Saturday, August 21, 2010

Chosen vs. Choosing

What if the people who seem to have chosen you are not the ones you would have chosen?

Friday, August 20, 2010


Sometimes life seems to be no respecter of persons.

I'm sitting in Finland surrounded by the Halo Ensemble and have just received the crushing news that one of our friends, Jesse, who's letting us use his room and live in his apartment for two weeks, has been diagnosed with meningitis after three days of headaches. My nephew has suffered from this. My heart is broken and crushed and I'm scared for him.

At the same time, six of my great great friends are playing charades and laughing (and even making me laugh) ... because they don't know about what's going on with Jesse, yet.

What are we supposed to make of this life? How can we laugh while the world is suffering at the same time?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Current Short Story

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke

Perhaps my life may be more of a set of short stories than a full-blown novel. So here's a little bit about the story I'm currently writing.

The world is getting smaller and smaller and as the world shrinks, or flattens as some economists refer to it, more and more people, especially of my generation, are able to experience more and varied cultures. I have had the opportunity to travel a great deal, thanks to the open minds (and wallets) of my parents, and a great deal to my profession. I am a professional musician and I am learning every day just how many doors music, high-quality music, can open that are generally closed ... like China.

Several of my friends and I have started and are in the midst of birthing an international conductorless chamber orchestra called The Halo Ensemble. Basically, young people who are classically-trained musicians from around the world (i.e. Switzerland, Finland, Scotland, Canada, U.S.A., & Austria) are gathering together and playing concerts without a conductor. For those of us that are in the Church, it can seem like a very shallow calling compared to say ... full-time missionaries in Africa, but we feel our souls very much alive in this venture. And souls which are alive are the best flame to enlighten other souls through the Spirit.

Last summer our story setting was in Finland, among other places - a country plagued by apathy. We saw and heard through our concerts souls which had been shrouded by clouds of darkness, doubt, apathy, disbelief having the veils lifted and beginning to dare to feel the full weight of God's love on them. This summer we have returned to Finland to see how those hearts are faring, and to see what else God will do for them in our playing.

Our story is one of magic and mundane. We are nothing particularly special as individuals and we are doing nothing particularly extraordinary. I am reminded of Mother Theresa saying
There are no extraordinary acts; only ordinary acts done with extraordinary love.
And that's all we have to offer: extraordinary love, because it comes from Christ, the author and perfecter of faith and love.

But as a founding member of the ensemble, I know we have a great story of God's Grace to tell, in and through our ensemble. I love thinking about what other stories I could hear and tell at a conference like Donald Miller's. Being able to share that unadulterated time with other motivated people filled with extraordinary love, hearing their stories, sharing the stories of the Halo Ensemble, seeing how our stories overlap or how we can speak into each other's stories ... I can't really fathom what would come of it, but I imagine marvelous things. To hear Don's stories of starting and sticking with The Mentoring Project, can encourage and direct the path of this story I'm in now.

In Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, she says
There are probably a number of ways to tell your story right, and someone else may be able to tell you whether or not you've found one of these ways.
I envision this happening at the Living a Better Story seminar.

Here's a short video from Donald Miller about the seminar:

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cleveland Stories

There are a few things that have been on my mind almost constantly as of late:
-- my move to Cleveland
-- Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
-- Commonway church's sermon series on story
And I'm beginning to come to a point where I can see all three of these things overlapping, as so many things in life are want to do, right?

So here's what I'm starting to think:
-- If I am the protagonist in my own story (as The Holiday points out)
-- And the elements that make a good story make a good life
-- And that one of the elements of a good story is character: character development, strong character and a character who wants something, worthy of wanting and obtaining through conflict
-- And if one of the reasons I'm moving to Cleveland is because my protagonist (me) has not been going down a path leading to the character she (I) wants to be and it would be foolish to think the other elements, like setting, could stay the same but the character would develop differently. I mean, that's counter to the laws of physics and nature, right?
-- Then perhaps now is one of those points of a story where something changes in the story; perhaps now is the time to tell a different story or take my current story to a different depth or change my perspective

So how do I do this? Or what will this look like?
That's sort of what's been consuming my thoughts these days and here are a couple of really practical small steps:
-- attend Donald Miller's seminar in Portland about living a story worth telling
-- take a few classes to work towards a M.A. in English (Creative Writing) at Cleveland State University, taking about one class a semester starting after the New Year

Of course, the seminar is really expensive and the classes are not so cheap either, I guess ... school never is. Sooo, you may have to sit through a few trial blog posts, but I'm going to enter a competition to just win a trip to the seminar. Seems cheap enough to me, right?

On another note, or two:
I had a delightful day sitting with one of my coworkers and talking about music
And my next musical recommendation is: LCD Soundsystem. They're pretty silly, but brought me a lot of joy on my bike ride today.
Also: I just saw a Mercedes-Benz commercial that sounded like Arcade Fire takes on Beethoven Symphony No. 9

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The War Without

Anyone who tells you that I am a good person is a big fat liar. I am NOT a good person and I have been learning this my whole life in numerous ways. And this week I have learned that I am ... a murderer.

There is always a war going on within me, I think. Paul talks about in in Scripture, the war between the flesh and the Spirit. But this week, it has been the war without. As in outside of me. I have done nothing but kill things, most notably: ants, spiders and crickets.

On Monday I started to eat a sandwich and it tasted like crap, so I figured the meat was probably old and I shouldn't eat it anymore, so I threw it away. I thought it was an awesome idea. So did all of the ants which heard the trumpet call of the stale bread hitting the trash bag. Tuesday I went to throw something away and opened the door under the sink to do so, only to discover the area under my sink was the Ritz-Carlton for ants. Dozens of ants had moved in and made themselves quite at home. The darkness was alive. With two antennae and six legs each. Things in large numbers really really freak me out. It doesn't matter how small the individual things are, if there are lots of them, or if I keep finding them like they won't die, I panic. This is one of my irrational fears. So I panicked. I didn't know what to do! I closed the door and sat down and tried to take deep breaths and cursed myself for not putting the trash bag in the outside trash can.
Then I went to the laundry room, took out the Windex and put on some shoes. Then with a wild war cry, I opened the door under the sink and yanked out the trash can, proceeding to spill its contents and residents onto the kitchen floor. Badly done! I quickly tried to stand the trash can back up, using only my fingernails, to give the ants as little surface area as possible over which to climb and take possession of the rest of my body. I proceeded to spray Windex everywhere. Anytime I saw anything moving or a little bit black, I sprayed it. Black lint? Sprayed. Brown piece of paper moving with the wind of the fan? Sprayed. Ant? Sprayed. My theory was this would kill the ants. And in fact, enough Windex does kill an ant. But mostly it stuns them. It was good enough. If I could stun them long enough to a. stomp them to death or b. throw the can into the trash outside, I would consider myself successful.
And successful I was, but not without feeling simultaneously victorious and shameful for just re-enacting moment by moment a scene from some chick flick romantic comedy bound to come out in the next fifteen years.

Yesterday, I got ready to climb into my shower and found myself about to share the space and peaceful moments of rejuvination with a large black spider. Most spiders I don't mind and I have been known to leave a spider alone when discovering him in that very same shower. I'm lazy and try to be considerate. But spiders this big and this black cannot be ignored. I tried to scare him off into disappearance with a few sprays of water - out of sight, out of mind. But the bugger (pardon the pun) just wouldn't have it. Gallant thing he was. I tried to drown him by just tossing handfuls of water in his direction. A few direct hits, and several times I swore I had won, and just as I breathed that sigh of relief and turned the water off, he sprang back to life, all eight of his limbs reanimated and began scrambling around again ... but not to hide, to reassert his dominion in that white porcelain land. That was it. The gauntlet had really been thrown now. No mercy. Finally I turned the tub on full blast and began to fill it like I was going to take a bath. He stopped struggling and seemed to curl into the ball I had seen so many times in the last three minutes. I wasn't falling for that trick again. I let it fill a little further, probably until it was an inch of water. Then I was nearly satisfied. I turned off the water and began to let it drain out. And I towered over that land that once was his and watched that king literally circle the drain. He was so big, he couldn't fit through the holes in the drain. So I pounded him with the shower a few times and broke his body into pieces that could fit. No funeral for him. A massacre. Without respect.

Then this morning at Starbucks, I reenacted the great Bathtub Battle of 2010 in the sinks and around the counters of the store, but in smaller scale. I had to have killed half a dozen crickets. They just kept coming back! Those suckers are freaking invincible! I used to love crickets because they're musical and rub their legs together to sing little songs, like a tiny street corner violinist. But not after today. Today their souls are as dark as their skin and I have waged a righteous war on their whole civilization. They will be destroyed.

No. I am not a good person. I am a ruthless insect killer. Beware. If you're a bug.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


First off, let me say ... "growth" as a noun is one of my least favorite words ever. It distresses me greatly. Ew. Growth. Gross.

Now that that's out of the way, shall we continue?

What is this business of growing exactly?
I feel like I can say I've grown significantly over the past year. Not physically. Sadly, that phase is over and done. But emotionally, spiritually, personally. I feel more stable. More well-rounded. More ... boring? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just have a different definition of fun now. We speak of growing and growth and having grown, but what exactly does that mean? How do we do it? How can we measure it?
How do I know I've grown? Beats me! I haven't the foggiest idea. I haven't necessarily done anything to encourage growth. I haven't stood outside in sunshine and rain alternately. I haven't taken any extra spiritual vitamins. I don't know that my decision-making has necessarily changed all that much, but I do think that decisions are indicative of the growing process. But what about decision-making indicated having grown? The speed with which you make them? The accuracy? The appropriate weight, whatever that means?
What else indicates growth? How well you sleep? How much you read Scripture? How many people like you? How often or seldom you offend people?

What is this thing called growth? And how do we access it? Should we even access it?

Just something I was thinking about at work tonight.