Cautious Optimist

Fortunes change for better or worse, sometimes changing as frequently as the wind. One never knows what tomorrow will bring. Recently we have been under a bit of a shake-up, a stressful change in fortune which leaves the stomach in knots and the eyelids droopy from lost sleep.

But it’s turning out. Slowly….

All the anxiety is turning into fruitful action. We are doing, instead of just talking. We are stepping up instead of just teetering on worried legs.

We are moving ahead.

Even though the thought of change is a terrifying thing to a comfort lover like me, I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings. I’m cautiously optimistic that our decisions, as unconventional as they may be, will turn out for our benefit.

Keep reading, I’m hoping these next few months will be an explosion of new growth and material.

Where Have I Been?

Maybe you follow me. Maybe you don’t. If you do, you might have noticed my recent absence. What is the reason for this absence, you may or may not ask?

Long story short: life is nuts. I was going to “stick to the plan” this year. It would seem that plans are obviously for the weak. God laughs at our plans. He has better ideas for us.

We haven’t stuck to the plan. We have made a decision to stay in Florida and pursue whatever we can. This has led to mounting debt and some very tight weeks, since the “whatever we can” has been slow to materialize. Sure, I’m driving a bus full time and doing delivery on top of that, but the money sucks.

I know that this is intended to make us more trusting and reliant on the Lord. But pain and struggle is never fun to go through. Getting used to a routine of 4:30 AM wake ups and virtually no time to myself has been a big adjustment from last summer’s mountain top freedom. So has getting used to the lack of funds.

And seeing others in more difficult situations makes me feel ashamed for feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I should be able to suck it up. I guess different people handle different levels of stress. I thought my tolerance level was higher, but it seems I am wrong. However, stuff that was huge to me before is practically nothing now. It amazes me to think I got so worked up over so little not that long ago.

I can only hope that means that what I am anxious about today is going to feel very small to me in the near future. I do realize that that could be the case in two ways: either my future problems will be that much bigger (like now versus three years ago) or the problems will be resolved and I will realize how trifling they were in the scheme of things. Let’s pray it’s the latter.

One reason I have been away from here is that I started journaling. Something about handwriting out all of your feelings, fears, and doubts is cathartic. It may not be as quick as typing but you can’t beat the tactile feel of a pencil scraping across paper. I love to make marks with my hands, no matter the medium. And I love to make words. What better way to combine those loves than with a journal?

You should be glad I am writing in that book. Along with the busyness increase there has been a flare up of the old anxiety. Not the particular anxieties of money and weariness, no, the general anxiety that speaks some pretty awful things into my brain. I get those out on that paper. There was a time when I thought “hey, I’ll be real on my blog”, but those days are gone, or at least put away for a bit until I can get a lid on this nonsense.

There is a plan now, and contingencies. It’s not all bad. There is dim light at the end of the tunnel.

I just don’t know how long that tunnel will be….

Not Shocked

Is man basically good? This question seems to come up a lot, particularly on job applications. The expected answer is undoubtedly “yes”. But is he really? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, why do so many people want to cling to this idea of man’s inherent goodness?

One of the most telling signs that people believe that humans are basically good is that they’re shocked when people do bad things. A lot of people seemed surprised when they hear stories on the news of people doing horrific things. They seem to think that people would never do such a thing.

I feel immune to this response because I don’t believe man is basically good. It’s totally reasonable to expect people to do horrible things. Man is totally depraved. Man is capable of doing any sort of evil imaginable.

I’m never shocked when I hear that someone did something awful. Whether it’s murder, sex trafficking, child abuse, rape, or other heinous crimes, none of it is shocking to me.

Honestly, I’m not shocked, I’m saddened. I’m saddened for the victims and their families foremost, but I’m also saddened for the perpetrator himself. I’m saddened (and frankly terrified) for the soul of the person who fell so far. I’m also well aware that I myself am capable of doing such things but for the grace of God.

Does this mean that I think that man is utterly deprived and we must live in fear of all people?

No, men are not as bad as they could be. There are even some good men on a human level. But compared to a holy God man is far from good. In fact, even the “good” things that men do are often tainted by selfish motivations. Men on their own do not do things to please God, men do things to please themselves and others. Men do things to make themselves look better, not necessarily to bring glory to God.

Even with the help of the Holy Spirit some temptations are just too hard for a man to resist. This is a terrible thought. Even I might fall into those sins. I would hate to stand before God knowing that I had done those things. This is one reason why I say that I feel sadness for the perpetrator. How scary must it be knowing that one has done something so terrible and that he will have to answer to God for it!

But with Christ all things are possible. Resistance is possible. Repentance is possible. No one is irredeemable, no matter how significant their sin. It is to Him that I cling, praying that I do not fall to temptations that others have. It is to Him that I cling, knowing that he forgives me even when I do fall to temptation, however bad they may be.

This is the hope of the Christian. Not the false hope that men can be good on their own, but the hope that they can be redeemed, repentant, and revived to a new life in which they can pursue true goodness.

Music and Art Monday, March 18, 2019: Christians And Art

Colors Chosen By A Two Year Old, Acrylic on Paper

I’ve been around a long enough time to read various Christian perspectives on art. They range from the benign to the downright vicious, especially when it comes to Modern Art.

Many Christians believe that art should be representative of the world. They believe art should copy the world and tell a story, usually moral in nature. They seem to believe that the only true art is classical art and anything that reeks of modernity is uncivilized and probably anti-Christian. Many think that art says a lot about worldview. Somehow, if you see the world as an abstract you must see the world in a nihilistic way.

Why does art have to tell a story? Why does it have to “mean” something? Why does it have to perfectly represent the subject as the subject is? If one wants a perfect copy of an object why not take a photograph?

To me, art should capture the emotion of something. Form is important, I definitely need to work on capturing form, but emotion is equally important. It is important to capture the essence of the subject, whether your medium is paint or film or clay.

Perhaps this is why I have a difficult time with seated poses. How much emotion can be conveyed by a sitting body? Maybe the emotion comes not from the subject but from the artist. The artist must project his emotions onto a subject as he would a light, and then capture the reflection, without losing the form in the process. Or maybe the reflection comes back in pieces and is copied in the abstract.

Queen, Oil on Canvas, 2018

Either way, is that capture “immoral”? Is is immoral to disassemble reality and put it back together in an imperfect way? Disassembled emotions are not nihilistic. Breaking down objects into their various parts and reassembling them in ways which do not reflect reality is not denying reality.

In fact, I would argue that perhaps it reflects reality far better than some hyper-realistic painting of an idealized subject. Reality is messy, reality is emotional, reality is imperfect. We do not live in Eden anymore. To capture our world as it really is is to show the blemishes and the oddities and at times the harshness of it all.

Sure, there is a time for capturing idealized images of beauty. There is definitely a place for “realism” and capturing form exactly as it is. I respect and admire the painter who can perfectly copy the world as it is. But without emotion is it really art?

Even playing with the reality of a photo can put a bit more emotion into it.

Christians should be the best at capturing both the world as it is and the world as it should be. We should not be shunning the opportunity to show the world reality through the lense of the Law and the Gospel. We should not fear our emotions and feelings about the world around us, instead we should embrace them and capture them with art to display them to the world. Our art should, like all of our activities, inspire people to ask us about the hope that is within us.

Christians should embrace the visual arts, and all arts, both to share the Gospel and to make this world a bit more beautiful in the process.

Music and Art Monday, March 4, 2019: Th3 Duvalspaceprogram

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t know much about hip hop. But I do know what I like. Reviews are supposed to be subjective anyways, right?

This week’s album is The Duval Space Progam’s Good Grief Itz Marlie Brown. It’s probably not an album that I would listen to except for the fact that I am Facebook friends with the album’s cover artist. It’s also probably not an album most people will listen to. They only have 5 monthly listeners right now (probably as many people as will read this, to be honest).

It’s…. different.

I hate to say it, but my initial thought was “this reminds me of that Family Guy episode where they get high and enter the talent show.”

A lot of this album probably sounds great if you’re high, but without the aid of mind altering substances it’s tough to get through.

That’s not to say it’s all bad. There are a few high points (no pun intended) like “Crii Babiez” and the beat to “Good Grief!”. It’s a mixed bag with decent beats and from what I can tell decent rapping. But when singing is attempted… Well… ::thinks back to that Family Guy episode::

Go have a listen, who knows, I could be totally wrong. They could very well be the next big thing in hip hop.

Go check out my other reviews for local acts:

Hensley

Modern Violence
Viewers Like You
Loretto
The Young Step
SolaFide!

Highlights of all the bands can be heard here.

How Not To Blog

I am a bit sporadic on this blog if you haven’t noticed. I don’t write consistently and when I do write the subjects are all over the place. My mind doesn’t function in a linear way, everything is intersectional. Connections are made where perhaps there should be none. Dead ends are frequent. Hanging bits…

I have been told, and have read on other blogs, that this is no way to blog. Blogs should be consistent and subject matter oriented. Readers should know what to expect and when to expect it. This gets a blogger tons of followers and many tons more hits. He/she might even make a bit of money for some well read posts.

But that’s boring. At least to me it is. I don’t want to read about the same subject day after day after day. And I really don’t want to read someone’s whole life story before I get to a recipe, especially if the whole post is inundated with ad after ad for junk I don’t want.

Variety is the spice of life, right? That’s why I usually only post when I have something I think is interesting to say. I like to keep you guessing about when the next post will be and what random subject I’ll be spouting off about. That was the whole point of this blog, to be unconventional and a bit off the deep end.

But now I am entering a new chapter in my life and I want to be more stable and more intentional. I want to settle down and be more successful with all the facets of my life. This may mean that you will be seeing recipes from me, but instead of telling you my entire life’s story I will probably just say “Hey, here’s a recipe!” This may mean I’m going to try to stick to one subject for at least one day a week, like I have been with my “Music and Art Mondays”.

It may mean even that I disappear for awhile while I figure this whole behemoth out. So if I’m not around for awhile it’s because I’m letting my brain reset. There is too much data floating around in there and I take in far more than I should. A much needed sabbatical is looking good right now. I just haven’t decided if it should be just a break from social media or a break from everything online.

Watch and see I guess.

M.A.A.M, February 25th 2019: Hensley

Today on Music and Art Monday I present Hensley. They have a fairly new ep out on Spotify and it’s a good one.

Out of all the bands I have reviewed so far Hensley is probably the closest I have found to something that fits my typical tastes in music. This is probably because they are pretty eclectic. They do everything, from a folksy tune in “Give Me a Break” to a trance mix of their pop tune “Not the Clouds”. In just seven songs they pack in enough flavor to appeal to a variety of different tastes.

It’s hard to pick a favorite track on this ep because there is so much variation! Most might not hear it, hearing only a fairly mainstream pop sound, but as my wife says I have an odd taste in music, which means I know something different when I hear it. There is some derivative feel in this album, “Pills and Thrills” sounds somewhat similar to Laleh’s “Wag More, Bark Less“, but who but me listens to Swedish pop in Jacksonville? And who else would make that connection? Only me, probably.

Anyway, go check it out. They are only going to get better.

More in this series:

Modern Violence
Viewers Like You
Loretto
The Young Step
SolaFide!

Gossip Sucks

Gossip has been on my mind lately.

It was brought up at church that gossips won’t inherit the kingdom of God. They are put in the same category as adulterers and liars and thieves. I never really gave it much thought, but I’ve noticed quite a bit of it going around at work and in the culture in general. I suppose it’s always been there, but for some reason it has been more noticeable to me lately. Probably because of the mention at church. When you start looking for something, you’re guaranteed to find it.

What constitutes gossip? Is merely relaying information about the actions of someone gossip? Or is there a malicious intent that makes it gossip? I think we all know that one person who just can’t wait to tell us the juicy news about so-and-so and what they’ve been up to lately. Is that person a gossip? Is the news media gossip? Is pretty much everything on social media gossip?

The dictionary defines gossip as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as true”. Given this definition I’d say we could call gossip lies. The facts may be true but then again they may not be. The entire purpose of telling them is merely to malign the character of the person you’re gossiping about.

So yes, probably most of what is on the news and in social media is gossip.

There is a bandwagon effect underneath most gossip. Those who share or indulge in the gossip are only sharing the “information” favorable to their own team. The source of the data is unimportant. What matters is that it confirms the suspicions of those sharing it. Sex abuse scandals are fraught with this kind of gossip. If you believe the accuser you share all the nasty details of the accused. If you support the accused you smear the accuser.

True justice is lost in gossip. Due process shuts down, mired in the tedious, nasty points of each side. Everyone loses, some more than others. The case never ends either, even if the courts are done with it. Years down the road there will still be fingers pointing back and forth and rumors being ruminated on.

The worst part about gossip? You know the person sharing gossip with you is most definitely gossiping about you. Heaven forbid you end up on the receiving end of someone’s poor opinion created purely out of the mouths of others.

Be careful what you listen to. Be even more careful what you pass on.

Music and Art Monday, February 18th, 2019: Modern Violence

What can I say about Modern Violence?

They are probably the most polished of all the local bands I have listened to yet. It’s not bad music. But it’s background music. I have a hard time putting them on and really listening hard, because I don’t have to. What you hear is what you get.

I like it though. And with just four songs on an EP it’s just enough of a taste to make me want to hear more. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this band.

More in this series:
Viewers Like You
Loretto
The Young Step
SolaFide!


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Dailyish Thoughts #102

Insert funny meme here

Never underestimate the number of people who love you and care about you. Even if you don’t hear from them often they are still there in the background somewhere occasionally thinking about you and praying for you and silently cheering you on. I can’t even count the number of people who randomly pop into my head any given day or week who I do this for. I’m bad at reaching out for fear of inconveniencing people, but I promise you are still remembered.

I totally name these posts what I do because I can’t think of anything else to call them. I suppose they are a mish-mash of ideas so the name is apt.

Second thoughts suck. Third and fourth thoughts suck even more.

Spending time with bohemian creative people always gets my wheels turning. I’m still not sure if they are turning in a good way or a bad way. I suppose if they result in some creative endeavor I can consider it good. If they just result in existential crisis… Well…

If you are anywhere in the Jacksonville/Orange Park area tomorrow you ought to come out to our yardsale. We had a small amount of success today, Saturday should be a cakewalk.