Monday, October 2, 2017

A Liturgy, A Legacy, and an Apostate (Part I)

I love musical lineages. By that, I mean I love seeing the past influences of my favorite artists, getting to know those influences, and seeing how their DNA was passed down. One of these is Jimi Hendrix > Stevie Ray Vaughan > John Mayer. Another is Rich Mullins > Derek Webb. All of these have, of course, influenced many people, not just those I'm listing. Rich also heavily influenced my favorite artist, Andrew Peterson. But today I'm thinking about Rich and Derek--their similarities and their fundamental differences. 

Rich Mullins was known as a bit of a rebel in the Christian world. He spoke out against the acceptable sins of the American church. He confronted. He even cussed on occasion(!). This is one of the things Derek became known for over the years. He once said of Rich, "he has always been the picture of disruption inside the institutional church to me." 

I still remember when Derek's first solo album, She Must and Shall Go Free, came out; it had provocative language in it. "I am a whore/ I must confess/ I put you on just like a wedding dress" and "Could you love this bastard child/ Though I don't trust you to provide." Next came the heavily political Mockingbird, with songs like My Enemies are Men Like Me and In God We Trust. Then there was Stockholm Syndrome's What Matters More, which utilized cussing in a coarser (albeit equally intentional) manner: "And meanwhile we sit just like we don’t have give a shit/ About fifty thousand people who are dying today." (a reference to this Tony Compolo quote)

Yes, Rich was a rebel in the Church. But he was a rebel IN the Church. He stuck with the mess, despite his many frustrations. Derek has slowly drifted away from the Church. Bitterness has accompanied his frustration, it seems, rather than love. This is not what Rich was about and it is not what God is about. 

Derek's latest album, Fingers Crossed, is downright heartbreaking. After years of embracing the Christian "bad boy" role and a Nashville-shattering affair, Derek has lost his faith. The last song on the album reveals: "So either you aren't real/ Or I am just not chosen/ Maybe I'll never know/ Either way my heart is broken/ As I say goodbye for now/ Goodbye for now/ Goodbye for now."

It hurts to type these words. I love Derek Webb. His music, both with Caedmon's and solo, has influenced me and shaped me as a person. I don't want to be the latest person condemning Derek--for his music, his affair, or anything else. I guess this is more of a grieving process for me than an indictment. It just hurts. And though it is a grieving process, it is not one without hope. I want to believe God still has Derek. That his saltiness can be restored. That he would lose his saltiness towards the Church and be made truly salty again. For all the heresy in this album--and there is a lot--I do not see any blatant blasphemy. And because of that, I have hope. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I, Paul, hereby declare a vow. For the next two weeks, I will spend a minimum of one hour a day writing. I will embrace the reflective nature God gave me and ask Him to flow through me. I will trust wherever He leads with this and not let fear get in the way. I will not try to control my life but neither will I use that as an excuse for passivity. God help me. Ecc. 5:5

Monday, May 9, 2011

Like Seed Corn

"As the seed corn sheddeth on the threshingfloor
That which once was precious--needed now no more--
So the nearest, dearest that would hold in thrall
Let thy winnowing fingers loosen:
Love be Lord of all.

As the seed corn falleth in the quiet ground;
As it lieth hidden, with no stir nor sound--
So would I, They seed corn, deep in stillness fall,
That of me there may be nothing:
Thou be All in all.

As the seed corn springeth lowly at Thy feet--
Spear of green uplifteth, yieldeth ear of wheat--
So in tender mercy, though the seed be small,
Let it bring forth for Thy glory
Who art Lord of all."

~Amy Carmichael

Monday, April 4, 2011


A few days ago I was at Central Market and noticed some snow peas for sale. Crisp, fresh, green snow peas. So today after work I decided to grab some and make a stir-fry. I also bought some top sirloin, broccoli, and mushrooms to complete the dish. Here is the recipe:

-1/2 lb top sirloin, sliced thin and perpendicular to the grain
-a handful of snow peas
-a handful of cut up broccoli
-4 cremini mushrooms
-1/8 cup (approx) of teriyaki
-1 tbsp honey
-salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
-1/6 cup (approx) vegetable oil

Marinate the beef in the teriyaki/honey mixture for 20-30 min. Heat oil in pan to med/high. Sear beef for a couple min. Remove beef and juices from pan. Add a little more oil and add the vegetables. Cook for 6-8 min on medium. Then add beef and juices back in. Add a little more teriyaki if you need to. Commence eating.

Really, this dish is about just using fresh, quality ingredients. High quality top sirloin makes it extra nice.

I popped the top on this bottle of 2007 Steel Creek Pinot Noir that my brother gave me a few years ago. It was one of the better pinots I've had. And went pretty dang well with the stir-fry.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Threat of Truth

This week I hung out a little with a new friend of mine named "J". J is a 43 year old out of work fish aquarium expert who has HIV and has battled through cancer twice. Recently he had his second hip replacement surgery in a year, due to chemotherapy eating away at his cartilage. He's one of the nicest people I've met and is very open to talking about anything and everything. He's completely transparent about all aspects of his life--his homosexuality, his upbringing in the Jehovah's Witness Church, and how that upbringing still affects him even after being removed from it for decades. He will often ask my opinions on faith and he even asked my stance on homosexuality this week. I really enjoy his aptitude for open discourse without an agenda.

However, he said something this week that bothered me a lot. After hearing my thoughts on homosexuality and faith--not just hearing, but listening--he said that he's just plain comfortable with his lifestyle and with his thoughts on religion (he's sort of a new age relative moralist who believes in some sort of higher power). In a moment, it made me realize why he's so comfortable talking about, and even listening to, thoughts on these subjects: he has no intent of changing. Truth presents no threat to him. I'm beginning to wonder if this is worse than someone who refuses to have civil two-way discourse on deep matters. At least someone like that seems threatened by truth. And truth should be threatening. The threat is change.

I left thinking, I hope I never come to be this way. I hope I never give up on refining my beliefs. But even as I type these words I feel my hypocrisy. How often do I refine my beliefs only to let the peace of head-knowledge satisfy me--and then leave these beliefs in my head instead of applying them to my life? Am I any better for refining my beliefs if I do not put them into practice? Does truth threaten me like it should? I fear I've domesticated truth by keeping it in the cage of my head.

And this begs he question, do I really believe the things I say I believe? If I truly believed them, wouldn't they permeate my life more? Yes, I believe them, but there's more to faith than belief. Action must accompany. As James points out, faith without works is dead. It is a lifeless form. A morbid corpse. Yes, we must not ignore the call of truth.

"Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does." ~James 23:25

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sweet Salmon Teriyaki with Shiitake

Since I didn't have any plans and I hadn't cooked in about 2 months, I decided to head to the Central Market last night after work and get some good ingredients. Since I've been eating out almost every meal lately, I knew I wanted something healthy. So, I got a half pound piece of some New Zealand Salmon (per the fishmonger's recommendation) and decided to do a teriyaki. As I was perusing I saw some good looking Shiitake mushrooms and thought they'd make a good addition.

The recipe was pretty simple. I marinated the fish in Kikkoman Teriyaki with a little olive oil for 30-45 min. Then I cooked the fish in a small teflon pan with a tiny bit of olive oil in it. Nothing higher than medium heat or the sugar in the teriyaki will burn. I kept mine on 4 or 5 and it had a slight char (turned out to be just the right amount). Six or seven minutes on each side seemed about right. I also made a sauce to put on top of the fish that had some reduced teriyaki, some honey (about 4:1 teriyaki to honey) and sliced shiitakes (3 or 4). I let it reduce for 5 min before I put the mushrooms in. Served it all up with some steamed broccoli topped with some truffle vinegar my mom brought me back from Israel. It was amazing. And pretty dang healthy too.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Expectations and Transparency

When I was in high school I was involved in many church related activities. I was a "Junior Leader" at youth group, I was active in Young Life, and I was a CORE Leader in FCA. Beyond that, I had a (wonderful) group of Christian friends who kept both hands and heart far away from the typical teenage temptations of sex, drugs, and alcohol. I constantly had people telling me what a great kid I was and let me tell you, I believed them. I enjoyed being seen as something I wasn't: holy. (Sure, I'm holy in God's eyes because of Jesus, but I'm talking about the rank my actions earn me)

The problem with this is that when you start to struggle with something that people would find "unexpected', you keep it to yourself. You downplay it. You convince yourself in your mind that there's a certain set of expectations people have and you don't want to break that.

I have struggled with this for a long time. God hates it and I hate it. I think I've come a long way with it, but it still gets me.

Most recently it has been my struggle with anxiety and depression. And, ironically enough, I believe it's part of the cause of my anxiety and depression. It certainly amplifies it anyway. When I get really anxious, I always feel better once I open up to someone and talk about it. In fact, I think one of the reasons that God is allowing me to have this struggle is to help me be more open and transparent with people.

So there it is, I'm just like anyone else. I struggle with this life all the time. It's REALLY hard. I know I'm not alone and I hope you know you're not alone. And most important, I hope you know this:

"And the Man of all Sorrows
He never forgot
What sorrow is carried
By the hearts that He bought
So when your questions dissolve
Into the silence of God
The aching may remain
But the breaking does not."
~Andrew Peterson (The Silence of God)