The other night was a Santa Ana Winds night. Southern Californians know what this means. The hot, dry winds come raging down from the high desert, through the San Bernardino mountain passes. They carry dust and debris and the sage-scented shrapnel of the chaparral. They fuel fires and defrock the palms. They howl with glee as they rattle windows and send trash cans tumbling. They tip over semis and send Jacaranda purple blossoms everywhere.
I graduated from Wheaton College 10 years ago this month. This Friday, I’ll be attending commencement ceremonies at Biola University, where I’ve had the pleasure of working for nearly seven years. I’ll be cheering on a dozen or so students who I’ve mentored, taught, employed or befriended; students who will be walking across the stage to receive their diplomas, much as I did when I was their age, a decade ago.
Autumn isn't really autumn in L.A. Sure, temperatures may drift downward into the 70s and (if we're lucky) 60s rather than the 80s and 90s. And sure, the evenings cool off quicker and some types of deciduous trees (if you can find them) shed their leaves. Sure, Starbucks has their pumpkin spice lattes and caramel apple ciders. One can even find a local pumpkin patch after enough Googling.But for a Midwestern boy like me, it will never feel quite right.
I'm in a season of change right now myself, for a number of reasons. I'm finished writing my new book (1 year and 65,000 words later!); I'm enjoying the last few months of my 20s and what is likely my last season of life as a single man; I'm experiencing new friendships and walking with some old friends as they experience their own seasons of change.And I'm also going to be changing my blogging habits a bit.
Part of the sadness and elegiac quality of something like commencement is that we remember what it was like to be young and free, "Golden in the mercy of his means," with the world as our oyster. We lament that we've lost the sense of adventure, bravery, and risk that electrified those long lost days. And yet the truth is we need not abandon such things. We should be lifelong learners, career explorers, always re-imagining the world and discovering its wonders anew.
Thanksgiving is all about family, and often, it's all about movies. After feasting, football & shopping, going to see a movie together has become an American holiday staple. If you're looking for a film to see this Thanksgiving, here are a few I recommend--unless you want to take your kids (then see Hugo or The Muppets). Each of these films is in some way about family and is near the top of my list of the best films of 2011. If one of them is playing in your city, go see it!
In the spirit of change, of Autumn, and of good music, I put together a fall playlist of new music. Listen to it on Spotify here (if you're on Spotify), or take a look at the tracklist below. It's all music that has come out in 2011, and most of it in the last 3 months.
I think it's important to have restraint. If there's one thing I've been learning—and want to keep learning—it is the importance of being slow to speak, but quick to listen. I want to be a better listener, a better perceiver, a better interpreter of the world and its beauties. To take in more than I churn out... and then to churn out only after a thoughtful period of processing and active listening... that's where I want to be. As a blogger, as a friend, as a follower of Christ.
Lost in the shuffle of the furious Bell debates is the reality that the most important object of our focus and energy should be the person of Christ: Who he is, what he did on the cross, and what he continues to do in and for the world.
The goodness of the world—the “all is not lost,” salvageable beauty of it—is legitimated in the God-made-flesh moment of Christmas. In that epoch of history, the climax of so many centuries of hopes and fears and expectations, heaven literally came down to earth and took up residence within it. A new kingdom began—physical, tangible, unexpected. Christmas is the celebration of life as it can be lived in the light of that very real hope, in the knowledge that, though we will have trouble, we should take heart because Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).
Why are rituals such a blessing? Why are they so comforting? Why—after spending 10 days seeing amazing things on another continent—was I so excited to return to the routine rhythms and rituals of my "normal" life back home? Why am I confident that some day, I will go to bed at the same time every night, have the same breakfast cereal every day while watching the same morning show, and love every minute of it?
The following are songs that are quiet, longing, nostalgic, and unsettled. That is, they are songs that feel appropriate for fall.
Returning to Wheaton this weekend will be a celebration of time gone by, of blessings given, and of the immense joy both before and behind me. And it will also be a time to celebrate the life of my dear grandmother Marilyn McCracken, who died today. She was my last living grandparent, and she also went to Wheaton. This week is a different sort of homecoming for her.
I've always loved this time of year. Late summer. For whatever reason, it is just incredibly poetic. The end of "vacation" season, an acute sense of both loss and hope, the onset of such wonderful things as Football season and apple picking. It's a great moment of transition, and some far more perceptive writers than I have captured it beautifully in verse.
The world is far too complex, troubled, beautiful and dynamic for us to ever just exist in. It beckons us to make sense of it. To carve at least some comprehension out of the vast incomprehensibility of existence. This is what education is about. For anyone who cares about the destiny of this world, education is a high calling: a pursuit without end that is never wholly futile and never fully satisfying.
But skewed visions of the past notwithstanding, I think it's good and right to lament the endings of things. The dissolution of the Big 12 was inevitable. All things fall apart sooner or later. I guess it just caught many of us by surprise that—in the span of a week—it all unraveled so quickly and unexpectedly. But so it goes in life. Impermanence is a constant.
For me, Lewis's sentiments about longing and Joy ring ever so true. The words of Psyche in Till We Have Faces describe exactly how I feel sometimes when that peculiar blend of happiness, memory, and "there must be more of it" longing combine to make me feel, deeply, that there exists a greater, truer, more perfect reality for which we were all originally created.
I began this millennium ten years ago today, in St. Louis, on a youth group trip to some Y2K extravaganza inside the stadium where the Rams play. In the middle of Third Day’s set (Third Day!), some friends and I ran outside so we could see the fireworks and Y2K blackouts over the St. Louis skyline at midnight. I think we got in trouble for leaving, but we didn’t care. If the world was going to end that night, we were going to witness it first hand.