It Took A Long Time To Recover

How long will you keep me here

walking on this line

I’m outside your house and home

and I can’t remember mine

Everything is so foreign now

I thought I had you with me

And then you came out crying

And I knew it never would be

We were walking in circles

and it felt like quite the time

I guess I never felt your love

I just kept on feeling mine

….

Yeah I know it happened

Yeah I know I stumbled

I stumbled through the summer

tried to find another lover

tried to chase another lover

but I also know it took a long time to recover

Every year, the cycle of my life seems to carry so much wait (and weight) in August. Maybe it is the last push of summer. Maybe it is because so many of the cycles of my life have revolved around education or some new endeavor. Or maybe I got stuck in a loop.

The lyrics above are to a song I wrote back in 2016. You can see a rare video of me singing it back when I recorded it here. Then you can evaluate my singing voice and come to new conclusions. Regardless, those lyrics came from a place 3 years prior at the beginning of August which wound up being the final page of a complex relationship.

Since then, the month of August has been a month in which I started grad school, started a chaplaincy residency, ended a chaplaincy residency, started teaching. It has fallen in seasons of transition. Life transitions are usually challenging in themselves, but when transitions are accompanied by grief and loss and perceived abandonment they can feel impossible to get through.

This August is no different. I have felt nauseous for 2 weeks straight. Sometimes my body feels like its trembling, like I’m going through some kind of withdrawal. I have been searching for a name for what’s happened. It’s not grief. It’s something more intense. It’s whatever the emotional pain someone heaps on you as your grieving that makes you question reality is called.

Is there a word for that?

Is it gaslighting?

Maybe but not entirely.

It is fear but not the reverential good kind. It’s the kind that has you on high alert that makes you kind of weary of many interactions. And that creates a fight to capture an accurate identity instead of one being crafted through false accusation.

And so in these conditions we recover. People who have endured much worse and the loss of much more find a way to recover. Sometimes it takes a very very long time and the only way they recover is to find new hope.

So I’m preparing to newly hope. And if hope can no longer be found here, it is time to go. And if time to go means a quicker recovery then there is a good in the goodbye.

I hope you too can recover from your wounds and losses in this season friends.

My Father, the Hero

About 6 years ago, at Pennington Assembly of God, members of the staff recorded videos of our fathers listening to us answering questions about what it was like to be raised and loved by our dads and the instances in which we as sons did things that were unbecoming of the fearfully wonderful men we would become. We showed it on Father’s Day. Here’s the link

I think about that season of ministry and feeling energy and creativity flowing in ways that felt lighter and funny. I think somewhere deep in the heart of God is the comedy of the Father. And I think the Church has not yet fully realized the God that has plenty of Dad jokes at His disposal.

I recognize after working this past year in education in an underprivileged school how many students lives in single family homes, most of which without fathers in the household. I recognize further how rare it is for a student to live in a single family household solely raised by their father.

The national statistics suggest that only 16% of children raised in single parent homes live in a household with a single father. Of all total household arrangements less than 5% of households contain a single dad. In my classroom of roughly 15 students, I only know of one was raised by a single-father. These statistics and my experience has made me more aware of how rare my own experience is of spending a large portion of my childhood raised by my dad.

In 4th grade my dad got an apartment in the same community as my grandmother. Our third floor two bedroom apartment was in a different school zone, but my dad requested permission for me to continue to attend the elementary school I was enrolled in. He also got permission for me to attend a Middle School where the majority of my elementary age friends would attend. I still have the letter he wrote to the school board as a reminder of his diligence to make sure there would be conistency in my life.

My dad modeled consistency well in his diligence at work and playing softball. He allowed me to play sports and trusted me to carry out my own schoolwork. My dad trusted me with a sense of independence and creativity and always supported me. He paid me and my brother’s way through college and always made sure we had everything we needed to be given the best chance to succeed.

In adulthood, I have appreciated my relationship with my dad more over the last decade. I don’t necessarily feel any sense of a cats in the cradle situation even though I did move away and move back to New Jersey several times. My fondest memories include my dad attending professional wrestling events in Wrightstown and our standing games of pool in the basement while listening to classic rock on CD or as of more recently his jukebox. In some ways fatherhood and sonship gives me the sense that it can get easier as you get older. That could just be because I have been single and have not been preoccupied with a family of my own.

I’ve also learned new things about my dads character, his resilience and optimism in the face of difficulty and illness. I have often wondered over the past 3-4 years how he has demonstrated hope and joy in spite of the suffering in his body. His demonstration has given me courage and hope and has required me to trust more in the hope that God sees me and guides me in my own times of suffering and disappointment.

Fortunately, today is also a cause for celebration, to celebrate my dad for being here, for being a great father and loving me and my brother well. And while there is more to write and more to praise, for now I’ll simply say:

Happy Father’s Day Dad!

A Few Tender Words to You, as if You were Me

Hello friend, I don’t know what you might be carrying lately. I also don’t know if what you are carrying is much heavier or signicantly lighter than you are imagining. I don’t know even know if your indecision is the product of you not actually knowing or if you feel so trapped where you are that it is hard to imagine a joy filled future.

I don’t necessarily see all you are dealing with nor do I know it. I don’t know the extent of your illness, your weakness, what the cause is of you being less present or barely awake. I can’t really imagine the toll it has taken on your mind but I do know the toll things have taken on my own heart and my own mind. I also know that the times when I am overwhelmed by the feeling of an unmet expectation, that I should have known or should have been better, I know that comparison hurts and that condemnation further kills or isolates the hope inside me.

Beloved, you need that hope inside you. You cannot under any circumstance surrender hope; now the direction of our hope might change, but you cannot discard it. You must remain faithful to hope. It is the anchor.

Also, you must lean into love. I imagine you have felt like the things or the people you expected love from have let you down, maybe often and maybe seemingly beyond recovery. You might sense that the love that once came from a certain place or someone has grown cold or despondent to your needs. I am sorry for that. I don’t know why love grows cold. I don’t know why it can be so hard to conjure, why our hearts can feel love sick or that our very love is somehow sick or ill and unable to give with the generosity we desire it to give. I think we always suspect that love will be transformative and sustaining.

Perfect love does this, the kind that drives out all of our fears. That kind only comes from God. A love like that must be divine, otherworldly, beyond human comprehension. But that is the love we need friend, probably in this moment, a love that has no desire to abandon, a love that does not waiver in its intensity, a love that does not suddenly come to a halt or push you aside or forget you exist. A love that keeps you in the center of its imagination. That love requires a perfect person in order to be a perfect love.

Yet we also must have a love for the imperfect. Somehow you are trying to maintain a strength to be able to love those who have hurt you, to love even your enemy. You have engaged in a seemingly impossible endeavor. It has tired you out. It feels like you cannot force forgiveness, you cannot force holiness and it seems easier to return to the dark comforts of addiction or slow death rather than deal with the disappointment of feeling alive in love just to have it sucked out of you, just to have it go unreciprocated or for it to feel like it no longer has the power to change you, revive you, keep you.

I cannot assure you of the timing in which it all gets better or in which it all makes sense or when the stories converge to have a continuation that is filled with purpose. I think somehow it does, that in the deep mystery of God and of our own lives that we can be contented to know that we are not trapped in an unhappy accident of existence. Rather, the love by whom and for whom and through whom you were created has made you to be a source of wonder in the world. I hope today you know that you are the reward.

If You Continue…

In late February of 2013, I began training to be a professional wrestler. It came after putting a dream I had growing up, on hold for about 7 years. Really, on hold is not the right word, more like out of my mind what I thought was completely. But it’s amazing what the right place at the right time, at a season of life where other things lost their meaning can provide for a person.

As it turned out, the initial excitement of training only lasted a few weeks, and as I was gripped by a season of depression, training just wasn’t giving me any sense of joy. But I remember having a thought for several months. I remember thinking, “If this dream was something that was a part of a my life and brought me joy for so long, one day if I persist long enough this might just bring me joy again.”

Whether or not that thought worked or was sustaining, I’m not sure I can tell or remember. What I do remember is that I continued until 2018 (with almost a full year break in 2015-2016) when I moved to South Carolina.

It was then I continued in a new direction with a new set of expectations and goals with an invigorated sense of purpose that I believed was grounded in a call from God. If any of that interests you, this blog chronicles much of that journey, or you can ask me for a rambling, long winded, inchorent babbling version where the only hope is that I will shut down in the middle of it in order for it to come to a succinct but albeit inconclusive end.

This is quite a long introduction to say a few words on the topic of continuing on in one’s faith. To start I present a scripture:

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Colossians 1:21-23

I have been struck by the conditionality of Paul’s words. To expound on the supremacy of Christ just prior, and to follow the verses above by proclaiming that Paul rejoices to share in sufferings, he seems to say “in your reconciliation you could stop or move on from your hope, the same hope that was meant to be an anchor to your soul; you could cut ties with.”

Can You Beat This Quiz on Female Video Game Characters? > Fandom Spotlite

He puts forth the condition of cutting ties in a sandwich by way of reminder of a former alienation and enmity brought about by evil behavior. He also reminds us that the way God presents you now is as holy an pure and without blemish unable to be accused and that there is unimaginable possibilities in the hope of the gospel. Even still there in the middle is an “if you continue in your faith.”

And what makes us want to not continue is hardly ever what one might think actually could. The New Testament seems to be strongly convinced that persecution would not stop followers of Jesus from continuing. The writers seem far more convinced that false doctrine leading to false beliefs is far more likely to lead believers astray than persecution. There is almost this assumption/guarentee of persecution, whereas false doctrine/teaching has to be entertained, has to find a willing ear. And this according to the New Testament is far greater catalyst in the turn towards no longer continuing than anything else I can think of.

I think the reason people turn to false beliefs is due to palpability. There is something in what is being believed that is easier or more conducive to living life a certain way than if they kept a grasp on truth. Anything to avoid the disruption of comfortability or status. But to continue on in faith, means saying yes to who (Jesus) you barely know and what you may have not have the faintest grasp of what is involved (the works prepared to do beforehand).

If we want to follow Jesus, expecting the upending of sensibilities is what we signed up for; alongside it is a steadfast promise that we will be kept and loved and forgiven upon confession and our efforts to continue to turn from darkness toward delight in Jesus.

Will you continue? What do you believe that is convenient but untrue? What do I believe that keeps me comfortable yet unwilling to look foolish in faith? Who am I continuing for? and what do I need to do with the ministry of reconicliation God has entrusted to me as an ambassador of the kingdom? So many answers to these questions I know in part, or hardly at all, but in choosing to continue, I establish myself in hope.

Longanimity: The Hope of A Calling

My urgency to write might in part be due to my angst, in part due to the fact that I have not blogged in over 3 months which usually is not a great indicator. I learned a new word today: longanimity. It is derived from Latin, meaning “long soul,” but essentially means patience in sufffering.

I found it in a translation of Scripture of Ephesians 4:2 which usually translates longanimity as longsuffering. Suffering is an inevitable part of the call to salvation which is entirely strange. We are offered salvation from eternal torment and salvation to relationship with Jesus, only to share in His sufferings perhaps with a keener awareness of the suffering caused by our own sin and the common suffering of the human condition. In a sense, it feels like it gets worse before it gets better.

Perhaps, I have no better demonstration of the ability to endure suffering in the body in the last several years than the example of the perseverance of my own father. Since 2018, he has been fighting leukemia. During the fight, he has faced several other health complications that he has overcome by in large with an optimistic disposition (also in the midst of a global pandemic). His doctors and nurses praise his perspective, and I am frequently amazed by how resilient he is in the face of sickness.

What my father has demonstrated is the ability to bear with himself, one particular instance in which he was in the hospital for 6 weeks without visitors in the midst of Covid stands out most. Somehow he did not go insane, or if he did, he somehow managed to recover the sanity he had, although one could argue from his sense of humor and ability to somehow say inapprorpriate things that some of his sanity left him in the late 60’s early 70’s. It was a different generation. Nowadays people are going insane under the guise of rational thought and relativism.

Regardless, the longanimity that the apostle Paul writes about in Ephesian 4 not only has to do with the suffering we endure within ourselves. It deals with the suffering we endure as an evidence of our calling, in relation to bearing with others. Herein lies a whole new depth of suffering that the Church has done a particularly stellar job of ignoring. How so, one might ask.

We ignore the command to bear with one another in the ease in which we forgo reconciliation or when we act as a transient member of the Body that supposedly has life sustained by a unity of Spirit. It’s to easy to leave a church in America, by in large because there is a cornucopia of options and opinions (which could potentially function as evience of our disunity). If you prefer to have the positive spin, it is the evidence of the diversity in our expressions of worship. (Although in the south you would be hard pressed to make a case that diversity is something celebrated in many churches). Why, one might continue to ask.

Because of the neglect of Ephesians 4:3 “Make every effort (or you could insert the word strive, although that is a word that the Church has grown to all but demonize despite it being commanded) to keep the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace. My latin translation, uses the phrase Zealously strive, not in regards to earning our salvation but in regards to keeping a unity of Spirit bound by peace. In other words, try with everything you have to be united with brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps, now would be a good time to pause for a minute and think about what we zealously strive for.

I’ll go first, at this stage almost nothing. I strive for nothing. I would say for a long period I zealously strived to make ministry a vocation. I would say I have zealously strived in the much more distant past to make romantic relationships work. I have zealously strived in my writing. I have zealously strived in my fight against lust, in my struggle with seasons of depression, in the attempts to renew my mind with Scripture, in laboring in various jobs in seasons when I worked long hours, in seasons of prayer for revival on my college campus. But now, maybe I strive to survive this school year or maybe I’ve all but given up.

As much we are called to strive and bear with another in love, (these are not easy words, they demand much of our faithfulness, our complete humility, our complete gentlness, see Ephesians 4:2, they demand self-sacrifice, require a self-effacing that we might allow ourselves to fade into the background) there is a disarming word at the front of all the demands placed on us as a result of this one disarming word. That word is calling or if you prefer, a more gentle and perhaps a less angst inducing word, you can substitute invitation. An invitation to the divine call of salvation. God Himself has called out to us in the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ because He wanted me; He wanted us. He invites us, gently, humbly, not seeing equality with God as something to be grasped, yet saw the reconiciliation of humanity as something not only strived for or grasped but was willing to face death for the joy set before Him. That joy: us, sinful self-seeking us.

And amidst this invitaton is the invitation to hope. In every choice to endure suffering in our body or for another is hope, the anchor of the soul. So we hope, for my father’s continued hope and positive disposition, hope for our eventual renewed and whole mind, hope and courage to strive for reconciliation at all cost, hope to actually bear up under the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ rather than ignore their suffering and plight for the sake of the maintenance of our own convenience, reputation or platform. Jesus left Heaven (He also returned and lives to make intercession for us). What do we leave for the sake of love?

Letter to a Beautiful Woman

You Dear,

look like a friend from antiquity

the one in whom the seasons changed us more than they change themselves

I’m sorry I could not circumvent the grief we’ve shared and caused

Our rotation caused collision

and carried us further and further and further….

Kind Hearted Woman by Keelyart Paintings

and then away

I keep looking, staring really, passed the painful parts

the lovely parts too,

yet there is the image of your face floating in my hope

I’ve asked it to leave with you towards whatever boundary

you can run to without looking back.

Looking back

my affection for you became the trowel

digging away, grinding the roots of my insecurities

unconvinced that any hurt would wed itself to my identity

and I, helpless under your hand, try to shield myself from

the kindness, the unmatched countenance, the tenderness

to keep myself from whatever goodness would prevail in me.

I would fight you to the death instead of

laying down and dying

to the same result

just without rest.

I would fight for you but you’ve run a race

finishing at a line that was not the one

where I pray you into the place of choosing

and you carefree in your tears

attract an audience

with the songs, the sonnets, the sentiments

that the world (or at least mine) has signed its salutations

What’s Changed?

I’ve been asking the question lately, how much anger is too much anger? How much am I allowed to have that is considered righteous before it crosses into the mental murder that is sin? And how do things or people change? What causes them to subtly become different, less engaging, less or more caring?

Coming off the heels of the anniversary of the Reformation, which many laud as a great turning point of the Church, we can nostalgically assume this happened in such a way that Luther peacefully nailed something to a door and walked away to start a return to true and pure religion before God the Father. But Luther was pissed. Luther was angry about a lot of things he saw around him, some of which were not in the slightest helpful, some of them reformed the Church.

St. Augustine said that, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

Some of us are so conditioned that anger is bad that any sign of it we just alert ourselves to the fact that anger is present and we ignore it and try to subdue it as quickly as possible so long as we are not actually confronted by what in fact might be wrong. Lying is wrong, coercion and using people is wrong, manipulating circumstances and people is wrong, exploiting church members to increase one or a few peoples wealth and status is wrong.

But if something is wrong and we allow ourselves to understand our anger rather than immediately quell a God-given emotion we might gain the courage to do something. We must do something with our anger. People say strength restrained is the definition of meekness. However, anger restrained may protect a persons sensibilities, but it might change nothing. People love to point to Jesus flipping tables in the temple. It’s a good story. Jesus is mad and he does something about it. He’s mad that people have turned a place of worship into a place of profit (In modern times we have found a way to make worship music itself profitable. It’s a strange world in which we live).

But sitting in and with anger can be dangerous. It can cause us to do the wrong thing. It can push us to a place where we destroy rather than transform or restore. Jesus’ anger sought to restore the temple to its proper place.

Peter got angry, or so I imagine, when he took a wild sword swing at someones head. This anger was less helpful seeing as he tried to kill someone.

But the other beautiful daughter is courage.

My roommate Caleb calls me the conduit of courage. I call him the conduit of joy. I carry around a cowardly lion notebook and have the cowardly lion action figure on my shelf that I bought in Portland as a souvenir of a time I went there. Why? To remind myself to be courageous. To take steps of faith and to hope in the midst of the perception of rejection. I have required courage to make many of the decisions I have made in my life.

I find it increasingly difficult to do so every time I take a step of faith and fall. But anger alone doesn’t bring us to the point of seeing things change. Courage is what is required to insure that things do not remain as they are.

Courage creates a catalyst for change. Some things need changing. Courage is required for change. Courage defined is the ability to do something that frightens one or strength in the face of pain or grief. The only way for courage to be present is to simultaneously coexist with fear, pain or grief. Quite honestly, when you are doing something right without fear, pain or grief you don’t need courage, you are merely being a self-aware human being.

It was said of Jesus that he was a man acquainted with grief and sorrow, and he courageously stepped into rejection and disappointment among his own for the sake of love.

Love is having the courage to give up yourself, acting in the hope of a transformative good for the ones whom which you have deep affection.

What changes is choosing courage.

Going Where Hope is

Last December I wrote in my phone, “In a way, I went blind; I went where the hope was.” At the time, I was waiting to hear back about a job. I was in tension with many things that a year later I still sit in tension with. Some things could not bear under the tension and broke.

As I write this, my mom sent me a very lengthy mom text that was both silly and sad in regards to the day when she became well advanced in age and how she would like to be cared for.

It was actually super encouraging, a well thought out treatise of how she would like to be cared for, very straight forward, very specific and explained how it will meet her perceived needs. It seemed like it came from someone who knows what they want.

A Lily Among Thorns” (Song 2:2) | MY DAILY GOSPEL

I admire it because it seemed reasonable and easy to meet the kind of expectations she laid out. While I say her expectations are reasonable, I have no idea if I will be able to meet any of them 10 years from now or sooner or later. I only can meet expectations for the now. For those people or places or things that don’t know what they want or need now, it makes it very difficult, somewhat impossible to know how to help.

There was and have been times when I could very easily articulate what I’ve wanted or thought I needed. Even in doing so, sometimes those wants and needs don’t get met. Need and want are both qualitative terms. It’s too reductionary or just plain false to say all we need is food water and shelter. Our humanness need much more than what merely keeps the body alive. We need things, people, places of safety that help sustain our joy which is ultimately grounded in Christ. Sure those things, relationships and places can be shaken, hopefully without being broken.

Today, my soul is aware that it is both surrounded by color yet covered under the weight of a veiled cloudiness that has kept me cold, achy and tired. I need a win. Grades are due, my energy is sapped. I have been lost at home. Yet tangible hope must be found somewhere. There must be a direction in which I can go and find it or the things that can give breath to hope: joy, love, some sense of rest.

I need a direction, an aim, a God of hope, a divine intervention that can fill in the gaps of all the margin I have been unable to handle in the wake of feeling shaky and uncertain about the misplaced affection in which I have hoped. I wish God would make decisions for me when I feel life has become too exhausting. I have too much to give to be tired. I’m going still a little unsure about what I see.

Best if Used By

If my heart was a fruit, I wonder how sweet it would be

if it was ripe or had spoiled or is not quite ready.

I wonder if in it there are seeds that would come out

and plant just to die and multiply

And I wonder if my heart is acually the seat of love

or if that lodestar, the love verb or love noun

is actually found somewhere else.

Maybe in the bowels

working itself up into the loins

turning and twisting and begging to express its guts

waiting for the courage just in case its met with rejection

Is it work or winning over or being with or is it washed away

like a cast away, like a coconut that just the halves are covering

our chests like armor or for modesty because to be naked is too vulnerable,

too much like love in dealing with flaws

that I might actually see in another being perfected

with generous eyes, with acceptance, with something dangerous

Hope _-__—-_—- the lingering kind

I hardly know when to give up or if I ever should have.

Take the Shot

Easter came, Easter went. Lent, Holy Week, Resurrection Day.

I have been thinking about wounds, resentment, humility, Jesus, dying, living and forgetting myself.

And as I was thinking about this yesterday, I thought about self-pity because a lot of privileged white reformed guys have been trying to tell me how bad it is. I agree its bad. It’s the product of the sin of pride revealing itself when things don’t go well. When things are going well most privileged white reformed guys are just arrogant, but they don’t like to talk about that sin as much because it hits too close too home.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Van De Water

As I was thinking about this I felt the Lord impress upon me a question:

“When was the last time you took a hit for someone that was really hard to recover from?”

That question, is the question that Jesus willingly walks into time and time again, inconveniencing Himself, foregoing riches and opportunity in order to bring salvation and a Kingdom to the kids (us).

That question is also what Peter faces prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, and Peter thinks he will be able to answer with selfless action. When the rubber meets the road he does not.

When the rubber meets the road I do not.

I have not taken hits because I have too good a memory of what hits feel like. It’s easier to take a hit for someone when you feel strong or calloused or when you don’t see them coming. It might be harder to get up in these cases, but it’s easier to take the hit.

Jesus took the blow unflinchingly, knowing it was coming, remaining tender. That’s why it’s impossible to save ourselves. We will always shield the blow when there is doubt about the damage.

What if we don’t recover?

That’s the fear, right? What if the damage dealt to my heart because of your sin towards me, my sin towards you, my sin towards myself, what if I deal the blow that I can’t recover from? What if I take the risk and it was not in faith and it all falls apart? What if, nay when I fail again, what if I just can’t will myself to get up?

To get ahead of that, the only way I know how is to take God at His Word.

Then it hit me:

Every time Peter is about to royally screw up, Judas too, Jesus lets them know. Jesus lets Peter know there is hope on the other side. (He lets Judas know it was better he’d not been born). Jesus promises us hope on the other side and through His Spirit He promises to speak to our heart, our mind, to surround a seed of faith with hope so that we will endure even if what we’ve sown dies.

Some of what we sow, it is a sheer mercy that it dies and bears no fruit.

Which is why I’m praying over what I’m sowing and if you want what your sowing.

Lord Jesus, may I sow according to the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the flesh, the ones that are rooted in self-preservation and tries to grasp too tightly. Let me scatter the seeds and trust and do the work with joy and hope (eager expectation of good). Let me lose myself in You and sow good seed into others. Let me be generous not looking out for my own interests but considering others better than myself. Thank you for being good, gently and lowly in Your Lordship. I am need of Someone less harsh than myself.