Thursday, December 27, 2007

This is the Christmas post...

...I wanted to post on Christmas day but that day turned out to be pretty crazy and hectic as Bekah and I attended four consecutive exchanges of gifts and had to pack our things in between before heading off to the upper midwest to see more family.

Our trip was like something out of a nightmarish dream but we made it safely. On my way home to pick up some of our stuff, I started to realize that I was sick. Bekah says I always get sick on vacation, which in retrospect, is probably true. During the ensuing two legs of flights which included a sprint across the tarmac in Vegas, Amelia and luggage in tow, I prayed for a merciful end to my life but alas, I simply endured. Nothing like waiting in line for a rental Kia Sportage in 28 degree weather while feverish and headache-stoned at six in the morning outside O'Hare Airport. Note-to-self: don't take a red eye flight and then think that you can safely pilot a Kia several hours on no sleep--because if you wind up getting sick, it will make you wish you'd never been born. Anyhow, now we're here and having a good time watching movies, playing sorry, swapping mp3s and travel stories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday, December 19th

I spent the morning at the library, writing and researching. In the course of searching for a book by the Pope called Jesus of Nazareth, I discovered Saint Augustine's "The City of God," and checked it out. An 867-page book written over 1500 years ago by a mystic in North Africa, is how it's billed. Since I plan on delving deeper into the contemplative tradition this coming year, I am very excited to read what is a cornerstone of modern Christian thought.

I also picked up a book called "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy...a "searing, post-apocalyptic novel." Needless to say, that description roped me in almost immediately.

Some friends of mine, Weston, Dave, Kim put together this video and were crazy enough to think that I could act in it. I tried, and I must say I look fatter on camera, but the end product is very good no thanks to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Battle at Kruger

This video is pretty lengthy but it may possibly be better than any animal planet or national geographic special i've ever seen. as long as you can get past the annoying chatter and inexplicable laughing in the background. Highly recommended.

ADVENT :: the Hope for Peace, Love, Joy

We live today in a world of growing isolation, frantic activity, and desperate violence, where paradoxically, we find ourselves longing for both solitude and companionship, intimacy and community. Some of us may look back to times when life seemed to make sense and relationships were more certain. Whether or not such times ever existed, we nevertheless long today for relationships that acknowledge who we are and who we want to be. We want someone to hear us, to hear our hearts beating, to hear our deepest longings—even longings of which we dare not speak.

- Sondra Higgins Matthaei
Faith Matters

I came upon this quote this morning and it stirred me. Somehow, this time of year--the holidays, are always an uneasy time for me. On one hand, nothing gives me greater joy than spending time with friends and family and nothing gives me greater pleasure than giving gifts to people that I love (especially my wife, to whom I love to give gifts that she would never consider practical or prudent). On the other hand, no time of year (with the cold weather and rampant commercialism) better illuminates for us the divisions that exist between people. The poor are never more visible than during the holidays and yet most of us resign ourselves to token gifts and empty promises to do something during the coming year. During this Advent season as we celebrate Hope, Peace, Love, Joy and ultimately, Christ, I have been forced to confront in myself what's painfully obvious to opponents of the Christian faith: if we are a Christian people where's the HPLJ to celebrate?

Two answers that I have come to embrace for myself: 1) There's a lot more Hope, Peace, Love and Joy being enacted than I realize. Good things, or good works, or acts of mercy and kindness ARE taking place every back alleys, in offices, in churches, in the inner city and in the suburbs. We have to look hard to find these events because as people we are often drawn to stare at death and destruction but more often we are distracted by the allure of the shiny, the new and the attainable "dream." I, for one, have wasted way to much time thinking about stuff that I want this holiday season and not enough time to celebrate the hope that comes from Jesus living in others. 2) Only a merciful God would make the promises of restoration and salvation to a people as flawed and horrible as we are. There is hope for peace on the earth because the kingdom of God is coming, because the kingdom of God is here. I have a lot of things I'd like to ask God about this, but my faith is strengthened by the evidence of hope and by the absence of it: we are always in need of more and the season of Advent reminds us that Christ is our hope.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reindeer Games

end of the year

It's been an atrocious season for sports, so I now turn most of my fan-attention to music as I try and navigate the yearly ritual that end-of-the-year lists have become for me. As the 49ers, Giants, Tottenham Hot Spur and Liverpool continue to perform poorly, the hope shifts to Radiohead, Modest Mouse and The National.

Happy Monday.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hope and Despair during Advent

I really don't understand why some people post reviews on iTunes like "I expected this album to be not so great but I'm pleasantly surprised that it's quite good." I guess it's because I don't buy albums that I don't think will be any good. In fact (personal confession here), I usually only buy records that I suspect MIGHT wind up being great or albums by artists that I've liked forever and therefore, even though I might be apprehensive, I know that they could be amazing. The other albums in my collection are either given to me by friends or I got them from record labels or blogs or other avenues that don't personally cost me much.

I suppose, my music expectations might be some kind of metaphor for life as I see it. Most every day, I believe, has the potential to be incredible. Incredibly productive, incredibly enlightening, incredibly out of the ordinary. Needless to say, I am often disappointed.

But still I soldier on, because many of these days are in fact, special and many are even better than I expected. Some, however, are a lot worse.

I read today that hope is the lens through which we can see/imagine a better world. I believe it.

But HOPE, though it always exists apart from emotion, can sometimes feel like despair. Especially when we're continually disappointed.

I am incapable of encouraging myself during all the times when hope looks like despair, when love looks like hate and when education looks like disaster. That's why I'm thankful that God gives me other people who walk through this elation/desolation cycle with me. During this first week of advent, when Christians everywhere celebrate hope and coming of a savior, I will try to remember that sometimes hope isn't just a concept, it is often embodied in people helping other people. Sometimes hope looks like me. Maybe more often it looks like you.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

friday morning, coffee, donuts, death, rejection part 2

Lost my wireless connection and didn't get to post part 2 of the blog from Friday morning. I've got a lot more to write about this but some more processing and now some rest are in order. We're back in Fresno...

During this morning’s session on the “Feminization of HIV”, a woman from Saddleback church shared her story about being assaulted and raped and consequently HIV positive and later developing AIDS. Her story was remarkable in that she has been able to survive and now has two grandchildren thanks to the ARV drugs. The most heartbreaking part of the story though was when she shared that she had been asked to step down from the choir at her church and her husband had to give up being a Royal Ranger commander. Not only was her story unbearably sad but that perked our ears up because she was clearly talking about an AG church discriminating against someone with AIDS. Horrible, unacceptable and disgusting behavior. No excuses for that and I’m embarrassed to be a part of an organization that would act that way. She did share that being diagnosed had led her into depression and alcohol abuse, so maybe that was related in some way. However, like I said, no excuse for that. I don’t often encounter situation where I feel compelled to claim the moral high ground and browbeat others. I fail people every day but that there has been a systemic failure on the part of churches, including our own assembly, to adequately love, support and care for those living with HIV/AIDS.