The Soundtrack

There’s a great scene in High Fidelity where John Cusack has records strewn all over the floor of his apartment. Its obvious he is organizing them, but when asked how by his friend, he reveals that he is organizing them autobiographically.

Apparently, I’m not the only one that does this, but I seem to group my CD collection into discographies related to certain times of year and certain periods in my recent history. So in a sense, there is a mini-soundtrack to roughly each semester that I was in college and even throughout most of high school.

In that vein, it would seem good for everybody involved to reveal just what the soundtrack is for this autumn, simply because you need to know what to be listening to in order to fully enjoy your autumn.

So anyway, here’s the current discography:

  1. “Chase This Light” Jimmy Eat World
  2. “Colors” Between the Buried and Me
  3. “Autumn of the Seraphs” Pinback
  4. “Lost Ocean” Lost Ocean
  5. “Brother, Sister” mewithoutYou
  6. “Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV Vol. 1 & 2” Coheed and Cambria
  7. “Vheissu” Thrice
  8. “Make Sure They See My Face” Kenna
  9. “Sirens” It Dies Today
  10. “The Alchemy Index Vol. 1& 2” Thrice
  11. “As Daylight Dies” Killswitch Engage
  12. “Rockin the Suburbs” Ben Folds
  13. “Phantoms” Acceptance
  14. “Come Now Sleep” As Cities Burn
  15. “Singularity” Mae
  16. “Menos El Oso” Minus the Bear
  17. “I’m Only a Man” Emery
  18. “Almost Here” The Academy Is…
  19. “Doppleganger” Fall of Troy
  20. “Mute Math” Mute Math

Well there you go, hopefully that helps your choices next trip to Best Buy, or next perusal of amazom.com  Its way past bedtime, ideally the next post will have a little more thought provoking substance. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking, we’ll see.

The List(s)

Its been a while (since I’ve listened Staind), but I think its time for another top ten list.

These used to be rather frequent, and it is time again for them to emerge to the forefront.

Bullet point blogs used to also be in vogue, maybe I’ll bring those back someday.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about a list like this almost every time I finish working out, so we may as well start the list with that, so here in no particular order is my current top ten things:

1.    The feeling of slight uncoordination and general weakness after a good, intense workout; you know, the kind where you are almost certain you will be sore the next morning when you stumble out of bed at 4am and try to empty your tank in the dark, hoping nothing is obstructing the pathway to the porcelain bowl oh so close to where you sleep at night.

2.     Slightly similar, but also unrelated, the feeling of hunger around 6pm after not eating too many calories throughout a long day of classes and work.

3.     The smell of the air on a fresh fall morning. This one is actually the simplest to describe.

4.    The absence of sound at 4am and the feeling of solitude from the top of the Marquis parking garage overlooking the Dallas skyline, magnified by the intensity of God’s presence in that moment.

5.    The beautiful simplicity of mewithoutYou’s “Brother, Sister” amplified through a car stereo, mixed with the sounds of traffic on I-20 wafting through my open windows as you drive away from Arlington mid morning on a day off.

6.    The serenity of reading Herodotus on the benches adjacent Davidson and Chafer Chapel in between Spiritual Life and Intro to Theo on a slightly breezy, perfectly clear autumn afternoon.

7.    The energizing effect of studying Horrell’s Theology notes late at night set to the sound of Between the Buried and Me’s newest magnum opus “Colors” (Note: this is not compatible with items 3 & 4, however it pairs perfectly the night before item 5, please use caution if re-enacting)

8.    The inspiration from watching the sunset behind the Dallas skyline on a crisp early evening with just enough clouds to reflect the sun’s dying rays of light before dusk encompasses the area and the air becomes pleasantly cool enough for the donning of a hoodie.

9.    The seeds of friendship, sown in the fall semester of the first year of many more to come at a new school, that with careful time and attention (and a well-discerned amount of water) could bloom into life long bonds and partnerships in future endeavors in this life and the next.

10.    The reviving effect of putting one’s feelings to music in the solitude of one’s dwelling, with other soul’s unaware of what you are emoting, but knowing One can hear your spirit put to sound.

So there you go, that the current list. On this list at least you could try it out for yourself, most of it is completely free to experience, but you will need to following in order to fully experience the list:

  • An apartment, or dorm room
  • Access to a gym, or other workout facility (Word of Life even has the semblance of a gym)
  • Alarm clock (in order to wake up at 4, or at this point 5 could work too)
  • A copy of mewithoutYou’s “Brother, Sister” (can substitute “Catch for Us the Foxes” or Mae’s “Everglow” or “Singularity”)
  • A car (with a stereo, and usable windows)
  • A copy of Herodotus’ Histories, or if you prefer a more readable history, Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome
  • Access to the Dallas Theological Seminary campus (for extended stay would require ID, which only comes with student status, which can get pricey, maybe substitute other suitable outdoor area, not unlike the Schroon Lake facility operated by Word of Life, or their lesser known Hudson, Florida campus)
  • A copy of J. Scott Horrell’s Theology notes (can substitute Chuck Sheide’s notes, or maybe even Ingersoll’s Bible Survey notes, but Horrell seems to work best)
  • A copy of Between the Buried and Me’s “Colors” (could substitute Opeth’s “Ghost Reveries,” but would need to move the time to late afternoon and relocate to outside, if staying in and at night for a more ear friendly listening substitute Minus the Bear’s “Menos El Oso”)
  • A well worn hoodie (or hooded sweatshirt, zip up or pullover)
  • An assortment of people you know somewhat, but haven’t quite progressed to that stage of “close friends” yet.
  • Access to assorted musical instruments
  • Ability to play said instruments
  • Aspirations to create a perfectly alliterated list for no real reason whatsoever

So I should probably get back to reading, but hopefully the above gives you a rather vivid picture of what I’ve been enjoying doing recently. Its helpful for me at least to put thoughts into words (as opposed to putting thoughts into zip locks bags which helps no one) and also reminds of me what all I have to be thankful for and am able to enjoy by God’s grace on a daily basis.

Momentary Digression

Autumn is finally setting in, or at least I hope it is. By Autumn of course, it just means the highs hover around 80ish as opposed to 90ish, but the air is nicer and we actually had some much needed rain, as well as a couple of nice cloudy days (something I would not usually crave, but after so many “nice” summer days, I could go for a week or two of overcast, misty, rainy days).

One thing that usually tags along with autumn -and this is key- squirrels.

Now, I have no idea how you feel about squirrels, or what you might think of a blog about squirrels, but the only I have to find out is to just throw this out there (and you can send it right on back if you like).

So…yes, squirrels. I’m not exactly sure why, but I feel the need to chase squirrels when the opportunity presents itself, which now just happens to be the campus of an esteemed school of higher learning. Its similar to the way I feel compelled to chase armadillos that I would see around the Word of Life Florida campus, with the only difference being I haven’t caught a squirrel yet (I let the armadillo go in case you were concerned, no harm done). At any rate, maybe its just my natural instincts kicking in and the squirrel would make a nice lean dinner. Probably not, but other excuses are not coming, so I’ll stick with that one.

The key with squirrel chasing is to find out which tree the particular squirrel is calling home at that time. He won’t venture too far from there, and its also where he will immediately run when he feels threatened. The strategy then is to subtly figure out which tree he is likely to dart towards, and then equally subtly, block his path.  Now this is in no way cruel, its more a practical joke on the squirrel. Squirrels mind you are not the most intelligent of rodents, its a little known fact that they inadvertently plant several million acres of forests each year from their misplaced acorns/nuts. So needless to say, the squirrel is more confused than anything not so much scared.

Anyway, this usually provides for amusing interactions with nature from time to time, although maybe the squirrels don’t find it so amusing, but again, they don’t seem to have the best memory. So far, no real harm has befallen them, except for that one that I ran over and then gave to someone as a birthday present (I’m from Tennessee, what did you expect?) But that’s the beginning of a whole different blog for a much different time. Probably one titled “Things I Did at Camp that Generally People Found Amusing.” But that’s not the title of this blog, so I’ll go ahead and stop here and start paying attention to the class I’m watching.

Starving for Autumn

It somewhat defeats the purpose of recreating a blog if one never writes in it.

That was the best segue I could offer, this blog might be quite random, but those are usually the good ones once I am done having my way with them.

Anyway, life has been, well, good. It can be mundane at times, there is not the level of excitement that seemed to pervade my first year at Word of Life, but again, Steven was a catalyst for most of that, and he is still in Tennessee (at least until Wednesday when he comes down here to visit). At present though, if there is any excitement, it is usually up to me and Wendall to compose, and while he is usually willing, I am usually preoccupied with either a paper, a project, some independent research, or occasionally something related to school (thought I was going a different direction with that one didn’t you?) It all comes down to life management, something I am endeavoring to perfect from week to week. It’s not entirely vital at this point given my current workload, but it will be eventually, and I’m sure a nice, smoothly flowing schedule will be quite conducive for the later years of seminary life.

My only complaint at this point is the lack of seasonal fluctuation. I mean I don’t ask for much, but c’mon Autumn, where are you? I mean, I’ve been leaving you messages or your machine since late August, hoping you’d be here by at least your birthday, but alas, September 21st came and went. Anyway, if you happen to read my blog (which you should) and see how much I miss our times together, maybe you’ll hurry up and head down here to Dallas. I realize the rest of the country for the most part hasn’t been graced with your presence yet either, but they can wait.

This may be an appropriate time for a slight liver update (there really is no segue for that, much less a better time to insert it into to a narrative like this). Eating less and eating better is paying off, although I have had Jack in the Box two nights in a row. Last night out of necessity, tonight because it was just so good last night. Hopefully all the vegetables from earlier and the scoop of Perfect Food Super Green Formula will balance it out (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough). Eating less and managing food better does have its advantages, such as not wondering what to do for last minute meals, and also not having that nasty feeling after eating 30 wings from Buffalo Wild Wings just because they were only $0.40 (however, eating only 24 wings doesn’t have that same impact, so its usually a safer bet). Any way, moral of the story, eating better leads to better time management, better sense of well-being, and clearer thought processes. Also, I’m finding I enjoy the prolonging of the feeling of hunger as it is all the more satisfying to finally eat.

Week 3 of no coffee started today with little fanfare.

As far as closing thoughts go, I’m not sure there is much else to say, I have a few unfinished thoughts swimming around in the reservoir of my mind, which should keep them busy for a few more weeks before they find whatever else it is they are looking for and then force there way out into the open sunlight after being couped up so long. Until then, I’ll probably be reading if you need me, don’t hesitate to call.

Toxic Relief*

I remarked on the phone the other day how my life tends to be rather ironic; usually in a comedic sense, which I suppose is the point of irony. It’s kind of like God’s way of making sure you don’t take everything too seriously, or at least so that you don’t put to much faith in your ability to work out the details of your life. So far this sounds rather theological in nature, but before going to far down that road before bedtime, let’s go back to the ironies in my life.

Case in point, I just posted a blog under this one with a lovely picture of a quad espresso over ice in a tall cup. Sometimes I get 6 shots in a grande, sometimes I get an iced 6 shot venti caramel macchiato, irrelevant I know, but since I moved to Dallas my coffee consumption increased from the usual drink in the morning to that plus 16 or so ounces of black coffee goodness in the afternoon to make it through class.  Running the numbers I was looking at roughly 750 mg of caffeine on an average day (a shot is 75mg, black coffee is 20 mg an ounce). While this should work in my favor, it really was not in any way, and to make matters worse, I was getting rather angry at times, rather easily, usually in traffic since that is all Dallas is come 5pm or so. Coupled with a general lack of focus, poor skin tone, a bad taste in the mouth (which had been around since the summer)  and slightly grey circles under the eyes, there could only be one conclusion.

About this point, you are probably wondering where the irony ran off to, so here it is, while I am a shift supervisor at Starbucks and literally immersed in coffee every time I work (sometimes I like to check the coffee on my bare hands to ensure freshness, some call it clumsiness, I call it quality control) I decided to give it up for an undetermined amount of time. That’s right, tenured Starbucks employee, deciding to stop drinking coffee. Hopefully that satisfies your appetite for irony.

Now about this point, being the good reader that you are, you are probably wondering what the one conclusion from earlier was, or is to remain in the present tense. All the aforementioned signs point to one thing (hopefully just one thing) – Liver toxicity. That’s right, I’ve been working my liver overtime, and its gotten a bit backed up. Rather than delve into all the intricacies of liver function and management, I’ll just note that the liver like it when you don’t overeat and when you do not eat many processed foods, two things I have failed to make accommodations for lately. Also, like alcohol, coffee (especially in nate-sized portions) puts an unnecessary burden on the liver. If my discourse on the liver’s methods has peaked your interests, check out a book by the same title as this blog and find out more.

In light of the coffee fast, everything has remarkably improved. I actually have more energy now from switching to green-tea lattes, mate lattes, the occasional chai, and a nice cup of China Green Tips (usually with an extra bag of Refresh) , not all in one day mind you. and also coupled with taking more vitamins and eating more vegetables (or at least drinking them). Focus has improved, temper has mellowed out (not that anyone really knew I was getting angry) and overall ability to function is improving.

Which is really the whole point of staying healthy, right? I mean, its not really possible to add days to life, but it very possible to add life to my days. By improving my health, I am able to more effectively function, and thus able to be more actively used in ministry. The more time I am not sick, the more time I have to do other more important things. Being healthy, eating natural foods and the like, is not really the end, its more of a means to an end, that end being optimal physical condition so that one can function to their fullest potential.

Its a parallel track to working out. No one goes to work out so they can boast later about how well they can do a lat-pulldown, or how perfect their biceps curl form is (ok, maybe some people do, but why?). No, you go and workout to get a better body, working out is the process, the refined physique is the end result. Nothing could be more foolish than to commit hours to the gym, not with the purpose of building a better body, but simply of performing the perfect set.

In Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard makes a similar analogy regarding the spiritual disciplines and that how they are not necessarily the end goal (there’s no sense in boasting how well you can sit in silence, or how good you are at fasting, although some do) but the means by which the body is brought into submission to God for the purpose of aligning our whole selves to Him. There is far more to it than that, but read the book for yourself, don’t let me condense it and water it down for you.

I was going to continue the argument and transfer it to school, but due to lateness, I’m just going to suspend dialogue instead. Maybe you can make the transfer on your own, what really is the end result of school? Is it a 4.0? Is it some of the things that we usually focus so much of our attention on during our college years, or is it really something else entirely?

Someone else can ponder these, for now, I’m going to work my way to bed and try to squeeze in those 6 hours of sleep before 4am rolls around again.

*originally a book by Don Colbert

Why you should always have a camera handy

Sometimes you get distracted when you set aside time in the mornings to go read, and this happens

There’s something quite powerful about getting up early in the morning and just being alone in solitude. Especially if you happen to live in a large city, and also happen to have access to a parking garage roof that semi overlooks the skyline. It can do wonders for your soul to simply be awake early enough for there to be silence as you observe everything surrounding you and in silence converse with an all powerful all knowing God. Or munch on Kashi cereal. Or actually, you really can do both, as sometimes you might need to multi-task if you also have to be at work at 445am. Breakfast is a must, but nourishing the soul is even more important, so I try to make time for both. Tonight is no exception, and since I have the wonderful privilege of opening tomorrow morning, I should probably go to bed. To help visualize this rooftop experience, here’s what it looks like in the daytime, or more accurately, dusktime:

Not the best depiction, but you get the idea.

More later. Pictures and words. Together.

Brewing Bold

At this point, there are no less than a few potential blogs brewing, however, to further the coffee analogy (since that’s all there is right?) they are all in different stages, and not more than a couple have made it to funnel lock, which if you have operated the Bunn brewers at Starbucks, you realize the implications of funnel lock.

Soon enough, there will be more than a venti cup of thought to drink down and hopefully excite the nervous system not quite unlike caffeine.

For now, a general review might help, I mean after all, the art of interpretation involves knowing the context of the writer (me) so it might help to know what’s been going on recently.

The short version is that I now live in Dallas, rather permanently, and am still unfortunately working at Starbucks, but by the grace of God (in every sense of the phrase) am now attending Dallas Theological Seminary working towards my Masters of Theology (Th.M)  and eventually, probably some level of doctoral work. But with 120 hours of credits to work on at the moment, that should keep me busy for no less than 4 years.

The long version is probably of less interest to most, and quite possibly may not be able to be fully put into words, but other than the external obvious changes, several qualitative internal changes are on the horizon, which here in Dallas at least, can be obscured by the smog. I am aware at least of a maturation taking place, but as to what shape it will take…well, it is as a poor reflection in a mirror, but soon I will see what I’ve become face to face.

This is probably the most proactive I have been in, well, ever. Knowing where I am prone to wander, and knowing that I have been prone to absent-minded lethargy during the autumn months, I am hoping to have some sense of a headstart this time around, by staying on top of assignments and reading specifically, as well as figuring out how best to structure my time and setting up meetings with various faculty to get advice on direction and the like. Needless to say, it is not the formula to a flawless semester, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of mindlessly floating through the semester from one assignment to the next, not really learning anything or exploring any subject in further detail.

However, for me this is different. This is coming out of my pocket, both now, and when the loans stop being deferred, and honestly, this is what I nearly killed myself getting through that Liberty online nonsense to be able to study. In that sense, the process is the goal. To be here studying theology and bible and philosophy is what I’ve wanted to do for a few years now. In light of that, there is really no time constraints, there is no “hurrying up to graduate to get on with my life.” This is my life now, not that its the end to which I think I have been created, but in a very real sense, I was made to be here. Here as in Dallas Theological Seminary, studying the Bible, being trained and molded for ministry, but at the same time, being active in ministry all along the way. There is no longer a “down the road.” There is only the here and now, that is redeemable either for good or for evil. I am living in the moment so to speak, but with eyes towards to the future to stay on track and to make sure that I am not running in vain, not that I have already attained, but I strive to lay hold of that for which Jesus has laid a hold of me.

Bottom line: This is what makes me come alive.

Now, if I could just stop consuming Phish Food and Chipotle burritos in mass quantities, I might actually stay alive, or at least in good health while I am alive.

So there you have it, the slightly abbreviated version of what’s new. I’m sure more details will be filled in along the way, but for now, this will have to do.

Back in the saddle….

It seems in some odd way, I need a blog to think straight.

I first started using Xanga back when I went away to college the first time, circa 2003, down in good old Hudson, Florida. It was quite the phenomena on the Word of Life campus, both down in Florida and also the following year up in New York.

It wasn’t too long after I had been back home from 2nd year that I discovered Myspace, and 6 months or so later, converted to blogging from there. It was good catharsis at times, but also provided a public forum to express ideas, tell stories, and generally put thoughts into writing for friends to read.

Myspace unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your personal outlook) wore out its welcome over the course of this last summer, and it summarily got itself deleted. This was a step in the right direction, however, it left me without means to think out loud so to speak.

Enter Word Press.

Rather than recreate a Myspace, which ultimately would probably get deleted again, or restart a Xanga that would not probably get read, it was time for a new endeavor, and after a professor here at DTS gave me his card with his blog site on it, the only logical conclusion was to join the big leagues and once again refresh my mind by writing pointless anecdotes and overly philosophic explanations of life, much to my amusement at least.

So, hopefully this will be kept up quite regularly, and for those interested in keeping up, here is the place to start (phone calls can work as well).  Anyway, seeing as how opening at Starbucks now involves getting up at 4am, and there is an episode of Arrested Development calling my name, this will conclude my re-entry into blogland.

I’d rather swallow a revolver…

…than to stay here for too much longer.

I do tend to exaggerate things a bit, but it really is a wasteland here.

I need the trips to Florida every now and then to put things into perspective.

Good times, old friends, nostalgia highs, and mended fences.

What else could you want from a road trip to Florida?

Nothing significant has transpired since I last wrote here.

I have starting (or restarted rather) keeping a real pen and paper journal, so my blogs will probably diminish somewhat.

I’ve spent too much time backing down from controversy.

Maybe a few enigmatic statements could shake things up.

My journey through the desert is almost complete

An oasis appeared,

But soon became clear

The water, in fact, dust,

My mouth though, sewn shut,

Left me unrefreshed,

In fact, blinded instead,

And it is only by grace that now I can see.

Anyway, t-minus 3 weeks and counting.

Its about that time…

…for another blog

However, what I really want to say, I can’t get into right now.

Not because there is not time, I would just rather use the time before I retire for other things.

Like reading.

Something that has been consuming me in a good way lately, as opposed to other things in the near recent past.

Which were total wastes of time.

But this is not the time of the place for a digression of that sort.

In addition, anything I say about that will mostly be venting, something better done in private.

Moving on….

….or not quite yet.

My intuition has yet to fail me, however, I quite frequently fail my intuition.

As such, there are times when I know I am making a bad decision, but choose to make it anyway.

And then successfully rationalize away my gut instinct to quell the anxiety that ensues.

However, if nothing else, I have learned the value of not necessarily being guided by my intuition, but being more acutely aware of it.

Could have saved myself a lot of trouble by doing that about this time last year, but sometimes you have to make mistakes.

All the same, I would just assume avoid making an obviously wrong choice next time around.

Maybe I will seek out advice before making the decision, as opposed to after digging my self in almost too deep to come out.

If anything this is good catharsis, regardless of any controversy that results from it.

Oh catharsis, how I’ve missed you! You must stop by more often, I could use a friend.

Even of a temporary sort such as yourself.

I’m not the best at keeping in touch anyway, so anything long term would not work out for either of us, but just the same…thanks for stopping by.

Anyway, enough personification (especially as poorly done as mine).

I should probably wrap this up, there are several good books and a small stuffed elephant and dolphin calling my name.

Its been quite the last 12 months, I am glad I snapped out of it in time to salvage some of the time I have left before departure.

Narrowly avoiding the mistake of a lifetime changes your perspective quite a bit, but I wouldn’t recommend the process.

At least not to everyone, sometimes the stubborn ones can only learn that way.

But I’m speaking of my own shortcomings, anyway, this is slowly turning into a ramble, but again…its good for me.

So, next time, I’ll try to be a little more positive, a little more philosophical, and as always, a little more pedantic (or at least a little more pensive)

One thing the next blog will not have is panache, you can at least count on me for that.

I promise.