My short-term goals, circa 2002.

Just found this little gem on an old CD. Upon finishing my seminal 2001 mission trip to Asia, Europe and Africa, my new boss asked me to put down my short-term goals:

  • Find a wife. (It took 8 years; 2010)
  • Get an article published. (I did a few interviews that were published, but not what I had in mind.)
  • Help my father retire. (Sorta, I made a nice website for him and offered mostly un-headed advice. He’s nearly there now.)
  • Become an upper-level manager at a small, growing business. (Put in 3 dreadful years at aforementioned boss’s startup. Not upper-level.)
  • Teach or speak to groups on business ethics or strategy. (Nope, too chicken, hate business chit chat mostly.)
  • Visit South America and Australia on business/vacation or as a missionary. (2002 to Japan and Australia; 2004 to Paraguay)
  • Read the Bible 4 times. (Not even once after an intensive 3 month course that required it in 2001.)
  • Become conversational in either Japanese or Spanish. (Nope)
  • Be a leader/deacon at my church. (Led worship for a few years; got burned out.)
  • Have a child. (Trying now.)
  • Own a home. (Condo, 2008)
  • Buy a piano. (I have a couple synthesizers)

Doing favors for God.

This last year my music/art group attempted a change of posture and purpose: Instead of hosting events at whimsical intervals and mostly for our own sake, we felt it time to create something that would serve our community–to host regular, sacred meditative spaces for people to rest, receive. It would require more work but the result would be worth the effort.

Attendance is usually a good indicator of demand (duh), and such a metric has deemed our product unsustainable in its current format. We are sad. I am sad. Perhaps promotion of the event was not up to snuff, or we played too much original material, or too loudly, or we should have printed all the lyrics for clarity. We can be weird. A best effort was made to solicit feedback, make plans, use our resources wisely, and still we didn’t find viability after a half season run. I am not entirely surprised, I wouldn’t go to a Radiohead concert every month.

And so here and now I know the pang of a failed church planter; a believer who set out to do something for God, for neighbor, and found wanting. This happens all the time, in all spheres of life. I don’t like pity parties. I don’t like having my well being attached to my creativity, and my creativity attached to my faith. And when Christian charity doesn’t work you have peculiar bitterness to spread around. If I failed at making tiles my disappointment would be relatively brief and simple and who cares what God thinks, I’m just crap at ceramics. Or something like that.


Fireproof vs. Avatar

I’m supposed to love my enemy. Very well, let me take inventory. My immediate ancestors weren’t grossly wronged by anyone (to the contrary actually), I’ve never given much worry to Arab terrorists, the Chinese economy, immigrants, Nancy Grace, Nickleback, Tim Tebow, that guy in Florida who threatens to burn holy books. Homophobia is an enemy of sorts. Monsanto is quite evil, but they can’t hate all farmers that takes too much effort and they seem too idiotic. Of course, massively rich investment bankers are monsters—unless they pay for the new SuperSonics. Rush Limbaugh is literally a jackass. Bill Maher is obnoxious as well, just so you know I’m fair. Kirk Cameron is probably the chief enemy of Christian taste now that the Painter of Light drank himself away. I actually enjoy Kirk’s propaganda films as a chance to externalize my disgust with Christian camp. Thanks to bit torrent I don’t have to feel guilty about supporting his mission. (I’m ambivalent about bit torrent, I do want Kirk to make more films but only for my enjoyment, and not to discourage Christians to the tune of $35M). Mark Driscoll is a local undesirable and an enemy of the worst sort in that he is mostly indistinguishable from me. We are WASPs who wear nice jeans and watch TV. Oh, I think he is grossly wrong on very many things, but I have to believe he is also doing much good—I have to. This isn’t meant to sound like a patronizing defense, but the friends and family who attend and believe in his church are all fine people. I mean they all paid ten bucks to see Avatar, despite direct, informed counsel. No sycophants.

Which brings me to an enemy I can’t shake: my former church. I loved it so, once upon a time. I joined early; a true believer. Knowing each others’ stories was the priority. That was soon secondary to growth, which cost many staff, myself included, who couldn’t keep up the facade that our love was real. It wasn’t. Being cool was real. Popularity was real. Being a “Quester” was real. I’ll admit, going to a cool church for the first time felt nice. It wasn’t uncommon to cut and frame newspaper articles about ourselves, brag about a particularly popular church blog post from the pulpit, or note any other celebrity cachet. They had me convinced Bono was a good role model for socially-minded Christian pastors, I don’t think that anymore.

As it is, I am still bitter. I still want them to fail. I ride my bike past their new bigger building on the way to work. Pedaling by, I mumble half-hearted words of forgiveness. I know my bitterness is far worse than the truth of their transgressions. It often is with prolonged resentment. I wish I didn’t care, but they say apathy is akin to hate. Perhaps this spewing forth is a move towards healing.

As such, my music community would be what it is, born from such experience and disappointment. Our ideal wouldn’t succumb to the temptation of being cool, being relevant. Fuck relevance. (Not easy, of course I want to be liked.) The modus operandi: rotating venues, limited promotion, no biography, no formal pictures, no church affiliation, no denomination, we wouldn’t even have a Facebook page. (We have a Facebook page now.)

So, just this month, we begin a residency at a single venue; a partnership with a church, a denomination, a leadership team, structure, format. Granted, they aren’t a massive, encroaching, Seattle institution who will bruise our fragile artist egos, they are a small congregation in a very big building, who are most happy to have us. Point being, while I still don’t care much for big, popular, religious things, I think this partnership is a healthy act of submission to something that is not all bad, that may still hurt us, confuse us, or ask us to do things we don’t love. We think it is worth the risk.

And then we will become popular and cool and ruin someone else’s hope for community. We never said we were perfect is the rejoinder, if I recall the last words as the door hit my ass on the way out. Ech.

University Christian is also open and affirming, which is sadly not the case in my community. Oh delicate priorities.

I forgive you church.