Elizabeth

When life hits, it hits.

Typically when I write on this blog I am not very sentimental, or, personal for that matter. But this post is long overdue. I just need to get it out of my system.

My blog has been inactive for quite awhile now. There are a few reasons for this:

My job responsibilities have increased.

I have begun my seminary program.

But the primary reason my blog has taken a back seat, is because I met a girl.

Actually, I didn’t really “meet” her, considering we have been friends for nearly 5 years now. We met at summer camp and worked together for three summers. There was always something about her that I couldn’t put a finger on. We are very different, but for some reason were always drawn to each other. The first summer on staff I was scared to talk to her because she is the kind of beautiful that makes you sweat and stumble over your words. Over the next few summers we had a bit of a summer romance, which never quite materialized due to being at separate colleges and timing.

A few years later…

I found out she was living in Wichita while I was trying the whole “dating” thing in Wichita. Once I knew she was in Wichita, I really couldn’t go out with anyone else because I found myself wanting to be spending time with her. We started dating in August and got engaged in January.  Her name is Elizabeth.

C.S. Lewis wrote some profound words on the subject of love:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also many things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling….’Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

Elizabeth is someone I am absolutely crazy in love with, but that is not why I am choosing to marry her.  I am marrying her because she is a Godly woman who loves her family deeply. She is the most authentic person I know, and she never tries to be someone she’s not, which allows me to be who I am without pretense.  She is terribly smart, which can be a bit intimidating sometimes, and she has a depth and beauty that goes far beyond the physical. I could not ask for a greater compliment to my personality.

All this said, I’m not sure I believe in “the one” philosophy, this idea that everyone one has a special someone out there that they are “supposed” to end up with. On a philosophical level it really breaks down when you think about it. If one person marries the wrong person, then it messes things up for everyone else. Frankly, either of us could have married someone else and found happiness. I believe Elizabeth is just a girl and I am just a guy, and there is no cosmic force that drew us together. This said, I am incredibly blessed I found her.

We will never fully “complete” each other, even if we do compliment each other quite well, because I don’t think that is what marriage is supposed to accomplish.

That in an unfair expectation to put on anyone.

Completion, I do not believe was ever intended for us here on earth. There is this unspoken notion that love conquers all. That romantic love will bring wholeness and complete restoration. I know people who had an expectation that marriage would “fix them” only to experience tremendous disappointment when they came the sobering realization that their spouse was not Jesus. Worshiping the altar of “romantic completion” is a destructive path that leads to major disappointment.

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Photo Credit: Charlotte Dower Ramseyer

Elizabeth will bring me great joy and companionship and we will be friends and lovers until the day we die. But I believe our commitment will last until death because we aren’t looking to each other for completion, but as a foretaste of the greater marriage that will take place in the next life.

I cannot wait to marry this girl.

 

Well, now that it’s out of my system, I’ll return to posting about indie music, strange diets, art, bizarre encounters with people in public places, and everything that makes art hard.

Sometimes life simply gets too good you don’t want ever want it to stop…even to blog.

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That place where I live.

I have not been a prolific blogger as of late. The last time I made this sort of comment was back in April when I particularly distressed about a situation and was far too emotional to blog.

It is now November, my favorite month of the year, and I’m not distressed or emotional. Rather, I have been focusing my energy on other exciting endeavors.

I’m buying a house. The house itself is modest. I have nice fenced backyard, two bedrooms, fireplace, hipster kitchen, washer dryer, garage, wood floors, and one bathroom. It was built in 1937 I think, but it is in pretty good shape.

The house is in a very hip neighborhood and my neighbors are a bit odd.

The woman across the street is very nice. On multiple occasions she has invited me to her backyard movie watching parties. She is about 5’7 with tattoos covering her arms and a nose ring. She seems terribly interesting. I hope to soon hear her story and be brave enough to attend one of these movie watching parties.

The neighbor to my left is odd. She is probably in her 60’s and I think she lives alone. One day I mowed her lawn considering the line between our yards is a bit ambiguous, so I figured I’d do the nice thing and mow it.  Ever since then, whenever I see her she gives me this look like I stole something from her. It’s very odd. She creeps her head around the side of house and watches me as I walk to my Jeep in the morning for work. It’s starting to freak me out.

Side note: I don’t have shades or curtains on the windows to my room. I have this fear that one night I’ll wake up to my neighbor lady standing outside my window with a pitchfork. I realize this is irrational, but you never know. If you would see the look she gives me you’d understand.

To my right lives a pretty normal guy. When I first moved in, he waved and I waved back. We haven’t actually met, but we have an unspoken understanding of each other being normal amidst strange people.

Across the street next to lives this younger guy with an unkempt beard. I made the assumption, that because he had a beard, that he also had a sense of humor. After a few weeks of living in my house I was walking out of my house shirtless to get something out of my car. It was real early so I didn’t expect to see anyone. Beard guy was outside and he looked at me and waved. Instead of waving, I decided to raise my fist in the air palms forward. I’m not sure why I did this, and for some reason I expected him to reciprocate the gesture. The man was really shaken and very confused. I have officially become the odd neighbor in this situation.

I have a roommate named Nate. Perhaps the chillest person I have met. He has a boxer named Guppy.

If you ever think of it, you should write me a letter at 436 North Clifton, Wichita, KS67208.

I love getting mail that doesn’t tell me how much money I owe.

Here is a picture of my house.

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Patrick

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”
― C.S Lewis

I visited an elderly man in the hospital yesterday.

His lips were trembling as he tried with all of his strength to respond to my questions. He was unable to get a recognizable word out. The man was dying. What affected me the most wasn’t so much that he was dying. Dying is a part of life and I believe to have sober perspective on death.

What has shaken me, then?

He was alone.

To die alone must be a terrible experience.

I did not know how to communicate or comfort him, so I simply held his hand and sat with him while we watched the Price is Right on the small hospital room television.

After a good 15 minutes I grabbed the man’s hand tightly and prayed the Holy Spirit would give him inner peace and rest. I couldn’t look into his eyes for I was afraid my emotions would overcome me.

When I finished, he tried to speak but was too weak. Not knowing what to say I pointed out the window and said, “what an amazing view.”  He was on the 8th floor at St. Francis Hospital and you could see the big white cross from Wesley hospital buried within the trees on Hillside. He looked out the window and back at me and tried to say something. I nodded, acting like I knew what he was trying to say.

I smiled at him, squeezed his hand, and left the room.

I just received an email he passed away last night.

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Happy Thursday

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Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

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O, well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O, well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

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And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

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Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

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          I want to go to sea.
 
           Even if just for the weekend.
 
               But first,
 
                      I need to find a boat.
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And get out of Kansas.
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The Laundromat Diaries Pt. 6

A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

-G.K. Chesterton

I spent four weeks away at camp this summer, which is part of the reason I have not been blogging. I had a colossal amount of laundry. So much so, that I had to wear the only clean t-shirt I had left, which was probably two sizes too small. I wore black jeans and this skin tight deep v-neck that said Oxford University on it. I looked a bit metro and felt very uncomfortable. But what’s great about the Laundromat; it is a JUDGE-FREE zone.

The Laundromat was beaming. It was early for me, around 9 p.m., so there were many families at the Lost Sock. After throwing my clothes in the wash, I sat down with my giant Sony headphones and was very cognizant of how ridiculous I looked.  I turn my music up and closed my eyes for a few minutes and then decided to kill some time.

I walked over to the claw game, one of those games where you try to move a really loose and weak three pronged claw over giant stuffed animals. I noticed Scrat from Ice age with his big long snout and believed deeply in my soul that I needed to win the claw game.

I’m not big into animated movies. I get a lot of grief for this, but Disney/Pixar type movies just don’t tickle my fancy. But there is one exception. The original Ice Age kills me every time. I really wanted to win Scrat.

As I put my coins in, a little chubby Latino kid walked over and began to watch me. After my first failure, he just stared at me, and eventually I looked at him and asked him his name. Our convo went something like this.

“My name is Miguel.”

“What’s up Miguel. I am going to win Scrat for you.”

“Can I try?”

“No. I am an expert, trust me.”

After spending $4 to no avail, I looked at Miguel and said, “Sorry, bro.”

He left and sat down in a chair with his head down. I felt terrible.

I went over to my laundry which was on the spin cycle, and I pulled out my cell phone to look up movie times for Ice Age 4. A few minutes went by when I can feel a presence very close to me. I look up and see Miguel staring straight at me, nearly 2 feet from my face.

“Do you have any more quarters?”

“Yes, here, have a handful.” I then preceded to hand him a pretend handful of imaginary quarters.  He grinned, and then gave me a look of disapproval.

“I know we can win. I have a plan.” He said with determination.

Those words were all I needed. I felt a burst of adrenaline and excitement run through my body. Miguel and I were going to win this thing if it’s the last thing I ever did. I went over the coin machine and dropped a $5 bill.

Game on.

His plan was flawless. He said we need to stop trying to go for his head because his snout was too thin and it kept getting stuck. Sure enough, after $2 I had a great grip on Scrats body, and the claw slowly lifted him in the air only to drop him again closer to the hole. In that moment both of us were yelling and cheering, but I didn’t realize how loud we were until we started to gather a crowd. Three other little Latino kids and even an older black couple were watching us. The energy and tension was palpable throughout the whole room. I could see people trying to be inconspicuous but they were definitely watching us. The pressure was on.

While victory seemed so close there was a small problem. While Scrat was much closer, he was at a very poor angle for the claws to grip without gripping the stupid yellow dinosaur next to him.

After a few failed attempts I was down to my last quarter. It reminded me of the moment in Ice Age where the Dodo birds freak out because only 5 melons remain and they are so obsessed trying to keep the Melons for themselves they lose 4 of them and a Dodo says, “The Last MELON!”. It kind of felt like that moment, but far more intense.

I looked over to chubby Miguel and gave him the most intense stare I can muster and said, “Miguel, we are going to win the claw game.”

His big brown eyes just stared back into mine and the kid had all the confidence in the world that I was going to win with this quarter. He simply looked at me and said, “I know.”

It was almost cinematic. I took the quarter, blew on it for luck, did a few stretches and put it in the little hole.

I took control of the claw and the timer started to count down from 20. I held my breath and slowly lined up the claw to grab Scrat by the body and pressed to infamous red button. The claw slowly fell and grabbed a strong grip around its body. It all looked perfect. I could see Miguel’s mouth start to open with excitement when the claws, as they always seemed to do, loosened and Scrat fell right back down into pile of stuffed creatures.

“I’m sorry bro, I really thought we were going to win this thing.”

“I know. Me too.”

And those were last four words Miguel ever said to me.

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A real hero

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Burbank

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Books that moved me in 2011

*I realize I am bit late with this list. It was a draft for 5 months and I forgot to publish it until now.

 

1. Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” 

Chesterton’s writings have had tremendous impact on my life. I connect with his understanding that humor and mystery are two necessary components for a healthy understanding of life. Orthodoxy is perhaps his most concise and rich work. Full of incredible analogies and perspectives on faith, God, and the church, it is a must read for any person who has wrestled with the complexities of Christianity.

2. Becoming Human – Jean Vanier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart.” 

There is a tangible power when one writes from experience. Vanier is not a scholar as much as he is a man who has given his life for others. He is a living example of servant leadership. Vanier is a devout Catholic who is deeply compassionate, and has perhaps the greatest insights on brokenness and pain I’ve ever read. This is one of a few books that has nearly brought me to tears.

3. A Diary of Private Prayer – John Baillie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of Thee, let my first impulse be to worship Thee, let my first action be to kneel before Thee in prayer.”

I stumbled across Baillie in college, and his prayers have stuck with me to this day. If you want to experience renewal in your prayer life, I highly encourage you to spend a month with John Baillie’s diary of prayer.

4. In Memoriam – Lord Alfred Tennyson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.” 

If Lewis’ A Grief Observed was written in poetic form, I think it would resemble something close to this spectacular work. Tennyson writes this (long) poem after the death of his close friend, Arthur Henry Hallam. It is unrestrained emotion and brilliant poetry that makes you feel and ponder the depths of the human condition. I find myself being affected more deeply with each reading.

5. The King Jesus Gospel – Scot McKnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We need perhaps to pause to remind ourselves again what Paul is saying: he is saying that the gospel he gospeled is the authentic, reliable gospel of the apostles—he both received that gospel and passed it on. He’s no innovator when it comes to the gospel.”

Just like the quote about the apostle Paul above, McKnight isn’t really saying anything new, but he has way with words that clarifies what many are trying to say into something convincing and concise. There seems to be a new resurgence and emphasis on preaching the full Gospel of Jesus, while many contemporary Christians have preached personal salvation and called it “the gospel”.  McKnight brings a different and fresh perspective, as well as great scholarship to this very engaging book. This book had me physically nodding my head and mumbling “yes” and “amen” aloud as I was reading. It allowed me to better understand my own angst and frustration that I had difficulty putting a finger on as a young and inexperienced preacher.

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Sigur Rós – Varúð

Art is good.

Art is hard.

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Fulfillment

“What do we enjoy imagining? What are our fondest dreams? We look to our idols to love us, to provide us with value and a sense of beauty, significance and worth…Idols give us a sense of being in control, and we [also] locate them by looking at our nightmares. What do we fear the most? What, if we lost it, would make life not worth living?” –Tim Keller

I’ve found the Spirit convicting me of idolatry in my heart. It has been rather explicitly revealed in the last few days and I’m at that point where it feels no longer like a gentle whisper.

There are those moments where life comes together and leaves you with a choice. Most people make this choice out to be more complex and complicated than it is. I would suggest it is quite simple: to repent, or not.

The Bible is clear that without the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the object of our worship will never be God himself. We don’t stumble into God’s grace. Therefore, there is a tangible expression of personal knowledge that God has of our lives.  Because of the strange reality, painted beautifully in Psalm 139, God knows our every thought which suggests that Him intervening on our behalf, which often times is not a pleasant reminder, is not to find out whether we actually love Him. For he already knows the answer to this question.

Instead, I believe God uses difficult circumstances to bring these idols to the surface.

I can quickly begin to pinpoint these idols during these difficult seasons. They are revealed by noticing the things that I cling to when a sense of “normalcy” is gone. My old professor once said, “Character is built in the crucible of white-hot suffering.” (Lederle)

In the fire we find out who we truly are.

The Apostle Paul says the worst thing God can do is “give them over to the desires of their heart”. This speaks to the true desires of humanity if we are unchanged by the power of God. The only hope we have is not our strength to overcome. It is not developing control of our minds. It is not convincing ourselves we are no longer controlled by our idols.

We must turn away and walk in the other direction, submitting ourselves to the good news that “the living God, who revealed himself both on Mount Sinai and on the Cross, is the only Lord who, if you can find him, can truly fulfill you, and, if you fail him, can truly forgive you.” –Keller

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