Saturday, February 27, 2010


I am sitting in a new local coffee shop in my hometown’s downtown. I just overheard some kids talking about skiing and snowboarding and what their plans are for an upcoming trip, etc. etc. I heard one in particular say “learning to ski sucks.” He was pointing out the difference between actually skiing and learning to ski. One is fun, the other is painful. It got me thinking about learning in general. Now. I love to learn. I am a big fan of it. But. What thing is actually fun to learn? Not music. Music is maybe fun to learn about, but to actually learn to make music is a pain. It is frustrating and exhausting and it sounds horrible. Have you ever heard a kid just learning to play violin? It screeches to high heavens. My grandmother will say that’s the only thing she’s ever tried to discourage her grandchildren to do. Or the only time she’s ever been mean to her grandchildren, or something like that. Anyway. Listening to small people learning to play the violin brings out the worst in people. Learning to drive. All the whiplash from the stopping and the going and the heavy braking and … Learning to speak. Frustrating to the max. Maybe learning a language is fun. Help me with this list. What is fun for the actual learning process?

Do we like to learn? Really? Why? Why not? Is it a personal thing? Do some people like to learn, while others don’t? Do some people actually enjoying rolling down the hill over and over again? Do they like it on its own merits or is it because they like the idea of what it represents? What it will hopefully eventually produce? Rolling down the hill over and over again will eventually decrease to staying upright down the hill over and over again.

We endure pain and frustration for the end result. It has a purpose. We endure it more easily when we know what the purpose is, when we can see the end goal.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Gamut of Emotions

Isn't amazing how many different emotions and emotional states a person can go through in a very short amount of time? I went from happy to angry to relaxed to anxious to even more relaxed to happy to ready to sad. All today! Those last few were in the course of thirty minutes! No joke!
So first thing's first. I have another confession to make. I went to the store yesterday to get some soy milk and I was so consumed with getting delicious tasting soy milk that I got chocolate Silk light, not realizing that it was chocolate and therefore not part of my regimen. Woops! So now I have a half gallon of chocolate soy milk and I don't know what to do with it. Drink it anyway? Remembering my sinful nature *wink*? Only drink it on Sundays? That seems a waste of a perfectly good Sunday of break! But then again, is that the consequence of sin? No, because we've been redeemed! Ach! What to do? And it's only soy milk!
So I was really feeling good about writing and then I checked my email and got the response from my Louisville audition which was ... terrible. Nothing short of. And I wasn't just crazy, it was really bad. To the point that the email said the committee determined I was not "'qualified'". I kid you not. The "qualified" was in quotation marks. Oh dear. So many things. I'm not really that upset, except that I know it was not an accurate depiction of my playing. I know I actually AM qualified for a sub list, but ... man. I just didn't do it that day. Watching the olympics, I guess I realize that it happens to everyone. Thanks, sports, for making me feel somehow a little less bad. But I still want to cry a little bit just sitting in my parents living room.
But to end on a positive note ... what I WAS excited about. You know, from my first Lent post, that one of the things I want to be praying about is what to do in the fall, where to be, etc. And I keep getting the sense that Chicago is not where I need to be in the fall. As much as I love the city and want to be there so badly, now is not yet the time. I am getting the feeling that a time will come for me to live in Chicago. Maybe even next year, but for now, not. I'm still going to hope for good news from Civic, and if that works out, then Chicago here I come! But. If not, that's okay.
Now, I am thinking more and more seriously about Cleveland. I've said over and over that I do not want to move to Cleveland, but it does make the most sense. If moving to Cleveland gets me 1. out of the house 2. closer to the job 3. still making money, maybe even more since I can work during the week of the Erie gigs instead of taking the week off. I do have community there. I know they'd like for me to move there. It seems to make sense. I just don't care of the city. But for a little while, it could work. We'll just have to see what comes of auditions, etc.
But I feel a little bit of peace about it.
Also, I think I need to get a pet. Not a fish. Fish don't count. Wherever I move, I'd like to live by myself, but that means I'm going to need another warm body in the apartment. I'd really like to have a dog, but those are 1. more work and 2. more money. So I may be a cat person for a little while. Two things I don't particularly care for 1. cats and 2. Cleveland. So maybe I'll become a different person for a little while. That's okay.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


It doesn't take much for me to miss a place. I have a tendency to never be "here" wherever that is. This is a problem. Some old friends of mine are moving and it was very sudden, but it's to a place that will seem to suit them well. Another friend of mine and I were talking it over and we said that if we had to describe the moving friend in one word, it would "discontent." That has stuck with me since then, because even though I was at that moment applying it to someone else, I began to wonder if it could be applied to me. I wouldn't want it to be, and at first I thought "No! I'm happy just about anywhere!" But the more I've thought about it the more I think it could.
My parents threw a stinger at me when they told me, in jest - but it was true, that I want to move to wherever I've most recently been. I think I've mentioned that before. And it's true. Except with China.
But last night, I was driving home at about midnight after doing a little recording and I started thinking about a snowman holding his snow head in his stick arm/hand. I don't know why I was thinking about that. Then I tried to think of where that image came from and for what purpose. My thought process went something like this:
Did I see it on a woot shirt? Should I see it on a woot shirt? What could it mean? How could it apply? Have I seen it with another holiday figure? Like Halloween? Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow perhaps? Nightmare Before Christmas? Remember watching Nightmare Before Christmas in Graz with Christian's friends? That was a great time. I wonder how they're doing. Man. I really miss that. Things were almost easy then. Goofy internally but easy.
And that's how I came to miss Austria yesterday and today.
Then also today, I was on Facebook, of course. And was looking around at pictures of a kid I knew a long long long time ago. I mean. Really long ago. Not the longest, but pretty far back. And he had up pictures of Ireland. And that made me miss Ireland. And I wanted to go back to Ireland.
Then I was practicing and I was thinking about whether I actually am a good oboist or if my friends just think I am because we get along and that does influence how you hear someone. So I thought about taking lessons with other teachers, who don't know me (which I am about to do) and playing in places where I don't already have a reputation. And it made me think about Hungary and an oboist there who insisted he hear me play, but I never did play for him. And I thought about how I didn't invest in that relationship. And it actually made me miss Hungary a little bit and want to have a chance again to invest in those relationships that I missed out on last time.
All this to say. I am very rarely present. A few Lents ago, I had decided I would leave "absence" for "presence". Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church had labeled that year's Lent season as a time for leaving Egypt for Jerusalem. So the challenge was to think of something you were leaving behind in pursuit of something better and more freeing. I think this leaving absence for presence is maybe going to be my lifelong challenge.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lent brings Freedom

I realized today, as I was eating my sun-dried tomato and basil hummus, that my world, at least dietary speaking, is going to be opened wide by the end of this Lent season. Sure, Lent is not actually all that related to your literal diet, but it got me thinking about the irony of Lent being a time to OPEN my world. Don't we normally think of Lent as limiting? We limit what we eat. We limit what we watch. We limit what we think about. We limit what we listen to. And yet, but putting those limits on my diet, I'm actually expanding my palate by force. But not really by force, because it's completely voluntary. I just really like that ironic twist to Lent -- you deny yourself to free yourself. We die to live. Jesus talks about this. Appropriate. Everything is related.

My iPod was on shuffle today, on the playlist of "Kid tested, Lenten approved" music. And Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Third movement came on. It's a haunting piece. You should check it out. It's not automatically easily accessible, I realize. But it is haunting. That's the most appropriate word I can think of.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Your Love is Strong

Just a short note before I go to bed.
I really like God and I'm really enjoying reading His Scriptures these last couple of days. My reading has me going through Leviticus right now and it's true, it's full of rules. But at the same time, the rules are a lot of the time common sense principles (i.e. don't sleep with your daughter) and guidelines for living in community (i.e. do not murder, do not twist justice to favor the poor or the rich). But they also say so much, I think, about the LORD and what He considers important. He really thinks of a lot of things. Like He knows there are going to be poor people. No matter what. Soooo, He makes provision for them. He instructs the farmers not to glean everything out of their fields. When they drop something, leave it. Don't go back and pick it up. Don't take every bunch of grapes from the vine. Leave some. The poor will come and take it. Don't be greedy. It's also different from a straight-up hand out, though. The poor still have to come along and do the work of searching the field for what has been left behind. See? So much he thinks of! Then there are the random ones like "don't trim the hair of your temples or your beards." I don't get that one. But it must be important.
Side note: homosexuality is thrown in there right alongside don't sleep with your daughter or granddaughter or stepmother ... as in ... it's true, it's not how we were designed to be, it's not wholeness and it is sin against yourself and the other person ... but it is NOT in bold letters. It is not in all caps. There are no hashmarks indicating a trending topic (re: twitter). It's there. Very clearly. But it's also very clear that it's the same as all the rest. Just don't do it. If you do, when you do screw up, the steps for reconciliation and atonement have all been laid out already.
God thinks of everything.

Jon Foreman's "Your Love is Strong" has been running through my head ever since we sang it in church yesterday. What gets me the most is a variation on the Lord's prayer which he launches into very passionately. It's a poignant moment of the song. You should check it out.

"Two things You told me
That You are strong
And You love me
Yes, You love me

Your Love is, Your Love is, Your Love is

Our God in Heaven hallowed by They name above all names
Your kingdom come Your will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us weary sinners
Keep us far from our vices
And deliver us from these prisons ..."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The first (little) Easter

Today is the first Sunday in Lent and that means it's my first little Easter of the season. Let me tell you what, at first I scoffed at this idea of taking Sundays "off" or releasing myself from my strict fast on Sundays, as if it was a weakness. But after the joy I've experienced thus far today, I say "let's have more of this!" This is what Sundays, as Sabbaths, as days of rest are supposed to be like every week! No wonder the year of Jubilee is called such. I woke up this morning to the smell of beef & noodles (which I originally mistook for bacon ... if that tells you where my mind was.) It was a delicious awakening. On my way to church this morning to celebrate with my Brothers & Sisters. I stopped by the MT Cup. Thought I work at Starbucks, this does NOT make me a traitor. I have been going to MT Cup long before Starbucks was in Muncie and it has remained a significant local locale for me. In addition ... they have outstanding bagels!!! And I still prefer Starbucks' chai. So. There. I stopped by the MT Cup for a Sunrise bagel which is egg, cheese and bacon on a bagel of your choice. Accompanied by a chai latte made with whole milk, this breakfast encompassed every item I am forbidden from consuming during Lent. Talk about breaking a fast. Go big or go home.

Honestly, the bagel was not as tasty as I was anticipating, but the freedom of eating what I wanted made up for it. Completely.

This Lent has been very exciting AND enlightening. It has opened up several conversations as I talk with coworkers, customers and family members about what I've chosen to do and how my experience has been thus far. And it's only one week in! Although, I'm sure it will fade, but oh well.

Commonway again was a place of joy and belonging for me this morning. A reminder of why I'm still in Muncie. Church seems to be the continual blessing in any place where I am living. I have some cousins who are moving back to the midwest after living in Southern California for a few years. Part of their reason for moving home is the lack of community in California. While I don't doubt that, I also say "go to church!" If not for the celebration of Christ's life and death and the transformation of our lives in His, then for the community! I personally see no problem with (at least initially) going to church to find community. God has called us not to live alone. It's right that we should seek community within the source of all Community. True, finding an ideal church is actually impossible, but even finding a near-ideal church is difficult. But it's less difficult than trying to build community striking it out on your own. Especially if "your own" involves a spouse and a small child ... your options are suddenly limited - or focused, although your immediate community has expanded.

Thoroughly enjoying the NPR "All Songs Considered" podcast. How have I not heard of this before?!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sometimes I Fail

I have a confession to make.
I've broken my fast. A few times now.
But not from eating. That's still going strong. And let me tell you. Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's are a Lenten faster's best friend! So many things are now made dairy-free, it's almost like cheating! Is it still fasting if I'm eating soy cookies? I don't know. It somehow feels unfair. And yet, in all honesty, I am still being very intentional, which is part of the process I think.
So how I cheated. Well. Obviously, I haven't been blogging every day. Also. I had an audition in Louisville last night and I listened to secular music. It's my "pump-me-up-for-my-audition" playlist. I tried to go without it, but I just couldn't handle having to sit in that warm-up rooming hearing the oboes all around me. It was a terrifying experience. I really don't care for the oboe too much, nor for most oboists. Why can't we all just be normal? I suppose they think they are normal. And maybe they are ... amongst other oboists.

I just wanted to come clean about that.
But it also proves a point to me. Clearly, food is not necessarily a good fasting item for me, because it's fairly easy for me to follow a new food regimen. But my time and my mind. Those are two really difficult places for me to fast. It's difficult for me to spend my time well. To invest it well and in lasting causes. I normally just end up choosing to watch a ridiculous Amanda Bynes movie, all the way through. Knowing and acknowledging that it is indeed one of the most worthless movies ever to be made and spent money on. And it makes it even worse because I chose, in full consciousness, to waste my time watching it. And my music, what I put into my head. That is clearly a very important part of how I operate, because for me to go without it is more often than not very difficult.

It also brings up the question, which I've been speaking of often with my friends actually, which is "what is the point of lent and fasting"? And I don't completely know. My friend Jessica and I discussed it a little bit last night while she was keeping me awake for my drive home from Louisville. Part of fasting is choosing something you really might fail at fasting from. It's not so much about works and proving that you can give something up, which sometimes we focus on and thereby miss the meaning of the process. You choose something you might fail with/about/on (I don't know the proper preposition) and you try anyway, and when/if you do fail, you try again. Because that's what we do in our everyday Christian faith as well. We don't just give up on faith because we sin. No! That's ridiculous! We wouldn't be Christians for longer than an hour after receiving Christ if it worked that way! And in that case, no one would be a Christian because it wouldn't make it out of the first generation! We fail every day. We sin. Part of lent is putting that propensity to fail front and center, but not become despondent about it. We also don't embrace it. But we then are forced to see the need for our Savior more obviously and we can then appreciate or value His Salvation all the more. That's part of it at least. Or that's where my conversation with Jessica and my small group conversation led me.

God left me a little sticky-note love note yesterday. It sounds cheesy, I know. Full awareness and I gag a little saying it, but it's what it felt like. It was in the following song:
Enter the Worship Circle - Nothing Can Stop You

I really like the oompah/boom-chicks.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Character vs. Plot

My church is doing a sermon series on Story. Part of the influence is Donald Miller's new book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. And driving that book is the idea that if you're life doesn't make a good story, it doesn't make much of a life either. As in, if someone were making a movie of your life, or compacting your life into a novel, would it be interesting? Strange question, I guess. I sort of figure everyone's life would be interesting, or at least they think it would be, since it's their life, and they chose it and all. But maybe I'm wrong. I think mine would be interesting, mostly.

Anyway. Last week we talked about plot vs. character. Your life, your story, is not only about what you do and what happens to you. What makes a really good story is the character. And the idea that plot comes out of character. Character first, then plot. So the question this week via twitter was: "How could living with focus on the character instead of the plot relieve stress/pressure in your life?"

So if you're thinking about who you become instead of what happens, it takes focus off something you don't have control over and puts it on something in your hands. That's a little bit of a relief right? But maybe a little bit more pressure too, because it's something you can do something about. So you'd better do it right.
But I think it's less pressure. Or less unnecessary pressure at least.

Day 4 of Lent. No cheating that I know of. But today was a hard day. I really wanted cookies or chocolate. Haven't done all the reading I wanted to do though. The Book of Common Prayer is a little monotonous to me ... sorry. I hate to say it, but it's true.

Crazy day tomorrow. Time now for bed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

They Don't Love You Like I Love You

I kept singing the song "Maps" by the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs in my head this morning while I was at Starbucks, generally when I was doing dishes. Dishes is a popular time for me to sing songs to myself. So today's was "Maps" and it was just the one line of chorus that I know. "Wait. They don't love you like I love you ..." And I'm sure that song is about people, but for a moment, I realized it's also about God. And it's Him saying precisely that to me. "WAIT!" He says "They don't love you like I love you!" He proclaims about the world, about my desire, even about the people I know and love and who are equally loved by Him. It makes me think of the Psalm that says "Be strong and courageous and WAIT on the Lord." And yesterday my friend Laura (again) and I were talking and she mentioned how she's in a period of waiting. Now. I'm not actually saying that I AM in a period of waiting, but it is an interesting theme. It's important in this life. To not hurry. To wait. Intentionally. Waiting. Not in despair, but anticipation. And Advent is about waiting. And so it Lent, I think. Waiting for the redemption of the world.
We talked about Lent and what we're doing for it/how we think about it/what our past experiences have been (among other things). And it ocurred to me that you can view Lent as a time of mourning for the world, 40 days of prayer, fasting and intercession on account of the world. One of my small group members, Benny, last year during Lent fasted for lunch every day. And since he's in college, he has a meal card with meal money that expires after certain hours if you don't use it. Then you've lost that money. So rather than wasting the money, Benny used it to buy canned goods and those sorts of items from the cafeteria food store. He stored them in his room and at the end of Lent, he donated them to a food bank. Isn't that awesome? Not only did he fast and spend that time in prayer and investing in his relationship with God, but at the end of it, other people obviously, immediately and physically benefited from that, via Benny's foodstuffs. Maybe Lent isn't always only about what you can give up, but also just what you can GIVE. Christmas isn't the only time of the year to give you know. Jesus gave His life on Good Friday. And we can remember that. We should remember that.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Loving a Person

I've decided to take Lent seriously this year. And by seriously I mean, I am filled with joy and excitement about the season of Lent. I know. It's strange, right? Because Lent is the time when you give something that you really love in an act of penitence and contrition to remind us of how weak we are and how much we suck at life and how much we need Jesus and how He died for us because we can't even last 40 days without chocolate, coffee or Facebook. Right? True, Lent is maybe not in the running for gold medal of the holiday olympics. How can anyone hold a candle to Christmas? But it's about so much more than just giving up something convenient or generally delicious. I'm not exactly sure what that is, and I actually don't think that I will know at the end of this Lenten season, but I do anticipate some serious lessons being learned during this time of reflection and anticipation and remembrance and celebration this year. I can't explain it, I just know inside my spirit that I'm excited about this.

So here's a little of what my Lent plan is. Please don't read this as in a "look how awesome I am and all my plans for Lent this year. I'm such a good Christian, after Lent this year, I won't even NEED Easter." Not. True. But I know my heart so well, that I don't even feel like I need that disclaimer because I know how excited I am by all of this.

It is going to be a serious challenge in a lot of ways, but again, it seems fun to me. Note: I am one day in. I have already nearly failed several times, and probably have unwittingly failed.

The plan:
Traditional orthodox Great Lent fast.
No meat.
No dairy.
No eggs.
No fish.
No secular music.
No alcohol.
Do blog every day.
Do Scripture read every day.
Do pray.
Do read Book of Common Prayer every day.
Do read small group book every day.
Do read non-fiction every day.
Do read fiction every day.
Do celebrate Sabbaths/Sundays as "little Easters" aka. all rules rendered null. aka Party like it's 1999!

I also wanted to avoid: caffeine and extra sugar.
Read: No chocolate. No sugar added to my caffeine-free tea.

As I hate vegetables as a general rule, this fast is going to be incredibly difficult. I'm still undecided about the use of soy products as meat replacements and dairy replacements. I don't know if that counts as cheating. I'm going to try to do without them, but if I do start using soymilk and soyburgers, I don't think it's going to negate my entire experience.

Things I will be praying about especially during this time:
1. Direction and provision for this summer.
Some options:
Halo goes to Finland in August
Halo rehearses for Finland in June/July in Indiana
Halo rehearses somewhere else
Halo rehearses at a different time
Commonway sends a delegation to Kazakhstan in June/July
NRO festival in Breckinridge (if I am invited)
2. Direction and provision for the fall.
Some options:
3. My friends.
Want me to pray for you? In general? About something specific? Let me have it! Because I'm committed to this. I've got you covered!

Things I have been thinking about.
1. My pride.
2. My tendency to open my mouth without thinking.
3. Am I called to wander or to settle? (Thanks Laura.)
4. The Pillar of Cloud/Fire that led the Israelites.

I've also decided to stop posting the lyrics for the songs that I attach to these posts. I've also decided to stop ALWAYS attaching a song to a post, unless I want to. I have felt in the past obligated to ... even though I'm only obligated to myself, but I have freed myself from it. Most will probably still have musical associations because that's how my brain and heart work together, but not all of them.

Today's does, though. And this song is related to the "Thing I have been thinking about. 1. My pride." I was listening to Donald Miller read Blue Like Jazz and he was talking about really liking people. And how people won't listen to you if you don't actually like them. They can tell when you're pretending. And I feel recently that I have been doing that. Like what I have to say or the way I live if more important or better than the way they do and they should change. And I'm going to pretend to like them and pretend I want them to change for their own good. So then this song came on my iTunes today and it seemed incredibly appropriate.

Sara Groves: Loving a Person