Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Red Rock Canyon, NV.

You are the ultimate painter
the greatest poet
Your love story stretches
across the sky
Every grain of sand
is a thought for me
Your artistry
shows your love for me
Your peace is calmer than the stream
Your rest is softer than fields of green
Your will for me
works out perfectly
Through pain I take
you will demonstrate
All the promises
of Your Word.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Warmest Place

Vantage Pointe at sunset.

Another year has passed. It is winter again. As weather always does, this darker sort affects my mind. Pennsylvania moves slowly, like a half-speed video replay. The cold, dry air and the silence and stillness can be absorbed like a sponge in a puddle. One can go into the woods, all trees naked of leaves, and if that one were to sit down and wait, it would be as if time stood still. Wind through branches and the movement of clouds would be the only cues that this was, indeed, consciousness. Venture to the roads and nothing will keep one from reaching their destination when intended, save for the occasional tractor or horse & buggy using the road. One lane is all that is needed to navigate the twisty, wooded, hilly roads of the peaceful, unmoved countryside.

And so the short yearly trek is made. But upon arriving back in the new, developed and populated West, it is not without a sense of loss and detachment. Despite all the opportunity and culture that is borne from such a place, something is also lost. When everyday life involves less, it somehow becomes more. When every desire of the foolish heart is so readily available, it is quite simple to get lost in the details. When one has much, they have little to gain. But when one has very little, they have everything to gain.

And so when one has lived in the three significant modes in this far-reaching country (rural, urban and suburban), one's heart cannot ever be settled. One can more quickly attach and detach to the ups and downs of those areas. When something is less than perfect in the present place, the former place can be viewed with longing eyes. A few days a year (weeks if one is lucky), this nomad can be truly content with where he is. At any other given moment, the longing for another place can take hold indefinitely.

So one must learn to get the most out of life where they are. It will not be perfect at all times (in fact, it's not guaranteed to be perfect at any times), but it must be accepted as a necessary part of one's life nonetheless. Relationships are what will always matter most, and those can be made anywhere one goes. When one reflects on the best times of one's life, it will not just be the setting, the looks and smells and sounds and feels, but also who that one was with that defines that moment.

So near or far, loud or quiet, surrounded or alone, busy or still, be content. It will not be this moment when one realizes how happy they are, but when one reflects on the moment. And the warmest, happiest places on earth will always be in one's memories.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Changes everything

The San Gabriel Mountains from Vantage Pointe in La Habra Heights, California.

I've known it for a long time, but I couldn't put it into words.

Mountains on the horizon changes everything.

Ever since I moved to Southern California, the mountain skyline has inspired a sense of awe in me. You may have read in this very blog how my first clear view of the San Gabriel Mountains ended with me in my car driving as close to them as I could. I can't resist them. It's inside me. I'm under their grip and I don't know if anything could ever change that.

The view of mountains on the horizon changes everything. I used to have a long drive home from work; again, this very blog's first post described it. I'd be driving in the hills for almost an hour, and then when I crested one singular hill in Anaheim Hills, the entire mountain range would come into view, and then...then things changed. No matter what album was playing, what train of thought I was on, what song I was composing in my head, it was interrupted by what my eyes saw, During snowy season, this was even magnified (if such a thing is fathomable).

That view changes everything. And one day, I put it all together and realized WHY the draw was so strong. Why I was like one magnet and the mountains were the other magnet, and I was pulled towards them by the laws of physics.

We often are caught up in our own small worlds, with blankets of security that are really nothing at all. We live in this false reality for so long that we truly lose touch with the big picture, with the REAL. When I see the spectacular snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains on the horizon, looming impossibly larger than anything I know, it reminds me that there is something bigger in the world than me. Those mountains dwarf me. My human mind struggles to even perceive their grandeur. I've even stood on the very peak of Baldy almost 10 times, and once on the peak Istill expect to see human outlines on the endless horizon (flat as a pancake), and when I see someone only a mile away and a few thousand feet lower altitude on the same trail I just hiked, I barely can distinguish them from the rocky, sandy, barren landscape. I just can't put the pieces together.

When we see that horizon, we realize there is something bigger than ourselves. There is something that exists on our planet that exceeds our understanding. There is something that dwarfs the minute details of our lives. There is something that can bring us to our knees and stir something deep within us even during our coldest and darkest of days. We were MEANT for more. This can't be all there is. I see that skyline and something inside me, deeper than I can know, is stirred up. My immediate physical reaction is "GO TO THE MOUNTAINS" but what I find there is not just physical beauty. Yes, my senses are overwhelmed: the smell is fresh, the sights are a spectacle, the sounds are peaceful and the touch is...real. But it all points to a larger thing.

I cannot live this life on my own. I am incomplete as an individual. I cannot accomplish great things alone. I see the mountains and I immediately realize my need for a Savior. Without a supernatural, extraordinary interaction, I fail. But in all of God's goodness, He provides those momentary signs and reminders. For me, that is the mountains. My body struggles and strains to conquer just one of those peaks, using a trail that was forged by earlier humans and is clearly the most accessible, easiest way to do a thing such as this. Let me never forget that I am powerless against such a force. That the very Thing that carved each ridge and wrinkle into the earth's surface is the same Thing that died a painful death on a cross so that I could have life, and life abundantly. The Thing that lets me live with freedom and without fear. The Thing that became the only human to overcome the grave, that thing that causes we humans the greatest pain that we know.

Oh Thing, oh Thing named Jesus the unchanging creator God, I need you and I cannot live without You. I thank you for your constant, looming, unforgettable reminders of Your love and power. I cannot help but worship You.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Preparation from the Past

The plaza at Moody Bible Institute from my room window on the 18th floor.

I've often heard it said that everything that happens to us happens for a reason. That it's preparing us for something down the road. I have put faith in that very thing, though the answer was not clear.

Thank God for the nights we have unknowingly been prepared for.

October 2005, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, IL: The annual Mr. Moody competition draws nigh. An opportunity for each brother and sister floor (divided into floors because of the urban nature of our 19-story dormitory) to put on a small-scale production in hopes of one representative being named "Mr. Moody." This year the theme was "make your own country." We had a rather colorful resident on our floor from Korea named John Oh. We decided our country would be Johnopia. I became involved when we heard about phase 2 of the production: Sing your national anthem. Being that I am a one-man band of sorts, I was perfect for this job. John told me he wanted it to be a rap song, so I came up with a basic beat and we ran with it. John created a rap. Then we created an elaborate dance to the song.

Things were shaping up to be quite top-notch. The only slight problem was that it was scheduled for a Friday night, and every week on Friday night I would travel north to Wrigleyville and help out at our church's youth group. So I asked John a few weeks before the spectacle: "Do you need me to be IN the production? Just say the word and I will tell them I can't be there on that Friday. But if you don't need me, I'll still go to youth group and wish you all the best." His response: "I think we'll be ok without you there."

Fast forward 3 days. John frantically approaches me: "Matt! Can you still be in the production?" No, John. I told them I would be at youth group.

In the coming days, I wrestled with what I should do. We had big plans for youth group that night too, and without me the night would not be the same. So I committed to going to the youth group instead of the glorious Mr. Moody competition. I knew I'd miss out on some fun, but I knew that someday, this would come back to me in a positive way. So I went to youth group that night. It turned out to be a great night.

When I returned back to the school that evening, I heard about how the night went. The national anthem was a smash hit; all the people there in the plaza were singing along. Everything was pointing to our win. But then, in the very last stage of the performance, there was a technical problem with the amp and the guitar that were being used (the very thing that I would have been there for), and it killed the crowd's excitement and we ended up losing the competition. A bummer, for sure.

October 2011, Orange County, California: Opeth, one of my top 3 favorite bands was coming to town. Their new album was my favorite in a long time. The set list was released and it may as well have been my own personal list of favorite songs from them. We checked my work schedule and I was free. I had the money to spare. Let's do this.

Fast-forward to the week of the show. Somehow, the schedule they kept at the office showed that I worked a day that I didn't have on my calendar. It was Friday.

I looked at my list of co-worker's phone numbers, and called all of those who weren't scheduled to work that day. None of them could fill my spot. I had to miss one thing or the other.

So I was in a familiar spot. I had disappointed my roommate who bought the tickets, but promised him I would still give him the price of the ticket. Still, he wanted to go to this show with me, and I had failed. So I had to make a decision, but I knew which one was right. It was clear. I'd been through this before. I may miss out on some fun, but God knows my every move, and I cannot hide my choice from him.

So through my roommate's temptings and attempts to sway me to go to the show, I still knew what I should do. I was prepared for this moment. I had missed out on something before, but in the end, that event was a disappointment anyway.

So I went to work, and it was a good night. Things flowed smoothly, I filled the role that only I could, and my conscience was clean. I had a feeling that would happen.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Nostalgia Wins

I'm re-watching 24/7 Penguins-Capitals for the zillionth time, but near the end of the third episode there are shots of Pittsburgh in the winter. Hilly city blocks, across the river at the houses atop Mt. Washington. My heart instantly longs for it. At the age of 25, the majority of my life was still lived in Pennsylvania. It is impossible to ever remove me from that world completely. I begin to realize...the day I made the choice to move to California, I had no idea what the ramifications would be. Aside from all the experiences and culture I've gained, I will now be forever torn between two homes. And really, how can Pittsburgh ever compare with Southern California? It's the place the whole world longs to be. Perfect weather, money, beaches, huge mountains, desert. But for me, it has everything but seasons and family. And how do you replace those two things? So then I start to can Orange County ever really compare to Pittsburgh? The history, the rustic beauty, the decay of weather, and have I mentioned...seasons! Seasons: a biblical analogy for the roller coaster of our lives, and the inspiration for so much of my music. My favorite sports teams. A familiarity with the people, culture, and geography that I have never felt in California. Try as I might, I will never fully fit in either place. And my siblings' children are growing up thousands of miles away. I may be the uncle that is more of a stranger to them.

Despite it all, I can never place doubt in God's calling on my life. Countless affirmations of His work in me and around me here in my new home force me to have comfort. I could never discount all that I've seen on the West Coast as a mistake. The evidence is too much. This was God's will for me. I followed. I've been rewarded. But earth is not my home. I cannot be at home or at perfect rest in this place. I cannot find a quiet corner of the planet where there is perfection. I must move beyond this fallen, depraved world and live in His presence; there I will be home. At rest. No more longing for distant places. A fulfillment of the days of the life that He has given me. A home. Rest. Eternity.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Beautiful California,
you cannot escape the wind and rain.
To everything there is a season
And the same fate comes to all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Lonely Summer

If I used to close my eyes
I would still hear
muffled voices.

If I used to sleep at night
I would still see

If I used to shout out loud
I would still hear

But the echo has grown so faint.
These ears strain to hear again.
These eyes see only nothingness.
This place is as a ghost.

If I used to be alone
I would still insist on it.

If I used to laugh or cry
I would still be

If I used to stare
out the window
I'd take in the silence.

But no, things have changed.
My sight is all faded.
Color comes with you
and you've been gone so long.