California has graciously hosted me for 6 years. I showed up in 2011 and now it’s 2017. It feels strange and impersonal to leave. The communities that I’ve been connected to, received love from, that listened – they’ll all continue on. It’s a lonely thought.
I want to say goodbye to everyone. I imagine that I’ll look up from whatever I’m doing 6 months from now and wish I’d made plans to hang out with people just one more time. Worse than that, I’m afraid the debt of gratitude I owe to so many will not have been paid. That’s why I write this. I want to give thanks.
I don’t want to be recognized as a grateful person. In fact, I don’t want to post anything because I don’t like what I write and I definitely don’t like the thought of others reading what I write. Why not just write private messages to people who’ve meant a lot to me? I could avoid public vulnerability and avoid possibly forgetting someone important! I’m tempted to. But, I’m already a private enough person. I hope you find your name in this blog, or one of the few possible follow up posts to this.
The easiest way to start is with an anachronistic anecdote. It was the second time I had driven to California. The border patrol agent did not ask if I had weapons or drugs.
“Sir, do you have any fruit in your vehicle?”
“No ma’am, I don’t think so.”
She quickly pointed out a clementine on the seat next to me. Angered, she lectured me on the importance of keeping pesticides out of her state, where billions of dollars worth of fruits are grown every year. Finally I handed her the fruit, on which was an up-till-then concealed sticker with a California stamp. She handed it back and quietly motioned for me to proceed. Thus was my perfect welcome to what my Oklahoma fellows refer to as the land of “the fruits and the nuts.”-
By the way I love fruits and nuts. What was I to lose?
Thank you, Lord, for the mountains and the hills. Each time I drove into California, I saw the mountains and I drove through the hills. Every time I thought this place was full of magic. I imagined the ancient dinosaurs, I imagined the possibility of the place, and I felt excitement. Thank you, Lord, for the beauty of this land. You’ve comforted me through it. I won’t forget its beauty.
I’d drive down Beach to Imperial. I’d see the hills. Into Whittier through the branches I’d see the hills. Down to Oceanside, down the 15 to Temecula, up to Northern California, taking 90 East and West, everywhere I saw the mountains and the hills. They were always present, always stunning. I looked down from the Whittier hills, the hills surrounding LA – the Griffith observatory; I looked from the Getty’s perch and saw the cities below. The hills and valleys created movement. California is always on the move. Thank you, Lord, for the mountains and the hills.
Thank you for the I-5, Lord. I hate the I-5. I thank you for it again. The I-5 took me home more than any other highway. Its turns and bumps grew familiar. I never understood the stops and starts. I never comprehended why the HOV lane worked 10% of the time nor why people frowned when I called it the HOV lane. Thank you for the times it worked and the times it didn’t. The I-5 gave me so much time to pray and to talk out loud, to sit in silence, to listen to my music, to make many, many phone calls. You’re just a piece of concrete but I still like you.
The reason I came to California was Biola. The happenings at Biola began asserting its influence on me as early as 9th grade. A Torrey graduate taught at my high school in Houston, Texas. He said things and asked questions in a way I had never heard. Interactions with him shocked me into rational consciousness. Dr. Reynolds (then, the head of Torrey) came to my school several times while I was there. I could not believe what I heard from him. I don’t think I understood a word of what was said, though if you knew me at the time you know I thought I did. Again, it felt like I was hearing magic words and ideas—that there was something very great and true I could possibly come to experience for myself. I hold that same belief differently today.
I’m grateful to the Torrey Honors Institute. I learned that I could read more than I thought I could handle. I learned that there is a great variety of intellectual giftings. I learned that talking about truth does not mean I’ve submitted to it by any means. I learned that being wrong is painful and causes doubt. Consequently it’s hard to admit you’re wrong. I learned that intellectual sophistication is hardly a sign that one is good or true; time and proximity reveal fruits. I learned that people who are more honest about their feelings during a discussion often get more out of the discussion even if emotionally driven discussions have confining limits. I learned that ideas seem much better inside than they often do out loud. I guess I learned countless little tidbits. What I see today as the most important gifts Torrey gave me are 1) The vision of the world in which ideas matter for good and for evil, 2) a greater desire to learn, and 3) the habit of learning. Thank you, Lord, for the Torrey program.
I’m grateful for Professor John Fox, who began as my academic mentor in Torrey. He was and hopefully will be the only teacher who has ever failed an assignment of mine—my first major college writing assignment. He then told me to start a blog (though not in conjunction with my paper). Knowing how terrible the writing and ignorance of a college freshman could be, he still told me to write. Thank you for that gift of faith. This blog has been a testing ground for my openness and courage. I love the idea of writing. I hate writing. I hate even more when smart people like you read what I write. All the defects in my writing are plain as day. I don’t practice enough. Even so, you still told me to write. Thank you Lord for John Fox, and I offer up a prayer for his family.
I’m grateful for Zwingli. Zwingli was the main cohort in which I discussed all the texts we read in Torrey. Chris taught me about zeal for the truth. Kyle taught me about people; she taught me about myself. Kelsey taught me to bring your whole person into a discussion. Christie taught me about courage. Marin taught me about caring for the needy. Blake taught me about prayer. Tober taught me about feeling deeply. Anna Grace taught me about faith in action. Taylor taught me about the joy of life. Teller taught me about how a strong man could be gentle too. I think they call men like that “gentlemen.” Holly taught me to reach beyond easy answers, for it’s easy to condemn easy answers except when you believe them. Shannon showed me what it’s like to loosen up and not take yourself so seriously. Elizabeth showed me beauty through song and strength through discipline. Chelsey showed me creativity in action, which revealed my own stifled imagination. Rose left us too soon. Inadvertently, she showed us that God’s plan (how small to think otherwise!) was bigger than the Torrey program. Zwingli, I pray you are not reduced to merely what I learned from you. You are each much more. Thank you, Lord, for Zwingli. Wherever they are, bless them and keep them.
I’m grateful for Dr. Schubert. She became my mentor after Professor Fox left. She met all things with careful thought. There are so, so many qualities to praise, things I’ll take with me wherever I go. I only want to thank her for one thing here— the gift of compassion. I don’t remember what it was, or what I was sharing, but it was really hard for me. I felt like I was fumbling over my words and very much disliking my presentation and assuming she was as well. I looked up to see the light of compassion for me—pure, gentle, and sad. That gave me a measure of compassion for myself I’d never had. Thank you, Lord, for Dr. Schubert, and her ministry of mind and heart. Give her wisdom and grace as she continues on.
I’m grateful for all of the Torrey faculty — each one deserves a paragraph. Thank you, Father, for their love that poured out in powerful actions and thoughts. Dr. Aijian deserves a special mention as I took a non-Torrey philosophy class with her. First, she put up with me. I have a particular knack for coming up with questions that seem purely intended to confuse myself and everyone else. It’s my one last defense against accepting something as true. Over time I’ve come to see how Dr. Aijian showed me what it was like to own a belief I did not fully comprehend, how to be intellectually honest at all times and with all people. Thank you Lord for Dr. Aijian, and I ask for the grace to follow in her steps.
I’m grateful for Carlos Delgado. No one ever listened to me like Carlos did. No one was more honest. No one else picked up the phone at 1:30am. No one else told me the ugly truth like he did. No one else let me stay in their home for 3 weeks before I married my wife. No one else taught me how to own my wrongdoing, or how to pray for my enemies. No one else made me feel as insecure about writing anything at all ever. Lord Jesus, bless and keep Carlos wherever he is. And if I may, I pray that you double his green yard in size and glory, as a sign that you still love him even though he lives in suburbia.
I’m grateful for Gabriel Choo. Gabriel’s mirth, style, and congeniality was too much for any isolating walls I’d built. He scooted right into my life without asking and made me happy he did so. Gabriel planted the seed of life in my heart right when despair seemed real nice. I cannot apologize for being dramatic. Those of you who know Gabriel know that to be his friend is to be in a world premiere drama all the time. Lord, I pray that your Holy Spirit would continue to pour love into the hearts of those who know Gabriel.
I am grateful for Garrett George. There did not seem to be a thing that either of us valued that the other did not except, Lord have mercy, the North Carolina Tarheels. Our friendship was simultaneously the hardest and the best friendship I had in college. It was the hardest because real friendships make manifest what is broken, hurting, threatened, selfish, and wrong (and I’m speaking mostly about myself). Through the life of prayer and repentance, I watched as God redeemed those very same things. They became the means for us to practice owning our bad, speaking the truth with courage, saying how we feel even when uncomfortable, practicing acts of love in faith, asking for what we needed or wanted, giving space, praying together, and reminding each other of where we had been, who we were, and where we were going. Lord, I pray that you would sing a beauty so deep through his art, his life, and his marriage. Open his eyes and guide him up Parnassus. And, though I am unworthy to gather up the crumbs under Thy table, I humbly ask that you increase Garrett’s eating speed by 3 bites per hour. Amen.
I am grateful for the guys in Sigma. You kept me from prudishness and fear of jollity. Your tendency to skip class, stay up late watching films, sleep in, lie about chapel makeups, enjoy a drink here and there, go to parties, go see bands, make short films, dismiss 98% of Biola because you weren’t willing to put on a show – over time revealed my own obsession with rule following, people pleasing, control, intellectual ambition, and also my double standard, because I enjoyed all those very same things though I certainly did not always show it. Thank God for the good times we had. Lord, keep us both from being Malvolio or Sir Toby Belch!
I am grateful for R.J. O’Young. He is more honest than any other actor I’ve met. He too, like the Sigma guys, refused to play most of the Biola social games. Instead, he preferred to worship the likes of Daniel Day Lewis, Denzel Washington, and Jude Law during singspiration, pagan that he was. R.J. was willing to share about his difficult experience growing up in the church as a minority. What a gift that was to me. For whatever reason I grew up thinking that watching TV was by default a bad choice. Time is for effective work, TV is non – productive, therefore I misuse time when I watch TV. R.J.’s sheer love for specific films and specific performances opened up my mind to see their goodness. What a gift! With Dawnielle’s help I’ve only grown to love beauty in film more. Lord Jesus, be with R.J. as he walks through the world of acting. Be on his right side and on his left. May he never forget who you are, and yet may he always discover you as new, present, and good.
Of course, I wouldn’t have met R.J. if I hadn’t first been close friends with Tober. I’m grateful for him too. It’s not for lack of fun that I think Tober one of my more mature friends. In part, it’s the royalty in his blood. I know this because what other millennial dons a robe when watching Kobe? Or, with no need for a transitional paragraph, begins to sip tea and write brilliant pieces of film criticism? Tober held a kind of gravity in conversation that made you question whether anything you were saying was worth saying. The robe only increased his power. In all sincerity, I’m so grateful for him tolerating me. I was all over the place. I talked much and I didn’t always speak with care. I spoke with conviction about certain things only to change my mind a week later. There were a couple times Tober respectfully pointed out my inconsistency. That made me desire to be more true, which perhaps means to speak less when ignorant. Tober understood how to speak less. He’d let thoughts and feelings ruminate. Then they’d come out in some inspired monologue – perhaps the best example of which is his powerful performance in the Torrey play. Lord Jesus, thank you for Tober. Thank you for the endless fun we enjoyed in college.
I’m grateful for Biola University. Like most parents, you are an easy target for criticism, anger, and hasty generalizations. I participated in each of those as much as anybody else. Yet also like most parents, there are issues we can easily dismiss because some of our identity is wrapped up in being part of you. I’m grateful because you are a university that is perpetually growing (what more could we ask?). I’m grateful for your beautiful library, the quiet places for prayer, endless pizza, coffee in the morning, breakfast burritos late at night, the overall sense of purpose you can bring, the safe people who are present. My wife is grateful you were a safe place to be openly Christian; that, no matter what she was feeling there was always a chapel to go meet with God. In addition, my wife was grateful for how safe she felt on campus due to the vigilance of Campus Safety. Lord Jesus, it must be hard to be an institution like Biola these days. Protect Biola, Lord. Protect her from fear and false thinking. Bless all who make Biola a spiritual and intellectual sanctuary in this world.
I’m grateful for St. Matthew’s church in Newport Beach. Saint Matthew’s is the happiest Anglican Church on earth. St. Matthew’s handed me back my agency as a member of Christ’s church. It gave me a rule of life, a pattern of prayer, a church calendar, feasts, spiritual direction, and friendship. St. Matthew’s healed trust issues in regards to church leadership. St. Matthew’s hosted my wonderful marriage ceremony to Dawnielle. It felt like one of the few churches in which I could say exactly what was wrong with me and someone else would likely say “me too”. St. Matthew’s gave me an example of mature men from all walks of life. It not only gave me dogmatic clarity, but made Christianity come alive through art. St. Matthew’s showed me what it means to consecrate, to set apart, to stand in silence before a great mystery, to pray with Christ in Gethsemene, to long for the new heavens and the new earth, and to believe in the future command of Christ to rise from the dead. Lord Jesus, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon St. Matt’s. Have mercy upon us, and grant us your peace.
I’m grateful for Matt Norman. Matt had already tolerated me throughout high school. He tolerated me in Civil Air Patrol, then in Torrey, then as a roommate senior year. Matt’s steadfastness starkly contrasted my impulsivity. Matt’s firm beliefs stood out against my wavering, doubtful indecisiveness. Matt’s stated positions on politics, religion, xbox games, chapel, protestants, protestant views on catholicism, icons, prayer books, homosexuality, ordained women, family hierarchy, Biola’s policies and practices, memes, clickbait, the Onion, African American women, military, architecture, art, music, liberals, democrats, budgeting, Buzz Feed . . . these stated positions worked against my constant desire to not attach any certainty to my beliefs. And even if there were firm beliefs of mine, I greatly desired not to reveal those in case I received any of the popular labels we freely hand out to people these days. Like Dr. Aijian, Matt modeled intellectual honesty and courage. He modeled how vain an intellectual life is that is unwilling to have unpopular convictions. Lord Jesus, we ask for mercy upon Matt as he is stationed in South Korea for a year. May grace sufficient be with Jessica and William as he’s away. May we all become patriots like he.
I’m grateful for Rebecca Selbo. My perception was that Becca loved deeply, and consequently she grieved for the pain in the world. Her skills in conversation and baking delighted those around her. She continues to care for both me and Dawnielle. Lord Jesus, may we learn to love like Becca.
[Sidenote: Spring 2015 is when most of my class graduated. I had to take a semester off earlier on, so I wasn’t finished. Dawnielle and I got married June 13th, 2015. That last semester was quite strange. After marriage that fall, it felt like I was attending class with much younger kids. A whole lot had happened to me those last few years of college. The next few people I mention are those who were particularly close to me as I transitioned out of college into a new stage. ]
I’m grateful for Bill and Michelle Norris (Dawnielle’s parents). The thing about Bill and Michelle is that they are young at heart. They are always up for fun, always up for a movie, always ready to go out to eat, always ready to serve in a joyful way. They would drive up from Temecula during hard times [we’re talking rush house traffic on the 91] just to take us to dinner, then they’d drive home. If I mentioned in passing that I liked this cool toothbrush I saw in Las Vegas one time, chances are they would drive up the next weekend to buy that toothbrush. The thing that stands out to me personally about Bill and Michelle is that their ministry of constant giving made me feel like anything could happen, and we would be okay. They’re also amazing grandparents to our son Rémi. Lord Jesus, continue to use Bill and Michelle to make your kingdom manifest on this earth. We are so grateful, all who have known them.
I’m grateful for my own parents, Nancy and Steve Carr. The little boxes of food, the prayers, the financial help. I’m very grateful. Being in a different state limited what they could do in a hands on way, but now that we’re in Oklahoma for a bit, Dawnielle and I are already feeling the effects of their care. Even so, they still managed to give us some of our beautiful dishes, our crib, furniture, and art. They did what they could to surround us with beauty. Lord Jesus, you see the faithfulness of Steve and Nancy to their faith and family. We pray for your blessing upon their good works.
I’m grateful Christie George. Christie is basically mine and Dawnielle’s mental health plan. She listens with compassion, relates, and speaks the truth. I love Dawnielle and Garrett, and Christie has taken good care of them both. Further, her love for God and neighbor qualified her to be the best fairy godmother our firstborn could have. Lord Jesus, Garrett and Christie face a very busy and challenging next few years. We pray that members of your church would meet and care for them in Cincinnati. Lord, would your glory be exalted through Christie’s Ph.d. work. When at a loss, inspire her; when frustrated, give her peace.
I’m grateful for Scott Alford, Josh Nordstrom, Lauren and Greg. You four are a quadfecta of awesomeness. I looked up quadfecta and it has something to do with horse betting. Well, I’m using it to be the next step up from a trifecta. In other words I mean a 4 – part powerful awesomeness unit. Scott has been my most faithful phone friend since he moved to Seattle. Your intellect is no less powerful than your heart, and you have a big heart. Thank you for your constant care. Josh is one of those unique men who is simultaneously spirited and sensitive, and sensitive in the best way. I’ve no problem playing a physical basketball game with him, then right after sharing about a difficult fear I’ve had. You are growing into a good shepherd. It’s hard to say just how important Greg and Lauren have been for both Dawnielle and I. They have to a large extent, modeled what a growing marriage looks like. They’ve modeled the liberty one can find in owning the things you really love. You are some of the few who’ve made it past the “shock” and “oh how evil” reactions to sin, and you have learned to laugh at human folly. You’ve modeled how to navigate the world of human expectations, petty offenses, people pleasing, un-communicated desires, and conflict. I’ve only got one last thing to say to all of you: Keep trudging that happy road.
And at last, we arrive at Dawnielle Christine Carr. In short, Dawnielle has kept me going. She permeates every word that I just wrote, every friendship I had, every hardship I went through. She’s the neighbor I get to learn how to love, and the neighbor from which I receive love most. She’s the one who taught me to laugh. Lord Jesus, she’s the best gift from California. It seems that in her, all the other gifts come together.