Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a nice find

 Extracts from a conversation
James Vincent McMorrow released his debut record, Early in the Morning, in Ireland to widespread critical acclaim in February 2010.

A stunning collection of songs recorded over 5 months in an isolated house by the sea, the album is a completely self recorded and played affair, filled with beguiling and vivid stories, fables that move from a whisper in your ear to a mountainous crescendo in the space of a song, all the while retaining the environment and sentiment in which they were formed.

“This record was borne out of my desire to create something singular, take the simplest of chords, wrap them in washes of melody, so lines come in, they drop out, everything ebbs and flows as the songs move towards their inevitable end. I don’t sit down with an agenda when I write, I usually have a first line, and a vague sense in my head of where I’m going, but no real solid structure. Music tends to reveal itself to me over the course of weeks and months. It’s probably quite like sculpting, you have a chisel, you know what’s waiting for you inside the stone, all that’s left is to chip away the pieces and reveal it.


The haunting melody of Nana, full of longing and melancholy but also hope in a certain way, was transformed into a Cello and Guitar version by Ana Ruth Bermúdez and Rene Izquierdo. The sound of the classical guitar, along with the vocal quality of Ana Ruth's cello, seem to be ideal for this masterpiece of Spanish music . . . . .


For what we need to know, of course, is not just that God exists. . .  but that there is a God right here in the thick of our day-by-day lives who may not be writing messages about himself in the stars but who in way or another is trying to get messages through our blindness as we move around down here knee-deep in the fragrant muck and misery and marvel of the world. It is not objective proof of God's existence that we want but, whether we use religious language for it or not, the experience of God's presence. That is the miracle we are really after. And that is also, I think, the miracle that we really get.

I believe that we know much more about God than we admit that we know. God speaks to us, I would say, much more often than we realize or than we choose to realize. Before the sun sets every evening, he speaks to each of us in an intensely personal and unmistakable way. His message is not written out in starlight, which in the long run would make no difference; rather, it is written out for each of us in the humdrum, helter-skelter events of each day; it is a message that in the long run might just make all the difference.

Who knows what he will say to me today or to you today or into the midst of what kind of unlikely moment he will choose to say it. Not knowing is what makes today a holy mystery as every day is a holy mystery. But I believe that there are some things that by and large God is always saying to each of us. All of us, for instance, carry around inside ourselves, I believe, a certain emptiness- a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, the deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside our skin. Psychologists sometimes call it anxiety, theologians sometimes call it estrangement, but whatever you call it, I doubt there are many who do not recognize the experience itself, especially no one of our age, which has been variously termed the age of anxiety, the lost generation, the beat generation, the lonely crowd. 

Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God's voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we may know him best through our missing him.

 -from Message In The Stars,
 a sermon by Frederick Buechner

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"thy thousand wanderings"

i opened my email today to find this wonderful passage sent from my sweet sister, thanks Lydia!

"O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no ground for it. Whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to what thou wast. Consider what thou wouldst have been but for divine grace. Look upon thyself as thou art now. Doth not thy conscience reproach thee? Do not thy thousand wanderings stand before thee, and tell thee that thou art unworthy to be called his son? And if he hath made thee anything, art thou not taught thereby that it is grace which hath made thee to differ? Great believer, thou wouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O thou who art valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid hold upon thee. Therefore, be not proud, though thou hast a large estate--a wide domain of grace, thou hadst not once a single thing to call thine own except thy sin and misery. Oh! strange infatuation, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, shouldst think of exalting thyself; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, one who hath a life which dies without fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud! Fie on thee, O silly heart!"

from Charles Spurgeon's Daily Meditations,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


"I have one simple response: give it up. If you don't think you're also playing chess against God, then prove it by letting go of the things that provide you with a sense of security, or comfort, or excitement, or relief. You will soon discover the tentacles of attachment deep in your soul. There will be an anxiousness; you will begin to think about work or food or golf even more. Withdrawal will set in. If you can make it a week or two out of sheer willpower, you will find a sadness growing in your soul, a deep sense of loss. Lethargy and a lack of motivation will follow. Remember, we will make an idol out of anything, especially a good thing. So distant are we now from Eden, we are desperate for life, and we come to believe that we must arrange for it as best we can, or no one will. God must thwart us to save us.

. . .we are still committed to arranging for life now. . . We don't even set our hope partially on the life to come. Not really, not in the desires of our hearts. Heaven may be coming. Great. But, it's a long way off and who really knows, so I'm getting what I can now.

. . .Many people were shattered by Brent's death. I know I was. Not even on my worst enemies would I wish such pain. But I also know this: the shattering was good. Living apart from God comes naturally; all the striving and arranging is so second-nature to me that to have it stopped in its tracks was a great good. I would wake in the morning in those early days of grief, and instead of my desires "rushing at me like a pack of wild animals" as Lewis said, I knew it can't be done. I knew it more personally than I had ever known it before. We must learn this lesson, at whatever cost, or the spell will not be broken and we will never discover true hope.

. . ."Remember how the LORD your God lead you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart . . .He humbled you, causing you to hunger" (Deuteronomy 8:2-3). During my "chess matches" with God, I often wrestled with his reasons for thwarting my dreams and desires. I am serving you faithfully, God. Why won't you let me have this little pleasure? It felt to me so unfair, even cruel.

. . .As I allowed myself to feel that quiet and long-buried desire, a sentence popped up out of my heart: I could really be happy here without God.

I haven't wanted to be an eternal person. I've wanted to find true life here somehow.

Pascal observed, "We are never living, but hoping to live; and whilst we are always preparing to be happy, it is certain, we never shall be so, if we aspire to no other happiness than what can be enjoyed in this life."

-The above passages are taken from the book Desire, by John Eldredge

.....''What I meant was a particular recurrent experience which dominated my childhood and adolescence and which I hastily called ‘Romantic’ because inanimate nature and marvelous literature were among the things that evoked it.  I still believe that the experience is common, commonly misunderstood, and of immense importance: but I know now that in other minds it arises under other stimuli and is entangled with other irrelevancies and that to bring it into the forefront of consciousness is not so easy as I once supposed.  I will now try to describe it sufficiently to make the following pages intelligible.

The experience is one of intense longing.  It is distinguished from other longings by two things.  In the first place, though the sense of want is acute and even painful, yet the mere wanting is felt to be somehow a delight.  Other desires are felt as pleasures only if satisfaction is expected in the near future: hunger is pleasant only while we know (or believe) that we are soon going to eat.  But this desire, even when there is no hope of possible satisfaction, continues to be prized, and even to be preferred to anything else in the world, by those who have once felt it.  This hunger is better than any other fullness; this poverty better than all other wealth.  And thus it comes about, that if the desire is long absent, it may itself be desired, and that new desiring becomes a new instance of the original desire, though the subject may not at once recognize the fact and thus cries out for his lost youth of soul at the very moment in which he is being rejuvenated.  This sounds complicated, but it is simple when we live it.  ‘Oh to feel as I did then!’ we cry; not noticing that even while we say the words the very feeling whose loss we lament is rising again in all its old bitter-sweetness.  For this sweet Desire cuts across our ordinary distinctions between wanting and having.  To have it is, by definition, a want: to want it, we find, is to have it.
In the second place, there is a peculiar mystery about the object of this Desire.  Inexperienced people (and inattention leaves some inexperienced all their lives) suppose, when they feel it, that they know what they are desiring.  Thus if it comes to a child while he is looking at a far off hillside he at once thinks ‘if only I were there’; if it comes when he is remembering some event in the past, he thinks ‘if only I could go back to those days’.  If it comes (a little later) while he is reading a ‘romantic’ tale or poem of ‘perilous seas and faerie lands forlorn’, he thinks he is wishing that such places really existed and that he could reach them.  If it comes (later still) in a context with erotic suggestions he believes he is desiring the perfect beloved.  If he falls upon literature (like Maeterlinck or the early Yeats) which treats of spirits and the like with some show of serious belief, he may think that he is hankering for real magic and occultism.  When it darts out upon him form his studies in history or science, he may confuse it with the intellectual craving for knowledge.
But every one of these impressions is wrong.  The sole merit I claim for this book is that it is written by one who has proved them all to be wrong.  There is no room for vanity in the claim: I know them to be wrong not by intelligence buy by experience, such experience as would not have come my way if my youth had been wiser, more virtuous, and less self-centered than it was.  For I have myself been deluded by every one of these false answers in turn, and have contemplated each of them earnestly to discover the cheat.  To have embraced so many false Florimels is no matter for boasting: it is fools, they say, who learn by experience.  But since they do at least learn, let a fool bring his experience into the common stock that wiser men profit by it.
Every one of these supposed objects for the Desire is inadequate to it.  An easy experiment will show that by going to the far hillside you will get either nothing, or else a recurrence of the same desire which sent you thither.  A rather more difficult, but still possible, study of your own memories, will prove that by returning to the past you could not find, as a possession, that ecstasy which some sudden reminder of the past now moves you to desire.  Those remembered moments were either quite commonplace at the time (and owe all their enchantment to memory) or else were themselves moments of desiring.  The same is true of the things described in the poets and marvelous romancers.  The moment we endeavor to think out seriously what it would be like if they were actual, we discover this.  When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claimed to have photographed a fairy, I did not, in fact, believe it: but the mere making of the claim–the approach of the fairy to within even that hailing distance of actuality–revealed to me at once that if the claim had succeeded it would have chilled rather than satisfied the desire which fairy literature had hitherto aroused.  Once grant your fairy, your enchanted forest, your satyr, faun, wood-nymph and well of immortality real, and amidst all the scientific, social and practical interest which the discovery would awake, the Sweet Desire would have disappeared, would have shifted its ground, like the cuckoo’s voice or the rainbow’s end, and be now calling us beyond a  further hill.  With Magic in the darker sense (as it has been and is actually practiced) we should fare even worse.  How if one had gone that way–had actually called for something and it had come?  What would one feel? Terror, pride, guilt, tingling excitement … but what would all that have to do with our Sweet Desire? It is not at Black Mass or séance that the Blue Flower grows.  As for the sexual answer, that I suppose to be the most obvious Florimel of all.  On whatever plane you take it, it is not what we are looking for.  Lust can be gratified.  Another personality can become to us ‘our America, or our New-found-land’.  A happy marriage can be achieved.  But what has any of the three, or any mixture of the three, to do with the unnamable something, the desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves?
It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire, pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given–nay, cannot even be imagined as given–in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience.  This Desire was, in the soul, as the Siege Perilous in Arthur’s castle–the chair in which only one could sit.  And if nature makes nothing in vain, the One who can sit on this chair must exist.  I knew only too well how easily the longing accepts false objects and through what dark ways the pursuit of them leads us: but I also saw that the Desire itself contains the corrective of all these errors.  The only fatal error was to pretend that you had passed from desire into fruition, when, in reality, you had found either nothing, or desire itself, or the satisfaction of some different desire.  The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and force you not to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof.  This lived dialectic, and the merely argued dialectic of my philosophical process, seemed to have converged on one goal; accordingly I tried to put them both into my allegory which thus became a defense of Romanticism (in my peculiar sense) as well as of Reason and Christianity.''
–C.S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress

Thursday, January 13, 2011

listen to THIS!

This is a band you must experience. Like them or not, you've at least gotta hear some of their work. These two (Joy Williams & John Paul White) are incredible solo-musicians, but have collaborated in recent years to form one incredible band together- The Civil Wars.


one of my favorite places to run with Silas is out @ Blackhand Gorge.
we LOVE our time there, we got to spend 2 hours there!
here is some evidence of the glorious creation we got to soak up.


what an awesome afternoon!
a sweet time to be filled with the presence God himself.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"the glory of God is man fully alive."

"Everything you love is what makes a life worth living. . . A life filled with loving is a life most like the one that God lives, which is life as it was meant to be (look). And loving requires a heart alive and awake and free. . .
You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart. . . Your heart is your most precious possession. Without your heart you cannot have God. Without your heart you cannot have love. Without your heart you cannot have faith. Without your heart you cannot find the work that you were meant to do. In other words, without your heart you cannot have life.

Above all else, you must care for your heart.

If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. A canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus without loss to itself [it shares] its superabundant water. -Bernard of Clairvaux

did you know that God gives out of the abundance of his heart? Paul prays in Ephesians 3, 'I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you', which is to say, out of the riches God has stored up in his great heart, he gives to ours. Dallas Willard reminds us,
 He is full of joy. Undoubtedly he is the most joyous being in the universe. The abundance of his love and generosity is inseparable from his infinite joy. All of the good and beautiful things from which we occasionally drink [Willard includes the sea in all its beauty, or a wonderful movie, or music]. . . God continuously experiences in all their breadth and depth and richness.

What does your heart need? In some sense it's a personal question, unique to our makeup and what brings us life. . . Yet there are some needs that all hearts have in common. We need beauty; that's clear enough from the fact that God has filled the world with it. We need to drink beauty in wherever we get it- in music, in nature, in art, in a great meal shared. These are all gifts to us from God's generous heart.

Be kind to yourself. Take care of your heart. You're going to need it."

a sweet morning encouragement-
taken from Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge