Saturday, January 31, 2004
I don’t know about you guys, but I find that after a really good concert/show, it takes me a while to wind down. I specifically remember this happening the first time when I saw a Jars of Clay show when I was 14, back when I really loved them. I think its got something to do with the art of songwriting, of writing in general, that just gives me a buzz. My favorite musicians/songwriters are those that can hit me lyrically: Derek Webb, Aaron Tate, Rich Mullins, Sandra McCracken, Patty Griffin, Adam Duritz, Don and Lori Chaffer, just to name a few. So after these shows, or even sometimes after hearing an album, new or old, I feel all…writery. Though I’m not sure if the use of the word “writery” now excludes me from the world of writing….
The problem is, of course….well okay, there are two problems here.
One: Shows tend to be at night. This means I get home past 11. This means that I really really should be getting to bed instead of staying up and doing all sorts of nonsense (like writing blog posts, for example). Though a strong argument could be made that most of the best writing happens after midnight. (See: Adam Duritz.)
Two: Well now I’ve gone and forgotten what number two is. It was really smart and clever when I thought of it though, I promise. OH HEY now I remember.
Number two is that I just find myself with too much on my brain. I want to write about this and then that and so I can’t decide what to concentrate on, but then I know that I REALLY MUST go to bed soon, so Mic, let’s get crackin here, we’ve got to pick something.
Of course I have these problems relatively often, not just after shows.
Anyway, I’d just like to tell you all how incredible the Derek Webb and Sandra McCracken show was tonight. I’m still slightly flabbergasted that they were even able to come to Scotland at all. Plus, the venue – Acoustic Café – was really sweet. Small, packed out, and well-lit. That’s all I ask for in a venue. (Well that and a good musican on stage.) The last time I saw them was in summer of 2000, at Everyone’s Festival in Kansas City, the day they got engaged. And yes, they were MY friends (Justin and Todd) who were wearing the white tees: “Derek: Go Solo!” That was when Derek was still with Caedmons, but he played that show mostly solo, with Sandra then. It was great. But not as amazing as tonite was.
The set list was pretty frickin incredible, I gotta say. (I posted it on both derekwebb.com, and rocksmyfaceoff.net, for interested parties. Yes, I’m a big enough dork to have written down the set list.) I was happy to hear him start off with Faith My Eyes, which has been a bit of a theme song for me in the last few months, wrestling with here vs. home. I may write another blog about that song later on. But I gotta say, the highlight of the evening was Sandra singing Age After Age.
She explained that it’s a bit of an interweaving of 4 stories….
Growing up in St Louis (God bless Missouri girls…) she was told a folk tale of two brothers. These brothers would play down at the banks of the Mississippi, which often floods its banks. One day they were playing in this sandy part of the banks, and the water broke the levy, turning the ground beneath them to quicksand. When the townspeople realized the boys were missing, they went to find them. When they got to the river, they found the younger brother, up to his chin, in the quicksand. When they asked him where his older brother was, he said: “I’m standing on his shoulders.”
The other verses deal with the Trail of Tears, the Reformation, and September 11th. The entire song was incredibly powerful – it literally brought tears to my eyes. If you get a chance to hear her play it live…you’re blessed. The song is actually recorded for her next album (which will be released once it finds a happy label home, apparently), so it will eventually be available. Until then, I’ll leave you with the lyrics, for tonite.
Age After Age
by Sandra McCracken
On the edge of the river,
the mighty Mississippi
two boys spent their summer
on the banks by the levy
When the waters broke and burst the dam
they were swallowed in a wave of sand
They pulled the younger one out by the hand...
standing on his brother`s shoulders
One nation under God,
young and proud She stumbled
with a trail of tears,
left by those who were outnumbered
She said, "This land is your land, this land is mine,
Unless you are an Indian"
But a higher ground we have tried to find
Standing on their shoulders.
Age after age, of heros and soldiers
it gives me sight and makes me brave
Standing on their shoulders.
One man in the shadows
of the white-washed cathedrals
he tried to pull the system
through the eye of the needle
To his conscience bound he would not recant
for the freedom of the Saints
and truth is truth is truth
and we are standing on his shoulders...
Age after age, of heros and soldiers
it gives me sight and makes me brave
Standing on their shoulders.
To the ones left behind
who are picking up the pieces
of planes, bombs, and buildings,
of innocence and evil
`Cause when the news and noise and flowers die,
and you still sleep alone
There is a God who knows every tear you cry
and this world is on his shoulders
Age after age, of heros and soldiers
Why am I so slow to change
when I am standing on their shoulders?
Friday, January 30, 2004
So the last 2 days have been spent either in bed or on this loveseat, hardly moving. No, its probably not what you're thinking : I am, in fact, sick. Now, I've had this laptop going most of the time, but I find myself just reading random crap ("Hasselhoff claims he had hand in Berlin Wall falling..."), along with some good stuff (catching up on college reading) and taking in a few movies (Sliding Doors, Mask of Zorro, Meet the Parents). This is, of course, accompanied by frequent sneezes and The Blowing Of The Nose, and umpteen cups of tea and Lemsip.
All this is to say that I've not really had the brain power to do a good post. I apologize profusely. I keep thinking up good things to write, and then I think I lose it the next time I sneeze. Its a shame, really.
But here's a thought for you all, discuss if you wish: Why is it that the beginnings of a new relationship make one feel like they're 14? I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. I mean it in the sense that you feel...well, slightly moronic. All giddy and ridiculous.....that same feeling you got when you made slight changes to your usual route to gym class in order to pass by So-And-So's locker in the hallway. Maybe its just me, but no one ever told me when I was 14, that those last til you get married...which could very well be forever away. Heck, no one told me that when I was 22. I remember thinking, when I was in jr high and high school, how grown up people in their 20's were, and how mature they seemed. Then I get there and sometimes I feel no more "grown up" than I did when I was 14...except I'm not as skinny anymore, which is a pretty crap deal.
Then of course I have to go grocery shopping or do laundry or something, and I'm forced to "grow-up" again....
Just a thought.
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Happy Day-After-Australia Day....
I don't really understand why so many of you keep coming back to read this page. I mean, I love you guys and all (some more than others of course), and I appreciate it IMMENSELY. I just don't understand it.
All I did was work today, so there's nothing much to relay to you all, except the snow on the hills are stunning, and the moon was bigger than I've seen it in a long time tonite.
To reward those of you with fine musical tastes, I make two recommendations:
1) "August and Everything After" -the song, not the album- by Counting Crows. Much to the shock and awe of the entire CC fan community, Adam and the guys played the legendary A&EA FINALLY at a show in December. Its a very good song, as usual. You guys can find a great bootleg (totally legal - the allow taping at shows) of the song at www.annabegins.com. ...
2) If you guys haven't heard of Buddy and Julie Miller....well....you should. I personally don't own a CD of theirs yet, but not for want of trying. You're welcome to an MP3 of "That's Just How She Cries" at the Paste Music site, here. While you're at it, take a wander around the Paste site. That site, along with their magazine, is fantastic.
Have a good Tuesday....
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Long Way Away
On my way to pick up the Derek Webb tickets today from the shop, I took Princes Street up Frederick Street. On Frederick Street I passed a girl with a sweatshirt on: "UMKC Dentistry". I was SHOCKED. By the time I saw her I had about 2.4 seconds to decide what to do.
1) Get really excited. Stop her in the busy street and ask if she was actually from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, if she was from Kansas City. Proceed to tell her I am from Kansas City. Wait until she gets excited, and then wants to give me money or something.
2) Casually stop her, ask if she's from UMKC. Pretend like its not as bizarre as it is, to find her walking on the street in Scotland. Tell her to have a nice day, and I hope the dentistry goes well.
3) Give her massive hug, pretend like been best friends for life. Wait til she gives me money.
Fourtunately, by the time I considered my options, she'd passed.
Later that night, I went to see the Riding Lights Theatre Company do a performance of Science Friction. There, I ran into the wife of Tim Frew, who was a previous youthwork coordinator - my job - for the Youth Project. (Tim was there too - we ended up meeting a bit later.) She asked where I was from, and I told her Kansas City, not expecting her to know where that was (most Scots don't). Turns out her dad is a professor there at the Nazerene Theological Seminary.
It is a crazy-small world.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Early nights in? Always welcome, rarely enjoyed.
On Thursday, however, it was Day of Prayer at college. This means we're done at 4pm instead of 5pm. (Apparently that extra hour of prayer just pushes us all "over the edge". Or something. I don't know.) This means that I can take a little time on my way home. But it had nothing to do with the fact that I had to wait for the bus home.
So in waiting for the bus home, I decide to browse the magazines at the WH Smith in the bus station. I come across a Q Magazine special edition: The 1001 Best Songs Ever. I briefly considered buying it until I saw it was almost 4 pounds. So instead, I just flip through the pages.
The first page I opened to was somewhere around 500 or so. It was the song "Bring Me To Life", by Evanescence. With each of these songs, an small band/song bio was included. Q had no problems labeling Evanescence a Christian band, and opened the bio with this statement:
"Christianity rarely sounds muscular, rarely spins heads like the anti-Linda Blair, and rarely makes you believe."
I was so flabbergasted at this line - in Q Magazine, of all places - that I crouched down in the aisle, pulled out my notebook, oddly balanced it on my knee while I scribbled the words down. (My exact thoughts: "This would be great for a blog entry." I won't deny. It's the truth.)
But you know what? I think it's true.
The argument, of course, reads as such: "Well of course *real* Christianity is muscular. They just aren't seeing it." Well I probably agree with that statement as well. Except maybe they aren't seeing it, because we aren't exemplifying it. I think real Christianity is meant to be muscular, is meant to spin heads, is meant to be so attractive that it makes one believe. I think that Jesus was muscular. In physique, well, probably not much more than your average bloke of the time. The Bible is pretty clear that he was quite average to look at. But he did his share of table turning in the temples. (T...T...Totally.) He was a figure powerful enough at the time that folks wanted him dead. The early church was explosive. Almost all of the apostles/early church leaders were killed because of the threat they - the church - posed to the status quo of the day. It all seems a bit of a foreign idea to those of us in our comfortable western chuches.
I just find it sad that we've lost that. Society sees the church as old ladies in pews, bake sales and choirs, deserted buildings and boring sermons.
How much more effective would we be in ministry if we were explosive about our faith?
P.S. I've made a few changes to the blog, including some quotes and links. Please don't hate me if I took your link off or didn't add yours this time. It doesn't mean I don't like you.
Thursday, January 22, 2004
This is fun times.
My example----> :) Oh yes.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Do you want to hear these stories…
Of love and our mistakes…
(Standing in the aftermath of Grace)
“And I will not do all this in one year, because the land would become a wilderness, and the wild animals would become too many to control. I will drive them out a little at a time, until your population has increased enough to fill the land”. (Ex. 23:29-30)
“And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us." (Heb 12:1)
“Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.” (Heb 10:36)
So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
You know, it was really really hard to come back to Scotland….again. It’s the second time I’ve done all this, as most of you know – I go away, and I don’t want to come back, so that must be telling me something….
I’ve been pleasantly surprised this week, by all that God has been blessing me with. Nothing huge, mind you. But sometimes a lot of little things can start to really make a difference: someone taking the time to listen to me vent, going out to the pub with friends, having a good night at work. More and more I’m feelings supported and encouraged – maybe not from the sources I would expect, or feel *need* to be supportive at least, but from encouraged almost directly by God, through small moments.
I’m not saying I really WANT to, but I think God is trying to encourage me to stay. And by stay, I mean next year too. Even though it seems like forever.
I recently bought a book called “Your First Two Years of Youth Ministry”, by Doug Fields. (Doug is the youth minister at Saddleback Church in California.) Chapter Two deals directly with discouragement. Doug makes a very good point: discouragement is usually very selfish. Its all about ME. *I* am not feeling very supported. *I* am not having a good time here. *I* don’t want to be here because its no fun and I feel like I’m hitting my head against a wall repeatedly til my eyeballs fall out. (Those aren’t quotes from the book, by the way.) And some of those feelings are valid – I certainly do need support, for example. And as much as I’d rather give up the ghost and go elsewhere, I do feel God calling me to youth ministry. And yes, it may not be fun right now. In fact, it might not be any fun at all for the entire time I’m here. But what I forgot is that this is a time of learning. I may not like some – or even most – of the youth ministry classes (Sorry Cat – don’t tell Neil…), but the Real Life here is preparing me for most any future ministry God has called me to, even writing.
See, the bigger issue here is not discouragement anymore, as much as it is discontentment.
God has placed me here. And God is not deaf to my very valid hurts here, I know that. But its also just for a season – and a relatively short one at that. If I left, my motives might be valid, but I think they would also be selfish. Beyond that, I think the deeper root of the matter is that I do not trust God enough to sustain me. I am too obsessed with my own comfort, and I forget what it means to participate in the sufferings of Christ. And there is a reason they are called sufferings – the don’t always feel good. In fact, they never do. And things might not feel very nice for a VERY long time. Much greater men and women of God than I have spent decades in the valleys, sometimes without much to show for it, or even any answers as to why.
Life is good. I have a God who adores me with a love beyond my imagination, and a compassion for me that I don’t even understand. I should be more than willing to commit to what he has in store for me here, the good the bad and the ugly.
If you want to survive, pursue being content with where God has you and the gifts you’ve been given. Stop looking over your fence into your neighbours yard, and thank God he’s using you where he has you. You’ve heard the adage “The grass is greener on the other side”? The truth is, the grass is greener where it’s watered. So start watering your own grass.” – Doug Fields
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Marian on Lothian Road
My busyness has somewhat continued today, but for good reason, not just work. (Not that work isn't a good reason.) But today Marian and I went to see "Lost In Translation". I definitely enjoyed it. Its more a character study than a story, which I was totally fine with. In some ways, I prefer that at times...."Hey Nostradamus", a book by Douglas Coupland does a similar thing. The cinematography and the music were really well-used as well. Plus, because it was character driven, incredible acting is demanded, and I thought the performances were great. I'm a huge fan of Bill Murray, and I was excited to see him in something good again.
And for anyone who has spent any time in Asia, the eye on Asian culture (Japanese in this case) is facinating...and really really funny.
All in all, I recommend it.
I also have to recommend The Cameo. From my flat, I have two amazing movie theatres in a 5 minute radius: one is the Dominion, which I think I've mentioned, and the other is the Cameo. Both are old theatres with loads of character to spare, but the Cameo shows are generally more indie and foreign films....along with Sunday double matinees of old movies. My kind of place.
The rest of the night Marian and I just hung out. We started off at Starbucks, wandered around for a while, then ended up at The Office, one of the pubs down Lothian Road. Fun times, good friends, all that jazz.....
Marian will kill me for posting that picture, too.
Oh well. ;)
Saturday, January 17, 2004
What I want to know is..... who's going to send them?
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Danger: High Voltage.
I literally haven't had much more than a moment to breathe, since I stepped off the plane here in Edinburgh.
I got here on Monday around noon. I'd not slept for almost 48 hours so decided I better get on that. Unfourtunately, I was asked to work that night. I did so, then had uni yesterday. I was so tired after I got home from uni at 7, that I fell straight to sleep. I woke up starving at 11 or so, ate some food, sent an email or two, then went straight back to bed. And today I've been working all day, partially on that late paper due tommorrow morning, so I'll probably be up late doing that too.
The good news is that after uni tommorrow I get a break. I'm not sure if I have to work the youth cafe on Friday night (but I suspect I will), but other than that, I get the weekend off. I shall be spending Friday catching up on life: unpacking (I've not yet done that....so for now I unpack as I'm finding that I need things), making much-needed dental and doctor appointments, some general tidying around the flat, and maybe even catching you people up here on the blog. I know I've been terrible at updating as of late. I find it odd that I post mostly on the weekends (at least, when I'm here in Scotland), yet my hits drop considerably over the weekends, and shoot up again mid-week.
You know you're all just wasting time at work. Shame on you!
And I'm very, very tired. I could fall asleep right this minute.
I won't though.
Sunday, January 11, 2004
I fly back to Scotland in about 6 hours. I'm sad and not really looking forward to it, and feeling way way in over my head with stress...and I'm not even BACK there yet!
Honestly, I'm really really really trying to be positive about all this, seize the moment and things but its just extremely hard to do at this point.
Friday, January 09, 2004
Ode to Del Taco.
You know, sometimes, your farts are just way funkier than other days.
Today is one of those days.
Sunday, January 04, 2004
Yesterday, my family and I visited the U.S.S. Lexington, docked on Corpus Christi Beach, right next to our hotel. "The Lex" as it is known was decommissioned in 1991, after serving heavily in WWII, and in wars following, and a stint as a set for the movie "Pearl Harbor". In '92 it was brought to CC, and refurbished as a museum. I must say, that thing is well worth the entrance fee - it was quite possibly my favorite part of our little Southwest trip. Course, I'm a bit of a fan of ships anyway ("See that? I can splice a wire like that, no problem!", "Hey, we used the same fire hose nozzles!"...Yes, I'm a dork...), so that could have something to do with it too.
But by far, my favorite part of the visit was Earl.
We met Earl in the Engine Room. The Lexington hold a good number of both employees and volunteers, many of whom actually served aboard "The Lex" in her prime.
Earl stood, all alone, beneath the only fan in the Engine Room. It wasn't stifling - it was only January 2nd - but its definitely south Texas. We were the only ones down there at first, so he seemed happy to see us. I made some comment about how it must be pretty hot down there without a fan. "Yes, as a matter of fact, the bigger fans, they used to have down here....well their engines blew and it was a warm two weeks before they finally installed the smaller one...Sometimes the airconditioning drops down a little from the upper deck though....its not so bad...."
He asked if any of us had been in the Navy, or military - somehow my piddly little 18 months chipping rust on the MV Rustbucket didn't really seem to compare, so I just shook my head no. Dave said he used to be in the Army, and kept looking at the surrounding maps. Personally, I was more interested in Earl.
Earl wore the yellow shirt of a Lex volunteer, but instead of a volunteers hat, he wore a US Marine Corps Veteran hat. Earl was no less that really old - but was still plugging along. He had a large, WC Fields nose, a roadmap of pores and veins, as do most old men over the age of 75. He had small, sad eyes, blurred by cateracts.
Earl told us some of the basic information about how the engine room works, and about the 4 steam-powered props, and all he'd been told to say. But he kept inserting personal information, and it became more and more obvious that this man had more to say about wars than simply how large the ship propellers were.
He mentioned about the Lexington's service in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and added: "I was at Iwo Jima..." I figured this was my chance.
"So, did you serve onboard here?"
"Oh, no no...I was a Marine. This here is a Navy carrier."
"What did you do there, then?
By this time, we'd lost my brother and stepdad. Mom was only about half interested. I maintained eye contact. I wondered how many people waited and wanted to listen to his stories, rather than just hearing the script.
"Oh. Um, see...I was an amphibious landing craft driver...We took the men from the ships to the shore in waves...then we'd go back for more...wave 5....wave 10....15....20...It was a tough fight. We lost a lot of men. But we took that island."
Earl's already blurred eyes were starting to well up with tears.
"I lost 6 friends.... Six good friends that day....."
"...I'm sorry..." I said, mad at myself for being unable to find words that truly expressed my sympathy.
"Well...yeah...." He blinked the tears away, ever the man.
"We weren't hurt though," he continued, "...at least, not badly. I mean, we were, but....you see, on the beach, there's a lot of coral, see...and now, when a bomb or grenade-any explosion-happens in water, it shoots directly up, see, because it can't go in any other direction...well, one landed just behind us, a grenade, and threw us forward onto that coral. Weren't bad though, got scraped up a bit" - at this point, he motions towards his wrists and forearms- "but we got out okay..."
Earl and I stood and chatted for a while - him doing most of the chatting, really. Earl is 79 years old and his wife is 80. In the winter, they move down here with their RV, from Michigan. After the war, he went to Michigan State University (our big connection point being that I used to live in East Lansing when I was young), which was one of only two colleges in the country at the time which offered uni-level training for the police. ("We had to take classes in the cookery building - we'd be smellin chickens, you know!") He was a policeman in Michigan til 1989, when he retired, and started coming down to Texas in the winter months. This will probably be the last year he'll be going back to Michigan - too much hassle to keep up with the property up there, so he and the wife are probably going to move down to Texas for good, where Earl can keep up his volunteering.
By this time, my family was long gone ahead to the other exhibits. As we talked, at least 20 people came and went, never stopping to hear what he was saying. I wanted to take Earl out for coffee and ask him if they had any kids, and grandkids, and who were his favorites (because everyone has favorites) and where he met his wife and how he felt when he first held her hand, and how he knew she was the one he wanted to be with for rest of his life and how he proposed and about each of those 6 friends he lost, and what they were life and if they had kids or family or girlfriends that sent perfumed letters, or Mom's that sent care packages of goodies, and why he joined the Marines and whether or not he had any regrets over the course of his life...
But I had to say goodbye to Earl. I finally asked his name, and he said Earl somethingorrather, a last name I'd remotely heard of - he further explained that Mr. somethingorrather, a famous oil tycoon, was his uncle.
"You seem to be a good friend to know then, Earl!", I said with a wink. "I'm a Forbes - no relation, but we let them think what they want!"
"Right, right, like the 500! Ha ha!....You know, I served with two Forbes....good men, both of them...I think one from Indiana....
I explained that I had a great uncle that fought, and died, in the war..LeRoy...but I think he was in the Navy....
I finally made my way back upstairs, after saying our goodbyes and thank yous, sincerely sad to be leaving Earl. Walking along the Hangar Deck to meet up with my family again, I did some quick math.....Iwo Jima in 1945....
Earl was no more than 20 years young.
Friday, January 02, 2004
"In the end, I think the relationships that survive in this world are the ones where two people can finish each other's sentences. Forget drama and torrid sex and the clash of opposites. Give me banter any day of the week."
--"Heather", in Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland