Settling the Stages

IMG_0013I’ve been in Charleston for 3 full days settling in, meeting neighbors, sending my brother off back to New Jersey and tonight will be my first night sleeping in my new apartment alone (with Jesus).

It hasn’t occurred to me yet that I’ve moved. It partially feels like I’m staying at a hotel with all my stuff on a short vacation. I’m sure it will feel like it soon, maybe next week, maybe when I start my new job, maybe when its fall and doesn’t feel like a typical Northeast fall, which in the past few years I have grown to love.

I feel like this process will continue in stages. I’m anticipating the break down and crying while asking myself what have I done stage to come soon. We are all waiting for that one with bated breath, hoping it will produce some strong writing and insight. Maybe that’s just me.

I don’t know when that stage comes either, but I can tell you about the stage I’m at. It’s the writing late at night after eating fast food (Cookout) and wondering what I bought at Kohls that managed to cost $60.00 and why I bought it (candles, spatula, chocolate, tootbrush holder). I’m embarrassed for typing that.

I’m embarrassed for not bringing dining room chairs with me or a DVD player or a video game system. I’m embarrassed for leaving behind or misplacing fashionable articles of clothing. I’m embarrassed for being the only single dude, almost only dude walking around Kohl’s at 9 pm not having a clue what to buy.IMG_0220

Maybe scratch all the times I wrote embarrassed above and replace it with inadequate. It’s a reality God wants me in. I must be completely reliant on God, on the Holy Spirit as the source of my breath and my strength, as the one who settles me in.

The truth is I don’t want to be contented, I don’t want to be at rest within myself, or pleased with myself unless I am experience that sense truly from God the Father. I want to be right with the Father reconciled to the Father by the Son as a son.

I don’t want to feel like an idiot or foolish for spending $60.00 at Kohl’s but am willing to if he speaks to me in the process.

This moving process makes Moses’s life make so much more sense to me. God doesn’t give a hoot about my inadequacies. God does give a hoot about my sin versus spotlessness which is why God is willing to wipe those sins away through the blood of Christ. But God does care about our willingness to obey without excuse, without hindrance, without weight.

God cares deeply about my freedom through Jesus Christ to live a life of trust and love. I want both without measure and at any cost. I want it even if it leaves me utterly poor and destitute. I want it more than riches and praise. I want to be faithful, sacrificial, and marked by contentedness in Christ.

And I think part of that process is enduring the stages and meeting God in every moment along the way.

It’s settled. Let’s meet God in our moments before after and during  and even on this stage.

What do I do with these blank pages?

makale-yaz-para-kazanIn 2010 I wrote to be funny, more specifically I wrote comedic fiction for a class to counterbalance writing my thesis on Islamic extremism in Southern Russia and what exactly that looked like.

But what I was most proud of is a story called the Cheesebringer, which was a dumb coming of age story about college graduate who landed a dream job delivering cheese. It was sci-fi, fantasy, comedy, poetry. A whole chapter takes place in a port-o-potty at a festival. It had a cliff-hanger ending. The sequel was going to be a rom-com called The Bridewinner but I was too heartbroken (heart shooken) to write “funny” by the time I finished.

What I normally do with blank pages is entertain myself, sometimes others, and if you have ever read this blog I try to write reflectively about how God rebuilds us and loves us into something beautiful. I usually fill my blank pages with things that inspire me from Scripture.

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I also try fairly hard and hopefully, nobly, to live my life the way I hope I’m filling those same pages.

But I’m nearing a part of my story that God has warned me about. I’m 30 years old and I’m moving; I’m starting a career/season that in many ways I can’t prepare for the day-to-day. And I’m also in a tender-hearted place.

I’m about to say bye to so many people I love, so many people I love being able to see with regularity. I’m about to say hello to people I will grow to love and see with regularity. I’m about to try to love people I will meet for a moment and might watch them leave the next.

And it has dawned on me, heavily, painfully, that so many of these pages I don’t get to hold the pen for, most of these pages more so now than ever I am watching being written. Because to carry the metaphor to its authentic conclusion, I am the page.

I am having to trust, to relinquish my nervousness, to give my heart to Jesus and say, I don’t know it well enough, but you do, and you led me this direction, at this time, even though everything here and now is so so good.

Why do things get so good just before I’m about to go?

I ask this like it always happens this way. But it doesn’t. In fact, I never would have imagined that every month in 2018 would get better, but somehow it has for me. Not only has it gotten better, I’m often asking why I am going all the while knowing I’m called to go.

I’m aware that I’m not running away because I would never want to run away from this season of life. Yet, with these pages, though it has been building for 7 months, feels like, on one side of the open book is my life here in New Jerse, and without much of a transition, I will wind up on the next page in South Carolina.

Is that how every transition actually is? One day we just wake up and after all the preparation, we’re just in a new place and it was everything before and after that actually changed us.

Some of you I wish I could take with me. I wish you would pop into these pages as effortlessly and as enjoyably as I feel you do now. I wish our names or the pronouns that pertain to us would continually occupy the same sentences again and again day in and day out.

And maybe they will again soon.

For now, I’m blank. But God knows what to do with these pages.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 John 3:2

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

Wait For It

5 months through 2018, I have accomplished 5 of 18 of my goals for 2018.

  • Go to India
  • Go to the Royal Rumble with my brother
  • Land a standing back-flip again
  • Teach through Book of Revelation
  • See Hamilton on Broadway/ (and Avengers Infinity War)

This Saturday 6/2 I will accomplish my 6th.

  • Wrestle my last wrestling match (Give up the hobby)

4 other goals are in progress and are can be reasonably completed

  • Bond with Dad and brother (Rangers Game)
  • Read more books for pleasure (Lord of the Rings Series, Poems that Make Grown Women Cry, The Last Arrow)
  • Obey my next big ministry step (Chaplaincy)
  • move once in less

4 other need considerable improvement

  • Legitimately clean up my diet
  • Introduce 3 people to Jesus
  • have more fun with my grandma
  • more time in prayer and worship

The other 4 hopefully will happen

  • go to another concert (maybe 2)
  • take another hiking trip (with Brian and Josh)
  • let myself find romance
  • 18- I haven’t decided what this one is yet

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Goals have this way of lingering in a state of being within reach and waiting for an opportunity to accomplish them.

I went to see Hamilton on Broadway this week. In reflecting on the show, there were two things that surprised me.

I came away liking Aaron Burr’s character and the actor that played him most.

The song I was most excited to hear live, Satisfied, was overshadowed for by Wait for It.

I liked Wait for It most because it explores when one waits for opportunity or potentially watching life pass by as opposed to grinding and fighting for what you think what you want.

It plays well with Burr’s internal struggle of his evaluation of an underdog, immigrant, in Alexander Hamilton. He questions how and why Hamilton keeps taking opportunities that Burr assumed were meant for him while Burr plays it safe in the middle.

It also plays well with Hamilton’s My Shot, which in the end lends itself to the suggestion that Hamilton throws away his shot in a duel when Burr does not. Burr’s shot hits leading me to wonder, “Is this what Burr was waiting for?”

What I love most about the story Lin Manuel Miranda chooses to tell is the power of moments to make legacies, the power of choices and the choices of others to shape our future.

In the last 30 minutes of the show, Hamilton is depicted as a humbled man who throws away his shot whose legacy is only preserved by his wife Eliza and her sister Angelica.

It’s the most powerful moment for me.

The woman he hurts the most, chooses forgiveness and chooses to tell a version of the story that makes beauty out of his life by living a better story.

I love how these women are portrayed in spite of the time in which they lived, and I love how powerful it portrays the foreigner. I love how it challenges entitlement but it also explores the power of unction to overcome.

I would argue though, that the unction to overcome as an underdog and entitlement to hold onto what you feel you deserve are two sides of the same coin. One is trying to take, the other is trying to keep, both are subject to grasping at power.

And as I reflect I realize something about myself. At some point in my life, I chose to be the type of person that persistently surrenders areas of my life that others might perceive as powerful.

And I do this because I have a belief whether it is true or not that my power is found in the time, mercy and forgiveness I offer to others. And I find this painful.

I find it most painful when it affects my hope or rather when it exposes that my hope has been misplaced or when my hope has been deferred.

I hate that the pain that shakes my hope feels and affects my chemical composition more than any other pain. I hate how it sends me into introspection searching high and low for where I went wrong only to potentially realize that what I was looking for doesn’t exist.

Somehow its easier to accept that I did something wrong to affect my hope rather than accept that there was nothing I could do to keep it right.

But to end this Wait for It piece on a positive note, the truth about hope is it is resilient and versatile because you can shift its place. Hope in what demonstrates to you that it won’t leave once it arrives. Then wait for it.

 

 

 

 

The Gospel of Trial: God’s Verdict

John 18:28 –  19:16 – What Do You Stand for?

Lately, I have been practicing withholding judgment against the inaction of individual’s. I’ve begun this practice because I’m recognizing that the inaction of others most often results from ignorance or lack of urgency, not from maliciousness or hatred.

I don’t want to put someone on trial in my heart who does not intend to do me wrong. So the best thing to do is allow my feeling towards someone else’s inaction fall.

Jesus in the Gospel of John chapters 18 and 19 is on trial not for inaction but for generous and truthful action. His concern, compassion and desire for God’s creation leads to his crucifixion.

Witchcraft_at_Salem_VillageThere is also a man named Pontius Pilate. Pilate is not too concerned about Jesus’ claims to be a king, yet Pilate administers some punishment. Pilate is complicit. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us are like Pilate.

We won’t judge the innocent, we might punish the bold, but we will certainly wash our hands of responsibility of standing against injustice if it becomes more inconvenient than we desired.

Yet we are also swayed. When the world shouts loud enough we bend often forgetting what we are called to stand for because of fear. Or we back ourselves into another box of identity that is other than Christian. We might back into: conservative, liberal, progressive, American, Russian, man, woman, vegan, straight, gay, white, black, fat, fit, famous, obscure.

For Jesus, He was accused of being false. The Truth, the Light, the Life, The Resurrection, the Divine is accused and crucified because others did not recognize who He really was. The same type of accusations come against you and me. They try to make us forget what or rather who we are meant to live for or potentially die for.Eccehomo1

What amazes me about this trial in the Gospel of John is what turns Pilate. If you read too quickly, you might miss that for a few moments, Pilate is the one on trial.

Jesus tells him in John 19:11  “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

Jesus lets Pilate know where Pilate’s power comes from…

but so does the crowd.

In 19:12 the crowd yells, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

Pilate is asked to choose between allegiance to the empire or allegiance to God. But Pilate doesn’t know God or truth. He does however, know Caesar.

Caesar writes his check, Caesar keeps him safe, Caesar keeps him comfortable, Caesar is the one who Pilate perceives as the one with power.

And when I am not careful, I might forget that God is greater than the nation in which I live and greater than my perception of the other things that seem to speak power: money, status, responsibility, personal records while lifting weights.

The temptation to trust in other forms of power is often subtle and often presents itself as reasonable. I believe John, in his Gospel, is trying to show us just before Jesus’ death, that what we trust in other than God eventually reveals itself as evil.

It reveals that no matter how firm your or my stance, if it is not grounded in faith in Christ, it will undo our devotion. We become willing to hand over rather than stand on.

Because humanity consistently proves our willingness to hand over, Jesus takes the stand first. He accepts his fate to garner our allegiance through bloody dangling death by hanging on wood from nails.

He takes our punishment, then holds the power to judge, and in his fiery compassion is both willing and patient to allow us to decide our own verdict.