Monday, January 31, 2011


I've been worn out lately. Days are filled with work, schoolwork, and job applications. If I'm not doing one of those things, then I'm definitely stressing about how I should be doing one of them. My prospects of staying in Pittsburgh are not strong at the moment, so I worry about where I'll end up and daydream about how sad my last day in Pittsburgh would be. These are the sort of things that will weigh on your heart and make day-to-day life an emotional challenge.

In combating the weariness I've been overcome with, God has shown Himself to me in a lot of ways this week.

A week ago, my good friend Robby started a discipleship group that focuses on readings from the Philokalia, which is a collection of writings by Eastern Orthodox monks in the 4th and 5th centuries. I am admittedly not an intellectual when it comes to my faith, so the idea of going in-depth with the readings seemed like more of a chore than anything, especially with a lot of other things on my plate. The meeting, though, was fruitful. Robby felt called to include four guys from our church who aren't necessarily close with one another, which was a blessing. The reading last week focused on watchfulness and being aware of our thoughts and how God is active around us. This was a great kick-start to my week.

In the wake of this meeting, I began reading my devotional consistently (My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers). On Tuesday, Chambers told me to seek God, but not to expect Him to come in a particular way. This is a struggle because we WANT Him to come in a particular way, which is why we ask Him for things in prayer. But I knew He'd be faithful, so I watched and waited. On that day, I was rejected for a second interview in the career office where I work at CMU. While this seems like a set-back, it was actually a blessing. I learned on this day that I needed to find a job I'd love, not just one that would get me along. On Monday, I came across a position I'd found at Berklee College of Music. On Tuesday, I found excitement. God used this adversity to show me that it's possible to get excited about work.

Wednesday and Thursday, with the stress of the job search on my shoulders, Chambers reminded me not to worry. He reminded me that God "clothes the grass of the field" and reminded me to look at "the birds in the air" because these things are taken care of by God himself. If they are cared for, of course I will be.

The week eventually ended, but my stress did not. Saturday morning found me at the coffeeshop doing work and stressing all day. I barely enjoyed the evening because I was worrying too much. But then I remembered what I tell my RISE students; when you're working, work hard, but when you're relaxing, relax. Scheduling time to do each will help us to produce fruitful times of work and play.

So Sunday was a sabbath day for me, despite the fact that I had a lot of work on my plate and would have benefited from a day of schoolwork. I went to my friends' recording session, played drums at an incredible service at the Open Door with close friends, and winded down with an evening of basketball with other close friends. I could write an entire blog about Sunday alone.

The point, after all this, is that on the seventh day, God rested!

Who on earth are we to deny ourselves a day of rest per week if God Himself did not deny such a break from His own work?

Saturday, I was such a robot that I could not enjoy my fun evening. So Sunday, I rested and enjoyed every minute of it. Today, I am well-rested and prepared to face the week ahead with fervor. My work has piled up a bit, but as usual God has provided plenty of time for me to do it. What's the worst that could happen? Turning in an assignment late? If I had a dollar for every assignment I turned in late, I could probably buy a new computer to do more late assignments.

Grant yourself a sabbath this week. Follow God's example. He needed a break and so do we.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

my only social commentary on war

The other day I watched Full Metal Jacket, which is an extremely well-made film by Stanley Kubrick about soldiers in the Vietnam War. This was one of the most intense movies I've ever seen, not because the story was engaging or because I was on the edge of my seat, but because these things actually happened.

Full Metal Jacket was disgusting. For those who haven't seen it, the film depicts many of the horrors of war. Merciless killing in completely fictional movies like Die Hard or 28 Days Later are gruesome, but at the end of the day there's no such thing as zombies or John McClane. The thought passing through my consciousness throughout the film was that these boys really did this. The drill sergeant making his Marines feel like nothing more than killing machines; the Vietnamese women selling their bodies for a few American dollars; the decision to leave behind fallen soldiers whose real names were not common knowledge, but were rather known by pseudonyms. On top of all that, so many of these men did not know why they were in Vietnam besides to kill "gooks". Those who had the best non-homicidal response thought that they were there to fight for freedom, which is still argued today. Would we all be Communist today if it weren't for the American forces in Vietnam; a "war" which many believe the Americans lost?

This film depicts the horrors that have become far too common in regard to war. Not only that, there are too many similarities between 1960s Vietnam and 2000s Middle East to overlook this film as a social commentary almost 25 years later. Today, men are enlisting for service for many reasons; reasons which I do not know or understand because I am among the last Americans who would ever enlist. In the film, and possibly today, they are ridiculed into believing the only good they serve is as killing machines. Their personalities are erased by their nicknames and the identity they take in their new lives. Soldiers come home with PTSD struggling to remember what life was like before battle.

Whether you believe in the United States' involvement in wars or not is a subject that could be discussed up and down, side to side, and still not resolved. Some believe that there is no cause worth going to war over. Some believe that for evil to be halted the United States must take this action. I can see both sides of the argument.

Regardless, this movie helped to show me what has happened. Innocent people were being killed like they are in a video game. Soldiers were looking for any way to be numbed about what they were experiencing. People often fought without knowing what they were fighting for.

This still happens today and it has to stop. As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor. Is Kim Jong-Il my neighbor? Was Saddam Hussein my neighbor? Are you my neighbor? Yes to all. We are also called to not kill, but we're told that this extreme form of pacifism is not possible in today's society if evil dictators are to be stopped. The voice of reason is a quiet one when there are nuclear weapons involved.

I support our troops and our government as an American. I do not, however, support killing our fellow man for any reason. How do I blend the two together?

Speak softly and carry a big stick. - Theodore Roosevelt

Love your neighbor as yourself. - Jesus Christ

Friday, January 21, 2011

how vs why

in a theme that may recur, i've had some thoughts come up during my rereading of "through painted deserts". i'm reading a few pages at a time, usually on lunch breaks, which is allowing it to sink in more. this might be a good idea for those of us that try to breeze through books just to get them read.

today, don's been evaluating the how and why questions and which are more important. in the beginning of the book, don determines that we spend so much time asking the how questions and not enough time thinking about the why questions.

americans, especially, concern themselves with how to find a job, how to land a great wife, and how to create a perfect life. meanwhile, don is suggesting that we should be thinking about why we want a job, why do we need companionship, and why we do anything in general.

this is an interesting though considering my current position is in career counseling. we, as counselors, and many students all get caught up in the how of finding a job and determining a career without considering why we want to do the work we do in the first place. for our internship, the other interns and i were asked to write a career autobiography which takes a look at our family backgrounds, our childhood, and our life's progression to make the career decisions we've made. in the end, we have the opportunity to remember why we've made certain decisions along the way and how we've come to the conclusion of our career choice.

writing this career autobiography gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate these things and remember what my priorities in life are. while careers are important, the answer to why i live my life is far greater. as a Christian, i am called to serve Jesus Christ and His ministry on earth. as a musician and writer, i create because i enjoy creating and sharing my creations with others. as a friend, my role is to love people and to love being in their presence.

i could go on and on about why i'm here, but the fact is that i haven't quite figured it all out yet. all i know is what i know now and why i do the things i do in the moment.

what are the answers to your why questions?

why are you here? why are you pursuing your career? why do you surround yourself with the people you are with?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

why we care about sports

today is a big day in the city of pittsburgh. no, there's no election. there's no monumental decision coming from mayor ravenstahl. there is no G20 conference happening or any foreign diplomats having brunch at deluca's or a brew at gooski's. no, today is far more important than that for pittsburghers.

today opens the nfl playoffs in pittsburgh for our beloved steelers. troy polamalu is listed as probable, which means he'll play. the hated ravens are in town, complete with ray lewis and all of his old spice magic. not only that, the steelers game is sandwiched between the cult favorite penguins visiting a recent rival, the boston bruins, and the yuppy favorite pitt panther basketball team visiting new jersey to play seton hall. days do not get much bigger for sports fans in pittsburgh!

as i sit in the benedum computer lab at pitt doing my homework (sort of), i check my facebook to see the statuses flooding with sentiments about the game. "my heart can't take it", "our father who art in pittsburgh", and suggestions that ravens fans are sons and daughters of drug dealers and hookers. part of me can't help but wonder, who cares?

i know it's blasphemous to say as a pittsburger, but in all reality, today's results have little to do with our lives as a whole. to a degree, we base our happiness on the success and failures of our favorite teams, but why? i've debated this plenty before.

so, why do we care about sports?

well, i'll tell you why. the world is a broken place. the economy is in the tank, negative propaganda is around every corner, and people are living in the streets. there's a lot to be upset about in this world. but when it comes down to it, sports rally us together. today at 4:30, none of it will matter. the bills sitting on our desks, the job search that seems to have stalled, the girl or boy who broke your heart, none of it matters. for 60 minutes of football, the only thing that matters is our boys beating their boys.

sports give us a release. for some, like my good blogging friend abby (, running is that release. for my friend charles and plenty of pitt students, that escape comes with ultimate frisbee. for me, it's mostly basketball. for pittsburgh, it's the steelers (and, today, penguins and panthers). the steelers give us hope. we will undoubtably experience some ultimate highs and some ultimate lows today. hopefully we can do the same next week and in 3 weeks at the super bowl. but we get that escape today. today, we are all pittsburghers. that guy in the computer lab spitting into his empty red bull every 3 minutes, the girl tapping her pen in class, and the customers who you can't quite communicate with. today they're wearing a steelers jersey. today we are family.

so, sports are generally pointless in our lives. we get physical and emotional exercise, but at the end of the day they don't solve any problems. in american society today, though, sometimes we need pointless activity to keep going. pressures of accomplishment and success are all around, so for once let's put the pressure on someone else and enjoy seeing what they make of it. here we go steelers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

eat, sleep, repeat

this morning i walked to work in the midst of the snow. it took me a while to drag myself out of bed and sloth my way through the morning routine, but i got to the bus stop just in time to catch the 77 halfway to work. my run down the hill to the bus stop woke me up a bit, but i still shuffled my feet on the walk down morewood to carnegie mellon.

accompanying me on this journey today was copeland. these guys were not mentioned in my "favorite artists" list, but i believe that was a pretty big oversight. copeland released four albums, each pretty unique, with their masterpiece (arguably) being eat, sleep, repeat. their 3rd studio album is a trip through emotions. the album moves up and down in pace and demeanor, making it unique and intriguing.

eat, sleep, repeat is a mundane title for an album that goes far deeper than the everyday occurrence. aaron marsh has a way of singing into your soul on this album and it will mesmerize you when you don't expect it.

one of my favorite afternoons of the last few years was a trip to the carnegie museum of art when i put this album on my ipod and just experienced art. visual art was in front of me and the audio art engulfing my eardrums created an experience that was utterly calming and inspirational. eat, sleep, repeat has a home in the art museum.

so this morning i listened to a few tracks from the album on my walk to work. i noticed myself losing focus and slowing my pace as i wanted to let the music take over my being. it was becoming a soundtrack for my thoughts with an alternating of depression and hope. often times our lives and jobs can feel like an "eat, sleep, repeat" kind of rotation, which is why it's so intriguing to take an album of that name that contains immense uniqueness. in the most ironic of ways, i noticed something new about life every time i listen to eat, sleep, repeat.

what albums give you unique experiences?

is there a particularly fond memory that you can associate with an artist or album?

what music helps to eliminate the "eat, sleep, repeat" feelings in your life?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

the curious case of the ohio state buckeyes

by now, the ohio state buckeye football situation is familiar to most of us. if not, the skinny is that 5 players (including stud quarterback, terrelle pryor) were suspended for 5 games of the 2011 season as a result of selling merchandise, such as game-worn jerseys and awards. the players apologized and were allowed to play in the sugar bowl this past week, which is of great debate. why not suspend them immediately? money, that's why. this whole thing is about money. my comments are particularly in regard to the money in the pockets of these players, or rather the lack thereof.

i've always been one to prosecute scholarship athletes. they are being paid with a free education, which costs an average of about $20,000/year for the rest of us average folk. not only that, many of these players tend to receive favor in terms of grading to make sure they remain eligible and graduate. why should we have sympathy for them?

then came a brief portion of the press conference with ohio state head coach jim tressel and athletic director gene smith. in the statement, smith made a very interesting point that these student-athletes may want some spending cash for going places, taking a girl on a date, or buying music, the same things we all want spending money for in college. the difference for these students is that they have a tiny amount of time available for a part-time job (think about your full-time class schedule plus a full-time job with occasional travel). on top of that, so many of these students are coming from low-income households where they simply cannot ask mommy for money to go to a movie on the weekends. this leaves players like terrelle pryor with no spending money and no time to make any.

so what do we do, pay these players? i've never been in favor of it, but it seems only natural that these individuals should be allowed a stipend. many phd programs allow their student-researchers a cost of living stipend while they go to school and work for the university, so why not throw a couple hundred dollars out of the scholarship into their pockets? let them take loans out for those few hundred dollars and pay it back later when they're in the nfl or working at the job they've been allowed thanks to their free education. i rarely have sympathy for these students who are receiving a free education, but with the thousands (or millions) of dollars they're bringing in for their university, they should be allowed a little of the cut to try to live a normal life in college like the rest of us.

Monday, January 3, 2011


my roommate, andy, recently commented to his girlfriend that he doesn't take particular note when i say that today is a "big day". it's not that today isn't a big day, but rather that i say it almost every day and the statement has become second-nature.

is today a big day? absolutely. was yesterday a big day? definitely. will tomorrow be a big day? almost certainly. i make this remark daily because every day is a big day. any day that is not a big day is also not really a day worth living. whether that big day is a road trip to a new place, a marriage proposal, or simply a day of rest, these are all important and memorable things. i don't want to wake up and not think that today is a big day.

not much has changed since january 2010. i have a different job (not waiting tables, thank goodness), a new residence closer to school and work, and i'm getting ready to finish school this semester. sure, some other subtle differences are there i'm sure, but overall i am who i was then.

one thing that certainly hasn't changed is my desire to seize opportunities. when asked about resolutions year after year i generally have the same response: i want to take advantage of every opportunity more than i did last year. i've always been one to have a mindset every day that i will do whatever will make me happy today. this has led to a lot of satisfaction over the years, which i intend to continue. but this year needs to be bigger than last.

i want to take a trip this year, for sure. when i (hopefully) lock-up a job i want to take my transitory time to make a trip, maybe follow the avett brothers if they're on tour, or get back out to see the pacific coast. i recorded 3 songs and i want to do it again this year. i want to try something for the first time that i've wanted to do, like skiing or snowboarding (anyone want to teach me?).

but let's not forget about the days in between. every day is a big day. in 2010 we lost a great friend in caleb altmire. his passing reminds me that no days are guaranteed. no sense in planning so much today that we forget to enjoy the day in front of us.

one real and very important resolution is that i need to incorporate the Word of God in my life far more in 2011. rather than say this in my words, allow me to quote Jesus from the Book of Matthew as parting words today:
So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don't need plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.
Matthew 6:25-27