My Thoughts On Calvinism, Part 1: The Introduction

One day, while working at Lemstone Christian Store, Jeff the Baptist and I were opening a box of new books that we just received and needed to shelve. The book at the very top was a new one by Jerry Walls, entitled Why I Am Not a Calvinist. Intrigued, Jeff and I spent the rest of our day thumbing through the book and laughing at the very notions of Calvinism -- the most elemental beliefs of the theology. To us, back then, it was a joke of a philosophy! It warranted no other response BUT a laugh -- maybe a shake of the head or two. In fact, if someone had approached me, at that time, and told me their fundamental beliefs lined up with Calvinism, I would've thought they were kidding.

And this isn't because I was raised in an Arminian (a philosophy which is just as insane as Calvinism) church (the United Pentecostal Church, where salvation is earned by deeds and can be lost at any time upon one's sinning) -- it's because Calvinism didn't make any sense to me, based on what I had read in the Bible.

Now, over the course of the past 6 or so years, I've visited plenty of churches and listened to plenty of pastors and I've discovered something that I still can't get over -- people actually believe this Calvinism stuff. And not only do people actually believe this Calvinism stuff, A LOT of people actually believe this stuff!

Now, for you readers who are unfamiliar with the tenets of Calvinism, here's a general overview:

There are 5 pillars that follow the acronym TULIP.

Total Depravity (or, man is garbage, man is shite, there are no redeeming qualities in man, there is no good in man, man is incapable of doing good; see also, original sin),
Unconditional Election (or, there is nothing man can do to earn salvation -- God ELECTS whom He saves),
Limited Atonement (or, Jesus only came to die for the elect -- not for all of mankind),
Irresistable Grace (or, God pulls those He elects into salvation; man cannot refuse this grace, nor accept this grace -- he is incapable of doing anything that would negate his salvation nor affirm his salvation, no matter his piety nor depravity),
Perseverance of the Saints (or, man cannot lose his salvation; once one is elected, one is saved).

Now, like I said, Arminianism is just as insane as Calvinism (for a general overview of Arminianism, invert TULIP -- it's basically the exact opposite of Calvinism), but I don't necessarily believe these two philosophies to be mutually exclusive.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to try to find time to update my blog with My Thoughts On Calvinism. This will mostly be a way to get some grievances off my chest, but hopefully it'll shed some light on theology for the rest of you out there in the blogosphere.

Until then, slainte.

- the drew


Our End

I honestly didn't see it coming this time. More to come later.


My Stance On Guns

I'm realizing more and more just how much my convictions and personal beliefs are setting me apart from almost everyone around me -- particularly the Christians I know. For one thing, I'm a Democrat (which, of course, sets me apart from about 90% of the US evangelical population (which I'm cool with)). I have a fairly liberal view of the world, the economy, society and even the Gospel, to a certain extent. But it's always a strange and lonely feeling knowing that, of nearly all the people I associate myself with, I'm the only one with these beliefs.

This came more into focus last week when my stepmom informed me that she bought my dad a rifle for Christmas -- something that I'm moderately cool with, but not really. See, I'm fairly anti-gun; not a complete gun-annihilation advocate, but not totally indifferent about firearms, either. I told Megan about my feelings toward guns and she thought I was ridiculous. She then informed me that her family and I will have nothing to talk about, really. She said, "I shoot guns. My entire family shoots guns and goes hunting." I told her my family is the same -- I'm the only person in my family that wants nothing to do with guns.

But, I wasn't always this way.

There was a time when I used to hunt too, with my grandfather and uncle -- I hunted turkey, pheasant, quail, rabbit, deer... If it moved, had four legs or two wings and had breath in its lungs, I'd shoot at it. Now, up until the incident I'm going to detail here, I was never a good shot. I remember a time when a pheasant was perched on a tree branch, just sitting there and I fired at it three times and missed every shot -- in fact, it just continued to sit there, as though it were mocking me. My grandfather said, "There must be something wrong with the sight or maybe the barrel is bent." He grabbed my gun, lifted to his shoulder, fired and dropped the pheasant in one shot.

When I was 11, I went on my final hunting excursion. We were at a pheasant/quail/turkey farm in Wisconsin called Blondhaven -- at this farm, they breed birds, fatten them up, blindfold them and cage them (so they won't peck at each other as much), then release them into an enclosed area so hunters can come in and shoot them. Somehow, during this particular trip, a turkey had gotten out of its cage and ran into the field, where the three of us were hunting. With its blindfold over its eyes, the bird became wild and frantic, running every which way, trying to avert the bullets it heard being fired at it from every direction. It then ran directly into a tree, face first, and collapsed. I approached the bird and was amazed to find it still breathing -- I figured it had broken its neck. My uncle (who was drunk, by the way), slung the strap of his rifle over his shoulder and retorted, "Well, Andy -- looks like you have a clear shot at this one. Put it out of its misery." I lifted my gun, a 12-gauge shotgun to my shoulder, aimed it directly at the bird's face and blew its head off. There was nothing left but a neck, spilling a pool of blood onto the frozen grass and February snow. My uncle laughed, "Yep! You got that one, for sure!"

A wave of shame came over me. I had never shot anything before and my first kill was a heartless, brutal and incredibly violent attack on a blindfolded bird -- one of God's first creations -- that didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell against the power of my shotgun. I dropped the gun into the snow, turned and ran, as fast as I could, back to the parking lot and locked myself in the van we came in. I think I cried for about two solid hours, begging for God to forgive me the horrible wrong that I had done.

I've never so much as held a gun since, despite the arguments I've heard from friends and family over the years that guns are just fine and dandy.

And I've listened to and even considered all of your arguments; I've heard you tell me over and over about the thrill, the rush you get when you bring down a ten-point buck. I know that you believe shooting wild game is nothing more than sport, like baseball or tennis. I've heard the argument, "Well, we eat everything we kill" (and to you, I say, "Go to the grocery store! You don't HAVE to murder animals just so you can eat! You're not a caveman or a tribesman!"). And if I have to hear, one more time, "The Constitution says I can have a gun to protect myself"... Oh man. That stance has become one of the biggest straw man arguments to support gun use.

And there are so many stories I could relate to you, to tell you why I have such a problem with guns: I could tell you that it was a gun that killed John Lennon; I could tell you that it was guns that killed three of my cousins -- one during a hunting trip, one from suicide, one from just being stupid and irresponsible with a friend; I could tell you the amount of times I was shot at while living in the East side of Aurora; I could tell you the amount of money that the government is making under the table, thanks to arms dealing.

But we both know that we're never going to convince one another that the other is wrong. I know that the Constitution permits everyone to be a desensitized, gun-toting buffoon and you know that I have every right in the world to be an oversensitive, liberal crybaby. Whatever.

But before you lift the gun to your shoulder and scope out your next big kill, ask yourself a few questions: 1) is this what God meant when he created Adam to "rule over" the rest of His creation? Is this how God intended for me to respect His creation? 2) (and this one is incredibly cheesy) WWJD? Honestly. What WOULD Jesus do? I'm not sure the man who stated "he who lives by the sword will die by the sword" would be the biggest gun advocate. I may be wrong, but there's something wrong with this picture...


My True Love

It is always unpleasantly surprising how willing I am to push aside my true love for menial, meaningless things. I get so wrapped up in the woes, travails, joys and drivel of my own life and completely disregard the one thing that has always gotten me through everything -- writing.

Lately, I've been full of regret, thinking back to a well-publicized time of my life (and by that, I mean that most everyone knows about it). A few years ago, during one of my last semesters of university, I had a pretty massive nervous breakdown in which I was sure that nothing I could do would ever be meaningful; nothing I could do would ever have any sort of impact on anyone, including myself. So, I threw away everything I created -- all my drawings, all my sketches, my paintings, my songs, my poems, all of the essays I had written for class -- everything. A few charcoal drawings survived the breakdown, but only because they were at my dad's house. Now, of course, I cherish those couple of drawings -- one of them even hangs in a frame -- because it reminds me of a time when I truly believed in what I did.

It's a drawing I titled "Spirit," maybe for obvious reasons. It's a constant reminder that, once upon a time, I allowed the spirit to move in me and, with its help, created.

I suppose it's a true statement that familiarity breeds complacency. I had been published a few times for poetry and photography, I won a couple poetry competitions, I had been told over and over again that my writings were of above average quality -- all of that affirmation gave me a pillow to rest on, and that pillow created a comfort about my work that I never should have allowed for. That pillow led me to become lax, lethargic and complacent about my work -- particularly my writing. And when I lost my zeal for writing, I lost my zeal for life -- my raison d'etre.

And I always come up with these feckless goals and resolutions, like "I'm going to write everyday. I'm going to write at least SOMETHING every single day." I go strong for about five minutes, then pick up a book or pop a Scrubs DVD in and sit in front of the television for the rest of the night. How much more could I get done if it weren't for these stupid, little things that, in reality, don't mean much of anything to me?


My Explanation of the Details

Okay, so here's what happened.

On Thanksgiving, I had to work 11 hours, from 8am to 7pm. My entire family were set to leave for Iowa to visit my stepdad's family for the holiday and they weren't going to be back until late the next night. So, when I came home to find an empty house, I reasoned that they all had left, and I spent the rest of the night woefully sad and alone. I took a shower, went into the office and spent the rest of the night listening to music at insanely loud volumes and watching movies.

The next night, I was in my bedroom when my stepdad walked in and asked, "Hey Andrew -- have you seen your mom?" I looked at him, confused, and asked, "No... Wasn't she with you...?" He replied, "No -- she stayed home to be with you, so you wouldn't be alone on Thanksgiving." I said, "That's odd, because I've been home alone the past two days. I haven't seen her since Wednesday morning, when I left for work." For a couple seconds, we just stared at each other and we came to the same conclusion at the same time: she spent Thanksgiving with her boyfriend.

She didn't get home that night until around one in the morning.

For the next two days, I was so pissed at her that I couldn't even stand the sight of her. I completely ignored her and disregarded her, trying my hardest to not even look in her direction. On Sunday afternoon, she finally confronted me in the garage while she was waxing her new car. She asked, "What's your deal, Andrew?" I asked, "Excuse me?" Again, she asked, "What's your deal? Why are you ignoring me?" I replied, "You know -- I really don't want to get into it, because I know I'm going to say something I'm going to regret." She said, "Spill it. What's your problem with me?" I took a deep breath, and as calmly as I could, explained, "Well, I'm pretty upset that you would leave me home alone on Thanksgiving and not even call to see how work was, or if I was having a good day. I'm even more upset that you would lie to your entire family, then abandon them." Upon hearing that, she took a few steps forward, got right in my face, pointed her finger at me and barked, "I WAS home -- YOU'RE the liar!" And, that's when I... snapped.

Let me first explain that I have years and years of bitterness and resentment toward my mother built up inside me. The amount of pain and heartache she's caused my entire family and me hasn't eased with time, and God hasn't fully taken it away just yet -- it's just been sitting inside me, becoming more and more potent. So when she got in my face and dared to accuse me of lying, everything I've ever wanted to say to her came pouring it, like an artesian well.

I shouted, "I can't BELIEVE that you would ditch your entire family just so you could go out and do whatever you happened with some other guy. I can't BELIEVE you would be so callous, so heartless and so soulless to want to have nothing to do with your husband, your youngest daughter, your only son or your granddaughter! I can't BELIEVE you would be so selfish! I can't BELIEVE it!" Over and over, she kept telling me, "I WAS home! You're a liar!" I finally said, "Mom, YOU'RE the liar. I was home that entire night and YOU weren't. I spent Thanksgiving alone, fighting every urge to find some whiskey and drink myself to sleep."

That's when she said the most hurtful and heartless thing I couldn't even imagine someone saying to a total stranger. She very coolly shifted her stance, squinted her eyes at me and retorted, "Well. It's not MY fault that you're nothing but a loser alcoholic -- just like your loser, nothing of a dad."

Now, I'll admit, even though I had already snapped before, that comment sent me into a spiraling anger that bordered along madness and insanity. I completely lost control of myself.

I called her every foul name I could think of and used every profanity that came to mind, shouted and screamed, pounded the table. What's peculiar about this entire situation, is that I've never gotten angry about anything; I get frustrated all the time, at times I get upset, but I've never been passionately angry about anything. I was always wondered what it would be like if I were to, one day, blow up at someone. On Sunday, I got my answer -- it was an absolutely terrifying experience. I was shouting as loud as I could, my voice scraping and becoming more and more hoarse, my face was hot and deep red, I even slammed my fist repeatedly on the countertop. At one point, I slammed my fist down as hard as I could while shouting that I actually thought I had broken my hand. A jolt of pain went through me and my entire arm went numb. When that happened, it was like I had an out of body experience -- I saw myself for what I had become. I saw the spit drooling down my chin, the redness of my face, my swollen fist.

After my tirade, she very coldly said to me, "You are no longer my son. I'm disowning you. I never want to see you or hear from you again. Get out of my sight, get out of my house and don't ever bother coming back."

Annnnd, so now I'm living in Saint Charles with my friends, the Nashes. I have no idea where my life will be taking me from here.


My New Home

Well, it's official -- I'm moving into my fourth new home and for the fifth time in 2009. I started in DeKalb, moved home to Yorkville, got kicked out and moved back to Sycamore, then back to Yorkville after only a couple of days, got kicked out again on Sunday and am now in Saint Charles -- a beautiful, beautiful city that, ironically, I've always to raise a family in. Could this be the start of something...?

There's obviously a lot of details I'm leaving out here, but I promise I will try to fill you all in with the details in the days to come.

Please pray for an opportunity to open up soon, so I will not become a burden on my new hosts.


My Beard. Or Lack, Thereof...

So for my new job at Boston Market, I'm not allowed to have a beard; however, I am allowed to have a goatee. Whilst shaving the facial hair that I've grown emotionally attached to over the past five years, I decided to try some new stuff too.


First, the beard.

That picture is from the summer, but I just wanted to refresh your memory as to what the beard looked like.


Followed by...


Then I became the star of a 70's cop show...

And, finally...

What's sad is the last time I shaved completely, I looked like this...

I want to look like that again.


My Maybe Baby

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I've been fooling myself for the past six months. Maybe Megan isn't "the one" -- whatever that means. However, I just cannot imagine God putting the most wonderful woman in my life just to have my heart broken... again. As Tom always tells me, "It is not God's will for your heart to be dashed against the rocks."

Maybe everyone else was right. Maybe I should have paid more mind to red flags when they presented themselves. Maybe I was blinded by love. But maybe there was no love at all -- maybe I just wanted to be in a relationship so badly, I was willing to sacrifice my relational needs just to call someone "my girlfriend." Maybe she just wanted a safety net that she could fall into when she was done living out her dreams of independence.

Maybe we really did love each other. I think I truly loved her, anyway.

Maybe THIS meant to be. Maybe this is just the next stumbling block to overcome. Maybe this will only make THIS stronger. Maybe God's going to give us the strength to meet each others' needs. Maybe He's going to give us the opportunities to do so.

But maybe He won't.

Maybe this was meant to be...

Maybe I don't want to move on, because maybe I'm afraid of being burned by a woman once again. Maybe it really is time for me to give up trying to find my significant other. Maybe I'm supposed to be the next Paul -- devoting my life to my ministry. Maybe I'm just one of those people that love isn't meant for. Maybe, rather than finding my significance in a significant other, it's time for me to find my significance in God, and draw closer to Him.

But maybe Joshua Harris and all those pastors who say, "Rather than desiring romantic love, you should be desiring more of GOD'S love" are wrong -- maybe it's okay to feel alone. Maybe it's okay to pine for a mate. Maybe I'm the next Adam and, even though I commune with God daily in the Garden of Eden, I still feel helplessly alone (Genesis 2:18-20).

Maybe another woman will come along and I will fall in love with her at first sight. Maybe SHE'S the one! Maybe she and I will get married and sing together and travel to Ireland to plant churches and lead worship and have children and grow old together.

Maybe this is just a phase. Maybe my friends and family and pastor are right when they tell me, "These things just take time." Maybe I'll "move on." Maybe I'll "get over her."

Maybe this isn't. And maybe they aren't. And maybe I won't. Maybe Father Time isn't the great healer that I thought he was.

But maybe nobody else will come alone, because she was it. And maybe she's already moving on with her life and I missed the boat. Maybe, after all, it really is over.

Maybe God will change her heart. Maybe she will change her mind. Maybe we will change our plans. Maybe, in the words of Paul McCartney, "every little thing is going to turn right in the end."

Maybe, one day, I will fall asleep with her next to me. Maybe I will reach over in the night and brush her hair from her face and kiss her forehead while she's sleeping. Maybe I will wrap my arms around her, instead of the pillow I currently clutch. Maybe passion will fill our nights and her kisses will replace the tears that are streaming down my cheeks now. Even the taste of her lips, in future kisses, will always be sweeter than the whiskey I hide under my mattress now. Maybe, in the future, I will get intoxicated after drinking deep her champagne eyes all night.

Probably not. But...



My Venus

After driving around three of the towns surrounding Yorkville (Oswego, Plano and Sandwich), searching for a tobacconist that is open after 5pm on a Sunday, listening to some of the most amazing music my iPod has ever shuffled, I suddenly felt very alone. I felt very solitary; not in a depressing, "I'm all alone and nobody loves me" way (though I often feel that, but in a "stranger in a strange land" way. I felt like I was passing through towns that I have never seen before, even though I was raised in this area. I felt like a stranger, alienated and detached from my surroundings. I have nothing in common with this area anymore.

When I got home, I lit up a cigarette, took a deep puff and gazed up at the night sky -- in awe of the heavens. An old hymn came to mind: "This world is not my home / I'm just a passin' through / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue / The Savior beckons me from Heaven's open door / and I can't feel at home in this world anymore." I sang the lines in a whisper, took another drag of my cigarette and sang them another couple of times.

It was a nice reminder.

Tonight, Venus was brighter than usual in the Southern skies. I gazed at her for a few moments and thought about the Romans who named her. She, of course, was named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It occurred to me that maybe the reason Venus was given that name was because that celestial body, which remains brighter than even the brightest stars, was the most beautiful object in the night sky -- always. Its brightness is so intense that it can even be seen in the middle of the day. And, so, when the sun sets, it becomes very visible as an evening star, and, when the sun rises, it can still be seen as it becomes the morning star. The Romans were clearly infatuated with its ever present beauty.

And despite my state of euphoria, gazing in awe at this beautiful celestial body, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by the weight of her distance from me. I'll never reach her and she doesn't care. I'm just a speck -- not even a blip -- on the universe's radar; and my insignificance is only magnified by the majesty of the heavens.

Ever since I broke up with Megan, I've been trying to figure out just what it is I want out of life -- what I expect from my life. Life goals and dreams, after all, are the reason we parted ways: she wants to travel all over the world and teach English in countries that I don't even recognize the names of, and I never could see myself living that life, no matter how much I think I want to; I want to settle down in Chicago, start my career and a family and she can't see herself living that life, no matter how much she thinks she wants to. This breakup has been giving me an existential crisis of massive proportions.

Who am I!?

It's no secret that I have very lofty goals that often conflict with each other: I want to travel all over the world as a music missionary and plant churches, but I also want a domestic life; I want to move to Ireland and I want to move to Chicago; I want marriage and children and I want to be like Paul, single for life, so that I have more time to focus on my ministry; I want to start my career and I want to enjoy the waywardness of being a twentysomething. These dreams are not compatible -- not even with themselves, let alone with the dreams of a partner. So what am I supposed to do with them?

And, most confusing of all, despite my breakup with Megan, I know in my heart that I really don't want to be with anyone else. When I met her, I knew she was the one that I would spend my life with and she knew the same of me. She is my Venus. She was and still is the brightest and most beautiful object in my Southern skies. And I still want to reach out into the blackness and grab a hold of her hand, or fly to her, experience her closeness and breathe deep her beauty in person.

But she is my Venus, and I'm no astronaut.


My Bookshelf

Okay, so I FINALLY finished my homemade bookshelf last night. I had a working version of it for a while, but it wasn't nearly big enough to house even half of my books. So I went to Menards yesterday and bought some really nice particle board shelving to make a more proper looking creation. I think it turned out pretty well...


Mixtape #16: Halloweenheads

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Halloweenheads:

1) Scared - John Lennon
2) Halloween - Dave Matthews Band
3) I Am Stretched On Your Grave - Sinead O'Connor
4) I Will Possess Your Heart - Death Cab for Cutie
5) My Body's a Zombie for You - Dead Man's Bones
6) Halloweenhead - Ryan Adams
7) Friendly Ghost - Eels
8) Dracula's Wedding - Outkast
9) Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - David Bowie
10) Earth Intruders - Bjork
11) Bodysnatchers - Radiohead
12) Spooky Girlfriend - Elvis Costello
13) They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Are Back from the Dead!! Ahhh!! - Sufjan Stevens
14) Scarecrow - Beck
15) The Boogie Monster - Gnarls Barkley
16) Thriller - Michael Jackson


Mixtape #15: Rainy Day Music

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Rainy Day Music:

1) Your Letter - Mint Julep
2) Shot In the Back of the Head - Moby
3) David's Lamentation - The Good Players
4) House of Cards - Radiohead
5) Van Occupanther - Midlake
6) Charlie Darwin - The Low Anthem
7) Love Comes to Me - Will Oldham
8) Born - Over the Rhine
9) Save Me - Aimee Mann
10) Staralfur - Sigur Ros
11) Sweet Song - Blur
12) Heart's a Mess - Gotye
13) Wonderwall - Ryan Adams
14) Mad World - Gary Jules
15) Another World - Antony and the Johnsons
16) Baby's World - Chris Garneau
17) Jezebel - Iron and Wine
18) The Book of Love - The Magnetic Fields

Mixtape #14: Book Notes

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Book Notes -- a collection of songs about books and authors:

1) Novel Writing - Monty Python
2) Wrapped Up In Books - Belle and Sebastian
3) Paperback Writer - The Beatles
4) Shakespeare's Sister - The Smiths
5) Type Slowly - Pavement
6) Frodo (Don't Wear the Ring) - Flight of the Conchords
7) The Book I Read - Talking Heads
8) Bedside Story - Badly Drawn Boy
9) Sylvia Plath - Ryan Adams
10) Saul Bellow - Sufjan Stevens
11) Bookworm - Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
12) How's About Telling a Story? - Devendra Banhart
13) Write On - Sleeping In the Aviary
14) Write Your Story Now - Kevin Devine
15) Walt Whitman's Niece - Wilco
16) Emma, Dear - Drew Moody
17) Engine Driver - The Decemberists
18) One Short Story - Xavier Rudd
19) Bixby Canyon Bridge - Death Cab for Cutie
20) My Favourite Book - Stars
21) The Book of Love - The Magnetic Fields
22) Bookshop - Monty Python


My Lack of Friends

I was watching It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia today -- the episode where the gang decides they're going to go on a manhunt for more friends. To aid them in this adventure, they create flyers to pass out, as advertisements of themselves. At one point, Dennis says something along the lines of, "I'm in my late 20's -- where am I supposed to meet new people? These flyers do all the work themselves." Then I recalled something my friend, Jeff, told me last year: "I got married, woke up one day and realized I didn't have any friends anymore."

Well, I'm not in my late 20's -- I'm merely in my mid 20's. But already I'm discovering the truth of these statements. I'm suddenly waking up everyday and realizing "I'm going to spend this entire day by myself. I'm going to wake up alone, do my daily life stuff alone, eat dinner alone and go to bed alone."

Every night for the last two weeks I have been feeling incredibly lonely; I think this is largely due to the fact that I have spent every night of the last two weeks alone, in my basement. So, I suppose my feeling lonely is partially my fault. However, the flip side of this argument is that I have no gas in my car and no money in my bank account -- thus, I am unable to purchase the gas necessary to fuel the car that will take me all the way out to DeKalb, where the majority of my friends reside. So I guess that makes me a victim of circumstance. Could any of my DeKalb friends come to Yorkville to see me? Yes -- I suppose they could. But it seems as though unless I make the effort to invite myself over to their houses and drive up there, nothing happens. C'est la vie?

Distance and personal conflicts seem to be intruding on my relationships lately: I broke up with my girlfriend because of distance and the fact that she has no time for me (not her fault, but...); a good friend of mine, Mary, lives way down in Mississippi; my best friend, Caitlin, hasn't had time for me since the day I met her -- always, always, always busy or simply not wanting to hang out; my new friend, Amanda, is not only busy, but also recently decided to revolutionize her life by giving herself more "me time;" Josh usually only calls me if he needs me to do something for him; my friends, the Nashes, just had a baby and both work full-time, so they have no time; my friends, the Leighs, also just had a baby and are usually busy hanging out with other people...

I could keep going, but I'm depressing myself.

Now, granted, I'm probably just feeling sorry for myself. And if anybody I know even reads this shitty blog, they'll probably say, "Well YOU never call ME! YOU never visit ME!" In fact, I know that will happen (providing, of course, somebody I know reads this shitty blog -- which I doubt very much). And, yeah -- they'll be right. I suppose I COULD call them and invite myself over every single night. And I suppose I COULD spend $50+ per week on gas just to have a social life outside of my basement.

But I'm so tired of being the one that has to initiate this stuff all the time. I'm so tired of schedules and meeting times and dates -- whatever happened to spontaneity? Why can't I just call someone up and say, "Hey -- come over to my house"? Is this what being an adult is? Does adulthood suddenly mean everyone gets married and forgets all about their single friends now that they have their married friends? Does adulthood mean relationships are the first to go when embracing "responsibilities"?

If so, I say, "Fuck it." That sounds like a shit existence and I don't want anything to do with it.


My New Song

In case any of you haven't heard it yet, my new song, "Prince of Peace," is currently streaming here.

Mixtape #13: Earth Songs

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Earth Songs:

1) (Nothing But) Flowers - Talking Heads
2) There Is a Mountain - Donovan
3) The New Pollution - Beck
4) Earth - Imogen Heap
5) Once Upon a Time There Was an Ocean - Paul Simon
6) The Man Who Sold the World - David Bowie
7) Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) - Marvin Gaye
8) Big Yellow Taxi - Joni Mitchell
9) Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth - Neko Case
10) After the Gold Rush - Neil Young
11) Mother Nature's Son - The Beatles
12) Hand Me Down World - The Guess Who
13) Citizen of the Planet - Simon and Garfunkel
14) Where Do the Children Play? - Cat Stevens
15) Disappearing World - David Gray
16) Golden Earth Girl - Paul McCartney
17) No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature - The Guess Who
18) There She Goes, My Beautiful World - Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
19) After the Garden - Neil Young
20) Nature Anthem - Grandaddy


My Divine Encounter

A couple weeks ago, I worshipped for the first time in almost two years. Granted, I have been to churches a couple times since I left my home church, Campus Missions International, but I never truly WORSHIPPED since then -- at these churches, I was merely going through the motions and playing "Church." I simply went because I felt like I should, or, because it was the "right thing to do" -- whatever that means, I went because I was invited by a friend, I went because I had nothing else to do that particular Sunday morning; but I never went to actually experience God. I never went to worship.

So, two weeks ago, I decided it was time to go back. I had been meeting with my old pastor, Tom May, all summer long, talking discipleship, spirituality and relationships. After about four months of talking, I decided I wanted to go back to church. Now, church and I have a strange relationship -- I realize that I am a part of The Church, but I really don't identify with church. I understand the importance of friendships and relationships within The Church, but I never felt that I had to build said friendships and relationships within church -- I've always felt that I could be "outside the box." I also understand the importance of going to church to learn from sermons, but I can learn just as much in my own personal time.

I've never really enjoyed going to church. I think it's because, as a kid, I was forced to, and the church we went to was an insane cult. When I became an adult, I realized I didn't have to go, so I stopped, but then later started going again. In my most recent church experience (two years ago), I was beaten up badly by a few people in the church and I was so hurt by the situation, that I left again.

But when I went two weeks ago, I felt like I had come home. I felt like the prodigal son, in a way. In fact, as soon as I walked in the door, the person that I had the biggest falling out with rushed up to me, threw his arms around me and hugged me for a solid couple minutes, all the while telling me how great it was to see me again. It was great to see him too. We had reconciled last year over breakfast, but after this night, I felt like the bridge that was torn down had finally been fully restored. After the night was over and I had talked to almost everyone there, I felt like I had restored a lot of relationships. I felt that CMI was a safe place for me again. So I decided to return for good (or until I'm called elsewhere).

Sadly, I couldn't go last week because I was out of town, but I made sure to go last night. Throughout Saturday, there were a few times when I was thinking I didn't really want to go after all, but I fought the urge to stay home and do nothing. And it made all the difference that I went.

Let me preface this story by first saying that for the past couple weeks, I have been growing increasingly disconcerted with my state of unemployment. Last week, I had two interviews at Target and was turned down. I was turned down by TARGET. How does that even happen?? And THAT was the first interview I've had since March, when I was turned down by Schofield Media Group. I'm still up for a position with the Chicago Dental Society Foundation, but I have still yet to hear from them. Needless to say, I am growing more and more discouraged about the entire situation. Plus, with my recent breakup and family troubles and feeling lonely and battling depression, I've been going through a rough patch. So, last night I drove to church, praying the whole way for my life. I kept repeating over and over, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me." I have found this prayer to be incredibly comforting as of late.

CMI services are notorious for being long, drawn out productions. The worship portion lasts at least an hour, the preaching lasts at least an hour and the altar call typically runs upwards of an hour or more. But last night was different -- last night, the worship portion lasted about two and a half hours. The preaching didn't start until 8:45 and the service starts at 6. The reason the worship lasted so long was that one of the women started prophesying over the congregation and speaking about claiming the victories and promises God has for us. She then asked for everyone who wanted prayer and desired to claim what God had for them to come forward and nearly everyone in the church started pressing in around the platform to pray. I was one of them.

I prayed for a bit and wasn't really feeling anything, so I prayed some more. And more. And more. I started pressing into the Spirit and fighting everything around me and tearing down the walls that separate me from God. I wanted to have a Divine encounter. Two people I had never met before came up behind me while I was praying and laid their hands on me and started praying with me and for me. Then, the woman gave me the most cryptic prophecy I've heard yet in my life: "God is saying, 'Your calling hasn't changed.'" Upon hearing that, I burst into tears and wept for half an hour. When I collapsed to my knees, about a quarter of the congregation gathered around me to pray for me.

After I dried my face and finished up my prayer, I was greeted by the woman who called for the altar call. She said that God was speaking to her about me in particular and she wanted to know if He was speaking to me as well. She said, "I'm going to ask a question to God and I want you to repeat it and listen to see if He says anything. Then we'll compare our answers. The first question is, "'God -- will You do this thing in my life?'" I asked and wept again when I received my answer. She said, "He said to me, 'Yes.'" I replied, "He said to me, 'I'm the one who is waiting for you.'" "Wow! Actually that's a great segues to my next question: 'What do I need to do to be in agreement with You?'" Again, I felt broken by the answer I received. She said to me, "He said to me, 'Come to Me,' and He was gesturing for you to come forward." I replied, "He said to me, 'Stop doubting Me.'"

Looking back, I'm perplexed by all of it. I mean -- I know exactly what God means by "Your calling hasn't changed." At the same time, I have no idea what He's talking about -- what IS my calling?? Ireland or employment?? I'm not so sure.

But it's great to know that I am once again FEELING God in my life. I am once again having encounters with the Divine that leave me craving more. I'm overjoyed, but discontent.


Mixtape #12: Venti: Chill Songs for Smooth Roasts

This mix was inspired by my new friend, Coffee Shop Girl (or as I now know her to be called, Amanda). The Village Grind (the cafe she works at and I frequent) plays absolutely horrendous music and she was told that some of the songs she was bringing in were too "rock and roll." I took it upon myself to create a mix of mellower songs for the shop, that she could play over the speakers while working. If the owner doesn't allow for that, I'll still have the playlist on my iPod!

With SO many mellow, acoustic songs in my collection to choose from, this mixtape proved to be a difficult one to compile. However, I think I've arrived at a pretty good collection of songs suitable for sipping coffee. At any rate, here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Venti: Chill Songs for Smooth Roasts:

(DISCLAIMER: I know "venti" is Italian for "twenty" and that there are actually 21 songs on this mix, but I just had an absolute dickens of a time trying to figure out which one song to cut. I decided I'd leave the 21st song on here -- for irony's sake, if nothing else.)

1) I Was Young When I Left Home - Antony and the Johnsons
2) Gold - Interference
3) A Few Honest Words - Ben Sollee
4) I Keep Faith - Billy Bragg
5) Everybody's Talkin' - Bobby Bare
6) Lay Me Down - The Frames
7) Ooh La La - Faces
8) Ghosts - Mark Geary
9) So Far Around the Bend - The National
10) You and I - Wilco (with Feist)
11) The Greatest - Cat Power
12) Heather, Remind Me How This Ends - Dolorean
13) Lord, Save Me from Myself - Jon Foreman
14) Something Else - Gary Jules
15) Dogs - Damien Rice
16) One of These Things First - Nick Drake
17) For Emma - Bon Iver
18) Decatur, or, a Round of Applause for Your Stepmother - Sufjan Stevens
19) At the Hop - Devendra Banhart
20) Dark As the Night - Doug Burr
21) Fresh Feeling - Eels


My Financial Disaster

Guys, I am in financial dire straits.

As many of you know, I have been unemployed since January, when I was laid off from my job in DeKalb. Sure, I worked over the summer at the swimming pool and eventually moved to home to save up money, but guess what -- somehow, the third part of that statement never happened. All of the money I made from the swimming pool? Gone. Then, of course, I got a random job, pulling rocks out of a pond at an apartment complex in Elk Grove Village. All of the money I made from that? I haven't even received it yet (yes, that job ended a month ago)!

This past Friday, I learned that my checking account was $180 overdrawn -- pretty bad. Today, I learned that my checking account is now $234 overdrawn -- even worse. Oh yes -- I also learned that my cell phone bill is $389! How did that happen? I can't even imagine. You better believe I'm going to fight that as much as I can. The good news is that I put my Sallie Mae student loan on a forebearance that lasts until November. The bad news is that when November rolls around, they're going to send me a $500 bill. Awesome.

I'm hoping my unemployment will be able to cover a lot of this -- I'm just going to have to stretch my payments out and make every dime count. That means The Drew will not be buying second hand books anytime soon.

Everyone, I need you all to be in prayer as much as I will be in prayer this week. I'm up for a position with the Chicago Dental Society Foundation as an assistant to their director of marketing. While this job won't solve all my problems, it will definitely help. Their board of directors will be meeting this week to discuss the position and conduct interviews. I am hoping and praying and believing I will not only be given a call, but will be hired.

If not... Well. I won't believe it.


My Album Covers

Here are two of the album covers I'm working on. All I need now is the songs to fill them up...


My Weather Reading Dilemma

My favorite poem, The Charm of 5:30, by David Berman, opens with the line, "It is too nice a day to read a novel set in England." When I read that line a few years ago, I immediately understood where Berman was coming from and what he meant by it. While I was majoring in English at Northern Illinois University, I decided that I wanted my focus to be in British literature -- particularly from the Victorian era (a la Jane Austen, Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy). Sadly, this choice of focus turned me into a bit of a downer.

The grey skies, the rain, the love loss, the death, the class struggle, the factory chimneys, billowing the smoke of workers' dreams during the Industrial Revolution. Everything about this era of literature festers with heartache and dismay. And this is exactly the type of mood I hope to avoid when the sun in shining, the breeze is gentle and the kids are shouting happily in their front yards. No, this type of reading is usually reserved for days that are best for staying inside and wondering why everyone else isn't doing the same.

Of my top five favorite authors (1) James Joyce, 2) Ernest Hemingway, 3) John Steinbeck, 4) Charles Dickens and 5) (it alternates)), only Steinbeck is worth considering on bright, sunshiney days like today: Joyce is a complete downer who writes about rebellion and religious abuse. And even then, his writing is so experimental and difficult to get through that one hesitates to ever read him, regardless of weather; Hemingway is a beautiful writer and a master storyteller. Unfortunately, his books make one want to lay down on the floor, in the fetal position, and just scream; Dickens is a fantastic wordsmith, but a definite killjoy. He treats his characters like shit for half of the book, then drags them THROUGH shit for the second half. At the end of a Dickens novel, you sigh, exasperatedly, and think "Thank God I'm not THAT guy."

Poor Pip...

Steinbeck also has his share of flawed characters and despair, but the sun is always shining in his novels, so you never feel TOO bad for the characters. "Man, the Joads have a long road ahead, but at least the weather is great!" Joblessness and homelessness doesn't seem too bad when you're kicking around in the California sunshine.

Sadly, most of the books in my library I've either already read or are weather sensitive; and, since I most appreciate autumn weather, most of my unread books are complementary (Victorians and Moderns). I have discovered, though, that unless it's an Irish author like Frank McCourt or Pete McCarthy, memoirs are fantastic complements to great weather. For instance, today I began reading A Working Stiff's Manifesto, by Iain Levison -- a story of one frustrated English major's search for meaningful employment (which happens to be the situation I find myself in). It is one of the most bitter, but most hilarious books I've read in quite some time. Even in the coffee shop, I found myself laughing out loud at the many dead-end-job horror stories Levison chronicles. Not surprisingly, I was in a chipper mood for the rest of the day and the fabulous weather only accentuated my cheerfulness.

Now, imagine if I had read Dickens...

Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning him-self to let it eat him away. - A Tale of Two Cities

Or Joyce...

He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life's feast. - Dubliners

Or Hemingway...

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. - A Farewell to Arms

Okay, even Steinbeck has a way of making you squirm in your chair and pine away for a happier existence...

What freedom men and women could have, were they not constantly tricked and trapped and enslaved and tortured by their sexuality! The only drawback in that freedom is that without it one would not be a human. One would be a monster. - East of Eden

Not on a day like today -- I wouldn't allow it. When the sun is shining and birds are singing, it is too great a day to allow yourself to be sucked into the neuroses, fears and pessimisms of my favorite authors, regardless of their ranking on my "favorite authors" chart.


My Road Full of Promise, My Head Full of Doubt

Ever since I was a boy, I've wanted to, one day, move to Ireland. It has been my unattainable goal, my unreachable destination. My eyes have had shamrocks and green hills and grey skies in them and my appetite for Guinness has been insatiable. There are times when I wake up, look out the window to a particularly overcast day and my heart swoons, "What I wouldn't give to be in Ireland right now, too ra loo ra loo ra."

My fascination began when I was eight years old. My class was having our international day fair and it was each student's assignment to build a poster board presentation for their country of choice. At that time in my life, I was fascinated with the Czech Republic because there's a large portion of my father's family from former Czechoslovakia. My presentation was decent enough, but nothing special. It seemed nobody else my age really cared about the former Soviet bloc.

One of my friends, Andrew Hansen, chose Ireland. If you had ever met this kid, you'd immediately know why: he was a tiny, pasty white ginger kid with the clearest green eyes and the brightest red hair. He was Irish Catholic, a Notre Dame fanatic and was one of the sweetest, most cheerful kids in the school.

For whatever reason, I decided early on that he would be nemesis and that I hated him. Obviously.

However, even I, in all my hatred for the Ginger Boy Wonder, couldn't help but gaze in wonderment at his glorious display for Ireland. It was heavenly -- the most beautiful pictures of rolling green meadows, and castles, and grey skies, and rosy cheeked people playing instruments in pubs and on street corners. He even had his mother bake homemade Irish soda bread for the class and he brought in a boombox that played a CD of Van Morrison with the Chieftains. And when I ate of the bread and drank deep the sounds of that album, my blood turned green and my heart beat with the rhythm of "Cockles and Mussels (Alive-Alive-Oh!)"

And, indeed, I felt alive. That was the moment I decided I wanted to live in Ireland for the rest of my life. Of course, when my grandmother on my mother's side informed me that my blood is MOSTLY Irish, that only added fuel to the fire.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A few years ago, I was surfing YouTube and found a video made by my (now) friend, Kyle Holland.

My heart was so broken by the interviewees that I embedded to the video to my MySpace and urged all my friends to join me in intercession and prayer for the country. I was surprised, a few days later, when Kyle emailed me and asked me about my desire to move to the country. I was even more surprised when I told my pastor about the email and found out that my pastor actually had known Kyle for quite a while. They went to a ministry training called Maranatha! together.

That was in 2006 or '07. Ever since I've been assuring Kyle that I've wanted to come to Youghal (the city he lives in) and help him with church plants, by leading worship or whatever. Sadly, that has yet to happen. It seems that whenever I have the opportunity to go, the opportunity gets dashed against the rocks. Everytime I save up enough money to go, I have to spend it on something; whenever I have time to go, I get a job; whenever I earn time to take off work, I get laid off and lose all the money I'd been saving up on trying to survive. It's always something.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

For the past week or so, Ireland has, once again, been on my heart and mind, so I've been praying for the country and trying to get caught up on recent news. Then, Ireland started coming up in everyday conversation with friends. Then, I started receiving an Irish e-newsletter in my email that I never renewed my subscription for and stopped receiving about a year ago. After all that, Kyle sent me a comment on Facebook that simply asked, "What are your plans now?"

Could all these occurrences by coincidences?

Ireland has never left my mind; I want to go there now just as much as I always have, if not moreso. However, now, unlike my teenage years or my college years, I have responsibilities -- I have bills to pay, careers to pursue and jobs to work. And, right now, I'm in the running for a very good job in Chicago. In fact, I'm the forerunner for the position. And this isn't just some job -- it's a legitimate career that has amazing pay and great benefits. And, if I got it, I'd be able to fulfill my other life-long dream of moving to Chicago.

And there, as the Bard says, lies the rub.

I am torn between two dreams.


Mixtape #11 - This One Goes Out to All the Ladies

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, This One Goes Out to All the Ladies:

1) Ladies of the World - Flight of the Conchords
2) Black Girl Pain - Talib Kweli
3) The Girls Want to Be with the Girls - Talking Heads
4) Love Her Madly - The Doors
5) No You Girls - Franz Ferdinand
6) Daytime Nighttime Suffering - Paul McCartney
7) Working Girls (Sunlight Shines) - The Pernice Brothers
8) Women's Realm - Belle and Sebastian
9) Killer Queen - Queen
10) No Man's Woman - Sinead O'Connor
11) Nobody's Baby - Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
12) Respect - Aretha Franklin
13) Woman Is the Nigger of the World - John Lennon
14) Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves - Eurythmics
15) Woman King - Iron and Wine
16) Army of Me - Bjork
17) She Just Wants to Be - R.E.M.
18) Girl In the War - Josh Ritter
19) She's Leaving Home - The Beatles


Mixtape #10 - Songs of the Sea

Here is the final track listing for my latest mixtape, Songs of the Sea:

1) Home at Last - Steely Dan
2) Stuck On a Boat - Port O'Brien
3) Chanty - Son Volt
4) I'm Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphys
5) March Into the Sea - Modest Mouse
6) Fisherman's Wife - Califone
7) Gulf of Mexico Fishing Blues - Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby
8) The Devil Down Below - Gaelic Storm
9) The Mariner's Revenge Song - The Decemberists
10) Petrov, Yelyena and Me - Flight of the Conchords
11) Goodbye, Goodnight - Jars of Clay
12) Sailor Song - The Felice Brothers
13) Sailor and Widow - Keren Ann
14) The Whaler - Thrice
15) The Downeaster "Alexa" - Billy Joel
16) Pirates - Mr. Gnome
17) The Family and the Fishing Net - Peter Gabriel
18) Fisherman's Song - Port O'Brien
19) Ships - Tyler Ramsey
20) Song to the Siren - Tim Buckley


My Protest Rally

Hey all.

Here are some photos from the pro-life rally I participated in yesterday morning and afternoon.

I will write up a blog about the experience tomorrow or later tonight!


My New Album

I've decided I'm finally going to tackle a project that I've been wanting to do for years and years -- I'm going to record a full-length album of hymnsongs, both old-fashioned and modern and maybe even a few originals (and by modern, I mean songs recorded by secular acts during the Jesus Movement).

I don't have a full track-listing yet because I'm still picking out songs; but I figure there will be eleven songs and I've already gotten a few picked out that I'd like to do:

1) Jesus
2) Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
3) Nearer Blessed Lord - Nina Simone
4) Precious Lord - Mahalia Jackson
5) It Is Well with My Soul
6) Holding On - Drew Moody
7) Be Thou My Vision/All Creatures of Our God and King
8) Jesus - The Velvet Underground
9) Prince of Peace - Drew Moody
10) Jesus Paid It All
11) Jesus (reprise)
12) How Can You Refuse Him Now? - Hank Williams

Other songs I'm considering:

"Lay My Burdens Down"
"I Shall Not Walk Alone" - Ben Harper
"All My Trials"
"I Am a Stranger Here Below"

My Tree, Planted By the Waters

This is my favorite scripture:

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. - Psalm 1:3-4 (ESV)

Of all the verses about love and forgiveness and mercy in the Bible, none of them quite compare with this one. There's so much about Psalm 1:3-4 that I love: the imagery, the language, the simile.

For one thing, I've always been particularly attracted to trees. I identify with them.

I love their strength and the majesty of them. I'm fascinated by the science of them -- the way they grow, their root systems, the way they live and breathe. I'm in awe of their usefulness: they provide shade on sunny days for us, they provide homes for animals, they provide us with the paper we write on and the books we read, they provide the wood needed to make homes and bridges and bookshelves. And I'm fantastically devasted by how cavalier we are to trim them, cut them down, burn them, destroy them -- all for our own sake.

However, throughout the Bible, trees are spoken of with the same great reverance I have for them (God used a tree as the ultimate source of knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, scriptures use trees as comparisons all over the place, Jesus was crucified on a tree, etc, etc). I do believe God delights in us most -- we are His ultimate creation. However, I think trees come in a very close second.

I was at a church in Crown Point, Indiana, playing a show with my band at the time and after we finished playing, and were getting ready to leave, some of the members of the church decided to pray for each member of the band. When they came to me, a girl prophesied over me and said, "I see you as a tree, standing alone in a field. You are tall, beautiful, majestic, strong. There is a storm and a strong wind coming that is going to blow you sideways. It's going to be so strong that it will bend your trunk until you are parallel with the ground. But if your roots are deep enough and you are strong enough, the storm will cease, the winds will die and you will be brought back to your upright position. If not, your trunk will snap and you will die." Shortly thereafter, I left my church, left my band and became an alcoholic. Guess what happened to my tree?

And this is why I had Josh Richter paint my guitar the way he did -- everytime I pick Addison up to play, I am reminded of this verse: "I am like a tree planted by streams of water." I want to never forget it.

I never want to be standing alone in a field when a gale comes and snaps me in half again; I want to be standing tall and strong, firmly planted by the waters that, everyday, refresh and nourish me. I remember what it was like to feel completely helpless in the midst of life's storms and I remember what happened when I wasn't strong enough to stand up to the winds. In the words of Lindsey Buckingham, "I'm never going back again."

I saw a video of Donald Miller addressing an audience yesterday morning and even though it's only two minutes long, I was captivated by it:

In all honesty, I had never considered this aspect of my favorite verse -- I was always too mesmerized by the language and how I identify with it. But Miller makes an interesting point: tall, strong, majestic trees don't become that way overnight. It is a painfully, woefully long process for a tree to reach its peak. Even a tree's death is prolonged over several years. In this society, it is easy for us to become discouraged when things don't happen immediately. Almost everything is immediately available to us: fast food, high speed internet, bittorrent, thrift shops, get-rich-quick schemes, media. Everything is available to us at minimal time and investment. We all understand that these things may not be the best quality and may not be the best for us, but what do we care so long as we get it now?

That's not the spirituality for me. That's not the faith I want.



My Homemade Bookshelf

For any of you who are following the bookshelf saga or even care (which I can't imagine is any of you), here's the design I'm going with...

Mine isn't anywhere near this level of completion yet, but it's getting there.

My Loneliness and the Even Darker Place of Nothingness

"I’m just going to accept my loneliness. And I’m gonna go to an even darker place of nothingness from an even farther, more extreme nothingness, on my own." - Tommy Corn, I Heart Huckabees

That's a powerfully dark, strange line that has been on my heart this entire week. I watched I Heart Huckabees on Monday night and this line comes from the scene in which Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) walks in on Albert (Jason Schwartzman) and Catarine (Isabelle Huppert) after what appears to be a sexual romp in the hotel bed. Tommy, whose wife just took his daughter and left him, falls into a world of loneliness, which only intensifies when the philosopher he has clung to and invested his thoughts and emotions into has sex with his friend, Albert.

As a Christian, I know that I cannot honestly repeat this line; for one thing, I know that even when I am lonely, I am never alone. Secondly, there's no such thing as nothingness -- there is only our thoughts and emotions which devalue the meaningfulness of everything that surrounds us.

However, I can empathize with him.

For most of my life, I've been lonely. I didn't have many friends as a kid, I grew up in a cult that discouraged communication with the outside world (and that was during my awkward teenage years, which are difficult enough as they are), girls have never really been interested in me and all the friends I did (and do) have are either married or in long-term relationships. I've always been everyone's afterthought: either I was on the outskirts of society because I didn't fit in or because nobody wanted me. When I did start making friends, the "And then there's Drew" factor came with it.

The "And then there's Drew" factor is an occurrence in which a friend will invite all of their friends over and then remember "Oh! And then there's Drew!"

Always the afterthought.

Currently, I have a girlfriend that I never see and rarely speak with. For a person whose love language is quality time, this has been incredibly difficult on me, but I've pressed on and broke on through to the other side. But, lately... It's been more difficult than usual. I couldn't be there when her dad was in the hospital, I couldn't be there for her birthday, I couldn't be there any day during the summer, I can't be there now -- not because of my schedule, but because of her's. She simply does not have time for me. And, you know -- that's not necessarily her fault. But I spend my nights alone, everynight, sending text messages into the darkness.

I could hang out with friends, but I always feel weird about it, and that is for a couple of reasons: 1) all of my close friends are either married, are in long-term relationships and a) I hate being the third wheel and b) I always feel weird taking away a couple's quality time by hanging around, 2) they live far away, 3) I don't believe in "people just to hang out with" friends (we're either best friends or nothing, sorry), 4) even when I do get over my worry of being the third wheel, some of my closest friends now have babies and so they REALLY don't have time for me. The Leighs, the Nashes and the Seelingers all have children now.

So, here I am, on Saturday night, sitting in front of the computer typing up a blog, listening to my family watch a movie in the other room, arguing with my girlfriend via text message and wondering what the hell happened to my life that made me this way? What events transpired in my personal history that made me endure this overwhelming feeling of loneliness and why is so easy for me to fall into this trap of loneliness?

I could blame my parents for leaving me home alone when I was a little kid and I had to fend for myself. I could blame a couple of my exes for cheating on me. I could blame my girlfriend for never spending time with me. I could blame the UPC for not allowing me to hang out with people outside the church. I could blame my stepmom for picking and choosing who I could and couldn't hang out with. I could blame kids in my adolescent years for thinking I was a weirdo and ignoring me. I could blame the worship leaders I've played with for never valuing my input. I could blame everyone who never thanked me for the times I bent over backwards for them.

I could blame anyone I want, but in the end, it always boils down to me.

I feel lonely because I don't love myself. I feel neglected because I neglect myself. I feel rejected because I reject myself.

I'm a mess of a self-saboteur.


My 372 Books...

...won't fit on my two bookshelves. So, I have decided I am going to build my own bookshelf that will, hopefully, be light, compact and easy to move. The difficult thing, though, is that this mobile bookshelf will need to be able to contain 372 books, or at least a considerably sized portion of that.

Here are some designs I have been looking at and considering:

This design seems to be incredibly doable. All one needs is a sheet of plywood, seven long boards, a top, a support and enough wood for shelving. In fact, this design could also be sectioned into three units, making it easier to move. When set up again, the three units could then be pieced back together.

This may very well be the easiest design to build and most aesthetically pleasing. This sort of shelving can be made with, say, five 2x6 boards and fifteen shelving supports: drill the supports into your wall as five rows of three supports, space them maybe a foot apart vertically, three feet apart horizontally and simply lay the 2x6 board across the three supports. Simple.

One could also very easily make this sort of shelving illusory by making it appear books are "floating" on the wall. If one has a eggshell white wall, paint your shelves and supporting arms eggshell white; if one has a maroon wall, paint your shelves and supporting arms maroon. The arms and shelves will simply blend in with the wall, giving the illusion of books being suspended in mid-air, or glued to the wall.

This isn't quite what I'm looking for, but I definitely see the value in it. Maybe when I have a reading room/office, I'll build one of these and place it next to my reading chair... Ahhh, simpler times.

Again, a very simple design. The only tricky part would be deciding what sort of fabric design I should use to decorate the inside of it... Plus, this won't fit anywhere near the amount that I'd need it to fit.

If I ever bought a home, I would LOVE to have this in my closet...

Finally, this design is my absolute favorite. It's merely a fantasy of mine, I know... It's incredibly unrealistic, probably expensive and, obviously, immobile. But when I buy a house of my own and have my own library/office, you better believe this design is what's going to dominate one of its walls.

My New Old Books

Well. I have a problem.

A spending money on books problem.

Is that a problem?

It probably is.

At any rate, here are the books I bought today at Goodwill:

1) The Social Contract and Discourses - Jean Jacques Rousseau
2) Day By Day - Andrew Murray
3) Nine Stories - J.D. Salinger
4) Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs
5) Shopgirl - Steve Martin
6) Heavens to Betsy! & Other Curious Sayings - Charles Earle Funk
7) A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
8) A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man / Dubliners - James Joyce
9) Candide - Voltaire
10) The Last Days of Socrates - Plato
11) Island of the Sequined Love Nun - Christopher Moore
12) Running In the Family - Michael Ondaatje
13) How to Enjoy Wine - Hugh Johnson
14) Holidays On Ice - David Sedaris
15) Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
16) Tartuffe and Other Plays - Moliere
17) Hard to Believe - John MacArthur
18) Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
19) The Man In the Mirror - Patrick Morley
20) A Pound of Paper - John Baxter
21) Here and Now - Henri Nouwen
22) Nine Classic French Plays - Seronde Peyre
23) A Gentle Thunder - Max Lucado
24) The Journals of John Cheever - John Cheever
25) Open House - Elizabeth Berg
26) Come Thirsty - Max Lucado


My Former Self

I picked up the new Derek Webb album, Stockholm Syndrome, this past weekend. I absolutely love Derek Webb and have ever since he left Caedmon's Call; his lyrics are so passionate, so challenging and, musically speaking, he has been a bit of a chameleon with every album. There was the jangly roots music of She Must and Shall Go Free, the stark, atmospheric darkness of I See Things Upside Down, the stripped-down acoustic guitar work on Mockingbird and a bit of 1960's Brit-pop revival on The Ringing Bell. For his latest release, he has left the majority of his instruments at home, save for an acoustic guitar on a couple tracks, and opted for a more digital approach. The entire album is dominated by drums, keyboards and computers. It's actually kind of reminiscent of if Moby were doing more upbeat stuff.

There's been a lot of controversy surrounding Stockholm Syndrome in the music industry since the time it was supposed to be released (in May) up until now. Of course, Derek Webb always stirs things up with every release and I've always wondered just how long it would take for his record label to say "enough is enough." Apparently, he's finally done it.

The original statement the record label, INO, released stated that the lyrics on the new album were too harsh and too risque for Christian audiences, so they wouldn't be releasing it unless he changed the lyrics (particularly for one song). Now, Derek Webb is a man who will not back down when he believes in something and so he refused to change the lyrics. According to him, that one song that is getting the most heat is the most important song on the album, so he was even more adamant about keeping it as is. Deliberation ensued over the entire summer and the compromise reached was INO agreed to release a censored version of the album that didn't include that one song. However, Webb could make an uncensored version of the album available to his fans on his website.

"That one song" is entitled "What Matters More."

So I downloaded the uncensored version (obviously) and wasn't surprised when I felt that I had been slapped in the face many, many times over with each song (some songs even slapped me more than once!). And it wasn't an offensive slap in the face, I don't think. A lot of Christians will be listening to the lyrics on this album and they will be incredibly offended (and they should be -- Webb is ruthless this time around!), but I wasn't. My slaps in the face were more like wake-up slaps; like "get with the program" slaps.

The song "What Matters More" was the biggest slap of all.

This song has served in my life as a call to arms. It awakened ancient feelings inside of me, stirred up emotions and passions that have been docile for a long, long time. But, before I continue, perhaps I should write down the lyrics for all of you so you can have perspective of what I'm talking about here...

You say you always treat people like you like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
'Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak

'Cause if you really believe what you say you believe
You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak
Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak
Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about
It looks like being hated for all the wrong things
Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings

'Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin' today

Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?

Intense, right? Especially for a Christian artist! I applaud Derek Webb for his ability to step up to the microphone and let it fly. It takes a lot of courage to be able to preach Truth to a bunch of Christians who definitely don't have their hearts in the right place.

It is an undeniable fact that for the past, let's say 30, years, the two main issues on the average evangelical's agenda have been abortion and homosexuality. If there's one thing I can say about evangelicals over the past couple decades, it's that we have our eyes on the wrong things. Not only that, but we're proud of it! We flaunt it! There's another Derek Webb song that spoofs the old hymn, "They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love" -- his version is called "They'll Know Us By Our T-Shirts." We hold up big signs, form picket lines, firebomb abortion clinics, wear t-shirts with outrageously cheesy things written on them (like "My boss is a Jewish carpenter" or "In case of rapture, you may have this shirt").

But where is the LOVE?

That's the point Derek Webb is driving at in this song -- he's not just trying to ruffle feathers, he's asking "Why are you so concerned with condemning homosexuals and forsaking LOVE?"

Another thing I appreciate about the song (and this is a subtle thing) is his use of the words "damn" and "shit." Here are some of the comments people had about it on YouTube. First, the negativity:

AMP27890: I find it interesting how people try to excuse his use of vulgar words. If this is the state that Christian music is sinking to, I don't want it.

funglu: Derek Webb is becoming synonymous with cheap publicity stunt. This is creative? Really? He needs to credit his sources. He isn't the first nor the last to cuss for affect and try to appear clever.

swiftyguitar: First of all, "let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth", and "everything you do, do for the glory of God". Will these word choices profit the church? Not for me to judge.... But sidenote, weird style for Derek Webb.

cropfield77: in my opinion...derek webb was wrong when he used two vulgar words that are labeled as foul words by our culture...because..as JESUS commands it...we should not cause anyone to stumble from their christian faith...but i have no problem with derek webb's message of love towards everyone...no matter how 'sinful' they are...because in the end...we are all sinful...in need of saving grace

TheCartercrew: "hate what is evil; love what is good"...if we are going to hate the evil that exists in our churches regarding the selective loving...then we must also hate the use of profanity as well. both evils get thrown into the same pot. love d.w. just think that we shouldn't put sins on a scale. unholiness is unholiness! "be innocent in evil and wise in what is good." innocent in ALL evil...wise in all things that are good...the Lord doesn't even want us to know those words, much less use them.

Now, the positivity:

brahimdrunk: I love the fact that so many Christians are taking the bait that Derek Webb sets. What matters more to you: the fact that 50,000 people are dying every day due to malnutrition/starvation or the fact that I said shit?

coconut888: AMP27890 and sportzguy1984 have missed the point... completely. it would seem they care more about using "shit" over tens of thousands of people dying without Christ. and that's exactly what he wants us to think about. just as believers would "love our neighbors" in treating gays by harassing them for their sin instead of grieving over their own. is it not God who changes people through the gospel? let the message do its work. btw, the bible has even more controversial words than the song.

xkerchx: I enjoy the Tony Campolo allusion: "I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night." - Tony Campolo

parksj1: Paul used a lot of language that some considered offensive. Jesus did too, even if it was the truth behind the words and not the words themselves that offended people. What's funny is that he juxtaposed the word "shit" with 50,000 people dying just to make the point that "shit" would be more controversial than 50,000 people dying. And he was right. I haven't heard one person say "What?! Why are all those people dying??" But tons have talked about the use of the word "shit."

And my personal favorite...

jw1453: I don't believe D.W. was wrong in his choice of words. I actually believe he was right on. I've been in ministry for 13yrs. and I see what he talks about in this song everyday. Granted, his approach is extreme, but these are extreme times. As christians, we've become so apathetic in our faith that it sometimes takes an extreme point of view to stir our souls again. If this song causes you to stumble, ask yourself why. Just because something is labeled socially taboo doesn't make it wrong.

I'd like to personally thank jw1453 for saying, "As Christians, we've become so apathetic in our faith that it sometimes takes an extreme point of view to stir our souls again." I never thought my personal walk with God would come to this, but I've been very, very apathetic in my faith. I've become selfish, self-centered and stagnant in my faith.

The reason I love this song so much is that it stirs up a memory of my former self. This song reminds me of a time when I cared about something, when I was passionate about something. I used to live for change and social justice. I used to go to protests and volunteer at soup kitchens and blog about my ideals and opinions and hold signs in Chicago that said "FREE HUGS!" and pray with random people walking around NIU. There was a time when I watched the news and saw reports of starving people, and terrorist attacks, and wars, and famines, and natural disasters and I would WEEP -- just break down in tears in front of the television screen -- because my heart was so broken for those people. There was a time when I loved people passionately.

And I was very outward with my love and passion. This wasn't just an internal thing for me, the externals definitely displayed my zeal as well. In high school, I was voted by my peers as "Most Likely to Impact the World." In college, I was president of a ministry group on campus that generated a lot of heat for things we said and did. Everyone around me knew I was ready to help change the world. I wanted to be put on the front lines.

Now, people are surprised when I say, "Hey, I'm Christian too!" Their eyes open wide and they ask, "Really!? I had no idea!" What a sad state my walk with God has sunk to. If the hymn is right (and I believe it to be so), everyone should know I am a Christian by my love. So, why is it so surprising when people find out that I'm Christian?


My New Song

For the past four months, I have been wanting to write a song for Megan. I finally did it, but it was a long, painful process. I've discovered that writing a song FOR someone is a lot different than writing a song ABOUT someone, or even TO someone.

The most obvious reason is that when you're writing a song FOR someone, you want the song to be its absolute best for the person you are writing it for. You're giving that person your song as a gift, so you want it to be its best and as meaningful as possible (as is the case with Elton John's "Your Song"). When you're writing a song ABOUT someone, all you're really doing is using lyrics to describe the person's attitude or behaviour or your feelings towards the person. You're not really writing to impress anyone, except maybe your audience, because you don't really care what the person you're writing about thinks about your song (as is the case with Peter Gabriel's "Biko"). Then there's writing a song TO someone (which can be mistaken for writing a song for someone) -- the key difference between these two prepositions, TO and FOR, is that one is simply an address and the other implies a gifting. When you're writing a song TO someone, you're just making sure they got the message -- you're not trying to impress or please or shame them, you're just sending them a message (as is the case with Graham Nash's "Immigration Man").

I really wanted to impress Megan with this song that I wanted to write for her, but I struggled all the way through it. In fact, in an effort to write a meaningful song for her, I squeaked out a poppy ukulele song simply called "I Like You" -- deep, sentimental, meaningful? Probably not. Fun, upbeat and catchy? Most definitely.

So, for four months, this song became my labor of love. I sweated and toiled over it day and night, using alternate tunings and rhyming dictionaries and a thesaurus to come up with the most beautiful song ever written. Then I listened to Ben Folds' "The Luckiest" one day and after paying more attention to the lyrics than I ever have before, I realized that sometimes the most beautiful songs can be the simplest and most straightforward -- that maybe I didn't need to use a lot of flash and pizzazz; that maybe I could just say how I feel.

I asked myself "What do you really want to say to Megan? How do you really feel about her?" And the only answer I could come up with was "I want her to be near me."

And so I wrote "Champagne Eyes:"

I wish you here with me
I wish you by my side
And even if you can't be
I wish you to be my bride

How long will it take?
How long will you stay far from me?
How long must I wait?
How long will I be without you?

So, lay here by my side
And I'll watch the sun rise in your champagne eyes

I wish you here with me
I wish you by my side
And even if you can't be
I wish you to share my life

How long will it take?
How long will you stay far from me?
How long must I wait?
How long will I be without you?

Although the song isn't completely finished (I'd like to add drums), the demo is available for download at www.myspace.com/drewmoodymusic.