Archive for the ‘Introductions’ Category

One of my favorite things to say about wine is:

“Don’t be intimidated, remember wine is just agriculture”

It is simply the process of harvesting, preparing and bottling up the fruit of a farmer’s hard work, the soil of a particular location grapes of a specific plant. There is nothing magical or mysterious about it… which is probably why it is so magical and mysterious… it seems so simple

But I guess I have to concede that wine also has an arcane poetry in this understated alchemy. The bottling of the earth in which the plant grew, and the wind and air that rustled through its vines, the water which rained or flowed to the roots to nourish and develop berries basking ‘neath the fire of a distant glowing sun.

But remember: don’t be intimidated.

And here I stumble upon the tension that I experience. I want the simple explanation; to reduce everything down to a manageable pocket-sized nugget. But my heart is often far more significantly emboldened when I get lost in the terrifying wonder and intricate magnitude of what God wove and fashioned with the deceptively simple, spring-loaded…

“Let there be light”

…don’t be intimidated

And so I sit with a glass of wine, staring deep into the redness, wondering at what is wrought within.

It is not just something to be consumed, but to be experienced.

So I sit. I still myself. I swirl the wine.

The light reflects and shines through the redness, the tidal waves contained with a hemisphere of glass; a sea of colorful and flavorful organic compounds dancing and playing. Amid the tannins, the flavinoids, the esters and sugars I am reminded… “This is my blood that was poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins… do this in remembrance of me.”

And in the stillness, I am confronted with the sobering truth: “Don’t be intimidated” is TERRIBLE counsel.

Because deeper than the agriculture, more mysterious than the alchemy, more beautiful than the refractive hue is the deeper truth, the fuller wonder and the realer realization. Within and without this glass, everything points to the beauty and terrible majesty of the body broken and blood split, to the good glory of God’s great gospel.

But, oh, how easy it is to overlook, and how quickly the cross is presented as a concept, a symbol, an icon; reduced to a manageable nugget. Because of this, I invite you to join me in observing lent starting on Wednesday. Lent? wait you were talking about wine, isn’t lent about depriving yourself? It isn’t about not eating chocolate, it is about being disciplined and approaching Easter with a desire to wonder. Join with me and take forty days to intentionally prepare, remove obstacles and to examine the cross in its fullness. (What is Lent?)

And the next time you pick up a glass of wine – be intimidated, it is much more than just agriculture.

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At work I am able to listen to podcasts, music, sermons, audiobooks and lectures as I sit in a vault organizing massive amounts of information. The job itself appears to most as horrifically mundane and repetitive, but the time it affords me to listen makes it all worth it.

Yesterday I wanted to re-immerse myself into the world of Biochemistry. While, to some of you, that might sound as horrifically mundane as organizing files and blueprints, I love hearing about the amazing chemistry and biology of the cell. So I found a half-dozen lectures from iTunesU and spent the afternoon under a mound of architectural paperwork immersed in topics like DNApolymerase, prions and chaperone proteins.

There is something absolutely magnificent about the chemistry that takes place in our cells. I was trying to explain that to some friends at dinner last night, but found it difficult to conceptulize how amazing the process of even a protien folding correctly is. I left it at … its like going to a padlock that requires 1,000 different combinations to open, and doing it in a quarter of a second. It is that incredible.

PSA Announcement: If you don’t think Biochemistry is AMAZING, you don’t know enough about it.

While this video simplifies things, it is an incredible overview of how to get from DNA to Protein. Check it out :).

A good friend showed this to me yesterday.
It certainly made me smile.

I have needed to pull back all morning.

I have been working on a sermon for tonight, and I have gotten so wrapped up in the need for it to be excellent. I have been going through the desire for people to look upon me with favor, and my pride has been getting the best of me. I have been spending some time in prayer and worship and the following passage kept coming to mind:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul to the Corinthians

In the power of God… I have been reminded again and again about the greatness of the God we serve. Even from the most unlikely of places. This morning I was listening to a song by “Moby”… umm yeah… okay I know that my struggle with this sermon might be divine retribution for having 90s techno-dance music AND still listening to it… but bear with me for a sec. There is a song that he wrote back in the early 1994 called “God Moving over the Face of the Waters”.

Take a listen. Really. Its worth it.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

We serve an awesome, powerful, glorious, amazing God… who is even able to use Moby to bring me into worship and a deeper relationship and love with Him.

Keeping that in mind I’m going to wrap up this sermon.

There is a group of friends that I grab dinner with every Monday/Tuesday night. It is a standing appointment that I love. They are some of the dearest people in my life and I love when we talk about what God is doing in our lives.

We are not the first to have standing appointments with friends. Years ago, every Thursday evening in at Magdalen College in Oxford, England, and Tuesdays for lunch at the Eagle and Child public house, J.R.R. Tolkien joined C. S. Lewis and a revolving cast would meet.

Over tea—or ale—and pipes, these Oxford thinkers and writers read aloud from their works, traded anecdotes and jibes, and engaged in what Lewis called “the cut and parry of prolonged, fierce, masculine argument.” It is where many a manuscript was tested and tried and where the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia met their first critics/fans.

While I would love to sit down with any of the people in that group, to create a hypothetical Inklings list, of which I, oh so presumptuously, would love to be a part, I feel that the group must be “hand-selected.” (Okay, in my mind this didn’t sound quite so ego-centric. It was mainly a list of authors I would love to have the weekly excuse to get together with, grab something to drink, and talk.

The first person on this hypothetical list:

G.K. (Gilbert Keith) Chesterton

ENGLAND (May 29, 1874 – June 14, 1936)

As I started writing this I began to wonder how I was going to explain why I like G.K. Chesterton so much. On the fly I would say that I was initially attracted  and amazed by the vitality and presence of worship of who God is that permeates Chesterton’s writing. In addition to this, he was known as the “prince of paradox,” pointing out truths that at first glance seemed strange or counter-intuitive, but I love how they encourage me to look at the world around me with a freshness and a sharpness that is often missing.  What I probably love the most is within this deep thought and weighty logic  and clever perspective, it is always seasoned with mirth and delight and wonder.

For example:

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him,
but because he loves what is behind him.” 

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies;
probably because generally they are the same people.”

“The word “good” has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.” 

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” 

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” 

I think I would need a note pad sitting and talking to “Mr. Chesterton,” or “My-good-man-Gilbert” as I would eventually call him,  and a great deal of it I would have an overwhelming temptation to plagiarize. What introduced me to this writer was listening to an audio book with a my good friend Adam on a car trip one day. We were listening to “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton. When he announced that was what we were listening to, I at once assumed it was going to be dry and all but inaccessible… I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Excerpt from Orthodoxy – The Ethics of Elfland

All the towering materialism which dominates the modern mind rests ultimately upon one assumption; a false assumption. It is supposed that if a thing goes on repeating itself it is probably dead; a piece of clockwork.

People feel that if the universe was personal it would vary; if the sun were alive it would dance.

This is a fallacy even in relation to known fact. For the variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire. A man varies his movements because of some slight element of failure or fatigue. He gets into an omnibus because he is tired of walking; or he walks because he is tired of sitting still. But if his life and joy were so gigantic that he never tired of going to Islington, he might go to Islington as regularly as the Thames goes to Sheerness. The very speed and ecstasy of his life would have the stillness of death.

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction.

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life.

The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.

I am a distance runner.

I’m not extraordinarily fast, but if I pick a comfortable pace, I can run for hours. I like to call myself and endurance athlete.

It really is an interesting moniker, and using it I realize the term “endurance” is almost exclusively used in the context of athletics and physical exertion. At least that is how I predominately use it.

Today I was humbled and made aware of my lack of endurance in something altogether more important.

This morning I got help some friends with a rummage sale to help raise money to adopt a child from Ethiopia. It was an early morning, nothing all that extreme, but over the seven hours of helping I found myself wholly exhausted.

Right now I am sitting at a Starbucks trying to infuse my blood with enough caffeine that I will be safe from dozing off at church tonight.

Somewhere between my first life-giving sip and hitting a second wind it hit me: I get to stop and relax, to take a breather and recompose myself. To my knowledge just about everyone else who was at the rummage sale has children and obligations that are not going to allow such an indulgence.

As I said before, I found myself humbled because despite my ease of escape and rest, these parents endurance athletes were going strong as I tapped out. They were engaged and persevering, knowing that once they finished they still need to go home, get the family ready and out the door for church and take care of everything else on the docket for the rest of the day.

I feel like I ran a 5k and wanting to complain about having nothing left… its awesome and challenging and revealing to see people around you engaged in a marathon and doing it joyfully.

There isn’t much of a point to this post, other than the fact that I think I got a better picture of what endurance looks like today.

It is awesome.

I love adventure… exploration and the discovery of something new.

While that will sometimes involve hiking or caving, it is more often satiated through the books and music.

One artist that I have absolutely been enamored with over the past decade is a one: Imogen Heap.

I was first introduced to her work through the band Frou Frou during the last scenes of Garden State, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Actually some of you might remember my excitement and anticipation for her last album Ellipse… the only album I have ever gone so far as to pre-order.

If I had to distill my appreciation for her music it would be somewhere near to: wonder. Wonder at the world, the relationships and texture of life, but also this sense of “I wonder if…”

I wonder if I could use footfalls as percussion?

I wonder if I could write a song using samples from locust?

I wonder if I could write a whole album by collaborating with fans? And that is indeed what she is doing.

heapsong1 (day1)

Over the next 15 days, on a set schedule and collaborating with a world wide community Imogen Heap is beginning a creative process that will become her next album.  If you want more information check out www.imogenheap.com… or for the project heapsong1.imogenheap.com. As it sounds like a fun experience I am going to be taking part, and appending the instructions for the day on this site.

If you are interested, join in.


Don’t know what’s going on?
Listen to Imogen as she explains about today’s plan…

Today is a big day, this is the beginning of Heapsong1 and it is also a big day for me because this is the beginning of my new album. I am going to be doing a new song every three months, I am going to be writing and then releasing them when they’re meaningful to me, not three years later! So this time, you begin the album. You are going to be the seeds. The ink blocks on a huge canvas of endless possibilities. It could be anything from rustling leaves to wine glasses. It could be the sound of you cracking a twig against the tree that inspires the whole rhythm of the song. Anything could work, so don’t be shy! You could also upload drum loops you’ve made etc if you like, but I am more looking for everyday sounds that will spin me off on a tangent and take me somewhere new. I’m looking forward to being here and seeing what you’ve got!

I will be live online at 6am, noon, 6pm and midnight (GMT times) to discuss and listen to what you’ve been uploading via soundcloud. This page will go live on Monday 00.01 for you to begin uploading sounds. (goes without saying but will say it anyway that all sounds need to have been recorded by you or you have permission to use for this project). Please don’t send in really long recordings as I only have today to go through them. Think ink blots rather than full sentences.


Update 1:

So I ran out of time today and so while I had fun making sounds, I didn’t have time to find any that were all that crazy. That being said here are some of the potential “Sound Seeds” I submitted…