I took the plunge, so if you would please update your RSS to markgrapengater.com it would be much appreciated.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Far, far awayJeff Tweedy, the lead singer of the Chicago-based band Wilco, wrote the above lyrics. They suggest that while he was out on tour "on the dark side of the moon" he was "far, far away" from the one that he loved. His desire was to be with them, to ride the CTA– affectionately known as the "EL"– to be at the bed of his loved one. Whether his loved one was the Second City itself, or his lover who dwelled there, the lyrics don't clarify. However, if I had written the song, the words would have referred to both.
From those city lights
That might be shining on you tonight
Far, far away from you
On the dark side of the moon
I long to hold you in my arms and sway
Kiss and ride on the CTA
I need to see you tonight
And those bright lights
Oh, I know it's right
Deep in my heart
I'll know it's right
By the bed, by the light that you read by
By the time that I get home to say good night
I need to see you again
On the dark side my friend
On the dark side
In the midst of packing– or procrastinating the process– I decided to write about how I would be missing this City of Big Shoulders that have been supportive to me over the past 7 years of my life. No wonder I'll miss it so. It's been my the hub of my comings and goings as long as my time spent in Tulsa. I have grown fond of this city, with its political machines, mediocre roads, amazing food, beautiful art, well-served public transportation, amazing people, great parks, heartbreaking sports teams, cold/rainy/icy/snowy/sunny/cloudy/beautiful weather, frustrations, pains, joys, longings, architecture, community... I could go on.
Of course, just as painful as leaving the city itself is leaving the deep friendships that I have developed here. Both in seminary and after, I have felt loved on every level and have made friends that go beyond merely drinking good beer, eating great food, watching Monday Night Football, walking the dog, playing poker, picking out great wines, celebrating the goodness of God, worshiping, taking communion, seeing live performances, cooking, serving, gathering, brunching, etc. It hurts my heart to leave these great friends in this city that I love.
Knowing that if for some reason, I don't return, I will see them again on an eternal scale is comforting. Knowing that "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," is foundational in me keeping any kind of composure through this transition. So though I may be far, far away longing to ride on the CTA, my trust lies not in the city that I dwell or in those with whom I dwell there, but in the God of Israel, who was their God no matter where they were and no matter where I am.
Monday, October 5, 2009
I have a lot of scars and I've been adding to them recently. I have the requisite scar on my knee from when I fell off my bike in 7th grade. In fact, I have quite a few scars from biking– my elbows, wrist, legs. I have some scars from surgeries– most notably a huge scar across my belly from my twisted intestines surgery that I had before I was two years old (I could projectile vomit across the room!). I have some scars from spending my youth growing up at a dance studio– on the bottom of my chin; on my wrist, where glass entered in and nearly cut my tendon that operates my thumb. I have a few scars from cutting myself when I've been cooking at home. The most recent scar I have is on the back of my hand when I opened the oven door in the restaurant that I'm working at right now. The lesson: In restaurant kitchens, even the outside of oven doors get hot.
Most of my scars have taught me something. The biking ones have taught me to always wear a helmet; or not to go over a rock that large; or no matter how confident I get, I should not do whatever I did. Don't slide your hand down a glass mirror. Making sure the towel is completely dry when I grab something hot out of the oven.
The scars also tell stories. I can look at my arm where a scar is still barely visible and think back to when Michael, Steve and I were running around outside at the Kirk and a gate swung closed and cut my arm. I remember the great friendships that I had growing up and how I need to call those dudes. The scars on my wrist are from when I launched myself off the side of a mountain while biking on my sister's husband's bachelor party. I remember the whole weekend every time I look at my wrist and how my sister is now married to such a great guy.
But some scars aren't physical. Sometimes scars result from periods of our life. Unemployment can be a huge scar. Miscarriage would be another huge scar. A broken relationship; an F on a report card; a fight with a roommate; a difficult conversation with parents/friends/loved ones/siblings/the barista; the death of someone close; these are all scars.
Just like physical scars, these scars teach us lessons and tell our stories. However, it seems to me that God forms us most in our scars. We cry out for that relationship to be restored, for that job to come, for understanding at the loss of life, for wisdom on how to speak truth in love. Prayer seems to be heightened during these times. We learn more about ourselves, about others and most importantly about God. These scars form who God is making us to be. Scars are the evidence of growth and healing in our lives.
The scars are what Jesus shows to his disciples after the resurrection:
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”The scars of the crucifixion did not disappear after resurrection. They confirmed that Jesus died and rose again. They confirmed that Jesus bore for us the punishment of sin for our sake. Jesus' scars prove that our scars too will heal.
...and [he]said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:36-39, 46, 47)
Monday, July 6, 2009
Two weeks into owning a puppy and I must say, it is much harder than I could ever have thought. Oh, I've had dogs before and we even got them as puppies, but let's be honest, I didn't do the work. Yes, the work. My mom did. I was at school for the bulk of the day and would come home to play with the puppy, nap with the puppy and whatever else fun you do with a puppy. I didn't pick up it's poop though. Or clean up it's pee. Or walk it multiple times a day. Or discipline it for chewing on everything from my hands to the carpet.
Walking Hailey daily has proved to be good for both her and me. She gets some exercise of both her legs and nose. I get rest when she comes home and sleeps afterward. Every time I'm out though, someone stops me and coos "She's so cute!" There are two boys on my street that freak out about her every time she comes down the street. They sit down and let her lick them and they love it. "She's so cute!" People will cross the street to exclaim, "She's so cute!" She is so cute, but that's only half the puppy picture.
The other half is picking up her poop when on walks and when she decides to poop in the house. The getting up in the middle of the night to let her out, because she can't hold her bladder all night. The nights where she cries in her crate all night and you don't sleep at all. The work that goes into taking care of her. Training her. Caring for her. Loving her. It's work and it's not always joyous.
I realized that this is a lot like the Christian life. The work behind the appearance. The picking up of poop behind being cute. The dealing with sin in private and displaying grace in public. Too often these are separated and not lived out. The poop-scooping is hidden. Sometimes it's just left to stink and attract flies. Too often we just put forth our cuteness and hide the crap. I've become convinced recently, though, that we shouldn't bisect our lives in such a way. But that we are to live genuinely bearing our sins publicly to one another to display the grace of Christ more fully.
After all Hailey can't separate her cuteness from her poopiness, why should we?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
I uncapped my current homebrew- a personal recipe- which combines the toasty malts of a brown ale with the ever-present hoppiness of an IPA. It's alcohol content hovers somewhere around 9%. It's a big beer and I'm not sure it's completely ready for drinking quite yet.
I have two label designs that need an opinion behind them. One I did and the other, my design school friend, Chris, did. I won't say which is which. Just tell me which one you like better.
Friday, May 8, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, Micall and I headed out west to Seattle. I met her family and we had a great time tasting wine, watching the Mariners, going to Mars Hill and getting overwhelmed at the Market. A great time.
The second shot is out my window in the evening while I was reading. The light was really nice in the evening. The weather here in Chicago is great right now.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I've been thinking through what it'll take to fight against habitual sin in my life and I came up with the following acronym: STOPP.
S- STOP. Fairly straight forward, just stop.
T- THINK. It seems that when we get into the mode of sinning, we stop thinking. So think. Think about what you're doing. Think about the last time you did it. Think about how you felt. Think about the consequences. Were there any? Should there have been? Think about what you should be doing instead of sinning.
O- OBSERVE. Look at your surroundings. How did you get here? Back away from your single-mindedness and observe all that is happening at that moment.
P- PRAY. Sure, it should be first, but it never happens that way. Pray for deliverance from your sin. Pray for strength to endure. Pray that God would bring your sin to light and that you may be experience freedom from these chains.
P- PERSEVERE. That's what's promised to you- perseverance. Oh I'll quote it: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
This is no tried and true method, but hopefully a help to get your outward sinful actions to cease, while you work on your inner struggles that cause that sin. I actually haven't even had the opportunity to test STOPP out since I thought of it. But that's a good thing.
If you have other ways that have helped you overcome sin in your lives, let us know in the comments.
Monday, May 4, 2009
An impressive bunch today, mainly from people that I know personally on one level or another.
NOMO first grabbed me when I went to see some friends perform at Schuba's last fall. The most succinct way to describe them is "hot horns." A mixture of jazz, funk and Caribbean rhythms, NOMO kicks you in the eardrums and you like it. Their new album, Invisible Cities, Pitchfork gives an 8. It's some impressive beats, so don't miss them.
This is a long live session, so put your earphones, click play and get to work.
My buddies that were performing at Schuba's? Cains and Abels. They put out a new album recently and it sounds really good. In fact, their so impressive, David's dog, Simon, sings right along with them–even when David's voice is just an mp3 on iTunes. I can't find anything of theirs to post up here, but you can listen to them over at MySpace.
Bob Dylan. Well, so I don't know him personally–on any level–but I picked up his new album Together Through Life. Pitchfork gave it a mediocre 5.4, but it's a good blues-based album from an essential American artist.
Finally, someone else I have had no personal interaction with ever, William Basinski. However, I was reading this morning about his album The Disentegration Loops. Tape recordings of Muzak made back in the 80s, he decided to transfer them to the digital format on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. As he was doing so, two things happened. First, as the tape passed over the head, flakes began to fill the air as the tapes had decomposed during their time on the shelf. Second, and more notably, Basinski starred out the window of his loft to see the Twin Towers crumble before his eyes, filling the NYC skyline with flakes of itself. He was supposed to have a job interview in the Towers later that day. You'll have to go to Pitchfork to hear this one too, but it's so worth the trip.
Don't forget about Steve McCoy's Music Monday; he always brings something good to the table.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Since the weather has been warming up some, I've began to walk to and from my girlfriend's apartment. Usually the return is late in the evening, but the 15 minute walk gives me a good time to think and pray.
It's interesting to see what is going on at that time of night. The bars, which you can't smoke in, have people standing outside getting in their nicotine fix for the next half hour. The bar below one of the apartments I looked at is blaring ridiculously loud music, which makes me ever grateful that I didn't live there. Dominick's is pretty empty. All the other businesses are shut down too.
This seems to be when the wildlife of Chicago picks up. At about 11:45pm the birds were going nuts on the final block to my apartment. So much so that I pulled out my iPhone and began to record them.
I was amazed at the amount of activity they were carrying on this late at night in this section of the city oblivious to all the other noises of the city.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Solomon in Proverbs 31:4-31
An excellent wife who can find?Victor Hugo in Les Miserables:
She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself  with strength
and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
Since her first appearance, the reader perhaps remembers something of this huge Thénardiess–for such we shall call the female of this species–tall, blond, red, fat, brawny, square, enormous, and agile; she belonged, as we have said, to the race of those colossal wild women who pose at fairs with paving-stones hung in their hair. She did everything around the house, the beds, the rooms, the washing, the cooking; and generally did just as she pleased. Cosette ws her only servant–a mouse in the service of an elephant. Everything trembled at the sound of her voice, windows, and furniture as well as people. Her broad face was covered in freckles, like the holes in a skimming ladle. She had a beard. She had the look of a market porter dressed in petticoats. She swore splendidly; she prided herself on being able to crack a nut with her fist. Apart from the novels she had read, which at times produced odd glimpses of the affected lady under the ogress, it would never have occurred to anyone to say: That's a woman. This Thénardiess was a cross between a whore and a fishwife. To hear her speak, you would say this was a cartman; if you saw her handle Cosette, you would say this was the hangman. When at rest, a tooth protruded from her lips.