Writer’s Block

I say I have writer’s block, but really I just have too many ideas. Too many thoughts floating around, bouncing off the walls of my skull. Too many short thoughts without context or the rest of the thoughts to turn them into something good.

The sexual habits of married Christians. Christians and mental illness. Working for Task Rabbit. Being poor. Depression and anxiety and all the troubled thoughts. Several bands local and not. How I want to make art but my life is too messy to do much of anything right now. My back pain. Aging. My many desires that will never come true. My messy house. My tendency to be an escapist. The idiocy of raising the minimum wage.

Pinballs in my head. Any number of topics to be explored. But I am overwhelmed. I am too busy with trying to stay afloat in so many ways to begin digging too deep into anything.

My life revolves around trying to make money to pay the bills. Free time is unfortunately limited but all too abundant. I need more work, even if more work means less time for life. Life is work and work is life at this point.

Praying that it all settles. But who really knows? This could be my life for awhile. I hope not, but at least it’s interesting, right? Maybe when it settles I’ll have some tales to tell.

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The Subtlety of Opinion Making

I can’t tell you how many faults I have, it could be many, it could be few. But I can tell you that wanting to be accepted by everyone is one of them.

I care too much what people think. I let them get in my head and tell me what to feel, what to think, what to do. I let them convince me what I should do and what’s wrong with what I do do.

I let it bother me when when they tell me I’m an exception. Not in so many words of course, they just state what they believe “average” people feel about a subject. If I don’t fit that “average” there must be something wrong with me, right?

I can’t stand to be wrong, which is a double edged sword. On one hand I’ll debate people until I am blue in the face when I think I am right. On the other I’ll fear and worry that maybe everyone else is right, which is crippling when you just want to be accepted. If I am wrong, what is right? Why can’t I seem to get it?

We are hit with a fire hose of data every moment of every day. We see more images and read more words in a day than most people in history saw in a year or in some cases a lifetime. Many people of the past never strayed much further than a small radius from their place of birth. Opinion forming was a simple process of observation. What do my parents think? What do my neighbors think? What does this book say?

Now I get to read the opinions of thousands daily. I get every point and counter point. I get bombarded with the proper use of logic and the most illogical thoughts, often by the same people and frequently in the same sentence. People get in my head. I am a people pleaser, and if I don’t agree with people I must surely be a disappointment.

No, that would be thinking too highly of myself. I care what people think about me, but that assumes people actually do think about me. People post all the time “I’m stepping away from ______ for a little while” like everyone else actually cares. Just because we get hit with everyone else’s fire hose, and we let that hose of opinion bother us, doesn’t mean anyone else is actually concerned with what we think. Sure, there are “influencers”, people who attract a following and become known for their wisdom and wit. But most of us are not those people.

Most of us are a tiny voice in a monstrous cavern filled with the roar of everyone else’s combined tiny voices.

How many opinions do I have of my own? People have told me how to think and how to feel for so long. I’ve swallowed what they said hook, line, and sinker, even when deep inside of me I didn’t feel right. I’ve become the master of “smile and nod”, suppressing my true opinions to the point of choking my own identity. No one knows the real me, frequently I don’t even know the real me. I don’t even know the me that others know. I am a fake, a fraud, a liar. All because I worry what others would think if they saw the “real” me.

But who’s looking? I hide in shame, behind the fig leaf of a smile and nod, but are people really looking for the real me? Or do they just want to spout their own noise and if I agree I agree, if I don’t, oh well? Is it shame, or is it pride? Wanting to please people is pride. I don’t want to look bad, I don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s discomfort. Everything is truly about me and my own desire for acceptance. It’s not shame, it’s fear. And fearful is not a way to live.

So maybe I will step away from the fire hose. Maybe I will narrow the voices I listen to down to a select group who actually matter. Maybe I will be able to care what others think and feel because I will be able to discern their tiny voices without the din of data from literally everyone in the world. Maybe I will flee from shame and fear and actually express myself for once. That would be a change.

Lies, Pernicious Lies

Lies are ugly. Lies are literally everywhere around and in us. Our own hearts are deceitful. The world feeds us half truths and outright fabrications all day long. It gets so thick that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish falsehoods from reality.

I was saddened to hear about the death of Rachel Held Evans. I disagreed with her on so much, and her style was highly grating to me. But every death is a sad event, and every death should give us pause. I saw people celebrating, calling her a heretic, saying she spread lies and her young death is a judgment of God. Perhaps she did say some false things and promote some outright sinful things, perhaps she wasn’t the most orthodox of Christians, but how many of us are free of lies?

I don’t know the state of her soul. I do know she has now met the God whom she wrestled with for so long in her short time here on Earth. I hope that meeting was a good one. I know her glaring errors, but who would make it to Glory if we had to have perfect doctrine? Who would be saved if we had to know perfectly every jot and tittle of the Scriptures and exactly what each meant?

She led a lot of people astray, and I hope she repented of that before meeting her maker. But she did claim the name of Christ, there is reason to hold out hope for her eternal soul.

There are loads of false Gospels out there, and many false laws as well. The pitfalls of man’s depravity are too numerous to count. But can unorthodoxy on secondary and tertiary matters be elevated to heresy status?

If we believe in Christ crucified, buried, and risen, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness on the elect then we are not believing a false Gospel.

However, if we add to it extra commands and laws and expectations of perfect sinlessness on the part of the elect, we are believing a false gospel. Modern day Judiazers are everywhere. Christians should be careful to avoid them and avoid becoming them.

I don’t know if I can judge the state of anyone’s soul based purely on how well they hold to certain laws or matters of conscience. I do know that if perfect knowledge and adherence to the Law was the only way to Heaven, I would be damned indeed.

I am grateful for a Savior who is patient and forgiving.

Music and Art Monday, April 29th 2019: Psilocybin Jam

This week I want to introduce you to another local band. But not local to Jacksonville like all the other bands. This band is local to my third home: Cloudcroft, NM.

There is a funny story about how I was introduced to Psilocybin Jam: my wife and I fixed our perpetually broken truck and decided to take it for a test drive into town. While there we figured we may as well soak up some 4g for a bit and parked on Burro Street across from the Western.

I heard a tapping on the window behind my head. I turned and there is this dude with dreads motioning me to roll down the window. I scrambled a bit, but obliged. “Hey, you want to go get a drink at the Western?” We sat a bit confused but responded “Sure” and followed this guy over to the bar.

He introduced himself as “Wild Bill” and then said he had to run home for a bit. We got a beer and waited for his return. It was probably two hours later that he returned, seemingly oblivious to his new friends. We had found other friends to hang out with so it wasn’t a big deal but be got a bit of a chuckle out of it. Eventually we did end up hanging out with him and he told us literal war stories (Bill’s a vet, but you wouldn’t know it looking at him) and invited us back the next week to see his band.

Psilocybin Jam is pretty good live. They are even better on their album. So good, in fact, that some guy at a stop light asked me if I was listening to the Dead. I’d argue that Bill Larrubia’s bass playing is better than anything I have heard from the Dead honestly.

Lest you think all jam bands sound alike let me point you to two songs on the album that particularly stand out. “Nietzsche” blends the sounds of an 80’s metal band with Jim Morrison-esque  vocals from Felix Hernandez and a bass line reminiscent of The Prodigy. Figure that one out… “Bad Connection” sounds like the Doors if Ray Manzarek had never discovered the keyboard. I don’t know who’s on horns but dang.

Apart from those two songs the album sounds like a typical jam band, but with something super special. Bill’s bass playing along with the drums and percussion provided by his wife Heather Miller and drummer Albert Vallejo provide a perfect foundation for the eclectic styles guitar ranging from classical Spanish to Funk to classic rock and metal. There are no boring songs on the entire record.

As of this post, Psilocybin Jam has 4 monthly listeners on Spotify. I bet we can get that number way up there. Go check them out, you’ll thank me.

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….

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.

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.