A Matter Of Convenience

One of the biggest challenges that I face in my daily life is navigating through the inevitable myriad of unplanned inconveniences that keep life from going just the way that I want it to. I am, I suppose, a creature of habit and an introvert. I like to start each day quietly and in a manner that blocks out any surprises. When more than one or two obstructions get in the way of my cushy routine, I tend to lose any sense of selflessness and “love others” aspirations that I may have developed during my five-minute morning devotion earlier in the morning. This issue can manifest itself when I’m trying to get out of the house in the morning, when I’m working through the morning to-do list at work, or when we have guests visiting at home.

I bring this up not because I’ve found some kind of magic bullet answer that has  healed me of this personal flaw, but, because it is what I was reminded of this morning while reading the sixth chapter of Mark. It was the setting that led to the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. But, the part that caught my attention came before the miracle in the sequence of events.

The twelve disciples had just returned after being sent out to preach and they were all sharing what they had done, but, because of the frenzied atmosphere where they were all coming together, Jesus invited them to go away with him to a more secluded place so that they could get some rest:

31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.

This is what struck me this morning as I was reading:

34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Jesus and the disciples clearly had other plans to catch up on some needed rest, but, when he saw the crowd gathered he changed his plans and, instead, began teaching them, and eventually, serving them (thousands of them!) food.

How often do I, so dramatically turn my own plans on a dime from personal rest and relaxation to totally focusing on others and serving them? I can’t recall when I’ve ever been faced with such a prospect, to be honest. But, isn’t it worse that I don’t change my plans for even a small feat like exerting a small amount of effort to make someone (e.g., in-laws) feel welcome when they are visiting my house and disturbing my precious routine? Or what about the times when my own child wants me to “shoot hoops” with him in his bedroom where his Little Tikes basketball hoop is, but, I defer because I’m too busy writing a blog post or squandering time on Facebook?

In the book of Matthew Jesus said that loving God and loving others to the extent that we love ourselves are the two most important commandments and that all of the others are encompassed by those two.

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Yeah, I’ve got room to grow.

Community and Music: R.E.M.

Worthwhile reflection about community and the role that music can play in developing it…

from Athens Music Junkie:


R.E.M. at 30

So many reasons to celebrate this day. The music of R.E.M. pulled me up from ignorance to a growing sense of place and understanding that I don’t need to be able to relate to the world, but, that the world relates to me. I was The Wrong Child living through a phase of life in which I was World Leader Pretend. But, Country Feedback started stitching the panels of my youth together to a future as an adult that still seemed Half A World Away. It was The End Of The World As I Knew It and it felt fine, to a degree, first at thirteen, and then again at twenty-one through the operating room sound system just as the gas mask was being placed on my face. It was the innocent line about being my future wife’s Easter bunny, amidst a song and a world that carried so much more weight when juxtaposed against the fog of my immediate fate through which I tried, so hard, to Walk Unafraid. It was when dancing with her during our first dance that I knew that it was true: should was willing to Be Mine after all. Grace began to Reveal its hand as Summer Turned To High while my wife and I settled into a new life living on a back road in the new south where I began my career as a teacher. The optimism of the music, intertwining southern imagery with oceans and summer settings,  assured me that I’d do fine. It was Belong, though, that played like heavy, dense, humidity, so memorably, through the car speakers on our way to the delivery room when we realized that our daughter was arriving a month early. It was an onstage reunion with Mr. Berry that marked the first time that we ever left our daughter with friends, four months later, so that we could steal a night on our own. Later moments would involve my kids singing and dancing along to the staples that painted the walls of the corridors that I’ve walked through in life so far…the likes of Little America, Second Guessing, Letter Never Sent, Shiny Happy People, and Circus Envy reverberating and shining through the windows of our future. A future that looks bright from where we now stand: on the heels of two trips to Athens – the latter to celebrate their thirtieth year of a band that has provided, and will continue to provide, the score to my life and the lives of so many others. Thank you R.E.M. Cheers!