on shutting up and listening.

I’m taking a class on oral history this semester, and one of the first things we learned as a matter of audio quality on recordings is that in conversations we do things like go “mmm” or “yeah” or “huh” all the time when other people are talking. This tends to sounds really, really dumb on recordings, but it also makes you realize–we are not good at silence. Or at least I’m not. I don’t know about you.

So ever since that class I’ve been really self-conscious about how much I’ll interrupt people even with an “mmm”, because now I’m more aware of how much I suck as a listener. Even if I’m quiet on the outside, it’s hard to get the voice in my head to shut up and give my full attention to the other person.

The Christian tradition tells us that listening is a gift received and given–“faith comes by hearing”, Paul says. When we quiet ourselves long enough to really listen, it has the power to change us. So it is with God, which is why our fathers and mothers in the faith took out the time to meditate on His words and still themselves so they could hear Him. And so it is with other people–when we listen to someone else, we are giving them the freedom to open up part of their lives to us. Everyone has a story that needs to be told; everyone has a voice to be heard. “One generation will tell of His works to another…”

So, be slow to speak. Be quick to listen. Shut up for a minute. Maybe you’ll hear something you never heard before.

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thursday 13

I’m going to try to be more consistent about these, I promise. This week: 13 more of your favorite fictional characters.

1. WALL-E.
2. Lady Macbeth (even though she’s kind of evil).
3. Ed Tom Bell, No Country For Old Men
4. The man, The Road
5. Benny and Nina, In the Heights
6. Billy/Dr. Horrible, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog
7. Number 6, The Prisoner
8. Max and Jude, Across the Universe
9. Bones and Booth, Bones
10. Jamie and Aurelia, Love Actually
11. Jo March, Little Women
12. Brother William, The Name of the Rose
13. I hate admitting this, but Alice Cullen, Twilight.

what am i still doing sitting here?

I’m at Barnes and Noble trying to get some work done. I did get some done, but I keep getting distracted by miscellaneous stuff–Internet, the plethora of books I want to buy every time I show up here…

Had a thought the other day that I’ve been mulling over: I think that a lot of the reason that the world doesn’t listen to the Church about stuff like sexuality and abortion and such (well, I mean besides its own depravity) is that we’ve forgotten to ground those issues in the greater story of the Gospel. We pull out the “God said don’t do this, it’s bad” argument, but we don’t really understand ourselves the Gospel reasoning for why it’s wrong. For example, heterosexual married sex is right because it’s a metaphor for the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the church (see Ephesians 5)–it is covenantal, it is between two people who are different from one another and who have different roles, it is the two becoming one flesh, it is meant to produce fruit–and any corruption of this also corrupts the picture of the Gospel that it’s meant to be. Maybe first we ought to get people at least more familiar with the Story, and then move from there.

On another note, it is seriously cold outside. News is saying something about freezing rain or sleet in the morning. I’m just sitting here in the store and my fingers are freezing.

The Morning News (which is one of my favorite websites ever) ran a piece the other day on skinny guys, and how celebrities (and now our 44th president) have made being a skinny guy cool. I’m not wholly sure of that–I mean, I think there are some cute skinny guys out there, but I prefer fellows with a little more meat on their bones. (Of course, I also say this and wish I had that kind of metabolism, but oh well.)

Okay, I’m getting all the drafts from the door. Time to get up and move around a bit. Love you all.

exercise for the day…

Make a list of ten things you’re good at. Like, objectively good at, things other people have told you’re good at, things you usually succeed at doing. No negative things like “slacking off” or “acting like an idiot”. Real good things, like “encouraging other people” or “fixing stuff” or “playing basketball”.

Make a list of ten things you’re not so great at, too. Weaknesses. Things you just don’t have the mind or the temperament for. Things that you don’t enjoy doing. Sins, even. No ego-tripping here, either. Be honest with yourself. Ask someone else, if you need to.

Compare the two lists.

Now, ask yourself: What are good ways to use my strengths? What can I do about my weaknesses?

And then do those things.

This all sounds rather obvious, but I don’t know a whole lot of people who can list these things, just because they’ve never really thought about it. Try it, though. Be honest. Don’t let it freak you out. It’s often in doing this kind of stuff that we figure out who we are, and who God is calling us to be.

If you want to share your lists, feel free, but don’t feel compelled.

t13

this week: 13 things you love about your home state (or home province or country, if you want to go that way). I’m a Texan, so I’ve got plenty to work with here (hee):

1. It’s a lot more ethnically and ideologically diverse than a lot of people think–everyone’s here and everyone’s got their own thing going. Brits, Czechs, Germans, Ethiopians, Nigerians, Indians, Pakistanis, Vietnamese, Mexicans, Koreans; Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists; Republicans, Democrats, and people like me who are generally confused about politics. It’s fun.

2. There is no sunrise on the planet like one in the middle of central Texas, out in the country.

3. The food, seriously. All that diversity adds up and makes for some good eating. Barbecue and Tex-Mex, Gulf Coast seafood, chicken fried steak–yeah. If I move out of the state, I’m going to miss the food a LOT.

4. Can your state say that it used to be its own country? Unless you’re Hawaiian, I don’t think so.

5. The fact that Houston is the only place in the world that uses the term “feeder road.”

6. The Baylor Bears and the UT Longhorns. Sic ’em and hook ’em. (My father, the Aggie, is grimacing right now.)

7. Homecoming mums. For those of you not familiar with this particular tradition, at a high school homecoming football game, all the girls have these gigantic corsage-type things–well, here’s a picture.

8. The Austin Chronicle.

9. “The stars at night are big and bright” (*clap clap clap clap*) “deep in the heart of Texas”–the fact that everyone in the state knows pretty much just that line of the song, but will sing it loud and proud.

10. The fact that summer in Texas is like winter everywhere else–you stay inside and don’t go anywhere unless you have to because of the weather.

11. Texas has a pretty booming arts scene. Third Coast, represent.

12. I have to say, I have a strange sort of affection for megachurches, and Lord knows we’ve got plenty of them here. I used to go to one. They are an experience.

13. I mean, most of the people I love are here. Even if Texas didn’t have all that other stuff, there’d still be that.

let me be an instrument.

As much as I enjoy breaks from work or from school, they start messing with my head after a while. I like having something to do by a specified time, something that’s meant for something outside myself. Deadlines make me happy. For some reason, though, whenever I give myself a personal project to do, I can never get myself to get them done. I fudge with self-imposed checkpoints, put things off, leave things by the wayside.

The accumulative effect that this has had is that I’m starting to get a little stagnant.

It doesn’t matter what they tell you about creativity being spontaneous and free-form–no, making things is work. It takes making mistakes and editing and cutting and actually sitting down and fiddling with the stupid thing. It takes effort. People who say otherwise are either full of crap or superhuman. No, spontaneity is born of discipline. Get the framework up first, and then feel free to play around with it. The same goes of service and of loving others–it takes work. It takes intentionality.

Now, I’m not very good at this. Discipline and structure are not my strong points, even though when they happen, I thrive on them. But this has to change. Whether I like it or not, God’s given me certain gifts, and I need to use them and refine them, to honor Him and to bless others. And that takes work. And that takes a certain kind of courage. That takes faith and hope. And to be honest, my faith at the moment is small.

I’m 24. In the long run of things, that’s still really young, especially in a country where the average life expectancy for women is nearly 81. But you want to know something? In the span of eternity, even 81 years are just a drop in the bucket. Life is short. I don’t want to waste mine. I want to be an instrument of beauty and truth, of healing, of bringing in the kingdom in my own small way.

What does that mean, then? That means getting off my butt, not surfing the Web mindlessly, not doing nothing. I want to be more intentional about this–being out in my community, making things as a person made in the image of a creative God, bringing order and peace, telling my story to tell The Story.

But truth be told, that’s going to take some prayer, some getting outside of myself. That’s not easy at all for me. But I have a calling to follow. I have a Savior to declare. So pray for me, brothers and sisters, while I try to do this in my own small way. And I challenge you to do the same, using whatever gifts God has given you to honor His name. Do things that spark your affection for Him. Do things that help others do the same. Whether that’s teaching, making things, writing, speaking, serving your community, listening, or even just buying someone a cup of coffee, go and do it. Be an instrument in the Redeemer’s hands. That’s my prayer for all of us in 2009. Let it be, Lord.

mix tape monday

This week: Another round of pick an artist and give us your favorite songs by them. My pick: U2.

1. “Gloria” (October)
“Gloria in te, Domine/Gloria exultate/Oh, Lord, if I have anything/Anything at all, I give it to You”

2. “Beautiful Day” (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
“You thought you’d found a friend to take you out of this space/Someone you could lend a hand in return for grace”

3. “Desire” (Rattle and Hum)
“She’s a candle burnin’ in my room/I’m like the needle, needle and spoon”

4. “One” (Achtung Baby)
“We get to carry each other, carry each other”

5. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (Joshua Tree)
“You broke the thorns and You loosed the chains/Carried the cross of my shame, of my shame/You know I believe it/But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”

6. “Seconds” (War)
“And they’re doing the atomic bomb/They know where the dance comes from/Yeah, they’re doing the atomic bomb/And they want you to sing along”

7. “Drowning Man” (War)
“Rise up, rise up on wings like eagles/They’ll run, they’ll run, they’ll run and not grow weary”

8. “Kite” (All That You Can’t Leave Behind)
“Life should be fragrant/Rooftop to the basement/The last of the rock stars/When hip-hop drove the big cars/At the time when new media/Was the big idea”

9. “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses” (Achtung Baby)
“Who’s gonna taste your salt water kisses/Who’s gonna take the place of me”

10. “I Threw a Brick Through a Window” (October)
“No one is blinder than he who will not see/No one, no one is blinder than me”

11. “A Man and a Woman” (How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb)
“The only pain is to feel nothing at all/How can I hurt when I’m holding you”

12. “Acrobat” (Achtung Baby)
“I’d take the bread and wine/If there was a church I could receive in”

13. “Two Hearts Beat As One” (War)
“I don’t know, I don’t know which side I’m on/I don’t know my right from left, or my right from wrong”

14. “Bad” (The Unforgettable Fire)
“If I cut through myself to set your spirit/I’d lead this heart away, see you break, break away”

15. “Running to Stand Still” (Joshua Tree)
“You cry without weeping/Talk without speaking/Scream without raising your voice”

16. “MLK” (The Unforgettable Fire)
“Sleep, sleep tonight/And may your dreams be realized”

17. “40” (War)
“And I will sing, sing a new song/How long to sing this song?”

because today’s his birthday…

I had a dream once, too, Dr. King, and you

Were in it–only, and here is the miracle,
That early morning, April 4, had never happened,
And you had lived on to a venerable old age,
A silver-tongued, silver-haired preacher of peace.

And here’s the thing: You walked into Cricket’s
With all those Southern gentlemen you wrote from your
Birmingham jail, just like the beginning of a bad joke
My subconscious was telling me (some preachers
And a rabbi walk into a bar, and…)

And even though you were all men of the cloth
I brought you a round of drinks and proposed
A toast unsolicited but welcomed: “Here’s to the
End of all things not eternal.”

Then all you old men dreamed your dreams and
Saw them come to pass–every gesture of
Reconciliation, every brown-skinned boy with
A blue-eyed girl–no longer apathetic, no longer
Afraid of what was behind your fences.

So I brought around the bread and wine like you asked
And you feasted the feast of deliverance.
Then I woke up–winter morning, January 15,
and I remembered, and gave thanks.