Variations: Psalm 131


Sitting spectatorially in

sofa stands, i watch as two October wars

rage. Through glass eyes, glass screen

i patricianly observe, black box in hand to

mediate. The third, the visceral, in me:

which to settle upon? Both will

make history, both will be assessed,

tossed around analyzed up and down for

years to come. In the first conflict i at least

have a voice, but using it seems only

quietly gurgling: it drowns in ideology rivers and

policy rain converging in

halftrue stewy sea whose water is mostly

salt. My heart finds it

undrinkable, instead just floats upon it

recklessly abandoned like

an oar that used to steer someone else’s boat.

In the other i have

no say, no power, no

stake even. The outcome changes

nothing, no lives are trampled or

saved, no schools closed or

opened. And yet i am compelled,

entrapped; disabled by bomb blasts of

awe. It sucks me in smartly, tightly, like a

fat man’s belly near a pretty girl.

There is an elation here, an

involvement, a genuine

hope. I opt finally for

this innocence, this nowness, this

momentary onliness:

the crucial importance of baseball. i

smile, and remember what it was like

to play as a boy.

i couldn’t tell you

who won the debate, but i am

pretty sure it wasn’t

you or me.




Recent attempts at writing, some of which have been posted here, have highlighted two very important facts in my life which i have been struggling to come to terms with over the past week. First, i have come to think, mostly because i feel like i am stumbling around in the dark as far as longer fiction is concerned, that i am probably going to need to return to school in order to effectively hone this dastardly evasive art. This is a bit discouraging to me, for a few reasons. i have done that a few times in the past and failed, and it seems a bit embarrassing to admit that i am considering doing it again, and also, though i know this is entirely irrational, i feel that i am starting to be too old to begin that journey anew. Additionally, i had rather hoped that i might be able to make a legitimate crack at vocational writing on my own due to what i felt was my natural bent. Obviously, these reasons can all be chalked up to pride. i am too proud to admit i need to study with those who have more knowledge and expertise, and too proud to start my education over. But that is precisely where humility steps in and sets my thinking straight. “When i have started a sum the wrong way, the sooner i admit this and go back and start over again, the faster i shall get on. There is nothing progressive about being pigheaded and refusing to admit a mistake.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity) i do not know how i am going to proceed from here, but if i have any intentions of writing seriously and professionally, it is going to require more than mere talent. Ashamed as i am to confess it, my confidence in my abilities was roughly the equivalent of a man with a strong arm who can drive a nail into wood in one stroke declaring that he is going to build a house. Obviously, to the onlooker, the construction is going to require more than raw strength; even if that is a helpful place to begin, it is hardly sufficient to make one competent.

So clearly, my road is not going to be as rosy as i first thought, and may require not just a few months worth of kitschy blogs but genuine work and dedication. And this is the second fact about my life. Just the mere thought of going to school or studying for several more years not only causes my pride to bristle, but frankly, if i may confess, makes me want to chuck the whole idea. i am not sure why i expected it should be otherwise, and now that i am seeing plainly it surprises me that i ever had any other idea of what this would be like. But it obviously makes no sense to give up just when things appear difficult. No one who ever accomplished anything of worth did so without trial. in fact, it is only through trial that virtue or skill can be sharpened at all. i forget the original source, but i am relatively sure it is Lewis who asserted the following, though likely more succinctly and poignantly. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather that which causes us to act bravely in spite of it. Likewise, perseverance cannot be the absence of the desire to quit under duress, but it is the thing which compels us to go on despite lacking the will. Up to this point, i have not had to demonstrate perseverance or dedication, because i have just been popping out tiny nuggets of writing based on simple thoughts i have stored for months and years. But this is mere kindling: it will not burn hot enough nor long enough to warm us. At some point, once the fire is begun, we will have to step out into the dark and into the foreign forests to find hardwood, and this obviously involves leaving the comfort of the small fire we have already started. But if we do not do so, we shall only find ourselves in the cold dark that much sooner.

i am not sure how from here i will proceed, whether it be school or some other means of study. i only know that i will proceed, despite the fact that the odds may not be as highly stacked in my favor as i first imagined. Perhaps, this was what God intended me to learn all along.


It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.  – E.E. Cummings

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.   – Winston Churchill

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”   – Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird

Running on Steam


It is interesting to me to watch the NFL and see which players shine and which don’t. Robert Griffin III had a tremendous debut for the Redskins, putting up a performance that even a veteran quarterback would be extremely proud of. This makes me wonder why some players emerge almost instantly as valuable players and others with similar capabilities, like a Vince Young perhaps, struggle to even find a home in the league. Both players out of college were highly touted, possessed of immense amounts of talent and all the raw materials one would need to be a star in the NFL, and yet one succeeds and the other doesn’t. Obviously i am not on the inside of these organizations, and there are certainly variables which i do not perceive at root here. For instance, the players and coaches surrounding a young player likely have a huge impact on whether or not the player will thrive, but such circumstances are out of a players control, and in fact the most talented players are not likely to land with highly favored teams due to the nature of the draft.

i am only speculating, but my guess is that a large part of a young player’s success stems from two factors: willingness to subject their talent to the instruction and guidance of veterans and coaches, and a commitment to studying film and playbooks. i presume this is true not because i am immensely familiar with playing professional sports, but because i suspect that football is the same as any other profession. One can enter with all of the promise and natural ability in the world, but if one does not have these characteristics, he will never grow. This is essentially the spot in which i find myself right now. i just spent the last month hammering out what i thought was a pretty excellent short story, but after some consideration of both the work and of others’ opinions of it, i recognize that it is flat and trite and obvious, lacking in subtlety and poignancy. Basically, it is just not good.

My gut reaction was to be disappointed by this, but i should have realized from the outset that it wasn’t likely to be a successful venture. Why? Practically, i have done very little to hone my craft other than continue to use it blindly. i have not studied the art academically, i have not sought the guidance of others who are more knowledgable, and i have operated almost solely on whatever natural ability i may have. Just as in athletics, this may have been sufficient to carry me through grade school, and perhaps may have been good enough to get me through college, had i stuck it out. But it will hardly be enough to take me from amateur hobbyist to vocational fiction writer. Making this transition requires diligence and dedication, not simply the gas of imagination, and i have not exhibited these characteristics historically. i have been too proud to listen to peers and elders regarding my writing, holding instead the opinion that i already know what makes writing good and what makes it bad. In light of recent events, i am beginning to think that this position will be difficult to defend.

But whether or not i ever become a professional writer, the lesson is applicable to all aspects of my life. It rings especially true for me spiritually. The same arrogance and presumption i find in my writing roars quite loudly in my soul as well. i may have a natural ability to understand the Word, and a talent for grasping difficult doctrine and difficult theological concepts, but if i do not maintain a humble submission to authority and a willingness to continue my pursuit of greater truths, then it won’t be long before i am simply out of fuel. Because in this case, Christianity is not about knowing it all but about living it out, and my heart is so faulty that it doesn’t take long before i am not doing at all what i know i am supposed to. This is all the more devastating when i realize that it is not just me who is affected by this failure, but everyone around me.

i failed pretty significantly this weekend. i won’t trouble you with specifics, but suffice it to say that it is quite obvious that my heart has a long way to go. There is not enough “Jesus knowledge” in the world to conquer the darkness and anger in my soul. It is only submission, only humility, only recognition that i need Him every day that will do this. As long as i maintain my pride and think that i somehow “get it” enough to succeed, i will do nothing but fall repeatedly. My soul’s elbows are already skinned to bleeding, its joints swollen and bruised. i am tired of falling, and i’m not sure how much more i can take. The good thing is, at least i am fortunate enough to know how to regain my balance. It is just a matter of committing to it.


I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.   – Psalm 119 : 16

a course correction


Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6 : 1


This verse landed on me heavily this evening. Pretty sure i’ve been all about doing that lately. Teaching at Recovery. Checking my blog stats (which are paltry, if anyone cares). Covering this issue of the heart up with clever phrases like “gospel confidence” and other assorted nonsense. i feel most convicted by this verse today, but it wasn’t just this one that hit me. The lessons were abundant. As i am fond of saying, whenever there is a confluence of a theme from more than one source in my life, i am generally sure that that is what my heart needs to hear. i won’t waste the space if you are not interested, but also on today’s reading was Isaiah 58, which has to do with true and false righteousness, Psalm 119, which is essentially comprised of about 150 different reminders that God has a particular Way and a particular Law, and lastly Deuteronomy 31, in which both Moses and God state not only the likelihood but the inevitability that we will fail at keeping that law. (Click on the scripture references if you want to read them.)

Long story short, it is rather apparent that my own righteousness is mostly false, or at the very least incomplete. Sure, i want to make an impact on others, but often i want that more than i want God. i want to make sure it was me who impacted them, forgetting altogether that really only God can do that. Sure, i want to live a clean and healthy lifestyle, but mostly i want that because it enables me to be comfortable rather than because it is right. i don’t love what is right because it is right, i love it for what it provides me. i don’t love God because he is God, i “love” Him for what he can do for me, as if He is some cosmic UPS or a giant invisible vending machine in the sky.

The very end of Matthew 6 reminds me where my heart should be instead: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (vv 33-34)

Here’s what i get out of that verse: i am miles away from being righteous, and having lost track of that just proves that it is true.

i have been very consumed with this blog lately, worried about whether certain posts will meet with people’s approval, wondering what it means when a post gets no likes, wondering if i should be concentrating on the religious or the secular; and i have been equally concerned with what the other participants and leaders at Recovery think of me: whether i am a “good” leader, whether my insight is worthwhile, and whether i have anything to contribute. But ultimately, if tomorrow my fingers are chopped off and i lose internet connectivity, and the day after that i am kicked off the Recovery team, then i need to be trusting that those things are for the best, and in fact they probably would be if i can’t get my approval idol under control. And i need to be particularly conscious about using “righteousness” or “leadership” as a means to gain friends or be a superstar.

For that reason, i came close to shutting the blog down today, but that might be a bit drastic. For even though i may not be in control, God still is, and He can use even my most self-interested garbage to change someone else. Hopefully this post is a step back in the right direction.

But i hope i do have the guts to tear it down if i keep finding myself off track and wandering in self-indulgence. In the meantime, i intend to circumcise the whole process, purify it, and give it back paltry and bleeding to God.

Seems like that’s the kind of thing He can use the most.


The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

From “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost