Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

Death and Evil, Muahahaha

If you think you'd laugh at a horse's desire to torture himself nightly with vivid and disturbing nocturnal hallucinations, check out Horace. If you don't think you'd laugh at such a thing, then tough luck, cause there aren't really any laughs in today's post.

Our good friend Rob who lives upstairs from us here in Scotland has just started a blog! Rob has a lot on his plate right now, mainly heaping servings of Ph.D. work, crazy kids and cererbral palsy. That's not to mention the constant intrusion of Matt and Jeni into his and his family's life. Rob's first post is about how to approach people who are suffering, and how people have been dealing with him over the past few weeks as problems wih his feet put him first on a cane, then on crutches, then in a wheelchair. Here are my two cents for the conversation:

When my mother died, people always said, "I'm so sorry, that's such a horrible thing to go through." First their response made me angry because I thought they were trying to apologise for her death like it was their fault. Second, it angered me because I didn't want to think of my mom's death as such a horrible thing. I wanted to think of it as just a fact that happened and that I just have to deal with. People die, I told myself, there is nothing good or bad about it. It just is.

I felt alone and cold, and only wanted my isolation and numbness to increase. I despised those who said my mother's death was horrible because I felt there was no way that would help me get on with life. I despised those who said, "I'm sorry" because I felt they were just trying to placate me by taking the blame for something they had no responsibility for. They obviously didn't understand what it was like to lose a parent and deal with it. At twelve years old I was both Stoic and Existentialist. I felt that I just had to deal with life and I felt I was alone in that endeavour.

Sometime in the decade or so between my mother's death and my father's I learned to hear those words of comfort that I had despised in a different context. First of all, I came to realize that my mother's death was indeed a horrible thing. I do have to figure out how to live with it, but I don't have to numb myself to it. Second, in light of the first realization I realized that when people said, "I'm sorry," it was a statement of sympaty, not an apology. They were mourning with me and didn't know what else to say.

They did know what not to say. They knew not to say, "Look for the silver lining," or, "I'm sure God has a reason for this." By saying, "This is a horrible thing," instead of saying, "Someday you'll look back and see how this made you a better person," they acknowledged the evil of the event. In comforting me they did one of the most important things a Christian needs to be able to do: to see evil, especially death, and claim it as evil without making excuses for it for our own comfort.

Here's a side note. Whenever Christmas comes around, I always think of Easter. Through the month of December it is likely that you'll hear me humming ressurection hymns as often as Christmas carols. (I also remember as a kid thinking that Jesus only lived for a little over three months, so take anything I say with a grain of salt.)

Why is Easter important to this conversation? Because you can't have Easter without Good Friday. And you can't have Good Friday unless Jesus actually died. There was no silver lining on Good Friday. Humanity had succeded in passing judgement on and executing their creator, sustainer and redeemer. The Son took on himself the sins of all, and because of that his own Father directed his wrath at him and turned his back on him. All of humanity, from Peter to Pilate, denied the Lord, and the Godhead itself was somehow torn assunder. There is no silver lining here. There is no shred of hope left.

How does God work all things for the good of those who love him? God does not take the silver lining of an evil event and magically stretch it out so that what once was mostly evil is now good. No, God takes what is wholly evil and redems it, making it wholly good. If there was a shred of hope left on Good Friday, how could our salvation be complete? If the Son had left himself a loop-hole through which to escape, or if he had not taken on quite all the sin of the world in order to lighten his load, or if the Father had held back the full extent of his wrath could we really recieve the full extent of his love?

There's my contribution to the discussion. I don't think of my mother's death much. I consider my father's death to have been a Good Friday experience for me, but I have never, before this post, really thought much about what I learned through my mother's death.

There it is. No stinger, no pearl of wisdom. End of post.

Reading Theology

Along with the benefits there are also some, how should I put it, inconveniences inherent in reading theology. While many theologians have been blessed with great understanding, fewer have also been gifted wordsmiths, especially when it comes to clarity, directness and concision. Take for example this sentence from John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied, which I find dificult to read without impersonating Captain Jack Sparrow in my head:

"Something has entered into the relations of the two persons which the person called the brother considers to be a grievance against the person bringing the gift to the altar, something which the former considers to be a culpable breach of harmonious relations on the part of the latter, savvy?"

Thought I'd Share This

"In 1983, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was formed by the reunion of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Integral to reunion was the preparation of a brief statement of faith."
-from the PCUSA Book of Confessions

The 1983 Brief Statement of Faith starts with this:

1 In life and in death we belong to God.
2 Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
3 the love of God,
4 and the communion of the Holy Spirit,
5 we trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
6 whom alone we worship and serve.

And ends with this:

77 With believers in every time and place,
78 we rejoice that nothing in life or in death
79 can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
80 Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The inscription my father chose for my mother's headstone was "In life and in death we belong to God"

The incription that A.J. and I chose for our father's headstone was "I am convinced that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Today is the first time I have read the 1983 Brief Statement of Faith.

Coming Clean

So, you may have noticed that my blog has become kind of shallow over the last few months, and there's a reason for that. I hope you've been enjoying the light-hearted and funny stuff, but I'm ready to get back to giving you more.

A few months ago, pretty much concurrently with the shallowification of this blog, I dropped out of the guitar program at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Many of you know this already through personal conversation with me. I also put it in the Christmas letter which many of you will be receiving soon. (Actualy, I had Jeni write that part of the letter because I wasn't able to do it myself.) I have not mentioned it on the blog for a whole host of reasons, which I won't get into right now. I decided to drop out of the program after careful evaluation of my career goals and values. At that time I became aware that my primary desire is to work in a church. A master's degree in classical guitar performance would not hurt me in that pursuit, but it would not benefit me much, either. I realized that I was starting on a $25,000+ phase of my education simply so I could have the bragging rights that come with a European conservatoire degree. That is not the right motivation. When I realized this, I started burning out on guitar. Soon after, I submitted my resignation from the program.

I am feeling fragile right now. I didn't post about these events because I didn't feel at all sure about my actions. I still don't. For the last several months I have been a house-husband, cooking and cleaning for Jeni and I as she got deeper and deeper into vet school. I applied for a job nearby working at a homeless shelter but never heard back.

I of course have been thinking about ministry during this time. I am scared because part of me feels like I failed in my approach to music and I feel like so much more is at stake with ministry. I am going to spend a lot of time thinking and praying about this. Right now I am reading through the creeds and confessions contained in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.'s Book of Confessions to try to discern how my personal faith really fits in with that of the tradition in which I was raised. Perhaps the Scottish air is bringing out the Presbyterian in me.

All in all, I don't really have a great handle on what is going on in life right now. I think I am in a time of self-discovery and renewal, which is exciting, but the reason I think that is because I feel so broken and humbled, which is frightening. Pray for me.

Ramus of Mandible

One of Jeni's big projects for the semester has been putting together a lab book, which includes various labeled photos such as the one above. (MUCH GRODIER photos available on request.) We realized today after I had some of the photos printed at ASDA, the UK Walmart, that the photos ended up at a really low resolution and didn't look too great. Jeni had developed a technique for producing these that involved starting in iPhoto, moving on to Microsoft Word, taking a screen capture, pasting the capture into Pages, slaying a goat by the light of the full moon, etc. She asked me to see if I could come up with an easier way to do these that would also keep them at high res. I worked out a method in Pages by making this image:

It's always a party at the Price's!

(And no, that is not a misprint, we always refer to our family in the singular. We are the Price, resistance is futile.)

Brand Regognition

Earlier today our neighbors Rob and Emma stopped by with their two toddlers and baby. Rob was using the Mac when Isaiah, their nearly two-year-old, pointed to the glowing logo on the lid and said, "Apple!"

Man, that's how you build a brand. They're not paying preschool teachers to drill "A is for apple" into these kids's heads either, they just get that exposure for free. I bet that no toddler has ever pointed up at a Windows box and said, "Microsoft!"


Hey blogger! Long time, no, um, blogger. My blogging energies as of late have been directed primarily at Horace and Friends, which celebrated its fourth installment on Friday, and at the Price family Christmas letter, coming soon to a mailbox near you! I'll post a copy here closer to Christmas, so if you're not lucky enough to be on our somewhat limited mailing list, you can still get in on the action. Also, Horace and Friends is great because I get to write poems about slaughterhouses, which is something I could not do otherwise. (Actually, AJ just pointed out on the phone that I certainly could do them otherwise, I just wouldn't have a forum for 'em.)

Earlier today I was complaining that I don't really like the only herbal tea we have. I got as far as saying, "It isn't really my..." before I tied my toungue looking for a phrase and then realized that that phrase was indeed "cup of tea." But in reality, of course, it was.

Anywho, we got our first round of Christmas gifts a few days ago from Jeni's parents. They got us some great swag, including a new computer monitor, sweaters (I love sweaters) and most importantly, a puzzle for each of us! Jeni got a horse puzzle, I got:

Freedom Eagles!!!!!!!!!!

Aside from the awesomeness of freedom eagles, the puzzle also features "hidden images," which "enhance the visual appeal of each piece." The great artistic masters throughout the centuries have all used the hidden images technique. It is highly respected in the legitimate art world. However, I must say that much of the joy of the hidden images is diminished by the packaging of the puzzle. Note:

Oh, by the way, it's glow in the dark, too. That is also awesome. Note however that the glow in the dark picture gives away the location of all 13 hidden eagles. I'd've had a hard time finding the one who is just an outline formed by twigs, but now the thrill of the hunt is gone.

But seriously, it's still all good. I do loves me some freedom.

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