Thursday, September 25, 2008

Deserted Roads, Late Nights, and Good Music

Some combinations are so perfect it's hard to imagine one part without another. Lennon and McCartney, steak and baked potato, Homer and Marge, mountains and trees, Montana and Rice, vacation days and the beach, long flights and babies...well ok...maybe not that one. For me, another one of these combinations is night driving and music.

Driving in the day is different, you and the world are exposed to one another and the things that happen in sunlight are the sort of things you want to know about. You can drive at night in blissful ignorance of what goes on beyond your horizons. So if you add the mystery of the night to the romance of the open road, the song you listen to seems to mean just a little bit more. I don't think it's any coincidence that there are so many songs about the open road (Midnight Rider, Running on Empty, Born to Run, Take it Easy, Country Roads etc.).

The other night I had the perfect combination: driving down a remote highway at 2 AM while listening to a cd full of my newest itunes purchases. I guess it was the mood of the night, but I seemed to find profound meaning in nearly every song. With waves of desperation in his voice Tom Petty told me that "'s so painful, something that's so close, but still so far out of reach." The Who said that "I don't need to fight, to prove I'm right." And then Coldplay asked me to "Look at the stars, look how they shine for [me]." My soul, simmering in brilliant musical philosophy was rudly awakened by "Lido Shuffle" by Boz Scaggs." You probably don't know this song right off the bat, but look it up and you'll remember it...then you'll probably download it...then it'll be your #1 guilty pleasure song. I really tried to find deep meaning in this overtly pop tune discussing a gambling addiction...but it just wasn't there. Even though there was nothing meaningful to take away, I couldn't keep myself from rocking out in the way you can only do in your car.

So maybe there was no deep meaning in Tom Petty's words either. Maybe there didn't need to be. Maybe there's no deep meaning in music, the road, or the night...regardless of the metaphorical possibilities. Maybe there's just good music, the freedom of the road, and mystery of the night. So instead of manufacturing profundity out of lines like "we are all just prisoners here, of our own device," I should just drive and enjoy the music.

I think grizzled old King Solomon was right in his first line of Ecclesiastes. So I should just relax and enjoy the music. I'm convinced that Jesus would road trip with me and rock out to Springsteen.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who likes to discuss the weather?

This morning I checked my Hotmail account, which still thinks that I am in Kingsport, TN. The home page alerted me to the brisk 64 degree temperature, accompanying scattered clouds, and light wind conditioning Kingsport. I then laughed to myself as I looked out the window to my right which revealed a palm tree being assaulted by the tyrannical Florida sun. East Tennessee, this is not…the lizard that stood mockingly on my shoe this morning told me so.

I’m a big fan of good conversation. From deeply personal truths to discussing the merits of the Steelers front 7, I love authentic conversations. So, whenever I bring up the weather, it seems trite. In high school I went on a pseudo date with a really attractive girl from another school. This was 1999, so I was probably wearing a plaid button up shirt tucked into straight legged jeans held up by a brown leather belt with a gold buckle and workish boots…I can’t remember if that was stylish or not (I can‘t imagine how it would be), but it was what I usually wore. So essentially when I got dressed I probably should have known then that I was in over my head. I picked her up and as we drove down the road in my 88 Saab (the Great White Hope as I liked to call it), I opened the manual sunroof and the surprisingly hot February sun warmed us. Unfortunately, we struggled for conversation. I asked a ton of questions and got mostly one word responses. After only a few minutes I had used up all my good stuff. There was nothing left to discuss but the weather…with only shallow conversation to follow…at that point I knew it wasn’t going to work out.

Today I don’t feel trite as I bring up the weather. Maybe it’s because I’m still expecting a crisp September morning to signal the coming seasonal change even though the lizard said it wasn’t gonna happen. Or maybe it’s because the change in my surrounding weather signifies a bigger change for me. And like the autumn in Tennessee, this change is welcome. Make no mistake though…I may be in Florida, but I Tennessee boy I will always be.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First Blog

*This is post #1 of a blog that I intend to update at least once a week (maybe more). Comments, remarks, criticisms, and any other input is always welcome. Also, I am archiving some writings from the past that you're welcome to check out. Thanks for venturing here!

I sit here, my mind rambling, at my new desk at New Mission Systems International. Behind me is a world map dotted with thumb tacks representing the locations of our affiliates. These red tacks are in places like East Timor, Malawi, and Estonia. I'd say each of us could speak to someone today who is unaware that any of these places exist.

The diversity of this world can overwhelm...especially when you feel called to relate to those in the most remote/dire places. I speak often of a moment when these differences pierced my heart. In the spring of 2005, I walked in to a Haitian village in the Dominican Republic (if you're unaware of the prejudicial issues between the Dominicans and the Haitians look it up...the way the Haitians are treated is tragic). I meandered past homes and shops that were constructed with materials that I would throw in the recycle bin or take to the scrapyard. About 10 of us were there, and we could not help but be spectacles, seeing as how we were white, educated, and relatively wealthy. Essentially, I was the socioeconomic antithesis of everyone I met. Bothered and embarrassed as I was by that fact, I was met with something beautiful...the warm, loving, and sincere welcome of the Hatian people. At that moment I realized that these differences were entirely irrelevant.

I'm reminded of Paul's writing in Colossians 3:11: "Here there is no Greek of Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian (a barbaric group considered by others as a step above wild beasts), slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all."

Paul is speaking of a life in Christ, and in this passage reminds of the inclusiveness of the Gospel. No longer was a life with God limited to the Jews. So as I think of far off places and different cultures like East Timor, Gabon, or Andorra, I realize that those differences are entirely irrelevant regarding the Gospel. As Paul writes, Christ is all and in all. So I celebrate the love that he gives me that is extended to the reaches of this world.

That is why I am at this missions sending organization share that truth...and to love people...wherever they're from, whatever they look like, whatever they think, and whatever they do. As Christ modeled.