We're all gonna die.

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I often find myself writing about things I am only vaguely coming to an understanding of, but feel as if I have been given some sort of clue to deeper understanding that I would like to share/pursue.

So if you like easy answers, my writing might not be for you. If you like going on adventures, following clues, and being unsure of where you may end up, you might enjoy this.

Each week I have the privilege of getting to stay home on Thursdays with our little daughter Eliana. Yesterday, as I was putting her to sleep I had the new Sufjan Stevens album playing on Spotify. The whole album has a restrained, gentle and introspective tone to it. The album is about his mother and step-father "Carrie and Lowell" and is incredibly beautiful.

From what I have gathered, Carrie left the family when Sufjan was one and only had intermittent contact with Sufjan throughout his life. Carrie suffered with depression, schizophrenia, and alcoholism. In 2012 she passed away from stomach cancer.

I love searching for meaning behind lyrics and his song, "Fourth of July" kept sticking out to me as important. It was moving to me emotionally even before I understood a bit of the backstory.

Here are the lyrics:

The evil it spread like a fever ahead
It was night when you died, my firefly
What could I have said to raise you from the dead?
Oh could I be the sky on the Fourth of July?

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

Sitting at the bed with the halo at your head
Was it all a disguise, like Junior High
Where everything was fiction, future, and prediction
Now, where am I? My fading supply

Did you get enough love, my little dove
Why do you cry?
And I’m sorry I left, but it was for the best
Though it never felt right
My little Versailles

The hospital asked should the body be cast
Before I say goodbye, my star in the sky
Such a funny thought to wrap you up in cloth
Do you find it all right, my dragonfly?

Shall we look at the moon, my little loon
Why do you cry?
Make the most of your life, while it is rife
While it is light

Well you do enough talk
My little hawk, why do you cry?
Tell me what did you learn from the Tillamook burn?
Or the Fourth of July?
We’re all gonna die

Carrie and Lowell

You can find a detailed breakdown of the song here and listen to it here. But the gist of it is, Sufjan and his mother talking back and forth as she is coming to the end of her life.

After I read the lyrics and meaning behind them, I listened to the song again.

As I held my little one in my arms asleep, I began to weep. (It was awkward when the pest treatment guy came in the middle of my weepfest and I had to quickly wipe my eyes and answer the door.) The tender and heartbreaking lyrics between a mother and son awakened a beautiful sorrow and empathy in my soul. It made me want to love Eliana better. It made me want to look for the best in others, knowing that each of us have been through much more than others will ever know. It made me remember that life is hard, short, unpredictable and beautiful.

So often in our world and in our churches, we would much rather numb ourselves to the reality of sorrow and brokenness. As long as we stay busy enough, connected on social media, doing good things and generally having a positive outlook we can insulate ourselves from actually experiencing this important emotion of sorrow.

I'm not the first to say this, but we need to create space in our lives and church liturgy to experience the full range of emotions. 

Having experienced this vivid spectrum of emotional pain, we grow naturally aware of, and sympathetic to, the plight and pain of others.” -
— Psychiatrist Larry Cullford Sorrow: A Valuable Emotion

The Bible talks of Jesus as the "Man of Sorrows": 

He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.
— Isaiah 53:3

Maybe this is why Jesus was so influential in the lives of the people he came in contact with. He personally felt the deepest pain and grief and could identify and empathize with the pain and grief of others.

I am no expert at this. In fact I can be quite cold and un-empathetic at times. But I do have moments where I feel this sorrow and empathy flash strongly in my life and I want it to be something that I cultivate more often.

Thank you Sufjan for inviting us into the deep pain you have experienced. I have personally benefited from your lyrics greatly and hope others feel the same way about your recent album.

May we not be afraid of sorrow but embrace these dark moments in our lives so that we can love one another better and experience the full spectrum of life that is available to each of us. Let us not settle for a dulled down, gray-scale existence but embrace the beauty that is found in the vibrant colors of our emotions.

Take a moment today to read the words of the song and listen with an open heart. I pray you are touched by sorrow and moved toward empathy for others.

And make the most of your life, while it is rife.

We're all gonna die.

 

 

 

 

 

Wormholes, Shia Labeouf & Metamodernism

How many times has this happened to you?

You intend to quickly look up one thing on the internet and then 2 hours later you are like…“Whoa...where am I?” Maybe you started out looking for some information on a current political event and then BOOM...5 clicks down the Youtube wormhole and you’re trying to figure out which celebrities have Illuminati ties? You know you have much better things to do with your time, but at the moment this search seems SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT. Who else is going to uncover and expose the dark secrets of the universe if you don’t do it!!??

Well, one day I found myself in a Shia Labeouf wormhole. And despite “Transformers” and “Indiana Jones”, I have always liked Shia. Ever since my times watching “Even Stevens” with my younger brother I have always thought he was a sincere and funny person.

So my wormhole started with this article where Shia apparently has joined team Jesus.

http://www.interviewmagazine.com/film/shia-labeouf

“I found God doing Fury. I became a Christian man, and not in a f***ing bulls**t way—in a very real way. I could have just said the prayers that were on the page. But it was a real thing that really saved me. And you can't identify unless you're really going through it. It's a full-blown exchange of heart, a surrender of control.” 

Awesome. I was pretty stoked that he seemed to be interested in following Jesus. Maybe we could have him at Catalyst next year instead of Si from Duck Dynasty.

Then, it went to this amazing and hilarious piece of art:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0u4M6vppCI

THEN...I got to watching a bunch of interviews, did some research on his #IAMSORRY project and his interest in “metamodernism.” Although he has been all over the map lately, has had some trouble with the law, and has used some unconventional antics around the idea of performance art/method acting, I get the feeling that he sincerely cares about his craft and is trying to make a statement with his work.

All this to say, my wormhole led me to an exploration of the concept of “metamodernism” and how it may relate to faith.

Wikipedia gives a general definition of metamodernism as, a set of developments in philosophy, aesthetics, and culture which are emerging from and reacting to postmodernism with mediations between aspects of both modernism and postmodernism.”

What interested me about this concept is that I have never felt quite comfortable with the idealism and certainty of modernism, but at the same time I have never felt quite like I fit the postmodern mold that typically embodies, doubt and deconstruction. Maybe this could be a blend of both?

In metamodernism, the word “Meta” actually comes from Plato’s “metaxy” that denotes, “movement between opposite poles but also beyond them.”  The poles in this case being modernism and postmodernism. Metamodernism gives space for someone like myself who may at times sincerely believe that a better future is possible, while also knowing that each time we strive for the future there will inevitably be mistakes, failures and necessary critique.

Seth Abramson from the Huffington Post writes that:

“Metamodernism seeks to collapse distances, especially the distance between things that seem to be opposites, to recreate a sense of wholeness that allows us to -- in the lay sense -- transcend our environment and move forward with the aim of creating positive change in our communities and the world.”

You can see the embrace of this concept playing out in one of my favorite shows, “Parks and Recreation.”  We are constantly moved back and forth between characters and their ideologies but never fully embracing or discrediting their stances.  You have the optimism and naivete of government embodied in Leslie Knope and the deconstruction and pessimism of government embodied in Ron Swanson.  Both are awesome, both are flawed and the show constantly goes back and forth between them.  You could go through most of the characters in this way.  Andy (sincere) and April (cynical) are another great example.  I’m not sure how Jean Ralphio or Lil Sebastion fit in but both are amazing nonetheless.

Perhaps the idea of metamoderism makes room for people like myself who sincerely follow Christ, love the Church and believe that we can in some way help bring a better future, while at the same time accounting for our human nature that inevitably get things wrong.

One of my main pushbacks to metamodernism is the word “oscillation” or movement back and forth between.  I think this could lead to a bit of a schizophrenic faith or life that is constantly jumping from one idea or concept to the next but never finding contentment in where you stand. I don’t really think that we have to constantly swing back and forth but can actually embody our faith and doubts together, grace and works, construction and deconstruction.  Maybe we can call this postmetamodernism or post-post-postmoderism. :)

I am glad to see that people are looking to find ways to transcend both modernism and postmodernism. I have always felt that the post-modern culture especially is one that is tough for the Church to operate in and I think the metamodern sensibility allows for more hope, faith and sincere love.

Maybe Shia has found faith in a real way and will continue in his quest to follow Jesus or maybe it is just a metamodern oscillation that he will swing away from. Either way, I find his search for truth to be of interest.

If you are like me and think this may be an important topic in regards to philosophy and faith, check out these resources that will do much better at explaining this concept than my tiny blog post.

Into the wormhole we go!

http://www.metamodernism.org/

http://www.metamodernism.com/

http://thecampaignbook.com/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/metamodernism-the-basics_b_5973184.html

 

Love the Hell Out of 'Em.

Recently I was at Portico with a friend, discussing whatever comes to mind over a cup of coffee.  We almost always say, "45 minutes and no more" but it always ends up being 2-3 hours.  We jump from topics such as marriage, design, fishing, theology and dream together about the future that God might be calling us too.

And always lots and lots of laughing.

I have never been very fond of what we have traditionally thought of as accountability in Christian circles.  First off, they all seem to revolve around the topic of lust.  Don't get me wrong, I think we should have people in our lives that make sure we are dealing with temptation and sin and making life giving choices.  I just think that keeping someone accountable to living the life of freedom that God is calling them too looks much broader than just one subject. 

I've also noticed that there is a similar occurrence in marriage.  Holding someone to "account" for their mistakes and frequently bringing up areas where your partner is "falling short" of what you want is a recipe for failure.  Most of the time people don't need told what they are doing wrong, they just need love, encouragement and a listening ear.

I think we get the process backwards at times. We want to "speak truth" to others, but if we haven't invested the love and encouragement they need to be able to hear these challenges it will typically fall on deaf ears.

As I was walking to my car after coffee with my friend a funny phrase came to mind.  I thought to myself, "I love the hell out of that guy."  I'm not sure why this phrase exactly came to mind but it made me think...maybe that is what true friendship and even discipleship looks like.  Each of us loving the "hell" out of one another.

Hell being the evil, torment, frustration, deadness and misery that each of us want out of our lives.  I just don't think we are going to account each other into living "freely and lightly" (Matt. 11:30 MSG). I think it is going to take a much greater force than accountability and nothing less than love will do.

Go love the hell out of friends, family and even enemies today!

Black and White

As an introvert, I have a rich inner world.  One swirling with thoughts, emotions, dreams, angst, joy, depth and a side of weird.  But unfortunately at times it just gets bottled up inside me.  Especially my frustrations and fears.  Maybe I think it's more noble of me to keep them inside, to not spill my issues on other people.  But I'm finding that it makes me anxious and physically tense. 

So as I finished up a run the other night, I sat down on a bench and decided to text my emotions to my wife Hillary.  I didn't actually know if it would be helpful.  I figured I'd try it and then if it didn't work, I'd just cross that idea off the list. 

Here is an excerpt of the stream of text's I sent.  I left out some of the more raw ones. (I'm authentic, not transparent people!):

 

I have anxiety about lots of things
My health
My finances
My dreams
my potential
my relationships
all the people who watch me
God
Faith
Reading enough
Processing enough
Be Kind
Be Nice
Where are your priorities
Am I a good enough Christ follower
What if I died in a car crash
What if someone in my family dies?
where do I stand on the issues
dont disappoint people
people need you
Run
Hide
You cant hide
maybe you should do yoga
PRESSURE
text, email, alert, notification
Breathe

Well to my surprise, as I fired off about 100 text messages to her about my various fears, weaknesses and thoughts, something happened.  I felt lighter.  I felt physically less tense.  I felt more relaxed and at peace.

There was like a 100/2 ratio of my texts to hers but it didn't matter.  The act of just sharing with her and being heard released something healthy inside me.

I'm learning right now that God didn't create me to just "have" emotions, (Ex. tearing up watching American Ninja warrior when the oldest competitor ever makes it to the finals) he wants me to share them with others.

I wonder if many of you, especially my introvert friends have a large and teeming inner life of emotions but they just don't always make their way to other people.  And while I actually am grateful for social media, that it is a place where I can share pieces of myself (albeit edited) to the world, I want to do this more often in all of my relationships.

So, I am writing someone I love each week to really express my deep emotions/ thoughts toward them and I have really enjoyed it.  I am also going to ask my friends if they just want to begin texting each other what emotions they are feeling just as an experiment to see if it has a similar healthy effect.

I feel like not accessing your emotional life is like living in black and white when there is so much color and beauty and depth to be experienced.  Let's not settle for black and white.

Maybe you have a few friends you would like to try this with.  Give it a shot this week.

Good luck!

Good // God

It has been shown that there is a 75 percent cringe to encouragement ratio when it comes to church signs.  This stat is a complete lie but I think I have found it to be true in my experience.

Most of these sign's aren't helpful.  Here are a few cringeworthy examples: 

                                   At least their honest I guess?

                                   At least their honest I guess?

                                               Nope.  This doesn't make you relevant. 

                                               Nope.  This doesn't make you relevant. 

                                        Ummmm...you might want to be a tad more specific

                                        Ummmm...you might want to be a tad more specific

Wow! Tell us how you really feel.  Also is this for both males and females cause if so...I'm in trouble.

Wow! Tell us how you really feel.  Also is this for both males and females cause if so...I'm in trouble.

There are like, 1,000,00 more hilarious ones that I could have posted but most of them are so laced with sexual innuendos I will have to leave it up to you to read them for yourself.

Anyway, I was riding my bike the other day and passed a church sign near my home.  It read, "There is a vast difference between being good and being Godly."  At first it didn't really mean much to me but then I started thinking more about it and I was all like, "Hey, wait, I'm not so sure that makes sense!?" 

If I'm reading my Bible correctly in Genesis, LITERALLY on the 1st page God begins making creation and after each day he makes something he declares it "Good."  UHHHHH GOD.......I think you meant GODLY!  Cause apparently there is a vast difference between what is good and what is "Godly."

I just got back from a beautiful conference called "Q" where we discussed how we can partner in all areas of the world (education, media, business, arts, church, social justice, government) to work together for the common GOOD.

I think I'm getting tired of watching people slap the tag of "Godly" or "Christian" on things that aren't even good.  Crappy music, bad art, unhealthy churches, shoddy work, "christian" politicians, etc.  

I sometimes find myself drawn more to God through a beautiful song than "christian" one.  I find myself in awe of God's beauty when I am in a well designed space not just a church building.  I am moved emotionally when a person does a sacrificial act of love even through they might not claim to follow Jesus.

I think the reason for this is because these things are Good.  God is love and if love is displayed it has to have some root in Him.  God created beauty and sound and if there is something beautiful or pleasing to the ear there must be a hint of God in it.

I understand that as a follower of Christ I am to do everything to the glory of God, but I don't think that means I have to put a "Christian" label on everything I do.  I can just do Good, which might include a whole range of things in my day, and know that if Good was Good enough for God, it might just be Good enough for me.

 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  Ecclesiastes 3:12