Monday, December 17, 2012


I'm currently reading Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. Manning's Abba's Child was an incredibly influential book in the development of my faith and also provided me with a quotation that I ultimately had tattooed on my arm, a constant reminder of grace, the thing I should be most grateful for in my life and the thing I should also be most willing to give freely. Ruthless Trust seems to be just the right message at the right time in my life, much like Abba's Child was at the time. Manning's writing is beautiful, truthful, humble and hewn from pain and an intimate knowledge of brokenness and grace. This anecdote has been in my head for days:

"When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at "the house of the dying" in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, "And what can I do for you?" Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.
     "What do you want me to pray for?" she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: "Pray that I have clarity."
     She said firmly, "No, I will not do that." When he asked her why, she said, "Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of." When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, "I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.""

As human beings, we crave clarity. Whether it be reasons or explanations for the events in our life, or whether it be the affirmation of being told, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," we have a deep need to know with some degree of certainty that we are headed down the right path. For those of us who choose to believe in God, He is the most profound, unimaginably comprehending being in our life. Therefore, it is from Him Who we most greatly desire clarity.

I have heard the voice of God before. It was not a booming voice in the dead of night. It has been an ethereal feeling I had when going about my day to day. It has been the smile of families in a poor neighborhood. It has been a deep knowing peace. It has been a series of events constructed that led me to know I was in the right place. It's been not hearing with my ears, but hearing with my soul and mind an inaudible but penetrating voice.

I've been listening for the voice of God a lot lately and I haven't been hearing much. Part of the reason I have been listening so closely for him because I have been waiting for confirmation that I have made good decisions. Like John in the preceding story, I want clarity. I, and I think many others like me, relate God's silence to failure. We see God as a father who is often disappointed in us and whose stern, wordless looks confirm our failures.

This is not God. God is a loving father who shines light on us simply through turning his face in our direction. His radiance is so great that we're best off if we can only see His back. A mentor advised me that God is just silent sometimes and these moments provide us with opportunities to build our trust up in Him. Sometimes God speaks to us and sometimes He trusts us to live life for His Glory. The very least we can do is return the favor. Seeking clarity is putting the cart before the horse. If we yearn to seek implicit and enduring trust in God, clarity will come.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


No, not the story by Ayn Rand. For better or worse, sometimes songs just resonate with me. I heard this song about a billion times and it never really did much for me. On the billion and first, though, it became my anthem. I'm not quite sure why I love it so much, but I do. There are a couple lines that I think a lot of us can identify with from time to time. Just try turning it on loud and not singing along and dancing. Fast forward to the two minute mark to get to the music.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Perspective Change

There are many facts in life, some are good and some are bad. Regardless of their nature, we must accept them. However, we have a choice which ones we would like to embrace and allow to shape our countenance. It's best if we embrace the good.

This song came on the radio this morning. I've heard it dozens of times. There was something different about it this morning. I've always heard it as a statement of devotion and commitment to another person, a love song to which we do not know the end. Today, the message was different. As I drove down the road singing the lyrics, I chose to view it as a prayer to God. I think it's better this way.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Thirty is an interesting number. It's not that big, but it's not too small either. When children first start learning to count, it's a number they struggle to get to and often mispronounce. As I was talking to a friend, he submitted that the main difference between thirty and twenty-nine, and what makes it vastly superior, is that it is divisible by 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 15 and 30 while twenty-nine is merely a prime number. He may be right in his assessment, but I am prone to wax nostalgic at times such as these, so I'm going to briefly assume there is a little more to the number thirty than that.

30 years ago, I was being delivered and placed in the loving hands of my mother and father.
30 months ago, I was packing up all my belongings to start a new life in California.
30 weeks ago, I was in Arizona, building homes for Apaches.
30 days ago, I was fighting to preserve what I believed was the most important thing in my life.
30 hours ago, I was at work emailing friends and partners all over the world.
30 minutes ago, I was on a run dreaming up this post.
30 seconds ago, I was probably typing that 30 days line.

As I look at the points in time above, there is one that jumps out to me more than any other. My life certainly started thirty years ago, but my life as it is now began when I made the decision to take an internship with Amor Ministries, building homes for the needy in Mexico. This was the most difficult choice I had made in my life to that point. I went to San Diego to serve with Amor extremely excited and hopeful. I was convinced that I was aligning myself closer with God's will for my life. It was incredibly difficult leaving so many people and things back in Virginia, but the fruits of my decision came immediately. I moved in with Drewmate, who instantly became my best friend. I started my internship with Nick who also became my best friend (I also have a couple of best friends from back home). Flavin, Bobby, Jon, Blair, Dan, Jeff and so many others came along side me and led me as well. God blessed me at every turn. I have never felt at home in a place so quickly. I learned to truly serve others. Mexico was beautiful, and the people even more so. Every week was a new adventure as I took unique groups down south to build homes for poor families. The experiences were so impactful and frequent that I barely had time to process all of the wonderful things that God was doing in my life. I fell in love more deeply, richly and authentically than I ever had in my life. And just when I thought the blessings were over, I found beautiful mountain bike trails in Mexico. And then there was the music that enriched my life so much: Mike Barnet, Mumford, Bon Iver, Florence, MGMT, Fleet Foxes, Isa, Gotye, The Temper Trap, Future of Forestry, Sufjan Stevens and The Black Keys are just a few artists featured in the vastly improved soundtrack of my life. I was truly at peace.

Then came the hardest decision of my life. I had fully hit my stride and was totally happy in San Diego. I loved what I did, I loved the people I was surrounded by and I loved where I lived. Despite all this, I believed God was asking more of me. An opportunity arose with Amor to manage a remote location in Arizona, building homes on an Apache reservation. After much prayer, consideration and counsel, I decided to apply for the position. The truth is, I wondered why I put so much consideration into this decision, as I believed I had no chance at being hired for the job. Amazingly enough, I was given the opportunity to take over the program. Within a couple months, I was once again on the move, to live in Phoenix and build homes on the Apache reservation in San Carlos, AZ. I was wonderfully taken care of by my boss, Andy, and his wife and daughter, Erin and Avery. They gave me a family at a time when I really needed one. After living with them for about two months, I moved in with my new roommates, Colin and Ryan. These guys are total bros. My experience living with them couldn't have been more different than living with Drewmate and Nick, but they fed a totally different part of my soul and I love them so much (Cardigans at the Dark Horse!). The work on The Rez was much more challenging and really stretched me in ways that I wanted to be stretched as an employee, man and believer. I was growing and being challenged. Oh yeah, and Florence released a new album and that was cool too.

Then came the hardest decision of my life. I felt so much allegiance and love for Amor and it's mission, but my mother was getting sicker. I was consistently hearing things that made me wonder how much longer she would be around. I had a Christmas visit with the family when she spent the entire time in the hospital, then she had another three month stint in shortly afterward. I didn't want to leave San Carlos or all the wonderful people and places I loved in the southwest. I had to do what I felt was right for my family at the time, so I decided to leave Amor. About this time a close friend, Justin, told me about an opening working with international savings groups for HOPE International. The job seemed like a dream: International microeconomic development. I would get to travel all over the world spreading The Gospel and equipping people to better their socioeconomic conditions. The icing on the cake is that HOPE's headquarters was located just 25 miles from where my parents lived. I applied and interviewed, again with very little confidence that I would get the job. However, it was offered to me. Leaving Amor and the southwest seemed like one of the hardest things I could ever be asked to do. Once again, I packed all my things and with Nick at my side, made a two and a half day trip from Phoenix to PA (I finished with Amor on a Friday and started at HOPE the following Monday).

Of all my transitions, the one back to the east has been the toughest. I thought that with my experience in missions and accounting, I would hit the ground running in microeconomic development. However, it's been a little bit tougher than I expected. This sector is full of incredibly gifted, intelligent people who I am fortunate to be around and with whom I struggle to keep pace. However, I have joined a wonderful new family at HOPE. I also have my actual family with whom I now get to live and see every day. Since arriving back, my mother's health has improved considerably. I was also able to be around when my father suffered from a mild heart attack. Still, I'm struggling to find that feeling that I had when I was driving my beat up Tacoma in Mexico, helping teenagers and church groups build homes for the poor. Life's not always about how you feel though. Peace is often fleeting. It's the decisions you make and how they affect others that matter far more than how you feel about those decisions.

So here I am, watching the clock tick down to thirty. An age that just a month ago didn't matter to me in the least, now seems more significant every second. What have I learned? Time gives perspective. It also gives experience. These should add up to clear lessons. However, sometimes a glut of the two can make life very confusing. I've certainly had a lot of both in just under three years. I don't know if I've made all the right decisions and I don't know what's going to come of all this. What I do know is that there is redemption and opportunity available in every step of life. I can also say that I'm not always proud of the man I am but I am proud of the man I'm becoming. What else have I learned in the past thirty years? I don't know, I guess I'll take thirty more. And maybe another thirty after that. I'm a tough study.

One thing I do know is that I am so thankful to all the people that have gotten me through these past crazy thirty months. My life is so much richer for you. The soundtrack is better. The scenery, from Mexico, to the Arizonan high desert, to Haiti, India, California, The Philippines, Alabama, Virginia and Pennsylvania, has been incredible. To my family, all the people in this post, those that supported me at Amor, my old coworkers at Amor,  all the other friends along the way (Emily, Stacey, Jessica, Danielle, Bailey, Scotty Does, Matt, Bobby, Nicole, Stephanie, Karen and so many others), and my new family at HOPE, Thank you. God has shown himself to me through you and I hope that in this way I will be blessed to be a blessing. Cheers.

A tip of the glass.
Now picture me fully bearded (It is no shave November), running full steam into the future with this song blaring in my headphones, just as I was earlier this evening.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wise Words

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!

-Abraham Lincoln, September 30, 1859

Friday, November 16, 2012

Eating Balut

I've been in the Philippines for the last six days. I've met some incredible people and seen some breathtaking sights. Let's face it though, my long-winded ramblings don't necessarily produce a lot of page views and I'm very sleepily laying in my hotel bed. So, here's a video of me eating a balut. Balut is a partially germinated duck egg. They are boiled for about thirty minutes and then served, half yolk and half developed bird. There were definitely organs in mine. Crack the egg open and throw a little salt in. Drink the "syrup". Unrap the balut. Throw a little vinegar and salt on that and you're ready to go! Thanks to my awesome hosts who didn't let this opportunity slip by. Note, to self: turn the phone sideways to get that great 16:9 aspect ratio Apple keeps talking about rather than a tall sliver.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mumford & Sons Babel Liveblog

I have a "to do" list this week. I am getting more and more committed to checklists, particularly in their "to do" format. I wrote on the list that I needed to post twice this week. Because I take checklists very seriously, this is a task I must complete despite the fact that no one will read this because I've been inactive here for so long. I am also extremely busy right now, so etching out the time to think and write is very difficult. However, I have a God send today. The new Mumford & Sons album has hit Spotify, meaning I can listen to it absolutely free (a huge development considering my current, tight finances). I'm going to listen to this album right now, while I work. I am going to liveblog the experience, thereby killing three birds with one stone. I will blog, work, and listen to Mumford all at the same time. This liveblog will also be interrupted by meetings.

12:28 Pressing play, I am currently eating pork chops and scalloped potatoes with apple sauce. They are delicious (Thanks Grandma!)

12:28 Banjo - Yes, this is Mumford

12:29 Marcus is coming out with guns blazing, lots of energy, big life concepts: love, loss, self-awareness, grace, choice, etc. etc.

12:30 "I cry Babel, Babel!" +1 for getting the album name shout-out out of the way

12:32 Whispers in the Dark - Ambient beginning like "Awake my Soul," Banjo! Kick drum! Holiness and devils mentioned, hooray for religious imagery! Mumford is back!

12:34 Love, lessons, coming home, serving the Lord. Oh Mumford, how I love you and your recurring themes

12:34 "I wonder if I blew my only chance!" You guys remember that song "Little Lion Man?" That you heard on the radio like a billion times? I'm not suggesting you listen to it. There are too many f-bombs. This is a family blog.

12:35 And "I will wait" begins. I heard this song about six months ago. I love it even more within the context of an album. I have decided that this task is impossible. I have too much to say (Weird!?). I cannot blog, listen and work at the same time. Liveblog will resume after work.

12:36 I like what I hear so far, it will be very tough to restrain myself from listening, but I'm on a DMB kick, so I'll listen to some of their catalog to get me through the day.

(The following Tuesday) As Calvin & Hobbes say, The Days are Just Packed. I've been going nonstop since I stopped listening to Mumford. On Wednesday night, I drove up to NYC for a conference. I squeezed in a little dinner with Flavin (#3) and managed quick tours of downtown and Times Square on Thursday night. As I ascended the steps at the Courtland subway station, I looked up to see the new World Trade Center in its partially completed glory. Incredible.

This is what freedom looks like.

Walking around with Andrew was awesome, he showed me the NYSE, Wall Street and The Treasury, where Washington was sworn in as our first president. We had a great time looking at old buildings, having burgers and beers, catching up and even sneaking in a couple snarky comments about the Occupy Wall Streeters (Yes, they’re still doing that. He’s so at home working back in New York and I’m so happy for him and Joanna.

I drove home from NYC Friday evening. Saturday I spent just catching up on my personal life, spending some time on skype with my lady friend and catching up with our old family friend who visited with us, Mary Laurenzano. Sunday was church, expense reports, miscellaneous office work and prepping to go to India.

That’s right, India. Just under two weeks ago, I got the awesome, surprise news that I would be visiting India for work. This morning I got up and caught a train back to NYC, where I made my way to JFK and I am now onboard with India Air, on my way to Hyderabad, India. Crazy, huh?
With no onboard wi-fi, I’m taking the opportunity to unplug from my e-mail. I’m getting into a book or two and I watched both Inception and The Hunger Games. Now, I feel ready to write, so I can finally crack back into this Mumford album. No, I really have not listened to a note of it since I last wrote. I’m serious about this live blogging thing. For clarity’s sake, I’m writing this according to EST, although I believe I’m currently 30,000 feet above Norway. Let’s get started back up with, “I will wait”

9:53 PM  I Will Wait – Feels like it beckons back to “Roll Away Your Stone”

9:55 This guy writes love and renewal so well. It seems he is always patiently waiting for something and grateful for the opportunity to do so. Patience is a virtue I wish I possessed more of.

9:55 More images of being helped along and greeted by loved ones

9:56 “So tame my flesh, and fix my eyes” – Incredible line. As the chorus repeats at the end, this is the kind of song that gets in your bones. If I were not on a plane right now, I’d be screaming in unison with them.

9:59 Holland Road – This one takes it a little slower. The first one of these we have on this album. It has a little “White Blank Page” feel to it. However, Marcus seems to understand the heartbreaker in this scenario a little bit better.

10:00 We got a little more banjo and kick drum. Man, he is using the heck out of the word calloused in this one. Tempo hasn’t sped up, but the songs developed a little more power. And . . . Horns! Classic chorus singalong type end.

10:02 We’re hearing a little more redemption again, “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll still believe

10:03 Ghosts That We Knew – This is another one that I heard months ago and absolutely fell in love with. This is the quieter, mournful song I was expecting Holland Road to be at the beginning.

10:04 One thing these guys understand is that relationships can be beautiful and intimate and totally 
broken all at the same time. I love the honesty and truth in that thought.

10:06 Hope is a wonderful, God-given gift. I love this song.

10:09 “The ghosts that we knew made us black and all blue, but we’ll live a long life, and the ghosts that we knew will flicker from view and we’ll live a long life.” I love this image of redemption.

10:10 Lover of the Light – I’m not sure what to think of this, I would say it sounds legitimately different from a lot of Mumford songs, despite the banjo.

10:11 Honestly, I’m feeling a little meh on this one. That’s alright, it’s still pretty decent and I pretty much love four out of the first six songs

10:15 Lover’s Eyes – Another one with a little more ambient beginning. And the vocals come in with a quieter instrumental start. I’m really kind of hoping this one stays this way.

10:16 No heavy banjo strum yet. Wait, nope, there it is. I’m really enjoying this song though.

10:17 They’re talking a lot about ghosts in this album

10:18 “I’ll walk slow, take my hand, help me on my way” – Again, I love reaching out and counting on friends/God, this is another thing Mumford writes well.

10:19 Ooooooohhh, Banjo solo! Melikes.

10:20 Reminder – “Without her I’m lost, my love don’t fade away” I feel like this is a little different variant on typical themes.

10:22 This is like a legit love song. Wow, that was short

10:22 Hopeless Wanderer – Alright, I’m gonna be honest. This is ruining the album for me. I already have a hypercritical streak in me, just ask anyone in the entire world that knows me. I don't want to critique my favorite artist's new album anymore. It takes away from being able to just sit back and enjoy it. And this post is long enough (Too Long)

This is the way it’s gonna be: Based on 9 of 15 songs (I got the deluxe version, because more Mumford), this album gets a 12 out of 10, 6 out of 5 stars, three thumbs up (an emphatic double eyebrow raise) and a recommendation to buy. This is not really anything new from the West London quartet. Similar instrumentation and themes and the impeccable writing we’ve come to expect appear throughout. I’m partially grading it on the credit they’ve already earned with me and the fact that I know I will fall more in love with this album as time rolls on. Call them the Everclear of indy folk if you'd like, but if you loved it the first time, you’re gonna love it again. Thanks, Mumford.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Last Ride Home

Flavin dons his wayfarers for the final carpool home.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Recently, I've been given the opportunity to put my accounting brain to use a little bit at work. Despite my departure from the field, I still have an analytical mind that deals well with numbers and accounting concepts. I've been able to enjoy exercising this part of my brain recently because it's gone largely unused for so long.

For some reason, one concept that keeps coming to mind over and over again is that of goodwill. In accounting parlance, goodwill essentially represents the residual value of a company after all of it's physical assets have been stripped away. An appropriate way to illustrate goodwill is through the sale of an organization. Suppose I have an accounting firm and it's physical assets are a $100,000 building and $50,000 worth of computer hardware and software and desks, chairs, etc. Now let's say I was able to sell my firm for $225,000. The $75,000 that a buyer was willing to pay above and beyond the value of the physical assets of my firm is goodwill. This $75,000 represents the positive reputation the business has in the community, client lists, and other such intangible assets.

Now, the point.

I write a blog. Well, I used to write a blog. Now I possess a blog that I have failed to update in months. Seeing as how there are no physical assets related to this blog, it's sole value is found in goodwill. This goodwill is embodied in all the people that come back day after day to read and enjoy what I have shared. I am fairly convinced that after my repeated writing droughts, I have lost anyone that meets such a description. This leaves my blog utterly and completely worthless.

Putting your time into something you know is worthless can be discouraging, but I don't want to have my name on something that's worthless, so I'm going to try to get some of you back.

I don't want this to be one of those posts where I apologize that I haven't written in awhile and promise to write more.  I've already written that post a few times and seen it countless times on other blogs. Truth is, I've been crazy busy so I can't blame myself too much. There is some really cool stuff going on in my life right now though, and I'm hoping that I'm going to have the discipline to share as much of it as possible here. So, check back soon. Maybe I will have added a little more that's worth reading, and we can increase the value of my little corner of the webernets.

In the meantime, watch these videos, more awesomeness from Gotye and a sweet group that covered him:

Homeboy goes a little hard on the chorus, but this is a ridiculous cover. Love it.

An admittedly sardonic but an awesome depiction of the way we let life and the dull, pressing routines therein captivate us and bum us out. I'm amazed that this guy has time for social commentary with all the time he spends making incredible music and accompanying videos.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Star Discrimination,you.may.not.carry.a.gun.into.jerry' Also,,no.shirt,no.service.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Striving to be Consumed

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
     Lies in the choice of pyre of pyre—
     To be redeemed from fire by fire.

    Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
     We only live, only suspire
     Consumed by either fire or fire.

-T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding, IV

0, 0, 25, 190.8