Got Nuffin'

Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Monday, June 7, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Last night I was up particularly late and, realizing that I needed to attempt sleep, I stopped working and tried to rest. Finding this "sleep" thing more difficult than I imagined, I turned on a documentary which had been recommended to me. The film was about a married 47-year old family man who used an internet chat room to create a much younger online persona and court a 17-year old girl. While the lies he was telling seemed relatively harmless to him in the beginning, the relationship required more and more lies in an effort to maintain the charade. Unbeknownst to him, these lies held up lies the other party was telling, and the initial "harmless" lies began to affirm those lies, and create new lies, and the tangled mess ended up hurting innocent people in very serious ways.

I finished the documentary and lay in bed in a state of sleeplessness, thinking about what it was to essentially create a fictional person like this man did, from thin air. What it was to create a second life which wasn't real. What it was to pretend to be somebody you weren't. I came to the conclusion that the lies may in some ways come natural to people - aren't we all in some way living a life which doesn't fully represent our true selves? Rex Baeber, a psychologist who weighed in on the documentary, had a rather poignant statement about the human condition during his interview - "From my perspective . . . what's to be learned from this will sound when first said to be just childishly simple: Be nice, don't lie. If this interview took place a million years from today, 'be nice, don't lie' will still be good advice not taken."

Earlier that night at my home church I brought up a thought I had been reflecting on over the past week. This previous Monday I helped out with a homeless outreach in downtown St. Petersburg, where we made 150 peanut butter and jelly sandwich sack lunches as well as large containers of water and iced coffee. We drove to a few different locations, distributing the food to those in need. At one particular stop, City Hall, we pulled up and a crowd quickly began to form. However, there were homeless people all around the block, many being out of sight, and a friend and I decided to walk the block and tell people about the free food being served. Coming back full circle to the van, I was part of a small crowd of people we had gathered up. It hit me that, for anyone passing by me, I could easily be mistaken as part of the crowd. I could easily be just another homeless man walking to the van to get my free sandwich. Then, the very next day I ended up in a large upscale mall. I walked through Neiman Marcus, and while I made my way through the store I stopped to look at the ties - my weakness!! - and almost laughed at the price tags, well over a hundred dollars for each tie. I was politely greeted by an employee, who asked if I would like to be fitted for anything. It struck me there, declining an employee in a store well out of my price range - how could I go from being mistaken for a homeless man to being mistaken for someone who is very affluent in a 12-hour period?

I am not homeless. I am not incredibly well-off. Neither of these things truly describe me.

As I lay in bed thinking about this all, I looked out my window and realized the sun was out. I thought how I was so much more than any assumption, label, or definition. I felt full of energy and got up, put on shoes, grabbed a thermos, and walked out the door. With no specific purpose I started to run. I reached the end of my neighborhood and started formulating a game plan in my mind. I asked myself where was I running to? How long should I run? Midway through formulating this plan on where my run would take me and how long it should last, I realized that I was slowing down and pacing myself in an attempt to reserve energy for the way back. All of a sudden this was too much like the thoughts I had been going over only minutes ago. I realized that if I created a plan, I was simply placing assumptions on myself. I was assuming how long I could last, assuming when I would tire, and assuming where I would most want to be. I realized I was looking back at the neighborhood I had just left to see how far I had gone and how long it would take to get back. I didn't want to live that way - I resolved that I wanted to run like I had nothing to lose.

So I ran, refusing to look back behind me. It dawned on me that the morning jogger in front of me had before been a subconscious marker of distance, and in my new uncaring state for where I was the figure stopped being an anchor to where I was and became a figure who only bobbed up and down - I could no longer make out if they were coming towards me or going away from me. It didn't matter. Only the running mattered. I took a turn and ran towards a bridge taking me to the beach. I realized that the cars passing by might take me for another morning jogger on a daily run, which made me think again of who I was and who I was not.

I am not a runner. I am not not a runner. Neither of these things truly describe me.

I continued running (sometimes, when I felt ready to split at the seams, walking . . . it would be rather pointless to write these thoughts, partially based on the futiliuty of lies, if I decided to now exaggerate the truth) and a song came to the forefront of my mind, and it's chorus became my mantra as I pushed forward without a true destination. The chorus, from the song "Got Nuffin'" by Spoon goes -

When I know you’re watching out for me
I look for what matters
And I notice what matters
And I got nothing to lose but
Darkness and shadows
Got nothing to lose but
Loneliness and patterns

Click to listen - Got Nuffin' - Spoon

I didn't want to retain any energy for a trip back. I realized that nothing mattered. I wanted to run until I had nothing left in me, which was the only way to live. I wanted to stop hiding and reserving, stopping and starting, attempting to hold up things which were assumptions. The goals meant nothing. The holding back of energy was pointless. I wanted to run like nothing mattered - and live the same way. What did I have to lose in my run? Nothing but a pattern. What did I have to lose in a life where I stopped the frivolous assumptions? Nothing but shadows.

Who am I? A vessel for Christ. Any assumptions made about me don't matter. The way in which I serve Him may be unique, it may have it's own shape and beauty, but it will never compare to the more important shape of the Christ burning bright inside of me.

I look for what matters, and find I have nothing to lose.

All Is Vanity

Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Monday, November 9, 2009 at 10:20 AM

- C. Allan Gilbert

Ecclesiastes 1:2 -
Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher. Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities! All is vanity - emptiness, falsity, and vainglory."

Having just recently written about Ecclesiastes, I once again find myself drawn to the book - and the same verses - this time with different context. The book so well describes the struggle of finding emptiness as opposed to fulfillment - and that struggle is not only found when futility attempting to attain worldly accomplishment, but in all aspects of life as well.

Our lives being decidedly finite, we must conclude what we are living for - and if our actions match up with our motives. This world is unquestionably centered on appearance and beauty, and this too is meaningless. The end of vanity is not a new concept, and has been touched on artistically time and time again. It is, however, a concept we seem to forget. Or perhaps, more truthfully, ignore. The author of Ecclesiastes calls on us to never forget it. To instead, live in total acknowledgment to it. Wisdom says that we will have to face these facts sooner or later - and the greater choice is to do it in youth.

This is why that death to ourselves and our ideals is so necessary - to come to terms with the vanity which is overlaid on the world and our actions. All around us in vanity - excess in appearance, in performance, in action, in function . . . in literally every area.

Do we choose to ignore the fact, and revel in the vanity? Or do we choose to understand it, remove ourselves, and live from another kingdom altogether?

Vapors never last.

Street Lights

Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 6:13 PM

'Street Lights'

- Kanye West

YES, Kanye West. Since my last thoughts were rather serious reflections on our similarity to Judas, I decided that mainstream hip-hop would be a good 180.

I bring this song up for a reason. Mr. West is a definite point of contention in many musical circles. While critically lauded as a powerhouse producer and of obvious mainstream popularity, his lyrical skills are often called into question, and he's known for his temper and so called Kanye-isms, such as the recent quote dubbing himself a "proud non-reader of books" and perhaps more famously proclaiming "George Bush doesn't care about black people." On top of this, his latest album was arguably his least appreciated, as much was said of his decision to sing on most songs, using the generous auto-tune vocal processor to hide his less than perfect voice.

However, I find this latest album, 808 & Heartbreaks, to be far and away his best work, and for one reason.

It's honest.

Honest in a way I can sincerely appreciate. See, what struck me about this album was the lack of that bravado West is well known for, replaced instead by a true show of emotion which I found compelling. The song 'Street Lights' is the greatest example, a simple song about driving down the road and contemplating how fast life can change, with moments fading into the past far too rapidly. He goes on to say "I know my destination, but I'm just not there" and in the end seems overwhelmed by the totality of the world.

I like this song because of its simple, childlike nature. I like it because I want to reflect that in my life more often than I feel I do. I like it because I want that honesty and transparency in my own life, and because sometimes we all feel like life isn't fair. I like it because it's a reminder of God's grace as we go through the usual emotional circles.

I think it's important, because it shows that everyone in the world is crying out with those same feelings.

West has often said that his goal is to sing from and emulate the perspective of a "regular person" and I find this song to be a great example. Regardless of fame or wealth, people seek more from life, and see that the world is a fleeting thing. There must be more to it all. West knows it, and his fans do too. The childlike song appeals to the teenager in all of us, the one who finds reality too harsh, and seeks escape or solace. God can provide.

This song is definitely simple. West has never been well known for his superb lyrical skills, and this song is true to form. No walls were shattered rhyming words like "grow" and "know" or "there" and "fare." However, there is an art to simplicity, and this song makes the grade as a reminder of where the world is, and the void that only God can fill.

Edit: I post this only to have West once again take the spotlight the very next day at the VMA awards, pulling one of his most hated stunts to date. Regardless of mixed feelings of West after yet another mishap, I think this new event only makes reaffirms my thoughts.


Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Monday, August 17, 2009 at 8:24 AM

- Carl Anderson

Judas. There is something about Judas. Something that I've never been able to get over about his life, and something that I've never seen captured quite right in any sermon, book, film, or documentary. Something I've never been able to capture, even in my own thoughts.

I've often wished that we had more insight into Judas' mind - so we could know what he was thinking as he saw Jesus minister, heal, and teach. Where were His loyalties? What were his goals? What did he think Jesus was here to do, and when did he think it was going to be accomplished?

What made him a thief?

What made him a traitor?

More importantly, what made him a follower of Jesus?

I can't claim to answer any of these questions, and we'll likely never know any of his motivations while on this earth, but that doesn't stop me from thinking about it, and often feeling as if Judas is both misunderstood and tossed aside by most people today.

Many may think I sympathize with Judas, but I don't believe that's the case.

More specifically, I think I identify with him.

What would I do, in the situations he was put in? How would I feel, having all of my religious beliefs turned upside down, all of my hopes and aspirations for this world turned inside out, all of my ideals and loves and hobbies being thrown on the ground in the favor of following a Messiah who tells me the real reward comes only after death? To be told that fighting for freedom is not a real solution, and reigning over a kingdom not permanent enough to matter?

It had to be hard.

It had to be, at times, unbearable.

None of this makes Judas any better for what he did, and it certainly doesn't make Christ any less perfect, but it does shine some light on who we all are in our imperfect humanity. Often our qualities aren't flattering - we're completely misunderstood by everyone including ourselves, incredibly confused and purposeless, and driven by greed and self-serving motivations, even when trying to do good.

We need to turn to Christ, and submit all things to Him. We can never get enough, not even when He's standing right in front of us and speaking.

Judas makes that clear.

I posted the picture above, from - of all movies - Jesus Christ Superstar, for a reason. Judas is portrayed in many different movies, and each take on him is unique. In some films he is a confused and bitter disciple. In others, like The Last Temptation, he is a loyal but bloodthirsty friend.

In Jesus Christ Superstar, however, he is simply a misguided man of God, trying to do the best he can. Sometimes, he thinks his plans are better than Jesus'. Sometimes, he lets that thinking get in the way.

Sometimes, I do the same.


Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 9:26 AM

Last year when I went to Panimaquin I was given a fantastic grasp of who people were in the village, and what it would be like to live their lives. I had a good understanding of how different their ways were than mine, and how they each had personal struggles and relationships with Christ which reflected this idea. Going to the village this year gave me a lot of insight on the same idea on a much larger scale. This time it wasn't about individuals, but about the state of the Guatemalan nation, and the state of the world

It was a great way to realize how blessed I am to be in the United States and have the amenities which I take for granted. Seeing people without these things always helps put my life in perspective. Being in a developing country is certainly a great way to see the world on a larger scale.

These photographs represent a lot to me because they show the state of those growing up in this climate. There are entire lives lived here, and the children play, and eat, and run, and talk - and work.

As I spent time there, and as I look back on the photographs, my mind cycles on certain thoughts.

I want to see God make an impact on them.

God needs to make an impact on them.

I want to play my part in that idea. There are so many people in this world that need God's love, I want to do everything I can to help make it happen.

The Denial of St. Peter

Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 1:49 PM

- Gerrit van Honthorst

After recently going through 1 Peter, then 2 Peter, then 2 Peter again quite a few times, I was really blown away with who Peter became throughout his lifelong walk with Christ. I sometimes find it very easy to separate teaching figures in the Bible and forget they had past mistakes, and Peter is a great example. Only lately have I really been grasping what it means that the same man who gives us great wisdom also repeatedly showed his fear, shame, and insecurities to the world while walking beside Jesus.

Peter is such a great encouragement to me, because He wasn't so great. Not only did he fear, but he feared to the point of literally denying Jesus. I think we should look at that and see the similarities in our lives, and then look at the rest of his life to see what great things he accomplished afterwards, and how we can do the same.

Because Peter understood that his life wasn't perfect. He understood that his faith wasn't "on" or "off." Instead, he realized that "you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." That, and that alone, is just what he did. I'm going to try and follow that excellent example.

King Hezekiah

Posted by Drew Coffman | | Posted On Monday, May 25, 2009 at 6:06 PM

- El Escorial

King Hezekiah (Ezechias, on the right) has been on my mind frequently over the past couple of weeks, for the various events which He is known for in the Bible. A very human king, it is my opinion that Hezekiah is notable for one thing - His prayers. These prayers left him remembered not as another cog in the never-ending line of kings, but something more. Someone who was connected to God in a way which was admirable, and testified to the fact that God is someone who cares for his people in wondrous ways.

His ability to be a just ruler ebbed and flowed with his ability to stay faithful and true to the Lord. God moved and did amazing things in his life when he would humble himself and examine who he was in contrast to his Maker. Huge miracles consistently answered his prayers, creating unity and independence for his people and at one point literally lengthening his life. When he became prideful, both he and his people would suffer.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from Hezekiah. We are all human, and make mistakes on a consistent basis. We put too much weight in ourselves and our own ability, forgetting the miracles which God and only God can perform - and will perform for us.

Isaiah 38:5-6 -
"This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. Yes, I will defend this city."