Monday, July 26, 2004

Ms. Williams

So I met a girl.  Right now I am listening to Alanis Morissette's new CD.  Its good.  Oh, yeah, I met a girl. 

I took a risk with this girl because I invited her to this very blog.  That means that if ever I discuss her or topics relating to her she will be able to read them.  But I wanted to be able to open my life up to her.  I wanted to give her a piece of me that I had been keeping from her.  I have invited her into my strange little world and hope that she doesn't run screaming in fear. 

Her name is Missy Williams.  I met her at a mutual friend's wedding (June 12th).  We traded info and began to email and talk for about a month.  Then I upped and flew down to Atlanta, Georgia to see her (July 15th).  That was my great adventure last weekend.  She lives in Houston, Texas but she had been staying with her sister and brother-in-law for the month of July. 

As most of you know a "dating" relationship is a very new thing to my life.  Besides that fact that I have never had a girlfriend (yes, yes I know I am 25 and that fun fact makes me a ridiculous amateur), I have never really desired a long distance relationship.  She's never wanted one either.  But now we find ourselves with homes 23 hours away (by car) trying to make it happen. 

So on the one hand going to Atlanta last weekend was a great adventure, but the greater adventure is the one that happened last Thursday.  It was in a conversation last Thursday that we decided to take the "next step" in getting to know each other.  We aren't exactly sure what that is.  But we do know that we enjoy talking to each other. 

So who is this Missy Williams you ask?  Well, believe me I keep asking that same question.  From what I can tell so far she is a cute little blond haired, blue eyed, high school English teacher who loves to run and who loves kids. 

People have been asking me, "So Mark, what is different about her?"  What they mean by this question is "why have you decided to date this one but not the other girls who you have befriended over the years?"  And to be honest this is a hard question to answer.  Logically, the distance doesn't make sense, and some other things also don't make sense about her.  But I just know that we seemed to click.  Of course she is a solid Christian girl.  Of course I am attracted to her physically.  But what sets her apart.  I don't know.  I do know, its just hard to put into words.  Which makes for a frustrating blog entry I am sure.  Sorry. 

All that to say, I have begun the FIRST "relationship" of my life.  Scary huh?  Well, I thought it might be, but I was wrong.  It definitely has taken some soul searching, hard praying, wisdom seeking and adventurous risk.  But all in all, it is a lot of fun.  It just feels "natural."  And I am working hard to check in with my "feelings" as often as I do my logical brain.  This is also new territory for me, but my heart is doing a fine job indeed... so far. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

much needed words

These are much needed words quoted from two incredible sources: Frederick Buechner and the Gospel of Luke.  They are poignant words for me right now. 
     " Grace is something you can never get but can only be given.  There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth.
     A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams.  Most tears are grace.  The smell of rain is grace.  Somebody loving you is grace.  Loving somebody is grace.  Have you ever tried to love somebody?" (Beyond Words, p.139)
     "...our unforgivingness is among those things about us that we need to have God forgive us most.  What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride that keeps us from forgiving is the same pride that keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it. 
     When somebody you've wronged forgives you, you're spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.
     When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you're spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.
     For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other's presence."  (Beyond Words, p. 119)
     "Innocent people may be up to their necks in muck with the rest of us, but the mark of their innocence is that it never seems to stick to them.  Things may be rotten all around them, but they preserve a curious freshness.  Even when, like the disciple Peter, they are guilty of tragic flaws and failures, you feel that some inner purity remains untouched.  Everybody knew, for instance, that the woman who washed Jesus' feet in Simon the Pharisee's house was no better than she ought to be, but as she dried them with her hair and kissed them, apart from Simon there was no one there, least of all Jesus, who would have dreamed of holding it against her (Luke 7:36-49)."  (Beyond Words, p. 170)
"Do you see this woman?  I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with perfume.  For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."  Then he said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."  (Luke 7:44-48)
I quote all of these words because they are not my own.  They are not my thoughts and not my feelings.  I have little comprehension of grace and forgiveness.  I hope to learn more and more about all of this.  I just feel like such an idiot when it comes to really grasping and practicing the grace of God.  In any case, these words above are powerful and challenging. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Adventure vs. Responsibility

Have you ever done something a little crazy and very spontaneous? Have you ever done such a thing and didn't let anyone know about it? I would be interested in any experiences my faithful readers have.

I will soon do such a thing. I will soon do something that is not totally in line with my personality. I will do something kind of irrational and a bit risky. And soon I will have a great story to tell about it. It seems that risky, spontaneous things always make great stories to tell.

Without this sense of adventure our stories seem to lack a bit of excitement. As does our life. So every once in a while it seems right to step out and do something a bit irrational and counterintuitive. After I do this "soon to be adventurous" activity, I may blog about it. Then again I may not.

My goal in taking this adventure is to let as few people know about it as possible. I have only told a few people here at Horizon what this "thing" will be. I have told a few of my friends from seminary as well. Other than that, no one knows. And maybe no one will. I have asked those who do know to keep it a secret of sorts. And this too adds to the adventure.

So I am on the verge of a break through in adventurous spontaneity. I seemed to have a ton of this sort of spirit in college. But in seminary I tried to be a bit more "responsible." Well, now I will try to bring the two together. Is it possible to be BOTH spontaneously adventurous AND responsible? I think it is. It must be. But maybe I am just fooling myself. Either way, it will be fun! Maybe I will tell you all how it goes....or maybe not. We shall see!

Saturday, July 10, 2004


Its really interesting that our skin tans. As the summer progresses I am sure that most of us here are seeing a change in our skin color. If we are outside at all, we can't help but get a bit darker (or burnt) even if it ends up being just a farmer's tan.

Why does our skin tan? Well, the rays from the sun are harmful to our skin. So in order not to burn, our skin protects itself. The melanin in our skin reacts to the sun rays and makes our skin a few shades darker. This way we can avoid getting burnt by the sun.

In our society, a good tan is equal to a healthy look. If someone is tan it somehow looks better to us most of the time. It seems to accentuate light colored eyes (blue and green) and seems to bring out highlights in light hair. So every summer Americans pursue a good tan. It could be in a tanning bed or at the pool. Maybe it comes from doing yard work or going for long runs. Either way, most of us agree that a tan body is somehow more beautiful than one that is not. Tan skin has a way of hiding flaws that are otherwise very apparent with pale skin.

But when I put these above thoughts together I am left with a strange concoction. Our society sees the result of a physiological defense mechanism as something desirable. Our body's response to harmful sun rays is something that is sought after. Thus, harm is pursued in order that our bodies' will put up its defenses and grant us something "beautiful."

The equivalent, with another body part, would be this: Our eyes respond to light by shrinking the pupil and exposing more of the color part of the eye. Tanning would be the equivalent of shining light in our eyes all the time so that our eyes are more colorful and thus more "beautiful." Regardless of the harm this would do to our eyes, we would spend hours of our days staring into bright lights. What? Does this make sense?

Now, I am not condemning those who are tan. I myself am tan right now. My skin tans fairly easily and I certainly haven't avoided the sun this summer. I simply wanted to point out the silliness of this ritual of tanning. I make no self-righteous claims that I am somehow beyond this silly ritual. It just dawned on me how weird we all are in regards to our own skin.

Monday, July 05, 2004

new found prayer

He has called me out. He has opened my eyes and convicted my heart. I have come to the realization these past few days that what I am attempting to do here at Horizon cannot be done if I stay the same. God has given me a task too large for my present spiritual dependency and my present level of intimacy with God. I know this now and see that I need more. I need more of God in my day. It has to happen. There is no other way. There is either more God or more failure. Those are my only options.

I have gone back into some books and my covenant group manuals to revisit the spiritual disciplines, especially prayer. I am embarking on a new adventure in my prayer life. I am attempting to carve out more space for the presence of God in my daily life. And as I carve this space out my plan is to fill it with my listening ear rather than my words of intercession.

I am going to do as Frank Laubach did and experiment with prayer. I am going to take the step of faith that assumes prayer is powerful and effective. I am going to believe that prayer will change me and help me know the voice of my Father if I will submit to Him. I long to know Him but haven't been connecting with Him lately. Its been dry.

So I will follow the call. God is calling me to depth. And so I will take the plunge. In a way I have never attempted before, I plan on submitting my schedule and my attention to the will of the Father. I will practice the Jesus prayer, the centering prayer, Lectio Divina, listening, and even journaling. These are my experimental tools. The goal is to come before the Father each day with consistent times of silence. The goal is to taste and see that the Lord is good and to re-learn the voice of my Shepherd.

I have forgotten His touch. I am no longer satisfied with my on-again, off-again dating relationship with Him. I need marriage. I need depth. I need intimacy that I can only find in the deeper places of my soul and His. And so I set out in my little canoe to cross the ocean of prayer. I hope to learn how to pray along the way. I also hope that my life will be transformed in a way I never thought possible. I hope to become a disciple....all over again.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

music to my ears

Are you ever moved by songs on the radio? Its weird. I used to listen to Christian music in my car as I drove to and fro. This was how I really "worshiped" and "praised" God through song during the day. As Christian music shifted more toward overt worship songs, I did the same. I listened to mostly straight up worship songs. But my worship has changed.

Now I listen to Five for Fighting, Cold Play, and Alanis Morissette for my inspiration. Is that weird? It just seems like these people tend to write beautiful poetry about life. And because God seems to reveal Himself through all aspects of life, I find Him in the music. I find Him in the lyrical compositions of those whose lives are full of sin and despair. Maybe because part of me can relate. Yet there seems to be hope even in their songs.

Is it weird that "Its' Been a While" by Staind moved me in a more powerful way today than most of the songs I sing on Sunday morning? Is it weird that the most profound "worship" song on the radio these days is by Alanis Morissette?

You see everything
You see every part
You see all my light
And you love my dark
You dig everything of which I am ashamed
There isn't anything to which you can't relate
And you're still here.

These musicians are brilliant. God certainly has blessed them with their lyrical and musical artistry. And as they use their gift for their own glory, I see the glory of God. I don't really know what to make of all of this. Part of me wants to give myself to the emotions of the music. Part of me doesn't trust the lyrics because they come from a life which has not been transformed by Christ. So I am partially guarded and partially enthralled.

Authenticity has something to do with it. I am moved by authentic songs. And some of the songs I hear on the radio seem more real than the average "praise" song. But some worship songs are amazing, and I am moved by them as well. Some hymns are so perfectly crafted that I can't help but pour out the tears when I sing them. I guess I am just amazed that God can use all of His creation, even those who have not acknowledged His existence and sovereignty.

I also think another part of it is the Spirit giving us ears to hear. When God gives us ears to hear, we can hear the Spirit speak through all of creation. Regardless of the song writer's intention for the lyrics, the Spirit has a way of transforming and resurrecting them so that they become words of life rather than death. Those who have ears to hear....let them hear.