Saturday, December 31, 2005

pressing on

I think when ’05 stole in across the back yard, I was about 32 years old. As ’06 makes its way over the eastern horizon, I’m around 55. I’m tired and aged. I feel every one of the 41 birthdays that have clicked like a metronome set at 120 bpm. Someone keeps pulling the little slider thing down, and it’s getting more difficult to keep tempo. One tends to drop more notes the faster the tempo goes.
This has no doubt been the hardest year of my life for lots of reasons. I have grown more in the past 12 months than I’ve grown in all my previous 40 years combined. There are still areas of me that are unaffected by that growth, and if you look at me I probably look quite deformed with such retarded growth set alongside such rapid growth. Maybe like a little puppy whose future size can be estimated by his oversized paws.
I remember various periods of time between about 9 years old and 12 or 13, when my legs and joints ached acutely from growth. Growth is painful. I’ve felt it this year. Growing knowledge of my weakness, boundaries, shortcomings. Growing understanding of who I am and who I should be. Growing understanding of my place in my context. Growing passion for what could or should be, growing intolerance for what is that shouldn’t be.
Who you are supposed to be is not always who people want you to be. It’s not always who YOU want to be for that matter. And becoming that person is a very difficult prospect. I set my face toward that goal with more determination than ever in ’05. I’ve done very poorly, but have a much clearer perspective on who it is and what it takes to become.
At the dawn of ’05, I embraced the new, practically challenged - begged even - for the old to burn away and to be ushered into the new, but I had no idea what great strength and perseverance would be required to survive the flames and rise from the ashes. But I am determined to rise beautiful from the ashes and to bring as many up with me as possible, dusting ourselves off as we take wing.
So an assessment of ’05 doesn’t show any arrival or attainment, only another leg of a long and grueling marathon. So tonight, as I run by the hydration table, I reach out to grab a drink, but keep moving forward, legs aching, feet burning. Pressing on toward the mark of the high calling…
To be continuing…

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Friday, December 30, 2005

wow

Tonight we had a window of about 30 minutes of clear sky. By the time it had cleared up, Pleiades was too high to see off the balcony, so I took the telescope down to the beach. I got a really good view of The Sisters and also the Orion Nebula.
Wow. I'm hooked.

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when your optimism sounds like cynicism to the status quo

There's nothing wrong with me,
it's just that I believe
things could get better.
-dcb

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

mom and dad on the beach


today was picture day. We all donned pastels and khaki and gathered upon the beach for a family portrait. Since the photographer was me, we took 135 pictures in hopes that one would be suitable. Each family unit was decked in a different color, and I must say that 9/13 of us were very pretty.
After the picture taking we dispersed to acquire less pretty threads and Rah-rah and I went to the gym. We went to the hairband gym.
Supper was on the table when we got back. Lasagna with cheese cake for desert. Fireworks on the beach followed, a gathering around the computer to look at the photographs, and finally, Will and I went swimming for a while. No one went into the ocean.
So, sorry the vacation blog journal is a bit dry today, but a year from now, I'll read it and know exactly what went down on Dec. 29, 2005.
I've posted a pic that Jack took this afternoon.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

it's not that cold, eh?

What else do you expect from a vacationing blogger? A vacation journal.
Today, I did nothing until mid-afternoon. Nearly everyone went shopping, so I had the apartment to myself. I wrote, took some pictures, read, wrote some more, took some more pictures, and read some more. At some point, I realized that Allison wasn't going to come back in time for us to work out together, so I went to the gym by myself.
This gym was very different from the one we patronized yesterday. One can know the atmosphere of a fitness facility simply by noting what flavor of eighties music that is being played over the sound system. Yesterday, the music was of the single first name variety, Sting, Madonna, Tiffany, and the duplicate word name ilk. Duran Duran, Mister Mister, Oingo Boingo, (well I guess by inserting an extra letter into the duplicate second word, Danny Elfman was exhibiting a creative, innovative move toward a new era by breaking out of the mold). Today's gym though, played a lot more hair band music and since the style really didn't change into the early nineties, there was a wider time span of bands included, though it was about the same variety of styles. No variety. So, fitting with the musical style, most of the folks in today's gym had shaved heads and mucho tattoos and lifted to the beats of Scorpions, Metallica, Guns n Roses, and Limozeen. It had a much more relaxed atmosphere without all the polo shirts and all - just black muscle shirts and the occasional camo patterned shorts. The equipment too, was much more bare-bones and I had better workout as a result.
I returned home just after the shopping tribe and found supper ready and waiting in the form of tacos.
After dinner many of us headed to the pool and three of us, Molly, Rah-rah, and I all took a dip in the ocean. Yes, it is December, and No, we're not Candadian, but we are adventurous, awesome, and daring. At least three of us are. And Molly and I both went in twice. We've decided that we will try to dare others to go in tomorrow. But honestly, we're not that influential as pressuring peers.

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how was your day?

We had Christmas dinner today with Allison’s family. Two Stormses, four Beseckers, two Tanners, and five Lewises dining in a beach condo. We had Christmas breakfast on Sunday at 2:00pm, so this was a long time coming. The Lewises anyway, were pretty hungry.
Having gone to bed at 7:30 after the sun appeared, I slept until almost 10:00 and woke to an empty apartment. Everyone had gone for provisions, so I moseyed out of bed, consumed too many Aussie Bites, and dialed up a seven-year-itch internet connection.
Shortly, the peeps all came back and Allison and I headed off to the gym with Rah-rah and Jack in tow. We returned late enough to have missed most of the dinner preparations, but early enough to participate in its consumption.
After dinner we exchanged gifts and hung out and watched for the first person to break the after dinner fast by grabbing at the Chex Mix, or cookies or something.
Yes, it was a joyful, leisurely, fambly-filled day.
The ocean is at low-tide with calm waves wafting their calm, wavy noise in through balcony door.
It’s 1:00 o’clock and all is well.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

a closer look


Molly and I got a shared gift from Santa this year. We got a telescope. I also got an adapter for my camera so that I can use the telescope as my camera lens and do a bit of astrophotography. Oh boy, you’re thinking, haven’ we seen enough of his moon pictures? One of the pieces of the adaptor is missing, so you’ve got a bit of time before I bombard the blog with close-ups of moon acne. I’ve already seen it though, and I’ve got to tell you, I was wrong thinking that detailed moon viewing would cause the lunar romance to wane. She is just as mysterious as ever after being viewed so closely. I had to stay up until 4:30 Monday morning to catch glimpses through the clouds. I woke Molly and she and I stood in the driveway shivering and wondering at the amazing thing we were seeing. Hours earlier, we’d stood in the same spot and I pointed her to Venus and Molly, gazing into the eyepiece at the bright crescent, thought she was seeing the moon. Venus is but a fingernail of light, right now, and yet so bright, she shines early in the sunset.
Right now, it 4:30am and I’m sitting on a balcony looking out over the ocean watching the waning crescent moon rise out of the water. She is shimmering through the telescope. A little while ago, her coming was announced by Jupiter rising just before her and to her right. Right now, the two of them are commanding the sky over the water, until the sun comes up and steals the show. Four of Jupiter’s moons are visible through the telescope.
So I guess this post is just to say I was wrong about the night sky losing it’s romance. Now there are just more visible things to feel romantic about.
What is man that You are mindful of him?

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

come to the quiet

Last night, after much debate over the logistics of Christmas morning, the kids voted 2 to 1 to open gifts AFTER church. I was worried at being distracted while preparing to lead worship, and wished I could focus as usual, and the kids seemed to agree. Molly, who lost the vote, in her exhaustion, was very upset last night, but today it didn’t seem to bother her at all. The kids then, had to go to church early as usual for dad to do his deal, and then remain there for two services without the aid of Sunday school. The whole family realized that this was a great literal lesson in putting Jesus before presents on Christmas.
So sandwiched in between the excitement of Christmas eve in a house with children, and the chaos of opening gifts on Sunday afternoon, there was a quiet, reflective respite in our home and hearts. Late last night we hung chrismons on our Charlie Brown tree, explaining each one’s symbolism as we went, and we did a series of Advent and Christ Mass readings, before heading off to bed.
All afternoon I’ve been thinking of my advent thoughts concerning the pain that is stirred at Christmas time in so many people. About my theory that one can’t quite separate the pain from the joy of Christmas. That perhaps the joy is not fully known without the juxtaposed knowledge of pain and heartache. I hadn’t thought about how all that played into my most recent thoughts of Friday and Saturday. In my desire for quiet Advent and Christmas reflection and worship, I saw that Jesus came quietly in the midst of hoopla, same as I need to quiet myself inside in the midst of the hoopla. Jesus could have been born in a quiet place at a quiet time. He could have come in a big noisy way in a big noisy place. But he came quietly in a noisy place.
We’ve made Christmas to be a time of extremes. The majority completely ignore the celebration of Christ’s birth, having fallen headlong into the commercialization of the season and the social expectations of giving and receiving mandatory gifts. On the other end of the extreme are those like me – grumpy folk desiring quiet, pensive, thanksgiving and reflection.
But it occurs to me that neither of us is getting it. In my thinking that the meaning of Christmas is missed by the distraction of the distracted, I missed the meaning of Christmas. For surely as the joy of Christmas can’t be known apart from the knowledge of the sorrow, the quiet and peace of Christmas can’t be known apart from the atmosphere of chaos and distraction.
The environment is not ready made. Like the shepherds, we have to learn to drop our stuff and come to the quiet. While all around, the bustle buzzes, we have to grow quiet in the midst of it to understand. Christmas does not exist outside of the din and distraction. It was into that that Jesus came. Here is our context. I have got to stop desiring to be free of it in order to find the meaning. The meaning is that it is in this context that it is given to me. In this context I accept it.
This realization plays in all of life. I am not given to live withdrawn physically for the sake of discipleship. The context of my discipleship is in the midst of it. I am required to learn to be still internally - as the internal in a cloud of chaos.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

and I, in You

Time may be a-wasting, but it’s not too late. I suspect that even Mary and Joseph were hurried and bustling up until time was full. They had come for the census you know. Bethlehem swollen to X times its size, folks crowding the streets, standing in lines to be counted and accounted for, IDs being checked, information gathered, pushed around, bullied, vendors accosting them as they passed. Probably a trip much like tonight. The young couple longed for rest and peace and quiet.
And when the quiet came, it was broken by the cries of the pangs of labor, the first to share in Christ’s suffering in the pain required to bring new life. Joyous sounds of cries in the night as new life takes its first breath – a breath that will be breathed upon all of humanity. A breath offered to all who will breathe it in. A warm breath I can feel tonight. A whisper in the bustling din, “receive my Spirit.”

Jesus of all who will receive you, come be born in us tonight.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

penultimate night of the old world

Last night after we dropped Mom off at work, the kids and I went to the Mall to finish up last minute shopping “dad style”. I did not procrastinate this year, but true to the laws of nature (ML-167), regardless of the amount of lead time taken by a man in buying gifts for his wife, if any item is ordered it shall be out-of-stock, even if listed as in-stock, and, also, regardless of lead time, shall remain back ordered until time is full and the occasion for which the gift was purchased has sufficiently passed. This being the case yet again this year, I rose to the task, and re-ordered one item from another retailer, and set about remedying the other with “dad-style” mall shopping in “mom-style” conditions.
As we passed by the mall on the Interstate and looked down on the traffic patterns and the parking lots, Will said, “dad, you really sure about this mall excursion?” He wanted to park far away and walk to the mall. I declined.
We arrived unscathed, having driven among the scores of women bullying their way into the parking lots while talking on their cell phones and applying make-up and driving with their knees, dodging the other dad-style shoppers squealing tires, talking on their cell phones receiving instructions from their wives, and making vulgar gestures to all the teenagers, male and female, who honestly did not realize that there was anyone else within 10 blocks of them.
“Are you ready for Christmas?” each clerk said as we stepped up to the register. “I am, but it really has nothing to do with what I’m doing here.”
Christmas will come and be accomplished regardless of who’s ready and watching. We’re all running around here signing our names at counters, registering our numbers, showing our IDs, being vouched for by banks, being approved and accounted for, like we’re a part of some kind of census or something. Rushing, no room in the parking lots, bustling, indulging - while quietly, behind the scenes, back in the service corridors, a young woman, tired from the bustling and bursting with abundant life, lies down to birth the new world.
If the musak were drowned out by a million angelic voices, and an invitation was issued over the mall speaker system, “to you is born in the service corridors… you will find the babe wrapped in discarded tissue paper and lying in a shipping crate…”, I really don’t know if we would hear. If we did, would we leave our shopping bags unattended in the primary hallways, and make haste to the cluttered mall alleys? Or would we clutch our plunder and say, “I’m sorry, it’s Christmas, I haven’t time to look at a baby born in the service corridor.” Time’s a-wasting.”

to be continued

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

update

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

Hola (that’s “hello” in another language) from the Lewises.

We hope Christmas finds you merry, and the New Year finds you happy.
We thank you for your Christmas family updates in recent years, although we’ve not really been able to sit down and catch you up on progress, growth, annual synopsis, goings-on in our family. We’ve still appreciated yours. This year, we’ve managed to carve out a moment to re-cap the year for you who wonder what is happening in our lives.
We’ve been very blessed in 2005. Though we’ve been challenged and stretched in many ways, we’ve come out kicking, bent, not broken; cracked, but intact; stretched, not rent.
Rod was finally released in late November, just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, had there been one, and is overjoyed and thankful to be back. Allison was able to quit her 4th job now that Rod is available to rake neighbors’ leaves to make up for the loss of that income. Allison is using the extra time to do the kids’ laundry and fix some dinner. It’s been a long time coming. Rod enjoys being able to relax and read the paper when Allison cooks and cleans after coming home from her 3rd job. It provides for quality family time.
The kids have had a great year. Will was allowed back in school in October and has only missed 12 days since then. His teachers seem encouraged, and he has been able to pay for most of the damage. Molly, as usual, has had a great school year, and was voted most likely to overcome her upbringing. We’re so proud of her. One of the teachers, in particular, has taken an interest in her, and has allowed her to practically move in with her. Props to Ms. Famcheque.
Jack has really been fine once we removed all evidence and reminders. He really misses his violin. His adoration for Paganini was extraordinary.
Since Thanksgiving, we’ve had several great family times together. On Dec. 2, we went to Walmart together to look for socks to replace the pair that Will left at the bus stop. Then, on the 11th, we all gathered on the back porch to watch two stray cats slugging it out in the backyard. These are the things of which nostalgia is made.
No reason to think the coming year won’t be as blessed and full of joy as the one past. We’re sorry if 2005 hasn’t been as wonderful for you, but we realize that the Lord gives according to our goodness. Keep trying, that’s all I know to tell ya.

May your days be merry and bright,
Rod, for the fam.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

rudolf

I just saw Santa riding up St. Andrews Road on a Harley with Rudolf sitting beside him in a sidecar.

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solstice

As Will and I were driving to the gym this afternoon at 1:35, winter arrived. It really wasn’t that big a deal. It is the perfect first day of winter. A crystal clear blue sky with a December chill. A momentary icy breath as the sun stood over the tropic of capricorn and I think no one noticed. But this evening it will set a few minutes earlier than last night, giving us the longest night of the year. Tomorrow, will be a bit longer as we usher in the old man.
Build a fire, make a cup of Sumatra or Chamomile and hug up to someone warm and take advantage of the longest night.

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deck remodeling

For the past few days, I’ve been working on a new manifestation of my blog. Since May, I’ve been obsessed with organizing it according to topics, a little luxury that is not available from blogger. So as soon as school was out for the summer, I set about placing all my posts in categorized folders on my own computer, but that only benefited me. I know, you’re thinking, who else cares? But you never know. Anyway, I’ve been obsessed with it.
So recently I built a new blog that allows for categorization. Right now, it contains all the same content that you’ve become accustomed to, as I imported all my posts and all the related comments. But I’ve been working on the look, and making all the bells and whistles work properly. So far, the biggest obstacle has been creating something that internet explorer can actually display in Windows. Almost everything I’ve created on the site has not worked properly in Windows using IE. It looks fine in both operating systems in Firefox, and it looks fine in IE on Mac. Go figure.
Right now, 53% of my visitors are using IE, 31% are using Firefox, and 11% are using Safari. 68% of you are still using Windows and 31%, Macintosh.
So I’ve either got to decide whether to have a site that looks generic and business-like, but works in IE for Windows, or I’ve got to say, “get with the 21st Century and dump IE. It’s not like Netscape and Firefox aren’t free and much, much better.
So as I tweak and make these decisions, the new blog is sitting there in its Beta version. Has anyone the courage to visit and let me know what you see? You can leave feedback at either site and I’ll have a better idea of who can read it and who can’t.
Maybe if I get it acceptable to everyone, eventually I can shoo you all over there for a better browsing experience. In the meantime, maybe you should go ahead and download Firefox.
The new blog is here.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

elle

Ellaiden walks on future paths
paved with prayers of the past;
beyond the imagination of
those who pray in the present.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

separated by God

The kids’ musical and dramatic Christmas extravaganza was presented tonight at church. Bunches of wee ones from k-6 participated. There were plenty of songs and smiles. There was also a concurrent puppet show woven in with the songs and an interpretive movement bit. Everything was well done and well received, but for me the highlight of the night was a verbal stumbling by the puppet apostle Paul. Apostle Paul was a tiny, bald man with a black beard who sat on the edge of the puppet curtain while he casually chatted with the interviewer. While he was describing his missionary journeys, he meant to make a statement about bringing the good news to people who were “separated from God by sin”. Instead, he said, “separated from sin by God.” I thought it was apt to focus on his accomplishment as much as his motivation. The intended statement describes the people whom the Apostle found when he arrived, but the spoken statement describes whom the Apostle left when he moved on.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

looking to and fro

I’m at a place in life in which major changes begin to take place. Maybe I’ve been there for a few years, but as the years march on, the changes pile up and they are noticed at important times when I am made to remember the way things were before the changes began to happen.
For many people, holidays are the most painful times of the year. Loss, change, associated events, all get marked by holidays that magnify the pain. Warm memories are marred by the lost opportunity to make more warm memories. Loneliness replaces closeness and gathering when those who used to be among the gathered are no longer around.
Many people feel the scars more deeply during holidays. Most people, by a certain age will feel loss and pain associated with an event or season that used to bring the opposite emotion. We are forced to look beyond what we thought were our sources of happiness, and we begin to find that we’ve been dependent on too small a sphere. Our gaze is forced outward and upward and we see outside ourselves and beyond our contexts to find that which never changes.

It is a hard theology to swallow that says joy and pain can exist side by side or even superimposed. It is an even harder one to swallow that says they have to exist side by side, that they are inseparable. But we follow one who for the joy set before him endured the cross. We are invited to take up our cross and follow. We are asked to identify with his suffering so that we can identify with his joy. Just as his suffering flows over into our lives, through him, our comfort overflows.
I know, these thoughts can sound like happy sentences that just don’t hit home. Empty words spoken from a nominal friend who doesn’t understand what you’re going through. But they are real. Probably have to be discovered, rather than heard. Found in desperation, for Christ came for the desperate. Desperation grows over time. It’s built upon disappointment and loss and lonely groping for relief, so that you have nowhere to look but up. And when you do, you find the darkness pierced by a star, the silence broken by a song, the chill warded off by swaddling clothes, and the loneliness squelched by an invitation.
Perhaps it requires age to get to a place where you can truly discover the meaning of the baby born in stable in the middle of the night in a tiny town in nowhere. Folks had waited forever for him to arrive. Silence. Darkness. Pain. Oppression. An old man waited around in the temple for him to show up - worn out, discouraged, but hoping in a promise. Perhaps we can’t quite grasp the long, dark, quiet years before hope arrived until we have that context for the arrival in our own lives. Oh we can appreciate the love, can share the joy, believe the promise – but the longer we persevere and the deeper we find ourselves in the stuff of living, the deeper it means. Our longing grows deeper, our waiting becomes active. We don’t peer out the window at the sky, but sit under the stars waiting for the light to shine. We don’t watch the bend in the road, but run ahead to see who is coming.
I’ve dealt with trying to disassociate pain with Christmas to learn to experience the joy without the encumbrance of life. But I’m beginning to realize that there is no joy in Christmas without knowledge of the pain it overcomes. There is no advent without encumbrance. Jesus put on flesh to live with encumbrance. He had to come and get us.

Every year my waiting is pronounced a bit more than last. This year is no different. Actively waiting. Longing for others to wait with me. Ponder, pray, sit, sing, gather and watch. Tonight, in my ponderings, in my looking forward, I’ve looked back as well. I gathered thoughts that I’ve written around advent over the past three years, and have posted them in a slightly accessible way. If you’re interested at all in hearing what I’ve dealt with at the coming of Christmas in recent years, you can find more thoughts here.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

cb tree


The boys and I bought two Christmas trees this year. We got a blue ice Cypress (Jack’s job to cut), and a Virginia Pine, Charlie Brown Christmas tree (Will’s job to cut). There were a few better Charlie Brown specimens, but they wouldn’t let us cut them. “That’s not a proper tree, save it til next year,” they said. “I don’t think it’s a bad tree,” I said, “it’s really not a bad tree at all.”
A bunch of my students came over last night and decorated the blue ice tree. We will decorate the CB tree bit by bit next week as a hopefully intensified Advent observance. Each night, we plan to gather as a fam and read and pray and discuss and decorate the tree.
The dream here is to create within my kids, a true connection to the real meaning of Christmas. Yeah, I know, we all know what the real meaning is, huh? We’ve got clever phrases, clichés, ppt presentations, rhythmic poems, to remind us that it is not all about consumerism, playstations, getting, and gaining weight. But it’s all so cute and inadequate. Jesus is the reason for the season. Wise men still seek him.
Christmas is a warm fuzzy time. Family gathers, gifts are exchanged, we feel connected, loved, and appreciated. When we think of Christmas, we think of family, sharing, and a little baby born in a stable and laid in a manger. It all just gets wrapped up together. Elements of the Christmas season.
But what if somewhere, years down the road, December, and the coming of Christmas, rather than calling up in my kids thoughts of childhood and home and mom and dad, it really did plant in them the hope of kept promises, and faithfulness of God? What if instead of Christmas bringing me into the minds of my children, I bring to their minds Christ? What if when they thought of me, the first thing that popped into their heads was Jesus? It is my dream to be a daddy who can’t be remembered apart from Jesus. “Yeah, that’s what Dad was all about.”

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

yet another set list again


City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
Elevation
Gloria
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
In a Little While
Beautiful Day -
Many Rivers to Cross
Original of the Species
Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
Love and Peace or Else
Sunday Bloody Sunday -
Rock the Casbah
Bullet the Blue Sky
Miss Sarajevo
Pride
Where the Streets Have No Name
One

Until the End of the World
Mysterious Ways
With or Without You
Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of
Yahweh
40

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

i'm the charlie browniest

Allison and I got a wild hair last night after we got the kids to bed and decided it would be proper to see “the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe” so that we could rib the kids over it. So we jumped up at 10:15 and headed to the theatre to catch the 10:30 showing. They were sold out.
So we went this morning to the 11:30 showing, but we took the kids. The movie was very good. I feel sure that if C.S. Lewis could have imagined technology 50 years later, he’d not have objected to a live action screen adaptation. There is no way he could not have been pleased with this movie. Faithful to the book, well acted and well made.
Made it to the gym this afternoon for the first time since Monday night, and rushed home to get cleaned up for the church deal, and to take Allison to work.
After church, I fed the kids pork chops, rice and corn and spanked them and put them to bed so that I could watch A Charlie Brown Christmas in peaceful solitude. In the most hurried, hectic, chaotic, economically draining week of the year, it is nice to sit down and find some solidarity in a cartoon character. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, Charlie Brown may be the Charlie Browniest, but I surely run a close second.
I love that little piece of animated Christmas truth. I love everything about it. I love that it premiered during my second Christmas, in 1965. I love irony of the theme of the show in that it was sponsored by Coca-cola and there was blatant product placement built right into the animation, but has since been somewhat awkwardly edited out. I love the myriad quotable quotes, the totally dry, monaural audio track, the clipped noise gate dialogue, the wavering Guaraldi piano recording, the out-of-tune singing. It is all magic, unique and identifiable.
So in honor of the time of year, the hard work that it takes to prepare emotionally and spiritually for it, the solidarity with Charlie Brown, and the wavering sound track, I’ve uploaded an mp3 of my green guitar playing “Christmas time is here”. The arrangement is by a friend of mine in Chicago, whom I’ve never met. I’ve intentionally saturated it with a wide modulation, de-tune chorus so that it wavers in bad intonation for realistic effect. This is surely not allowed, so this will remain linked to this post for a very limited time, so better listen quickly. It will disappear like Christmas time and holiday waistlines, and 1965, and Charles Shultz, and Vince Guaraldi, and Coca-cola product placement advertisements.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

sub rosa

It’s 1:00 am and my buds are at La Zona Rosa in Austin. I know because I’m being included via cell phone. I don’t know if they’re really allowed to do that, it seems that whatever happens under the rose, is supposed to stay under the rose, but I won’t tell.
A phone call, no words, just the chanting from an invisible stage, “there is no room inside a box, there is no room inside…” says, “thinking of you Rod, know where you’ve been, being there with you.”
When you’re having fun, hangin with friends, hearing great music, do you know how much a phone call means to a friend a thousand miles away unwinding at the kitchen table?
I think you do.
Gracias Amigos

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

postpartum thoughts


I think I may have learned more in the past 10 days than I’ve learned in the past year. Chapel yesterday was what it was precisely because of all the obstacles and grappling that had to be overcome to make it happen. That is, it was not successful in spite of everything, but because of everything. The point of this blog, is not what everything was, but simply that there was an everything, and that it was all important in the process.
Though I consider myself to have a deep understanding of symbols, this week I learned more about symbols than I knew I could know. Though I considered myself to have ability to suggestively call to mind things I want people to think about and grapple with, this week I learned new ways to suggest these things in much more subtle contexts and perhaps even plant the thoughts more deeply in the emotional sphere.
I am a very serious person when it comes to certain things, and find it hard to lighten up sometimes for fear that the gravity of the activity will be lost in mirth. As I grappled with how to say what I wanted to say with a limited symbolic vocabulary, I began to piece together songs, meanings, words and blurbs, photos, grooves, drawings, paintings, and myriad other things that spoke to me of the diversity, joy, lightheartedness, seriousness, pain, giving, serving, receiving, tears, obedience, selflessness, sharing, suffering, comfort,… that are all a part of community as the body of Christ to which we are called, invited and welcomed.
As I pieced together the visual necessities that help facilitate participation and interaction, I placed as the first slide a pic that I took in New Mexico of one of the Jones children playing with friends in the coolest sweater that has ever been spotted on any human of any kind. This first slide just seemed to set a new tone to the whole chapel and showed me how to be a bit more lighthearted and interactive in presented a very serious topic for contemplation. Christ plays in community. Unless we can come as a child… well, I don’t think we can understand community.
Ok, so maybe I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. But it sure seems like I learned it a lot deeper inside myself. Others did too, I felt it, I’ve heard it today. We grew, we’re growing and that’s a good thing.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christ plays in community

This has been by far the most difficult worship service I’ve ever planned. I’ve encountered obstacles of every kind, from every side, right down to the bare human fact that I decided I didn’t want to have anything to do with the subject of this chapel. I'd designed a worship time around the very symbol of community and Christ's provision for it, and would not be able to use the symbol.
It struck me early this week, that of the three chapels in the series, why wouldn’t this be the most difficult?
In September, we celebrated the truth that Christ plays in Creation. He didn’t just create and back away and watch it all work, but he placed us in creation as a part of it, and it is here that he has chosen to allow us to encounter him. He reveals himself here and he expects us to receive his gift and begin to live abundantly here in creation.
In October, we celebrated the truth that Christ plays in history. It was in the very mess of history that he chose to become flesh and live with us. It is in that history mess that he has written and continues to tell his salvation story in our lives and in the lives of those all around us.
Though we all have the tendency to scorn creation and history as so much less than what God has in store for us, they are both his ideas and the work of his hands. Creation is fallen, and we are terrified of loving it, of seeing his glory in it. We are terrified of slipping and worshipping creation rather than the creator, so we swing way to the safe, shallow end of the pool and fail to encounter him in all the glory he has desired for us to see in him here and now.
History is wrecked. God lives outside of time. Here we are born to die. Suffer. Eek out existence, until we are brought into eternity. As if eternity has a beginning, and that beginning is precisely when time ends. We are certainly finite minds. And so we reject the abundant life Jesus made possible and bide our time until what we think we understand comes about.
So though we still get confused about creation and history, at least they are in the hands of the creator, subject to his sovereign design. And if pressed, we can find it in ourselves to find him working there. His beauty reflected in the work of his hands, and his story being written in time.
Community is a different story altogether. Here is where he desires to play so intensely that he prays about it. He commands it among his followers. He models it in everything he said and did on the last night of his incarnate life, and he gets up from the basin, and up from the table where he’s been serving and begins to pray to the Father that we too, would be in community as He is in community with the Father and that we would be in community with them as well.
Of all Jesus’ wishes and commands and lifestyle modeling, this is the one that we most consistently get wrong. This is the context into which Jesus gathered his followers, into which he is building his church. It is the context in which he desires to care for the downcast, the imprisoned, the orphaned, widowed, marginalized, forgotten, hungry, lost.
He created. He invented history. He is sovereign in both. But SO much of the success of community has been left to us.
He told us that where two or more are gathered in his name, he will be in their midst. But there is the kicker, so often we can’t figure out what it means to gather in his name. A soft, whispering Spirit is sent to comfort us so that we can be a comfort, but we so often ignore the voice. We don a muffler against the breeze of conviction and comfort, and end up lonely in a crowd of lonely people. It would appear that community, where we should have strength in numbers, is one of the best bets that Satan has to thwart God’s love and desires in his people.
I will fight with everything I can muster.
Pax, in Nomine Domine.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

matters of size

just a place to run and hide, just a place to free your mind,
just a place to break the chains and find whatever matters


Have you ever taken the opportunity to return to a location, or space from your early childhood that holds deep, beautiful, and numerous warm memories? When I get this chance, I’m always taken aback at how small things are. Rooms are tiny, ceilings are low, even streets more narrow and distances are shorter. No matter how many times this happens, it always comes as a surprise. We remember places, spaces and even people, with a physical proportion relative to our own size when we were there. We don’t remember things from our childhood with our grown-up memories. We remember them with our childhood memories, with our childhood understandings and perceptions.
Whenever I hear someone say, “it’s just as I remember it,” I am skeptical. Are you the same person as you were at 7 years old?
As a young parent, I remember being advised to remember how huge everything looks to an infant. Careful about hovering over him, find ways for her to sit at your level when you’re tooling around. Provide interactive space that is not overwhelming.

Yesterday, in a class geared for random and sundry things, I played for the students a few songs that mean a lot to me and just said a few words about them. This seemed the thing to do, because we’ve used the class to unpack some heavy stuff lately, and this week has been an especially heavy week. I guested in Principles of Teaching and Learning class on Tuesday and Wednesday, and one of my students came into my class immediately after and said, “Gosh, Dr. Rod, you really laid on the heavy in that class.”
So few songs seemed appropriate.
After class, a student came up and said, I’d like to talk to you some time about different approaches to music, for example, the music you played today is so far from my style that I can’t get my head around what it is you find in it.
I remember when music was like that for me. Just couldn’t get my head around music that was outside of my preferential frame of reference. Now when I look back on that music, it seems like the living room at my grandmother’s house – tiny with a low ceiling.
I couldn’t help asking myself, why, when we are so young and everything is so large, do we end up living in such a tiny world.
It seems as if, to make sense of a something beyond our comprehension, we have to shrink it, to carve off our little niche and ignore the rest. We codify, categorize, partition. We draw boundaries and man, are the boundaries defined, precise and narrow. We have a reason for everything, even for our likes, and if someone else likes the same thing as us, but for a different reason, it is just as if they were from Mars.
Borders, boundaries, maps and methods of maneuvering. We fear what we do not know and express that fear as distaste, disgust, undesirable or wrong.

Our world grows so much larger as we grow up and grow older. Or the world grows smaller because we enter it by getting out of our own. Our boundaries and maps are no longer sufficient to move us around, but we are able so much more easily to navigate it, ironically, precisely because it is so large, or rather broad. My experience is bigger than the living room, nature is bigger than my backyard, music is bigger than a style. God is bigger than the hand that feeds me. As a grown up, I interact with a much broader experience than my childhood, bounded, delineated, explained, safe environment would allow. I no longer have to define myself by my definitions of the things with which I’ve surrounded myself, or by the box I’ve created for myself. When I go back and look at that world, it seems so much smaller than I remember it. It no longer seems safe, but rather suffocating.

But of course, not everyone grows. There are many of us for whom the world always looms so large as to dwarf us physically, mentally, intellectually, socially, geographically, artistically, theologically. We define what we believe to be on the other side of our boundaries by what we’ve created on the inside of our boundaries. Out there, the way seems unclear, unknown, and if a map gets revised or edited, we risk losing our way for the rest of our lives.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

alpha, _______, gamma, delta...


Blue Jazz passed on tonight from complications arising from old age. Proven a hearty speciman of ichthyhood, he lived half his long life with only one eye. He was a world traveler who split his time between his observation bowl home on the counter over the dishwasher, and his vase home on the center island, since moving from his original dwelling in a blender.
His interests included hiding in the roots of water plants, and he was very active in swimming in circles around the perimeter of his home. He enjoyed squid and freeze dried blood worms.
He brought a fluid blue beauty to the room and hours of enjoyment while appreciating the minute detail of God's creatures.
He was preceeded in death by Ty (Tabor), the fishbowl fish.
Blue Jazz will be greatly missed.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Preservation of Ornamental Oriental Ichthyological Habitat Foundation of Siam.

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