Beauty and Affliction

 
Some Sunday afternoon thoughts:
 
 
As I have been reading and relaxing this weekend, I have been drawn in my thoughts to the matters of the heart.  I don’t know if I really even think about my heart much, yes it pumps blood breath after breath, pulse after pulse, but what about the emotion of the heart?
Pain, joy, affliction, beauty, moments that I wish could last for ever, and moments that I wish never would have happened.  The seasons in our lives pass with or without our permission.
 
I love the utter complexity of the heart. There is no clear definition that I can find that truly explains the depth, the breadth or the magnitude of the heart. It is wired into us, it is part of our core being. We cry, we laugh, there are even times that we feel like we can’t go on because things are just too much to bear.
 
I read a quote from Blaise Pascal that states; “The heart, has its reasons which reason knows not of”
I really think that the heart is a more a part of us that we want to acknowledge. It informs our decisions, our choices, it affects our judgment, our longing, our desires. 
 
You know the saying, “all good things come to an end”? I really hate the saying.  It is a bold lie. We were built for something so much bigger than our minds can fathom, and if we listen to our heart, it speaks to us that this world cannot be the way things were intended to be. Our heart cries out for a longing that addictions, possessions, or experiences can’t fill. 
 
‘”Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal. ” Nathaniel Hawthorne. 
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I am so thankful for the beauty and the affliction that has been, and that will come in my days on this earth. I am thankful for the moments that I get when things seem to “make sense” or that moment of sheer amazement when I look up into the big sky, or the music that touches my heart and makes me want to cry, or dance, or shout with joy. 
 
Such beauty and affliction, such beauty in affliction. 

 

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What motivates you?

      Motives are essential, and questionable……
 
Why do I do what I do, and say what I say? Is a question that has been whirling around my head recently. I have been bombarded with challenges and oppurtunities that seem to be coming at me from all angles. Its a little overwhelming, and some of the advice that I have been given seems to just add to the confusion. 
   I think that it is important for me to dive into the “true” me, and where that truth comes from! 
   As I sit and think about where God has me, and a deep longing for change, I can’t help but really dive into motives. I really think that motives are something that I should be looking into frequently, in some cases, no wait!, in ALL cases, I am a bit afraid of what I am going to learn. 
   Part of me fears the exposure of what may rise to the surface through all of this, but as I too often forget, that with the exposure comes freedom and truth. Not freedom of responsibility but the freedom of not having to cloak my garbage. I can’t speak for you, but I have a ton of garbage that I try to cover up and it stinks! Literally and figuratively! 
   I have always had this overwhelming desire to be transparent with myself and with others, but I have felt this constant push to keep to myself and not let anyone in. To just let people in on the surface and go about my life without ever having to be “burdened” with having to open up to someone. Or even worse, little white lies that deflect the truth of who I am or the motives behind my actions or thoughts.
   Not all of out motives are bad, but lets face it, we all sometimes say yes to someone when they ask us to do something that we really don’t want to do for fear that: “what if I have to ask them for something down the road?”.  (Do you see the motive in this?) At least I am guilty of this. What I am getting at here is that, I need to really take a look inside my life to see what rules me and the things I do, and then the question comes “will I really appreciate how utterly remarkable it is to be free and true?” 
  
 What would you say or how would you feel, if someone was so honest, that it offended you?

What’s Next?

Whats next?

In everyday life, I am super busy, too busy in fact.
Sometimes I am so busy I feel a little neurotic, and that seems to be the culture these days. Cram as much as you can into your day so you can feel accomplished, or important or what ever we need to feel worthy.
   While on vacation two weeks ago, I was able to stop and hear the trees sway back and forth, the leaves shake in unison as a breeze gently plucked them into a dance, hear and see the waves come crashing onto the beach. I couldn’t help but slow down.
     However, my thoughts and body began to get antsy for the “next thing”. I had a hard time slowing down, which is something I am encouraged to do almost daily, by people who are close to me.
   I seem to suffer from a common ailment in our society, what I call “whats next?”.  I exhibit impatience, dissatisfaction, hurriedness etc. As a result, my family suffers, my relationships suffer, my job suffers and my psyche suffers. I am not as close to people or God as I want to be, or should be for that matter. I am so tired of living this way.
    My job requires me to “herd” people into telling me what they need in as few words as possible and in as little time as possible. It’s commission based and you have to work as quickly and efficiently as you can. That leaves no time for banter or chit-chat. The term “land the plane” gets tossed around frequently. Sure, there is time for goofing off and blowing off steam but your mind is always on your next task.
    I used to say that I was really good at multitasking, but over the last few months, I have realized that I AM TERRIBLE AT IT!  In fact, I suck at it!!!. If I am having a conversation with someone and pick up my phone to check something, I completely lose my focus on the conversation. At this point, the relationship has suffered,  and the other person may be hurt, and they have a right to be, but we are so accustomed to this type of behavior that we deem it socially acceptable. No time is sacred anymore.
      I don’t want to trudge through life intentionally or unintentionally ignoring people because I am so busy trying to accomplish what I “need” to get done.
    I can’t help but look at Jesus; this dude was busy, and had a genuine agenda to accomplish, but he healed, broke bread, fed, taught, challenged, and discipled real people day after day, willingly, lovingly and graciously. He was more human than I will ever be.

Unexpected Lessons

Balance and Creative Outlets:

 
    As some of you know, my family and I went to Lake Tahoe for a week of much needed vacation. We packed up our Volkswagen TDI Jetta and hit the road. No cargo box on the roof so it was “cozy” inside this little car.
     With a pregnant wife and a two and a half year old in a car seat, there wasn’t much room inside the car, which is where I keep my guitars on trips since the climate is regulated. In Flagstaff it was a balmy 74 degrees, 110 degrees in Las Vegas and the highs of Tahoe were 68 ish.  Not what you would call “ideal” for instruments during travel. So, I opted to leave the guitar behind. Good call I would later find out!
     I felt so inspired while I sat and reflected on the surroundings and the conversations that Shaila and I had. The time with Noah was just amazing. It is really nice to spend the week with the family, uninterrupted and undistracted, although I feel like my mind and soul are on sensory overload from all the things we saw and experienced. The desolate bad lands, crystal clear blue water, fourteen thousand foot peaks, rushing water falls, beaches and the constant interactions with my family, just to name a few. I really have a hard time expressing my thoughts in voice but I am learning that a pen is sometimes just as mighty as a guitar.
   When I do not have a creative outlet I begin to become a bit frustrated, impatient and antsy. Think of a volcano just before the top gets blown sky high because it has nowhere to vent its lava…. ..
Ok, so it’s not that bad; I completely exaggerated there! Haha The first day or two were the hardest for me without my guitar, but then the opportunities to write became available and the pressure began to subside.
     I am usually so focused on one thing that everything else gets blurred out. Sometimes that is not a bad thing, but the word “balance” came to my mind many times throughout the trip and in my writings. I think that was one of the focal lessons from this trip and something that I am really going to explore these next few weeks.
    All in all, this trip was a great time “away” from my distractions. No car failures, no major blowouts with the family and a ton of laughter at the expense of myself, my wife and my son.
 
What’s your creative outlet for things inspire-able or challenging? I would love to hear how you express yourself!

I’m busy….

There have been a lot of things going on in my life recently that have really made me stop and evaluate my life. Questions like, What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What really motivates me to do what I do? How do I balance work and calling? I ask myself many times, “How far am I willing to go if I am called out my comfort zone and into something that others might deem crazy?”

   For the longest time, I have been super busy at work and not just work, but church too, as well as this artist expression I call music. Truth be told, I have enjoyed telling people how busy I am. But as I really sit back and think about busyness, what does that actually mean, and what does it communicate to people in my life? There is a difference between being busy and being productive. What is my real motivation in telling people how busy I am?
    Maybe the answer is that I make a habit out of being busy and telling the world how busy I am so I can indulge in self-pity and show people how important I am.
  Wow! That last sentence sounds horrible and reeks of arrogance. ….. But it is a part of me that I cannot keep locked up. This is what I am wrestling with.
 My wife told me something the other day that really challenged and convicted me: “stop the glorification of busy”.
    “Wait, what?!” I said. Then it hit me…..
 How often do I say that I am so busy and it is really a cry for people to look at me and validate my own pride and accomplishments so that people think I am valuable?….
Hhhmmmmmmm…..
I think I need to stop complaining about being busy. It’s one thing to tell people that I am busy and need some help, but its another to say that I am busy in order to seek the validation of others.
   Of course, not all busyness is bad, but I wonder what is our motive to be busy and what is our motive to tell others.
I don’t have the answers to all of this, but I write of these things because I want to think through it, and I don’t want to go through life day after day blinded by what is really inside of me or around me.
   What are my motives behind what I do and say? Do I want to encourage and speak life into those around me, or do I want to validate my own selfish desires and feed my ego?
What do you think about this? I would love to hear your thoughts!!!

The Anticipation of Arrival.

Back up two and a half years, and you have my wife and I anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first son Noah.

   So it’s the weekend before my first son’s arrival into this world. My wife is full term and then some at this point. We had just come from the hospital since her midwife said to go to the hospital immediately to get a few tests because she was past her due date at this point.. We were planning on having a “natural childbirth”, which meant no drugs, no epidural and no labor induction.
    While at the hospital, the nurse said, before even receiving the results of the tests, “well, lets get you ready, we will induce you and get this thing going.”
Aaaahhhh, excuse me, NO!
     So the doctor came in and he could tell that we would have no part of this and allowed us to go home for a few more days, but with strict orders to be on bed rest. Which meant, no getting up unless you need to go to the bathroom.            Humph…. well, at least we were giving this boy the time he needed to “get ready” to come into this world. So home we went. My wife did as she was instructed and rested, I did the husbandly duties of fetching what ever she needed. But in the off times, i.e. her naps. I went into the studio and began to work out a song.
    I was so freaking nervous but at the same time extremely excited to meet this little guy. So I prayed, A LOT and played my guitar, equally as much. As I was working out this progression of notes all I could think about was getting to hold this little guy and I was imagining the tears of joy that I would surely have. I also had a massive wave of fear of becoming a father and the responsibility that goes with that for the rest of my life.  I was on edge, and these notes and chords really calmed me down.
    A few more days hours passed and we were off to the hospital to s-l-o-w-l-y welcome this little dude into the world.
    This is the first song that I have written for him, and I hope that it will not be the last either. It is also the first song he ever listened to. He would be fussy and just upset, and I would bring him into the studio and he would nestle in my arms and just take a deep breath in and a deep slow breath out, and listen. Even to this day, every time I play this song for him, he calms right down and listens intently.  It is such a blessing and a huge joy to share this with him.
  This is my Anticipation of Arrival.

My sister Lisa

 
She is one of my older sisters and she passed away a few years ago from cancer. It ravaged her body something fierce in the months before she died. But from what I can remember of all of it, she had some of the strongest faith I have ever seen. She was in pain, and was scared, but her faith was just incredible. Not something that man can conjure up, or learn on their own. The way she handled the whole thing really impressed me. Maybe I didn’t see the whole thing, because I was not with her every hour of the day, but from my perspective, her strength and faith is what I remember.
 
 
 
 
 
 
     Lisa is probably the main reason I got into playing guitar, or music in the first place. I have this picture of her sitting in the grass somewhere in Willmar and she is holding her guitar with her legs crossed. She could play really well! She studied classical guitar, but could fake her way around just about any style. We grew up in Minnesota in a blended family. When I was born, she was already fifteen or sixteen, so I was the runt of the family, and she was already planning her escape! Not to say that our family was bad, but it was the early eighties and she wanted something more than farm life in a rural town. She joined the Army and worked her way up the ranks, ending with Major before her death.
    I had lost other people through the years, but this was the first death that really left a void in my life. She was my sister, she was way too young, she wasn’t supposed to die! This was the first death that would change the course of my life. I awoke to a realization that life is short and relationships are way more important than personal gain. That family, blood or not, is important and I needed to wake up to the fact that there have been some amazing people in my life.  I still have to remind myself of this daily.
    Lisa was a pivotal point in my own spiritual life, not just after her death, but before it too. She had faith that couldn’t be learned by books, it was divinely imparted. It was her gift, and she shared it willingly, lovingly and gracefully. Even up to the last day, she knew, and not arrogantly, that she was going to have peace after all of this. Peace that surpassed all understanding, and that inspired hope within me.
    I still miss her a lot, but when I listen to this song, I can remember her and what she meant to me, and the impact that she left on my life.
 
     Thanks for taking the time to read this!