Love Theories: Not Soup nor Slumber

Picture1

It can’t be stirred in a pot until it tastes better
Can’t be set a top a stove to heat up
Can’t be baked at 450 and set before us to satisfy our hunger
It can’t be shaken out of slumber or kissed alive like a fairy tale

It’s timing is a mystery when it chooses to awaken, when it chooses to be given

It must be wait upon, served when ready, not served when wanted

images

It is not self-seeking, it doesn’t wave you off, it doesn’t point you in the wrong direction, it doesn’t see the opportunity you provide, before it sees you

It doesn’t try to perfect your body before it takes you as it’s own, it doesn’t let you go when you can’t make yourself well. It doesn’t ignore your call or get back to you only when convenient

Love is not convenience, it’s not angry when it’s presently healing and freeing others; it rejoices in that kind

It reciprocates goodness, does not hedge its bets or hedge its heart; it entrusts itself to potential hurt recognizing that it cannot fail even when wounded.

Love is the overcoming currency of the world, yet it never insists payment

But when it’s missing you will hear it, you will see it, you will see the blood in its absence, carry the dejection in darkness, feel the rage when it is replaced with indifference

Love is not another lecture, though it will endure far longer than one

Love will never lose its luster, though it will fall frequently to wash feet

Love isn’t interested in leverage, it holds loosely and is delighted to walk along

Love when perfected eliminates fear, brings near, keeps here

When love lays down or conquers, it looks the same because it leaves a wake of life

When love awakens, we are full

 

To Be A Dad One Day

If I had kids, I see them now.

                My little girl is sensitive and playful, not sensitive as in easily hurt, sensitive as in curious and attentive to the emotions around her and her own. She approaches the world with an intuitive regard for good without suspicion. She likes people and giving compliments. She also likes getting compliments. She’s a little competitive and has these moments when too much newness at once makes her shy. Because of her mom she prefers the familiar. Because of me she is willing to go on adventure, but she asks a lot of questions first and during. Afterward she assumes everyone wants to hear about her adventures and sometimes forgets that the person she tells wasn’t there with her. She carries you with her everywhere. When she meets someone new, it’s as if she is reminding herself in the days that follow that this person will always somehow be a part of her life. As she gets older, she asks more questions about why I lover her mom so much; she would often echo, “that’s why I love momma to.”

                She likes to clap a lot during worship and likes rhythm, neither me nor her mom really have rhythm, but we are thinking about getting her drum lessons. She has a responsibility to people which she probably could not help but learn because that’s the way we are wired. She likes dogs more than cats no matter how much I try to convince her little mind that cats are great. She says dogs are more huggable. She likes to show affection through hugs, it makes her giggle. She agrees with her mom more than with me and she waivers in who she thinks is funnier. She looks forward to bed time because she believes Jesus gives her good dreams. Whenever she has a bad dream, she lays claim to our bed. For a while she would let us know, “Just for tonight.” And she means it.

                As a teenager, she grew with confidence, thank God, still curious, a little more adventurous, a little sterner and more determined. Her mom taught her that. We tried to teach her resilience and have. She holds fast to the stories of our family’s faith and even as a teenager she likes spending time with her grandparents. We are grateful for that. She likes being an older sister, both in looking out for her brother and giving advice. She also holds him accountable to showing up to her events.

                Her brother is smarter than me, so is she, but he enjoys being smart. He’s athletic or at least capable but he says its cooler to be a “nerd.” As a child he trusted us and still does but he didn’t ask for much. He was much more of a content child than me. He dresses nicer than me because of his mom. He’s polite with a dry sense of humor. As a child he was eager to do the activities I was involved in but had more affection for mom. Her balanced was more beneficial to his personality. As he got older, he liked to weigh options and was less feelings driven, but mom taught him to understand and be attentive to how I am wired. She’s a great mom. As a result, my son is very aware. He regularly would ask how I feel about his decisions as a teenager more often than he would ask permission. To which he would always be surprised at the times I would say, “no you’re not doing that.” I learned to give him other options, especially when my no would disappoint him. I admire his independence even being a second child.  66454-fathers-sons-karan-johar-in-conversation-with-sadhguru

                He’s a connector. He calls his grandfather’s for advice, or to be entertained by my dad. He learns fast but also forgets fast. He’s not big into risks and as a kid liked to know how long things would take. He thinks about time too much in my opinion. We weren’t sure how being a middle child would change him. It didn’t really because he felt his younger sibling quite peculiar.

But I think we all did. Such a wonderful surprise in every possible way, making our family a lot less predictable. It’s kind of fun having a child who is unfiltered. I think with the third, we thought we were good parents only to find out again we had much to learn. Our third teaches us wisdom or rather very specific wisdom, that there is not a science, that some days there is total contentment to be left alone and then the next there is a mission from God level of urgency to love our neighbors, while some days refuge from the world is the most important thing on earth. Discerning yet disarming and so joyful. Not the favorite (because there can’t be) but insists on fascinating.

If I saw them now, or saw them more, I’d hold them here.

Breakers of the Fall

Between faith in God and family and friends I hope you have found that those combined are more than enough to break your fall if you find yourself falling. I’m so thankful for family during the holiday, the embrace of my friends and a church that feels like home. They all offer me such a strong love.

I’m sad to be at an airport getting ready to go to a place I’ve called home twice this weekend. I found it strange slipping up by calling Charleston home, especially since it at times it feels a place I associate with discomfort.

But it is my mind.

It’s all in my head. It’s the combination of feeling unable to be self-forgetful while simultaneously forgetting who I am becoming.

8011204798_e2ea712efe_b

I confuse grieving the loss of the familiar by losing the one tangible living being I brought with me… me. And when you begin to grieve for yourself, you’re falling.

I fall out of touch with a realty that, yes, I am responsible for myself, but I also have entrusted ownership of myself to God.

And God most assuredly is here now with me in the airport as well as waiting to encounter me at my apartment in Charleston.

God becomes the breaker of my fall during feelings of loneliness.

For now I am thankful, thankful for a Thanksgiving that I enjoyed with my family, thankful I saw my Dad doing better, saw my grandma consistent in her awareness, so many fun moments with friends packed into 3 days, free milkshakes with burgers, laughing while playing Loaded Questions, riding on the back of a motorcycles before eating Mexican, hearing the testimonies of God’s activity in the Church community, and the heart connections of feeling heard and assured of God’s plan in the process.

I’m thankful Jesus broke all our falls, I’m thankful for the access of his love that can meet us anymore in a variety of forms including discipline, refining and gifts. But Jesus also came to break us off from the things that make us fall, to catch us but also to stop us in our stumbling and guide us in our wandering.

Hebrews 12:1-“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance that race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Willing But So Weak

I had one of those deathbed Jesus moments last week. I was with a patient while they died whom was reconciled to God the week before. I did not save the man, all I did was remind him that God was willing to forgive him because of the work of Jesus Christ.

All I could write, after the patient expired just prior to 3:00 AM was, “I watched a man live.” Dying and living and dying and living again. This is what we profess as Christians. We reincarnate twice as new versions of ourselves. The first time we likely look no different(spiritual new birth). The last time we are promised a glorified body to house an eternal spirit.

In between we die a thousand little deaths, with a thousand degrees of heartbreak, with a thousand more disappointments, mingled with hundreds of thousands of things to be grateful for. Our life becomes challenged by what we are willing to focus on. Do we choose to focus on that which brings us life and light or the things that remind us of our dark and weakness?

H7AwHxA

What we focus on dictates how we live out our salvation. Will I barely make it through each day or will I function in faith and confidence in the power of the Spirit?

My first learning goal in chaplaincy formation was to become comfortable with death/loss. I’m changing it to become more acquainted with resurrection life after death and loss. Little joy is to be found in the losing and the dying, perhaps none. The hope of the resurrection is what our lives need when we are consumed by our own weakness. The alternative is to fixate on our dying disappointments that intrude on our endeavor to live and love.

I Am So Weak

Admittedly, amid this endeavor, I am so weak. I am increasingly more aware of my sin-f-illness, accruing the debt of its deadly wages.

When will I stop paying what I cannot afford to give?

Are there any riches I have saved in an eternal account toward the wealth of knowing Christ?

If I have any wealth from heaven, I would like to invest it in service to the Bridegroom Christ who is both my Creditor and Debt Payer, in the prospect of marriage and family, in service to the Bride, the Church. Treading on bankruptcy in Spirit does not seem to offer the generous hand I hope to give.

Yet here I am, a chaplain, who prays daily with people teetering between their first life and final breath, some trying to make restitution for their next inhale, hoping to love better or love more or love longer. I try to assist them in their desire as I forget my own failure to also love better, love more and love longer. Only to become more self-aware of ineptitude in the torment of my own ego.

I am willing to experience more freedom and wholeness at any cost. But does it ever cease to feel like I grasp at ethereal concepts? I want reality, but I am weak. I want love and to give it, but I am weak. I want to let go, but I am weak. I need help because I am weak. But I am willing for the Spirit of Christ to intervene. Maranatha

Feargiveness

Sorry for cursing in my last entry. I’m not much of a verbal curser. I probably curse 10 times a year. I had a swear jar at work when I worked in construction where I put a quarter in every time I cursed or every time someone thought they heard me curse. There were six quarters in it over the course of close to two years, two of those quarters because I accidentally said curse words in Portuguese. I don’t curse because I love words too much. I don’t want to waste them. When I do curse, I am confident God will forgive me and hope I don’t take forgiveness for granted.

With that said, let me tell you about the hell of a night I had.

Chaplaincy can be utterly terrifying. After working a normal 8-hour day of visiting patients and family, I responded to two calls that occupied my time from 6:45pm-midnight.dvinfernohomerclassicpoets_m

The first call, a patient was dying, 20-25 family members gathered in the ICU.  I prayed with the patient and most of the family before they removed his breathing tube, then after he passed away I prayed for the family. The two minutes I walked away from the room was when he died. I walked up moments after feeling goose bumps from the changed air of one less person present. Death is still surreal to me.

There was a part of me that wanted to be in the room when it happened, but someone dying also feels kind of like an intimate moment. Afterwards I stood around, got ice waters for family, tried to remain available and then 45 minutes later, I left.

I got a call from the switch board operators to visit another patient who was not dying but wanted to see a chaplain at the other hospital (the one I sleep at). I drove back, stopped at Taco Bell (where else? I had a coupon I had to use). And arrived on the patient’s floor at 10 pm.

And I walked into darkness. You’d think being in a situation where there is death is dark, but what’s darker than bodily death is walking into a room that smells of cigarette smoke body odor from someone who is somewhere between alcohol withdrawals and dehydration. main-qimg-d00c0f2057a768e32f242967ccfed9a8-c.jpg

He also took an hour and a half to tell me his life story in third person, which consisted of getting saved, going to prison, solitary confinement, being a bouncer for a strip club, getting married five times, having 7 sons from different wives, persistent substance abuse, witnessing a church bus driver molest a 9 year-old girl, paying for his son to have a failed threesome on his birthday, 18 consecutive seizures, renouncing Jesus and probably something else I missed. (He gave me permission to share his story, but part of me wishes I never heard it)

We prayed, he worshipped Jesus for 6 minutes or so while I sat and thought about how nice it would be to go to sleep in a world where shit like this didn’t exist (also I literally just wanted to go to sleep). Instead of sleeping I wrote about it at 1 am trying to find God in it.

Instead, or perhaps in showing Himself to me I have this Scripture from Psalm 130:3-4 making rounds in my head:

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.

I’ll be honest, after hearing the guys story I kind of felt like this guy doesn’t deserve salvation. I then reflected on my own life and realized I also don’t deserve salvation.

But one terrifying attribute of God is the depth and length of forgiveness Jesus Christ offers us. Most of us aren’t even fully aware of the depths of our sin. For some us, the surface sins are enough to overwhelm us.

Forgiveness terrifies me because if God is real and is as holy and good as He says He is, the psalmist of #130 is right, if God kept a tally of how much mine and your actions suck, we wouldn’t be able to stand. If I kept a tally of how much the actions of some people I would like to call friends suck, I would cut them off completely.

Instead of fearing the implications of forgiveness, we are tempted become users. I let myself be so used by some people. But, so does God in ever greater quantity and in darker depths of quality. God ascribes purpose to the blood of his Son. That costly blood cleanses our guilt, our conscience only for us to likely use again, to accidentally attempt to re-crucify.

Okay maybe you don’t, but I do. And yet I have tried to make it my job to minister forgiveness to people in the midst of their filthy, shit-stained, sulfur-scented dump heap of a life as they drain oxygen from this fallen world.

Yet in that darkness, in that pit Jesus promises to reach in and love us with a light that is simultaneously as bright as the day and as subtle as the flicker of a single firefly in a field at night.

During the minutes in which this patient of mine uttered the words, “Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus, thank you for your presence again,” on repeat; I sat there tired, numb, wondering what I am also most afraid of.

How do you write about yourself?

For a vocation that is supposed to require me to minister to hurting people, I am also required to do an enormous amount of self-reflection. And as a result I am now writing about myself, writing about myself.

I was asked to write a personal mythology. Because the word mythology is used, I’m writing about myself in the third person for the assignment.

The assignment did not specify for me to write in third person, but I am choosing to because I write too much about myself outside of my job. So I thought as a creative exercise I would try to step back and summarize my life in less than three pages by stepping outside of myself.

I wouldn’t say it is challenging , but I will say its tiring. It’s tiring because I spend so much time visiting my past trying to work through it and workshop it, only to keep realizing I can’t change it. I wonder what God thinks when we keep revisiting old things. I wonder what people are like who never have time to revisit the past and are solely fixed on their future.

I want to be that way, but I don’t think the process I have signed up for will let me.

For me, life is not laid out in stages of boxes that I can check, only to never look at again. Even if the seasons have past, the experiences and lack of answers seem to keep looking for closure. Which, I think is what death is about.depositphotos_2189599-stock-photo-dying-sunflower

Scripture says in John 12:24: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

One of  my goals for the first 3 months of this residency is to be comfortable with things that die, specifically become comfortable being in the room with death.

Why?

Well in part simply because I have to. I don’t think I can work day in and day out and once a week overnight at a hospital as a chaplain and avoid encountering this. But my goal is more than encountering it which is inevitable; my goal is to become okay with it while maintaining the confidence in Christ that it is not the end.

I want to become okay with it because notice what the Scripture says, “unless the gran falls in to the earth and dies; it remains alone.” Doesn’t that portion of statement fascinate you? I don’t want to be alone. I don’t even want to be alone in my apartment (Just get a cat already).

Jesus is announcing that there is so much in my life, in my desire, even in my “innocence”, in this world that must be subjected to a dying, in order to bear much fruit. In order for me to find life and love and genuine friendship and fullness of life, I like Jesus, must enter that fullness of life through death.

Well that’s nice, but what in heaven does it mean when a Christian says some whacked out jargon, “die to yourself,” “be dead to sin.” Because in theory I get it, but if something dies, isn’t their finality? Isn’t their loss? Isn’t their ending? If I have died to something how in the world does the pain, the sin, the stubborn refusal keep coming back? Butterfly-Life-Cycle_Christina-Whitefull

Does the apostle Paul really mean it when he says he dies daily and exhorts us to do the same? Unfortunately, yes, it means I have to suffer loss and ending, and taking the life out of the things that would otherwise kill my love for God and others.

You and I must do this daily with our greatest temptations and fears because the life available on the other side is far more abundant. I know this in part from experience, but I also know because of this internal hope that has gripped me. There must be something better than the fading false promises of the temporal.

The temporal just can’t be it because Scripture also declares that God has set eternity within our hearts. That is why the closer we get to death, the more aware we should become of the eternal but also the present.

How does any of this help you or I write about ourselves?

I think it simply helps us to write or tell our stories with hope. When you have surrendered the false myth that death leaves a permanent sting, I think we are free to embrace with confidence the promise of life through Christ to give us and others something worth reading and remembering.

Then once you write about yourself have the courage to let others read you. You might give them courage to find fullness of life and the courage to let something die that needs to so it doesn’t remain alone.

When the Game Slows Down

My orientation into chaplaincy has begun. Who knew orientation could feel so disorienting? While inundated with information, it is amazing how many golden nuggets of truth and wisdom I have received in a weeks time. One statement I am fixated on, even though I have not  yet visited a single patient is this: “The game will slow down.”

It was an analogy for perceiving and understanding the dynamics of a room whether it be just a patient or an entire family is present when ministering in the hospital.

I felt this analogy helpful even though I am not particularly excellent at any one particular sport. I do feel like I have the mental capacity to comprehend what the chaplain who shared this meant as it relates to me in the sports of soccer, wrestling, and racquetball.

pexels-photo-260024

The gist of the statement: “the game will slow down” pertains to our mastery of craft or vocation or even hobby. It has relatively nothing to do with ease as much as it has to do with familiarity with yourself in a given situation.

In other words a sport might become exceedingly more difficult based on who your opponent is, but the confidence you have in your ability or in the case of chaplaincy, the confidence of God at work through my availability should not be shook by the difficulty of the task in front of me.

And because I am not shook I can perceive. Or to say it another way, I can evaluate the circumstances of those I will minister to without becoming so introspective about whether or not I am capable.

And while I entirely understand this, I am reminded of something that happens to me whether it be in soccer, racquetball, and when I was training as a wrestler (never when I performed). Inevitably, these moments would come, often expected, in which my resolve would gas out completely in the middle of competition mode.

It is not through reaching a limit of physical exertion as much as I hit the wall of mental distraction. I become so preoccupied with something other than that in which I am competing only to get bogged down by this other area of life that makes me feel incapable.

I can talk about it because it has happened often enough in the past that it feels so real as I write. Sometimes I could be fully engaged in a game and then an idle thought about failed interpersonal relationships or fear of performance in another area of life has now  interrupted my current activity.

And the game in which moments before I felt extremely capable and in control has now become secondary to the internal mental crisis that chose to interrupt me.

And now for the why I am writing about this.

images

I am writing to point to God, perhaps as to how he might view this program we’ve got going on down here. Not that God or we should equate life to a game by any means, but God is watching this thing unfold in slow-mo. In His infinite patience, God gives us time and space to learn to relate through the reconciliation purchased by Jesus Christ.

And some of us are so obstinate to the greatest offer we could ever receive while breathing: unrestricted access to the throne of God.

But if the games end is standing before that throne, which sadly I think many professing Christians often forget or maybe some have entirely abandoned, then I’m endeavoring to stand before that throne faithful.

And however slow it may take to attain it, in Christ’s mercy, may I attain.

The Chasm Depth: A Metaphor Before I Move

I had this unction this year that God was doing something deep inside me, that we were digging into a depth we had yet to venture. And in that place I would find something I was not prepared to face until we got there.

I remember assuming that when we arrived at what God was digging at, I would find water. I expected a geyser to come out or at least a trickling of some sort.

But what I think I’ve found instead, is a chasm.

This bothers me. We had been digging and preparing a work, just to find a dark void. I was hoping that I would immediately see what I was getting when we reached the depth. I expected immediate overflowing, not darkness and new challenge.

I have felt that I am both experiencing and entering a season of abundance, which I warily declare, because outwardly it could look like I’m starting at a deficit.

But God is patient and generous and knew what I was getting myself into and has prepared me for this moment. He has prepared me for an accelerated depth. But why downward, why now-ward?

As quickly as I ask why, I remember that the past 3 years has taught me the why matters so little. More importantly than the why is the will. Will I follow if I know hardly anything?  I have repeatedly tried to say yes while struggling with all my own sin and burdens.

350px-Geyser_island

We dug and we prepared and I’m looking down and I feel with everything within me that God, the good Father would not ask me to jump to my death or to be deserted.

And then I felt this question pop into my head: “Do you want to jump or fall in?”

The undercurrent of that question that I heard was this: “Either way this is where you are going because this is what we have prepared for.”

Up until the past 2 weeks I have been eager for a lot of things. I have looked forward to moving, to starting a new work, to leave behind some things, to celebrate victories and growth, to conquer some sin and weakness; then I became very acquainted with something all too familiar.

894778_10101341418992459_477355515_o.jpg

With fear, more specifically the fear of not being able to guarantee the outcome of my choices. Without that guarantee I become tempted to resort back to familiar choices.

When you or I choose fear or sin, there is a part of us that knows even if that choice is bad or terrible, at least it is familiar and we can predict the outcome. Sin feels like death or disappointment which gives me some deceived solace that my failure is my own and in my control rather than left to chance. It feels better than failing while obeying, which might tempt me to blame God in anger.

This is a real temptation in the face of getting bad news about your father’s health or having to leave behind the potential for romance or missing your favorite friendships or job security.

For now though, I know that if I must go, I might as well jump.

And I might as well jump because I believe in a God who does miracles and wonders all the while clinging to the hope that what God has for me is better than me trying to hold tightly to my desire in these moments.

So I want to prophesy over myself and perhaps over you, a word. And the word is one word in Hebrew: The word is Tehom. It is a word that describes a large depth of water, specifically waters existing at a depth that is hard to reach. And from this depth, one of my favorite verses in the psalms exists.

Psalm 42:7:

“Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.”

It conjures up an image of an inverted waterfall pouring out of the earth to create a wave sweeping over us, but it is not wave of harm or destruction. It is a wave of love and song and joy.

This is the chasm depth I’m believing I’m jumping into.

After being in that depth, I could be carried out in a wave.

The word Tehom also is a symbol for creation in and of the world. This is the deep that darkness hovers over in Genesis  And from the deep creation begins to fill the void, as God speaks.

That is what I believe God is speaking over you: God and your creativity is filling the empty and dark spaces. It is part of God perfecting you through the sacrifice and work of Jesus. Darkness has no place to hover when the void is filled with God’s work.

Thank you reader/friend for stepping into this work with me.

*Note: Forgive me if the metaphor is too convoluted. I lean into unnecessary complexity too much on occasion.