Dec 29, 2011

Why are you here?

My most recent musical sketchbook, "Why are you here?", is now available for free online. May there be beauty within it.

Note: Myshkin is now my permanent performing name, providing consistency throughout my various collaborations (as opposed to finding a new name every time). This album features my friend, Angela, on the cello.

Dec 25, 2011

Restoration

Grace is the harbinger of restoration. Through it true peace can arise. And arise it does: a star wrapped in life for those who wish to receive it.

Merry Christmas.

Dec 2, 2011

Some Thoughts on Parenthood

The following is a response to a Wondering Fair post titled "If Only She Would Have . . .", which is a fresh and insightful perspective on parenthood.

It could be argued, perhaps, that social attention is directed more toward mothers during a child's pre- and early-adolescent years, but I perceive that there is an often discrete shift that begins to occur during the child’s mid- and post-adolescence years. I know this to be particularly true for young men, but it seems to be often consistent with women as well: that many personal demons struggled through as an adult—being that the son or daughter is at a more mature cognitive and spiritual place to identify them than during younger years—are somehow rooted in the relationship with the father figure. It is not uncommon—some would suggest that it is even natural and healthy with regard to development—that a son or daughter shifts a larger portion of his or her relational energy previously directed more toward the mother figure toward the father figure in the late teen period. Again, this is particularly true and important for young men, who upon entering manhood are looking for a guide(s) to help them through that initiation. But it does seem even true for many young women who may be, for example, searching for a model of manhood by which to measure their male peers as potential husbands and future fathers. This is a critical period for young people, and yet it seems to be poorly handled or often neglected by father figures. Further examples: the common insecurities of both young men and women, manifested through seeking love and affirmation through pre-marital sex or even homosexuality. It is certainly more complicated than that, but the point is that it seems that both men and women have an identifiable responsibility in raising their children. Society does seem to recognize this to some degree. In the art world, broken father relationships seem to be at the epicenter of story arches or character development more than broken mother relationships.

The father’s responsibility does not seem to be identified, encouraged, and challenged enough, especially by the Church; but I have seen that consciousness shifting. Mothers do often seem to receive much of the weight of responsibility during a majority of a child’s life, to which if the father is less present in that responsibility there may be a detrimental trend established for the future when the maturing child needs him the most—at which point, it may be added, for example, that a mother figure may have difficulty in allowing and trusting the father figure to take on a greater role if he manages to rise out of that passivity. Fathers have an invaluable role in raising their child. If they are not receiving enough attention in sociological and psychological assessments of parenting, which I am not sure is exactly the case, then they certainly need to. Regardless, thank you, mothers, for your tireless efforts.

Oct 19, 2011

Stay Young, Go Dancing

Could not life be this simple?



Death Cab for Cutie "Stay Young, Go Dancing" (Codes and Keys)

Sep 22, 2011

Sentimentalism

In response to the question, "Are you a sentimentalist?" I recently replied more or less with, "As much as reason allows. . . ."

An interesting response considering that reason and objective thought stand in marked contrast to the idealistic feeling that characterizes sentiments.

There seems to be a general antipathy toward such layering, especially in art. To be sure, there is a line beyond which something can become "sappy." Thus, not long ago--in consideration of my art, for example--I thought: To do away with all sentiment. It was almost a call to action, a pledge. But then I paused. Away with all sentiment? Away with ideals? Away with feeling? To become an elightened thinker to the utmost: a true Western man--a modern man? . . .

No. To do away with all sentiment is to do away with God, maybe even goodness. He is not governed by reason--if reason can aid us in facing Him at all. Absolute Truth. Love. Can reason define them fully, even accurately? . . .

No. Faith is needed: a trust in the mystery. Is that not holding on to a kind of sentimentalism? Is idealistic feeling not one way to commune with the Heavens? . . .

It seems that I shall remain to some degree a sentimentalist. Yet returning to my original response, is the degree to which I do so measured or governed, in fact, by my reason? Or is my reason, rather, held within the hands of incalculable sentiments? . . .

May 24, 2011

STAND: winter lingers

I hope that you are all warming from winter's chill, or keeping safe from the wind and water daemons raging throughout the world. Reading the news, I find cause to actually be grateful for mere mild temperature fluctuation--as opposed to earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, or worse: human destruction. It is certainly a time to lift up faith before oneself, draw forth the Holy Spirit, and pray with unashamed conviction. It is a time to remember what YHWH has done, to remember that He can engage our lives in a very real way--like the fury of flame that descended from the sky to consume Elijah's flooded offering set against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (see I Kings).

If only it was that easy. Perhaps it is. Yet I struggle to comprehend it at times. I am humbled by grace. I am thankful for patience. Usually it is in the moments between--the spaces where fresh thought breaks through the levees that each day's routine builds around my mind or spirit--that I hear God's voice the clearest. It is difficult to describe those moments, or the messages that He offers. I believe that melody or imagery and metaphor is my clearest expression of that perception. It is more than that. Mostly, I try to free my art to speak for itself—like a blurred glass window through which different views are emphasized depending on the angle or perspective of the onlooker. It is a challenging journey at times, misunderstood, but it is also so rewarding.

Thank you for your prayers. Thank you to those who have been praying for my knee. I believe that it is healing. I am beginning to be able to run farther and with less apprehension of a relapse. I anticipate being able to really start training for this year’s Pike’s Peak Ascent in August. I anticipate assistant coaching high school cross country for a second season this fall. Currently, I split my workweek between construction and assisting the Personnel Department at the One Challenge (OC) US Mobilization Center in Colorado Springs, CO. I am also still writing when I can. While I have not had any real interest from literary agents yet, I will not give up. I have completed two-thirds of my second novel, a smaller companion piece to the former. It may be, or I hope that it will be, a better means to entering the professional writing world. Furthermore, I continue to compose and play music actively. Right now I am developing a set with a cellist, which already sounds beautiful after two rehearsals. Reflecting back on my musical journey, I am thankful for the time that my friends Elliott Irby and Tyler Griffith spent creating the musical sketchbook, “There was Music” (www.noisetrade.com/redwood) together—Elliott is currently serving as a missionary in Cyrpus, while Tyler is learning Spanish in Guatemala in preparation for missionary work in Mexico. I am also thankful for the few months to perform and record with my friend, Regina Davis. Before she returned to her professional singing base in Holland, we managed to create our own musical sketchbook, “Between Meadow and Sky” (www.noisetrade.com/alaudidae). Both albums have preserved important memories, not only of important people, but of some of those aforementioned spaces in between. I am thankful to also be still serving with a worship team a few times a month, playing either djembe (mostly this), electric bass, or acoustic guitar. Music has become a very important part of my life. For me, it is a window of my deepest self to God; whereas, with writing I can dialogue with who He is, what He has done, and what He may do. More and more I realize that I am an artist above all else. It is a journey demanding endurance and discipline, full of uncertainty, but in it I find peace. In it I find community. In it I find Truth. Soli Deo Gloria.
Thank you for sharing some of that journey with me. May God bless you and keep you. May His face shine down upon you, and give you peace. Now and forevermore. Amen.

May 3, 2011

Between Meadow and Sky

Alaudidae, a progressive fusion duo comprised of Myshkin musician, Joshua Grubb, and professional singer, Regina Davis, have put together a musical sketchbook of original music developed during their brief time together earlier this year. Though more a collection of musical ideas, their album, "Between Meadow and Sky", offers a diverse sampling of beautiful melody and stirring poetry. So please support them by going to www.noisetrade.com/alaudidae and downloading their 8-song album for FREE.

For those familliar with Redwood's music, the album includes an older version of "Miles and Ocean Apart" featuring the mandolin, as well as newer forms of "Lay Down," "Ainulindale," and "The Triune Dance of the Forest Lord, Part I." Alaudidae really appreciates your support and feedback. Please share the music with all.

Furthermore, it is not too late to download Myshkin's recent musical sketchbook, "There was Music", which offers a similiar progressive fusion sound enhanced by the skilled fiddle playing of Tyler Griffith and musical/engineering creativity of Elliott Irby. Go to www.noisetrade.com/redwood for their FREE 15-song album.

Mar 7, 2011

Integrity with Words

Too often words are not used with enough care and consideration. The Gospel of John begins, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (NIV). This theme continues throughout the Gospel of John as Jesus proclaims that he is that very word of God. Words imply a message: an outpouring the truth or reality within the speaker. While some may acknokwledge the immense power of words, many do not seem to practice that belief. On the subject of the lyrics or words sung in worship music in today's evangelical churches, Glen Packiam offers some challenging thoughts: "Do the Words We Use in Worship and Prayer Really Matter?". May we never cease considering the messages we profess, being mindful of the nourishment they draw from within our beliefs.

Mar 3, 2011

Love Wins: A Controversal Idea

Recently, there has been a curiuos amount of uproar regarding Rob Bell's book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Now, I am fairly familiar with Bell's writing and views. His refreshingly insightful and, I believe, Spirit-inspired teachings should not be so rashly disregarded without any consideration. Sometimes it seems that any re-examining of Scripture without the preconceived notions of certain denominational traditions really incites certain people or groups to anger or even hatred. Did not Jesus do the same thing in his time: re-examining the Truth of Scripture against the notions of his day, much to the chagrin of the Temple leadership? To place judgment on a fellow Believer without really knowing his views, such as through a reading of his books (e.g. Velvet Elvis, Sex God) or listening to his sermons or discussions (e.g. "Everything is Spiritual", "The Gods Aren't Angry", the NOOMA Series) is simply irresponsible and foolish--perhaps even unChrist-like. When addressing something different, many Believers seem quick to judge the source with an "outsider" term (e.g. Universalist, Open Theist, Heathen), but different does not automatically mean wrong. It is disappointing that many Believers do not keep more open minds, as if everything has already been answered and neatly packaged within their doctrines or traditions. Where is the courage and grace to address difficult topics in the community of the Kingdom? Where is the desire for holistic learning?

Consider pastor/author Glen Packiam's recent blog, "Before You Dismiss Rob Bell, Let's Learn Some Terminology". It provides an initial response to some of the controversy, namely through an analysis of differing views on final salvation and judgement. I really appreciate Packiam's wisdom, and believe that he has some very helpful and valid ideas to offer to this conversation. Pastor/author Aaron Stern's recent article, "Rob Bell and Hell: is love winning?" also provides some insights while also suggesting a Biblical response to such an outcry.

For another thought on the subject, which includes the controversial promo video for Bell's book and which defines certain potential sub-categories of universalism, refer to "Universalism and the Doctrine of Rob Bell" by professor/author Scot Mcknight of North Park University. And for a more direct perspective on the issue, take a few moments to view a recent interview between MSNBC's Martin Bashir and Rob Bell. What does it add to the discussion?

Furthermore, or lastly, please read some of Bell's work, including his most recent book, before forming conclusions. The enemy seeks to divide and disrupt the Kingdom of YHWH. We must be mindful of this when addressing disagreement within the Church. We must resist the inclination to direct our attention and energies to a spiritual civil war. Rob Bell and his students are not the enemy. Gregory Boyd and his students are not the enemy. N.T. Wright and his students are not the enemy. John Piper and his students are not the enemy. Who is the true enemy? The enemy of the Kingdom of YHWH is Lucifer. The enemy is the third of Heaven that fell with him. The enemy is what remains of our proud worldly nature. May we be mindful of it. Note that Paul wrote to the early churches about not becoming divided over who followed whom: whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, for example. It is about following Jesus, Paul wrote. All teachings must be weighed against the Word of God: Jesus, the Word since the very beginning.

May we be quick to listen and slow to speak. May we engage the world with love. For without love, all that we are--all that we do--ultimately amounts to nothing. Without love, we would all have nothing.

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Feb 3, 2011

There was Music

My band, Redwood, recently completed a debut album, "There was Music", which can be sampled and downloaded for free online. If you are interested in receiving a digital copy of the leaflet, to read the story behind the album as well as have some lyrics, please let me know and I will be happy to email it to you. Thank you so much for your support. Please share it with others also.

May our music offer you beauty and peaceful reflection. For YHWH's glory. Amen.

Jan 26, 2011

What is Friendship?

What is friendship? Who is a friend? Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines “friend” as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” The World English Dictionary elaborates, defining “friend” as “a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty; an intimate.”

Friends share a unique connection with one another: a level of trust or intimacy.

In friendship there is a mutual commitment and desire to support and serve one another. In it there is a bridge of love that extends beyond the general love or respect of mankind, but that does not quite surpass the level of love that is shared in marriage. To differentiate, for example, an acquaintance is defined by Webster as “a favored companion”, or someone with whom one is familiar. An acquaintance holds less sway than a friend. They are important, but they are not to be equated with true friends. Though the term “friend”, like “love”, is often used somewhat broadly and casually, perhaps it should really be thought of as those deemed as best or closest friends. Most people can be friendly with others, and most people usually have various circles of friends. Acquaintances and casual friends are important and can lead to true friendships. But to be clear, when I write or think of friendship it will be with regard to those considered in the innermost circle: the closest friends—those whose opinions are identified and valued above the general crowd and who are shown the greatest attention and effort. Friends are, in effect, like family.

Finding, developing, and sustaining friendships throughout life may be rooted in these principles, but it is certainly not limited to them. It is messier than that. It is more organic, more stunning. As we progress through life the roots deepen and expand, but do not necessarily change beyond recognition or disappear. Ideally, they reach new depths and affix new layers. Ideally, they grow and branch out to strengthen our character and perspective—our ability to receive friendship and offer friendship to others.

In the early years, from birth through primary school, life is often understood through a filter of desirable and undesirable—likes and dislikes. Observe a baby for any time and this quickly becomes evident. Thankfully our worldview gradually expands and comes to include a sense of right and wrong, good and bad, and later even more complex realizations. Life seems simple as a child, often understood through a filter of playful possibilities protected by family and community.

For example, I generally made friends through shared interests and values as taught by family. There was little thought as to where the friendships were going or how they would benefit or hinder my pursuits. We simply wanted to share adventures with each other, to imagine new worlds and possibilities together. Friendship was about acceptance and encouragement at the most basic level. It was about just having fun together in almost any environment.

As I have grown older, however, life’s complications seem to persist in gradually revealing themselves and adjusting that worldview. I moved to southern Germany when I was twelve years old. It was hard to leave the friendships of primary school behind; yet it was also relatively natural in that we were all facing a significant transition anyway (i.e. middle school and puberty). I was excited to embark on a great adventure overseas from my place of origins. Though shy as a youth, I anticipated meeting and befriending new people, and having new adventures. That has not really changed. Yet so much does change when we enter our teenage years. By moving away to another country, most of my friendships faded due to distance and a lack of shared experiences (or growing up) together. The same occurred after I graduated from high school and returned to the United States to study for my undergraduate degree, as well as when I graduated from college and moved back to Colorado. Yet because I have deliberately tried to remain committed and loyal to my friends, I have by the grace of God preserved my closest friendship from the various chapters of my life: childhood in California, primary school in Colorado, secondary school in southern Germany, and college in California.

While each friendship is not the same as before—partially due to marriages and career pursuits, for example—the essence of our original connection remains untouched. I believe that time and distance cannot alter the original roots that form a friendship. They may be forgotten amidst years and geographical distances, especially when there has been no long-distance communication (e.g. writing or calling) between reunions. But when we see each other again it is as though the roots of the friendship are just as alive and strong as before. We have had different experiences, surely, especially having lived in different countries or cities. Our perspectives and personalities may have altered somewhat. Many things might have changed. Overall, the friendships may not have grown as they would have if we had lived in the same community, but neither have they diminished. They are ready to grow, given the nourishment of consistent time and shared experiences together. If that is not possible—if we are only able to reconnect through the occasional visit—then the friendship may not grow so much as just continue in a sort of time-locked state. Now, keeping in touch through long-distance communication tools in addition to visits does maintain a friendship stronger than if there was no communication. The friendship can grow, but not to the same affect as if both parties were actually living in the same community.

The challenge with distance relationships is to not confine friends in a box of memory.

Just as I hope that they will be attentive to the changes I have experienced, so must I be mindful of the changes they have experienced. I believe that there are roots of our personalities that do not change. But there are equally significant areas that do change. Again, there is a kind of mystery to it all. Memories are important. They are the moisture and sunlight that feed the roots of friendship. But everyone experiences seasons of change. To be strong, or be the best that we can, we must adapt and be open to the possibilities of the present and future.

Friendships are an invaluable extension of our lives.

Friendships are, for me at least, a considerable source of meaning and for gaining understanding. They are a means for success and failure. They can provide joy and sorrow. They can cause growth or sometimes even stagnation. Most of all they are a source of hope—a source of life. But they are more than a means, and they are more than an end. They are a journey, a growing thing. Without them I would be alone against the challenges of this world. Without a forest of community surrounding me, I would have probably broken from the strain of life’s pounding winds long ago.

A Spiritual Element

A belief in God, especially in Jesus Christ, offers another mysterious and complex dimension to relationships. In Genesis 2:18, some time after the first man was created, God said “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (English Standard Version). But as there are countless books written on the subject of friendship and marriage in addition to the Word of God (The Bible), I will not really delve into that pool at this time.

But I must conclude by addressing the reality that my strongest friendships have been with those who share my faith. My belief in an all-loving and presently active God who created mankind in His image and who redeemed mankind from its destructive nature shapes my worldview. It serves as the lens through which I discern, understand, and pursue friendship with others. It is not that I do not pursue friendship with those who do not believe. I do. It is just that those who do believe that Jesus was who he claimed to be have given me the most holistic relationships I have had. I believe that friendship is a gift from God. In truth it is one of His greatest gifts and not to be taken lightly. But they are more than gifts. Friendships, including all forms and levels of relationship with Believers and unbelievers, are one of our greatest responsibilities in life. Anticipating the afterlife—a new Heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21-22)—friendships are one of the only things in this world that can outlast death.

Yet there is a very real spiritual enemy battling against this hope. Lucifer, and the third of the angels of Heaven that were cast down to earth with him, is actively seeking to corrupt or destroy everything that is right and good. He is slyly seeking to counteract anything that is of God. He strives to disrupt and divide, to trigger our darkest natures, to fuel the fires of chaos by dividing cultures, nations, families, and individuals. He strives in order that we might join him in the destruction that awaits him and his servants when Jesus returns to seal the invasion that began with his life, death, resurrection. Death could not bind the Son of God. Even now his Spirit is active among those who would accept and believe in his victory. Even now he moves his followers to reclaim the world from its rebellion. Even now his Kingdom is spreading. Most evidently—most fundamentally—it is happening through the contagious power of friendship. Not only can the fruit of friendships define a life, but they can also serve as the primary weapon against the chaos of the enemy and the world.

What is friendship? Who is a friend? It can be many things. He or she could be anyone. It is a profound and beautiful mystery enhanced by mutual sacrifice and support through seasons of shared experienced. It is a gift ultimately unhindered by time and distance. It is a journey, a living truth. It is a calling.

Jesus said,

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master his doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
- The Gospel of John, 15:12-17, English Standard Version

To God be all glory. Now and forevermore. Amen.