templa la vida

living this life in the light of jesus christ

Month: March, 2008

Chilling, Actually

News today seems usually to be bad news.

Leah and I were recently featured in the Tacoma News Tribune’s Outdoor section. We took in a picnic lunch in early March between hikes in Washington’s amazing Mount Rainier National Park.

We were kicking back on the old porch at National Park Inn in Longmire, gnoshing on tidbits of cheese, fruit, ham, and bread. It was a kind of chilly, actually, but the absence of any wind made the outdoor picnic bearable. It was quiet, as if we were very nearly the only visitors.

2obryans

Just then a guy wandered into our space with a park employee.

“Not much of a view of the mountain today, but you can shoot whatever else you want,” the employee said, gesturing widely to the cloud-enshrouded Mount Rainier in the distance and the ten-foot banks of snow blocking the view from and toward the Inn’s porch. The guy had a press badge and some camera gear hanging around his neck.

“Thanks,” the guy replied, and the park employee went back inside. Camera gear guy sauntered carefully closer and asked if we were just enjoying a picnic there on the porch.

“Um, yes?” I said, hoping this was my sweepstakes deliveryman about to proffer millions to me via a giant 4-foot wide check. I looked around. Just him. No hidden cameras, no big check.

“We’re doing a feature on late-winter activities at Longmire,” he said. “Do you mind if I photograph you?”

Understanding the plight of a photographer sent to capture images of something that isn’t going exactly the way some editor imagines, and knowing we were the only game in town, so-to-speak, I said, “Sure.”

We chatted. He snapped off frames. We commented on the fact that the view from the porch, usually dead-center on the Mighty Rainier, was blocked by the snow that had fallen off the roof of the Inn. If you stood up from the chair, however, the view was much better, and now included great gray bands of clouds. But no mountain.

We also lamented together that our little picnic was the most exciting thing happening to take photos of that day. But that’s OK. A picnic on the porch at National Park Inn in the late winter should include a bit of lazy peace and quiet. Time to avoid the constant flow of noise from the world. Time to heal.

The photographer got his shots in. We finished our picnic and took off for another short hike. No big sweepstakes check, but it was better to actually be part of some good news.

To His Good Purpose

Does God bring trouble upon people? Is God to blame for our suffering?

Read This!

This weekend I spent some time at Wagner’s German Bakery in Olympia studying a random Bible passage. With no particular plan in mind, just my thick blue Bible, a pen, and a notebook, I thumbed to a page, stopping in the Gospel According to Matthew.

I began reading near the end of Chapter 22, where some Jews in Jerusalem are grilling Jesus about some details of the law and of the Scriptures. With his answers he pretty much shuts up his critics. Verse 46 says “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.”

The Christ then turns to the crowds and his disciples and lets loose a tirade upon the heads of the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and their ilk.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” he says. He delivers this harsh blow seven times in Chapter 23, each time pointing out just how these Jewish zealots are missing the point. By the end of Chapter 23 it’s easy to understand the phrase we often hear about fearing the Lord.All this chastisement is great fun and very revealing about the nature of God. But it’s that statement in Verse 34 that caused me to pause.

“… I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

This behavior that Christ knows the Pharisees will do, he asserts, will lead to their condemnation.

We often view this passage as Christ-centric, as in his judgement and wrath; or Pharisee-centric, as in their pride and hypocrisy — how NOT to be.

I had the temporary depth of mind to look further into this story …

“I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers …”

Hmmm. What about them? What if we look at the story from the their perspectives? We usually don’t consider what it must be like to be the prophet, the wise man, the teacher.Here’s an innocent bystander to whom God gives a heart of understanding. This man will then be sent to speak the truth of the Gospel — sent to be pursued, flogged, stoned, crucified, and killed.

Isn’t this what Jesus is saying? That he sends people to be killed? Wise people? People with caring hearts? Killed!

My time of study ended with the kind of clarity that only comes with several cups of freshly brewed coffee. The central thought? That God may, should he choose, turn me, or you, over to be beaten down, robbed, raped, or killed.

But why? What if I’ve asked him to transform me? Promised to love him? Been really good to everyone? Sacrificed for social justice? If He has promised to forgive my wickedness and remember my sin no more, why would He inflict this damage on me?

The words I kept hearing in my mind:

To His.

Good.

Purpose.

Who am I to question God, who is both Good and Sovereign? I don’t believe that every act of evil or every injustice is directly caused by God. I know about the Fall of Man and understand something about free will. But I must acknowledge that God may, To His Good Purpose, deliver me to a beating, or indeed to my own death.

So, back to my two-part lead question.Does God bring trouble upon people? Is God to blame for our suffering?

Yes. And no.

But while God may indeed set an unfortunate occasion upon me, it is completely up to me how I respond. Do I suffer? Or do I rejoice? Do I cower in fear and chalk it up to some punishment God is inflicting upon me? Perhaps the path I choose truly determines what I think about God and His Sovereignty, His Goodness, His Good Purpose. It helps me to remember this from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his good purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I wonder what you think about it.

New Shoes v.2

OK. So the new shoes from Rogue have to go back. A newly tweaked nerve in my foot is causing pain to drift all the way up to my hip. Some type of sciatica is overtaking my ability to mobilize. So I found a new pair of new shoes.

newshoe2

The tie-up nature of these new scoots may be the trick to eliminating my problem. The front of the shoe is also a lot roomier than the same part of the old new ones.

These shoes are also a bit quirkier looking, a feature I’ve always looked for in a shoe. When I was shopping for new shoes last week, Leah had a word of wisdom for me, perhaps a warning about the rather splendiforous nature of the Vans I usually wear.

“When you walk into a room, your shoes always go in first.”

She likes these new ones, and I do too. And if the shoes have more personality than I do, that’s alright by me.

New Shoes

These are my new shoes that I bought. I hope these shoes last a good long time. They’re not what I would call my favorite shoes. I’ve been loving Vans skating sneaker-type shoes for a long time, but my people tell me I’m too old to be looking like that.
 
“When you wear Vans, your shoes enter the room before you do,” Leah said. And she added that my favorite jeans aren’t nearly baggy enough for Vans.
 
newshoe.jpg 
 
So I bought these Rogues, made in Oregon, right down the road. I shot them on the sidewalk out front of the bungalow on Avonlea.
 
They’re good looking shoes, standing alone. But they look odd to me down at the end of my legs. I’m not used to them yet. They’re also, like my Vans, reportedly too wide to wear with my favorite jeans. But they’ll keep my feet clean when I go outside. 

What Would You Do?

This story, told firsthand on NPR, reminds me of why I need to continually pray for a desire to do the right thing.

If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money.

Give yourself the three minutes to listen to this story. What would you do? Cower silently in fear? Strike out in anger? Both options burn the bridge (and one is really dangerous!) They both prevent any opportunity to be peace and reconciliation.

Listen here.

A New Toy … Free!

Adobe has released a new version of Photoshop, this one completely online. It doesn’t allow the kind of detailed editing that it’s Creative Suite version allows, but as a tool to make the average snapshots look right, the new web app seems impressive. In addition to making your photos look better, Photoshop Express also lets you share images, providing for free up to 2 GB of storage space. I’ve uploaded a few of my work shots to test it out. Works okay so far on IE6. Later this week I’ll give it the full test on OS X.

 Give it a go here.

Music, New To Me

A favorite new song of mine. And the video, what with all the kids dancing around, is priceless. Give it a go.

Frightened Rabbit. Heads Roll Off. 

New Music Phenomenon

Ever think of the music you listen to as a soundtrack to your life? Oh, you have too. Don’t lie. If you haven’t ever driven in your car to Sammy Hagar’s I Can’t Drive 55, or strolled through the big city to the strains of Petula Clark’s Downtown … (OK, maybe not that last one …) then it’s safe to say that you need to get out more.

Music is such a deeply personal part of our culture that we tend to identify with the songs that make your heart race, make your chest swell, and sound like they were written just for or about you. “You have to hear that new song,” we might say to a friend, who either knows us and shares our passions or doesn’t and should.

Years ago we used to listen to music through these little devices that had magnetic tape all rolled up inside them. You could buy one that already had music recorded onto it, or you could record songs of your own onto them, which seemed to take forever.

Sometimes we’d find songs that comprised our “soundtrack,” at least for the current season of our lives, and record them all onto one tape for sharing with a friend or a significant other. We called these “mix tapes.”

In present times we can do something similar, organizing music into playlists and burning them to CD. “What’s a CD?,” you ask. We’ll get to that someday. For now, just put your headphones back on.

The Internet has finally caught up with the idea of sharing music in a truly convenient way, via Muxtape, a Web-based way to upload songs and make them available to your friends.

I stumbled upon a muxtape on a blog I visited today called Secret Experiment, and while the list may be more interesting or exciting or have more relevence to someone who actually knows the blog author, Jim Renaud, it was fun to listen to what this guy has compiled and try to see what his life might be like based on the music he’s listening to. Even though I don’t know Mr. Renaud from Adam, and he doesn’t know me.

UPDATE: I found a little aural gem within Mr. Renaud’s list. A song by Frightened Rabbit called Head Rolls Off.

Because of That One Black Kid

Sen. Barack Obama made yesterday an historic speech on race in America. Reading the speech, I got the feeling that no one else gets it — that Sen. Obama is the only presidential candidate that fully grasps not only the race issue, but the plight of Americans of every color.

I grew up on Chicago’s South Side — a racially divided sprawl of stick-and-brick homes that swell out from the city’s dowtown. It was not uncommon to hear “the N word” tossed around, usually preceded by “the F word.” The high school I attended was about 55 percent Black, but was nestled in a completely white neighborhood. I walked to school, as did most of my white friends. All the Black kids took the city bus.

My high school had several entrances, outside which students congregated to await the signals that marked our movements to and from our classes. There were “white doors” for white kids and “Black doors” for Black kids. It wasn’t official or anything, it was just that way.

I was always stressed out about running late for school, because my house, while seven blocks to the north, was closest to the side of the school where the Black kids waited. Furthermore, my locker was on that side of the school too, making it almost embarrassing to justify walking the length of the school on the outside, then the length of the school again on the inside, just to avoid the tense moments standing among a group of people whom I didn’t understand. Funny though, no one would have bothered to ask why I was late to class, having spent several minutes navigating the halls in just such a way as to avoid the “Black doors.” Students, teachers, and administrators alike just knew. And we’re talking about 1983.

The neighborhoods of the city then were as segregated as they could benot unlke the difference between white and black paint on adjacent walls. This patchwork was laid across the whole city, with a few exceptions, by fear, dread, ignorance, and misunderstanding. It was perceived as dangerous for a white person to be on the street in a Black neighborhood. It was dangerous for a Black person to be on the street in a white neighborhood. (I was there, so I know.)

Once, I worked with a Black kid at a job I had parking cars for the Grand Opening of a high-end gardening shop on the North Side. The kid was my age, probably 16 or 17 at the time. Being outside our respective neighborhoods, we were able to connect a little bit. We joked together with our co-workers, dreamed about all the cars we were hired to park being like the cars we’d drive one day. We left work and I gave him a ride home so that he wouldn’t have to take the bus.

I drove toward where he lived, zig-zagging late at night through the streets of the vibrant city. He bought a couple of beers with a fake ID, then pulled out a small manila envelope with some weed in it. We made our way to his house, getting high and joking, listening alternately to album rock and a soul and funk station he liked. We parked at the curb and he went inside to get his sister off the couch to come see his new “white friend.” The three of us sat in my dad’s car talking and laughing, the color of our skin barely evident in the glow of the FM radio, until the sky began to lighten, marking the sun’s rise. We traded phone numbers and went our separate ways.

I regret that our paths never again crossed. I know that to his day we would be great friends. His family and my family would visit. We’d travel if we had to, just to hang out together. That’s what this brief single-serving friendship felt like. But the climate in our city seemed to make it quite uncomfortable for Black people and white people to spend leisure time together, to laugh together or whatever.

Sen. Obama’s recent speech has touched a deep chord in my life. I’ll support him in his bid to be my president. Probably because of that one Black kid, whose name I can’t even recall, who accepted me in spite of the color of my skin, and who made it OK to think differently. 

We never spoke again. But for the next couple of years I spent in high school, I could, from time-to-time, be found milling around outside the “Black doors,” waiting nervously for the bell to ring, nodding to kids I recognized from class, sometimes even speaking to them, and wishing it didn’t have to be that way.

State of the Art v.1

God made everything. Plants and forests. Rocks and mountains. Life-giving rain and vast oceans crammed with life. Blood. Sheep. Creation is His gift of life made manifest for us. While God gave us the gift of all creation to enjoy, He also gave we humans the ability to create. The gift of intellect allows us to create things that are far from useful, yet powerful in the meaning we assign to them. I guess that’s why a painting or a drawing can have as much impact — sometimes more impact — than the real thing. Sitting on a beach, of an evening, in front of a fire, the sun sinking, a brisk wind blowing, sea billows crashing in a flowing and ebbing tide of sound — this is a beautiful thing. But when I’m in central Texas, locked in by an expanse of sky and scrub, created images of that beach are all I have to quench the soul. And it works.

The creating we humans do is folly compared to the creation of God. But it is a gift, and we should enjoy it, lest we be marked as squanderers our inheritance.

That said, I really enjoy watching these clips of Stefan G. Bucher’s Daily Monster. Maybe you’ll enjoy it too. I’m not much of an artist, so watching Mr. Bucher create shapes, lines, shadows, depth — all with ink and paper — is a fascinating diversion.

You can find more of these Daily Monster videos, and more about Mr. Bucher, at his weblog. More monsters unfold video at YouTube.