medicated spending

yesterday, for various reasons, i was feeling pretty dismal. depressed, disconnected, dejected — i’d decided that nothing was figure-outable and i was worthless and life was pretty much uninteresting and uninterested. and my feelings were backing that conclusion up, cheering me on: “yeah, yeah, that’s right, isn’t it?” “luke, trust your feelings.” depression: it’s the new black.

feelings make harsh taskmasters. for one thing, they’re entirely internal, but they screen and filter all of your incoming perceptions. so although they have absolutely no bearing on the nature and make-up and temperament of the external world, you’re stuck perceiving the external world through them, and it can be hard to convince yourself, in the moment, that the external world isn’t exactly as you *feel* it is.

think about it, though: the world is what it is, regardless how you *feel* about it. so if you feel depressed, that doesn’t mean the world is any different than when you feel, say, ecstatic. and the logical conclusion is that you shouldn’t use your feelings to make determinations about objective things, like whether or not things are good or bad, or how valuable you are, etc.

anyway, my wife graciously took stock of my mood and suggested going out and spending some time alone with the bible, trying to force another screen for the world and counter my feelings. except the first coffeeshop was closed, and the second coffeeshop was packed to the gills and not the best place to get some solitude, and ultimately i found myself, dejected and desperate, at

the record store.

now, you know where i’m at with music. i’ve just recently started listening again, but carefully, and i haven’t bought an album in over a year, and i’m not sure i’m supposed to start now. plus we’re on a budget and i’d just told the kids we couldn’t get slurpees after church because we’re trying to watch what we spend, but i thought to myself, “maybe they’ll have that dead texan album, and maybe one more, that innocence mission album, and if they do i’ll just buy them and it’ll make me feel better.” i tried to rationalize it, like, “i’m listening to an old, pirated copy of the dead texan on itunes anyway, and if i buy it i’ll just be making an honest man of myself.” also, i’ve never seen the dead texan in the used bin before, ever, though i’ve looked, and so i didn’t expect to find it and that made my trip into the store harmless, right? i’d walk in, get disappointed, walk out and no one would get hurt.

wouldn’t you know it: they had both albums. $15, all told. and i’d promised myself, if they had them, i’d buy them. so i put it on the credit card and went out to the car and tried to read the psalms. and i read one or two, and looked at the two cds, and the cd inserts, and thought about how i’d tell zena i bought two albums, and what that said about my time and my state of mind. and i knew that record-store-shopping is classic coping behavior, for me, and here i am: depressed, and with two new cds that i can’t afford and don’t need and which are completely out of line with my whole spiritual milleau for the last year anyway. and i began to feel the prompting of the holy spirit to just: take them back. beg the store owner to let me return them. be done with this and be at peace again.

i did that. i told him i thought they’d give me peace, but then i had no peace, and anyway i bought them with money i don’t even have, and so if he could find it in his heart to take them back…? and this guy, he looked at me and said, “aha. medicated spending. yeah, i’ll take them back. if you want to practice what they call ‘fiscal responsibility,’ well, i guess i can dig that.” and i suppose it’s god’s grace that the owner of my local record store follows jesus, although he doesn’t make a big deal about it, except one time he let it slip in a conversation a few years ago. and small mercies go a long way toward slipping past the screen of your feelings. i didn’t feel better right away, but later i did.

anyway, that’s the story of yesterday. no moral, but pay attention. your feelings do not define reality.

More, two

a little less than a year ago, i discerned that god was asking me to lay down my idolatry of music, which meant relinquishing control of music. with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, i obeyed. i have sold, gifted, and donated away my 20-year cd collection. i have spent a year generally fasting from music: i haven’t stepped into a record store, haven’t read pitchfork, haven’t trolled the blogs or followed the next big thing. i didn’t buy that bon iver ep. i have spent a year unlike any since i bought those first albums back in junior high.

on vacation this past month, i told my 5-year old in a confessional moment that sometimes i missed listening to music. “why don’t you listen to music?,” he asked. i answered, “because god showed me that i was doing it in a way that was unhealthy, and that i needed to stop.”

“well,” he replied, “why don’t you ask god how to listen to music in a healthy way? he can do miracles.”


so, i have carefully, tenatively, begun to listen again. i am not so blind, legalistic, or self-flagellating that i would discard such obviously prophetic wisdom. i am practicing moderation — there is a time for music and a natural limit to music. i am not pursuing the next big thing, or any big thing. i am not downloading albums that do not belong to me. i am praying for a sobriety in my approach — to remain healthy, as my son has said.

a major reason for my year-long fast had been to divest myself of the identity i had crafted for myself and so carefully controlled. i did so in faith that jesus would begin to provide a new identity for me: that he would name me, and that name would be more truly me than the name i was adopting for myself. i no longer would let music name me. well, its one of the signs that abe’s word for me might be true, that i’ve recently been feeling like jesus has been revealing an identity for me, one that feels both more alien and more true. i’m working on stepping into that identity. i think “listen[ing] to music in a healthy way” involves not letting it overcome or impinge on or in any way intrude into the identity jesus is making for me. can i do that?

to the extent i can do that, i will now listen again.

robot style

at dinner we say grace each night. we hold hands and pray, and when we’re done, we ask mazzy how we should say ‘amen.’ she says either ‘soft’ or ‘loud,’ and we proceed apace, *amen* or AMEN.

following a soft amen tonight, mazzy told us out of nowhere, ‘no, wait a minute guys: robot amen,’ followed by her doing a pretty good version of the robot there in her chair and saying, in her best robot voice, ‘a. men.’

robot amen. only from the mind of mazzy.

couch confessional

my wife and i get a new couch every 6 months or so. we get them off the curb, especially if we know the people who curbed them. it’s good that they’re free, because we get tired of our couches pretty quickly. the only couch we ever loved was the first one we ever purchased, and it just wouldn’t fit through the door of our house, no matter how hard we tried. we donated it to our church and it’s done just fine there for the past 4 years. so after that, we’ve had at best a casual relationship with our couches. when we see one that catches our eye, in the wild, we just haul it home and part with the old one.

it doesn’t make for a terribly well arranged living room, though — we often have to deal with irregularities in size / shape / color vs. our existing furniture.

so, then, the point is: we recently inherited a curbed overstuffed chair [okay, not a couch, but the principle is the same], which sits opposite our current couch, and it has done the magical, impossible task of tying our entire living room together and making it into a really nice, tidy space! and its colors coordinate. i never thought i’d manage a coherent interior design (mostly because I never try), but here it is, and by accident at that.

thank you, lord, for all your gifts.