Friday, December 28, 2007

Resolve

These are a few of my personal resolutions for the New Year at hand. Who knows if I will achieve all of them, but I’d like to give it my best effort.

***

As ever, draw closer to God. I’d mention that it goes without saying, but then I wouldn’t have said it.

Be more intentional with others. This was a resolution I have held the past few years, and I don’t see any reason to discontinue it. Community is so vital to existence and to understanding God's character.

Read (and actually finish) a decent number of books. So far on my list are titles by Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, David Crowder, Douglas Adams and perhaps a little Tolstoy (along with a few other authors whose names escape me).

Try to write a novel. I think it’s time I give it a shot. I’m open to title and topic ideas.

Hone my photography skills. I’ve dabbled in shooting film here and there (mostly because all I own is a 35mm SLR…which I love). I’d like to grow in this and perhaps take a class at the community college.

Journal more often. I find it to be a very healthy habit, since most of my journal entries become conversations with God and necessarily introspective.

Get some art on my walls.
Seriously. It’s just sad having my paintings sitting on the floor leaning against the wall. I need to buy a hammer and some nails. And some Longbrake originals, as soon as he gets his online store running.

Play more shows. I played my first official show with my best friend Rhema and my good friend Symon a few months ago. And I certainly hope to have more to come. I think I need to sing my songs to more than just a wall, and I’ve been writing a lot lately. For those of you unfamiliar with this side of me, I play piano, sing and write songs that usually end up reflecting a variety of influences.

***

What about you? I’d love to hear your resolutions, no matter how significant or subtle they may be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Remembrance [part 3]

She saw it in his eyes, if only for a moment. The candle-lit service and the hymns they sang filled the air with nostalgia. He didn't say a word, but he wiped away a tear or two. She wondered if she was only imagining it, but nonetheless she felt it. It was only the second Christmas without him. No call from the northwest. No passing around of the phone to say hello. Just life as they knew it to be.

She studied his brother, left behind in a quiet tragedy that should have never happened. She wondered if he thought of him that night, or if the shuffle of family and games and gifts was enough to drown out the emptiness left by a loved one too quickly departed. She wondered at how it would feel, but could only go so far before becoming overwhelmed at the thought of losing a sibling. Flesh and blood. Heart and soul. Someone there through years of memories and changes and events and gatherings. And then suddenly, painfully, taken away.

She wondered about Heaven and Hell and how only God can judge a heart, even as its mortal life is slipping away. What happens in a moment? Can it change eternity? She only prayed it could be so for him. For his sake. For their sake.

And there was grace enough to keep on living. Moving. Laughing. Breathing. Enjoying. Remembering. Bitter sorrow was now tempered by joy that only family can bring.

And once again, hope was in the midst of them.

[Part 1 and Part 2]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Awake vs. Alert + Family Ties

I've had my share of road trips that last into (or even begin during) the wee-hours of the morning. I've driven my share of dark, windy roads on ridiculously small amounts of sleep and way too many Dr. Peppers/Starbucks beverages. And I've even braved some pretty intense elements on my handful of solo trips. But for some reason, this one really got me.

Fog.

Not just patchy, here and there fog that lifts after a while. I mean, it lasted for about 12 of the 14 hours we drove. All the way through Missouri (read: Misery) and into southern Illinois and part of Indiana. I stayed awake with Adam from about 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and then drove from 6-7, right before the dawn. My eyes were tired but I told him he could sleep if he wanted. Jenna and Ryan were in the back, completely out. That was a mistake. Stephen Christian's crooning tenor vocals and Anberlin's (sometimes repetitive) guitar riffs could only do so much to keep me alert.

I could only see about 10 feet in front of the car that whole time. Not having anything to focus on plays some really weird tricks on your mind. I always felt like the road was going to curve, but I was wrong every time. Not to mention we'd started our journey at 2:30 in the morning (which, in truth, wasn't all that far from the original plan) and I hadn't slept since the night before. So inevitably, I was fighting with myself internally.

I'm awake. But how alert am I?

You know those moments where you wonder if what you're doing is even that safe or healthy, but aren't really in a state of mind to effectively finish a thought? That's usually a sign that you should throw it in. I pulled over at Conoco and called it quits. I feel like such a wuss for only lasting an hour, but hey, I was Adam's navigator and conversation for 4 hours too, so that counts for something.

Needless to say, we were all very glad when we arrived in Michigan and made it to our respective homes and families. I ditched my stuff at the house and went to my brother's to celebrate his birthday. We'd barely made it past the tacos and dirt cake when we were talking about God's character and theology and truth and society. My brother got out his Bible and we all ended up at the table eventually, talking about some brutally honest things. This is pretty typical of my family, which is a big reason why I love being home so much.

These are people that I really, truly trust (fallible though we are) and that are fully entitled to speak truth into my life. God uses them in such powerful ways, even if my times with them are few and far between. They are true warriors, fighting for the right things (like the Kingdom of God) and doing what they were created to do.

I'm glad to be back for the week, and to remember the significance of the season. God came down and put on skin. He dwelt with us as a human for a while and showed us that He loves enough to do the unthinkable. Just to see us through to restoration and redemption and to give us a hope for Heaven. What a beautiful, joyous, unfathomable gift. I am eternally grateful.

May God warm your soul in this season. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Publish'd

Hello friends. Some of you may have noticed my latest article up on RELEVANTmagazine.com. If you haven't visited there yet, feel free to check it out. You should note that it's an expanded version of my recently written piece entitled "Held" (retitled for Relevant's purposes).

While you're there, I really encourage you to look around a bit, maybe hit the blogs or join a thread on the message boards, or just enjoy the content and the amazing line up for music vids they have.

I love me some Relevant, and I'd like to share the love!

Merry Christmas, guys!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Church [as I know it]

I was walking across campus with a coworker yesterday and she mentioned that her church will be having a guy dressed as Santa there this weekend to pose for pictures with kids. I did a double take and told her I thought that was odd, considering Santa isn't exactly what the church believes Christmas is about. She said something like, "Well, our pastor just wants to get more people to come to the church."

I'll admit it. I got a little self-righteous in that moment.

I said something like, "Well...I'd never do something like that to get people to come." I wanted to tell her the church isn't a building that we try to get people to come visit. The church is a living, breathing body of believers, and it is most alive and in its place when it spends time outside the four walls of a building, helping people right where they are. It is the hundreds of believers that jumped in to help with the power restoration this weekend, assessing the damage and needs of thousands upon thousands of households. It is the people who have taken in dozens of others into their homes so they don't have to cope with freezing temperatures and depressing darkness in their own houses. It's the helping hands lent, the embraces offered, the interventions made, the love given, the joy shared. The building a body of believers owns, if anything, is a headquarters from which we go out.

But who am I to point this out when I rarely do it myself? I get so wrapped up with work and freelancing and seeing friends and (yes) going to church events that I forget we are meant to be light-bearers in a dark world. To live every moment in the mentality that we are representing Jesus. To challenge myself to look at people through His eyes and to allow my heart to break with what breaks His.

That said, I am beginning to understand what it means to burn again. To be moved. To be alive. To be aflame with the love of Christ and the holiness He possesses. To drive away the darkness and to bring warmth to those who are in such desperate need of it. To hear their story, to realize they can help me as much as I can help them...and to somehow make a difference for this upside Kingdom of which I am a part.

Will you join me?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Burning Ones

I was recently assigned a feature story for one of my freelancing gigs and, in the process, I have come to know some truly passionate people. They understand the Kingdom of God in a way I have not yet come to know myself, but the more I am around them, the more I realize there must be more to living a life of true worship than what I've known so far. There has to be something deeper, something more fervent, something more consuming, something more earth-shattering and entirely captivating.

I can see it in their eyes. It is burning, living, breathing, moving, organic, raw and genuine. Do they see it in my eyes? Perhaps it has been dormant all this time, or seldom stirred. How did I grow so cold? Was there ever a time I understood, really? I think so, but that time came and went with the rise and fall of a community I once knew. Now, a few years later, I find myself on the verge of diving into something that is beyond what any of us can fathom.

And here I am, trying to transcribe interviews and put together a lengthy story about this movement...this burning...this grassroots group of worshippers who want nothing more than to see God change the atmosphere around them and effect change in their hearts and their communities.

I can only pray I do the story justice. I have a feeling that it will change me as much as (I hope) it will change those that read it someday.

Here goes everything.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baby Cali

Luci and Ryan have one beautiful, perfectly formed little girl. She was christened Calandra Thuyanh Lampe. (Her middle name is Vietnamese, after Ryan's aunt.) And she's got some powerful lungs, so hopefully she'll sing like her very talented mami! I got to hold her for a long time Wednesday night, and she fell asleep in my arms. Not like my heart wasn't melted before, but dear Lord, what a feeling that is! And she's not even mine. :)

Photos!

What a little tike she is!
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With her teddy bear from Aunt Alina.
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A proud papi, if I ever saw one. He cried when she was born.
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Making faces with daddy.
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Abuela Pilar serenading her in Spanish. Might I add that I'm SO excited to have some of Pilar's flan this weekend.
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Yep, Luz was exhausted at this point. Even more so than when we did our all-nighter drives to and from Nashville! But she is so beautiful, either way!
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She is very loved.
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She definitely has Luci's eyes. So lovely.
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Welcome to our world, little Cali.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Comin' Out

Okay, I caved.

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According to Los, it's National Blog Lurker Come Out Of The Closet Day. Not that I really think I have that many readers who don't comment (wouldn't it be sad if nobody responded? haha), or that many readers who DO comment in the first place. But, if by some chance, you read my blog and haven't commented, now's your chance to make yourself known.

Trust me, it's liberating.

Monday, December 10, 2007

It's a war zone!

7 crazy things that have happened in the past 3 days [as a result of the nasty ice storm that doesn't want to let up]:

1. The power went out yesterday right as Mr. Bingley was about to propose to Jane! Oh the suspense! (I've seen Pride and Prejudice at least half a dozen times.)

2. My friend Caleb's car got completely destroyed by ice-covered branches that fell on it.

3. The power went out AGAIN at 1 a.m. and I woke up to the sound of electrical discharge from powerlines somewhere down the road from my apartment. I've never heard anything like it. We saw the sky flicker blue last night as we were driving, too, from another downed powerline and/or exploding transformer.

4. It took me 15 minutes to even get my car door open this morning (oh, the wonders I've accomplished with a table knife in hand) and another 30 minutes to scrape enough ice off to even see where I was going. I think I need a bigger scraper.

5. My furnace, water heater, fridge, stove and everything else electric have no juice, and they say it may be til Wednesday before we get power back. I have a fireplace and no wood. (That may change, though!)

6. My coworker ended up in the ER after slipping on the ice over the pedestrian bridge coming into work this morning. She dislocated her shoulder. It's terrible! :(

7. I walked across campus to join my best friend for lunch, thinking it would be safer than trying to drive home. I was wrong. Fallen branches EVERYWHERE and more coming down (quite literally) every minute. It was spectacular to see everything covered in ice, though. Eerily beauitful, I say.

It's hard not to laugh when you hear a loud crack and see people and wildlife alike scatter and run for their lives as some branch comes crashing down. It's genuinely treacherous, but comical once we realize everyone's okay.

There are loud crashes outside every 10 or 15 minutes, along with sirens and an occassional scream, and the power keeps flickering here, so I'll wrap this up.

Photos!

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Quick update

Baby Cali has arrived! Details soon. God is so crazy amazing!

Right on time!

My best friend, Luci, is due to have her baby today. A little girl (and their first child)! Apparently this little tike is punctual, because Luci's in the hospital now and in the early stages of labor. YIKES! I'll be there on my lunch hour and promptly after work.

Here she is at 39 weeks, blooming and beautiful:

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Please pray, since this is their first child. Luz sounded a little scared on the phone and definitely in a lot of pain. It comes with the territory, I suppose, but she sure could use those prayers, especially from those of you who have gone through this process.

Thanks, guys! I'm so excited for all this! You can bet I'll be posting pictures of the new arrival this weekend. What a beautiful day it is!