no, we can't go back to normal.

anyway, what is normalcy that we should idealize it so?

but originality is so difficult. it takes so much and leaves so little... and besides people will give you all manner of funny looks if you go your own way (especially creative people). so don't go there, stop fiddling with these thoughts, stop dreaming up these artworks, and GET BACK TO WORK! (sorry for shouting)

oh, and this is seattle


keep on

it's amazing, really, to give up the chase; to all at once attain, and say, 'this is the end of my search.' at the end you can sigh, commend yourself for hanging in there. you can trade in contentiousness for contentment and finally just relax.

i hope you don't. future self and present others take heed - we will likely not soon have cause to get comfortable.


token christmas blog (bleh)

what can i say? i'm trapped in my retail reality this christmas eve. the shoppers are sprinting about from store to bright-lit store in search of gifts for each other. not all the shoppers, i guess. some people are playing it cool. still, a lot of people are worried about making sure that everyone else gets more things.

 i'm awash in disillusionment - with hyper-commercialism and marketable sentiment, with opportunistic ideological conflict and rhetorically charged bitterness. i'm disappointed that this holiday brings occasion for obligatory family time and guilt giving.

some people i've talked to have used the time of festivity for the advancement of their beliefs. i'm told that christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. i've had the nativity version of christmas crammed down my throat repeatedly by people who tell me that political correct-ness is taking the Christ out of christmas. that may be true, but i'm not so sure it's a bad thing.

does God really need christmas?

culture is kinda like a sandbox. (photo by janez novak)
i'm of the opinion that culture is dynamic. i try not to think of it like a solid rock that was dropped to earth by God to endure forever. culture might be more like a sandbox. everyone makes their mark, but those contirbutions are soon rearranged by others. from this perspective, the fact that less people like to associate late december with the birth of Jesus is not a moral crisis but simply a shift in culture.

sure, we can sell you nativity scenes instead of snow globes, but that doesn't mean you respect God any more. you can read luke 2 aloud together on christmas morning before tearing into a bunch of festively wrapped tokens of impulsively acquired temporal gratification. maybe culture is largely abitrary

some people celebrate the birth of Jesus, some being with family, and some buying and selling; most people under ten simply celebrate receiving presents. is there some inherent good we can do by reverting back to older traditions? getting back to the roots of the season would entail examining lots of different intertwining traditions - both "pagan" and "christian." but honestly, is getting back to the roots of christmas really necessary?

as ever,





i'm watching with wonder as a tear spills out from behind his funky purple glasses and streams down his face. revivalist preacher eddie lee todd is delivering an intensely visceral and emotionally vibrant sermon, same as always. he's wearing a plaid shirt, high-waisted dress pants and a painter cap – early fifties dress i would guess. his voice is on tempo, picking up speed and his adjectives are well chosen and well placed – this man has had a lot of practice speaking. but instead of smiling and nodding along, i'm staring at him in amazement with my mouth hanging open.

at 84, this man has been delivering similar messages to vast and varying audiences for decades on end. he's preached his way around the united states and several other countries. but this is different. we're alone in the family room and this sermon is for me. there is no way he can know the gravity of the things he's saying.

eddie lee todd lives in hemet, california. he's currently going through some hard times – his wife clara (of 64 years) has a badly injured hip and is staying in a rehabilitation center in nearby murrieta. her alzheimer-like symptoms make it difficult for her to recall who people are and what's happening around her. we call them mimi and papa. i'm pretty sure everyone does.

papa is staying in murrieta with mimi during the days and sleeping at his daughter dahna's house in adjacent temecula each night. if i had to guess, i'd say that papa's symptoms are characteristic of a person with mild alzheimer's disease; he has a very hard time recalling who people are and what is happening around him.

papa started by telling me how grateful he is that we're friends. it surprised me that he even recognized me, as that's not always the case. in everyday life, his words and mannerisms may be confused, even incoherent, but man when he preaches he's on it! the phrases swiftly tumble, concise and un-jumbled out into the room. the beauty in his manner is amplified too – he's gentle, not overbearing; he's reverent, by no means authoritarian. papa's demeanor is that of someone who's so inclined to love that he's no longer conscious of his efforts to do so.

throughout the few days i got to spend with papa that love shone through the confusion and the debilitation. some kind of strength was made perfect in his unashamed weakness.
once, while talking with jonathan and me, papa encouraged us that Jesus came to give us life, and life abundantly. “abundantly,” he repeated, “that means more than you've got room for. so make some more room.”

both jonathan and i were deeply affected by his words. we felt like that was exactly what we needed to hear. sermons are apparently no problem for his otherwise worn out mind. he can remember specific scripture references. sometimes when he would quote them, i would look over at his wife and see her mouthing the words. no doubt mimi's heard at least some of them hundreds of times.

back in the family room, papa is finishing his personal exhortation (what will likely be his last words face-to-face with me). he tells me that a soul – my soul – is worth more than the whole world. this resonates strongly with me as a part of an emerging remedy for my insecurities. still standing, he finishes his preaching and i thank him as he starts away. he's nodding and saying something like “that's alright.” suddenly he turns around and says, “that's sermon number one.”

staring up at the aging man behind the purple glasses, i wonder if he really even knows who i am. did he understand what he was saying, or were the words just flowing through, on their way from a Source to a very grateful and awestruck recipient.

papa and jonathan at the table in temecula. 


we do what we feel we must

we make meaning.
we intend and are intended at....

it's like we're building our sandcastle-selves on the shore, and the waves are intermittently interfering with our "progress." every once in a while, someone (doubtless one of marx's "comrades" or schopenhauer's "fellow sufferers") jogs on over and kicks our existence in. gee thanks, [friend, teacher, parent or ex-girlfriend], i was about to start over anyways...

we dream up new moat systems, sketching our plans on the beach. we invest time both time and hope. sometimes the waves stay distant and allow us time to build up. it's those other times when we can get all discouraged and wonder why we're playing in the sand.

what is the meaning of this photo by andrew?


lake elsinore, part 2

this is a continuation of an earlier post. cameron lemons is the fellow who made the controversial prophecy that God will judge los angeles with a catastrophic earthquake in the year 2010.

the lakeside house
the question is so hopeless and fragile: what does cameron lemons stand to lose if those critics and skeptics from the youtube comments, the churches and the streets are right, if the status quo continues, if the ground doesn’t shake by january 1st? what if he’s wrong?

respect, reputation, social credibility, a church, and a discipleship program - cam stands to lose a lot, but not quite everything.

tonight we are ninjas, secret agents. our mission is to leave a box of candy and a hastily composed personalized poem on a neighbor’s doorstep. at 11 pm, jonathan, claire and i pile out of the lemons’ minivan and creep up toward the driveway of a dark and looming house. we are holding invisible guns and humming the “mission impossible” theme. with claire posted as lookout, jonathan and i stumble up the porch steps, crouch beneath the living room window and deposit the goodies and the card on the front doorstep. back at the van, we are slamming doors and cam is pulling back out onto main street. mission accomplished.

“elving” is the practice of secretly leaving gifts and messages on the doorstep of an unsuspecting neighbor for the 11 days preceding christmas and revealing yourself to the victim(s) on day 12. the gifts increase in number each day and are generally coupled with an appropriately themed poem. cam penned tonight’s poem after a prayer meeting that ran for hours. he and his wife jenelle have been elving for years now, and now the “fellas” (the boys living in the first story of their house) and whoever else is around get to join in. cam makes a great getaway driver.

another neighborly practice that i got to witness is caroling. it seems strange to me that people really go door-to-door singing christmas songs in socal where mid-december is still warm and summery. but when the lemons took their boys (5-year-old josiah and 4-year-old jordan) along with the fellas and then ten or so guests that happened to be at their house out for caroling, the neighbors loved it. house after house was the scene for a wonderful display of community: we all sang “joy to the world,” while frenchie set up and played the djembe and jonathan backed us up on the violin. door after door opened to reveal the smiling faces of little children and their parents.

from afternoon group car washes set to soul music to 5 am prayer and bible study meetings, the people here intentionally live and do most everything together. not only an outward expression, authentic community life is really lived out here at lakeside (the nickname for the lemons’ old two-story house on lindsay street). smiles are more vibrant here.

earlier in the night while jonathan and michael were having a deep conversation at the table, i was chasing josiah and jordan from room to room while carrying baby grace. tanner sat in a nearby seat researching about jehovah’s witnesses and jenelle and claire were cooking up burritos in the kitchen.

the liveliness is no ‘faux show,’ either. i stared in amazement when the day before cam worked through an intense internal issue in the group, all the while employing respect for those who disagreed with him. he took the unusual step of consulting everyone at the table and patiently waiting for all of the frustrations to be expressed. he also followed up the discussion with at least three one-on-one talks with the people involved. i have never experienced such a strong example of care and concern from a father figure.

it goes beyond compassion, though. cam apparently sits by himself praying for hours at a time. “my husband is addicted to God like crack cocaine,” jenelle commented. his relationship with God seems to stand outside of everything else, and that might be the only thing he doesn’t stand to lose.



how can i express my experiences with clarity and honesty?

intermittently consuming motivations propel me to seek the truth at all costs. i am at once searching and reporting my findings, scratching out and re-drawing well-meant escape routes and treasure maps...

most of the time i have no idea where i am and where it is i am going. i think that in some ways this helps me to be a more objective writer. true, i can't any longer claim the embodiment of some of the more classical elements of objectivity - i have a stake in the game.

but maybe soon and very soon this world will cease to be satisfied by the rhetorical concision and detached and vague conclusions of some of its more "objective" writers and thinkers. in some ways, that kind of reporting is out of date, anyway.

a flurry of rhetorically concise questions to that effect are pervading my consciousness:

- don't we all have a stake in the everyday adventures of our fellow sufferers?

- aren't we all more or less on a journey to discover an objectively transcendent reality that we can call truth?

- is the relevance of a given point of view really enriched by the measure that the holder remains detached and "objective?"

what is objectivity?
- establishing separation, maintaining distance and perspective?
- presenting as much of an outsider point of view?
- "do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God"?

maybe all these and more. which definitions are attainable? which are inherently desirable? how much of what we do should be flexible and how much should be constant? hmmm?

we can all go back and look at our aim... but even aspirations and deep desires can be somewhat flexible...

my take on the situation is that humankind is shivering through an arctic wasteland of prolonged ignorance. our prescriptive philosophies call for more faith in the human spirit to overcome the human condition. but i don't buy it. when someone is freezing on the inside, warm blankets aren't enough. we need a furious transcendent energy. we need to be ablaze.


life in lake elsinore

snap! crackle! pop! the adrenaline rush is so suddenly so real. i can hear the power lines breaking and feel the earth crumble beneath my feet. a few blocks away the lakewater is already surging into the streets. it's happening (already happening!)...
or is it?

the house on lindsay st.
i lay here on the bottom half of a bunk bed on the second story of the hundred-year-old house on lindsay street sketching out this story. a quick look out the window confirms my deeply held suspicions - the streets of lake elsinore are quiet and undisturbed. a few cars pass, stuttering slightly at the four-way stop that my room overlooks. it's 10:28 and all is well... externally.

i came to the eclectic and largely under-resourced city of lake elsinore three days ago with my room-mate jonathan. we are students at the university of oregon in eugene, though jonathan is originally from a nearby suburb called temecula. one day jonathan's mom suggested that we go down to see his family in the area. a couple of days after finals, we hopped on a plane, and here we are.

the old two-story house that we're in belongs to jonathan's cousin cameron lemons, who's putting us up for the week. cam sincerely believes that in 2008 he received a prophecy from God - a devastating earthquake will utterly destroy the nearby city of los angeles... in the year 2010. he articulated this prophecy on youtube, where it was instantly subject to no end of skepticism and ridicule. this, of course, did not silence him. cam has remained resolute, holding on to the things he believes he has received from God largely on faith.

both the urgency of his message and the vehemence of his critics have increased as the months have passed by. this give and take is also what you might expect in a situation where someone claims to be predicting or interpreting the future; perfectly natural. however, some would say that cam has a genuine reason to be afraid - at t-15 days, the only thing shaking is the confidence of those around him. here is just a little piece of his story:

cameron lemons grew up in temecula, california, raised by his parents bob and donna (bb and dd to the grandchildren). his family was apparently nominally christian at the outset. cam remembers deciding to really follow God at age 17, and ended up studying at westmont college, where he met his wife, jenelle. he got his masters at a seminary on the east coast, and became an associate pastor at an evangelical church back in temecula. he's worked there for the last four years.

tanner has changed quite a bit since meeting cameron lemons.
cam's life is currently undergoing some pretty intense changes. he's finishing up his work in temecula at the end of the year, to move on to some new things. in addition to the earthquake prophecy, cameron also believes he has heard god telling him to leave a safe, predictable and affluent temecula and transplant his family to a poor and drug-ridden town called lake elsinore. cam, jenelle and their three kids in their new home there for fourteen months. the young couple brought with them three boys from their church in temecula - james, michael and frenchie.

"the fellas," as cam calls them, live in a room on the first floor of the lemons' new house. the fourth "fella" is tanner, a recently homeless young man who converted, cleaned up his act, and now has an enthusiastic passion for the gospel of jesus christ.

cam counts tanner among the few who have expressed a serious solidarity with the earthquake prophecy. other serious supporters include his wife jenelle and a few other pastors who have emailed him saying he received a similar prophecy. jonathan, cam's cousin and my travelling companion, is on board as well. currently a senior in music composition, at the prestigious university of oregon school of music and dance, he dedicated last spring's junior project to the prophecy, subtly entitling it "los angeles earthquake 2010: a prophecy of judgment."

jonathan reading out in front of the house.
two and a half weeks into december, cameron lemons' stance is solid. he believes that god is sending a devastating earthquake tot eh city of los angeles in judgement of sin and lawlessness, and is determined to warn as many people as he can that they are in harm's way.

actually, his views are not altogether unsupported. according to the us geological survey, southern california is due for an immense earthquake. similarly, the california geological society recently made a video predicting with certainty a catastrophic quake in the la area.

whether their perspective is scientifically or prophetically formed (and for many it's both), many people have cause to believe that the occurrence of such a disaster in los angeles is only a matter of time. so why are there so few standing with this particular pastor in his mission of proclamation?

a very solemn cameron addressed the issue in his usual humble and polite manner: it's the timeline. many who would have otherwise supported his messaage and its distribution are concerned that the man is preaching judgement in a specific chronological time-frame. still, this preacher continues to gently and lovingly spread the word. how will this all shake out, anyhow? maybe only time will tell.

jenelle, cam and the fellas.



c'mon let's be completely clear:

we have a fiery need that can't be extinguished by our desperate interactions in this world.
end of story. or the middle...