Monday, August 30, 2004

Sooooo Close!

I went swing dancing last night again. I don’t know why I feel the need to humiliate myself like this. But it’s all in good fun. I took it easier this time than I did last time. I didn’t flip around like a moron. One of the friends I went with had a sister and friend she wanted me to show a good time, so I danced with them most of the evening. Since they were really bad it didn’t make me feel so bad about me being bad. Bad.

I was sitting on the windowsill cooling off when a girl came and sat next to me. She said it was her favorite spot. I asked her if she had been on the roof. She hadn’t, so I led her out the window, up the fire escape, up a twenty foot rickety ladder and onto the roof of the ballroom. It was really cool and peaceful up there. We talked for a bit, she showed me a couple of moves and we practiced them for a bit. I’m glad she was very patient with me. The Seattle cityscape, cool breeze and quite night made for a really romantic backdrop. Well… not that kind of romance… I mean in the classical sense. I wasn’t about to engage any funny business. I’m not that kind of a girl!

When the place closed a big bunch of people went for burgers and talked a bunch. I got to know several people I’d danced with a little better. Good times.

I find that God can communicate with me in many ways. One of which is bringing up multiple situations that require the same application or lesson. Here are two such items that have arisen lately….

I got a call from the person at my church who arranges all the helping that people need. As I have realized how much God has blessed me, I’ve been really hungry to help others as much as I can. So I’ve worked with this lady a bit now, helping people move and such. Well, our church recently bought a new building to move into, and on the land are a couple of duplexes. Some people at the church got together and bought that portion of the land so if the church ever needed to expand into that area it could. And they are looking for people from the church to move into them. There was some miscommunication and I was told it would only be $1000/month. Which is very cheap for a 2 bedroom duplex with a garage in Bellevue. I’m paying, with storage, $975 for my 2 bedroom apartment now. So needless to say I had to check it out. It was a really nice place. But the guy told me it was $1,100. Whoops! Well, that really isn’t that much of a stretch. But one thing I’ve been very relieved about since my ex-wife left is making all the financially responsible decisions she would usually overrule me on in the past. I can’t say how many times we moved into houses that we couldn’t quite afford because she pushed and pushed until I agreed. We were always a financial disaster. We had to go bankrupt a couple of years ago because we weren’t even able to pay off the interest on all our credit cards even after consolidation. (Mostly because we were overdrawn in the hundreds by each payday due to poor communication and her insistence that floating a bunch of little checks wouldn’t be a big deal.)

So… I’ve been wanting to move to a home for a while now so my boys could have a little yard to themselves, and neighbor kids to play with. But right now I’m not financially tenable due to my previous life, so I’m not in a position to stretch things. At all. So it felt really good to just say, “Oh, that’s 100 more than I can afford. Thank you though.” So this was something that looked like it could have been a door God opened, but then it wasn’t. (Although at church yesterday the guy told me he would still consider my $1000 if everything else looked good. So who knows?)

And the second thing is with ‘That Darn Girl’. I keep wanting to find out something about her that will put me at peace, where I can say to myself, “See, it never would have worked out because she is X.” Like not having a good sence of humor, or being attracted to the wrong things. Anything! But the more I get to know her, the more I am liking her. It seems like our humor is totally compatible. She is totally independent. Uuugh. She is just so amazing… The only thing I’ve come up with so far is that she is half an inch taller than me! I tried to brush it off as simply a physical attraction. But it just isn’t.

The purpose for playing this head game with myself is that all the reasons I feel like I can’t have a future with her will go away within a couple of years; but I’m quite sure someone else will have snatched her up by then. So in order to ameliorate the inevitable heart-break, I am trying to build up a nice list to console myself with. When she starts dating, (which, amazingly, she has never done before.) I can tell myself it never would have worked between us since she is half and inch taller than me. Those kinds of relationships never work out, right? See, I don’t think that’s gonna cut it. I’m doomed unless I think of something better than that.

But… I think I can apply the house thing to this problem. Both involve what looks like great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. A great little place to live, and an amazing woman who isn’t married. But both happened at the wrong time. And the question is: am I going to try to force things to go the way I want them, or wait for God to work out His perfect plan for my life? It’s easy with the house, because I can imagine a great deal like this popping up again at some point. But it’s really hard with the girl. She’s just so darn perfect. And I really don’t see how another (available) one of those is ever going to come around again. Especially as I get older. But not seeing is what faith and hope are all about right?


Feel the pain!

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I need some toast to Lay on

Last night I went to a club in Seattle called Graceland to see a band I like. It’s called As I Lay Dying. For those not in-the-know I will now recreate what they sound like:

Drums: Bambambambambambam… Bambambambambambam

Guitar: Chugchugchugchugachug… Chugchugchugchugchug

Vocals: Rwa rrgh raaa wrrrraa!….. Rwraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaw!

They are one of the best metalcore bands out there and they are Christians too. So want to support that. They have great lyrics that I really connect with. They talk a lot about the grace of God and our failure to match His effort.

As I Lay Dyings’ set was sandwiched between two other bands. Both of which suffer from the scenes typical pseudo-satanic-shlock-horror/we-hate-weak-minded-Christians routine. Their music was really tight though. These 3 bands have been touring together for a while now, and the other vocalists had only great things to say about the As I Lay Dying crew between songs. “The sweetest guys you’ll ever meet.” “Amazing musicians.” Etc. It’s cool how they can have this persona of hatred towards Christians, but then find themselves working with and respecting them.

It was a pretty typical crowd filled with scenesters wearing black T-shirts and hair in their eyes. (Not that my T-shirt wasn’t black.) Then there were a few of the obligatory giant cretins who just want to hurt people. It seems like I always end up taking on police duty whenever I’m at these shows. Because the big jerks inevitably start getting violent around the smallest girls. So I end up throwing my body in the way, distracting the bulls like a rodeo clown. Fortunately I’m pretty good at taking a beating, so it’s not that bad. Then, when I’m not busy protecting the little ones, or helping people to their feet before they are trounced, I’m helping people get up on top of the crowd for a little surfing. I only made it up once during the set. I got thrown on stage, then following proper crowd surfing etiquette, hastily got out of the way of the vocalist by jumping back onto the crowd. But then I was washed back onto the stage again. At this point a disgruntled bouncer apparently thought I was doing something wrong and grabbed my by the belt and collar and angrily threw me off the side of the stage into some speakers. I gave him a friendly "thank-you" as he shouted curses at me. (For some reason I can't get angry at people.) I’m still not sure what I did wrong. There were constantly people getting haplessly tossed up there. It’s not like you can control where or when you land.

I got to do a little moshing too. I only go into the circle for short bursts, and try to duck out when the angry people come swinging. There was this one large girl that seemed to specifically want to hurt me. She kept punching and kicking me over and over. Maybe she was possessed, I don’t know. Which brings me to an interesting discovery…

This was my first show of this type since God so lovingly took me back under His wing. One of the amazing changes I’ve experienced is a spirit of thanksgiving that has permeated every nook and cranny of my life. I would think that in a place like this, with all the satanic utterances and violence that His Spirit might not pervade and speak to me there. But you know what? He did. I found myself prompted to say some short prayers thoughout the evening. I felt His love, I heard His voice. I was really just there to have a good time and jump around like an idiot to crazy music. I wasn’t thinking one way or another about God. But He still found me and reminded me that He loves me. That is so romantic! It’s like being on a business trip and finding your significant-other ordered flowers to your room. Maybe I need to realize I can’t romance God. He is romancing me. “Even if I descend to the darkest depths, there You still are.”

When I got home and peeled my sweat soaked clothes off to get in the shower (It had to be 110 degrees in there!) I noticed my torso and arms are sporting a ton of nasty looking of bruises, and I got a really cool boot-heal mark on my forehead. (Right where Harry Potter has his scar.)

Today I was at a different event with a similar demographic. I was at the Penny Arcade Expo here in Bellevue. It’s an event for game fanatics to get together and celebrate all things geeky. The crowd mostly had black T-shirts, but instead of heavy metal bands on them there were video game characters or references. I was demoing my company’s game which means standing around for hours explaining the basic concept to people over and over and over.

Then, right after that I rushed to church because it’s my turn to help with the kids in Sunday School. (My church has a service on Saturday evenings too.) I got to chase 7 pre-schoolers around for 2 &1/2 hours.

So after last night and today, I feel like jelly.

Or possibly marmalade.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Yeah! Another crappy blog poem!

Last night I wrote a crappy poem. It’s about that darn girl that won’t get off of my mind no matter how hard I try to remove her. Strangely, even as I was writing it, in the back of my mind, there was a feeling of thanksgiving. I was subconsciously aware that having an unrequited crush be the worst thing in my life means I have a pretty spectacular life. God is so wonderful to me. My house isn’t being shelled. I don’t have cancer. I’m not addicted to anything. My parents are both alive and well. My children are healthy and showing a love for God and His ways. And… And I’m not on fire. So all things considered, it seems kind of petty for this subject to occupy my mind. But it does. Oh drat! Just when I thought I was about to achieve perfection. (<--Sarcasm)

Now I’ve written many a crappy song before. But I think this may be my first poem. And, this being a personal blog, it seems almost obligatory to have a horrible poem on here. So, without further ado…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That Darn Girl!

I want to see her as a Sister-In-Christ

But the passion welling up wants her for my wife

Why does my heart betray me?

Complicate me?

Hate me?

Where is the Spirit? I can’t hear it…

with all this fighting in my soul!

My heart says “Yes, yes yes yes!”

My head says “No.”

Incessant!

Cacophonous!

Exhaustion…

Why?

Why do you have to be so beautiful? So friendly and so faithful?

Intelligent. Elegant.

Why do you have to be as gorgeous on the inside,

as you are on the outside?

Your giant eyes melt me with every glance.

Why do I give them the chance?

Your undeniably cute, lopsided smile drives me wild.

God, why am I such a child?

Our awkward phone conversations….

My bumbling tergiversations…

If I’m not coming through clear

It’s because all I can hear

Is my own pulsing fear.

I hide my feelings for you.

I hide them deep inside. Locked in my chaotic mind.

I like you too much to burden you with my plight.

How can I see you as ‘just a friend’?

when the moment I saw you I was so smitten?

That is where it began. Now where does it end?

When will my frustration end?

When?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you! Thank you very much.

Now I’m not one for repressing feelings. God built us this way. We get feelings. Some of them are better than others. Some of them are downright destructive. I think about spouses who are tempted to cheat. I wonder how transparent we are supposed to be with those kinds of feelings. Open and honest expression of feelings is vital to a good relationship, and have helped me find maturity. (Not that I’m all the way there yet.) But then again, I hide a lot of my feelings of frustration and anger from my kids when they make me mad. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. That is part of putting others first. So what do I do with these feelings I have to lock up? I guess writing about them helps. But I still feel like my chest is going to explode every time I see her. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Soggy Bread principle

There is a universal rule that God expresses through his Word. It is that when you put Him before a good thing, that thing will be blessed. Family, career, health, sex, money, happiness, and life aspirations. I have two great examples of this in my own life. One showing the positive effect, the other shows the flip side.

It was the winter of ’96 in Seattle. I had just got my first real, full-time job in the game industry a couple months earlier. My oldest son was about half a year old. Then Sierra decided to shut down our division. I was shocked and panicking. I had already spent months chasing this job, and knew there was nothing else out there for me. All the game companies at the time were looking for animators. A couple of days after we found out we were all going to loose our jobs we got a message from the corporate office saying there were positions available there. A ray of hope! Then I found out the only project they were staffing was a game called Gabriel Knight 3. A detective adventure game where the player discovers a big church conspiracy where they are hiding the ‘real’ tomb of Jesus, his wives and children. Then there were some kind of vampire angels and other blasphemous elements. This was a big decision for me. I expressed my concerns to the VP of development at Sierra, and asked him if there was any way I could get put onto another project. He said, in so many words, “Hey, I’m a Christian too, but I know how to separate fantasy from reality. Besides, if you have a problem with this game, what’s to say you won’t refuse to work on the next project that comes up? Take this position or leave it. I don’t care.”

Well, at that point it actually wasn’t a hard choice. I knew I should put God before my dream career. So I quit. I moved in with my parents and tried to teach my self to animate on the computer. After a couple of months my wife couldn't handle living with my parents anymore and flew up to her folks place in Alaska. Within a week I realized I had to give it up. There was nothing out there. Not even a nibble. My wife wanted to live near her extended family, so I agreed, and we moved to Claremore, Oklahoma. The town that is my antithesis. Surprisingly, I found a tech job in a little town just outside of that little town, just outside of Tulsa. I wrote tutorials for graphic software.

My wife could only handle the close proximity of her Oklahoma relatives for so long, and was starting to get really desperate and depressed. Driving through Tulsa one day, she rear-ended a long line of stopped traffic and totaled our vehicle. We were already up to our eyeballs in debt, had horrible credit, lived in a sauna of a state, were depressed, and now had no car. We got a ride home. I went and checked my email and there was a letter of interest from Outrage Entertainment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They flew me up for an interview and ended up hiring me for more than I asked for. Within a year my job had expanded to other areas with more responsibility, then a year after that my salary was double what I was making at Sierra. Then I got promoted to Art Lead on a dream project. This shows what can happen when you cast your bread upon the water.

And this is what happens when you don’t….

I gave up on finding a church that we would be comfortable in after several years of steeple chasing. We went sporadically, but just kind of went into automatic Christianity. That’s where you still believe the same things, and even live a life the way a Christian should. (At least on the outside.) But I stopped being passionate about God. As marriage issues arose with my wife, I tried to fix them the way any decent man would. I asked her to go to counseling. I bought her flowers all the time. I took her on vacations we couldn’t afford. I got her a big diamond ring. I did the vast majority of the cooking, and cleaning, and whenever I was home I would care for the children. I waited on her hand and foot. I even gave her complete control over the remote! Gee, doesn’t that make me sound like a great guy? Well, I wasn’t. I was trying desperately, in my own strength, to save my marriage. I didn’t have the time or energy to pursue God. The rest is history. She is gone, and I’m one tired daddy.

So as I consider these two examples in my life, I wonder about that part of me that wants my ex-wife to just disappear off the face of the earth. I know God loves her as much as He does me, and He doesn’t want her to be swept under the carpet. She hasn’t been around for several months now, and it has been a huge relief to me. The kids always have such a hard time after her 10 minute visits; and not having to deal with that fallout is keeping me sane. I just want to burry my head and pretend I’ll never have to deal with her again. Mostly I want closure. I want to feel like I can move on. Whatever that means. So I have some bread to cast on the water: that false hope that is telling me to write her off and move on. I’m not saying that my destiny is to be with her. What I’m saying is that I have to honestly tell God that I will do that if it is His will. I’m having trouble with the honest part. I was sincere when I gave my career away for Him. And I got back more than I ever would have dreamt. I don’t have that same feeling with regards to my ex wife. I cringe at the thought of working through all the issues that would inevitably be a part of a reunion with her. But then, there were a lot of difficult issues that came with loosing my job, moving three times, etc. But God saw me through it.

So here is my Soggy Bread theory…. God wants us to give with a cheerful heart. Abraham offered all, Cain gave half-heartedly. I have this feeling that dropping our bread in the water without joy and whole-heartedness does not prompt God to return it. I have this feeling we’ll just end up with soggy bread.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Sarcasm as a first language

I’ve been thinking about my default personality lately. Specifically my humor. C.S. Lewis warned us in The Screw Tape Letters that flippancy is a very dangerous attitude to adopt. Because it places an attitude over reason. A necessary component of flippancy is a presupposition. And presuppositions are determined by the winds of popularity. For example: everyone knows that all republicans are heartless, rich people. So when comedians joke about them, they don’t feel a need to establish this a priori.

I looked up several words that might describe my humor. Here is what I found…

Flippancy

: unbecoming levity or pertness especially in respect to grave or sacred matters

Sarcasm

1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain

2 : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

Sardonic

: disdainfully or skeptically humorous : derisively mocking

Dry (Wit)

14 : marked by matter-of-fact, ironic, or terse manner of expression

So I’m reviewing what it is that I do, and finding none of these words to be apt. The primary departure is in my intent. I really, really, don’t want to hurt anyone. (Even people who hurt me.) God just gave a soft heart. So it is ironic that my humor would end up being hurtful. At least when it is misunderstood. Which it almost always is.

There are two main ways I jest. One is by saying something that I believe the opposite of. Projecting a paradoxical image of myself. Because I am aware of the context, the decontextualization is funny to me. (Like a bunny that can kill any warrior that comes near it. It’s only funny because it’s a bunny.) The fatal flaw here is that people who don’t know me really well don’t know when I’m speaking out of context, out of character. And since I’m not cruel, my irony is a dry delivery of a cruel utterance. Well, not necessarily cruel all the time. Sometimes it’s just contrary to a preference. Like when I say I’m really exited about the Britney Spears tour. Or, I love it when sitcoms have cross-over shows. Because I don’t like Britney Spears and I don’t watch TV. See? Isn’t that funny? No. No, I guess it’s not.

<>

Well the other “funny” thing I do is go off on tangents regarding things I don’t know or care about. I will make up a story and follow it as far as I can with a deadpan delivery. I try to see how far I can push the ludicrous aspects until it dawns on people that I’ve been “joking” the entire time.

Here is an example. Princess had decided to eat one of the pears that was in a floral arrangement. Just for fun. That’s pretty cool and funny to me. Then I got really serious looking and told her that pears are especially conducive to parasitical worms when they have been skewered on a stick as that one had been. I went on to say that the skewers used were probably made from wood from brazil, and was undoubtedly swarming with parasite eggs. I said it was common for people who eat old fruit to get intestinal parasites. That was the point that she figured out I was making it all up.

Actually, this is what predicated the little spat I had with Princess. (See the entry below.) I guess she was pretty justified. Now that I think about it, this form of humor is kind of mean, because it’s a betrayal of that little bit of trust most people give to others when they listen to them. It’s like saying, “I fooled you! Sucker!”

So now I have established that my primary means of amusing myself cause discomfort for others. Wow. That sucks. I really want to make people happy, not miserable. Maybe this realization will help me change. I’ll keep me updated…

Excuse me sir, but your desperate need for acceptance is showing.

I had a pretty fun day yesterday. My kids are up in Alaska visiting my former wife’s parents, so I have the freedom to hang out and do nothing for a week. My church has a service on Saturday evening and Sunday morning, so I went to both. It was great. Curt, (the pastor) asked us to think about the aspect of our life where we didn’t feel Christ was meeting our needs fully. Such as finances, relationships, etc. We grabbed another person and prayed through that issue with them. Mine was romance. Like I stated earlier, I just have this gnawing desire to give it, but no appropriate outlet for it. Then the sermon was about loving God. He actually used the word ‘romance’ right at the beginning. Which was interesting, since he hadn’t the night before. I still don’t know how to ‘romance’ God. There are a few obvious differences between Him and a woman. Let me just calculate here…. Hmm, yeah, approximately 12 quabillion differences. So I don’t know how analogous I can get with that. But I do know that God has met my needs in every other area of my life, so I’m pretty confident He won’t let me down in this one.

Speaking of letting me down, let me tell you what a desperate fool I am. But not in a self deprecating sort of way. I was hanging out at this house where a bunch of girls from church live. We watched Big Fish, which was really cool. Afterward people were just hanging out being board and silly. This is always dangerous territory for me, as I have a tendency to let myself go when others are relaxed like that. This social retardation takes the form of dry, sarcastic humor that most people don’t think is funny. Especially when they can’t tell that I’m joking. Well there was this one girl who seems very similar to me in that respect. She ‘got’ it. Then there was another one, I’ll call her Princess. (Which makes sense, because her name is Princess.) I totally thought she was ‘getting’ it. But I guess not. She got really annoyed with me and let me know it. The conversation went something like this:

Princess: “I hate it when people act all sarcastic all the time. I know this one guy who is always lying about everything.”

Me: “Well, I was just joking. I don’t lie about important things.”

Princess: “You can never know when to take him seriously.”

Me: “I can be serious… I mean, I know I’m a bit pathetic when I….”

Princess: “Grrr! I hate it when guys aren’t self-confident!”

Me: “I was just joking about being pathetic.”

Princess: “Now you’re lying again!”

Me: (Crap, she’s right!) “I think I’ll go stand outside now.” *Goes and stands outside*

So she kept putting the hoops up, and I kept jumping through them. Don’t get me wrong. She is a cool girl and seems like she could be a lot of fun. We just didn’t ‘click’, which I feel bad about, since the main reason was me being too sarcastic.

But this conversation makes me ponder a something. Why did I keep jumping through all the hoops? The only reason that comes to mind is that I just wanted to be accepted by her. Not necessarily her as an individual, but by proxy, everyone. I tend to view myself as a non-conformist type who doesn’t care what others think. Obviously, the verbal gymnastics I went through prove that this is a delusion.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

I hereby declare Virgin Black to be the best band ever

Have you ever liked a thing? Then found out there was some aspect of that thing that made you like it more? Was that a vague enough intro for you?

Well Virgin Black does that for me. I liked music before. I mean, really, really liked it. But now the courtship is over. I’ve found my soul mate. We are getting married next Tuesday.

I first heard Virgin Black several years ago on an Australian metal compilation album. I wasn’t ready for my true love at that point. I only liked stuff where the vocalist sounded like they were gargling with razor blades. Stuff like Vengeance Rising, Mortification, and Living Sacrifice. So it wasn’t love at first site. A couple of years ago I started buying music from Flaming Fish. They specialize in dark, electric, ambient, goth, and electronic stuff made by Christians. (Though the ‘Christian’ label gets handed out as easily as Roman citizenship did in 100 A.D.) So I was surprised when I saw a band from my olden days on sale there a couple of months ago. I bought Sombre Romantic and Elegant… And Dying. I listened to them once, thought they were great, and lent them to my brother. I got Elegant… And Dying back first. I listened to it non stop for about a week. I couldn’t believe how good it was. I’m not the kind of person who listens to the same thing over and over. But this was amazing. Then I went another week. I got Sombre Romantic back and saw that Elegant was not a fluke. I ordered their EP, Trance. And was blown away again. These guys (and girl) are incredibly gifted musicians. Virgin Black is not constrained by the rock template of verse, chorus, verse. They are not constrained by one particular vocal style. They are not constrained by one kind of mood. They swing from bitter depression to euphoric hope flawlessly. Suffering, loneliness, chaos, agony… but always returning to hope. Rowan London sings with so much emotion and range it’s incredible. He has an operatic quality, (I read that he has studied with some opera master.) but not the bombastic, monotonous classical style. Somehow he can do a whimpering whisper in a beautiful way. He can shout, scream, and growl. But mostly he majestically projects profound emotion.

Then there is Samantha Escarbe. She writes most of the lyrics and music. She also plays some amazing guitar and cello. Her timing and ability to steer the music is flawless.

While I loved the music, and thought the lyrics matched perfectly, the words are poetic and meaning is a bit elusive. And while I am starting to see the point of art for arts sake, I still need to know what is being said before I can really get into the music. So I emailed them. I assumed I would be disappointed by yet another band with wishy-washy pseudo Christian theme. I was surprised by the honesty and spirit of kindness and legitimate Christian foundation that Samantha expressed to me. I showed her some pictures of some of my sculptures and she really liked one of them. This one to be specific. I knew why instantly. It appears to be despair, but can be seen as hope. I sculpted it so that the viewer could interpret it as a guy melting away, or as one struggling up and out, for freedom. This is exactly like Virgin Blacks’ music. There is a line on Our Wings Are Burning that goes, “On the crest of fire, our wings are burning. How glorious the pain.” She explained that the wings symbolize the things we put our faith in for salvation. As those things are revealed to be insufficient, they burn away. This causes pain, but points to the need for real salvation. I was awestruck at how this beautiful poetic line encapsulated all that I have been going through in my life. My ‘wings’ were my family. I was apathetic towards God until my wings burned away. And now I truly do say, “How glorious the pain!” I have a lot to learn about poetry.

After contemplating the body of Virgin Blacks' work I became inspired to do a sculpture based on some of their songs. I interpreted one of their songs, Beloved, as an analogy for the church, the body of Christ. I wrote Samantha asking her for input on this song, and told her my idea. She seemed pleased with the idea. Her intent for the lyrics was a bit different, but she said she was intrigued by my concept. So I have been working on it on-and-off for about a month now. It’s going to be bigger than any sculpture I’ve done so far. Here is a sketch I did of one little element that is going to be part of it.

Anyway. The point is that you should go order 5 copies of each of their albums. They are pure genius.

The Crimson Hymnal Concept

Here is a thing…. Yes, that’s right; a thing. I’ve sent this to several Christian musicians I know. The music pastor at my church says he really likes the idea and he is going to help me with it. God works in mysterious ways.

The Crimson Hymnal Concept

Joshua C. Foreman ~ 8/2004

joshforeman@gmail.com

General Explanation:

For some reason beyond my understanding God has given me a burden to create a worship album. I find it odd, because I don’t know much about music, and am not generally a fan of worship music beyond its functional aspect as facilitation for people to commune with God.

This desire can all be explained without the spiritual bent as another one of my oft temerarious projects. In fact, I have been planning on making music for quite some time. Recent events in my life have led me to a deeper love and understanding of God. So you could say these two trajectories crossed, and the natural conclusion would be the desire to tackle this project. To be honest, I am not close enough to God to be able to ask Him for a sure fire answer to this preponderance. Am I acting on the prodding of His still small voice, or am I just really wanting to make music? Well, like Gideon, I am blessed with far too few rescores to accomplish the task laid out before me. And so, like Gideon, I will find out if it is indeed His will that I should proceed, based on His provision or lack thereof. I will detail the rescores needed in the final section.

Target Audience:

I am not a normal person. I am drawn to the disenfranchised. My aesthetic sense is out of the norm. I don’t like pop music. It follows that I don’t like pop worship. (Let me quickly qualify that by saying that I do love to worship, and deeply appreciate the music and musicians that make it all happen.) But God built me a certain way. I have been ministering to Christians who feel marginalized, betrayed, judged, and otherwise castigated by the church. I have found a ministerial niche online; comforting, providing arguments for sound doctrine, and hopefully guiding these hurt individuals to church bodies that will accept them and help them grow. As is the case with most sub-cultures there is a common musical taste that ties this group together. For the uninitiated; I will spare you the genre titles and simply describe it as dark music, using a lot of minor keys and generally aggressive percussion. I share their aesthetic and musical tastes, and so I have a lot of knowledge about the kind and quality of their music. Though there is a lively Christian scene producing material in this vein, the quantity is fairly small and quality is variable. Noticeably absent is any kind of worship music beyond a smattering of songs peppered throughout a couple of different artists and records. As with the listening base, the artists tend to be church-shy as well.

These are the people I would like to reach with this project. Those who rarely step foot in a church and have very little in the way of praise oriented music. This is not for broad ecumenical consumption.

Current Conception:

As with pop music, our current worship style appeals to most people while completely missing the fringes. Before I am accused of constructing a consumer-driven framework for this project, let me say that the express purpose of it is just the opposite. I don’t want to make a widget that will appeal to X demographic. I would slap myself immediately if that were the case. I want to worship God musically in a form that is free from commercial constraints. I want to match the music to the words, the message to the medium. I know there is a group of people out there that are hungry for this. I myself am hungry for this.

Crimson Hymnal will diverge from modern praise and worship in both the music and lyrics. First, here is what I plan for the music.

Think of the bombastic imagery David uses: “So we will not fear even if earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!” (Psalm 46:2&3). The profound darkness of Jeremiah: “I have cried until the tears no longer come. My heart is broken, my spirit poured out, as I see what has happened to my people. Little children and tiny babies are fainting and dying in the streets.” (Lamentations 2:11). The austere majesty that John records: “Hallelujah! Salvation is from our God. Glory and power belong to Him alone. His judgments are just and true. He has punished the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and he has avenged the murder of his servants… Hallelujah! The smoke from the city ascends forever and ever!” (Revelation 19:1-3)

This is, of course, a small cross section of potential moods that our current worship style can only hint at. (This again; is great for most people.) But I would like to explore the outer extremities of what these words evoke. I would like to draw on whatever instrument, style, or musical mannerism fits the theme.

I want to capture the numinous quality of the classic hymns and medieval chanting without the ascetic overtones that encumber them. God and His word are so multifaceted, so completely filled with life in every dimension! I feel it bursting from my chest. I want to scream it out! That is the plan.

Lyrically, I have been blessed with wave after wave of inspiration from my current troubles. I have been writing for this project for several months now, and am starting to organize and trim. I am seeing three distinct movements that the record will progress though, with the music mirroring the emotion. The first is Adoration. Awestruck wonder at God, His works, His ways, His power, His mercy. These songs are along the lines of David’s Psalms.

The second is Communion. These are songs of personal existential contact with God. How He has worked in me, what I bring to Him, our interaction, and how it affects our lives. These songs are not geared towards communal worship. They are intimate, but hopefully in a way that is consistent with others relationship with Him.

The third movement is Contemplation. This phase settles into a quieter, tranquil reflection of our spiritual journey. Less exposition, more anthemic, and maintaining an ethereal quality that is meant to compliment the afterglow of a night of powerful worship when His Spirit is strongly felt.

Ultimately, the lyrical and musical style of this project is fed by the belief that God made our bodies and minds, and loves them very much. Part of living with these bodies and minds are struggles with finding and communicating with our Creator. Sadness, anger, frustration, fear, loneliness, confusion, striving, happiness, peace, curiosity, and screaming joy are all part of us, and legitimate additions to our worship vocabulary. Honesty with God and ourselves brings us closer to Him.

Visually, there are no worries for this project. I am a sculptor and graphic artists, and I have made a couple of CD layouts before. I have a very strong sense for what I want to communicate visually and exactly how to do it.

I want this to be a double CD. It may be strange for me to say this after my previous ranting about non commercialism, but I really would like as many people as possible be ministered to by the project. A relatively simple way to do this is to have a version that omits the more extreme aspects such as electric guitar, screaming vocals, and pounding percussion. Since Crimson Hymnal will be fabricated on a computer, it is pretty easy to keep all the elements separated, and mix down two versions of each song. I would also reverse the order of the songs on the mellower CD, starting off with the tranquil ambient tracks and building to a crescendo at the end.

Resources Required:

As hinted at earlier, I’m not a musician per-se. I have written plenty of music. I have been a vocalist in a band. But this is not my “main thing”. Therefore, it seems evident to me that the first thing I will need is a mentor. Someone who can listen to what I’m cooking, and tell me if I’m going in the right direction. Someone who knows music theory. Someone who can tell me if my low levels are muddy or my base line is in the wrong key. Someone who is obviously very patient!

Next I need contributors. I need talented musicians who feel led to help me on this project. I will write most of the music, but I am completely open to stylistic input. I want flourishes and solos. I want people who can take a theme and run with it, giving it their own personal touches. As an example, I was talking to a woman who is an absolutely amazing violinist about this project, and she mentioned that she really enjoys playing gypsy fiddle melodies. Fantastic! Lot’s of minor notes. It’ll work great. I work by layering many simple elements together, so there is a lot of room for a musician to add personal touches. Here is a list of instruments and vocals I would love to have on the record:

Cello

Violin

Harp

Piano

Acoustic and Electric Guitar

Trumpet

French Horn

Male contemporary singer

Male operatic singer

Female operatic singer

Female contemporary singer

(I have some pretty cool possibilities for guest vocalists from some very good bands, but they would only make small contributions.)

I will also need a place to capture all this sound. A nice home studio is preferable, but beggars can’t be choosers. I have a small closet where I record my own vocals, but I’d hate to stuff a cello in there! Once I have the (hopefully) 24-bit sound files, I will do the mixing on my computer.

I hope that my years as an art lead will help me work through this process. One of the very few things I am good at is getting artists together to contribute to a vision. (And have fun in the process.)

I pray that all these artists and elements will congeal and have a Gestalten effect; that the whole will be more than the sum of its pieces. (Empowered by His Spirit!)

I don’t have a time table for this project. I only know that I need to do it. Also, since I have never produced an album before, I’m sure there are better ways of doing some of this. (Could you tell I’m completely winging it?) So if you are reading this, and feel like God would like you to help me out with a little advice or talent, please email me at joshforeman@gmail.com

And if you would like to get a sense of my aesthetic tendencies from a visual perspective you can view some of my work at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scrybe/

My unique work environment and the joy of losing lust

I work at a computer game company. I do art and design for the levels of a massive multiplayer on-line game. For the most part it is the most professional and politically correct game company I have ever worked at. We have a diverse staff of around 70. We have minorities, homosexuals, and an admirable female to male ratio. (For a game company.) Instead of cubicles, there are several rooms with 5-8 employees against the walls, monitors facing the center of the room. So that cuts down on the rampant porn and IMing that goes on at most of the other places I’ve worked. Of course each room has a different atmosphere due to the different combinations of people. Somehow I ended up in a little bubble of putrescence within the PC atmosphere of the rest of the company. And the sad thing is that the putrescence is an exact mirror of my darker side. In fact, I’m one of the worst in there. The only one worse than me when it comes to vulgar humor is the cute Korean (Born, but raised in the US) girl who sits across from me. She has said the most absolutely vile things I have ever heard. Literally. I’m not saying that in a judgmental way. She is an awesome person and great friend. But I think she could make porn star blush. Like I said, I’m wired the same way, so I don’t have room to talk.
What is interesting to me is how my recent spiritual renewal seems to have had no effect on my coarse humor at work. It is strange to me because in every other area of my life I am changing. I can’t express in words how in love with God I am right now. How much I feel His presence and comfort regularly. How His Spirit stirs mine to thanksgiving so often.
So why can’t I stop being gross? It’s not like I’m beating myself up over this or anything. As I’ve grown closer to God, (or rather, as He has grown me) I’ve found that I am motivated to change out of love for Him, not because I’m afraid of breaking rules. I have seen His renewal of my mind in other areas. For example, I used to have real issues with lust. Nature would dictate that since I’ve gone over a year without sex now, I should be going crazy. But God has brought me great peace in this area. He knows I can’t handle it right now. It’s not a matter of mind over matter or any other such nonsense. It’s God’s grace over my mind. My co-worker has asked me about how much I sexually think about the girls I’m attracted to. I was shocked as I thought it over… I just don’t. I can’t. Well, I’m sure I could if I tried, but what would be the point of that? I still have a crazy crush, (see entry below) but I really don’t think naughty thoughts about her at all. Maybe I just respect her too much… Although, I’ve found that I don’t have sexual fantasies about anyone I know, no matter how attractive they might be. Boy, that is something I can’t take any credit for. I just can’t thank God enough for how He is changing me. Which brings me back to the subject at hand… When will the constant stream of double entendres, vulgar jokes, and other deleterious crap stop coming out of my mouth?
“You are the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me. This is what I pray.”

Friday, August 20, 2004

Puppy love stinks!

I’ve only had one girlfriend in my life. And I ended up marrying her. So when it comes to the issues covered in pop music, the dating and breaking-up business, I’m quite the greenhorn. I remember listening to Linkin Park's latest album last year, and really feeling the emotions and attitudes he was expressing, then thinking to myself, “Wow, for a kid, that guy has a lot of wisdom and insight.” Then I realized I was the immature one. I was connecting to his words because I was going through my very first break-up.

Well, now that I’ve done what just about everyone in the universe has done by the time they are 14, I’m on the flip side of it. Now I’m developing crushes. Now I’m pathetic in that self loathing kind of way. So what do I do about this? I don’t know. I’ve prayed that God would help me to redirect these feelings into something healthy. I thought maybe I could shunt them into my boys. But the fact is that I already love them as much as I can. There is nothing lacking in my relationship with my beautiful children.

There is this particular woman I am particularly smitten with. Way out of my league. She’s a Christian, beautiful, smart, easy-going, fun-loving, has a neat family, likes my kids, etc. But there are about 8, maybe 9 HUNDRED reasons I shouldn’t even be thinking about her this way. Well, unless I examine each one under a microscope, and find ways of dissecting them, studiously extracting what I want. Then I could say I thought it through, and I should go for it. But I’m seeing a Gestalten effect at work here. One that can’t be ignored.

So I now have to figure out what every Jr. in high school has already known. What do I do with these feelings? Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds. A couple of nights ago I wrote down my feelings. I talked to God. I told Him how miserable this was making me. I told Him He said His burden was light. And you know, come to think of it, it hasn’t been half as bad lately. I guess this whole “Give it to God” thing might be more than the bumper-sticker theology I assumed it was.

I’m pathetic. But not in that self-loathing sort of way.

I used to be embarrassed about my foibles. Now they amuse me. Well, they still embarrass me, but they also amuse me. Here is a good example... I’m a spaz. No doubt about it. It annoys even me. I’ve always had a propensity for physical shenanigans like falling down stairs and flipping over rails. Why? Because I can. And I’m sure there is some deep-seated emotional issue involved as well.

So here I am at the Century Ball Room in Seattle with my church group. We are trying to learn to swing dance. I’ve met most of them a time or two, but don’t know anyone very well. So naturally, this is a time for a cool, calm demeanor. Have some relaxed conversations… So naturally I did the opposite. I danced like a fool, flipped onto my back a couple of times and, I was told later, pulled up a girls shirt a bit. (I didn’t mean to, honest!) I even danced with a gay guy who had studs all over his face and leopard spots tattooed on his scalp. So I made a complete ass of myself and instantiated that image of me on everyone’s mind.

Last night, that evening of moronic behavior popped into my head again. Strangely enough, the thought just made me laugh. So now a bunch of people I would like to be friends with think I’m an idiot. That’s funny. No really, it is! It makes me realize one of those little power games we always play in our heads. I now have absolutely no power or respect to work with when it comes to building relationships with these people. What a great opportunity I have now. I am forced to be humble. I have to approach them all with an honest and sincere heart. I can’t put on any airs. Which is cool!

This is what I’ve learned about humility so far. It’s not an attribute that you can build, like kindness or patience. It’s a simple recognition of your place in the natural order of things. And that recognition is only attainable through a relationship with God. It’s a gift He can give you if you ask. That is why I can’t be proud of my humility. I think.

So who am I? What am I?

Being freshly divorced, (Which is akin to being freshly disemboweled.) I am questioning the future. Unfortunately, the future doesn’t want to talk to me. I’m doing a lot of those clichéd just-divorced maneuvers like changing my diet and exercising. I haven’t bought a fancy new sports car though. One of the differences between me and most newly-divorced men is that my kids live with me 100% of the time. So I have to spend most of my free time doing Mr. Mom stuff.

I’m going to this fantastic church, Lake Sammamish Foursquare, and loving all the people I have met so far. I started going to their college and career group. And here is my problem. Well, I have lot’s of problems. Here is one of them… I’m older than every single person in that group. None of them have been married. None of them have kids. So why am I going? Because I have more in common with them than people who are married with kids. Those folks are usually 10 years older than me. I seem to occupy this gray area where very few others are. I’m a relatively young, gregarious artist with no significant other; but I also have kids. I certainly fit in better with the younger crowd. But I have this uncomfortable feeling that I’m like those GIs who would drive by the high school looking for chicks. *shudder* Except that I’m not looking for chicks!!!

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Which is a great segue to this little introspective question… What exactly am I now? I am legally divorced. My ex is no where to be found. (At least for the past half-year.) But I made a vow before God that I would love her “till death us do part.” I fought the divorce for years. I always thought that it should just never be an option. Well, I thought that until my kids ended up at a crack-dealers house. Then I didn’t see any other option. Divorce was the only way to get custody of the kids to keep them safe. That was God’s way of saving me from endless tergiversation I think.

So now that it is all over, what am I supposed to do with myself? I have read the Basic Life Principals material on this subject. They say that I should wait for my ex until one of us dies. Even if she gets remarried, I can’t ever marry again. The concept behind this is a focus on the covenant that is made in marriage, and how serious God is about covenants. Then, on the other side of the coin are my dad and others that have told me that the new covenant is to love God and Love others as your self. And my kids need a mom. Therefore, I should be open to that possibility.

Being a romantic at heart, I do deeply desire a relationship again. Well, not necessarily right away. But sometime. So I’ll continue to wait and pray for guidance.

Some Vital Stats:

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Just incase anyone else ever reads this. These bulleted items will help you understand my unlimited brilliance!

Josh Foreman...

  • Has a very, very dry sense of humor. If you ever read anything that makes me seem arrogant, or cruel, please imagine that they are written in the ‘sarcasm’ font. I hate the stupid little winking emoticon, and there is no sarcasm font. So I get misunderstood a lot. For some reason I think it’s funny to project an image of myself that is in direct opposition to my actual personality. The sad part is, in doing so, others can only interpret me as that way. Weep for me!
  • Is super intelligent and better than everyone else. (I was just testing you. Did you read the last bullet point?)
  • Grew up in the military. My dad was a dentist in the Air Force. I was born in Seattle, moved to Japan, then Portland Oregon, then San Antonio Texas, then North Pole Alaska. I never lived anywhere for more than 5 years. I’m pretty sure this is why I don’t follow professional sports. And this is my fathers fault. (Sarcasm again.)
  • Was home schooled. Well, mostly. I did K-3, and then my Sr. year of H.S. in public schools. My mom had tendencies towards it, and so I greatly exaggerated my negative experiences and fabricated some stories of horror and woe concerning my plight at school. She bought it. (As a good mother should.) And so I was freed from the shackles of that oppressive establishment, and chained to those of my mother. By the way… My mom is the coolest mom anyone could ever have. I’ll talk more about her later.
  • Got married way too soon. I had one girlfriend in high school. I met her at church. I proposed to her at 16 or 17. We got married a month after we graduated from high school. This was a brilliant plan that somehow went awry. It lasted 11 years and 8 days.
  • Has two kids. I have an eight year old boy named Justin. He is a smart little bugger who is usually kind, polite, and studious. He has ADD, but still manages to do well most of the time. My other son is Shane. He is 5. Very rambunctious and sweet. He has a significant speech delay so most people can’t understand 90% of what he says.
  • Doesn’t like anime. Except Spirited Away. But that’s not really anime, is it?
  • Is incredibly blessed by God. I have a fun job with an easy-going atmosphere. I have a loving, supporting family. I live in a country that has so wealthy it can support a bunch of people like me who make video games. My kids are huge blessings. I have the coolest nanny in existence. (She cares for my boys, not me.) But my main blessing so far has been the ordeal I’ve gone through, and how God used it to bring me closer to Him than I ever thought I would be.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Introduction

Like all good stories, this one begins with a horrible divorce…

So here I am. A single-father of two boys, 5 and 8. I'm 29. I decided to start blogging because I felt like a jr. high girl when I started writing in a journal on my bed. Mostly, I just thought it would be a cool way to look back at myself. (Hi future self!) Also, I wouldn't mind connecting with some folks who might get something out of my thoughts. Not that I think I'm a genius who's thoughts must be heard or anything! But I'm willing to bet there may be someone who is going through similar things in their life. If not, well then, I'm back to the time-capsule idea.