Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rough Draft: My Sojourn

The following is the rough draft of a reflection essay I'm writing to be published in Travelogue, the quarterly, in-house magazine of my church, Sojourn Community Church. If you have some feedback/critique for me, make sure to make it by the end of the day tomorrow, July 1, as my deadline is Friday.

My Sojourn
by Paul Butterworth
Hurt, fear, and hope are an odd triad of emotions, but as I experienced my first worship gathering at The 930, I felt all three. The hurt had come in with me – I was broken, my last church experience having ended in disaster. The fear was also my own – I had grown up in church (“over-churched” to be sure) and I was afraid of what lay ahead of me, the awkward pains of making new friends and learning new rhythms.  But hope – hope was there too, and as the liturgy of the service progressed, hope began to assert itself with greater force. The songs, the Scripture reading, the sermon, all pointed to some great reassurance that I couldn’t explain.
            Afterwards, I tracked down the tall bearded man who had led us in the readings. He introduced himself as Chad Lewis. I told Chad that I wanted to be part of the church, but I was hurting. With gentle strength in his voice, he replied, “Sojourn is a place where you can come and you can be hurting.” Hope was rising higher.
            It all began to happen very quickly after that as I encountered the Gospel in Community and change occurred. I joined a Community Group and God began to give us a love for each other, a love that required a lot of forgiveness and grace as we lived life together. I began to serve on the Connect Team and serving my church made me realize that this truly was my church.  I wasn’t some houseguest; I was part of a family. Hurt and fear, like every sin/emotion, lurk like monsters beneath the water, hungry to destroy.  Hope, however, is still stronger, anchored in the reality that Jesus is changing everything, including my brothers and sisters and me.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Damien Jurado and Me, Circa 2004

I made a last minute decision to hit up the latest hot show to play The 930 Art Center here in Louisville, KY.  Although I've seen The Parade Schedule Close to 10 times (not really exaggerating), tonight they opened for an indie icon Damien Jurado.  Although I hadn't really listened to much of his stuff (or so I thought), I knew it would be quality and indeed, his first show ever in Louisville was heartbreakingly beautiful.  (Emphasis on the heartbreak. Jurado's songs tend to be about lost love, death, and lost love.)

After playing a solid set, he dismissed his road band and continued solo acoustic. I enjoyed every song, even though I didn't know them. At the risk of sappiness, some brought me near tears, or at least, made me want to want to cry.  (That's not a typo.)  He made the typical, "I've got two more," remark and proceeded to play a song I did know, a song I first heard so, so long ago.  "I fell in love with a girl of nineteen // A black haired girl, I called Abilene // Young girl, where's your husband? // Sadly, she replied, I do not have one // Then it's you I'll marry, with your parent's permission."

I knew those lyrics.  My mind was immediately in 2004.  Before Facebook, before MySpace, we had Xanga, one of the first easy-access blogging platforms.  Mine still exists, and no, I won't tell you what was my address. Some things are best left buried. (Also, Google won't help. I locked the account.) In addition to ranting about whatever we wanted to rant about (a tradition continued by bloggers today), we could connect in "blogrings" and give each other "eProps." Guttenberg's legacy is unthreatened, I assure you.  Especially as a Christian, it was "encouraging" to read Spiritual blog posts (namely by the opposite sex) and be thankful that the Lord was working in their life.  You would then express that work of the Spirit with the aforementioned "eProps."  If you really made a friend, you might add them on your AIM.

So to cut a long story short, this one such blog buddy had this song on her profile.  If you went to her page, the first verse would loop over and over again. It was wistful and beautiful, pretty much the same emotions that go into internet relationships today.  Xanga would burn out and before long, the Facebook revolution was upon us. Not that much would change, though - the interface just got better.

So, hearing those lyrics tonight, memories of 2004 came flooding back.  I am profoundly thankful that I'm not who I was in 2004 anymore. I'm so so thankful for Gospel change in my life.  Yet, I can reflect, as Twitter and Facebook make their promises to better integrate my life and put the world at my fingertips, that there is nothing new under the sun. The same hollowness and emptiness that I sought to stave away with Xanga blogging... well, it doesn't react any better to our modern Social Media, either.  I'm not who I was... nor am I who I'm going to be.  I titled my Xanga "A Pilgrim's Psalter," subtitle, "A Sojourner's Song." Honestly, that's still apt. Let the Gospel journey continue.