Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"With us"

I was recently reading a letter from a friend that blew me away. Neat guy. Crazy story.

This guy used to live in Lebanon. He was there to engage the Muslim world in peaceful conversations about God and the world. (What?!?!? I sell electronic parts.) He always has amazing stories. He is now a professor at Exeter University in England engaging students in conflict resolution. Yeah, I know, amazing right?

He has spent some time and specifically a few Christmases in Bethleham. He wrote me this in a letter this week:

"Despite having been to Jerusalem and the West Bank three times this year, the Christmas story often feels far removed from my experiences there. This time last year I was buying a wooden nativity scene in Bethleham, perhaps looking for a little inspiration but by frustrated shop owner wanted to tell me of his experience of being roughed up by British soldiers on a visit to Northern Ireland. A quier wanter downt he Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem was disturbed by 'Faith, Wonders, and Miracles - Jesus tours, and a young boy who wants to sell me a genuine piece of the cross. A walk around Jerusalem's Old City walls leads to security checkpoints, closed circuit cameras, and protests by Jewish/Muslim religious groups. Yet perhaps today's tense and divided landscape is not so far removed from the world God entered. A world of frustration and mistrust, of political agitation and exploitation by religious and political entities, a society of 'pious believers', yet, where religion had become corrupted by commercialism, false messiahs and imperial conquerors. Praise God that the Christmas story goes beyond a 'Holy Land' and focuses on a Holy God entering our broken world. The Word became flesh - he became one of us, yet remained fully God. The author of life, entered his own narrative to rescue fallen characters and offer us an alternative ending - the divine rescue plan. It is a story historically grounded yet daily experienced as God still meets people at their point of need. Hallelujah, Emmanuel - God is with us."

Whoa. Amen to that.

I really love the picture of walking down the street in Via Dolorosa being hounded by commercialism in one of the most significant places in history. We are so backwards in how we treat things. But, such is humanity.

Now, I think that it's gotten to the point where saying "we've lost the meaning of Christmas" is cliche. But its true. And yet the meaning is there always. Life abounds. Relationships create wonder, frustration, and meaning. Such is the point. That God entered this world lowly and humble and the opposite of the what everyone would have done if they were God. A baby. Not an emperor. In this he became "with us" and changed the story.

With us. How amazing.

I recently had the privelege of being present for an engagement of two very close friends. We schemed with the groom-to-be for months. Totally surprised the bride-to-be. The room was perfect, the tears were flowing. It was great. Lots of love. I even drank champagne. She woke up the next morning and checked her finger to see if the ring was still there. It was and she beamed. Good stuff.

And I have been thinking about this a bunch. What is so exciting about that scene? Why do we all get excited about this stuff? We glamorize it in movies, we long for it as youth and search for it so much.

With us.

To me it's the hope that my friend Krystle will have someone to always be with her. And the same for Kris. They are on this life journey together now. With us. With me. With you. What a reflection of the Christmas story. Its like God sort of said, okay, I am in it with you till the end, here I am. I'll do things like you do them, with you. Then we will do this together, okay?

Okay by me.

I think this is what I have been leaning on these days. That God is here with me. Christ went through similar crap as I did. He skipped a few nights sleep with stress. He got angry. He had some great times with his best friends. He made it His life's point to meet the needs of those around him. He gets me. He is with me. What meaning.

As I look to the ensuing Christmas season with all the events and such, this is what I see.

I get to spend time with my sister who doesn't live near me anymore. I get to share dinner with some of my favorite friends on Christmas eve. I get to learn about a roommate from South Africa who is so different than I. I get to go to a game with my dad on Christmas. I get to be present, to spend the real good stuff in life, time, with those I really love.

I think the night before God entered the world, he got really excited. I'd like to think he was like a kid before Christmas. All anxious, laying awake in bed, dreaming of the days ahead with the new adventures like a kid dreams about the new toy with which he or she can think of a million things to spend time.

I'd like to think that the Christmas day event was as meaningful for God as it was for us. Just as the giver is always as satisfied as the one recieving the gift.

Thanks for the gift God.

As my friend Craig said, "Hallelujah, Emmanuel - God with us."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blatant Theology

Last night I sat with one of my great friends, Koji, in Tokyo. We had a great dinner of fried food (the best cure for a long plane ride) and had great conversation to go with it.

We eventually got on the subject of God, religion, and spirituality. For me, something amazing occured in this conversation. My friend was talking about Christianity and Buddhism and the Japanese perspective on it. He looked me in the eye and said that he liked the Christianity perspective better. So I asked him, "Why?" His response was so simple and incredible it will resonate with me for a long time.

He said, "The difference is Love." Unbelievable. Totally true.

I think that I complicate the gospel with words. I think that sometimes the need to translate and not finding the words makes things perfect.

I think this is a problem with the Church. It often looses this. It makes it a set of rules or dogma. Its a set of "you musts" or "you can'ts".

I looked at my Japanese brother and said, "you are a true theologian."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

More on beauty

Last weekend I found myself sitting in Tulovana, OR watching the tide come in. A group of pelicans flew across the water at sunset. Some things just cause you to stop in your tracks if you are open to notice them.

That same day I watched my niece throw a frisbee for the first time. She was terrible, but the laughter was perfect.

I watched her parents and her grandparents light up at Madison's giggling. I saw them look at her with such pride over so little a thing. But if you saw little Maddy in the hospital over the first two years of her life, this small game of frisbee was nothing short of winning the superbowl ala Rothlisberger/Santana Moss last minute TD on the tiptoes...amazing.

Since my past post, I have been engaged in quite a few conversations about this subject. About beauty. About processing it. About not seeing it. About being humbled by it, about not understand what I am talking about. About wishing they got it.  I have been all of those things.  

To be honest I am in a living process of discovery on this subject.  And the process or probably more accurate, the awareness of Beauty, is a wonderful thing.  

All those things I wrote at the start of this post are wonderful, and the more you stop to realize it, your heart just bursts with it.  

I spent this morning walking alone through the streets of Tokyo with what I like to think is the perfect soundtrack, "Life in Technicolor" by Coldplay playing in my ears.  Things seemed rich to me, like a good wine.  Depth, pleasing, crave-inducing, unreal.  Beautiful.  What a process.  

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I am listening to right now...

So I am going to post my newest mix list, and notes from here on out. Enjoy!

1.) “All Things Considered”: Bryan Free, Each Other
My long time friend Bryan, otherwise know as the BF, worked really hard on this. Totally respect that. I think this song has a lot to do with the duality we all have going on, with work and home life. Marrying the two is such a challenge…BF has pushed me on this and I have spent a lot of time processing this…hence the song making the mix. (plus the song is pretty good too J)
2.) “Supermassive Black Hole”: Muse, Black Holes and Revelations
Love this freakin band. Just dug them up because my wife got hooked on Twilight. Good workout song.
3.) “Bent”: Matchbox Twenty, Mad Season
I really love this band. Kinda have a crush on Rob Thomas (I know, I know, shut up). I have been watching this live show they do, wow they are really tight. So professional. Good solid tunes. Nothing life changing, just solid.
4.) “Here We Go”: Mat Kearney, City of Black and White
This is probably my most listened to album right now. I think he sounds a lot like Chris Martin without the pitch problems. Writes music like a poppy Counting Crows (nice observation RickyD!) Great songs to listen to, everyone likes it. And I quote Dave Matthews, “If you don’t like this, you don’t like music.” (p.s. Dave said that about his new album; I guess I don’t like music then)
5.) Dig: Incubus, Light Grenades
Love the groove of this song. This is kind of a frat dick band, but this is a good tune. Plus we listened a lot to this at my church demo-ing a new sound system. Shout out to Jason!
6.) Absolute: The Fray, self titled
Not really a Fray fan, but this song is well put together. I am a sucker for background vocals, oohs and ahhs and such. This is good in a road trip mix.
7.) Colors in Array: Future of Forestry, Traveler – EP
This is a top 30 band for me for a lot of reasons. This EP is sweet. They did all the recording and mixing themselves. They did a great job. They are making a move to a U2ish Sigur Ros. Good combo. Awesome guitar tones on this. Love the EPIC ending! In the right frame of mind, it’ll give you chills like crazy.
8.) Where They Sleep: Jeremy Larson
This for me is a “get lost in it” album. It’s luscious, laced with drum programs. I love it. He does all the instruments. I really like this guy.
9.) Gravity: John Mayer, Continuum
Love John Mayer, the guitar solo in this just cries, he has great touch. I have been digging blues lately, but just on the edge. This is the sorority chick official lead singer, but I like it anyway.
10.) Wake Up: Kristian Stanfill, Attention
This guy is intense. Great tune. Again, I am a sucker for background vocals.
11.) Life Goes On: 2Pac, All Eyez on Me
So I recently watched a Black Eyed Peas performance of “Boom, Boom, Pow”, and thought to myself, “Man, rap sucks now.” So I went back to arguably the greatest rapper who has ever been and listened back to one of his banner records. Great stuff, so lyrical, rhythmic, and musical. What a difference. This song is a great one, totally for the generations.
12.) Broken Drum: Beck, Guero
Beck is amazing. I go through waves of complete addiction to his albums. I still think that Sea Change was his best, but Guero comes close for me. This song is a recording masterpiece. It is very articulate in its recording. I love his sleep nature in his pronunciation and color. Ahh, Beck.
13.) The Other Side: David Gray, A New Day at Midnight
I watched a live performance of this song in Abbey Road Studio. (youtube it, unreal). I wanted to find that version and put it on here, but couldn’t find a good recording of it. I had forgotten about DG. He is great. Interesting song from an atheist. Love it!
14.) Stop: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cardinology
I lost it the first time I heard this song. Its such raw emotion, truth and all that stuff jammed into Ryan Adams goodness. I recommend listening to this while you are struggling through something. It helped me.
15.) Come Awake: David Crowder Band, A Collision
I was on a train, sort of numb to life and happened on this song. I cried. I got chills from my scalp to my toes. So often we go through life all numb. I love the message here. Its what God desires for us. Death to life, bright, warm.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Finding the good in stuff

I have been around a lot of stuff lately. A lot of different people, communities, opinions, political positions, etc. I think there is one big thread that runs through it all, critique.

Now, know this: I am torn or on the fence about what I am going to write in this next paragraph.

I am not sure that this critique thing is good. You sit with a republican and mention the O word, and a storm erupts, or mention taxes, whoa! Granted there is a ton of logic and inherent good in all the things you would hear in those conversations. But here is what I don't like and I think I am going to resolve myself to try and not do. The conversations (name them religion, that guy with the purple shirt, the war in Iraq, real estate, whatever) inevitably take on an attacker stance. The other side of the opinion is wrong and not only wrong, but HORRIBLE and HOW COULD ANY ONE OTHER THAN AN IDIOT THINK THIS WAY!!!!!

I was watching the movie "American Beauty" the other day with my wife. There is a scene where the neighbor boy is showing a home movie to the daughter of the main characters. He calls this 15 minutes of movie the most beautiful thing he has ever filmed. It's 15 minutes of a plastic grocery store bag caught in the wind. The bag just dances. (please watch this movie again, its horrible and incredible)

Now what I love about this really depressing movie is exactly my point. There is all this negative awful stuff that happens in the movie and then this. This speech about beauty in the world. This boy lives in an abusive home, sells weed for a living. And he looks for beauty in every situation, and his hearts aches with fullness.

I started writing this post out of frustration with people being so apt to find bad things and then this movie weaseled its way back into my life changing/adding to this strain.

How much better would this place be if we all looked for the good in things? How much more rich, thoughtful would things be? I want a rich world. I want a world with rich food and rich relationships. I want a world ripe with giving and laughing. I want a world with lowered walls in order that deeper love happens. I want to be infectious.

I am slowly becoming resolved to be this person in my world. To point out the good instead of try to magnify the bad in those around me. To bring out and be thankful for all the things that are good in my world. In the worlds of my coworkers, my family, my neighbors, my best friends. I hope you do to. You Christians out there should most definitely do this as well. We all should be agents for beauty in this place.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Love Manifest

I have been reading a lot lately.  I have been reading some poetic authors, a lot of love talk and such.  Now, normally I wax all poetic about love when I write, but sometimes I have trouble feeling all Romeo and Juliet or all William Wallace in real time.  BUT there still exists this time when I read this stuff that makes my bones shutter, that makes my soul dance, that makes me weep, makes me miss home, that makes me want to meet need in the world, that becomes a REAL tangible emotional part of life for me.  

You know, we can't escape this love thing.  We just can't.  It breathes through us, in us, makes us hurt when it leaves us.  It is a current in the universe, a golden river.  This is Truth.  

But it is fickle, subtle, and powerful all at once.  It needs to be drawn out, reinvented, sown, given.  Cultivated.  

WE need to be purposeful about cultivating the Presence of Love; to make Love a manifestation in the dark places of this world and our souls.  We need to be agents of love manifest.   

A pretty important being in the history of things, Jesus, said it was an action, he gave instruction on how to do it.  It went something like this, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  These are the greatest commandments."  (paraphrase from Matt: Loving God and loving others is really all there is.  So go out and do it!  It will change your life and the lives of those around you!)  The real rub of this, coming from Jesus, was that he lived it, and it did create a world shift.  A world shift.  He exuded Love... and we still see its ripples.    

Jesus attracted people.  I want to believe that he was like a narcotic.  People just couldn't get enough.  Those closest to him became zealots... and all died doing what Jesus did, changing the world with Love.  One of his friends wrote some famous words once.  I think I might like them the most in the entirety of the crazy collection of diaries and letters and folklore and God's love letter, the Bible.  He (John) said, "If you don't know love, you don't know God, God is Love."  He basically said, if you know Love, you know God.  Wow. What?!?!  This is big.  Timeout.  

This is such a gutsy sentence.  He put the two biggest things that mankind has ever tried to process together.  God (out there, ambiguous, existential, but we all move towards it or try to understand it, or avoid it) and Love (we all need it, want it, give it, take it, abuse it, grow it, and have a really hard time pinpointing it, putting it in a box, bottling it, saving it, remembering it)  John then made a bold leap.  He connected the two.  He married them.  Forever connected them.  One is the other.  He said (in a crude way), "They are the same thing!"  God's essence is Love.  Love is God expressed/translated/given.  

One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho wrote about love.  He does a lot.  He is Brazilian, those guys are passionate people.  He put a great spin on it.  He wrote, "If someone is capable of loving his partner without restrictions, unconditionally, then he is manifesting the love of God.  If the love of God becomes manifest, then he will love his neighbor.  If he loves his neighbor, he will love himself.  If he loves himself, then everything returns to its proper place.  History Changes."  Wow.  

This is the message of Christ, the Gospel.  The way of living rightly.  

I think all things profound need something tangible to set it.  Like when you think about the bigness of the universe, but really understand it when you are on the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Or when you are finding love for the first time and then you touch her hand or have a first kiss and your world stops.   I really dig the Coelho passage because it is a something that I can get my mind around.  His words are grounded in experience.  It all starts with exposure and love-focus on another.  One that is (hopefully) reciprocated.  

I have to say this, my wife and I are falling deeply in love lately. Not that we have not been in love already.  I think its just hitting a deep pocket that I never new existed.   It's been incredible.  I told her recently that I feel that for the first time in our lives, we are lovers.  Truly lovers.  (I think this is something that a lot of people, even married, and married well, folks never experience)  It's incredible.  I mean for me its like the movies, like Romeo and Juliet and all that wrapped up and packaged with her and I in it.  

I have been through phases in life where I value different things in relationships or I learn how to value different things in relationships.  I have met a lot of couples.  Each values something different.  There are ones who have wives/husbands who are their best friends, their caretakers, their financial advisors, the cohabitants of their houses, their sex partners, their escape from the fear of being alone, their entire identity (yikes!), you know, a lot of things.  For them, contentment is found in one of these shades of companionship.  Totally okay, awesome for them even (I hope and if its not, I hope they are all brave enough to change life for the better).  

I think at one point or another I have been there with my feelings about my wife or a girlfriend along the way.  I don't often come across friends who truly have a lover.  Maybe this is because those who do keep it in.  I just don't know about it.  I know I do this a lot, hide my relationship with my lady from others.  I have a hard time sharing my relationships.  I hate exposing them for fear of judgement (as this is often the result of sharing).  But, my wife and I were talking about this, and sharing what we have might get one of the few people who read this to think about it, to maybe have the courage to pursue it, to try it on.  It may not fit, but at least he or she had the courage to try.  Here we go...

I am jealous of my lover's time.  I think about her passionately.  She does the same.  She is courageous.  She makes me brave.  I make her stronger.  We can't wait to eat dinner together, share a bottle of wine, laugh, make love, talk, watch the rain or the fire, to go out to eat at 5 o'clock like old people, to be lovers and that is all.  

I wish this for everyone.  I do.  I don't think everyone will have this.  It comes at a cost.  A cost.  This is a naked exercise, an exposed and initially fearful and uncomfortable process.  Finding each other as lovers requires us to sacrifice our time, our thoughts, others' opinions about us, our egos, our deep places, our secrets, our warts, our convenience, our money, a big family.  But for Katherine and I, its just right.  (I know that in all my life I will remember this time we are experiencing.  I will.  It will be one of the last of my thoughts, one of the first on Saturday mornings when she is still asleep next to me.  I will remember it when I am 84 and have cancer in a hospital, and she will be there.)

Cohelo is on to something because this is the closest thing I have to experiencing God, to demonstrating God, to seeing Love manifest.  I am exposed with my wife.  But its okay.  And this exposure is such a part of the True manifestation of God (love).  

The concept of Love as I have painted it in this is contingent on a few things.  It also has a fantastic storybook ending as well, the world is changed.  History is written.  It all hinges on this part where we have to love outside of ourself with recklessness.  Most people I know are not reckless with their love.  For whatever reason, abuse, mistrust, fear, failure, or whatever, we become guarded with our hearts.  But, Love (God) doesn't work this way.  Guarded-ness is only that, a guard or a defense mechanism, a big freakin concrete wall.  

When we let go, give bigger than our selfishness, only then are we releasing God's love in the world and our lives.  

Love is released.  Its a wild, untamed thing.  It takes control and changes my relationships.

And I am strong and exhilarated because of it; I can't help but love people.  My associates become brothers.  My acquaintance becomes a kindred.  My neighbors become family.  When this happens, I am convinced that I am loved.  Full Circle.  Unreal.  

My world changes, is changing, and so is yours.  


Thursday, March 26, 2009

More things I like right now

1.) Beef in Japan
2.) Sweaters with a half zip
3.) Pinot Noir from California from 2004 (and 05 too)
4.) New challenges
5.)  My friend Gunn-san
6.)  Making my friend Bill uncomfortable and giggle at the same time
7.)  pictures of my dog
8.)  the excitement my friends Jeff and Michele have over their first house
9.)  My next-door neighbors who have become true friends of mine
10.)  Japan at night
11.)  Bend, OR at any time of day
12.)  Trash-talking about sports
13.)  Having a secure identity
14.)  concerts where the artist doesn't suck
15.)  talking about church
16.)  giving gifts
17.)  Mon Cher Ton Ton!  
18.)  headphones
19.)  The freakin burger at Le Pigeon (i drool every time i actually immerse my thoughts in it!)
20.)  The hope that G.O. will dominate in the NBA
21.)  Duke, in spite of the fact that they are irrelevant in the post season
22.)  A good watch
23.)  A good view
24.)  30 Rock
25.)  Talking about Hope 
26.)  My new friend and collegue "Ari" and his journey (I mostly like talking to him about real life stuff and I really liked traveling with him)
27.)  Bright socks
28.)  Those times in life you are really honest, and its okay