28 October 2013

i'd like to bake a carrot cake.

but the trouble is, i don't feel particularly inclined to peel carrots. also, i have no pineapple. the internet tells me i can substitute apples for pineapples; it must be the common denominator in name. [sometimes that works in other places, but don't count on it.] but wouldn't i need to peel them too? that just gave me a great mental picture of peeling a pineapple. first i'd peel away the pine, then the apple. i've decided to write instead. maybe it'll muster up courage. maybe it'll burn energy. only time shall tell.

i used to bake a lot. i rather enjoy baking. the conditions in which baking holds the most possible joy for one such as i are as follows: one, quiet house; two, kitchen to myself; three, good music; and four, all the time in the world. somewhere amidst the vast unseen wiring of my brain and, therefore, person, there exists a very low capacity for tolerating loud noises, the feeling of being rushed, and a shared kitchen. i dearly love the people with whom i do dwell, and i am assured of their lifelong love for me [as i have dwelt among them, and never once in a tent, since the dawn of my understanding of time.. give or take a few years in europe], but when i have asserted myself into the creative and tactile pleasures of baking, i do not especially relish anyone's presence. i think it makes me feel as though i may possibly make a mistake [people are terribly distracting]. and if you're going to go through all the trouble of baking something, it's preferable to know what you're doing and/or feel confident that it may indeed succeed. [that being said, i am capable of baking in the presence of others, and experienced at failing at baked goods; be all at rest, insecure baker or bakeress.] [[i just made up that word and i think it's tops. also, it rhymes with rest.]] also i don't eat much that can be baked anymore, unless it's a vegetable.

i used to blog a lot too. the vague realization that nearly 14,000 people have visited my blog has recently arisen upon me. [..has recently upon me arisen. i like version two better. either it reminds me of foreign grammar, or old books. probably both.] the general perusal of the posts i've posted heretofore will verify the veracity of this and the aforementioned paragraphs' point.

but the point is, i don't really bake or blog anymore. it's kind of weird. well, to be entirely factual, i don't really do much of anything anymore. i used to work; stopped. i used to bike; got cold. i used to do lots of things; got sick. this summer i read a million and a half books [actually, it was 30]; don't even really do much of that anymore. kind of.

last week i had a really hard week. it felt like my brains went on furlough and forgot to invite me along. i couldn't think, and that's kind of my favorite pastime. i couldn't read two sentences together, but neither of them made any sense on their own anyway. it was kind of scary. i felt so disconnected and unable to reconnect to anything at all. but i slept a lot; that was a plus. i am really grateful for sleep. some nights i wake up three or four times, but last week i mainly could sleep anytime, forever. "He giveth to His beloved sleep."

i stopped consuming all forms of caffeine five months ago, in the beginning of june. [here's a few brief tips: be prepared for the worst week of your life // you will become unusually angry // valid explanations of your behavior are gladly accepted // if you don't explain, they may just assume you've turned into a crazy person // the headaches don't last more than a week // it is possible, but for heaven's sake do it in the summertime.] life became much slower paced, due to various circumstances and choices. it was good. but having tasted and seen the glorious horizons of a once-caffeinated brain, it's hard to come back down to normal life without it. i was sick, uncaffeinated, and thoroughly unamused. and i like being amused. but i was resting.

i kind of go through phases of amusement/unamusement. first, after giving up caffeine, and having been given a reason to give up the rest of the busyness, i amused myself by sleeping as much as i needed. then by soaking up all the summer sun rays i could manage. then by riding my bike slowly into the sunset nearly every evening. and by reading all the classic children's books i could find. and by gallivanting out in nature. and by instagramming tiny beautiful things for which i was thankful.

and i was thankful. and i appreciated those lovely things. but somewhere in the mix, either the wonder, the practicability, or the energy for all of those wore off, and i found myself last week again encased in blankets, with no more summer to cheer me up. so i had a cup of green tea on saturday. it was really hard to do. i'd been perfect at not having caffeine for five months. i didn't like what it was doing to me back then, and i stopped it. i didn't want to trick my adrenals anymore that they actually worked when they actually didn't. but i bit the proverbial bullet and made the tea. and it helped. and it reminded me that though it may be figuratively or actually dark, the dawn of hope yet remains. i could think again, and could focus all my energy into ridding my abode of long-ignored clutter and dust. i could make jokes again; it's been months since i could do that. i could walk around without feeling i may tip over at any moment. i could focus better than i had in many weeks.

i had a little caffeine yesterday, and got through a long day at church without the usual desire to flee from all personal contact. it isn't that i don't like people; it's just that there isn't anything in me to say, and that's a crushing realization, and one that's easier dealt with by flight than by fighting it out or explaining. i had a little more green tea today, but it didn't all the way help. at least it has antioxidants.

i've more or less been able to read again in the last few days too. i'm thankful for that. somehow all of the hundreds of books with which i'm daily surrounded lost all their charm and interest for a while. so i waited, and i'm gradually getting back into it. not dozens at a time, but one really good re-read is currently delighting me.

i think i had a really good and clever point toward which i was coming in a roundabout way for this post, but i think i may have forgotten. if you'd like to be amused, read through the posts from 2010 and 2011. they're hilarious. i was in the thick of a different health adventure then, but one infused with a bit more pharmaceutical energy.

eventually i suppose i shall arrive back at a place of creativity again. i'll be glad for such a day. but i know that this season is teaching me and shaping me into something better than i could ever have been in its absence, so i'm thankful. someday i'll have enough internal resources stored up to peel all the carrots, and the pineapple to boot; to write a blog post from beginning to end on the same train of thought; to read books and see people and have things to say; to stand up without immediately wanting to sit back down for internal reasons; to go places again; to have a cup of coffee for really reals just because i like it.

but tonight i've done all i can do, and it's enough. isn't it wonderful to realize how much grace the Lord constantly extends to us? if we were always strong, we wouldn't need grace. if we were never weak, we'd never know what paul told the second-corinthians to be true. but when we're just too weak to bear anything at all, we've still got the same amount of grace. and God's not upset because we're doing less highly-caffeinated and in-some-ways-possibly-regrettable busy little things. "i'm learning the to-be of be still." ĂȘtre. selah.

so if it's a choice between carrot cake and grace, i'll take the grace. these mountainous obstacles of tiny everyday things which today seem so terribly impossible to overcome shall one day become a plain, with shouts of grace, grace to it.

07 October 2013

that one time when i made a cd

my paypal account has been charged. my album has been uploaded, artwork and all.
all i'm waiting for is an email saying we're ready to roll.

it's official.

THE PROCESS will be released by next tuesday.

if you are interested, here are the album notes, explaining what this project is all about. read them for now, and stay on itunes alert!


The Process is a progression of songs I wrote in 2011-2012. I was in between seasons of knowing what I was supposed to do with my life; in fact, that has been my foremost motivation in writing songs since 2007. I want to do God's will, and I want to live by faith; but faith is not sight, and in much eager searching of the Scriptures, I've come to find that more often than the commands of "Go" and "Do" are those of "Wait" and "Be Still". God's Word says that those who wait for the Lord shall be blessed, and shall not be ashamed.

In my eagerness to go and do, the Lord has continually, emphatically, and sometimes painfully, told me to wait. He doesn't tell us to wait to be cruel to us. God's patience is a great deal higher than my thoughts can ever comprehend. He waits that He may have mercy upon us. To our fickle human understanding it seems unfathomable to not grant requests when perfectly capable of so doing. But having been brought to places where there is no apparent way out, I have learned that God's goodness requires that His ways and thoughts be higher than mine. He knows, He sees, and He is always good.

As I have said, many of my songs have been an attempt at grasping this fact, while crying out for wisdom and understanding and direction. God's Word says that my ears will hear a word behind me, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever I turn to the right or the left. God's Word says that He will never leave me nor forsake me; therefore I may boldly and confidently say, "The Lord is my Helper; what can man do to me?" The Bible, as God's inspired, infallible Word, gives us vast, great, wonderful promises such as these. If we will hear these words and believe them, we are blessed; and we shall see God's powerful hand at work on our behalf. "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."

"I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord."

While writing these songs, one of my most-read authors was Oswald Chambers. The inspiration for the title of this album comes from this quote, out of his book, "So Send I You" - ironically, it's a book about being sent out as a missionary, which aligned with my hopes at this time in my life; but there is a deeper lesson within it, regardless of calling or place. We are called to simply belong to the Lord, and trust Him through ordinary circumstances to "order our way aright." The times of stillness in the wilderness come not by mistake or neglect; they are the very seasons which fit us for that which is ahead. Here is the quote:

'Each one of us has a counterpart somewhere in the experiences of these three men of God. In the case of Abraham, the valley of humiliation lasted thirteen years; Moses, forty years; Isaiah, a few minutes. No two of us are alike, each one stands alone before God. Your valley may be a darkness where you have nothing but your duty to guide you, no voice, no thrill, but just steady, plodding duty; or it may be a deep agonizing dejection at the realization of your unfitness and uncleanness and insufficiency. Let God put you on His wheel and whirl you as He likes, and as sure as God is God and you are you, you will turn out exactly in accordance with the vision He gave you. Don't lose heart in the process.'

This album is my testimony that God is faithful, even when I don't know, and I can't see, and all seems lost. I've learned to slow down since writing these songs; I still "ask and seek and knock," as He commanded us, but I have found a peace in Him that rests on His unchanging goodness and faithfulness. I have found that the purpose of life is not how much one can accomplish, or how fast you can move from one thing to the next. If we are to "be still and know that He is God," the doing thereof takes a certain amount of literally being still. I've been nearly stopped in my tracks, even since the recording of this project in early 2013. I've been commanded by outside sources and personal lack of all strength to be still and to rest. While some may consider this a terrible disruption to plans (by the way, who plans their steps and Who establishes them? The Proverbs will tell you about that), I've realized what precious riches I've been given. I am among the privileged few who get to learn stillness without the harried scurry of modern life. These songs, written 1-2 years ago, are continually coming back to my remembrance, and I understand them better with the passing of time.

In resting and being still, I've found that the purpose of life is truly in knowing God. We can know God in manifest ways. We can recognize His tender care for a flock of sparrows in a hedgerow on a cold and blustery day, and in "considering the birds of the air" we see His character and concern, and with renewed confidence we trust His care over us, and rejoice along with these beloved creatures; like them, we're doing what we're supposed to do if we trust Him! That is the theme of track one, Birds. We can know God's goodness in seeing the process of life, when we behold "the lilies of the field" (or dandelions and butterflies in the ditches of cornfields), and their utter dependence on God's gracious rain and warm sun and hardy winds which strengthen; that is the theme of the final track, Ditches. We are called to consider these small, humble, reliant things, made and kept so carefully and exquisitely by the hand of God, and in the consideration of them we learn of Him and know Him more completely.

These two considerations seemed a fitting beginning and end to this project. Life is a process. Considering brings the sense and value to that process. Track two, Snome, was written after a paradigm-shifting trip to Europe and the Middle East; it caused me to seek to really know and understand the Gospel, even while the conclusion of the trip brought more uncertainty as I returned home. Travel is an invaluable experience, one which I would highly encourage to everyone, because it enables and enriches perspective. It also changes us; and once changed, we realize that part of our life and strength and affection is scattered all this world abroad, and therefore cannot be simply confined to one area anymore. It leads to the question of home: where is it? how does it happen? can it ever be refound? It's a breaking process, but one that drives us to the only One who remains unchangeable, and Who therefore is our home as "sojourners and pilgrims on the earth" until we come permanently to His mansions in the sky.

Faithful is the next in this process: first we stop to consider how well the Lord cares for His own, whether great or small, which must of course include me, regardless of placement on this globe, which must resound in songs of praise, and strong, bold confidence in His promises. He has ever proven Himself to be true. This song is basically a list of every way I could think of that God describes Himself as faithful in His Word, written right after my plans had quite fallen through. This is the first song, chronologically, that I wrote for this album. When things fall apart, and we don't know what to do, we must run to the Word. It is there that we shall find hope and peace and "quietness and confidence."

Thyme is an herb; perhaps you've heard of it. I have heard that over time, certain plants have been associated with particular meanings or symbolic ideas. Thyme's meaning, for which reason I am yet unaware, is courage. "Courage, dear heart," those words so heartening to Lucy from her dear Aslan, gave strength and steadfastness to continue on. This song is more particularly about time, but I do not think thyme and courage to be frivolous associations to it. No fruit happens without time, and fruit is God's business; have you noticed that? In seasons of waiting there shall be long, open stretches of seeming drudgery. Then is the very time we must "be of good courage, and strengthen our hearts" - courage, dear heart. He's got you.

Hey Little is a very personal song to me. It was written and roughly recorded within the space of an hour, in a dark little apartment in Germany, partly to encourage a friend and partly to encourage myself, written from God's vantage point, at a point when fear was very real indeed. He loves us. He doesn't want us to fret; that only causes harm.  This gentle waltz is a Father beckoning His dear child to come, take His hand, and let Him lead, although that child may adamantly deny any skill at dancing. Again, it is a picture of trust (as, you may have noticed, are all of these songs about the process; perhaps the process itself is faith? or letting go? or learning to rejoice without knowing?). It's a bit of call and response, as my own weary frame cries out in calm and resigned realization, that really what I need is Him; really all I need is Him. And He lets me enjoy the dance with Him, if I let my little heart slow down and rest.

Sweet Savior is, again, autobiographical, but maintains the contrast between my utter frailty and incapability and God's unfathomable mercy and love. This song was nearly the last written of these songs, chronologically, and is not the same in nature as the rest. Instead of crying out in desperation and quandary, the realization of the Savior's vast worth and unmerited favor has already dawned upon the heart, and it responds with the best weakness it can give. The process is a humbling one, dear friend; but we know very well to be true that "blessed are the meek." Blessed because we've learned meekness from trusting the Meekest One of all, and meek because we're so undeserving of such blessing.

Ditches, as I've already described, is another consideration. A storm is coming; the butterflies are trembling and fluttering around as the wind picks up and the scent of rain begins to assail the senses. In it all, they know it's a blessing. Perhaps one storm, one process, has been successfully weathered, but of necessity more shall arise. Life is never a race to the finish line; much more often it feels like a merry-go-round. You think you've passed something for good; but wait! there it is again. The process is as such. But we needn't "fear the storm; for we are learning to sail our ship."

The picture on the album cover is of a massive, sturdy, time-tested cedar tree. I love going to the woods and fields and hills for inspiration (have you noticed?); on this particular walk I was awed to behold such majesty. Mighty cedars don't grow in a day. A tree of this size is very old, and has withstood a great many terrible winters, beating winds, humid hot summer days, and driving rains. A tree of this size has been faithful to its calling: it has been a tree, in season and out of season, straight and tall and true. "The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." Cedars have a deep significance, a beautiful scent, and are highly valued for the strength and longevity of their lumber. Imagine the roots that such a giant would require; upon what am I anchored? It had better be a firm rock, and they had better be deep roots. The picture focuses on the trunk and the roots - seemingly commonplace things, not nearly so glorious as the treetop or branches; this was intentional. The process is not glamorous, but it is deep and necessary, and is beautiful even in its roughness. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit." I want to be like a cedar, no matter how long the process takes.

This album could not possibly have come to existence without the vast amounts of time, musical and production skills, encouragement, and overall insistence of a dear brother in Christ, Greg Fadness. I am indebted to his kindness, which was great indeed. Thank you, sir, for your example and personal investment into this project. My family has been incredibly kind and patient to me and encouragingly impatient about this whole deal coming to life at long last. I love you, family: each of you has played a deep part in the process of my life, as well as the writing of these songs, and the coming-to-be of this album. Thanks to Tyler for flying out to Idaho to record it with me, and for all three of my brothers' impeccably high standards in music. My church, the people in our community, and friends flung wide across the earth, have been very supportive of this, much more than I thought I deserved!

I pray that this album is a blessing to each of its hearers; in fact, many months of prayers to that effect have prefaced this one. These songs are rough little glimpses at some of the gloriousness of God and His kindly dealings with mankind. It is an album by no means perfect or complete, but neither am I. It would be a disservice to present myself as any less flawed than I truly am; but I'm being transformed, and so are you, if you're letting God put you on His wheel and spin you as He likes.

"For now we see as in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."
"But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Thank you for listening. Don't lose heart in the process.