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If you’ve been following along since I started writing here, you might have noticed a recent change in the heading. Muse is gone. This isn’t because I’ve become a less thoughtful person, or my mind is any less prone to wander. (Those of you who know me personally are certainly aware that this is not the case.) It’s a change in direction — I mean, it’s a direction. I’m still wandering. But I’m going somewhere.

Home feels less like my house in Illinois since the last time I wrote. It’s less like the pub table and benches, the screen door to the deck, or the lights that skirt its railing and line our driveway like a runway. I’ve been away from this place, and I’ve missed this place, but I haven’t ached for the place like I’ve ached for the people. Maybe people could be home.

Anyhow. I’m heading out for a bit.

[All of the photos above are courtesy of the absurdly talented Ruth Gunderson.]

When my friend Adam mentioned Ecuador, I knew that it was right for me. That’s not in a, like, “ah yes – this is how life will be now. And I will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and make a profit” kind of way. I mean that the idea rang the right way in my chest and between my ears. I called mom and dad immediately, on a whim; they told me to go for it. (That wasn’t outlandish. Mom and dad like crazy ideas.) Then I called my admissions counselor at the college I’d been considering attending for more than a year prior, and she told me to go for it. (That… was a little outlandish.) I talked to the missions recruiter at school, and he told me that there was a position available. He’d speak with authorities at the church there as soon as he was able.

That was six months ago. Since then, I’ve prayed, sought counsel, and been approved as a Short Term Assistant (that’s STA, in Journey Missions-speak) to Iglesia Luterana Paz de Dios in Cuenca, Ecuador. Lord willing, I’ll be flying out of Chicago at the end of September, not to return until the beginning of next summer. People usually call this kind of venture a “new chapter,” but I’ve got an English professor uncle visiting this weekend who would slap me upside the head if I perpetuate the cliché. Thus, in lieu of the typical colloquial: I’m transplanting. I’m breaking apart, and I’m taking part of me somewhere else.

Would you pray for me? Specifically, would you pray that the breaking doesn’t hurt more than it needs to, and that whatever I need for the work ahead would be there when I need it? Even more, would you pray that God would shape me for ministry that He is already preparing in Paz de Dios, and open the hearts of people I’m supposed to meet, and know, and love? Missions books warn against thinking of yourself as a savior, or some kind of catalyst; I’m not there. (At least, I’m not consciously in that mindset- nor subconsciously, God help me.) I feel weak. I get tired. I know that this isn’t about me. Pray for wisdom, strength, and courage for me, from outside of me, because I need it.

Thank you for listening, and for waiting so long since the last time. And thanks for beginning to listen, if you’re new here. I’ll keep writing home.

– Seth

p.s. Missions work is expensive. I’m saving up a lot of money on the front end of this trip, but the total cost is going to be about $6,500 dollars — more than I’ll be able to personally raise before the end of September. If you’re following along here, and you’d be interested in helping minimize that cost, I’d be deeply grateful for any help you’d be able to give. The link below leads to Journey Missions’ website, with options for either single or monthly donations. Please make sure to put my name in the “name of STA” field! >> bit.ly/seth_ecuador

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18

My youth and my age are turned on their heads in me.

There’s a young man in me – not the type with a slackened jaw and wide eyes at the world, who listens, and reaches, and aches for every feeling and sight – but the kind you hear in the other aisles at the grocery store, whining for things in a tone many years too childish for his evident age. He is dirty, not because because he has been discovering things, but because he does not like to be clean. He is loud, not singing, but because he does not like to listen. He squints at you, not because he wants to see you any better, but because he has already decided you’re probably the type he doesn’t like. (He’d turn up his nose at you if he were any taller.)

I’m trying to shake him off.

There’s an old man in me, also, and he wants to sit down – not because he is tired, but because he just doesn’t care to exert himself. (Thus, his limbs grow weak from inaction, rather than the alternative.) He is quiet in conversation, not for humility, but for apathy instead; and besides, he’s above conversation with most folks (or thinks so, at least). He does not care if you hear his muttered critiques. They won’t do you any good, anyways. He pauses his grumbling to chuckle when you fall. He has read more books than you have (or at least better ones), he speaks more convincingly than you (or would, if he deigned), and he’s an influential(/persistent) voice in whatever community he graces.

I’m wrestling with him.

I’m sorry if these are the voices I let speak: the whiner and the grumbler. They are the louder voices in my ears, and I’ve a bad habit of parroting their mantras.

I’m praying for the youth and age the Father asks of me: that which stares, listens, feels, and wants to sing at what it sees; that which discerns, and is calm, and wise, and acts righteously for its wisdom.

Please be patient with me when I fail. Part of me is only human.

Q &

Why is it that I think so much more than I feel?

I’m not concerned about it. (Or I try not to be.) But I’m curious. (Or I try to be.) On the playground of my conscious life, my Mind is a quick and cackling imp, running circles around a ponderous and distracted older child: the Heart. He’s looking off into nowhere particular and ignoring the probing jabs and shouts of the younger boy. His eyes focus and unfocus with frustrating irregularity (frustrating not to he himself, but to the imp, who begs incessantly for the older boy’s help with random this-or-that’s and all too rarely rarely receives it).

I wonder why the older boy won’t focus like the younger wants him to – and whether or not it would be good for him to do so.

What is a waste of time, and what is esoteric, and why am I afraid of the both of them?

I don’t know if it’s valuable to record these wandering monologues. Do they help us think more clearly, or muddle us further? I think they help me; I hope they help you. Writing is like taking a picture of thought: every idea which once flew or flickered, promenaded or snuck about, is suddenly frozen and on display. Writing is like wrestling: difficult, sometimes sweaty, and dangerous around fire. Writing is like vomiting: one feels as though one must get something out, and feels better for it, afterwards.

I wonder why thinking feels so effortless, and is so difficult to present proof of.

Why do I feel I must anchor myself with legalism, and fly with liberality as fuel?

I rest and find peace in rules. (“I must make myself sleep for a given amount of hours.” “I need to balance play with study.” “I have to-“) But I am joyful and reinvigiorated when I break them. (Have you ever walked out to stare at the stars at two in the morning? Have you skipped school? Do you know that gut feeling that you are doing something right? Do you distrust it?) Would Icarus have flown more safely with a pair of heavy boots? I can’t tell if balance is supposed to be the careful weighing of extremes against each other, or a steady stream of pleasures and inconveniences so mild that they need hardly be weighed at all.

I wonder if I am procrastinating, or preparing.

How to be Heard

This has been on my mind following a handful of recent choices our government and country have made. Crimes have been committed. People have gotten hurt. People are confused about what “getting hurt” actually means, and what “freedom” stands for, and words are cheap for their abundance. Furthermore, and slightly less contextually, the Bible is pretty clear that what comes out of our mouths comes from who we are at root- from our hearts. (Matt. 15:18) That is to say, if you are saying anything, anywhere – that speaks to who you are. We need to know how to do that right. So here’s the thing (or the simplified version of the thing): There are billions of people. There are billions of people talking. There are billions of people talking about things they know and/or believe, which amounts to, ultimately, so much NOISE, and so little communication. Everyone talks, and no one listens.

Listen.

Through Paul, God says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up into love.” (Eph. 4:15)

I hear three commands in that phrase, “Speaking the truth in love,” which Paul says will allow us to grow into Christ… that we might build one another up in love. (Everyone’s crazy about love right now, right?? Peace, love, and donuts… or something like that.) Cautious extrapolation follows posthaste:

1) Speak the truth. This is a brief and to-the-point reminder that the Church is not called to be silent. In fact, I think the opposite is true. We’re a mouth for the only voice worth listening too. And HEY – it needs to be the Truth as well, you half-caf “not sure how I feel bout some of those Bible parts” Christians. You’re dancing in the mine fields, as the poet Andrew Peterson once said in an entirely different context.

2) Speak the truth in love. Dear blog reader, avoid bologna. Bologna is gross, it smells bad, its spelling is terribly deceptive, and among other things, it smells bad. (Yes, I said that twice. And it’s gross.) Why do I warn you about bologna? Because, to the degree that I can, across this iPad, this internet, and this anonymity- I love you. I’m not going to lie to you about bologna. Neither should you, to the people you love.

3) In love. Gosh, does this matter. To begin conversations or Facebook posts, “To all of you idiots who-” is to fail as a speaker, a representative of the Church, and certainly as an evangelist. Whups – the only audience that matters just left out the back. Throwing the truth in the faces of the unknowing is almost as good as throwing rocks, except with rocks, the scars might heal up in a couple weeks. God’s Word is brutal enough on its own.