Well, I suppose it is time again for me to check in with the wider world.
Once upon a time these postings were as necessary to me as morning coffee. Not only did they serve as the means by which family and friends came to know how I was while I was sick, but they were the means by which I kept alert to the events of any given day. Blogging kept me alive to the little things, everything potential material for the next post. I miss that sort of alertness – that attentive posture towards life as it happens.
But I haven’t had time for blogging these days. With great effort I’ve managed to focus my writing in a more fruitful pursuit. On the fifth of January, Jenny and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary. Seven years – in Old Testament biblical language, that’s one week. On the first day of the new week, Jen spent her first day at home when she normally would’ve worked, and I set about the task of writing my first book. And most days since then I have left the house for four or five hours each afternoon, parking my aching body at a coffee shop not too far from home, managing to peck out a page or two at each pass.
The process feels a bit precarious. Like each day great care must be taken to maintain the delicate illusion that I have something to say – something worth someone else’s time. As long as I’m able to sit down with such presumption, the whole thing moves along rather nicely. But there are other days, weeks even, where the whole affair seems a bit too presumptuous, and my words fail me. Nonetheless, by all accounts I am ahead of pace, or at least in step with it, as, at ninety pages in, I am nearly half way through my material.
The book I’m writing is a casual exposition of the convergence of two realities – suffering and the existence of a loving God – as it is played out in the biblical narrative, and to a certain extent, my life. But it is not autobiographical. That I hope to write after this book is finished. I picture it like this: occasionally I am invited to come share my story at churches here and there. I typically preach a sermon Sunday morning and then give a more informal concert and story time later that evening. The book that I’m working on now is the sermon, the book I’ll come to next is the concert.
For the most part, my hands are doing fine. They hurt and I’m still on pain meds for that and my back, but I got a nifty ergo-keyboard recommended by my friend Barnabas and it serves me well. Additionally, I try to make it to the gym three days a weeks to move my body just enough to make up for all the time I spend hunched over the keyboard. Still, it feels like I’m just a step ahead of entropy. Just a step ahead of the decay implicit in the sedentary life. Occasionally my fingers tingle. And my legs.
But I’m playing guitar again. Not much, but enough to get my calluses back. And while I don’t feel strong enough yet to lead worship from the stage, I am doing what I can to do so from the studio. Getting to know a handful of musicians from Mercy Vineyard in Minneapolis rekindled a fire in my belly to return to a project I started in concept five years ago. It’s called A Lutheran Liturgy.
I’ve taken the sung liturgy I grew up with and made each refrain the chorus for its own song, writing the verses around it and giving each refrain fresh context. When I’m done I’ll have a seven song EP that’s essentially a Lutheran worship service from start to finish, right out of the Concordia or Ambassador hymnal. And my first album in four years. These will be the only art songs I’ve written since the winter of 2002. I’ve written elsewhere of what it’s like when my muse starts to move again – like the river in Lucy’s Narnia when Aslan brings an end to winter – writing the book and producing these songs has been like that. A bit like springtime on the inside after a very long winter.
Speaking of winter, most winters are very hard for me. The spectrum of mood gets a bit heavy on the depressive side. This year depression stayed in the periphery, close enough that I could see it from time to time, but far enough away so as not to cause too much trouble. While medication and therapy has contributed to that, there’s no question we owe part of it to the kindness of a few close friends. Our benefactors, for one, who make it possible to be at least a little less worried about our finances these days (and for Jen to be home with our boys), and our friends Ben and Andrea, who invited us to join them on a week’s vacation in Florida. Having the sunshine to look forward to and enjoy while there cheated winter, denying its usual cold hold on my heart. My mom and dad stayed home with Ade and Eli and Jen and I took Jo Isaac with us to Orlando. Rich memories were made both places for all of us. And for the whole deal we’re ridiculously grateful.
I was given opportunity to speak to the student body at Oak Hills Christian College in February. The whole family came with for that, and our time there was memorable. Real good people. Jen, Jo Isaac, and I will be flying to North Carolina in April where I’ll be speaking at an Awana youth Summit. Prayer as I prepare for that would be appreciated. I’m speaking on service, which is why bringing Jen with is such a necessity, as she knows so much more about serving others than I do. Daily I’m reminded by her giving that I’ve got much to learn. You could thank God for her with me.
And my medical hobby continues, though with less gusto than previous years. Doctor Joel takes care of my back. Doctor Hakala continues work on my jaw (my molars no longer come together in the back – I chew only with the help of a spacer I wear while eating). Doctor Hurley keeps an eye on where the cancer used to be, and is still interested in what seems to be an enlarged thymus. Doctors Albie and Guibord monitor my moods, helping me out when they can. And Doctor Hotvedt handles everything else. The whole ordeal can be exhausting, but we’re managing alright, keeping appointments corralled into one day of the week rather than two or three. Thus keeping most the other days clear for writing.
So it’s official, for the time being anyway – a gentleman poolside in Orlando asked me if I was an academic, and privately, I wanted to laugh a little (I’ve dropped out of more schools than I’ve attended), but I answered him by saying, “No, I’m a writer.”
I’m a writer. At least that’s what I am these days. At least that’s what I do. I travel a little and I speak a little. And in my spare time I make music. Good grief. Read my postings from a year ago and last August and one can’t help but laugh just a little. I’m reminded of the psalmist’s prayer from psalm 90, and our prayer from less than a year ago: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.” God, it might seem to some, is answering the prayers of his people.
Gratefully, we are…