Updating stuff.

You’ve resolved to do better at it. That’s a good thing. I commend you. Absence does, after all, make the heart forgetful.

Nick is over at my place (he has been since Saturdayish), which is good because he makes me omelettes and stirfry. It’s also forced me to clean up a kitchen that (were evolution possible) would have otherwise been spawning life forms of vast, interconnected intelligence. Also, the fridge is now empty of the “food” that’s been in it for the last, oh, say six months. I don’t eat at home a lot, okay?

There’s nothing on TV anymore. All the season finales are done and over with, including the stirling conclusion to CSI LV’s latest season. Directed by none other than Quentin Tarantino, who’s an amazing director despite his films lack of substance. So no television for me.

It’s also the season when the summer books hit shelves near you – you know, because you can’t possibly read something with substance on the beach, can you? I defy these brainless tomes by reading philosophy on the beach, and counting the children of Abraham caught between the pages.

Do you ever wonder how well your friends really know you? I mean, not those friends you have late-night conversations with over cigars and old friends, but the ones you see maybe once a week and only ever crack jokes with. What do they see when they look at you? Do they ever really crack the surface and see what’s beneath? I know a few people really well, and even fewer people know me as well as I know them – but what of those people you don’t ever really trust? I know what I see when I look at them. I sometimes see shallow, abrasive, annoying, rude, prideful, overconfident, or introverted people. Strange how all the negative qualities rise to the surface, isn’t it? I temper that knowledge with an understanding that there exists a deeper level where qualities are hidden that I may never get a glimpse of, those things that rise to challenges and meet difficulties head-on, bravery and sacrifice and deep love and character. Still, if I were to describe any of you as I see you, and wrote it down – would you even recognize the portait in words? Would those who really know you shake their heads at it and tell me I got it backwards?

Sunday night’s sermon was about leadership in the church again, the negative qualities excluding from office and positive qualities demanded of those in office. I measure myself by that yardstick, and honestly, I don’t measure up. Not that I particularly ever want to hold any sort of office (and I’m sure there’s a boatload of people who are going to go “Oh my gosh, him?” and throw up a bit in their mouths), but that doesn’t stop me from comparing myself to the list. Now, obviously I don’t have any children, and I don’t have a wife, but what about all those other things? Disheartening to say the least. But then, the Lord is on my side. Yessir.

Another thing – and this isn’t a critique of the sermon at all, it was fine – but I get the feeling that our circles take the measure of a man by whether or not he’s on or fit for an eldership or deaconship position. This occured to me not because of what other people have said to me, but because of how I look at men in the church myself: why such and such a person wouldn’t make a good elder, or why so-an-so is so obviously disqualified from office. But the raw fact of the matter is that not everyone is called to be a deacon or an elder or a preacher or a teacher – in fact, in Romans 12, there’s a list of all those members of “the body” that is the local church – and look what it says:

So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to hisfaith.

If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

All those things: not every man is assumed to be a leader, because clearly this isn’t so. This leads to a corellary: just because one fulfils all the qualities of a deacon or elder set forth in the pastoral epistles doesn’t mean one is fit to lead. You can have an obedient family (I know several men who have great families thanks almost exclusively to their wives), you can be blameless (by hiding in your house, maybe), you can be a lot of things, but still not be leadership material. I can’t really put my finger on what that thing is – it’s like art, I know it when I see it – but it seems to me that you need to also be granted a gift for leadership by God. And wisdom.

And I see people aspiring to be leaders: it’s a good thing. But I also see people who believe they’re good leaders when they’re actually merely louder than everyone else, or listened to by default of position, though I haven’t ever witnessed that in eldership circles per se – mostly in my interaction with my peers. I’ve seen people take “leadership” in a debate by clinging tenaciously to their point even when their point is stupid. I’ve seen people take “leadership” of a volleyball team by making all the other players feel inferior. I’ve seen people take “leadership” by making sure a group does what they want them to do regardless of whether it’s right or not. I’ve seen “leadership” that doesn’t understand the difference between a child and an . All this to say, leadership is a tricky thing. You can’t play favorites when picking leaders. You can’t lead without wisdom and a good hand at it.

The guy who does the sound at your church may never be an elder. But then, he’s doing his work to. There’s a guy that goes to my church, his name is Jason. Anyone of you who goes there know who he is – he can be offputting, but he’s maybe the happiest person I’ve ever met. He’s for sure never going to be an elder, but the church also wouldn’t be the same church without him. You think the example absurd? I know you’re thinking that right now. But it isn’t – not really.

By the way, I was reading this psalm, and though you all might like to read it.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

I love that psalm. It’s not completely quoted above, but enough is. It’s Psalm 51: go look it up.

Things that keep coming back to me.

I hate to be obsessed with myself, but that is after all who I am. Maybe obesessed is the wrong word in this situation – I’m posessed with myself. I think as myself, I act as myself. But that’s not the point of all this, is it? I keep coming back to things, or they keep coming back to me (I’m not quite sure about that); the days turn and resemble eachother, just with more ornamentation, or less. Something’s happened during that time, and adds a layer or strips one off. Nothing ever achieves stasis.

So last night I butted up against the same shore I’ve seen at least a thousand times now – pushing off from it seems to do little good. What leave if one keeps coming back? It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing. Probably not at all. It’s like looking at the mirror reflection of a time not too long distant. The details are oddly reversed. (Is this what it looked like to those looking in?) Remote things are focused – sharp words strangely blunted. But it’s not bad so much as just… different.

Have you ever gotten tangled in a net somehow? I have. Children, I think, revel in those sorts of things. I no longer do. I don’t want to look at myself in a warped mirror and laugh at the reflection – it’s too painful. Because I am warped, at odds and angles with myself, strangely shaped here and there.

Twenty-three and still looking for answers: yes, four paragraphs about different things and finally the capstone on it all. Answers. Oh, I know the answer to it all, and what his name is. That is to say, I know what my only comfort is in life and death and so on and so forth. But the fact that the world as a whole means something and draws together for a purpose doesn’t help me figure out what that thing you just said to me means. What was in that look? Maybe God’s trying to tell me something. The big questions are the easy ones, I think. Not easy to take hold of and wrestle with till they touch your hip and give you a good old-fashioned limp, but easy enough to assent to. The smaller questions are the hard ones. I know what the world means, but that sentence – what does it mean? In that sense, you’re so much more complicated than creation. Or maybe I’ve got the question wrong, too.

And so much for my lunchtime. Time to get back to work.

The post about nothing. And everything.

Where was I? Oh yes – I bought a book. Two, actually. All the more reading for me to do, but it’s good. I like reading. After all, if my world isn’t quite the way I like it (and is it ever? I’m not complaining – just saying) I can dive into someone else’s less-than-perfect world and wonder at the lopsidedness of it all.

Lopsided – I love that word. And that world.

Gilmore Girls. Drama. That is, again, another world. I identify with it all every once in a while.

I spoke last time of intersections – and we’ve intersected again. Strangely. Even humourously. I forget at times that God has a twisted sense for that sort of thing, and he keeps forking the road, pointing at Memphis, saying something about Vampires. You didn’t understand that – maybe I didn’t either.

Can you believe it took me fourty-five minutes to write those four paragraphs? Neither can I.

An addendum to this all would do, I think. I have been reading Psalms this evening: perhaps if the master could calm a storm with words, these are the sentences spoken to still cloud and water, that even heart and emotion obey him.

I’ll share. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. He knows how we were made; he remember that we are dust. You may recognize those words as the 103rd Psalm; or perhaps you don’t. Read it. I have no pretense of telling you why it’s true – but it is, that much I know. The coil is mortal and wound at his fingertips, but wound gently. I am broken softly, falling on that rock, that cornerstone. I will pray tonight for something I don’t deserve to have, a future not tuned to the past – that the intersecting lines of my life will weave a pattern, that this thread will be brightly woven. And beyond, even: word of how I am dust may reach his ears. He said them first, I merely repeat. I merely feel the places they’ve been chisled into this pressed stone.

They come and they go.

Isn’t it funny how our lives all intersect?

I wrote a song with that as its opening line. And it is funny – in a strange way. The places I have seen, the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had; they all come back somehow, later. Maybe a rumour you hear floating around, but you believe it. You know that person. That’s the sort of thing they’d do. You sit down someplace and it flashes you back a few months, or a few years, pleasantly or maybe not so. You remember walking here, talking here, smiling here, crying there, wanting to shout someone’s name there, that grass, these clouds, a frown, laughter.

We cross and keep coming back to the intersections. They’re written in the synapses firing at memories half kept. They’re bitterness or thankfullness. Sometimes both. Rarely neither.

Or maybe it’s more like a sheet of paper with spots whited out, written over. I haven’t been talking about what you think I am yet, so let me start now. I’ve written over feelings and conversations. My first real girlfriend: I barely remember her now, except at awkward times when something reminds me of her. But I don’t mourn the loss. I prefer it that way. Maybe back then I thought I loved her – but I didn’t, not really, not the way a woman or a girl deserves to be loved. It was, more than anything else, a desparate possession that I cried over less for the loss of her than for the loss if it. Shallow, very shallow. Glad in a way to see it die, to relieve the tension, to recollect the reasons and understand them and accept them. Her parents were strange in a way only parents can be. I didn’t dislike them. They didn’t dislike me, or at least they never told me so. They were cold watchers, referees. They disliked me taking cake from the fridge (there’s a moment I can’t think about without laughing) but didn’t mind me kissing their daughter. I always thought that strange. I would give my kitchen to any future son who promised not to kiss my daughter. They were odd, uncomfortable people. She was an odd, uncomfortable friend. If we talked, it wasn’t for long, not about anything in particular. I can analyse it, weigh it, find it wanting in the light of five years more experience. Only five years, then, and already I’m half a deck away from that card. Odd. And we never intersect in person as much as in memory – rarely, now – and I wonder what lack she finds in me, glancing back. Really, I hope she rarely does.

There – I’ve stood at the crossroad and glanced at the one not so much untaken as denied, barely caring that I wasn’t able, perhaps even glad at the denial. I could be married now, but I’m not, thank God for that. I wasn’t ready – am not ready – to stand at an altar and sacrifice my life to another. The words would be pretty words, and I might cry selfishly at the final realization of a dream, but in that way I’m sorely lacking, and admit it. I always will be, much like every one of you reading this. In that, I think, we find the grace of God enough to tear away self for a moment and become more than one, but one more than one and still one. I may stand in that grace someday, but it won’t be the foolish taking I most often commit to.

One more girl, then. We intersect sometimes, rarely. I become myself with her, the brazen taker, the puller, the thief come knocking. Wrong in that, I know, enough to dread another crossing into her realm, where I become me, where I write those crooked words deep into our minds. See? I’m so different, but then again, not so different.

Not a women, now. Family. Crossing, weaving, intercrossing. What must it be like to be a parent? Knowing that this son or this daughter sees you no longer as her future, his future, but as the past? What is it like to watch a child on the cusp of becoming another’s posession? Or to see one step under the doorposts with suitcase and future in hand? Many questions – I have no desire to ever be that father. But then, ironically, I have much practice in letting things go. If you were here right now, you might wonder at a bemused smile working brackets at my mouthcorners. Here, God says, you’ve let this love go and yet not let it go altogether – I’m making something for you. There, God says, that’s they way to do it, slow learner. And maybe I will someday watch that child in another child’s arms and say, “I was young once.” Or maybe I’ll say, “This one is your decision.” That wasn’t the career I wanted for you. That’s not the college I would have you attend. This boy, this man is unlike me in a thousand ways that run against my grain. But then, I’ve laid the foundation already, and the choice is, after all, both ours. Mine to raise you, you to take that foundation and set a house on it. That’s the way of love, I think – something in building cornerstones.

But I’ll let my future children – if indeed they’re prepared beyond the stars – sleep in peace a litte now. Also, that girl that got married a few months back. I should sit back and read something that speaks of a deep father’s love. There you have it – a fragment past and possible future. See, I don’t really know that much yet. But I know that much.

The end.

Have you ever thought about endings? No – not just things that end here, now. The ending of it all. How will this earth end?

It’s a good question. I never realized how deeply my eschatology affects my actions and viewpoints until this afternoon. Well, I did, but I never had to express them that way. Believing that Christians will be beaten underfoot until Christ returns, or that they’ll be raptured secretely before all hell breaks loose, or that Christ will indeed see all his enemies laid broken before his footstool – these ends bring a person to a different beginning, and a wildly different present.

I, for instance, am a post-millenialist. Amillenialism, to me, is a zero-sum, hopeless philosophy basically saying that it’s the fate of the people of God to be driven into the ground far enough by the hammer of Satan until God magically re-appears with a sword in his hand, all the glorious promises made to his people fulfilled in a place where there is no enemy. It simply doesn’t make sense. There’s much too much victory spoken of in the now for everything to be Future Glory.

And that means also that Christians aren’t relegated to a ghetto of opression or irrelevancy. We were born to lead – to take over the world. The culture is ours, not Satan’s. The world is ours to subdue, not the other way around.

I’ll tell you about the night…

There’s something that needs to be said, as if any tongue could hold back from saying it. In my oblique way, I do it. Here, I’ve written a song. It includes what one might call “hope” – and as some of you seem to believe, I have none of it. Untrue of course, but that hope seems to inspire my worst works of art. Except tonight: I wrote an unfinished song, incomplete because I simply had no more words.

When you have lost it all,
and every breath seem like a fresh demise, don’t let go.
You can buy time with the diamonds in your eyes, I know.
You are not so lost as you might believe.

And when you have gained it all,
and every minute wrings a new suprise, maybe smile
in the aftershock of beauty build on sand. Wait a while.
You were not so lost as you once believed.

Come on, come on, wake up, it’s so beautiful.
The stories in my pocket tell of the best times,
and it’s so good to be alive.
Come on, come on, he gives and he takes away,
beauty for ashes – joy for tears.
It’s so good to be alive.

I’ll tell you about the afternoon I had yesterday,
when spring came to life and blew this old heart away,
and it said blessed be his name forevermore.
I’ll tell you about the night I had yesterday
when prayer flared to life and blazed like the break of day,
and it said blessed be his name forevermore.

And that’s it – pearls burying sand, beauty from ashes – motes dancing in the breath of a Creator and Recreator. Joy for sorrows, with interest. B0rked hearts patched. The stuff of life, no?

Finally getting somewhere, part 2.

I am not full of happiness. Not, of course, that I predicate that blame in any particular direction. God had his hand in it, and I think that’s enough. Of course, the devil isn’t in the details – that’s a lie. Someone’s genius is in the details, and it certainly isn’t any Harvester. If I see a gentle beauty in our violence, forgive me – the good and ill come so intermingled, I sometimes call darkness light.

So there – my requiem. I see finality in all this. Drifting is, after all, part of mortality, and mortal I am. Still – the final cords. The final cords! Dare I break them? What of the sacredness of their memory?

But no, the scarlet deserves its chance to bed elsewhere. And in the moment, the cord is a pain too hot to bear alone: every child breathes its own breath. Do you see paradox in that? As do I. As do I.

I will profane the memory with the dream of another. That is the way of life. Graves bear their own witness; perhaps neglect, perhaps not. But I will not build my house in the shadow of Vesuvius and hope to prosper. I will not.

Then, accept this. Your worth is measured in diamonds – mine in dust underfoot.

Hope, then, that Yaweh breathes life again into motes and particles. The body was made to beathe, no? Then let it, free of this. Dream dreams of diamond. I will be sculpting, elsewhere.

Let me speak this into your nerve endings – with breath the Lord gives, and with breath the Lord takes away: blessed forever be his names.

Hey there, feeling sick.

I didn’t go to church today because I’m feeling that sort of sick where my muscles are aching and I feel like crap.

I’m listening to sermon tapes – but it’s just not the same. It’s hard to fellowship with a boombox.

Finally getting somewhere.

You might ask what it feels like to get somewhere. Or, maybe, what it feels like to get anywhere. Sometimes the difference seems remote. Like staring at mountains – maybe one stands out, maybe one doesn’t.

What does it feel like to plan a life in your head? I haven’t the foggiest clue. I couldn’t do it if I tried. All seven people in the world who made a plan and stuck to it, I guess they’re happy. Everyone else bounces from hill to hill. Or trudges, if that’s their thing.

Why isn’t life more like television that way? Successful people, good at what they do, handsome or beautiful. All like walking advertisements. I never feel like an advertisement, although the movies have taught me how to swagger and brood. I just never look like Vin or Jake Gyllenhaal – I’m too much me.

Me. There’s a strange thing. What am I? What’s informed and formed me? Where have I come from, and where am I going? Is the me so important at the end of the day?

And why – why do I keep asking questions?