five years

August 13th, 2005.

That was the day that Lauren and I got married, and while it kind of was, I’m not prepared to say that it was the happiest day of my life, because every day that I have the privilege of being Lauren’s husband is a blessing.

And it really didn’t take me very long to realize that I wanted to be her husband, either.

Lauren and I met while at Tyndale [I was in my third year, and she was in her first], and we began dating in the spring of ’03. And it was awesome. I loved spending time with her, and it was just so great to know that someone was there for me no matter what.

That summer, however, we ended up working in different places – I went to Camp Sebago in Maine for my fourth and final summer, and Lauren spent the summer working at a camp in New York. While it was very tough to be apart for the better part of four months, the situation was made worse by the fact that our only form of communication was good old fashioned letter writing, with maybe one phone call per week (if we could coordinate my schedule around the very brief window of time in which Lauren had phone access) and one 24 hour visit in August thrown in for good measure. These circumstances, however, were huge for the development of our relationship. We couldn’t simply rely on the warm fuzzies that came with new romance; we had to earnestly devote time each day to the dying art form of expressing ourselves through letters – no small feat, even early in the 21st century – and to lifting each other and our relationship up in prayer, trusting that God would sustain and mature it and us despite the miles between us.

I remember one letter in particular where I expressed to Lauren that I could not imagine my life without her; even then, I sensed that she was a source of love, goodness and grace that I had never experienced before in any sort relationship outside of Jesus, and that this was something to hold onto. Perhaps this was a bit of a bold statement so early in a relationship, but it was true, and it’s a sentiment that has become increasingly more prevalent through the months and years since.

Our five years together have brought more change and adventure than I could have ever imagined; we have gone from Toronto to Otterburne to Aberdeen and now to Guelph, and just recently moved into our fifth apartment in five years. And now that we are reasonably settled, we are about to embark on perhaps the biggest adventure yet – parenthood.

And to be quite honest, I can’t think of anyone that I would rather travel through the ups and downs of life with than my wife.

Lauren is the best person I know, highlighted by the fact that she chooses to love me even when I’m at my worst. She is beautiful, smart, hilarious, kind and generous, and that’s only scratching the surface.

And, after five years, it’s exciting to know that we too are only beginning to scratch the surface of what God has planned for us.

Happy anniversary, Lauren. I love you with all my heart.

derek webb on the new caedmon’s album

I’m at work doing another overnight shift [boo]. I just typed up a new post, but can’t publish it until Friday, for reasons that will become clear on that day.

In the meantime, I thought I would a) ask out loud why I keep links on my blogroll that haven’t been updated in months [win wink nudge nudge], and b) point out that I have added a couple more to the bottom, most notably a new tumblr account created by Derek Webb.

In one recent post, Webb addresses some controversy surrounding the forthcoming release of the new Caedmon’s Call album Raising Up The Dead, which I am currently listening to, loving, and plan on reviewing very soon. Apparently some people are upset that this album will be released primarily in digital form, and there are some who are surmising that this will be the band’s final recording.

Here’s part of what Webb has to say on the matter:

let me start by saying that i love this record. the band honored me with their trust in letting me produce it, and i believe it to be among the band’s best records (if not their best). and the reason is because i consider this the first real caedmon’s call record. this is the first time you’re hearing songs and stories not just from one or two members of the band speaking on all of their behalf, but from nearly every member of the band. danielle young (singer) single handedly wrote half of the record. todd bragg (drummer) wrote a song, cliff young (singer/guitar player) wrote a few songs, jeff miller (bass player) wrote a few songs, and sandra mccracken and i wrote some as well. but the point is that none of these folks had written songs for caedmon’s before. on raising up the dead (and maybe for the first time on record) you’re getting a real sense of who this band is.

secondly, i love this record because it’s completely unfettered with outside consideration and influence about radio/retail/etc. the band’s focus here was to make the best record possible, wanting to primarily impress the fans who have supported them for these almost two decades. the band has admittedly made well-intentioned creative mistakes over the years, caring more about these various means of promotion more than the fans that it ultimately hoped those things would connect them to.

but those days are over. this is a band reborn, with a new creative energy and sense of camaraderie that i haven’t seen since the days of 40 acres, but without the trappings of the arrogance and short-sightedness of youth. it’s a rare and special thing for a band to come back around to such a moment after making music together for so long. and raising up the dead is the documentation of this moment.

He goes on to say that he’s as proud of this album as anything he’s ever done, and after several listens, I can attest to the fact that it is indeed some of the band’s finest work. I would encourage everyone – from devoted fans to those unfamiliar with the band – to hop on over to their website and order this album. You won’t regret it.

And now I’m off to watch ‘Public Enemies’. Hope it’s good.

parenthood as story formation

*disclaimer: many blog posts that are written this month will be formed in the wee hours of the morning as I work the night shift. if these posts lack coherence, please chalk it up to that.

It’s a rare thing for me to stop reading a book part-way through. I began a new one last week, but just couldn’t get into it; felt more like a winter read, so maybe I’ll come back to it once the snow arrives. The bit that I did read, however, offered up the following brief passage that really stuck with me. A bit of context by way of introduction: the main character is an author who had success with his first novel but whose follow-up effort was panned, so he decides to take a break from writing. During that period, he and his wife have a child, and this is what he had to say about becoming a father.

Beholding him, astounded as he’d never been before, Henry decided that his son would become his pen and by force of being a good, loving father he would write a beautiful life story with him. If Theo was the only pen Henry ever yielded again, so be it.

The due date for our son is about a month away now. We have been reading books and attending classes meant to prepare us for the responsibilities that come with being new parents; we’re aware of the various tasks and late nights that will soon be upon us, and know that life will never be the same once he arrives. But it’s the reality described above that really gets me.

That we are about to be charged with the opportunity to help write the story of this beautiful new life is something that truly reflects the fear and wonder that we read of in the Psalms in regards to this amazing gift.

I had the opportunity to attend a Joyce Meyer event at the ACC the other night, and one thing that she said that impacted me is that the decisions that we make affect our children; with every word and action, we affect them is positive or negative ways, shaping who they will become in the future. That’s not to say that we will have direct control over our son, that we can manipulate development in order that he becomes who we want them to be; nor is it to say that any negative thing he is exposed to will scar him for life. This is simply to acknowledge that our decisions matter; what I do and say can and will shape the way my son sees the world around him, and will directly contribute to the kind of man he becomes in the future.

As the narrator of this book alludes to, the best thing that a father can do is to always act out of goodness and love for his child and for others, striving to write a beautiful story for and with him or her. To do so is to acknowledge that our child is a gift from God – the One who is the author and creator of all things and therefore the true holder of ultimate control – and to act as a good steward of that gift through how I act around and interact with him on a daily basis.

It all begins in approximately one month; may I do all that I can to ensure that the story of my son’s life is a good one.

on what it means to believe

A few weeks back, I made my way through a new novel by Marcus Borg entitled Putting Away Childish Things by Marcus Borg. While I don’t necessarily agree with Borg’s perspective on theology and the Bible [and I should say that I don’t necessarily disagree with him either], and while I wouldn’t call Borg the next great novelist by any stretch, there are certain ideas presented in the book that really resonated with me. At the top of that list would be a conversation in the book on the topic of what it means to believe.

The main character is a college professor, and this topic is presented within the context of a lecture she delivers to her class. She explains that in the pre-enlightenment days, the verb ‘to believe’ was understood only in relation to a person as the direct object. Therefore, any discussion of faith was a matter of believing in God as known only in the person of Jesus. After the enlightenment, ‘to believe’ was stretched out to cover statements about someone or something. Faith was transformed into a belief in claims, biblical statements [or interpretations thereof], dogmas and doctrine; it became about believing the right things. The challenge posed in the book is to return to the notion that believing is not about giving mental assent to a set of statements, but rather that it is a matter of faithfulness to and trust in God as known through the risen Christ.

Think about it. If I tell my wife that I believe in her, I am not saying that I believe various facts about her; I am saying, among other things, that I trust her and that I will stand by her side no matter what.

HUGE difference, right?

It’s the same with Jesus.

To say that you believe in him is so much more than to believe in various statements about him and what he came to Earth to accomplish.

Instead, it is to become his disciples, to learn from him what it means to bring the kingdom into the present, what it means to love one’s neighbor, and to demonstrate to the world that God is deeply concerned with and involved in the present realities of day-to-day life.

Shane Hipps comments on the dangers of relying on belief in statements well in his book Flickering Pixels:

We acquire the bland taste of a domesticated god who resides somewhere in our head. But our head is not home for the divine. The head helps us understand the divine from a safe distance. This is a powerful and valuable enterprise to be sure, byut there is a difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

To believe in Jesus not simply a matter of head knowledge; it is also a matter of the heart, a deep relationship with a living and personal God.

Belief, therefore, is not passive and informative; it is active and transformational.

That’s the sort of belief that I can believe in.

the story of (our) stuff

Over the past few weeks, Lauren and I have been going through the process of sorting, packing, and, at times, tossing out our stuff. As a couple that is going through a fifth move in five years of marriage, this is something that has become a little too normal, necessitating a repression of the all too common need or desire to accumulate. While the temptation to add to our stuff certainly is there, the transient nature of our lives over the past years has – to some degree – allowed us to move away from the consumerist pull of our North American culture. [Having said that, I’m always up for a good book purchase, and I did carry a small collection of Starbucks city mugs across Europe for much of last September – just to name a couple examples.] Even still, we find ourselves wondering how we have so many boxes and where we are going to fit it all when we move tomorrow.

If ever I have been inspired to further limit accumulation of stuff, nothing has challenged me more than my current reading of The Story of Stuff. This book – based on a 20 minute video created by the author, Annie Leonard – outlines social and environmental impact of the process of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal of stuff, and also challenges the reader to write a new story through how we, both individually and corporately, can make positive strides in the midst of this destructive cycle.

It would take too long to point out every strong point that this book has to offer, but needless to say, I have been challenged not only to think about the amount of stuff that we accumulate, but also to make wise choices in regards to the stuff that we do buy in terms of where it’s made and the materials used to make it. I have also come to see how important it is to be aware of the certain tricks of the trade that are pulled on consumers in order to have us purchase more regularly, ie: planned obsolescence. For example, I am a big fan of Apple products, and we have made great use of our MacBook / iPods over the past few years. Many people see their products as so great and revolutionary; but if this is the case, why is the iPod that Lauren bought me only four years ago now seen as a dinosaur in light of the several new models that have been released since? We are so quick to jump on what’s new and hot without using the things we do have to the full extent of their usefulness, and without considering the toll taken on the world around us in regards to what it takes to produce the new and dump the not-so-old.

I am by no means a model consumer, but it is so important to think through these issues and to increase our awareness in terms of the story of the items that we use on a daily basis. As Leonard asserts several times in the book, it’s not a matter of saying all consumption is bad; it’s about being aware of the cycle and making a concerted effort to temper its negative effects.

This book is pretty much a must-read – although, in the spirit of its content, I would suggest getting it from the library.

friday night lights

With a move coming up and a baby on the way, Lauren and I have found ourselves looking for ways to relax and unwind after busy days (yeah, I know – we won’t know what busy really means until after the baby is born). I have always heard good things about Friday Night Lights, and decided it was time to check it out.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, it didn’t seem like a stretch to think that the story of a high school football team and the people of the town in which they play could be made into a TV show. The question in my mind was whether it could be done well. And after having made our way through the entire 1st season, I would have to say without hesitation that this is one of the best shows on television, period.

FNL is so incredibly well-written, and the beauty of this ‘sports’ show is that you become captivated primarily by the individual characters and their off-field lives; their success and failure on the field becomes an extension of what we witness in their daily realities, adding important context to what they are able to achieve as a team. The heart of the show resides with Coach Taylor and his family; Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton (playing the coach and his wife) add an amazing picture of what it means to be a loving married couple / parents who always put the needs of others above their own. I’m also personally a big fan of Tim Riggins and Matt Saracen – the town of Dillon is full of great characters to both love and despise, sometimes both at the same time.

Considering that this show is the perfect blend of good TV and sports, I honestly can’t believe it took me this long to tune in. But I’m glad that I did, and I’m thankful that the show survived a few cancellation scares to offer up a few more seasons to watch.

Looking forward to diving into Season 2!

sometimes a beggar

It’s no secret that Lauren and I are huge fans of Caedmon’s Call. They have been my favorite band for over a decade now, and there’s really nothing quite like the anticipation I feel when they announce the release of a new album.

Yesterday, it was announced [via Twitter] that Raising Up The Dead [produced by the band’s own Derek Webb] will indeed be released soon, with a pre-sale beginning on August 2nd.

On tip of that, the band has generously offered up two preview songs to download for free. I jumped at the opportunity to do so, and if these songs are any indication, this album could very well end up being their best yet.

Very much looking forward to hearing the full album.