Making Commitments

The other day I was watching the movie Once. If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it. It is an odd sort of tale in the sense that it acts like a love story but does not follow some of the predictable patterns of similar stories. You can almost say that the affection is geared mostly towards the music that is created, or perhaps it is more about the art that is created when there is an honest and dedicated love underneath it all. More than anything though, I think it is a film about loyalty. The characters are loyal to each other, to their other loved ones and to the music that is being created.

My favorite scene occurs at the very beginning. The black screen opens up to a street performer playing his guitar with the case at his feet, and he is presumably alone on Dublin’s Grafton Street just belting his heart out. He sings a song that could be directed at a lover or the divine, either way there is a desperation and vulnerability that is gut-level honest and utterly human. Sometimes I have no idea why this scene impacts me so profoundly, yet I know that somewhere in that scene I can see myself so clearly. I can echo those words he sings because I have been there, sometimes I am always there. More so, he is dedicated to his craft, to his love. He sings as if performing for a vast audience, yet only finds one in the moment. It does not matter either way, for the creation of the art is the upmost importance here. He has made a commitment, and whether he stays on the street or moves on to different venues, he will continue to show up and to create.

I desire to be like that. No matter what, just showing up and creating. The results do not matter as much as the process, because the process is the true story. That is the story that changes us.

As we begin this new year, my hope and my prayer is to keep showing up and creating.

Here is the scene:

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The Perfect Space

“I wanna have friends, that I can trust…

That love me for the man I’ve become, not the man that I was.” 

– The Perfect Space by The Avett Brothers

 

For those who would like to keep up, I am going to attempt to update this blog as much as possible concerning my life in Kansas City and the transition I’ve gone through to be a teacher in the KCMO school district. I would also just love a space to post random thoughts and reflections throughout the week. Obviously, posting my be sporadic as life is chaos at the moment. But I also wanted to make ways to connect on the quick for those who might be interested. So, friends old and new…. hope you enjoy. 

d

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Get busy livin’….

“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”

– Henri Nouwen

One of my heroes is Henri Nouwen. If you don’t know who he is, read everything you can get your hands on. Nouwen wrote tons of books on the spiritual life and how to develop disciplines: not a disembodied experience that is other-worldly and transcendent, but a very earthly and active lifestyle that is centered on God and others in this world.

Out of all the quotes I could mention off the top of my head, this one above has had the most impact as of late. Many times I give myself over to the more analytical side of life, staying in my head with my various thoughts, dreams and imaginations. But l realize more and more life is not lived in that realm. Sure, it is an important and integral part of life, but it is not the center. The center is our doing and actions, the real decisions and practices we commit to. As Donald Miller says, a character is what he does. We love characters and heroes in movies because of what they do, not what they are thinking about doing. Therefore, it doesn’t matter who “I think I am”, it matters what I do. People will understand and know me by my decisions, not what I aspire to be in my head.

Nouwen understood this completely. We are changed by our “lived-out” lives, not by our thinking. We tell better stories when we live them out. Many of us want to have our convictions and understanding set right before we move, but that is basically impossible. And a lot of times, it just justifies our inaction. I don’t want to do that anymore, I want people to know me by what I do, not what I am thinking about doing. My insecurities, my judgements, my flaws will only be changed when I start taking action to them and when I stop trying to think about them differently.

– Daniel

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Taking Time in the Work

Image

God is an amazing artist, and he’s completely fine with taking his time in the work.

That is my take away this past week as I traveled through the American West after seeing the Grand Canyon. Over a process of millions of years this place was created and formed, and for hundreds of years it has made those silent who would witness it’s beauty and majesty.

We walked around for hours at the South Rim of the Canyon, stopping to take in more views and gaze at the expanse. And over that period of time I began to think about the time and consistency it took to create this place. The various processes at work, the slow and glacial pace and the changes that happened underneath that could not be seen. And so I thought about people, and about myself, and about all the changes that happen that we often don’t see occurring. I thought about how easy it can be for us to give up on things, on God, on others and on ourselves because we don’t see what processes are at work and we think things will always be the same. We think we will always be stuck in the same place and will never be able to get out of it.

And in that moment I became hopeful in a way I have not been for some time, because all it takes sometimes is time and consistency. In an instant society, those are words that induce anxiety. But we have to be patient and we have to be intentional. These are hopeful terms, not meant to discourage us. It’a a soft whisper that the divine speaks in our ear if we would just listen. Stop trying to control everything, just take time and keep working away… Eventually, you will see the changes. Take time to work on yourself, to be intentional with your relationships and patient with people. Keep hoping that there is a force at work that is weathering you out, and though this process can be painful sometimes, it also creates such beauty as well.

Trust in the process, and yet be consistent. Take time in the work you have been given to do…

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The Secret

Again, I am at the starting line. Writing has been for me that thing that is so elusive and yet the very thing I know I need to chase down with as much passion as the dog who chases the stray cat. I may never actually get what I want, but it’s hardly ever about the result but is instead about the pursuit. In fact, that may sum up a lot of life. Anyways, here is something that another writer wrote many years ago but has had a deep and abiding impact in my past, present and future. If you have never read Douglas Coupland’s Life After God, go and buy it right now. I’m not kidding. This is a quote that has served as a liturgy for myself that I keep repeating, and I wanted to share it with you:

 

“My secret is that I need God–that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
Douglas Coupland, Life After God

God help me to give, help me to be kind, help me to love. Help me also to write, because that is so often how I am found by you. Peace

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Lent (Holy Saturday) – Sorrow

This is a song called “Sorrow” by The National. I think the tone and lyrics of this song really gets at what this day means in the Lenten season. It is a song of profound void, about a desire not to lose the power that a relationship can have in someone’s life. Here are the lyrics:

Sorrow found me when I was young,
Sorrow waited, sorrow won.
Sorrow that put me on the pills,
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.
Don’t leave my half a heart alone
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Sorrows my body on the waves
Sorrows a girl inside my cave
I live in a city sorrow built
It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk.
Don’t leave my half a heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.
Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Don’t leave my half a heart alone,
On the water,
Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy.

Cause I don’t wanna get over you.
I don’t wanna get over you.

Holy Saturday is about living in the moment “in between”; in between the cross on Friday and the empty tomb on Sunday. But it is also a day to reflect on the loss we encounter if Christ is not present with us. Yes that can be a very dark place, but I also find it necessary to meditate on what that would look like in our lives, so that when we wake on Easter Sunday our joy is that much better knowing that Saturday is over.

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Lent (Palm Sunday)

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41)

Today many pastors got up on their pulpits, stages, lecterns and talked about the “triumphal entry” of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a colt and was praised by onlookers. Some would say this moment meant that the true king entered his city being worshiped, others say the event was of a prophet performing street theater subverting the ruling authorities of the day. I don’t really feel like talking at length about either today. We can guess the mindset that Jesus had all day long, all Holy Week long if we wish. We can ask: What was he thinking about? Did he know he was going to die? What were his true intentions while in Jerusalem?

I don’t know if I am just tired of those questions or too cynical to think we can ultimately know them, but what strikes me most as I read over this passage is verse 41 in the text. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it.” Whatever we want to say about this week in the liturgical year, the most important and yet most dangerous week in the life of the church, we must at least allow ourselves to be confronted with the sheer vulnerability and pain that Jesus felt at this time. Jesus enters the city, and his first reaction is a heap of tears. The city that was to be the light on the hill and the salt of the earth has been so compromised, so tainted and fallen from it’s original intention. Can’t we relate to Jesus in this moment? We have ourselves seen the places in our lives we thought would shine with beauty be torn apart by whatever wickedness, our own or others doing. We have entered the places that where once was peace is now utter chaos. So let us enter this week in lament with Jesus, over the places we have been hurt and the places we have done the hurting. Yes, we will experience the empty tomb next week, but let us not be in too much of a rush to get there so as to miss the darkness that is very real in our lives. Jesus leads us there, but he does not leave us alone…

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