocked back, because you know you aren't fighting alone.


Are you fighting well?

And so we cry out with Paul, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death??"


The grass is greener. . .

Found myself in Psalm 100 today-

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Matt preached on John 10 this past week, focusing on Jesus as the good shepherd, so I couldn't help but be drawn to that part of this psalm.  "Know that the Lord is God.  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture."

It's good to be reminded that God is still in control, in spite of personal difficulties, national tensions, or world events.  That doesn't mean that we sit passively either, but we can have peace of mind that God will take care of His church.  However, THAT DOES NOT mean that the USA is or will be made perfect and holy- it does mean that we, wherever we are, should be even more sensitive to the needs of those around us and share the good news that we have: that this life here on earth is not the end-all and that there is both a present and future hope in Christ.  We should desire as God does that all should be saved, regardless of who they are and where they are in life.

So. . . are you inviting people to come to the pasture of the Good Shepherd, or are you just enjoying the grass?
Or, if you've seen the Church, and you recognize that the sheep are ugly and pretty dumb and imperfect, are you willing to look past that and learn why it is that they follow their Shepherd?



Been meaning to clarify something I wrote last week but haven't been able to set it down into words.  Cue Holy Spirit bringing me to a verse as I worked on my school assignment-

Titus 2:15- Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

I said something last week about not wanting to sound too authoritative. However, I have no issue standing on the authority of Scripture, on the promises of God and how they have been revealed in my life, and in trying my best to base my life on that belief system.  What I am not an authority on is living a perfect life and doing all of that without fail.  I think that's an important distinction, because many times as Christians I think we feel unqualified to speak about things because we know our own heart and the struggles we face.  We know that we say and do stupid things, we know we know better, and so we let either guilt consume us or fear of being called hypocritical keep us from standing on God's Word.

But we can.  We can claim God's authority on our lives, even as we are still figuring it out.  Because we are always going to be figuring it out until we are made perfect in Christ.

The interesting thing about this verse is that I could not get a definitive answer about the grammar of the sentence from Greek (probably because I don't really know anything about Greek).  The way it is written, is it saying that we teach, we exhort, and we rebuke with authority, or is it that authority carried across all three of those (if I were writing it in English clearly it would become "with authority we teach, we exhort, and we rebuke)?  What I really discovered is regardless of the exact intent of that specific verse, we are given authority to teach and we are given authority to exhort.  Teaching in some form is the calling of all disciples, whether it's done on a small scale or a large scale.  That can be intimidating, but we can trust God's Word to speak into all lives.  It's also exciting to think that God wants us to encourage each other.  That we aren't meant to face life alone.  That we can comfort others because we have been through difficult times.

And so I will keep writing authoritatively, not because my words are powerful, but because God's truth is undeniable.