Wednesday, June 13, 2012

a match

I've had a headache all day, growing progressively worse as time passes. It has plateaued, perhaps even begun to decrease, in the last hour; whether from the litres of water and tea I've consumed, the six ibuprofen, the two spoonfuls of peanut butter, or simply just giving in to the literal pressure and simply relaxing for a bit. Yet the work biting at my heels will not abate, and the stress only increases the longer it's postponed. I'll resume work shortly.

In addition to the headache, my left eye has been twitching worse than usual. It's a bothersome, uncontrollable and relentless issue, no doubt from stress. That, combined with the frequent outbreaks of hives, are more physical irritations than I could ever wish to endure, especially considering the seven-or-more months they've been occurring. Is there anything to be done? Decrease stress?

Yeah, right...

And, really, nothing is as pervasive as my struggle with the acceptance of uncertainty. How strongly I desire to know! Yet certainty is, perhaps, the most unnatural and foreign concept of humanity; a misleading and dangerous illusion at its very best, and cataclysmic as a rule.

So I cling desperately to the only reliable certainty, Love, as a lit match in unyielding, claustrophobic darkness.

What, or whom, do I love? And for what (or whom) would I sacrifice everything? Those are heavy questions. I think I know the answer. I know what the answer ought to be, and to some degree I hold to it. To some degree, it's more of an assumption that the "correct" answer is already in practice. But beyond that, the answer that rises immediately in response, the one supported by my mind and my heart and my too-emotional self... Risk is always terrifying.

Which leads to the question, of what are you most afraid? And for that, too, I have an answer. Isn't it fundamental to humanity, to fear rejection (in whatever the context)?

I've been drinking so much water (and today, tea), which results in frequent trips to the bathroom. It's a minor nuisance, but mostly it's satisfying and brings an odd sense of pride.

And if honesty comes in conclusion, I am hurting tonight. The absence of peace is pain.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I used to write more.

Several weeks ago, I was digging through some old journals and folders and the like; stuff I'd managed to collect into one box over the last several years, then just move around place to place. Some of it was notes from my favorite classes in high school: German, speech, calculus, etc. (I overcame my pack-rat self, and in. A sort of cathartic moment, threw those away. But what I had substantially more numerous were journals and stacks of written pages, and scraps with scribbles and musings...

I used to write so much. Pages upon pages filled to express myself; prose with odd little drawings in the middle, clusters of potential song lyrics with arrows drawn around, words crossed out and changed, chords and rhythms scattered around. I had forgotten all about that stuff. It was really astonishing to realize just how much there was. And these days I never write. In fact, I'm not sure there's anything I do to express or give outlet to the thoughts and emotions that fill me, that long ago filled me and have since been screaming in crowded frustration to be set free. Sometimes a thought will escape through twitter. And sometimes I'd get to sit down with one or two of my best friends to discuss certain aspects of certain things. But nothing as substantial as just sitting down with a pencil and paper, and writing until my brain is emptied. Blogging is not even the same relief. There's still certain things I censor or entirely abstain from writing. Though my audience is small, there's still certain things I don't want to risk igniting or pushing or causing unintended offense.

I used to still get some emotional release just in playing music with others. But I haven't once had the opportunity since moving. (and I'm terrified I never will get those opportunities again, short of the occasional YouTube cover happenstance for kicks with Brian.) so I no longer have that release through music.

And I can't remember the last time I've taken photographs just for the sake of having a relaxing and fun time out. I spend so much time with a camera attached to me for the sake of work, and even though I love my job, I leave the camera with work to get a break from it. I don't view it as an expression anymore, just a tool for work.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I miss playing music tremendously. I miss the feeling I get when I nail a run on the bass. (and I miss the B string rumbling open through a big house system.) I miss playing hammond at my old church; rockin cool and sometimes dorky synth leads from my keytar; searching for the best whirly and rhodes patches; even holding down simple pads; I miss playing jazz on the trumpet, and even the symphonic stuff, and the stuff for church at Christmas, that, despite being overwhelming and challenging, still managed to pull it off every year. I miss learning new chord voicings on acoustic; anything to break the norm. I even miss practicing scales on those instruments (and I sorta miss the Hanon exercises, too). Sometimes I forget. But then I see people playing, and I remember just how good to feels to participate. I remember leading worship in high school, when it felt more like being led than anything else, because I'd get so lost in what I was singing and playing that everything else around me dissipated and the only presence I felt was God. Sometimes I still have those experiences while driving and listening to Jesus Culture or Hillsong or Amante Lacey or Tye Tribbett, where I fall into worship so wholly that I have to pull over. But I still miss playing; more than I know how to express.

I was thinking tonight: what if I had come to Belmont four years ago after all? I was so close - would have studied music business and trumpet... Could I have stuck with it? Or would I still have drifted to photography, and then video? It's so weird how the smallest details all add up to a drastically different path in life. I might have left Belmont after a year or two and stayed in Columbus, whereas, ironically, school at Cedarville, in the middle of miles of cornfields, OH, is somehow what got me back to Tennessee. See...

Leading worship at heritage -> worship degree at CU -> then joined gospel choir playing organ/synth -> three week Europe tour -> cheap dslr on eBay for photos to remember the trip -> falling in love with photography -> upgrading to a better dslr that coincidentally shot video -> getting very quickly involved with video -> getting a job because of video...
Meanwhile, I had gotten an admin assistant position because of the worship major at another church, dropped the worship major for audio production halfway thru freshman year. Spent sophomore year touring around the country running FOH sound, then went back to working at that church junior year to help fill the gap from my friend Mike who had moved to a new church. But because of Mike and a seemingly random occurence, I got connected via twitter with my current boss and job.

It's unreal to think of all these odd, little details, how one thing led to another, and though I never saw it coming, here I am. It's the most incredible job I could ever think of, and a year ago, I would never have even thought there was a job like this. Three months in and I still can't get over God's providence. He led the way when I was clueless about the path I was on, just stumbling along because it seemed like the right thing to do. There were even a few scary leaps, like turning down another year of touring; but I had peace through it. It just blows my mind. I know if I spent years planning and scheming, I couldn't have come up with anything half as awesome as God designed and brought me to. And there's still so much further that I don't know where He'll take me, but I'm not afraid of the unknown. My only fear is that I'll try to take control and miss something awesome.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our God is ABLE!

After eating some incredible barbecue in Memphis, we hit the road for Texarkana, our hotel stop for the evening. About two hours later, we made a refuel and restroom stop. The cigarette lighters don't have power in the twelve passenger, so we decided to pick up some fuses and catch up with the other half of our team down the road.

While at Walmart, we received a phone call. A flat tire decommissioned the other van to the side of the road, close to Nowhere In Particular, Arkansas. Mike grabbed a can of Fix-A-Flat, and we got back on the highway. We found them, though a bit further down the highway than expected, and filled the tire. After a mile of slow, cautious driving to test the tire, we stopped again to re-check it. A decision was made to drive to the next exit, where we would at least be safer while waiting for AAA or other assistance.

The next exit surprisingly had a truck and tire repair shop visible from the off-ramp. Even more surprising, for 9:30pm Nowhere In Particular, Arkansas, there was a man there. He explained that the shop had been shut down for years, but he had recently purchased it and was in the process of remodeling. It wasn't even open for business yet! But God had orchestrated all these details, and we happened to catch him at the perfect moment. He repaired the tire for a few bucks, and now we're back on the road!

Our God is ABLE!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Group texts used to frustrate me...

I'm writing my thoughts in the middle of the day... It's not that I do this very often, but it would seem more typical for me to write very late at night, when I'm exhausted and much more emotionally vulnerable. Is that a sign that these thoughts are long overdue to be released?

I don't even know where to begin. I'm so worried of coming across terribly insecure, even whiny and annoying, as though my only purpose in writing was to seek somebody's pity. I suppose I truly am insecure; timid and frightful and even paralyzed by insecurity. But the last thing I would ever want is somebody responding to this out of pity. It's that thought which almost stops me from writing in the first place. And just by writing this, I'll be suspicious, even cynical, of any changes in behavior of those around me. I'm too skeptical to believe in genuine change, certain instead it's done out of guilt.
And so maybe somebody would start to try, for a brief period, and I'd refuse to respond - cynical and suspicious. And before long, their guilt or pity would subside, and things would return to normal...
(After all, why are you only now trying? Why not before?)

I used to hate group texts. They're frustratingly impersonal, and I also began associating them with dinners where I would show up and be completely overlooked by a dozen people for an hour.
One time, as a "test" of sorts, I responded, telling the sender I would for sure be there. (For conflicting schedules, or simply not wishing to be alone in a crowd, I rarely every came anyway.) I sat and watched from a fair distance as they all met up and left; not waiting for me, nobody trying to check on me to see if I was coming... I had no value to them at all.
Before I came to school, I cooked for these people every week for ten weeks straight. I drove over an hour each way, paying for everything out of my own pocket. Now please don't think I did this to earn anything from them. Giving is just how I live. But to be disregarded, left feeling worthless to them and unappreciated; I just couldn't keep trying after having given so much of myself away and having no more value to them than the day before we met.

And then unfolds a year and a half of story, too much to explain now, but which has shaped me more than any of the repeating relational wrecks that make up my life combined. (And I mean relational in a broader sense; not specifically that of dating relationships.) There's no way to describe just how impossibly never-will-be-good-enough this left me feeling. There's so much more, but I just don't want to get into that.

So here I am in current time. All I want is to feel like a valuable part in a group; not taken for granted, nor taken advantage of. I don't want people to want me around because I take good pictures, or because I cook for them, or because of anything else I do. I want people to want me around, just because they like me. I can't remember feeling that since marching band in high school. That was four years ago, and it's been two years since having anything I could even label as "group".
And now I miss those group texts...

My birthday sucked this year. I went to class, I shot some photos for a theater thing, and then sat around my house by myself. Brian made me brownie-cookies around 10 or 11 that night. Do you have any idea how totally miserable it was, to go my entire birthday, and know hundreds of people here at school, and literally the only person who did ANYTHING for me was one of the three guys living with me? I will say, a pan of brownies has never meant more to me than those, but that day sucked. I've had a lot of bad days, but going almost entirely unacknowledged on my birthday really wrecks it all. And that's something nobody can take back...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Hymns of Our Generation

This week will be the grand start to LiFT Camp 2010, and we’re kicking things off at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia. Last week, we spent every day working through “practice camp” with the LiFT staff at Boyce College in Louisville, KY, where we held worship services, played games, listened to challenging messages and received other training in areas of sharing the gospel, praying with students, CPR, etc.
At this exact moment, however, we’re at Ridgeview Baptist Church in Stuarts Draft, VA. They’re sending over forty kids to LiFT camp this week, and in a sense, this is like a pre-LiFT kick-off. However, this church has a very wide range of ages, and particularly a larger group of the “gracefully aged”.

I'm the sound guy on my HeartSong team, and I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I consider my role in this team to be one of the most challenging. No matter what church or camp or youth group we have the honor to spend our time, the music we play and the message we bring doesn’t change at all. What changes considerably is how I react within the churches and camps and youth groups. It takes considerable flexibility, because every place we go has a different musical background (and often it goes deeper than that, even as a part of their doctrine).
(Please understand, I consider this very positive. I believe that these people and churches have their various preferences because that’s what enables them to worship more freely. A fellow I met last weekend told me he loves the music so loud that he can’t hear himself singing; this way he can shout out to God and not worry about anybody hearing how “bad” he sings. And for the record, that’s how I like it, too.)

But let’s return to now, here at Ridgeview Baptist Church. Many of these people grew up in churches with an organ and a piano, with hymnals and a minister of music directing the choir and the congregation both. “It Is Well”, “I Need Thee Every Hour”, “Nothing but the Blood”, “Be Thou My Vision”; these and many others are the hymns they know and the cry of their hearts to God. These are the hymns of their generation.
Today, perhaps thirty or forty (or sixty or eighty) years since those hymnals and pews were new and those organ pipes rang their first sonorous notes, when everything else has changed in house and culture and church, these people fight for the hymns they grew up singing. They fight for the hymns of their youth.
And so, in churches like Ridgeview, there are some people who contest the use of drums, dislike the bass guitar and even cringe at the electric. They still long for the four-part, Southern-gospel harmonies and familiar melodies bursting with important theological truths and sound doctrine.
It’s vital that we remember this; as youth, as a team and individually; as a musician or a sound guy. That’s why, in churches like this, I keep the drums and bass turned down, and make sure those vocal harmonies sound as tight as possible. That’s why, in churches like this, we find joy in songs like “Jesus Paid It All” and “Before the Throne”. That’s why, in churches like this, we strive to show people that the love of Christ is strong in everything we do, so that even if they don’t like the style of music, they can see the power of our incredible God and the truth of his word through us and through the words we sing.

I overheard the pastor at Ridgeview discussing this idea with a member of the church. (That’s what prompted me to write, after all.) The songs we sing, these are the hymns of OUR generation. Perhaps, as the pastor speculated, we will fight for these songs forty years from now. Perhaps, when house and culture and church have changed all around us, we will still cling to these “hymns of our generation”. The music is different, but the words are as powerful and as true as any other hymn we could sing. And perhaps, forty years from now, we can remain open to music and welcome a new generation as they sing new hymns of worship to a constant God.

And as I finish this post, I feel the need to pose a question. Hayden, Tommy and I stayed with a wonderful fellow and his wife, both divorced and remarried, with kids of their own. He asked for our stories; our journey in faith and in coming to know Christ. Then he posed this incredible question: What drives you?
As young adults, away from our parents and our parents’ faith, what compels us to remain faithful? So, what is it? What drives us?

What drives you?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Disassociation and Relocation

Music is often touted as one of the most powerful methods of communicating, whether it's a message or an emotion or something entirely different. It's quite interesting, too, how many memories can be associated with music: come across an old song on the radio or just browsing through iTunes, and suddenly memories from five years ago come streaming back strong enough to put me there.

Normally that's awesome. I'll just jump into the antithesis you're probably now expecting. I heard a lot of really awesome music this past year, especially this past summer. Some of it, especially the song "Fireflies", I really got into before it hit mainstream popularity. Now it's right in the middle of its huge wave (not to mention a few other songs, heard and now played similarly frequently all around me, out of my control). All of the memories associated with such songs have turned to some of the most painful and bitter heartbreak. When those songs come across the radio or are played by a neighboring room in the dorm or a store I'm in or any other place I can't avoid it, these memories stream in as strong as ever, accompanied by the pain of broken hopes.

I started to wonder, with the seeming unavoidability (new word?) of these songs, can I force new memories upon them? Even if I never fully enjoy them like I used to, this would at least keep them from sending my mind to thoughts that buoy depression. Well, I'm trying. It's my goal to re-associate the song "Fireflies" with new memories of winter; a chill in the air, a cloudless, starry night, driving fast on back roads and rocking out loud by myself.

I just read a brief study that says emotional memories are rendered vulnerable to change each time they are retrieved. I need to know it's possible.

I need to know I can stop this, even if I can't erase it altogether.