Sunday, September 24, 2006

Two Scoops of Let It Go

This morning, I was talking to a younger friend of mine who is heading off to college next year. We were discussing the topic of roommates, and I think he was trying to gain some understanding of what it might be like getting along with other guys in a dorm. I have some really funny dorm stories from my time at Word of Life Bible Institute and Liberty University, but I'll save those for another entry. Anyways, this blog is piggy backing a bit on the previous "Building a Better Barn" article. In addition to the story of the rich fool with the barns (read below), God's been impressing upon my heart another passage of scripture, and I think it applies perfectly to the often sand paper interactions of roommates (or spouses, or brothers and sisters).

Mathew 7:1-2 reads, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Are you nit picky and extremely irritable in your attitudes towards the people you live with? What ticks you off the most? What does that other person do that makes you want to spit gravel? Sometimes, we can ruin really good friendships over the dumbest most retarded of things. Every time a roommate bugs me, I try to remember that I myself can really be a frustration at times. The older I get, the more I realize how picky I am in my relationships with people, and the more I discover that I am not looking as much like Christ as I'd like to.

I usually think of God as all forgiving and all patient... which on some level, He is. However, Jesus makes it real clear through Matt 7:2 that God will be to us what we are to other people. Ephesians 4:2 reads, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Maybe outwardly, you are "bearing" with people around you, but what's happening deep down inside? Are you angry? Bitter? Are you holding a grudge? Are you one of those passive aggressive people who like to make hints to another person that you are ticked off instead of talking about it in a constructive "Hey man, would it be ok if..." or "It really hurts me when..." manner? Have you screwed up a good friendship by making a big deal out of something petty and pointless in the long run?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Building a Better Barn

This is one of the first days in a long time when I’ve been able to just sit back and reflect and soak in what God has been teaching me over the last couple months. I sort of feel like I’ve been drinking from the conviction fire hose recently, realizing on multiple levels how much of a self centered man I am. Ever been overwhelmed with your own tunnel vision? Ever wake up, and say to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” That’s where I’ve been recently.

I have some individuals in my life who are incredible Christian examples to me, people who breath charity and sweat missions. If you hang around selfish people often, it’s easy to blend in, but if you spend your time with folks who contrast your habits of naval gazing, you soon may be inspired to spend more quality time with your other often forgotten friend, the mirror. Out of the mouth flows the abundance of the heart, and I’ve been made brutally aware that the majority of my words and actions in recent days... have been about me.

Speaking In Code
I am, by nature, an introvert. I am refuelled by sitting in front of a piano in an abandoned room, pouring my heart out in it’s own native language of music. You’re not going to catch all of me at a Bible study. I’m not going to be the guy to stand up during the awkward sharing time on Sunday evening, and eloquently deliver my deepest fears and struggles in a way that moves everyone to tears, sympathy, and repentance. You will see the most authentic and bold Marc on a written page or in a moving string arrangement. This is something I’m learning about myself. I am an artist through and through. Making music or writing are not just hobbies to me. These are the vehicles that I use to reach out to people on a deeper level... they are cries of a longing intimacy which I find challenging to engage in everyday “hey, how you doing?” and “what have you been up to?” conversations. I get a lot off my chest by writing a blog or song. The alone time actually strengthens me to be with people. In contrast, I’ve been around some individuals who would probably go insane without a party every night or at least a tv set turned on to contribute noise to an otherwise painfully silent apartment.

Boy In A Bubble
Being born an artist comes as a blessing and a curse. Have you ever seen one of those movies where a person’s senses are exaggerated to the point that a candle flicker is blinding and the sound of a pin drop is painful? Maybe other artists can relate to me on what I’m about to say. I often find myself preoccupied with over-analyzation... looking at my own responses to situations, monitoring how other people are reacting and potentially thinking, trying to debug my own inconsistencies, attempting to figure how I am different from the outside world, and how I can connect with a human breed that seems to think in a way so foreign to my own paradigms. I stare at details. I pick things apart to figure out how they work. I wonder how many people are able to sit through an entire football game, glued to the tube, thinking of nothing but how their prized team will win the game. I, on the other hand, will have wrestled to the floor a thousand ethereal questions and lyric ideas before the first down. This, I believe, is the landscape of the artistic mind. Think of it this way. Ever enjoy occasionally picking up a pen to sketch a picture or write a poem? Now take that wonderfully lined yellow notepad and imagine never being able to put it down. Imagine having it stuck to your hands as you try to brush your teeth in the morning, or glued to your fingers as you’re fighting to make a pot of coffee, or strapped to your face as you battle to keep your car in a straight line on your way to work. Imagine taking the focus of emotions you hear in a think of living life everyday with the same focus of emotion, the same introspection and dissecting of motives, losses, superstitions, etc. Maybe some artists are not analytical nor obsessive. I am. I sometimes wonder why I am analytical and obsessive, and then I start working to figure how other people can NOT be so analytical and obsessive (or least, appear not to be). So...I obsessively work to figure out how not to be obsessive. Can you see the dog chasing it’s tail? I suppose I’ve gotten tons better through the years, but I’ve found that changing my ways of being obsessive and analytical (especially with music and artistic things) is like trying to learn a new language. It’s like someone telling you, “Alright, you can keep talking... just don’t use any verbs.”

Now, by this point, I’ve probably lost many of you, but I’m guessing a few of you are still tracking with me. I used to believe I was completely alone. I thought everybody else had themselves fully figured out, were at peace with who they were, and were connecting with people around them like a bluetooth device connects with my Mac. Now I suspect that there are a lot of people out there who feel like they were born on the wrong planet... and I imagine this reality supersedes some tormented outcast circle of artists, writers, and musicians. I think one of man’s greatest needs is communication. Scientists have done tests with new-borns where kids in experiment group A are raised in homes where verbal feedback is a regular practice while kids in experiment group B are rarely spoken to by their parents. The first group of children generally grow up to be much more well adjusted people compared to the latter bunch of infants. You and I need to talk, but more importantly, with that, I believe we all want to be UNDERSTOOD. I want to be understood as an artist/creative mind, and I imagine you want to be understood for who you believe you are.

Stare At The Picture Long Enough And You Might See A Pattern
By now, you may be asking “where in the world is he going and what does this have to do with barns?” Let me bring this whole thing back around. I, like every other person, have a need to be understood, but as an artist, I communicate and think in sounds that seem to fall far from the understanding or relevance of most ears (I’m not saying my language is any better than anyone else’s, only different). This can be frustrating, as I sometimes don’t feel like people really want to hear what I have to say...or probably more accurately, I don’t want to hear what I have to say. Sometimes, I just don’t feel like I have the words or clarity to sync with the wavelengths of many interests of conversation, so I’m left to believe that what I want to say is just going to come out wrong and make me look like some extremist, wacko, or philosopher who needs to get out more. Maybe this comes from some experience... like going to a college, singing a powerful song, and then stuttering through some stupid mumbled hogwash as a transition to the next song... or chiming up with some randomness in a Bible study all the while greeted with blank stares of “where did that come from?” (Often I feel like other’s answers are just so obvious... so I want to dig to a deeper level...but I suppose this is part of the journey of understanding we’re all in various places and God is speaking to each of us in unique and valuable ways... no answer is dumb or too obvious...and maybe my thoughts aren’t too far out there to be important) All this to say, this is why I like to write... because all those seemingly unrelated compartments of my mind somehow magically align in a way that people suddenly lock with me... going as far as sending me e-mails about how this or that blog really spoke to them in some powerful way. This (music and written word) is where I feel I am most readily understood...sometimes I get the impression that it is also where I am most effective and influential (for good, hopefully).

I had a roommate once who told me my words would start to make sense the more I talked... it’s almost as if saying stuff out loud allows me to piece it all together in a clear way, but most people don’t have patience for that. Maybe it’s like one of those optical allusions where if you stare at the page long enough, you start to see a wonderful 3-dimensional design... or your eyes and head just start to hurt.

Buried With Prince and Bono
And so it is with all of us... behind all the compulsions, obsessiveness, inconsistencies, and scratches, there is something beautiful, something worth digging for or waiting for. However, we’re often quicker to seek solutions for our own longings or deficiencies than to shift our narrowed focus away from ourselves and toward the beauty of others. We can get trapped in fighting to break the code to our own happiness. We can become addicted to the pursuit of understanding ourselves and caught in the chains of being understood. Sometimes we (introverts) like to withdraw because we don’t know how to relate to others, and we don’t feel like we fit in. Other times, we just get busy enough to forget how messed up we are inside. That’s where I’ve been... a bit over focused on myself, staying up until 4:00 am trying to get my home studio in working order... starring at calendars, and plotting equipment purchases and studio renovations. Trying to figure out how I can get away some evening, sit in a quiet room at a shiny piano, and write a song or two that have been growing in birth pains for what seems like months ...all the while forgetting people around me who are going to be around forever, long after my keyboard is dust and my laptop is smoke, and my albums are buried with Prince and Bono CDs in a apocalyptic world.

So, after all the talking about myself, and my needs, and how I don’t relate to people, and how I don’t feel understood...I’m stopping...taking inventory... and realizing that I’m honestly weary of myself and sick of fighting to keep my own Kingdom mowed and managed. As hard as you try, the grass keeps growing and the gas bills keep sinking your stomach on the Monday morning four days before payday. The yoke of self is neither easy nor light. It brings hard work, and leaves you sapped and wanting.

God Can Speak Through Cat Tinkle
This brings me back to the people in my life who breath charity and sweat missions. God is a professional at interrupting our substitutions... sometimes, in the smallest yet most profound of ways. Recently, I met a situation which really helped to put a magnifying glass to my priorities and attitudes. Last week, my roommate’s cat peed in the corner of my studio, and as silly as this sounds, I feel like that was God’s final-straw-way of saying, “This is not your stuff, this is not your money, these are not your talents, and this is not your life. Anything you have, you have because of me, and your attention needs to first be on me and then on others.” After all the painting, and the new desk, and the sweet new keyboard... cute little Ruthie peed in the corner right under my right monitor speaker, and six days later, it still smells like armpit. What bothered me the most is that this stupid little incident really bothered me, and there's been a lot of other stupid little incidents recently that have frustrated me way more than they should have. Stuff that a 30 year old Christian man should be able to approach with a Godly attitude and Christ-like flexibility. Like the urine stained corner of my studio, It’s quite possible that recently, my heart has been smelling a lot like armpit as well.

Jewish Iced Martinis
Luke 12 tells the story of a rich fool. This guy wasn’t happy with his barns, so he started planning to rip those barns down, and construct something fancier. Maybe he’d pull out a lawn chair just to admire his silos from a distance, an iced Jewish Martini in hand. However, in verse 20, God responds, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'” The passage continues, "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Wow. And wow.

What are our lives about? Why are we here? Is our purpose to get all our things in order, so can we die and leave all our riches for strangers, moths, and rust? I think not. Life, I am reminded, is about developing relationships with God and with people, though it be a risk. Though we have to leave quiet rooms of comfort. People I don’t feel like I can relate to. People who need to talk. People who maybe can’t find the words they want. People who are lost and hurting. People who get ignored because we’re late to our kid’s soccer game, or because we have to get the new roof on before the snow starts falling, or because we are too busy slaving to figure out what the heck is wrong with our own trouble spirits. Maybe our spirits are especially troubled in moments when we forget that we weren’t created to live behind motes, guarded castles, and isolated agendas.

Lonely Castles Aren’t a Place For Children of God
Ludwig II, King of Bavaria (1845-1886) is best remembered for his breath taking castles in Germany. Below is an excerpt I found on his life.

“King Ludwig II, the "Dream King", has become his country's greatest asset in the years since his death, doing more for Bavaria's tourist trade than any other individual living or dead. He began his reign at nineteen, full of promise, a young Adonis loved and adored by all his subjects. He had little aptitude for governing and lived in a romantic fantasy world of his own. He had become an ardent devotee of Wagner's music at the age of sixteen, and immediately after his accession wrote to him offering his patronage. He built the theatre at Bayreuth for Wagner and made huge sums of money available for the production of operas. Ludwig is best remembered for the fantastic castles and palaces designed in different tastes to suit his moods. The grandest is Neuschwanstein, a medieval castle in Disneyland style; next the island palace of Herrenchiemsee, a Versailles in miniature which was never finished; lastly the baroque pavilion of Linderhof. These creations nearly bankrupted Bavaria but have proved a godsend today, being visited by thousands of tourists annually. In 1886 Ludwig II was pronounced insane without an examination and the King was taken into custody at Schloss Berg, 20 miles south of Munich. The day after his arrival, the bodies of the Doctor who pronounced Ludwig insane and Ludwig were found drowned in Lake Starnberg.”

It is rumored that Ludwig hired entire orchestras to come and play for him alone. The above is a powerful illustration of how riches and self-centered pursuits are fleeting. A depressing way to end a blog, but I think this is a reality check for all of us.