The Shape Still Holds

For Caetlin

I found this in my suit pocket
One of Sunday’s palms saved from its fate
Delivered from becoming Wednesday’s ashes by the deft craftsmanship of a friend
Now, this empty cross
this leaf taken from its branch
It stands as a symbol
Of friendship
Of love
Of the grace that gives us the strength to even be here today
Though it no longer grows it lives on
Because the shape still holds

It refuses to wilt
Standing as a reminder of what it became
Not what it began life as
But what it was transformed into
This small token stands as a defiant reminder
That things do not fade away so easily
The shape still holds

And so it is with us
Or at least I hope so
Through our lives we are woven
Shaped and formed into something greater
Through the lessons we learn
The lessons we teach
The stories we share
The love that we have for one another
The great love shown to us
And we take a form
In the hearts and minds of those we meet
Each life we intersect with making one more fold
One more knot
One more movement towards this form that lasts

And so
We make each other remarkable
We give each other that new purpose
That second life
Beyond what we started as
Grace makes us into something new entirely
And in that grace we take the shape that was made for us

We continue on
Even when we stop growing
That shape still holds

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Making an album I can’t perform

If you follow me on any social media, you probably know that I released an instrumental album called “Moments” recently. I’ve done (mostly) instrumental albums before, but this one has a tiny distinction that’s important to me: there are no “real” recorded sounds on this album (other than the background noise that fades in and out, which was not recorded by me). Previous instrumentals would always have some guitar or sampled vocals or gritty drum track or something – but not here. Continue reading “Making an album I can’t perform”

I Am Rooting For You, Opening Band

Dedicated to Shortly, a band from Detroit I did not know existed before last night but nevertheless am now hopelessly devoted to

I’m not on time for a lot of things. Most people know that about me by now, adding a few minutes on to whatever time I say I’m going to arrive to get a better picture of my involvement in an event. There’s only two things I’m incredibly punctual for.
The first is the airport, for obvious reasons. Your friends might forgive you for being a minute or twenty late to the party but the plane will absolutely leave without you and never give you a second thought.

The second is less apparent. If a concert ticket says doors at 6, show as 7 I will be there as soon as I can.

I will never miss an opening band.
I refuse.
Somewhere hidden at the top of the card might be the next band I pledge my life to.
Maybe it’s the old critic in me that constantly wants to find my next love, something that I can share with everyone I’ve ever met.
And that band that plays at 7 when the headliner isn’t going on until 9:30 might just be it. I’ll never know if I’m not there.
And even if it’s not, every band needs someone to cheer for them, to dance, to be a part of the collaborative work of performing.
I’ve dragged friends onto the dance floor to save a band from playing to no one
I’ve had my heart broken as I can see a band make the decision to play their closer a few songs early to get off the stage
And maybe that’s because I’ve been that band too.
I’ve played shows where more people helped us set up than attended, and those that did looked like they couldn’t wait to leave.
I still remember the vacant stares as we kicked into my favorite one of our songs.
It was as if each side of that stage existed in a dimension without the other.

So maybe that’s why I’ll always be there for you, Opening Band.
You’ve made something you love and have taken it on the road to share it with the world
You’re taking incredible risk to even get to this show, driving through the night without the accessories of success.
You’re showing up dead tired to play for people who have never heard of you
Who for the most part aren’t there because they want to hear your songs.
And you deserve better than the roar of an uninvested few.

And so I hope at every show you reach at least one person who won’t stop talking about what they just saw.
I hope you turn into the show people lie about having been to.
“Oh man I saw them when they opened for…
There were like 5 people there. I couldn’t believe it!”
Or at least get to the point where a cult following loudly declares to anyone who will listen that they bought tickets for you, not the headliner
I hope your live show gets even better and that the best songs you write are still to come
I am rooting for you, Opening Band. I hope you know that
And I don’t think I’m alone.

Days when the sky is too big

I visited Oklahoma last week. It was overcast and raining when I landed at the airport, something I was grateful for. A wide blue sky would only have amplified the gnawing homesickness I felt for my immediate surroundings.

Driving under a cloudless sky is particularly oppressive. With that vast blue expanse above, everything down here feels tiny. I’m driving a tiny car to a tiny destination to do some tiny thing, and all the while, an endless blue pool stares down apathetically. A sky wide open makes me feel like one of the rare clouds that dares to puncture the monotony – isolated, small, and fleeting. These feelings are true, in a way. They’re just not great for a return to a place where everything used to feel important. Continue reading “Days when the sky is too big”

What’s my favorite movie? Part 1/5: Spirited Away

I made it through college without ever locking down an answer to the most softball icebreaker question there is: “what’s your favorite movie?” In this IC-exclusive series, I’ll write about five of my favorite movies in an attempt to arrive at a definitive conclusion. That being said, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time in the future, and it might take me six months to get around to writing about all the movies I want to write about. This is part 1/5: Spirited Away.

Spirited Away is an animated movie nominally for children. From legendary director Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away was originally released in Japan in 2001, and was distributed in North America by Disney in 2003. I saw it for the first time when I was 19 or 20, and no doubt would have found it terrifying in 2003, at the age of 11.

This is a movie that you watch and ponder for days after. You might Google “why is Spirited Away so weird,” but mostly, you just have to think about it and let it sink in. Because of that, I’m going to devote a decent portion of this post to explaining how I interpret the film, and in doing that I hope it will be apparent why it’s worthy of consideration as my favorite movie.

Spirited Away is the story of 10-year-old Chihiro stumbling into a bathhouse for spirits and growing up quickly as she’s forced to deal with ever-escalating problems. The movie has the rough outline of a coming-of-age story, but it’s more concerned with how growing up feels than what it looks like. It’s a collection of moments that elicit strong feelings and articulate a coherent philosophy about childhood; it’s not a movie for nitpicking plot points. Spirited Away is a series of lessons about growing up, and everything in the movie makes sense through that lens. Spoilers ahead, obviously. Continue reading “What’s my favorite movie? Part 1/5: Spirited Away”

Stability without stasis

Growing up, one of my favorite places was the back seat of my family’s minivan. It would probably still be one of my favorite places if it were around anymore. That seat meant familiarity even as the world flew by – I could fall asleep and wake up in a new state, and the seat was always there, my open backpack on one side and a Nintendo handheld and a couple books on the other.

The back seat wasn’t just a refuge; it was something I looked forward to. Uncertainty anchored to familiarity is exhilarating – it’s the promise of better things and of new adventures. Uncertainty by itself is exhausting. Airplane travel, for example, carries none of the fond memories or feelings of embrace that I associate with that minivan. I’ve never outgrown my fear of airplanes, hope as I might, and it always strikes me how different it feels from something so similar.

Continue reading “Stability without stasis”

The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge

There’s a small wooden torii gate in the middle of a busy intersection downtown. I hadn’t paid it any mind until a few months ago when this website’s favorite band, The Wonder Years, released a perfect teaser trailer for their upcoming album and, a few days later, released its title track “Sister Cities.” The song and the album are about interconnectedness in a world that seems increasingly to foster isolation, and since I first heard that single in mid-February, I’ve thought about the gate nearly every day. On the chorus of the track, frontman Dan Campbell sings “I’m laying low / a stray dog in the street / you took me home / we’re sister cities.” The torii gate is a monument to Fujiyoshida, Japan, Colorado Springs’s sister city, and I’ve been wondering if there’s a similar expression of Colorado Springs on the other side of the world, overlooked, but occasionally reflected on. I’ve been wondering if somebody in Fujiyoshida is wondering the same thing right now, their thoughts mirroring mine but neither of us ever knowing. Continue reading “The Wonder Years, “Sister Cities,” and finding refuge”

This is a God Dream

The following piece was written for and dedicated to the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

If we’re going to call it a quest we should probably think about what that means
Because our words have more to say than the images they conjure in our heads
A quest is more than a fantasy of figures in shining armor returning triumphantly, a hulking beast laid slain in their wake
It often comes with a lack of direction
A time spent wandering, searching for anything that would lead forward
It means that above all, what makes this special is the beginning that leads to an end
All quests have the same starting point; we are offered a task and a purpose from God that we are willing to see through no matter what the cost

So that’s where we have to begin

We must realize that what is asked of us is much more than retrieving a goblet and bringing it back to a trophy case
We are asked to be the ones that help transform the world
Our quest that we embark on is at its core a rescue operation
We are sent to hear the cries of those who know there has to be something more for them
We are sent to bring hope and justice to those who feel chains tightening around them.
Chains of poverty, racism, discrimination and exclusion, an emptiness of spirit

We are sent forth as the heralds of the good news, that through Christ a better world is possible
And we don’t have to wait for it, we can begin building it now

So, we ask God to deliver us serenity
Deliver us peace
Deliver us loving
This is what we need today

And so, let the gospel be our map, our guide, our bread for the journey
Let this be our God dream, our imagination soaring to the limitless possibilities
Because we follow in the footsteps of the one who conquered death
The one who bends the impossible into reality
May we not quit
May we not settle
May we pick each other up when it seems like we cannot continue

But most of all may we never be satisfied to leave things as they are until we can truly and confidently say it is on earth as it is in heaven
May we be restless in our pursuit of the Kingdom of God
May we dream together with God to create a new thing
God, send us out to dream

Album Lyrics – Complacency

Here’s the link to listen: click here

The Plan

(Demetri Martin, from If I)

It was a crazy moment, to have a plan from eleven years old
Every choice, every summer: classes, extra activities, SATs, essays,
Leading to that one big goal, and then being that close to it and realizing,
“I made a huge mistake, I have to admit it, cut my losses, I’m out of here.”

And it was a total crisis, a total crisis of relevance.
Because I was now an adult – yes, okay, it’s cool to be quirky, maybe, on the side.
Do some puzzles, make puzzles, whatever, you learn how to ride a unicycle,
That’s cool when it’s on the side, right? And you have a plan.
What happens when you remove the plan?

Florida Coast

Take me through the everglades
Take me to the top of this mountain I’ve made

Keep your head above water
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water, you’ll
Keep your head above water

I miss places I’ve never been
Got to stop thinking “remember when?”

Get Through

Maybe the sophomore slump will end soon
I thought I could be like Xaphoon
I thought I could write songs like songs “for emma” too
I can’t promise it’ll all be good
But I can promise you we’ll get through

Birds

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair
You’ll keep it up long enough
That’s not belief, that’s fear

Circle all you want there
I won’t let you nest in my hair

Interlude

I revolve around you
Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your tide
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is your sky

Your shadow becomes my shape
My path is mostly yours and my
Kingdom is escape

Sacred Spaces

The places I love are scattered everywhere
They’re sinking and floating
Drowning, dehydrated
I don’t care
They’re sacred

The places I miss are scattered everywhere
They’re haunted and empty
A ghost like me can’t stay
I don’t care
They’re sacred

Reckless

There’s a vast blank wall up ahead
Useless and frightening
The clouds might swallow you whole
With an ominous flash of lightning

No longer staying silent
Your dreams have gotten violent
You tossed and turned last night
Fumbling and shaking
You panic and drop the flashlight

This is as reckless as you’ve ever been
Time and time again
There’s no way to win

I lay on my back
Dreaming of ways
To hide from prying eyes
I grew up under an endless sky
Where sunsets can last for days

Complacency

I could say that I’m happy
But that would be a lie
Under the oppression of a perfect blue sky

I’m trapped
By the light reflected in your eyes
I’m trapped
Under wishes and hopes
I’m trapped by childish fears
And the urge to keep chasing ghosts

Maybe that’s dramatic
I shouldn’t be so dire
But sometimes it feels like I’m the last one
Standing up to the empire

I could be quiet and call it maturity
I’d know that it’s complacency

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

I was ready to run away
But now I can barely stand
My legs are getting heavy
I’m sinking into the sand

Invisible

At the supermarket checkout
A sandwich and a bottle of tea
I’m tired and awkward
But she stares right through me

Standing on the bus I pull the stop
The driver doesn’t hear, I know
I should say something
But we’re already past and I’m too slow

I glance up and he looks away
You walk out when I want you to stay
Maybe I’m invisible today

Late night at work
I walk to the car in darkness
Nobody pauses, nobody steps aside
I’m not bothered, through the crowd I glide

Put on those headphones and press play
They’re staring at me but I’m far away
I know I’m invisible today