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The Catching Gospel: Assured to Shore

John 21:1-14 – The Dive-in Depths

It never ceases to surprise me how quick I am to stumble, how at such arbitrary times our struggle with sin seems to affect us and leaves us without excuse. I am prone to wavering in my affection and in those moments I feel as if I forget myself. I forget who I belong to, who I live for.

Yesterday, on my way to work, a car in front of me slammed into the back of another while trying to switch lanes. I surveyed the damage and eased my way past both cars to keep pressing down Route 1. Less than 30 seconds later on the road a guy flags me down and asks me for a ride. I’m pretty secure, so I gave him a ride 3 stoplights down to the complex in which he lived.

It’s actually amazing how much can happen in five minutes.

In five minutes we can ride high, then fall to temptation. How easy it is to lose focus, to take your eye off the road, to miss your shot when aiming for the mark.

But I also write this to remind us that through a story in the Gospel of John, in the urgency of a moment, our eyes can be so opened to what was right in front of us that nothing else in the whole world matters as we lay side everything to chase it down.

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In John 21, this is Peter in a boat while fishing; he wraps his outer garment around himself and dives in, swimming desperately to shore to meet Jesus, his Lord, his loving friend, and the one he denied. He does this after Jesus calls out to the disciples to let them know again where to let their nets down in order to catch some fish.

Why do our hearts or actions ever deny him? Why do I even after Jesus proves He is always good to me? He does things and shares things with me that I don’t deserve at the most surprising of times, yet my response is forgetfulness or disobedience. I let doubt dictate a decision in a moment and am reminded quickly of how empty it is.

But Peter’s story and action teaches me two things. The first isn’t as important but fascinates me:

People will always follow people with passion and charisma even if they make terrible mistakes. Peter says he’s going to fish and 6 other disciples go with him.

and Secondly:

when you make terrible mistakes or sin, sometimes you are so self aware of the pain you cause yourself and the grief you bring to the Spirit that when you encounter God in a moment afterward, whether you feel forgiven or not, you run after or in Peter’s case swim toward God with abandon.

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Peter understands or at least hopes a sentiment I’ve recently heard in song on the album Garden by Untied Pursuit on the track “Beautiful” by Andrea Marie. The lyric goes:

“Though I am weak it doesn’t change the way you think about me
And when I fall, I fall on you
For your grace surrounds me”

In the second half of this chapter, Peter will experience a slight painful sting but will realize the full truth of the way the Godhead feels about him and us. He’ll realize that the whole point of this program of life, of creation, of the crucifixion is the loving reconciliation of God and creation, the renewal of unrestricted relationship with the Father.

So all I want to leave you with this morning, and to remind myself this morning is a picture of child running, stumbling and falling into the arms of their Father. And after falling into their Father, they get up and run again laughing,  full of love, confident in pursuing the presence and power of a relationship with God.

Father, thank you for forgiveness, for the sacrifice of Jesus, for resurrection life, for the better things you have in store for us your children.

The Charleston Chapter: Chaplaincy

As of this writing, I am 50 days away from moving to Charleston, South Carolina.

If that is news to you, I’m sorry I did not tell you. I’m moving, to start a chaplaincy residency, which will be my first season of full-time ministry, God-willing. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I have a decent idea of what I’ve chosen.

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I already have my apartment reserved, have made some cool friends, and found a church I really like. That all stemmed from 2 separate 48 hour visits.

In a lot of ways this post is a prelude to what I imagine will be a season of a lot of newness. It’s about what I’m expecting.

Here is a paragraph I wrote in my application packet regarding what I expect out of my next year:

“I hope to learn to be both present and immovable in faith for those going through crisis, while offering hope and encouragement. Specifically, I hope to learn how to discern in moments of crisis when to listen, when to pray, and when to advise in an environment where others are learning and listening as well. I also hope that processing these experiences in discussion with peers and supervisors within the context of Clinical Pastoral Education will provide fertile soil to grow in confidence of the ability of God to work through ministers.”

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My goal is devotion to learning and serving from a posture of listening, discerning, and willingness to act. I am excited about the opportunity I have to give my life to Jesus in this way.

But I’m also surprised in the now. I’m surprised by how often over the past 8 months that saying yes to the unknown when I’ve asked God first, has resulted in a contented normalcy regarding the adventure of following Jesus. I would highly suggest trying this out.

But it’s also weird. It’s exposed something ugly in me. It’s exposed that in the past, I’ve expected the bottom to fall out. Whether that expectation comes from circumstance or was learned I can’t wait for that part of me to completely die.

I want to live like God is always for me not waiting for a reason to knock me down. I think that mindset has caused me too often to not take fun risks or steps of faith.

I want to live like my faith in God is flowing from a vibrant relationship that is also evident to others. But even in the season it might not be evident to others I want to be the kind of man who cherishes the will and ways of God even if it hurts.

Because in this next chapter, I think that is who God is asking me to be for others. I’m hoping, I’m up to the challenge.

 

Saying Bye to My Mistress Pro-Wrestling

Authors Note* In British English Mistress means teacher.

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Last Autograph I ever signed as Jimmy Pipes

On February 22nd, 2013 I began my professional wrestling training at Back Breakers Training Center in Scranton, PA. I was trained by head trainer and owner Justyn Glory, and at that time, assistant trainer Jon Redbeard. I started the same day as my training partner Claudio Taglianni.

Being a pro-wrestler was my dream from the ages 3-18 . I backyard wrestled with my friends Bill and Tim Maticic throughout high school. We moved furniture and mattresses to their backyard to wrestle for 2 hours after school and before their mom got home so she wouldn’t know we used the furniture. We filmed it. One time I taped over a one hour portion of my families cross-country road trip to California by accident.

My first memory as a child is pro-wrestling. I saw it on TV. My parents bought me a ring with action figures and that fueled the fire. We would vacation to Wildwood each year where wrestling shows would run on the boardwalk. At one show, I met King Kong Bundy and took a picture with him in the ring. At another show the now deceased Chris Candido took a trading card I had of his likeness and traded me a signed picture of his ring valet in a swimsuit. I’ve since thrown it away.

To be honest, I always preferred going to indie shows in gyms or outdside than to WWF/E events because I wanted to meet wrestlers not just watch them. I wanted to get in the ring not take a picture in front of it. As a teenager, I was obsessed. I wrestled in high school hoping it would get me in shape for when I began training.

In 2006, I went to an outdoor wrestling event at Burlington County Community College put on by the United Wrestling Coalition (UWC) because my friends Dave and Jen Puca’s aunt and uncle were the promoters. After the show, a wrestler body slammed me in the ring, and they let me run the ropes.

Ironically, my last match 12 years later was in a UWC ring.

But at 18, one conversation in my grandma’s basement while lifting weights with my brother had me decide I would go away to college instead wrestling school. When I went to college I stopped watching wrestling, gave up on the “dream” and occasionally checked in on my hobby.

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That time Keating painted my face

And I can say wholeheartedly, I was glad. I met Jesus in a new and powerful way, so my heart and entire life became spoken for. In many ways, I no longer needed wrestling.

In 2013, I wouldn’t say I needed wrestling either, but I needed to find myself. At that point in time, I was living clouded and made decisions from memory. Time and circumstance conveniently allowed me to train so I did. And for months I was depressed while I trained. I trained out of obligation not out of joy, convincing myself that as I committed to action the joy would come.

Wrestling gave me something to do and was a way to cope with pain. Wrestling became a teacher and a confidence builder. So I trained for 7 months and had my first match in August of 2013 with my training partner Claudio.

I wrestled while studying theology. I wanted to embrace pacifism but wrestled with the contradiction of engaging in a performance of fighting. I often questioned why I would pro-wrestle as a hobby while endeavoring to become a minister and was at times frustrated by the fact that it seemed to complicate me unnecessarily. At that time, my identity was fragile enough to confuse myself.

But I enjoyed improvising a story in 6-12 minutes. I loved the idea of portraying a character who was a lounge singer, who made lavish claims that he was a platinum artist but could not sing very well. I loved the idea of wearing a singlet backwards and painting a tuxedo pattern on it so it would look vaguely realistic under a sport coat and fedora.

I loved having creative freedom within the context of not having to decide how long of a story to tell or who won or lost. It works well with my personality because I am the type of person that colors in the lines not draws the picture. You give me parameters and I will push the creative boundary, but don’t give me a blank canvas.

Wrestling slowly helped me be able to dream again and was my creative outlet when my heart struggled to find an outlet.

But wrestling also reminded me that even as character who was arrogant, I couldn’t lay aside empathy. I think Jimmy Pipes was always accidentally endearing. Children and old people didn’t like seeing him get beat up or lose. But he also didn’t necessarily deserve to win.

Wrestling also taught me about love. I had countless friends and family support my hobby, even at times I did not expect them to. Some will never care about wrestling, but they care about me. I had a girlfriend who went to several shows with 20-25 people in attendance to see me even though she disliked wrestling.  Wrestling provided  opportunities for me to see that people who love me embrace some of my eccentricities.

Wrestling also taught me that I don’t have to matter on a platform. There is far more value to what happens behind the curtain than in front of it: showing respect to fellow wrestlers, thanking promoters and bookers for opportunities, helping each other improve, receiving criticism. There is also far more value to what is done outside the ring than inside: Signing autographs for kids, talking to fans, taking pictures with them so they have something to remember you by.

The things pro-wrestling taught me are in part the things that make it easy for me to walk away from it. Wrestling helped me to realize that all of the important things exist outside of wrestling. Because wrestling is just a performance. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s not the greatest thing ever. It was an outlet and there are better outlets. For me there are better causes and callings.

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The Jackson clan at Coplay, PA AWF

In my mind I’m leaving behind something I enjoyed in exchange for many somethings I will enjoy more and make a bigger difference with. I can say goodbye easily because I’m infinitely more excited about what I’m saying hello to.

So how do I summarize and highlight my last 5 years. With a list of fun facts:

 

  • I only wrestled 58 professional matches which is not a lot, nor is it an admirable accomplishment. A pro-wrestler that reads that would question how serious I was (I would answer not serious, I always called it a hobby).
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    Olde Wrestling Ohio Photo Cred: Jeff Colb Photography

    I wrestled in 2 states (PA, NJ), performed in 3 (OH).

  • I won 1 title, the UWC US title and held it for about 6 months. I lost it in UWC’s 1000th match for their promotion to my friend Definitely Donnie. I wrestled Donnie (Matt) 4 of those 58 matches.
  • My name Jimmy Pipes has appeared in at least 5 issues of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. This is a bigger deal to me than it should be, but I like things in writing so I get giddy thinking about it.
  • One of my matches on YouTube has over 3,000 views largely b/c of the “gay pro-wrestling fan community”, but only that one match because the other guy in it was more attractive than me… I’m guessing.
  • I got to perform for Olde Wrestling in Ohio, which was also a huge deal to me because I loved the originality of their promotion.  I love their graphic design (Check them out https://www.oldewrestling.com/)
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    Myself, Mr Ooh La La and his manager

    I wrestled Mr. Ooh La La, an indie wrestling veteran who once talked to me for an hour after a show in PA giving me advice, feedback and sharing his story. Our match was the easiest match I ever wrestled and was extremely fun.

  • My Godfather Jimi Beam, designed the logo on my trunks. I am so thankful for his life, he was one of the funniest, happiest people I have ever met.
  • Current WWE champion AJ Styles put me in an arm bar at a seminar while his sweatpants were falling way to low below his waist.
  • My last seminar was with the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase, who also was the first wrestler I ever met when I was 7. His seminar was a waste of $60 but such is life. He loves Jesus so that’s enough.
  • I got booked once because someone said I could actually sing. I was booked to sing the national anthem which I sung part of. It was interrupted when a wrestler knelt during the anthem. It was in a church. It was the weirdest show I’ve ever been to.
  • My last match was with Fredo Majors for the UWC Heavyweight title. I lost, but it felt like I won with how many friends who came out and my dad being there. Fredo and Bobby Banks were hilarious and the crowd was phenomenal.

It’s easy for me to be done when I believe God is laying out so many more great things for me to walk into. But I still want to honor this part of the journey, mostly the people I met along the way. But I am also grateful to God for remembering my childhood dream and allowing me to live it out in some small way. But the next set out of dreams to live out… not something I can say goodbye too.

The Cutting Gospel: Separating the Should and Should Not

John 18:1-27- Imagine the Divine Impulse

Have you ever been disappointed in yourself after acting on impulse? Considering how frequently in the Gospels Peter acts on impulse, I imagine he was disappointed in himself often.

But I am convinced that our impulsive action in ignorance does not disappoint God as much as it disappoints us. I’m not suggesting God is less disappointed when our impulse to sin is acted upon with a sense of knowing. I believe that disappoints God more than it disappoints us, but I could be convinced otherwise.

There is something about acting in ignorance, with good intentions, that I think Jesus has a large degree of empathy for. And I think the Gospel of John does a perfect job of showing us a Jesus that cares most about reconciliation and administering the grace to keep going.

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Jesus is about to be arrested. He knows this. When the ones coming to arrest him approach him Jesus steps towards them and asks them “Who is it you want?” He asks a question but really he is making an authoritative statement. In asking, he is actually showing them that He is the one they want.

John paints us a picture of a Jesus that is steps into his mission willingly. And those bold steps cause the party seeking to arrest him to fall over.

I believe when we take steps in faith Jesus causes us to knock down our doubters and our doubts.

Jesus steps towards his arrest with confidence. And though he knocks down his doubters and enemies, he does not stop his eager friend with a sword who supposes he is lending support.

After the act Jesus says, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

See Jesus does offer rebuke, and in other gospels, he heals the ear of the man who Peter slices at. But Jesus does not have time for our impulsive decisions and our denials. In fact, while we sit there and deny or rush to act, Jesus takes the burden of truth and opposition to His will upon Himself. In His strength, he waits for our surrender through our posture of receiving.

In a span of 12 verses, Peter denies Jesus 3 times. In the span of one evening Peter goes from getting his feet washed to taking a sword in his hand. He goes from believing it is not within him to deny Jesus to executing what he did not desire.

But what would this story look like if Peter did nothing? What would the end of this book look like if Peter did not chop an ear off and did not deny? Or what if John left it all out?

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Without Peter, I don’t think I would fully understand the grace of Jesus and His appreciation for radical faith. I don’t think I would learn the difference between the divine impulse and the carnal (fleshly) impulse.

Because the divine impulse is one that follows Jesus not one that fights for Jesus. It is recognizing that Jesus fought for and bought me, which now means I obey in love.

It shows me that Jesus is able to sever my mistakes and my sin from my identity. Peter denies, but Jesus prevents denial from defining Peter. Peter denies and is spared while Jesus speaks truth and is slapped.

And God allows this to awaken the heart of Peter, of you, and of me to gaze at Jesus in life, death and resurrection in order to know that obedience to what God has called us to leads to eternal joy and the experience of genuine love.

But what happens first is crucifixion. Specifically Jesus’ crucifixion. Specifically, the imagination of God working itself out in human history to display to all that God’s plan, action, and work not only could not be stopped but worked out for the good of all so our imagination and purpose would be fulfilled in Him.

More on that next time.

The Praying Gospel: Are you Curious?

John 17 – We are all 20-year old gypsy train wrecks

We made it this far. The last large exposition from Jesus in the Gospel of John is one long prayer. It is a prayer for glorification, a prayer for the disciples, and a prayer for contagious joy and complete unity among all who will believe in Jesus.

In short, He is praying for the fulfillment of all he set out to accomplish. I’m not sure logistically how this prayer was recorded in its fullness. It’s hard to believe that as Jesus prayed, John was scribbling this all down. Perhaps, God gave John a supernatural memory for this specific moment.

512201c4-012e-4eb3-83df-1b4c76e60230But I also imagine that this prayer or at least parts of it were common prayers of Jesus.

And I would propose that they were not prayers common of Jesus only from the past but are prayers Jesus prays now. Scripture tells us in Romans 8:34, that Jesus is alive and intercedes for us. Furthermore I believe Jesus enjoys this responsibility.

Can I share a story? It’s my blog; I suppose I don’t have to ask.

May 4th – 6th I was in Charleston, SC looking for a place to live. It was a somewhat fruitful trip in that regard, but the reality is, on paper, my future salary will barely cover my rent and car payment. For a season, I lived with a lot less on $700 a month for 6 months so I’m certain God will take care of it.

I’ve learned not to rely on paper which is funny because there was a time when I lived in the world of fiction and story-telling because I felt I could imagine a better reality than the one God was allowing me to live. I lived on paper so long as I was holding the pen and would not limit my imagination. I operated this way so I could be the author who chose what I was to suffer.

I wanted to choose what I would suffer so I wouldn’t be held accountable to what God was asking me to offer.

But as God is wont to, the story He is writing has been better. Other than apartment searching, bad sunburn, good Mexican food, and getting depressed by the lingering loneliness that often tries to color my life (that took a turn), Sunday morning I prepared to leave Charleston.

I had to be at the airport by noon, but ultimately decided to pop by church anyway. They had a free breakfast that I paid $20 for because I was hoping to get more out of my last couple hours than chocolate chip pancakes, some gross southern grits dish, coffee and juice.

I met two people, a guy named Kent who was helpful in connecting me with an elder and was genuinely enthusiastic. The second person I met a breakfast was a train-wreck who also was visiting the church.

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She told me she has visited 14 churches and hasn’t found one she liked. She also told me she moved from the Northwest to protest horse carriages. She also told me her best friend died the week prior in upstate New York. She also told me she travels to the Philippines often. Needless to say I listened, said its important to find community, and could not wait to lose her before service whilst questioning what of her story was true and why God manipulated my kindness to meet someone so exhausting on a day of rest.

If you subtract most everything from the tale of her life, I’ve been the 20 year-old gypsy girl at church because some older woman who cared invited her.

And I’ve probably exhausted strangers and friends with tales that I myself have struggled to find truth in. It wasn’t hard to see her wounds even if she was feeding me a spoonful of lies. Her story might have been better than the grits if it wasn’t so draining.

I said a prayer, sat in the back of the sanctuary and was hoping God would speak to me during worship since that was all I would be staying for.

One song, not a clue what it was and then they prayed for a pastor going on sabbatical for a month and invited someone to share a testimony.

The guy was introduced by the pastor as Ben. He shared for about a minute and my Spirit had this heightened sense of awareness. I liked the way he spoke and began to get pretty vulnerable.

Then one passing statement caught my intention. He said God called him to full-time ministry and joy filled my inner being. The sense of knowing I began to feel felt supernatural. Then a few sentences later he said God opened a door for him in the ministry of pastoral care as a hospital chaplain. He shared more about what God had brought him through while I squirmed in my chair filled with excitement.

He ended with the thought of: “Stay curious about what God is doing.”

I met Ben during communion, exchanged numbers after confirming we would be chaplain residents at the hospital together in August. I believe Jesus prayed for this. I also believe Jesus knew it would happen. I also believe it needed to happen.

As much as I’d like to say, taking a step of faith in the direction of my calling is easy, my resistant disposition has not done me too many favors. My introspection does more harm than good sometimes. The moments where I feel like God sees me helps me to say yes.

I need those moments to sustain me in through a transition still 3 months away.

I didn’t talk much about John 17 but I will leave us with this passage from it:

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” John 17:13

The Overcoming Gospel: Are you Over?

John 16

John 16 is the 3rd of 4 chapters of very long expositions from Jesus. This chapter in particular, deals with Jesus leaving. He is explaining to his followers that when He leaves, the Holy Spirit will come and fill them. The Spirit will also give them knowledge.

Then he talks about not being seen.

Then he talks about being seen again.

There will be mourning, then rejoicing.

It is also the third chapter in a row where Jesus makes a statement like this:

“In that day, you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

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He concludes this exposition, letting the disciples know they will be scattered and scared and confused, but to take heart and have courage. It is all apart of the plan for Jesus to overcome and conquer in a way, vastly different from their expectations.

Jesus is hyper-aware. He says, “you will all leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”

That awareness is for you and for me. Maybe more for me than for you.

John 16 is suggested to take place in the last 2 weeks before Jesus’ crucifixion. At this point in time, Jesus has tamed his ministry and focused a lot more on his followers and friends instead of the crowds. The crowd mentality was no longer the prescription for his mission. They would soon turn against him.

*In wrestling there is a word that describes one’s popularity. The word is “over” If you are over, it means you are popular with the crowd, if you are “putting yourself over” it means you are going to great lengths, often at someone else’s expense, to become popular with the crowd.*

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At this point, Jesus is putting himself under, and will give off the appearance that he is sinking his own ship. He is making the unpopular decision in the present hour because he anticipates the promise of the future hours.

I think I live in that state. Or at least I live in the face of a temptation to live without purpose in order to be comfortable in the present.

For the second time in my life, I am preparing to leave a comfortable job with prospect of promotion to pursue ministry (what I feel called to do). I don’t know if it’s more or less painful this time. I don’t even know if it is more or less lonely.

But I hoped it wouldn’t be lonely at all. More specifically, I hoped that by 30 I wouldn’t be the same status of single I was at 20.

I didn’t think I would be confronted with the lies of being less desirable now that I’m older as I prepare for a career that will place me on paper as someone less likely able to provide. I didn’t think I would grow accustom to expecting rejection.

Which is why life inversely is so strange. Why then do I seemingly have the courage to follow God into hospital chaplaincy and why was I so convinced that the one 600 miles away was the better choice? Why does the process have to be difficult? or rather why do I make it difficult?

I’ve often discussed with my roommate, who formerly served in the military, was a semi-professional rower,  is in great shape, finishing his PhD in Physics, and loves Jesus wholeheartedly about what we are doing wrong. (I’ll put him over not myself)

But it’s not so much what we are doing wrong, it’s what we might be doing right.

I’m sorry to say, but it seems that trying to live an obedient, faithful life of seeking and serving does not make you more desirable to the masses. It doesn’t even make you more desirable to most people in church. Some days it doesn’t make you desirable to yourself.

But it does keep you tender-hearted towards Jesus and others.

I am willing to concede that it makes you more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, although there are days I’m not certain of that, if I’m being honest. I said it makes me sensitive not certain *shrug*.

And one thing I can say in confidence is I am way more sensitive, aware, and optimistic about the hurting and suffering of others.  Even when I have a multitude of doubts about what to feel about myself. When someone is vulnerable I can smile and see beauty. When someone is experiencing holy joy I can rejoice with them.

I can see when I can’t see myself.

My brother helped me with a budget last night that did not look promising come August.

But my calling didn’t come from a spreadsheet or a bank account. It didn’t come from my future spouse or my wavering optimism regarding whether or not she exists. It didn’t even come from supportive friends and family.

My calling came from the One who overcame the world.

The only way I share in that is if I follow my call from Christ in faith. That’s how I overcome.

Walk despite reasons to worry,

love despite rejection,

hope until you don’t need to anymore.

The Betrayal and Denial Gospel: When you “Can’t” Control Yourself

John 13:18-38: Shared Bread

Psalm 41:9

 Even my close friend,
    someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
    has turned (lifted up their heel) against me.

The thing about betrayal, the thing about denial that allows both of them to deal damage is intimacy. Truth be told, I give as much credence to  ridicule or rejection from someone I don’t like or know as I give consideration to the amount of toilet paper I use after the second time I flush. If I have to flush twice, I care about being clean not about how much shit there was. If I am to be betrayed or denied “……^”

“That’s crude,” you say.

I say, “True and perhaps unnecessary, but I am far more willing to tolerate crude than cruel.”

To be crude is to have disregard toward or to jest about the outward appearance of things, whereas to be cruel is to have disregard for or the intent to harm the internal disposition of things.

Cruelty, whether intentional or not targets identity through apathy or vindictiveness. To be crude only considers the surface. It is intentionally unaware of depth. Cruelty either disregards depth selfishly or digs deeper than it needs to without care.

Now we can discuss betrayal and denial.

In John 13:18-30 Jesus announces that a disciple will betray him. And in this room full of men, John gives us insight into some of their personalities.

Scripture tells us in v. 21 that Jesus was troubled in his spirit and says, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” He is telling them this to strengthen their faith so they would believe in who Jesus says he is, but Jesus is still troubled by this.

John, who was reclining comfortably leans again Jesus to ask him, “Lord, who is it?” John does this because Simon Peter gives John a nod and says, “Yo, find out who.”

In this scenario, I kind of imagine John having a little too much wine. He was just looking to have a good time at the party. He’s chilling out and then Peter disrupts his chill and then he leans back and asks seemingly to appease Peter’s nervous curiosity.

Or is Peter not nervous, but rather seeking to prevent the betrayal by roughing up the betrayer?

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Jesus then gives a piece of bread dipped in wine to his betrayer Judas. V. 27 reads, “as soon as Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him” and v. 30, “he went out.”

Jesus also told him after he gave the bread, “What you do, do it quickly.”

What he says makes sense for a man to say. I say man because in my experience, if a person is going to betray me or reject me I’d rather you get to the point rather than drag your feet with the deal.

Being strung along just to be hung out is like taking your dog for a walk before killing it with a shovel and refusing to bury it.  What’s the alternative? Just take your dog for a walk or don’t betray someone. Be a quality person.

The Difference between Betrayal and Denial

I’m going to get to denial in a minute. But I want to define betrayal just so we are clear with the terms. Because someone can reject you or even go so far as to kill you without betraying you. For example, random woman I meet on the street finds out I’m awesome, kills me for no reason after greeting one another. She didn’t betray me, she certainly surprised me but nothing she did indicates a betrayal, unless we are strictly talking on an existential plain in which she betrayed mine and her own humanity for deciding at randomly to kill me.

This is me defining in long-hand that betrayal assumes a certain kind or level of intimacy and the greater the bond of intimacy the deeper the betrayal goes. For example, a marriage vow followed by adultery > (greater betrayal than) making a blood pact in 5th grade with your friend who stopped talking to you in middle school.

The action of betrayal is the willing handing of someone over or selling someone out, or intentionally tripping them up along their path. It is the moment while walking alongside someone with certain expectations, they hinder you from where you intended to go. Betrayal happens when one agrees to the parameters of the journey and then tries to hinder another from the journeys intended goal.

The Sting Without War

 

breaking_bread-2017Now for denial. Denial is sometimes the passive more weaselly of the two actions but typically without as severe a consequence. Denial is not stringing the noose, but it is watching someone be hung.

In v. 31, Judas had left, and now Jesus talks about His glory to come, his exit (death) and gives the disciples a command to love one another. He makes a statement that if true contains unimaginable power. V. 35 reads “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Rather than pausing and thinking about the implications of that statement, Peter is more concerned with where Jesus is going. And because Peter is weak and lacks understanding He misses what Jesus is getting at. Rather than going where Peter wants to go, Jesus wants Peter to be faithful to where He wants Peter to go.

Peter wants to die before he fully lives as Christ. In order for Peter to die like Christ, Jesus has a massive internal work to do first in Peter’s life. He asks this sincere question, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

…..

..

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You know how it ends, Jesus predicts Peter’s inevitable denial. Sometimes we “can’t” (or just don’t) follow through on our best laid schemes. But here we actually are not looking at Peter’s denial just yet. That happens 5 chapters later.

This is Jesus’ denial. Jesus denies Peter’s ability to fulfill an empty promise without the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus’ denial has been immersed in prayer and preceded by demonstrations of genuine love. Jesus knows Peter’s end which is why He denies his intentions in the now.

Jesus says, “you will follow later.” The denial does not presume permanence, but it expects obedience. In other words, Jesus is telling Peter to “let it play out.”

It won’t be easy nor fun, but it will lead to perfecting and refining and new joy. But Peter is not that deep yet. Eager but not deep and unaware of what is required of him.

He is a fisherman, not a fighter and that is fortunate because the kingdom of God is not won in the way he is expecting.

Jesus cleans Peter a few verses prior and that cleansing functions as a reminder for what’s about to hit the fan in spite of his future denial.

 

 

 

 

Whirlwind Emprise

I usually like to pick a word for myself that I hope will describe each new year.

My 2017 word was gentleness.

I picked this word because I knew my goal for the year was to cease from striving, to stop grasping, to accept my smallness in the world and to be considerably less frustrated about circumstances. As a result, I knew I would need patience as hope would be deferred and answers to questions would not come.

I found some of the best ways to discover if you are in fact gentle is to consistently not get what you want or expect and then see if you are able to remind yourself with frequency that in this world you are entitled to nothing. Godliness with contentment is great gain. Part of the gain is the evidence of gentleness.

While my word was gentleness and I can recognize many situations in which I exercised it, gentleness is still my endeavor because The Rolling Stones remind me that getting what I want is not always going to be the case…

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…Unless you change what you want.

Wait… huh? (This will take a turn, you probably didn’t expect).

Scripture tells me that where my treasure is there my heart will be also and what I know to be true is: if my want is wholly fixed on desiring the love of Jesus above all else, I can have that. I can have unconditional love despite circumstance. I can obey God if I want to, and I can say no to competing desires.

Which is why in August of 2017, I started asking myself some new questions. I also began giving up certain expectations. I decided to cast my net wider because I felt like I was becoming too comfortable, while being less content.

So I applied for chaplaincy positions on college campuses. I connected with a new young adult community. I planned my first vacation alone. I began the process of coming to an internal acceptance that if need be I would remain single forever. I was even willing to accept that my calling to ministry was less than what I imagined and resolved that I could continue working in construction, quietly, even if I felt strongly otherwise.

It led me to October where I confronted myself with the help of a friend. I addressed some things I didn’t necessarily like about life in general at that point. And I gave God my opinion. I gave my evaluation of my love for Jesus, and it seemed to me to be found wanting. This feeling saddened me.

I did not feel unloved by God. I felt incapable of reciprocating. Though, I was reminded that love was a choice, I felt tempted to choose to not love. And this potential decision provoked me to look around and recognize the faithfulness and love of others. I discovered one of the ways we reignite our love (and fear) of God is to observe others who are loving God faithfully. Choosing faithfulness despite uncertainty and suffering is an awesome display of love.

And something began, and I hope will be brought to a mature completion inside me. I remembered that love requires me to give while trusting that the risks of faith I take are guided by God. I was also reminded that it is not possible for me to love even a little bit without God.

For me, love starts with listening. Love happens when we hear the needs of others and meet them, but love finds its energy in the word of God. I started to hear when I listened.

God is the only one who knows me in my depths and the only one who knows me better than myself, which makes making decisions much easier when I’m hearing from the one writing my story.

Fast forward to the middle of December. I began the process of applying for hospital chaplaincy programs. I wrote 12 pages worth of essays (5 about my life history, 1 about my work history, 3 regarding my spiritual development, 2 about navigating a crisis, 1 about why I want to be chaplain).

I had my good friend Victor read and edit all of them. He is finishing up his PhD in counseling and was amazing enough to edit my essays in his free time. He’s a quality human being. I submitted all the materials and references for these programs around Christmas and was leaving for India on New Year’s Eve.

My assumption, based on how things usually work, was I would hopefully hear back sometime after I returned from India because 3 weeks is a normal amount of time to review 12 pages worth of essays and additional materials in an application packet.

Apparently, in the hospital chaplaincy world in specific parts of the country a suitable response time is a few hours and 2 days respectively. Whereas, here in the northeast where I submitted an application packet, a month has gone by with no response from 3 different individuals at the same hospital who I submitted my application to.

So with very quick responses, during the peak of the holiday season, while I was preparing to leave for India for 2 weeks, I found myself scheduling interviews within a week or so of my return.

India was a blast and a rather busy 2 weeks. I tried to take some time to process 2018 and potential new seasons of life and these opportunities. I suppose the little time I had to think about it was enough. While I wanted to process it more, time and energy did not seem to allow it.

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Between jet lag, jumping back into work, and trying to prepare for the interviews themselves, I did not think about the implications of an offer. My interviews were on the 17th and the 22nd respectively, and I felt optimistic after both of them. Again I assumed I would hear something after a couple of weeks.

 

Not the case, I received an offer of admission to a residency position within 24 hours of my interview on the 22nd.

**Full disclosure, I heard from God several times in September about a timetable for my next step in following the Spirit to whatever my ministry direction would be so I shouldn’t have been too surprised. Something similar happened 7 years ago when I interviewed for my first ministry position.

I still didn’t and don’t really feel like I’ve had time to adequately process, but my experience thus far has seemed to indicate that God is not too interested in me swirling it all around in my head for hours on end. Because what I am prone to do is to make up fears or potential excuses.

God, the Father, did extend the offer allowing me to list all my initial fears as a “counting the cost” type of measure to which He promised to give answers to. We hashed that out at Qdoba. I left a little teary eyed after finishing my burrito.

I accepted the offer Monday, mailed my documents today and now wait and pray through a hopefully slow transition. I hope its slow because I’m aware of something else God is doing.

God is interested in doing a deeper work in my heart, one that I am getting the impression is more important than processing through the external details of the location and timing of my next season. That is what I must slow down for while the externals continue to be caught up in the whirlwind.

By the way, just for your information, my word for 2018 is one I learned while in India and that I gave away in the title of this blog. It is Emprise – an adventurous, daring, or chivalric enterprise.