Derek Johnson Muses

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August Daze and Winds of Change

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Seward Square…

The turning of the calendar to August marked the three month anniversary of my move into my new home. Three months is a season, so a new chapter has been written and something has changed in my head. I can’t wait to find out what that is.

Walking around my new neighborhood is different because of the heat and the trails don’t feel as wide open. Instead, I walk down to the square and sit read or just watch for people. I’m surprised more people aren’t around the square in the evening, but I suppose if there were more people there, I wouldn’t feel like sitting there and reading.

I always enjoy seeing children and young people hanging out and playing around the square, or on the street outside my house. I wonder if the teenagers are dying to get out of this cracker-jack town like I was when I was their age. (Hope their plans for that go better than mine did.) Sitting out there watching the kids from a bench I wonder to myself if I would have been better off leaving this place.

I had grand plans for leaving this place in high school. I didn’t talk about them with most people but simply went on thinking that I would find a new place to call home, because I knew in my heart this wasn’t my home. I still don’t feel like Seward is my home, even if all visual evidence speaks to the contrary.

Even recently, I still feel inside that God is calling me to leave Seward. I’ve seen evidence to that in the last year, but no path has come together, and given my history, I feel I shouldn’t leave this town without certain things in place. But God is still telling me that He has plans for me elsewhere in this world. Maybe I’m just coming up with this stuff as a way to blame my problems on circumstances. Even if I leave this town, I’m still the same person with the same problems, and I can’t expect everything to magically change. But maybe if I don’t expect everything to change, I will make the most of a move…, oh forget it, I’m reasoning this all out.

Road Downtown...

Road Downtown…

Writing has not come as easily this summer. Maybe I have not been putting as many good things into my head, maybe I need more meaningful interactions and clear some things off my schedule. I do spend more time into editing, to see that the hours invested writing projects don’t go to waste. but I can see things in my past that I left unresolved. At the time, it was the easiest thing in the world not to do anything about certain things, but they have caught up to me now. It’s time to take action.

Good. Working on it.

So let me say this first: I believe in the Lutheran teachings about good works, that they flow from the heart of faith only, and that we can’t consciously do good works. I believe that, I really do. But I still have a question.

When I started going to St. John, I wasn’t really involved in anything. I had a lot of time on my hands, so I began helping with the tape ministry, welcomers, and serving on worship committee for the sole reason that I was bored and wanted something to do around church. I didn’t really care about the people who were getting the tapes or I was helping into church. Okay, that is not really true. Technically, I do care about people who are shut-in and in the nursing home. I’d have to be a pretty cold guy not too.

But those good works, like a number of my good works were done simply because they were right in front of me and I just didn’t want to be the bad guy. I wanted to be the bad who once in a while did something not as terrible. Does that make my good works a little less good? Well, any way I answer that question, I’ll end up saying that my good works came from me.

That’s really part of the practical problem with the Lutheran doctrine on good works. Said doctrine states that good works flow from faith, that they are the work of the Holy Spirit, and that even if we try, our good works are just filthy rags. Even when we are thinking we do a good work, it becomes soiled because we are always sinking in our sinful motivation. Perhaps my good works out of apathy reflect this to a degree. My problem with this doctrine is, how do you go out after hearing it and do anything for God, if you know that what you do will ultimately just get soiled by your sin? It’s like the problem with inception Arthur points out to Saito in Christopher Nolan ‘s movie: if you tell someone not to think about elephants, they’ll just think about elephants. If you tell a Christian that good works only flow from faith and have nothing to do with himself, won’t the Christian automatically just do good works because he was told that good works don’t come from himself?

I’m not sure how to answer that, other than to say there’s no good or perfect way to live in this fallen, sorrowful world. Trust whatever certainty you have to Christ, and seek His forgiveness and image. The sheep in the parable didn’t know their good works, so I don’t worry if I can’t know mine.

Christmas is Coming…Wait, that Sounds Foreboding

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3 hours into first big snow fall of winter 2012-2013

I am grateful I went advent service this morning instead of tonight-well, I couldn’t have gone this evening anyway, given that the first big snow of the year has started. As of right now, I’m packed in; time to get a photo show ready for the Noyes Focus room in February.

In the business of Blue River Hybrids, Christmas is time to close the office for a week and take a break from the fall test sample-grind. In my world, the only luxury of the Christmas season are the Starbucks seasonal lattes I enjoy. The world’s Christmas, for the most part, is a world that I am oblivious too. Every couple of years, I jump on a sale or two, but sales are for suckers.

It’s not intentional. For the most part, I lead a modest life, and the season of Christmas doesn’t alter that. I will buy gifts for my immediate family at the gallery (plug-Noyes Art Gallery offers a number of great gifts, and they are all originals), and I’ll give some people my pictures as presents. But if you were going to give me a gift and can’t decide, donate the money to a charity that helps needy families or feeds children, or to a missions society in my name. Tom Unger, you may have Christmas solved.

And I don’t care for how Christmas always seems to be celebrated two weeks before it actually happens. While it hasn’t been as bad this year, the networks have been trotting out Christmas programming the day after Halloween over the past five years. With school programs being moved up to December 17, Christmas feels over before it even arrives at times. Please, everyone go to Facebook and like Occupy Advent.

Over these next couple weeks, my family will eventually come back and leave. I’ll make some cookies and few other good meals. My father’s two brothers will cover for a meal, or we will go over there. We’ll exchange gifts, and may have some extra snow. At church, I’ll have some extra duties for Worship Committee, as we will be down to one service with few ushers over the next couple of weeks. Christmas doesn’t feel huge for me; it just feels like a big message in a small world.

In mid-December, I choose to live in Advent rather than look forward to Christmas. The picture in my mind isn’t garlands or trimmed trees, but of repentance. We studied Philippians 4 this  past Sunday in Bible class, and two words struck me: Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice” and his commendation of peace to the believers. At church this morning, Pastor Bruick finished our advent series on notable births, including Benjamin and Obed. Both themes welded themselves together: every birth is a time to rejoice and a time for peace, how much more so the birth of Christ! Thanks be to God!

(Christmas meditation)

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