Tuesday, October 26, 2004

when we settle

I have a friend who always wanted to be a rock star. Pretty common, right? But this friend was good. I mean really good. By the time he was in high school, he was playing regularly around town, the darling of several older music "veterans," and had girls fawning over him the way most boys that age only dream about.

And you probably think you know how this story ends - that he tried after high school, but couldn't quite get it together, so now he plays coffee houses with the money he makes from a low-end job, and pines for the days when he "was somebody."

But that's not quite it. Because this friend went to college, married a beautiful and talented girl by the time he was a junior, and now teaches high school science at a reputable boarding school in the South. And he never touched his music again.

It's like one day he just moved on. And he swears to me that he's happy. He has a wonderful life with his wife and new baby daughter. He has a responsible job, is respected in his community, and his wife stays home to raise their family. Sounds like the perfect life.

But I just don't get it. How could someone that loved music so much, for whom music was their passion and life, just move on like that? How is it possible, when I saw him feeding off the inspiration of the music, and the adoration of the crowds that mouthed his lyrics like he was some kind of Jim Morrison? Can someone's priorities change that much that the old things that mattered so much simply don't matter at all anymore? Is he really happy....really, way down deep, or has he somehow buried that old passion so far down that he doesn't even remember it anymore, and he's mistaking his contented, secure life for happiness? Has he really somehow "settled" for the easy road?

When someone says they're happy with their life, can we really believe them?

I mean, at one level, who am I to say otherwise? He certainly seems happy, and he has a lot to live for and enjoy in life. But part of me is so uncomfortable with the whole idea that someone can just change like that.

I guess I'm just skeptical of people who feel like they "change" dramatically at random stages of life. One example that always comes up - at 17, a lot of us thought 35 was old. But now that we're 25, we all say, "nah. 35 isn't old. I just didn't see that when I was 17." Well, I'm of the opinion that I did see that at 17, and really, 35 is old (or at least middle aged) and I should just be okay with that and age gracefully. (For those that are interested; in my rubric 0-20 is young, 30-50 is middle aged, 50-? is elderly. And I plan on keeping this rubric till I die.) Another one that comes up quite a bit is "oh, I thought I was in love before, but I never really loved anyone until _______" But in this case, the old standby "I always thought ______ made me happier than anything in the world. But I'm even better now, doing _______, than I could have imagined" is the one that makes me concerned.

Because I never want anyone to settle. I never want anyone to give up on their dreams and aspirations for the sake of security (or anything else!), and cover it up by insisting how happy they are with the way life turned out. It's especially difficult when the person really seems happy, or has really convinced himself that he's just as happy (or maybe happier) with his family, working a respectable 9-5, than he ever might have been inspiring people with music.

Is it actually settling if the person really does feel happy?

So why do we settle? And should I even care? Because it's true that things happen in people's lives, things that are unexpected, and I'm sure everyone's priorities change at one time or another. Everyone I know with kids says that it's impossible to understand true love until you've had children. So I guess this must be true, even though the love for a spouse is so intense I can't imagine anything approaching that. God certainly wants us to find contentment in Him and not in the "stuff" of life. But what about the idea of a "calling?" Can you miss your calling and still be truly happy?

All these questions running around in my head, and I can't help but feel sorry for a guy that insists that he is happier than he has ever been in his life. Then I remember how inspired I was just watching him perform. And I know how much he lived for the opportunity to move people with his music, and I just don't understand how he could give it all up and never look back. I guess I just don't understand life sometimes...what a complicated mess.
Grace & Peace-

Thursday, October 21, 2004

a seredipitous Boston "fan"

I hate the thought that I might be digressing too far into the "humdrum daily routine" element with this posting, but a small story will illustrate my incurable excitement at the Red Sox recent World Series berth.

The company that I work for, Carlson Software, recently held it's annual meeting here in Maysville, KY. We brought in employees from all over the country, Los Angeles, Houston, Sarasota, Atlanta, and Boston.

One of the cool kitsch items at this meeting was a new Carlson Software hat, which, as hats go, is a real winner. Unfortunatley, all the hats were gone before my good friend BR was able to obtain one. He complained ceaselessly for two weeks at his lack of a Carlson hat, and just when I thought it hopeless, I ran across a small stash hidden away in the back of our storage room. I sent BR the hat, along with a note explaining my remarkable find, and considered the whole thing done.

Imagine my surprise two weeks later when a beautiful, high quality Boston Red Sox hat arrives in my mail, with a nice note. You see, BR is a lifelong Bostonian (with the accent to prove it) and a diehard Red Sox fan. He encouraged me with the hat to become a Sox fan, telling me, "for sure. This is our year."

So I started following Red Sox baseball, more out of curiousity than anything else. But the intruigue and sheer intensity of the recent ALCS has cemented my nascent Red Sox enjoyment (dare I say "affection"?) and propelled me into the ring as a Sox fan - even getting into arguments with various Yankees fans I run into. I've been staying up late all week to see the incredible games (all 14 innings the other night) and real baseball history in the making. Whatever you think about the teams, this is good baseball.

So, I'm incredibly excited about the Red Sox heading to the World Series this year, with the chance to end the "Curse of the Bambino" once and for all, and with their first World Series in 86 years...yes, 86 years. But a part of me feels a little guilty about this whole situation. Here I am this new Red Sox fan, enjoying and celebrating success, when thousands of Red Sox fans have been waiting year after disappointing year for a victory like this. There might be an 80 year-old man out there that waiting his whole life for this opportunity! So part of me thinks that I don't really deserve to celebrate with the "true" Red Sox fans...but I do it anyway. I just keep my enjoyment to myself, and compliment BR and all the legions of year-after-year diehards out there on their determination and the success of an incredible team. They deserve this...
Grace & Peace

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

taking sides

P.J. O'Rourke, correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and regular contributor to NPR and The Weekly Standard has done it again. This short piece had me rolling on the floor laughing. It is a five minute read at most. Lighten up your day and enjoy it.
Currently Playing
Whole EP
By Pedro the Lion

Monday, October 11, 2004

good times

Oh, how I would love for THIS to be true. And for it to totally blow up. Be the "October Surprise" or whatever. Please.

If you really enjoy political satire, JibJab is definitely for you. Plenty of fun for both sides of the aisle, and their new creation is perhaps more fun than their last! Good times, indeed.

who's your grandma?!

So much to write about. So little time.

NEWS FLASH!! The new single off the upcoming U2 Album ("Vertigo") absolutely kicks ass. Looks like the rockin' boys from Ireland have done it again. Can't wait to get ahold of the record. Check it out here.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the Worship experience

While I'm not as well versed as some people, I believe that my own unique backgound (not merely evangelical, but also a strong charismatic bent) might shed some light on a different perspective.

Frankly, I think Christians use the word "worship" loosely, like english speakers use the word "love." Clearly I don't "love" raspberry chocolate truffle ice cream in the same way that I love my closest friends - the emotions are much stronger with the ice cream - but I use the same word to describe both. Similarly, people often use the word "worship" to describe many different things: a life attitude toward God (as in, "I want to have a worshipful life"), an attitude of the heart (having an "attitude of worship"), but also the physical act of singing that goes on in a service ("this is the worship time").

At first glance this does not make a lot of sense, unless you impose a more fundamental definition on the whole thing, something like "an offering of adoration and devotion." In that light, the "act" of worship (the singing) becomes an offering, and so do all the other definitions used for worship. Viewed this way, the "worship" element of a church service is distinguishable from the Word and Sacrament by virtue of it's objective: the worship is what we present to God - an offering of adoration and adoration. This is why worship is often called "praise."

This type of adoration has roots back to the earliest Biblical narratives. The Old Testament is full of examples of Israelites singing the praises of God. Miriam (Moses' sister) sings an entire song of praise after the Israelites cross safetly over the Red Sea. David danced before the Arc of the Covenant when it returned to Jerusalem, and the entire book of Psalms is a compilation of songs of devotion to God, often sung by the people in a religious context. I imagine that these songs were deeply personal and emotional, and evoked a strong personal response in the singer that helped draw the singer in to that posture of worship before God.

This is essentially what bothers me so much about "traditional" worship - its complete lack of emotion. I'm sure this is not true in all situations, but in every traditional service I have attended, the "worship" segment is a bunch of people singing in a musical style they have no familiarity with, their heads buried in a book to read the lyrics, and no sense of any emotional connection to what they are doing. If there is real emotional connecting going on, it is well hidden. The most you can often get out of people is that they enjoy the comfort of tradition, or the sense of continuity with songs they sang as children. The Bible is full of so many wonderful worship stories - of hands raised and people clapping. I just can't see Miriam passing out hymnals to everyone and having them sing in an old-fashioned style a song of celebration.

This is why evangelicals (and charismatics especially) revel so much in worship, and experience such a strong connection to the divine in the act of worship. It seems that God somehow wired us to experience music emotionally (and emotively). Any musician will tell you that it is hard to really sing from your heart and not experience a powerful connection with the subject of your song. Charismatics often say that they experience God's presence more strongly in this
context than anywhere else. While "emotionalism" is always a concern, it's hard to fault that kind of passion and zeal. Those Christians who have never experienced the overwhelming presence of God in worship - where you often can't even speak, or the tears just won't stop coming, or all you can do is smile - while obviously still "Christian" in every objective sense, are missing out on a powerful and potentially life-changing element of the Christian life. It's not
"required," but would you set out to build a house, and limit yourself to only 1/2 of your tools?

These are my thoughts, and I'm happy to discuss them with anyone...let the castration begin.

Grace & Peace

Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?--Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, October 04, 2004

Once again the same

I recently took thespark.com's Personality Test. It's pretty amazing, takes about 20 mins, and is a lot of fun. I first took this test back in 1999, and then again in 2001, and got the same result both times. Recently I learned that the test had been updated, and the site somewhat altered, so I thought I would take it for the 3rd time, to see if my diagnosis would change.

Same result. Which is amazing considering how much the test has evolved over time! Every time I read their conclusion I think, "Wow. It's unbelievable how well they have me pegged." Same goes for several of my friends who have also taken the test. It always describes them better than I could do, and I know them pretty well!

In my recent period of self-reflection, it has been very important to take a good, clear look at myself, and to try and see myself the way others do. It's not always a pleasant experience, but it has certainly challenged me. I recommend you give the test a try, and let me know your results! I'm interested to see how you all turn out, and I'd love to keep a running list of the results. Here are mine (see if you don't agree that they describe me to a "t"):

Dominant Extrovert Abstract Thinker (aka POLITICIAN)

Like just 5% of the population you are a POLITICIAN (DEAT)--forceful, outgoing, and forward-looking. You are strong-willed and extroverted, so you enjoy interacting with other people. You aggressively pursue your goals.
Your creative style of thinking allows you to come up with unusual arguments and original ideas that appeal to others, but behind it all is an analytical mind that never forgets the bottom line. While some might see you as manipulative, your close friends know you are a talented person who deserves the best in life.
Whatever. You are manipulative. Whether you use your power for "good" or "bad", it's up to you. If you're confused what good or bad means, ask a HEALER. Like EXPERIMENTERS, you have a propensity for cheating.
Currently Playing
Rainy Day Music
By The Jayhawks

Saturday, October 02, 2004

it's a mad, mad world...

You know that the world is weird when Iowa, Kansas, Louisana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virgina and Wyoming all have Democratic governors...and California, Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Vermont all have Republican ones! What's up with that?!

Currently Reading
Crime & Punishment
By Fyodor Dostoevsky