Monday, December 29, 2008

December 29th

one year ago today i left. the picture at the top of my blog is the view i enjoyed for three weeks. vaughn bay, olympic moutains, and a family of geese whose chatter made me not feel so alone.
i remember one night, after all my fears had risen to code red, i could have sworn there were demons outside. fear does crazy things to you... i found out that fear had less to do with demons and more to do with my cell phone, my mom and dad, disappointment, anger, and parents of middle school students. fear left me trapped, and yet my sovereign self would not relinquish it "sometimes we hold onto fear just in case we need it." it is a strange dynamic holding onto something that won't let go of you - there's no saying who has the mastery.
i went on a brief walk this afternoon to reflect with mr. God about how things have been going. i am happy to report that i am actually less afraid than i used to be, less driven by anxiety, guilt, and disappointment. there is that old part of me still holding power, that part that still needs to pacify mom and keep dad from being disappointed. but there is in me a child, the voice of whom i heard for the first time on a cold evening on the shores of the puget sound, who is fearless. this child is rooted in the love of God. A child who believes relentlessly that "there is only love" a child who thinks disappointment is a silly thing, and for whom pain is not something to be feared, but to be embraced as part of a great journey (kind of like the way the bashes and bruises hurt in mud football).
I don't want to say too much, so I'll simply say thank you to the long lonely days, the cold and windy nights, i'll say thank you to my geese friends, and to that old broke-down ford truck, i'll say thank you to bryan, anjuli, manoah, but most of all i'll say thank you to Jesus who has never left me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Good Day

I think I was 21 years old. Morgan, Landon, and myself decided one afternoon to embark on a journey. I think we left San Luis around 9pm one night and arrived at Jalama to catch some shut eye before our clandestine entry into the legendary Bixby ranch. I distinctly remember the clasp of the flag clanging against the flagpole throughout the few sleepless hours... not that it mattered, an uncomfortable bed made on the asphalt, coupled with the anticipation of finding what our hopes were set on meant little by way of rest.

Around 3am we rolled up our sleeping bags, slung our packs around our backs and grabbed our boards. I brought my 6'4" single fin. Risky. If the waves were small I'd have been super bummed. Landon and Morgan brought their thrusters; wise choices, good all around boards. Never-the-less off we went under the stars. We followed the train tracks which run along the coast of both the Bixby and Hollister ranches. The anticipation reached a peak at this point as I became keenly aware that at any moment the notoriously fierce Bixby ranch hands could waylay us and we'd be faced with a legendary choice (either an encounter with the Sheriff or a broken board, or worse a cattle brand "BR" on the buttocks).

We continued for nearly 2 1/2 hours until the sun began to rise just as we began to reach Government Point. We quickly made our way for the bluffs to find cover. Somewhere in this process we were suprised by another 18 yr old kid name Landon Smith (the same as my friend Landon), who seemed to have crawled straight out of a hobbit hole with a surfboard. He showed us a more appropriate hiding/resting place. From about 6:30 until 7 we got a few moments of uneasy rest on a bed of iceplant.

Standing up and looking in front of us all we saw from the indicator of the point was... Nothing. It looked flat, no waves. But here we were, no where to go, no escaping until the cover of night. Might as well get wet I figured, but I did have the sinking feeling that we were going to get skunked, a monumental risk for nothing.

I suited up and paddled out with Landon, Morgan would join us a few minutes later. The current was pulling us around the point, and Landon was the first to catch a wave. He just disappeared, for at least 5 minutes. I was confused, what could possibly take so long.

Then it happened.

150 - 200 yards later I fell lazily off my board, legs burning. I had never experienced anything like that. And they just kept coming, wave after wave for 9 hours. We rode together 3-5 ft perfection almost completely alone. Turn after turn, cutback after cutback, the feeling of absolute joy began to pervade my body, deep, down into the marrow.

Near the end of the day a helicopter landed on the beach and two guys paddle out... A freaking helicopter! They scored when the waves began to reach their pinnacle of perfection 200 yards of hollow green beauty for the five of us to enjoy. They got to ride back home on a whirlybird, we had a 3 hour hike to look forward to, then a two hour drive.

When we reached the car I was completely exhausted, trying desperately to be a good friend and keep my eyes open and mouth moving for Morgan, who was driving. I simply couldn't. Thank you Morgan for staying awake so I could remember that day.

Landon, Morgan, myself, and perfect waves.

A good day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Good Vibrations

In commemoration of summer - enjoy this clip from one of my favorite surf films September Sessions

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Batter My Heart by John Donne

Batter my heart, three personed God; for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, should defend,
But is captived and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love you and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Voices in My Head

I wonder what the conversation would be like if Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, John of the Cross, Jonathan Edwards, Augustine, John Piper, Tim Keller, Bruce Waltke, and Eugene Petersen sat down to have a meal together?

That's what they're doing in my head, and they dine often.

It's not always pleasant, sometimes I feel awkward, lost, afraid of where the conversation might lead. I often feel the compulsion to protect and defend each one at different times, at other times I am angry that one of them could say such a thing - especially given all the other wonderful things they have said. At times there is an anxious clamour as each one speaks louder to be heard - or perhaps resists speaking while preferring an angry and protesting silence.

It's not easy to have this kind of company over... but for some reason I love the sounds, I love the voices, I am entranced often by the rhythm and melody, the crescendos and the diminuendos, its pure delight when I really give myself to the conversation. Each voice has its place, has its tonal quality, its depth, its time-tested timbre. A lot of the conversation sounds more like an orchestra warming up than a symphony.

But then something happens...

Kairos, God-time, invades the chaotic clamor awkwardly progressing through chronos. The voices begin to become one, the melody begins to emerge, a great and mighty theme echoes in the chambers of my mind. I begin to forget that there was ever dischord, I begin to listen not to the many but to the one... the One. It took all the textures of each of the voices to sound together for me to hear, but I do hear. Sometimes it is His voice speaking to me, sometimes it is my voice speaking to Him, and I discover that in those moments the company I keep were really at the banqueting table of Another. I joined them because I perceived they heard Him, but now I hear Him, and I hear myself. Their words, sounds, colors, textures mediated His presence for me and now He is present, or perhaps more accurately - I am present to Him.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

One Step in a Journey from Fear to Love

I was praying today. Praying for me is always a strange adventure, I never know quite where it will take me - sometimes I intend to talk to God about one thing and invariably my heart leads me to talk to him about something quite different. I am discovering God is primarily interested in the truth (the existential sense, not the over-rationalized Enlightenment sense). I went to talk to God about one thing and discovered I needed to talk to him about a rather different issue. The moment I entered into conversation with God I found myself awash in anxiety. This was particularly disturbing given that I had spent a substantial amount of time recently trying to unearth this deadly growth in my soul. Why had all the anxiety come back? And even more frustrating is the nature of anxiety, it is emotional numbness, and thus an ignorance about what actually is wrong. I knew something was wrong, but what it was I couldn't say, and when I don't have words for my heart I feel so lost, desperately clammoring for a sense of self.

So I waited. I listened. I watched. Where will my anxiety take me?

It took me to the truth. The truth is I have immersed myself, yet again, in a functional self-salvation. The motivations of my heart erupted into actions, actions that betrayed my true new self. My self-salvation looked like this: I needed others to validate me, I needed others to tell me that I was ok (that my thoughts, beliefs, inner experiences, were real, true, good), I needed others to be pleased with me, I needed others to not be disappointed with me or upset with me, I couldn't handle others supposed judgments of me. I was using all kinds of various actions to fill these deep needs, actions such as writing, speaking, planning ministry, even who and how I looked at others. I was trying to be a good little boy and keep the world around happy with me, yet always afraid that it wasn't, always constructing a whole life around the fear that I'm not ok... a whole life around the fear that I'm not ok. My whole constructed life could have been strong, but my heart was weak - what good do strong walls do for a city with a cowardly ruler?

The walls protect me.

The walls isolate me.

Better to be a city with no walls and a strong ruler... in fact if the ruler is strong enough he doesn't even need walls because he has nothing to fear.

But I am afraid.

How does a coward find strength?

I found myself asking this question, feeling particularly exposed before my God. In my exposure I asked, "do you love me?" A word from God would restore my soul. Only one thing can break me from my fears. Only one thing can make me strong. If God loved me then I wouldn't have to get others to tell me I'm ok, I wouldn't need others to validate me, I wouldn't doggedly pursue others affections, approval, and attention. I would have all those things in God. But why, why should God love me? I could offer all the same things to him that I do to others: you know the usual achievements, accomplishments, humor, wit, kindness, all-around likeability - all those things I use to get others to love me. But those things feel small before God, and even before myself - its as if my soul says "I don't want to be loved for those things!" I want love, you know the intrinsic kind, where I'm loved deeply, at my center, loved for my distinct "Sam-ness."
But how can I know that God loves me, you know me, that deep, secret, hidden me that is wonderfully precious but also tragically lost.

So I asked the question again, "God, do you love me?"

I waited. I listened. I watched. And then this...

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this - that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

That's beautiful, but not the whole story. It's not just a diffuse experience of love, its the kind of love that has been demonstrated. Other translations say "showed" as if God's saying, "Hey look, if you want to know, I mean really know, that I love you then I'll show you - look at my Son, he's my factual, demonstrable, historical, real proof that I love you and that nothing can separate you from me, not even the love of my Son." Bizzare but Beautiful.

Still I was a little puzzled, I mean how do I know that was for me. So I asked God.

I waited. I listened. I watched.

"In love he predestined us..."

This completed my experience. It was like God saying, "Sam, you believe Jesus is for you because you were meant to." It is my destiny to believe that this demonstration of the love of God was for me. It's for me because I believe it's for me, I believe it because I was meant to believe it by God, from eternity past. The ground of my belief in the love of God is God's eternal love of me. "We love because he first loved us."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Obama's Audacity (but not for Hope)

I cannot vote for Obama for the following reason - I love life. These articles have convinced me that Sen. Barack Obama's bid for presidency is an assault on life itself, and if he were to be elected, his time in office would be devastating to the great Americal value of the "inalienable right to life."

Article One is penned by a senior at Princeton who is a 2008 Rhodes Scholar

Article Two describes Obama's voting stance on late-term fetus' which survived the abortion only to be terminated or left for dead after surviving.

It seems to me the golden tongue of Sen. Obama is nothing other that the flickering one of the Serpent.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Piper on the Prosperity Gospel

I'm letting these words sink in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Silent Water's Deep

I feel. Good start. I feel it underneath, subterranean if you will; flowing, churning, briskly moving within. It's the stream, no the river within, and it tells me that I am alive, living, life. Yet it is underneath still, like the rivers in the great Sahara I hear, and I'm like the desert above - shifting sands and all (very Peter-esque). It was a gift I didn't ask for, couldn't have - wasn't looking for it. But it's there, it, no no, Him, He's there living in me, not me living.

Again though, He's subterranean, all this earth between me and Him, oops, Him and me, but I am mean. That's always the problem though isn't it? The world get's in the way. Layer after layer, sedimentary, leftover from the erosion of my soul given to television. Those layers harden over time - not just sand, but sandstone. I feel it now, I didn't before, but I do now. It's Him, He's the reason to live - the reason to die. Sadly Sahara desert sands shift and I'm not with Him, He's with me, but I'm not with Him.

What would happen to the desert sand if the silent water's deep were to well up, well we'll find out won't we?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Word On Particular Love

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." ~ Ephesians 5:25

I am writing today, not so much a theological treatise or a spiritual musing, but a glowing praise. I love my wife. I do. I love her more than my own life. You may ask, "why Sam do you love your wife?" I will say to you, "because she is lovely." I have the distinct pleasure, and secret honor of knowing more about her soul than any other creature on this planet. It was once told me that good therapists do their jobs because of the sheer joy in encountering another in their distinct essence. I think this is even more true of my marriage to Anjuli - I derive untold pleasure from simply being in her presence. She is home to me, or perhaps she is penultimate home, pointing me to the bosom of my God. You don't get to experience her when she is giddy with delight at the most simple and delightful of things - like the names of our children. You don't get to experience her when big, beautiful tears cascade from her eyes and reach for the earth as the words of her heart unfold before me like a flower in the morning sun. You don't get to experience the depth and breadth of her sheer otherness, her "Anjuli-ness." Even I don't get to experience all this - a joy that God has reserved for himself.
She is beautiful.
I love the sound of her voice - it is at once gentle and strong. I love the sound of her silence - which mysteriously opens my heart. I love her smile - it is truly infectious, even when I'm pissed off it makes me laugh. I love her laugh - when Anjuli laughs she laughs with her whole body, laughter that reminds me of the laughter of God - a kind that makes the earth tremble in joy. I love her ears - men and women, young and old, hard or soft, unfold before her listening ears like presents on Christmas morning. I lover her - here it goes - submission... She loves and respects me and I feel it every day - she would follow me to the end of the world. In her submission there is no loss of herself, but she brings the fullness of who she is to bear on the fullness of who I am - as iron sharpens iron. I love her friendship - she is without question my best friend, my twin soul, I have laughed more, cried more, shared more, lost more, spent more, given more, recieved more with her than with an soul under the sun. She is my beloved wife, mother of my son, and sister in Christ.
I write these things for others to read, I am going public with my love for Anjuli, because Christ's love for his church went public. I am to stand under his directives as the true Husband, and so I proclaim my love for Anjuli, and in doing so proclaim my love for my Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Step into the Waters

"He used to often say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. 'It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,' he used to say. 'You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to." ~ Frodo Baggins

I love to write... But I only love to write when I'm inspired to write. When I'm inspired words flow from spirit to mind to fingertips with almost boundless energy. When I'm uninspired, the page looks at me with mocking silence... taunting me. As a lesson from three weeks submerged in the silence of God, I must resist the taunts, I must lay hold of life, Life, within me. It is a temptation of mine to surrender to the fear of the empty page, as it is a temptation to surrender to any fear. Yet surrender to fear is surrender to death, and if the Life within me has overcome death, then there is nothing to fear. The empty page is a mere symbol of my empty life, it points me to the reality that I have surrendered my soul to fear, and when the soul is lost so are words. All that is left is emptiness, an empty page, an empty life. A page I don't know how to fill with my words because my words were lost with my soul; a life I don't know how to live because I don't know who I am.

No longer! I demand that space be filled, that emptiness be articulated. No longer will I withhold myself from life, no longer will I withhold my words from the page. No longer will I wait for inspiration to come for me to live; I am alive, because life... the Life... lives. As He wells up to eternal life I enter in to His waters, to His stream of living waters, and I am quickened. Words and life are connected, "In the beginning was the Word... in Him was life and that life was the light of men." Words connect me to Life. God spoke and I lived... "I said live and you lived."

This space I have created in the otherworldly cyberspace, is a space for me to live, not the only space, but a space none-the-less. It is a place where my words connect me to my Life. It is public because I need the Life in others to flow into mine, as tributaries join the River that flows in "those who have recieved Him." It is my way of asking for help, my way of saying my words need your words, lest my words be lost. So I ask you to step into the River with me, to step onto the Road.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.