Broken-down Poetry: September 2009


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Monday, September 28, 2009


I like to think of myself as having a calm, type-B personality. But this wouldn't be true. I am one of the most type-A, high-maintenance, OCD, frazzled person you know - shy I may be.

A couple of observations:

1. When my roommates were out of town for the weekend, I cleaned. Everything. We have two rooms and a bathroom between us, and I spent Saturday morning scrubbing, vacuuming and reorganizing. When they got home Sunday, the messes returned. Ugh.

2. I got a B on a paper. Not just one B, no, this has been my third B in this class this semester. I once even received a C. And it's a writing class - I'm supposed to be good at writing. I am working so hard at not being cliche in my writing that I am as a result very confusing and ineffective. Fail. Here's your 82%.

3. I will sell my soul to a project. I can't let things go. I will be the infamous workaholic parent if I'm not careful.

4. I lie awake at night making plans. I focus on my projects (see #3). I think about my grades (see #2). I think about how messy the room is around me (see #1).

My poor soul has forgotten how to rest.

This ... isn't an ideal way to live. Shocking, I know.

Part of this is my personality - I am a driven and goal-oriented person. But I am also giving into worldly demands. I don't have to be the best. I don't have to have things my way.

I need a Sabbath - from everything.

"Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel,
for I myself will help you," declares the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Friday, September 25, 2009

oh mediocre

My Facebook status the other day was: "You know your life is uneventful when your dreams involve finishing homework (on time) and attending class (again, on time and fully clothed)."

And it's true.

The past few weeks I've been dreaming about school: about waking up, going to class, interacting with my professors, winking at a cute boy, then starting my homework. How lame is that? I'd take the dream where Ashley viciously murders me over a strand of boring, uneventful dreams.

When I'm awake it's not much better. All I can think about is school or the research I've been doing on RELEVANT magazine (which is going exceptionally well, mind you).

I want a cause; I've been praying for a cause.

I've got to be spending my time thinking about someone other than myself and about things more important than Radio Production homework. Honestly.

So far I've just been praying for RELEVANT. I don't mean "just" as in it isn't important - because it is. I'm starting to worry that I'll get so consumed in the magazine again that I'll fall back to where I was a year ago. Worthy or not, I can still make RELEVANT a god. So I need to be careful.

Without giving too much away, because I know this will pop up on RELEVANT's Google alerts, Tuesday I'm talking to former RELEVANT employee Dylan Peterson on the phone. I'm in kind of one of those celebrity-dazes. I mean, he was a pretty important part of the RELEVANT team. Well, he did make me fall in love with Andrew Bird and Anathallo.

Anyway, that's Tuesday. More research to come. More prayer to come.

I'm hoping, honestly, that I find something to devote my thoughtlife to - something God will appreciate. I've made this observation before, but it's really, really hard to pray when you have nothing to pray about. Dear God thank you for rain. Thank you for helping me wake up on time. For fresh brew. For ... class? For, ... okay, I'm out.

Thus: I need a cause.

And I need to spend less time on Facebook.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Title Track: Celebrity Treatment

I hate celebrity news. I hate it with a passion. I flip the channel when Entertainment Tonight comes on. I changed my Internet homepage when CNN covered Michael Jackson’s death too long.

But I love celebrities – Christian celebrities.

I’m not referring to those B- and D-list actors like Stephen Baldwin, or American Idols who came out of the Christian closet after they won. (Four words: Jesus Take the Wheel.) No, I’m in love with Christian writers, particularly Donald Miller.

Or maybe only Donald Miller.

Don Miller is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, “Blue Like Jazz.” He’s written four other books, “Through Painted Deserts,” “Searching for God Knows What,” “To Own a Dragon” and, his most recent, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”

I used to joke around with my Bible study leader, Ruthanne, who is Don’s age, saying that she should marry him. She said she won’t because he’s too liberal and he lives too far away.

I stopped teasing her about this because I am the one who’s going to marry Don.

I talked to my friend Jacque about this a few weeks ago, and she made me calculate how many years older Don is than me. Nineteen. I told her that he was in my 20-year limit. She told me that was gross.

Prior to this moment – the moment I realized I wanted to marry Don Miller – I thought I had a healthy fascination with this man and his writing. I read his books (only less than five times each), I read his blog, I’m his fan on Facebook, I follow him on Twitter, I want to move to his hometown. …

But one day I tweeted about his new book I preordered, how Amazon says that it won’t release for three more weeks. And Don Miller direct messaged me.

Don Miller direct messaged me.

For those who don’t use Twitter, that’s as good as an email. Don Miller thought about me for a whole five seconds of his busy life. He might as well have proposed.

Going to bed that night, with an ungodly amount of excitement, I realized that I might have a problem.

My celebrity crush phase did not end in middle school with David Duchovny (I was a big “X-Files” fan). I am in college and I am crushing over someone that is completely unattainable.

I do not know what to make of this. I want to reprimand myself for spending so much energy concerned with someone I may never meet. What’s the point of buying his book before it comes out? Does he know I did that? And who cares how I display the book or how I smell the pages and hug it like a friend?

Who am I trying to impress?

I think about when I make new friends and how anxious I am for them to like me. I choose my words carefully, I butter them up, I do favors I might otherwise do begrudgingly. When my friend Austin and I first became friends, I always offered to meet at a coffee shop closer to his house, and I would pay for my own drink.

Now Austin knows me as the biggest moocher ever. When we eat at Buffalo Wild Wings, my favorite restaurant, two-thirds of the time he or our friend Matt pays my bill.

I pride myself, not for the generosity I once brought to our friendship, but for my ability to persuade my guy friend to serve me.

What if I always treated people like celebrities? I don’t mean that I want to fawn over them like I do Don Miller, but to honor them and put them above myself.

In Romans 12:10, Paul says that we should “be willing to associate with people of a low position.” The Message paraphrase says to “practice playing second fiddle.”

Don Miller, in an interview with RELEVANT magazine, said that as a writer, he never wants to write a book that he isn’t proud of, to write something that is second-rate in his mind. But as a Christian, he says, he hopes he has the humility to do so.

I get excited – and dare I say, obsessive – when it comes to certain celebrities, or to people I feel the need to impress. But I want to be someone who honors others just because I can, just because I love them.

I want to learn to set my own desires and interests aside to serve my brothers and sisters. I want to start treating them and treating my neighbors and my enemies like celebrities.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Okay, new plan.

It turns out the blogosphere is a lot smaller than I thought. Remember that scene in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog when Dr. Horrible comes back after an attempt to use his freeze ray on the mayor during a statue dedication? He's twitching because Captain Hammer threw a car at him before he had a chance to carry out his plan.

Dr. Horrible says (paraphrase), "I guess I underestimated how many people look at this blog."


I removed my previous blog because from an outsider, it sounds rather arrogant. I imagine Ezekiel talking to his friends, saying, "Oh yeah, God told me that I'm supposed to warn you and the rest of the exiles of their sins and whatnot."

They'd probably reply, "Shut up, Ezekiel. It's not like you're perfect."

So I deleted the blog because I now know how far my blogs have reached. I hope I'm not on any RELEVANT blacklist. Though, I wouldn't be surprised.

New plan: If you want to talk to me about my call to RELEVANT, email me. Or call me. Or take me out to coffee or something.

As for the rest of my RELEVANT blogs? I think I'll keep them up. Again, again, again I say: despite all the wrestling, despite all the frustrations, I love RELEVANT. It's been my friend for too long to abandon.

With love and squalor,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Letting the Fields Die [revisited]

Talk about beating a dead horse.

Earlier in the summer I wrote a lot about "letting the fields die" on my dreams, a reference to the Old Testament command to let the fields have a Sabbath rest every 7 years. My "fields dying" referred to my dream of working for RELEVANT magazine.

The dream has been dead since June. I don't want to work for RELEVANT anymore - not because I stopped believing in the magazine's cause (because I still do), but because of internal issues of which I was informed through several sources.

But today I received an interesting email. Kevin from Seattle wrote me, saying that he had done research on RELEVANT in college and discovered the roots to all the questions and issues I have with the magazine. He said he found my blog through Google (no doubt he just googled "RELEVANT" and "blog" and my dear RELE-saturated blog came up), and was intrigued by what I had to say about - all this.

He offered to share his research with me.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Here are some questions that have been running through my head all day:

1. Who knew someone in Seattle has read my blog? Blogging, not knowledge, must equal power. This makes me a little wary of what I put in my blogs now. I know that bosses Facebook-stalk future employees, they no doubt blog-stalk too. Will this hurt my chance of getting an internship at RELEVANT?

2. Should I even pursue an internship with RELEVANT? I thought that God was keeping me from a job there, but does he want me to forget about an internship as well? Are my chances already shot? (Hey, I'm not always the most RELE-friendly in these blogs.)

3. Is God just beating a dead horse? This dream is already dead, so why does God keep insisting on bringing the issue up? LORD, it's done; I don't want to work there; I've forgotten about it; stop making me deal with it.


Editor's note: I love RELEVANT. I still do. I love its mission, I love its podcast and its staff (meh, former staff). I understand that its not a perfect organization, or that it has called itself a ministry. But it's still an effective medium - that I refuse to deny.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Title Track: Everything is Spiritual

I never cry at songs. Sure, I sometimes cry during worship music, but I don’t think it is the lyrics or the melody that makes me cry. Jesus makes me cry – as a means of humbling me (not sadistically).

But while I first listened to Thrice’s song, “Beggars,” off of their album of the same name, my tear ducts began to fill and was just a stanza away from weeping.

This song – about how we have no claims in the world (not our name, not our possessions, not our job titles or careers) but must rely on the grace of God to give us purpose – knits the rest of Thrice’s album together. Grace. The world may be mad, as another song on the record screams, but there’s grace.

This got me thinking.

The title track of a CD is, by definition, the song that shares the same name as the album itself. Though I like to believe, and maybe you’ll agree with me, there’s more to it than that.

Some of my favorite albums of this year have title tracks like, “The Hazards of Love,” “Mean Everything to Nothing” and, as mentioned earlier, “Beggars." To say that the band decided to name the album off of the song, or vise versa, just for its name’s sake seems thoughtless. It’s a little lazy.

There must be more to it than that.

There’s a connectivity involved here. The band is saying, look (or listen, rather), there’s something I want you to get out of this album. I want you to catch a theme.


It took all summer to decide what I wanted this column to stand for. Because on the one hand, I want to entertain you, and even more, if I were to be honest with myself, I hope this column will convince you I’m cool, or at least entertainment savvy.

But on the other hand, I want to grow. I want to become a better writer and a better Christian and a better media-consumer through writing this. So after some prayer, and God’s humbling, I decided upon a theme for my column, a “title track,” if you will: everything is spiritual. I admit I stole the name from Rob Bell, but I really like the concept.

This is the belief that everything – what we do, what we say, what we watch, what we read, what we hear and what we think – has spiritual implications.

Spirituality is God’s title track. It’s his common denominator. He says that we must do everything to the glory of God and that every good and perfect gift is from him and that he is the creator of everything.

I invite you all to journey with me the rest of this school year as I grapple with the media and its messages – the good and the bad. I ask you to challenge my theories, and to give feedback. Yes, this is a learning process for me, but I want it to be the same for you.

This is a column about the media – about movies and about music and books and art – but more than that, it’s about how God is speaking to his people through the media. It’s about how even secular entertainment can teach us about our fallenness. I want you and me to learn how to look at the media with a knowledge of the Truth, discerning what media is “safe” to consume, and what to stay away from.

Maybe this is a lot to ask of a weekly column, maybe it isn’t. One thing I promise you, my dear audience, is that I will do my best to implement the 1 Corinthians 10 command to do everything to the glory of God, and to hold to the standard that everything – even the entertainment industry – has spiritual undertones.

The post was originally printed in Indiana Wesleyan University's The Sojourn newspaper.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

on love and hate

As promised, here's another blog about Grace.

I was watching the Today Show this morning and more than one segment was dedicated to the 1989 Jaycee Dugard kidnapping. For those not on top of the news, Philip Garrido had kidnapped and locked Dugard inside a shed for 18 years. The big debate now is whether or not Garrido's wife Nancy is also guilty.

Everyone can agree -- and everybody does agree -- that this was a heinous crime, worthy of some sort of sentence. The world wants justice [mishpat] served; we want things "made right" for Dugard and her family.

But I fear that in the meantime, we forget that the Garridos are human; that God has called us to love them, even.

Jacque and I were talking about Grace (of course) a little bit on Sunday after church. We want so bad for our Christian brothers and sisters to love and to show Grace to people whose lifestyles differ from theirs.

We want Republicans to love Democrats.
We want patriots to love immigrants.
We want Christians to love non-believers.

But when it comes to loving the rapists, the murderers, the drug lords, the hatemongers, the slave traffickers, we limit Grace.

Love can only be given to these people.
Grace can only be shown to the well-deserved.

While watching the Today Show this morning, I made myself look at Philip Garrido without smirking or glaring or damning him with my thoughts. I tried to look at him the way Jesus might -- with overwhelming compassion, forgiveness and with a realization that the world is fallen.

But then I found it not so difficult.
Because really, I don't have a hard time not loving criminals.

But there are people I find hard to love,
people I find hard to show Grace to.


I find it easy to justify hatred when I hate people who hate people. It makes sense though, right? If you hate someone, shouldn't I have the right to hate you back?

I hate racists, but that's okay, isn't it? I mean, racism is a sin, so hating people who discriminate on the basis of skin color and nationality is justified. I hate homophobes because they refuse to see gay people as human. I can justify that.

But I shouldn't.

To allude back to Pastor Tony once again, Jesus' mission was global -- it was for everyone -- which means we are bound, we are called, to love one another. We don't get to pick and choose.

And though we may love the people most find hard to love, that doesn't exempt us from loving those we don't.

Author Anne Lamott said that you know you've successfully created God in your own image when he hates the same people you hate.

So are we loving people the way we are called to? Or are we hating people because found a way to justify it?