Thursday, June 27, 2013

Be Leery of I Love You: Be Certain of I Love You

I look my best, but there is more to me. I speak nice and chew with my mouth closed, hiding my food and untamed tongue. I sit up straight, hiding my back’s curve. I smile and laugh often and appropriately, concealing my cynicism and melancholy. I talk openly. How could you know I shut like a locked door?

To you, I am kind, patient, happy and full of mercy. I obscure my hostility and envy. It’s easy. I’m aware I seem as pure as can be, but I am contradiction. My skin has seen the sun and my eyes are light, but you haven’t see me in my winter; black iris’s, pale and shut in. I can’t divulge my ugliness. I don’t know if you could bear it.

I use pleasant eye contact, silky gestures and cautious idiosyncrasies.. I talk smart and wise and don’t use dumb words, but you don’t know what my mouth can utter. You haven’t seen me make destructive choices, my foolishness showing like a roll of fat as I say “I’m tired,” as I withdraw to my quagmire of self-centeredness. If you did your adulation may disappear. Your approval might depart.

In your eyes I’m near perfect, but you’ve only seen my act. You’ve only loved my show. If you love my show you may love me for yourself, not for me. If you only "love" what I can do for you and the feelings you get from me you have the wrong word.

If I neglect you and curse you will you love me? If I throw tantrums refusing to act like a human being will you love me? Don’t say you love me until you know all of me.

Who is it you love? This well-groomed, showered, altruistic, gentleman, smiling and shaking hands? Of course you love me. If you love me as I am put together before you, let me not be deceived as to who I am. 

When you say you love me do you mean you love the secretly smug offender, unstable in his ways who couldn’t care less about you? Do you mean you love the stone-faced, cold-hearted, narcissist who struggles to forgive? Do you mean you love the thief concealing his bounty and using it for his own pleasure? Do you mean the insubordinate, judgmental man who loathes his opposites? Yes, you do. Ha! Yes, you do.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Death is a Way of Life

“By the blood of a Son I have overcome the grave.” –from Sins are Stones by John Mark McMillan

What does it mean to overcome the grave? I will probably be put in a grave, so how can I say I've overcome death? Yes, death refers to the natural end of human life, but that's not all. The grave and death also refer to a way of life. Adam and Even became subject to death on the day they disobeyed God, yet they remained physically alive. Their death referred to separation from God. The bible says something strange about life and death. It's this: we can be alive, but dead.

So, death is not a one-time event and the grave is not only a physical location, but it’s the darkness that subtlety pervades our inner life here and now. Likewise, eternal life is not only something we enter when we die or a physical location, but it’s the life of Jesus that subtlety pervades our inner life here and now. Death is a way of life. Eternal life is a way of life.

When we say we "overcome death" we not only mean the grave has been robbed of it's power, but that we overcome deathly ways of life here and nwo. Overcoming death can be a daily occurance, because death, as the subtle darkness here and now, is incapacitated by life in and with God.

We practice death when we live life apart from God, because death is literally "existence separation from God." So, then life is "existence in communion with God." Death entered the world through one man (Adam) and death is done away with by one man (Jesus.)

In the body of Christ we mysteriously died, in the body of Christ we are mysteriously made alive. Christ’s body is the vehicle by which God makes union with the dead thus taking us up into His own life. This is why we proclaim Jesus and not ourselves.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lonely Towers and Metal Overhangs

Put me in an abandoned warehouse and feed to me yourself, far atop the city in a tower for none to see yet existing for all. Industrial noises splotch silence and echo off the archives.

Screeches and fences, warnings and danger yet I am perfectly safe, but not fine, high in the tower deprived of who I am, only parts left for the city to salvage, for me to enter. Oh wholeness, have I outlasted you? Did you barter only to bolt? You were gesturing I come to you, but you retreated to metal overhangs and empty rail cars so I sit by a trashcan and nourished weeds staring at the back of windowless houses wondering why I wasn’t invited to play a part. Douse my hopes with liquid reality and ignite me in greater expectations. Bury me right here, then raise me, departed to what I was.

I will not be satisfied in the tower. Air, you are hanging, wet and waiting to drop. What’s good for a soul besides despair? What gives proper nourishment to our depths but misery? We won’t need unless that van runs us over and the driver spits on us. Only then we properly limp and see our stains and feel our aches. What will you do with this dirty, broken down man you can’t expect optimism from? Flowers speak dread to him and people blur by him to their destinations. He knows this generation will die like every other one. He knows the parched still want. He knows the desert is aware of who it owns, the chains who they yoke. Freedom congregates and celebrates across the tracks, but his means of passage left. Good luck with this flint sitting in the weeds by the rocks staring at the hanging sun knowing his skippy joy is more than a jackpot away. He waits reluctantly not trusting help’s lazy feet that ditch would-be leeches. 

I stand and eat an apple while the dark clouds roll in and the groundbreaking thunder creates chaos in the city. I try to get doused by the rain and baptized by the lightning- no one else is here to consecrate me.

Out of the tower and sitting at the table in the rain, waterproof, distanced from the pain. The books tell me to pull myself together, I prefer to be pieces, which beauty can glaze. I dangle like an sun-scorched inchworm on dry slate towards hope which I neither feel or believe.

(Painting is "Romantic Landscape with Ruined Tower" by Thomas Cole)  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lack of Malleability is the Death of Formation

We have a lot to learn from each other. If we always go into relationships and conversations thinking, what this person needs is to think more like me maybe we need to rethink a few things. It might be better ask ourselves what does this person think that I need to learn? It seems people who are confident in what they believe, because they’ve experienced it, enter into conversations with the latter attitude more naturally.

It can be frustrating to talk to people who never ask questions, never seek to learn, and are not curious. Some of us just share, just preach, and just presume we need to teach- that others must learn from us and we not from them. People can preach about all kinds of things from car restoration to the TransCanada pipeline. I've talked to people who have a not-so-hidden agenda to steer every conversation they are in down that same road. Maybe we should enter into conversations with this mentality: this conversation may lead to talking about Darwinism or scuba diving, I really don’t care, but let’s find out.

I admit it can drive me crazy when people presume to know more than me, partly because I think you need to think more like me (pride speaking) and partly because you need ask yourself about me what does this person think that I need to learn?

We should not presume we have it all figured out, but realize we have a lot to glean from all people, even people we consider our antagonists or enemies. To flex and extend the arm there has to be antagonist muscles, i.e. biceps and triceps. One muscle needs the other to do its own job. We need others to show us their vantage point lest we wander all the way down the path we are prone to. The tree that is our beliefs needs more branches, more perches.

Christians have everything to learn from the wider (secular) world. The world is soaking in spirituality and godliness. We can learn a lot about what we believe by conferring with those who don’t believe what we do. Our beliefs are a puzzle, a potpourri in constant need of more color, more balance and more pieces. Our rigidity can be counterproductive- it probably needs tempered with something. We need a friend, or an enemy, to balance us out, to swing that pendulum back that went too far because one head it not as good as two.

We have to deemphasize to emphasize. In other words, focusing on one thing comes at the expense of another. If we emphasize the nutrition of oranges, apples seem less important even though they are not. If our focus is always only on the cross that will cost new creation and resurrection, and vise versa. We need friends to balance us out theologically.

If I presume I have nothing to learn from somebody and I just need to cut to the chase of my agenda I am a fool. We need to be malleable, like putty in God’s hands. We need to be willing to challenge what we believe. We need not only to learn, but to relearn and unlearn. We need to be pupils of all people, great or small. Our beliefs need amplified. They need to be more rounded. The one who is willing to receive insight from, for instance, an ant or a 2 year-old believes the world is constantly imparting lessons and wisdom. Barb Peterson wrote, "The wonderful thing about learning there are no set parameters...I can't presuppose what I am going to learn from a person because I haven't had their life experiences...We never know the wealth of knowledge someone might possess."  

This is not advocating our beliefs should be floating and just adopting different, contradicting, ideologies by the hour. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” He’s right. But, I think he would agree, lack of malleability is the death of formation.  


Friday, June 21, 2013

From an eerie well-lit barn basement

From a well-lit eerie barn basement to a fantastical sunset of unknown hues/
Am I damaged goods? I can't bring myself to ask you/

We only get a good taste test of grace when we feel like we are loathsome/
Too bad when we get near that place we take off and run/

I'll tell you what to do this afternoon- as you spit out your cherry pit/
You mentioned that your back hurts when you stand, but your mind hurts worse when you sit/

From the basement we arise to the basement we return/
There is no shalom for those who don't make it priority to yearn/

Facial lines and where you live- I've been a man wondering the same things I did as a kid/...
Trees of green/...echoing, echoing- the voiceless memory of the scream/ to forget, I don't know what that would mean/ who I am, it might unravel the frayed seams/

We fill the void with whatever we believe can fill it/
To that god, no matter how menial we submit/

My chips, my chips, where do you lay?/
Enter, enter, the acclaimed, the other-than, the one who takes my shame/

Counsel, counsel from a person is what I need/
My hair is falling out and this pride insists it supercede/
So, I go to the woods and bury myself under the dirt next to a uprooted tree/ death is our only remedy/

I include you in me- the process doesn't have words/
So, wherever we go there goes the church/

Past due but too long to wait/ I know salvation is today, but I'd prefer a great escape/

Islands and cinder blocks, watches to timesheets/ no one has time to wait on delay so we grow concave on our sleepy feet/  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18 Musings

Justice and Sin Maybe we don't understand what sin is maybe we do, but some denominations are obsessed with surveying it, studying it and diagnosing it. Did Jesus do that? Wasn't he more concerned with social revolution, people and justice? What's the point in not sinning, or knowing what it is if we are concerned with the weightier issues Jesus was/is? Godliness is not simply not sinning- there's a lot more to it. If we think a holy and righteous person is someone who cusses little and fits a Christian clique instead of loose cannon who is merciful, compassionate and concerned with social justice and the oppressed we may be missing the boat.

Heaven If heaven is far away, how is God here? God is here. Heaven is not far away- it's here because God is. Hell is here too.

Nature If you don't believe in God I dare you to watch a sunrise and repeat over and over "god is dead" or "there is no god." Our feet are for walking in freedom into the house of renewal, not the house of decay and brevity.

People They live vicariously through one another. A Grandmother recently told me she lives through her grandchildren. When people influence us or have an impact on us, they live on in us and through us in a way. In a way our person absorbs their person. We integrate others into ourselves. I think this is what it means that Jesus lives in us and through us. (Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:27)

Song Lyrics Repress their suggestions/ remember good lessons/...we're infected/ you guessed it/ west uh the delicutessen/ standin' next tuh/ my new friend desti-ny/ nose is freezing/ and weak knees/ we take speed/ in the form of John 3:16/ I get my fix cause love is my language- off to the streets...dizzying/ to see what they have for me...listening/ killing snakes with blades of grass/ back and forth like whiplash/ this vagrants a bishop? you ask/...I shot for heaven, but hell was on the way/ thought I'd be rude not to stop and say "hey"/ show me a paradox and I'll show you one too/ back at 4th I caught a stupid cool view/ felt the weight of the city near the sewer/ brand new, don't know how you get any newer/ caught in the east's jaws/ and it's manifestations/ it's a short gestation/ a real fan of this separate, yet integrated new nation/

(Picture taken in Chicago)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I thought I saw you. I'm glad it was you.

I thought I saw you, but how could it have been you? You looked confident, striding, heroic, not reduced and beaten down, worn. You looked comfortable in your body, not preoccupied with how you look and how others see you.

Your eyes were looking up, not down. Where did your shame go? Who took the bitterness and injury from the sexual abuse you endured? Who removed your smoldering anger and distrust toward everyone because of the men who used you? You used to be coiled, ready to strike, now you are peaceful. Ridden with guilt and mentally ill and anxious was the only way I knew you, so I don’t recognize you.

You, paranoid of all and scared to open your mouth, I heard you talk in liberated tones, your new voice inflections barely recognizable to me. You, crippled by fears, too stone to tear- I heard you were climbing a tree twisting your way to the sun laughing and tearing along the way. You, ragged and red-eyed as could be, I saw you smooth and serene, your life branching out.

I thought I saw you- walking free and sure, certain. I wondered where your captivity went. Where did what held you back go? There’s not much left of you that I knew...there you finally are! Your casualty was to death. You are radiating. You are able, meditating against the tree your knees bent and eyes closed peacefully as if you were dead. Oh bites and slaps and insults and perpetrators, where have you gone? Oh long sunlit hopeless days and hushed booming absence who put an end to you?

There is no one over your shoulder and no one in front of you neglecting you.

Finally, seeing beauty, which included your own, you sang...

“I was weary of holding onto all I knew/ even though I didn’t let go it was taken from me/ so here I sit, knees bent, leaning against the tree with iced tea wondering what happened to me/ I don’t know how I was subdued me/...

I didn’t have the love you required, a poor soul with nothing to give, emptied of vigor and hope, living in a world of self-deception, ramming my cart, smashing my car, liquid rage in my veins, my wind in my face, my heart spiteful, too closed in on itself to care/ soaking in my pity, bathing my own wrath, eating mold in my wilderness, bugs in my desert, smoking Camels in my garage, dreams ravished by long day after long day, raging against the blessed only to find myself knees bent, leaning against the tree with iced tea wondering what happened to me."

The music you heard as a little girl was alive. You practiced heaviness, but life is light. Yesterday was a life ago. I thought I saw you today. I’m glad it was you.

(Painting by American magic realist painter Ivan Albright, 1897-1983)  

Friday, June 14, 2013

No Person is an Island

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” –John Donne

“Every other man is a piece of myself, for I am a part and a member of mankind. Every Christian is a part of my own body, because we are members of Christ.” –Thomas Merton

I remember as a small town 17 year-old going on a family vacation to Atlanta, Washington D.C. and New York City. The people in these cities seemed like aliens to me. I didn’t imagine they were anything like me, or I like them.

At Chicago last weekend, particularly at the Blues Festival, I was struck by the absolute cohesion of all people. Not only are all people alike, we are one, united by who we are at the deepest level: God’s offspring, His crown jewel, a beautiful impoverished people of unfathomable potential. We are one organism: eclectic and curious, scared and incomplete, feeling and living our way through life. 

Looking back on the Grant Park lawn and watching people dance and enjoy the music at the Blues Festival (pictured)I felt like I was looking at people exactly like me or even myself, not strangers or aliens, no matter how different they appeared. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:40-41, “The glory of the heavenly bodies is different from the glory of the earthly bodies. The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.” Each person also has their own distinct glory within the whole, making the whole whole.

Monk Thomas Merton felt relieved when he realized everyone was similar to him. He wrote, “Thank God, separateness was only a dream.” Separateness is only a dream. How else can we explain being affected when tragedy strikes people we don’t know? Strife, and harmony, in our global community affects all of us. We neglect our connectedness yet we feel it and sense it, but we don’t often describe it or ponder it.

We should find great relief in knowing we are not different, but one. Without deep sameness we don’t have wholeness and unity, which is our problem. We focus on our differences. (At least I do.) We may think this oneness abolishes uniqueness, but we are most individually identifiable inside this uniformity (wholeness.) Only when we are one are we individually unique and crucial to the whole. People different than us don’t threaten our individuality, they enhance it by showing us who we are. To experience ourselves we must watch others experience themselves.

Finding ourselves in creation, as members of creation, in relation to others, to God, the mountains, birds, and blade of grass is paramount to working out our salvation and living out our incorporation into the Triune God, the real order, for God restores me to you, me to me, me to God, and me to creation.

Self-discovery gets a bad rap, but being rightly located in creation is to know who we fundamentally are. As Merton put it, “Self-discovery is always a losing of ourselves and discovery of Christ. To find ourselves then is to find not only our poor, limited, perplexed souls, but to find the power of God that raised Christ from the dead and “built us together in Him unto a habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:2)

No person is an island. Our plot, or lot, is integrated into the time, space and matter we all share. We couldn’t not change the world if we tried. We are connected by the air we breathe, the space we share, the planet we inhabit, our common history, and our common God. Separateness was only a dream.

We make up the web of humankind. What we do affects the web and ourselves. What we eat and drink, what we wear, where we live, what we do, what we don’t do, what we throw away and what we pray.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pojols and Tee-ball (Progress and Relapse)

If Albert Pojols (pictured) went back to tee-ball there would be nothing there for him. Hitting off a tee after hitting 450 foot home runs off 95 mile per hour fastballs would be foolish. When someone gets good at riding bike they don’t go back to training wheels. When the slaves were declared free you wouldn’t think they would voluntarily become slaves again, but some of them did because that was the only way they knew. Once we progress, it doesn’t make sense to regress.

The Holy Spirit progresses humanity in the same way the Beatles progressed music by taking it to a new, lively creative level. The Spirit of the Son of God in humans is the epitome of the progression of humanity. The Holy-Spirit-progression creates these type of humans: patient, peaceable, loving, joyful, faithful, gentle, kind, good, and self-controlled ones. Yet, we revert from this advanced state. Dogs go back to their own vomit and we return to our old ways despite our freedom in Christ, in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit, the new, supernatural part of us wants different things than the weaker element of our human nature (the natural, old, part of us.) So, we have desires in conflict. (Galatians 5:17) This clash is a sign of life. So it’s not always something to be put out by but to be thankful for. The feud is typical of the turbulent inner life of a sinner/saint. 

Paul asks "Why go back to slavery when God has set you free? Why are you trying to do on your own only what God can do for you? Why are you living out of that old, shackled, ever-failing self?" He might say to us: It's for freedom you have been set free. Wear freedom's clothes. Live free. Be healed. Be who you are. Live adopted. Live as God's very own children."

There is a wonderful confusion about what freedom actually is. Freedom is thought of as autonomy (self-sovereignty), or something that allows me to do what I want to do. The problem with this view of freedom is it revolves around me and my desires so I become a slave all over again…to myself and my whims.

Paul takes an opposite view of freedom. He says to use our freedom to serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13) I would say people don’t generally think of freedom as something to be used for serving one another in love. Thomas Merton wrote, "True happiness is found in unselfish love, a love which increases in proportion as it is shared." This is radical and this is the Jesus way. This is beautiful and this is what the world needs. It is for this freedom we have been set free.

Father, you are jealous to possess us so much that you actually take possession of us with the Spirit of your Son. You withhold no good thing. Help us believe that. We are no longer slaves to anyone or anything, but happy captives who belong to You because you purchased us. Amen. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hanging there Humbly

As my wife and I meandered through the European Painting section of the Chicago Art Institute I recognized many paintings that were in my Art History books in college. I realized it is impossible to judge the actual size of a painting from a picture in a book. Some paintings were much smaller than I expected and others were much larger. 

As I walked into one room I scanned to see what I wanted to look at. As I turned to see what was in the corner I was surprised. Humbly staring back at me was one of the world's most famous self-portraits by Vincent Van Gogh. (Pictured) It was hidden from clear view and it is very small- about 8 ½ by 11 inches. It seemed to me a painting like that should be front and center and enormous in size, but it was in the place an insignificant painting would be.

The painting reminded me a great person in obscurity. The location and size of the paining, small and unassuming, reminded me of what it means to have our lives hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3)

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:5) He wrote to the Galatians, “Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.” (Galatians 1:10) This painting was not trying to preach itself or win the approval of onlookers through demonstration of itself, nor should we.

If we believe it's all about God we will be okay with our own obscurity for the sake of serving God. If we believe it is all about us, location and attention will mean everything...being a small painting in the corner will bother us. But, if we know if our lives are hidden with Christ in God we believe we are already immensely important so we don't have to try to prove it with vain striving to manufacture self-importance, therefore we are content being obscured. A life hidden with Christ in God does not need center stage.

One of the frustrating (and really cool) things about being a Christian is I am pressing to attain that which I cannot see. All the Christians who have gone on before us have been laid in their grave not having yet fully received what they hoped for. We, like our ancestors, die in faith, “without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance.” (Hebrews 11: 13) So, a Christian can live a mostly frustrating and, by all measures of the eye, trivial life, but in the life to come be great. This is our hope. So, judging by appearances we have no idea who the greatest among us are, although we think we do.

Jesus encourages us to store up treasures in heaven. (Matthew 6:20) I think part of what he means is to be okay with being like that Van Gogh self-portrait, small and unassuming, because we are not yet dressed in the glory we will be in the future. I also think he means to be okay with our lives consisting of silent prayers driving down the highway and quiet faithfulness in little things. He means don’t strive to be hanging front and center and looming large in the gallery just for our own sake.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adam Sandler and Jesus are into Shame Removal

In this clip (below) from Billy Madison, Adam Sandler removes the shame of Ernie. I imagine the joy Ernie felt after Billy splashed his pants was similar to how the sinners felt when Jesus ate with them. Ernie ceased to feel isolated and ashamed. So did the sinners.

Here are a few reasons we feel shame: we lied, we cheated, we are overweight, we have an addiction or we think we are stupid. Maybe we don't think of our bad thoughts about ourselves as shame-based but I think they are. Maybe we can see it best in other people.

In Jesus’ day sharing a meal with someone was a “guarantee of peace, trust, fraternity, and forgiveness- the shared table symbolizes a shared life…Jesus destroyed the structure of Jewish society by having table fellowship with donkey peddlers, herdsman, slumlords, gamblers, prostitutes and tax collectors.” (Brennan Manning) Those were probably the people who were most ashamed of who they were. They were sure, and so was everyone else, they weren’t friends of God or included in the circle of God’s people.

Manning wrote, “It would be impossible to overestimate the impact these meals must have had upon the poor and the sinners. By accepting them as friends and equals Jesus had taken away their shame, humiliation, and guilt. By showing them they mattered to him as people he gave them a sense of dignity and released them from their old captivity…Because Jesus was looked upon as a man of God and prophet, they would have interpreted his gesture of friendship as God’s approval on them. They were now acceptable to God. Their sinfulness, ignorance, and uncleanness had been overlooked and were no longer being held against them.” The more unsure we are of ourselves the more surprised we are to have Jesus’ table fellowship. 

Too often we perpetuate people’s shame by treating them exactly how Jesus wouldn’t. We indict people and point out what brings them shame because we are insecure. We embellish others weaknessess to feel better about ourselves.

I need shame removal. I need the company of a hugging God. I need to be accepted as I am. The song below by Enter the Worship Circle is about shame removal.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2 Musings

Me I prefer something more “secular” than going to church Sunday mornings because it’s easier to enter God’s rest reading National Geographic on a coffee shop patio than watching performers on a big showy stage singing commercialized ballads. It’s easier for me to worship and serve in prayer from a dirty street corner than in a squeaky clean million dollar complex in the suburbs. Help diagnose me…with grace. I don't know how to combat my cynicism about church. I stink at loving Christ's bride, but she's so unattractive.

People Abraham Lincoln had a revolution within Him. All of us should. God’s justice should propel us forward as it did Lincoln. We should constantly be open to reformation of how to view people and the world and all that is in it. The closed mind is imprisoned. The owner of the closed mind shuts themselves off from the world that engulfs them. This is what a fool is.

Hmm There’s a difference between needing to be heard and having something to say.

Love I have no idea how much God loves me/us. Tasting, knowing, living in, believing in God’s love is a high priority of mine, but I am not even on the first step of an infinite flight of stairs. When I catch a whiff it relaxes me as a drug might. Then I pull my nose back from the grindstone and recline and do what the heck I want. “Love God, and do what you like." Those moments are too few.

Vision We can see and taste God in good architecture and good coffee. If all we see is lines and taste beans we have missed the best part.

Hate, Love I hate vehicles, especially motorcycles, that are intentionally loud. I hate ticking clocks. I love Pandora. I love Jazz.

Nugget I am really selfish and it seems I can do little about it. Speaking of selfishness- some of the most remarkable feats and best works of humanity have been, and maybe needed to be, intrinsically selfish and foolish, but it turned out they benefited us all, so they weren't selfish after all.

Observation It's funny that I put me first...and last. It comes natural.