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Last year at this time I was writing a post about New Year’s Resolutions.  I had good intentions when I wrote that post, and I think that the goals I had last year were good for me, but it’s impossible to know what will happen throughout the year.  It wasn’t that 2009 was a bad year for me.  There were some great things that happened throughout the year:  I worked with a first grade class to integrate gardening into their science curriculum, I started my job at the CSU organic farm, Lauren and I took a trip to Seattle, I passed organic chemistry and statistics, Lauren and I got a puppy, I had the chance to cater a business’ open house.  However, in the midst of all of this good stuff that was going on I just felt “off.”

I struggled to focus when I sat down to read.  I struggled for words when I sat down to write.  I found that when I couldn’t read or write I was restless.  When I couldn’t read or write  I lost vision and purpose.  Being restless without vision and purpose does not sit well with me.

I found myself somewhat stuck between searching for contentment and longing for adventure.

This year, however, has some exciting things on the horizon.  I’m working with a friend on a project that will be working on bringing affordable, healthy, and local food to people who are ready to make the change.  We’ll be kicking things off with a blog on January 10 and we are planning an event during the month of March.  I’m heading to Milwaukee next week to visit Growing Power.  Will Allen has become a hero for me and I’m really excited to meet him and get a closer look at the great work he is doing in organic, urban ag.  Starting in February I’ll be starting back to work at the farm, but this year I’ll be working as a farm manager.  I’m really excited about being able to step into this role.  I think that it will  give me a needed push to convince me that I’ll be able to have my own farm (in whatever capacity it looks like) someday in the near future.  Lauren and I are planning a trip to Oregon in June.  It will be a vacation for the sake of taking a vacation.  It’s going to be lovely.  In the fall I’ll get the chance to do an independent study for credit.  I’m thinking about looking into extending the CSA season to look at the viability of a winter CSA or perhaps a market study of heirloom dry beans.  And by the time we’re writing 2011 I’ll be one semester away from graduation.

I’m staying away from making any formal resolutions this year.  I think my goal is to learn to live in the ways that are the most “Stephen.”  I want to find and pursue the things that capture my heart.  I want to continue to fall in love with Lauren.  I want to find peace in the unknown.  I want to be.

Etcetera Whatever
words by Over The Rhine

Don’t speak.
Words come out your eyes.
You’re wet with this nightmare.
Like thorns you hold these secrets to your breast,
your slender fingers closing into fists.

Trace your bruise
like a guilty streak.
Hold the pain.
You’re a connoisseur.
You think you have no other gift to give,
but we have so much left to live.

We don’t need a lot of money.
We’ll be sleeping on the beach,
keeping oceans within reach.
(Whatever private oceans we can conjure up for free.)
I will stumble there with you
and you’ll be laughing close with me,
trying not to make a scene
etcetera. Whatever. I guess all I really mean

is we’re gonna be alright.
Yeah, we’re gonna be alright.
You can close your eyes tonight,
’cause we’re gonna be alright.

So come on now,
I can almost see
that place
on a distant shore.
And courage is a weapon we must use
to find some life you can’t refuse.

We don’t need a lot of money.
We’ll be sleeping on the beach,
keeping oceans within reach.
(Whatever private oceans we can conjure up for free.)
I will stumble there with you
and you’ll be laughing close with me,
trying not to make a scene
etcetera. Whatever. I guess all I really mean

is we’re gonna be alright.
Yeah, we’re gonna be alright.
You can close your eyes tonight,
’cause we’re gonna be alright.
All that I can see is your eyes.
Close your eyes.
Close your eyes.

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God,

I just got home from a benefit concert hosted by Deliver Darfur.  100% of the money raised tonight was going to be donated to the International Rescue Committee.  We watched a short video that explained a bit of the genocide that Darfur is experiencing.  We also listed to some good music; overall it was a good evening.  Here’s the thing, God, I don’t mean to minimize the tragedy that is going on in that country, but I am finding it hard to find a response to that situation that will be in line with how you feel about it.  They are your children that have chosen to pick up weapons against each other.  They are your children left without home or family or food or hope or peace.  I know that you love your children deeply, but I’m having trouble know how I should love them too.  The thing is, so many of your children are hurting and being hurt by other people, and I’m afraid that I don’t have enough compassion for all of them.  But how can I care for all of the honest causes that are shown to me?  I don’t have enough energy or money or love for the genocide in Darfur, the young girls in Thailand sold as sex slaves, the Mexican kids caught up in running drugs and guns, and the millions of people throughout the world that are dying of malnutrition and starvation.  How can I care for all of the people who need help?  It so easy to see why people become numb to the reality of life in most of the world.  What can I do?  Should I pick one thing that pulls at my heart and throw myself completely into it?  Or is it better to spread out my abilities and resources to as many as I hear about?  Is it heartless for me to say that I am sad about what is going on in Darfur but not do anything about it?  But really…what can I do?  Is it really my job to do anything?  I mean, you’re GOD.  You are the creator of the cosmos.  You don’t need me for anything.  But if I’m trying to shape my life after yours then I feel like I should do something about it.  I feel a bit helpless myself.  I don’t want to become the type of person who just tosses some money at a cause expecting that to be all that can be done either.  I realize that in most of these cases money isn’t going to fix the deep-rooted problems, but what else do I have to offer? I know I’m babbeling on here, God, but this is really stuck on my heart right now.  I need help to see where and how to help.  Give me some vision to see what I can do.  I don’t want to become calous to the brokeness around me and the world, but I feel like if I don’t do anything soon my heart will start to grow hard and I’ll just feel overwhelmed by everything.  I’m trying to listen for your voice and I’m sorry for all the crap I listen to before I listen to you.  I need help to shut things down and listen, really listen.  Teach me about compassion.  Show me what it looks like and why you care about it.  I need to know that compassion is really better than numbness, because sometimes I’m not so sure it it.

Less of me, God, more of you. Amen. +

I have a two guilty pleasures that really confuse Lauren.  The first is TBN.  For some reason I’m drawn to the big hair and the clapping and singing and the verses used out of context.  I have a hard time explaining it to people, but I think I have been able to view it as entertainment and not as some form of spiritual teaching.  The other guilty pleasure is closely related but a bit more tame, if you ask me.  I enjoy listening to Christian talk radio.  In part it reminds me of my childhood, as I hear the voice of Chuck Swindoll and Dr. James Dobson.  It also has given me the opportunities to critically evaluate what I believe and how my beliefs have changed over the years.

As I was driving home from work I was listening to a call-in show on the Christian talk station.  A lady call in and ask a question along these lines, “Could you tell me any Bible verses that support putting a pet to sleep when it’s in pain.”  Oh how I wish I could have been the DJ.  I would have quoted Hezakiah 13:8  “If thouest come upon an animal in pain, do unto it what must be done to relieve it, thus saith the Lord.”  Then I would talk about the interpretations for the word ‘relieve’ in Hebrew.  It would have been fun.

On a serious note, as soon as she asked her question I felt like I understood the motive behind her question.  To me it sounded like she knew the answer that she wanted to hear and now she was looking for the authority of the Bible to back her decision up.  This view of the Bible is merely an Answer Book from God.  This view of the Bible is far too common.  I’m waiting for Zondervan to come out with a Bible that has the Index as the Table of Contents.  “Need a verse that talks about adultery?  Here’s the pages….”  Forget about all the other verses that make up the context.  This way of thinking doesn’t need the Bible, it needs an encyclopedia.  Simply study the parts that you’re interested in and leave all those other boring or convicting parts alone.

I know this approach to the Bible; I used it for a long time.  And what’s worse is that I have used it while preparing sermons.  For this I’ve repented.  I remember being certain of what I was going to preach and then going to the Bible to find support of what I wanted to say.  How arrogant!  But it is so easy to do, and it make you sound so certain of things.  The problem, as I’ve come to see it, is that it is not that certain.  I hope that as time has passed I have allowed myself to read the Bible to understand what the Bible is saying, and not to support what I think is valid.

OK that’s it.  I realize that it might come off as an incomplete thought but I felt like I needed to get it off of my chest.  I also thought, “hey, maybe someone else will have some thoughts on this subject.”  So, do you?

I did it. I finally unsubscribed from Slice of Laodicea. If you don’t know what it is, you are better off my friend. It has been like a drug for me. Every day, for far too long, I have read about all of the crap that they post. I have read, been disgusted, and secretly hope for more.  I know that even mentioning this might cause some of you to search for what I’m talking about and get hooked yourself.  I am warning you:  Be very careful.  Highly addicting, and horribly harmful.

In my struggles I was glad to see that Bob Hyatt struggles with it too.

Last week I made a big confession about visiting Starbucks.  This might not be a big deal to you, but to me it is quite an accomplishment.  It has also been a form of therapy for me.  It’s been over a year since I’ve left Starbucks, and when I left I left with anger, bitterness, hurt, and resentment.  I made a decision that I didn’t want to live with those things in my life anymore.  I didn’t want to be controlled by those things.  So, going to Starbucks has been a big step.

Here’s the confession for this week:

I bought an iPod.

I’m sitting in the Starbucks on the corner of 58th and Kipling.

The down side of not having the internet at our apartment is that I have to go places to use it.  I’m trying to prepare for church.  For the past 6 weeks we have been working through liturgical verses for the Lenten season.  Easter has passed, and so now we are in need of something new to study and discuss together.  So I take time when I can get it to study and prepare for Sundays when I get some spare time.  Now I normally wouldn’t choose Starbucks to study in, because more often that not I see people that I know and find myself in discussion that distracts from the purpose of being there in the first place.  The biggest reason-no free wi-fi.  That’s a big enough reason.  Seriously, would it kill business to offer the use of the information highway without a toll on the on ramp?

I’m stealing the internet from them-take that.