I Don’t Like What God Says

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”- Jesus Luke 6:27-28

“Whoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” – Jesus Luke 17:33

“And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” -Jesus Luke 17:4

These are some things that I don’t like that Jesus tells me. To say nothing of the assurance of suffering. Comingled with there are promises of joy(one of the many likebale things Jesus also says).

I don’t like when God asks His people to wait an unknown amount of time. I don’t love trying to interpret the voice of the Spirit when God seems content to leave me in His mystery.

But I do like God’s nearness, God’s presence and God’s faithfulness when I am not faithful, which is why I think it wise to hear what He says and trust it and cherish it, even if it is cutting.

Because it is cutting. God does not coddle our sensibilities and push us to harm ourselves into further disobedience. He is willing to remove the poison, the sin, the plank through pain if it must be so. Usually, it must be so. We covet our sin under our scars and try to keep them there.

I, in my subconbscious imagine saying, “I have healed sufficiently, and this frequent painful blemish of sin is under the skin, and it would be too risky to remove it completely. So I will tolerate it longer.”

But God with a sword from his mouth is prepared to cut. He bypasses our itching ears which desire the next piece of positive affirmation or self-help advice for something a bit more raw and real and lasting. Thus Luke 17:33 paraphrased. “You’re comfort is less of my interest than your surrender because when you surrender, holy comfort will come.” A comfort where we become contented rather than left striving for more.

Yet we fear. I fear losing the things I’ve built which at this point is…. *looks around, reminding self of the things left behind, multiple times, recalling how I usually end up asking why and worrying until the next thing inevitably comes*… a wonderful library of books in garages and storage units all over New Jersey, amassed a collection of wrestling memorabilia in similar places and what of the stocks, and the places I’ve been and the experiences that no one can take from me. Ultimately though, who cares, they are vapors and God will test it all in the fire.

When all or most of it burns and we are left with some ashes, Jesus walks up to ledge of Flat Earth Heaven, looks down on us and shouts, “I will trade you those for beauty.”

He trades dead ends for pastures and narrow paths. He bottles the tears we sow, and somehow some day reap joy. He expands our capacity to fall fully into reciprical give and take forgivness. And he acknowledges and has endured human suffering so we can be assured we are not alone in our experience. And He doesn’t rush to deliver us from the temporal if it doesn’t keep us fixed on the eternal.

Does Donald Trump have a God problem? - BBC News

Which is why I think about other things I don’t like, empty promises, exploiting individual hopes for plastic prosperous amalgams of something that sound Christian or Christlike but is actually shallow self-aggrandizement, the willingness to change the service/servant and friendship language in Scripture for leadership because it sounds more important. I don’t like the way we exalt the already proud and promising individuals instead of looking at the heart of the humbled.

But it doesn’t really matter what I like. Unlucky for me, it’s not what I like (to quote the opposite of a song lyric). God likes uncomfortable things. He likes things we overlook. He likes things that have been counted out and invites them to banquets. He also likes faithfulness in spite of reasons to give up. He likes people who take steps in faith and He rewards those who share in his suffering.

I don’t always like what God says, but I do love who He is because He is undeniably good.

A Safe Place for Anger: Habakkuk 1

How long, Lord, must I call for help

and you do not listen

or cry out to you about violence

and you do not save?

Why do you force me to look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Oppression and violence are right in front of me.

Strife is ongoing, and conflict escalates,

This is why the law is ineffective

and justice never emerges.

For the wicked restrict the righteousl

therefore, justice comes out perverted.

Habukkuk 1:2-4

If we look long enough at the way the world systems operate among the powerful, wealthy, and oppressive, something within our hearts and minds is bent towards crying out for justice.

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And so long as our hearts don’t grow weary or indifferent or apathetic, we too are bound to ask questions like the ones above in Scripture.

In the times we live, we are overexposed to everything and while that has made us more aware or woke, I fear we at times become too overwhelmed by the sheer amount of injustice, propaganda and bias that is constantly being spewed.

I need not list all the evils we are watching the world endure and some of us experience. Part of the reason I won’t list them is many of these evils are talked about as good, and good things are considered evil.

But there is one question that sticks out when flipped back on me for how it reveals the cause for my anger:

“Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”

So much of the things I get angry and rage about are over my own wrongdoing, my own inability to be perfect as the Father is perfect. I look at my immature faith, my darkened desires, my atrophying empathy and find it comes as no surprise as to why I begin to get angry with usually myself over circumstance.

I pray I not be desensitized to the reality and damage of my sin, yet I pray I receive cleansing and rejuvenation to take up the cause of the oppressed and be reminded of Jesus’ encouragement to forgive and seek healing.

This I believe, or at least hope happens in congruence with our expressions of anger. The emotion is not the sin, anger over circumstance or injustice is not the problem, even sharing your anger with someone is not a sin, it is what you’re anger brings you to do that can damage: the hurful words we can utter towards or about someone, the profanity we can utter to try to bolster our thickness in spite of our sheepish woundedness, the violence we can succumb to. We become deceived into thinking our only option is to become what we see: violent, perverted, despising, accusing, lustful.

Yet, what the Spirit makes available to us, in crying out to God is to then become impassioned with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. We become faithful, peaceably so, so when the nations themselves rage, we can be steafastly confident that the Lord hears us and will answer.

One last quick story: I was crying out to God (profanity included) while driving to work a few weeks ago and in the midst I heard the stilling voice of the Spirit speak: “I can handle your anger and am willing to be your shelter and refuge.” God is not afraid of our anger so long as God has us.

Young Camel Knees

It was Eugene Peterson, who in the introduction to his Message translation of the book of James that taught me the nickname for the apostle James, the brother of Jesus, was “Old Camel Knees.” The nickname, which I think cute, was given to him because the amount of time he spent in prayer. The theory being that he so often prayed on his knees, repenting and asking forgiveness on behalf of others that he developed calluses.


As cute as the nickname is, it is also radical. It speaks to devotion and reverence to the Lord. It speaks of the holy gripping he felt when it came to injustice and the lostness of those around him. With the nickname, I also imagine at some point he had difficulty getting up. But maybe that image is not true.

I have to get surgery on my knee; I’ve never had surgery, never been sedated; at the same time I’ve never walked with a limp literally speaking for this long (only 3 weeks). Metaphorically speaking, I suppose someone could make a case that I’ve limped for longer, but let’s not, because I’m looking to keep a happy baseline in this season.

My prognosis is quite long, but to disgust you I will describe it: In my knee, I have a leaky cyst, arthritis, bone spurs, a bucket tear in my meniscus and a several-year-old ruptured ACL that has likely shriveled like a wilted flower stem beneath my patella. It makes sense that my prognosis was that long to coincide with the extraordinary loud MRI.

During MRI’s they play the sounds you would hear coming out of a power station during a nuclear fallout so that no matter what, your prognosis is not as bad as it seems (just an FYI in case you were looking for a fun thing to do on your next personal day off from work).

I say all this because it is surprising the things you can still do when you have tears and ruptures in an area that enables you to walk. I have found I am way more aware and honoring towards my left leg which I rely on much more for balance, though I previously looked down on it for not being able to kick as strongly. (I think my left leg only ever scored one goal in soccer during recreational regulation which is the only arena in which records without an agenda are kept)

When a part of the body is weak or hurt or limping along and is crying out angrily and in pain because it wants protection and wholeness, the other parts of the body will compensate, shoulder the burden because it When a part of the body is weak or hurt or limping along and is crying out angrily and in pain because it wants protection and wholeness, the other parts of the body will compensate, shoulder the burden because it recognizes the pain of the other parts. It recognizes that there is a rupture. Yet the ruptured part also can show great resolve and resilience in the face of wounding. Despite that resilience and resolve, additional woundings to the same area can then highlight the problem and prior wounds and may require desperate measures in order to be addressed and attended to. The wound needs help, needs repair. The wound looks to surgery, experts, physicians, leaders in the field to restore, at least to an equal position, but hopefully to a better place than can be remembered. No one expects things to get worse when they ask for help.

Which leads me to a prophetic word for myself and one for the Church and maybe one for you:

For me Hebrews 12:12, no 12:10b-13:

but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

In my season, I need my knee strengthened. I have been in a season of discipline and have been in Hebrews a lot over the last 9 months. I kept getting sent back to this passage even prior to my knee injury, but now it feels real. I felt like I had some fresh perspective and renewed excitement in walking in a direction for my life. In that same moment, coexisting with my movement, my knee failed me. I can walk but with a limp, and in the midst, God is calling me to live according to Proverbs 4:20-27 (read it I’m not copying and pasting).

The gist of that passage is obey the Lord, guard your heart, consider the path you’re on and heading, and be steadfast in that direction. Don’t be swayed from the call of obedience. I want to do that; I need help to do that in the natural and spiritual realm.

Then the prophetic word for the Church: is echoed in Hebrews 12 in the phrase strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. It hearkens back and echoes a passage in Isaiah 35 which follows Isaiah 34 which is a prophetic utterance regarding judgment on every nation. What follows in Isaiah 35, which always follows a pronouncement of judgment, is a promise of mercy, the promise of justice, and a promise of restoration.

Isaiah 35:3-7 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees, say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind, and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where the jackals once lived.

God is beginning to strengthen parts of the body, strengthening the hands of those who might heal, and He’s bringing stability the knees of those standing the gap in intercession with Christ. God is interested in protest along with prayer and prophecy.

God is interested in strengthening and stabilizing those who are His and saving those who are not. With anything else, He is interested in shaking anything that stands against His glory. He will shake it whether it is inside or outside the Church. Racism and disunity is shook; health, wealth, and prosperous ease is shook, comfort and pleasure is shook. God Himself, not shook. God is first and foremost interested in His creation, His people moving towards and returning to Him, who has all power in the midst of the shaking.

And after His people partner in restoration and the healing work He has planned, then it manifests blessedness. The other benefits of the Kingdom are added, when what is preeminent is relationship and partnership with the person of Christ, the King of the Kingdom.

When God’s people have weak hands and knees, He doesn’t expect His people to stay down, He’s confident they will get up.

Little Hands

I had a profound moment this weekend. I paid a visit to Charleston to see the sun, hang with friends, and attend some sessions of a Missions conference. This past week has been helpful in reflecting about a sense of purpose and what brings me joy. My trip was a nice, not nearly long enough visit and break, but I fit a lot into a lovely weekend. One moment stuck out, not because it was the best moment of the weekend, but it was certainly unexpected.

Sunday morning at the end of church, the entire congregation was called forward to lay  hands in prayer on missionaries who shared throughout the weekend.  I was initially unsure if they wanted everybody to come forward but when it became apparent everyone was, I walked forward and laid my hand as a point of connection on Milton’s (and elder at the church’s) shoulder  to pray. I was standing against the stage and did not have much of a thought about anything.

I pause the story here to say that in all honesty, part of my hope for the weekend was a moment of clarity or revelation regarding next steps in ministry or locale or vocation. I’ve written previously about trying to be an augur to (predict) my future and that trap, but I think this weekend served as a reminder of the will of God (sanctification) and being faithful with what God has already given, being grateful for it, and not demanding something I would deem better. That’s a lot of wonderful things to feel and hopefully hold onto in a whirlwind weekend.

But I want to come back to this one kiss from the Lord.

We are praying. My mind is clear but not focused and suddenly, as my head is bowed eyes closed, standing with arm outstretched, a little hand grabbed my hand at my side without a hint of timidity. I don’t know if there was hesitation, but it felt like the hand grabbed mine so quickly and gently that there was none.

And in that moment, something fascinating happened, for a split second it was curiosity, then a laugh, then a flood of pictures ran through my head. I saw myself praying at a table with I presume, my children. I saw myself reading the bible with them and highlighting the promises of God. I saw eager and excited eyes and was a bit overwhelmed. So, I looked back, almost behind me and saw a boy about 7, holding my hand with his head bowed in prayer.

I smiled, thanked God, and prayed something along the lines of, “Lord thank you for this reminder, please tell me I’m not crazy for wanting to be a dad and having a family.” I mouthed that prayer, but not out loud. Immediately, the little hand gave a little squeeze. Perhaps confirmation, probably coincidence but it felt right, and I felt God’s delight.

I gave God a knowing nod and appreciated the moment as the time of prayer was wrapping up. But then another gift, 20 seconds or so before the prayer was about to end, another even smaller hand slipped between our hands. The little boys presumably 4-year old brother, wearing a backpack, wanted to be connected in prayer as well.

There really isn’t too big of a lesson or metaphor here. After the Amen I looked at a man who I assume was the boys dad and smiled and returned without much of a thought. Thoughts and doubts, you don’t need them when you know you’re known.

The Tender Year

I have now lived in Charleston, SC for a full year. I have approximately 3 weeks left of my residency. Several weeks ago, I was praying on the beach about my future, my next step in the next season. And it was such an uncertain time of prayer.

This time last year I knew what I was heading into and for how long, with a clear path ahead. It was the culmination of 7 months of waiting.

But this time, this year, I think back on 3 weeks ago and remember not having a clear direction and resolving to pray this, “No matter what happens I ask to be tenderhearted.” And there is a strong part of me that loves that I prayed that prayer.

I love that prayer because it is my desire. I love that prayer because when I gently love and reflect on all the wonderful friends and family and enemies God has put in my life, I find it is in everyone’s best interest that I would be tenderhearted rather than hardhearted.

In Luke 1:76-79, Zechariah the father of John the Baptist prays this part of a prayer over his son:

“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare a way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because the tender mercy of our God by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Tender Mercy

What beautiful phrase, the NIV, NASB, and ESV only translate this phrase into English 1 time in all of Scripture. NKJV has multiple instances of tender mercies in the Psalms and only additionally translated “tender mercies” in the epistle to the Colossians. Why does it matter?

I believe it matters because tender mercy is the gentlest of all mercy offered. It is the kind of tangible mercy offered in the darkness, in death, when we are in desperate need of sunshine, guidance and a path of peace.

Tender mercy is the mercy needed when suffering violence. Tender mercy is the mercy for lost-ness. Tender mercy is the tangible mercy needed when there is no other answer or explanation.

And yes, while I am desperate in my need for mercy for my actions against God and humankind, sometimes we are in need of the most tender mercy for our doubts in our darkness.

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I need tenderness of heart so as  not to become guilty of accusing God of having a wicked character when I have suffered or am utterly confounded by my circumstance.

We need tenderness of heart to mourn more victims of violence in the face of inaction. And while those are left asking why or will this be fixed, without any answer, or worse met with indifference, we remain in need of the tenderest of mercies.

This mercy is only available through the Spirit of God. Humankind cannot manufacture this kind of mercy.

But we can posture, we can kneel. I can move ever so slightly towards the light until I am warmed, softened, embraced, then set free to love and to give what I’ve been given.

Yet, I can only give what I have, and if I have not felt this tender mercy for myself, how can I give it?

I must have it again. I must know it, be immersed, even baptized anew in this maternal, vulnerable mercy.

It’s been a tender year for me. I don’t know how it’s been so far for you. I don’t know if you’ve felt like you’ve been connecting the dots from one disappointment to the next. I don’t know who you’ve lost or how many times you’ve lost them and to what degree of permanence. I don’t know to what extent you have been grieved or have suffered by the routine of mass shootings in America. Through it all, stay tenderhearted.

Let your heart feel hope for the future, for your obedience to the Lord, to follow Christ’s lead, perhaps hopeful for finding romance, perhaps hopeful for one day reconciliation to someone who has moved on the Heaven, hopeful for an end to meaningless bloodshed, hopeful for peace on a path guided by the sunlight in the tender mercy of God.

Augur Between Augusts

Depending on where I look for answers or direction, I can set myself up for excitement or disappointment. I typically act in the way I play the stock market, invest in things I like and allow myself to lose on the stocks I let my brother pick for me (mostly true).

Honestly though, I’m not really afraid of losing money. Not that I couldn’t be afraid of that, I just have more longstanding desires than wealth that occupy my thoughts or worries. I don’t particularly feel the need to name them, but I do feel the need to share a new word I learned which has lent itself to how I have lived in an unhelpful way.1200px-Ein_Augur

An augur, in ancient Roman religious practice, functions as an official who observed signs particularly birds looking for an indication of divine approval or disapproval for certain actions. Have I done this with God?

Instead, of being a minister of the Gospel (Good News) at any cost and trusting in God’s time and God’s way I have watched those flighty birds. Those birds can serve as metaphors, metaphors for whatever you want them to be, perhaps a metaphor for finding direction in woman, perhaps a metaphor in stability of emotion or vocation or family, perhaps looked for in the sign that a cat would function as the great hope to cope with loneliness. I’m sure the above examples serve as everyone else’s birds but mine that they’ve watched for.

The only thing that has taken my eyes off of God is the bird of being such a darn good chaplain, worlds best, flawless. Only one time in the last week did I pray with a family of a patient who was dying and called the patients sons partner  by a name similar to the patient in the prayer, then proceeding to forget everyone else’s name in the room.

Only one time this week did I break down when a fellow resident said to me of clown painting that I painted, “he looks as if he is waiting for life to bring him something.” Only one time did I get angry with my consult committee causing an early ending when interviewing for Level 2 of my residency.

I can’t get those moments back. No sign will bring me a redo.

Though I’m halfway through my residency and think I leveled up and am doing a fine enough job as a chaplain and have provision in abundance, what in the world am I watching for? What in the world am I looking for approval from?

Why do I live like God isn’t saying, “Son and Daughter, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31), “Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

I don’t want to be an augur, I want to be a lover. I want to live passionately serving and working for the Gospel, not looking for a sign that I’m doing something right. I want to be pre-occupied with obedience not stuck in my stumbling. I want to wait in hope for God’s good gift instead of grasping at things not good for me. I want to live like God is going to give me something because I am beloved in Christ.

Wrestling with Blessing

I’ve often reflected how I tend to be doing the best when I’m writing the most. This is typically true of anyone when they are expressing themselves creatively. We usually are feeling our best when we are fruitful and multiplying, freely expressing our identity through our gifting’s as we believe those gifts to be blessings.

Rarely do we feel our best when we are being pruned (losing part of what we thought was ourselves) or refined  (having our edges or unclean parts exposed and burned away) or disciplined (being taught how to navigate away from wrong into the right)

As I’ve been reading through Genesis and coming up on 5 months in chaplaincy, I find myself still wrestling, perhaps still restless. But in the midst of wrestling with myself and God, I’m faced with my choice. And it’s not so much a choice for vocation or for status as much as choice for disposition. I must choose joy and happiness. Admittedly, that has been historically challenging for me.

I often pin myself under the weight of sadness and introspection and often find the confused muddy version of Jimmy or James or Jim, whichever name they are calling me nowadays, trying to hear what name God is calling me nowadays. Still beloved, I hope?

How did I become so fragile?

How did I become so stubborn?

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I ask myself as I’m coming up on a ford (see story of Jacob) and the Angel of the Lord has challenged me to fight awaiting to see if I will ask for a blessing. The Lord doesn’t punch or slap. God doesn’t seek the knockout blow for his children. But God does test endurance awaiting our appeal for mercy or victory or surrender.

Here’s the thing though: I’ve asked. I’ve asked for blessing, yelled for the cursing to go away, persisted for healing. I still feel my wounds and am tempted to inflict the worst ones on myself, and I can’t do it anymore. I can’t be my own affliction and expect to make it through, wrestling day in and day out hoping the blessing actually sticks. For those of us that are guilty of fighting with ourselves, there is a need to learn the rhythm of grace and self-compassion.

I have this assignment I earned myself: To write about my dreams, which is ironic because some of my friends recently told me they are making dream boards. When I think of the word dream, my gut reaction is anger, then sadness, then stuck.

I don’t know how to stop my nightmares, so how does anyone expect me to make my dreams come true?

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I’ve had so many dreams, believed so many promises, flooded pages with hopes lost:

lost the hopes, lost the pages, lost parts of myself, let go of the dreams.

 

But not God, God’s not lost in the wrestling. God is there in it, and God has overcome me, and I admittedly can do nothing without the Father.  Nor do I really want to.

I also want to dream even if it’s daunting. I want to serve Jesus even if the next step is un-seeable. I want to be able find romantic love even if  right now it’s latent. I want to be confident in Christ even if I capsize. I only want to wrestle with God if we both win. What I find in the love of God is: the dreams that come from the Lord are the ones that have staying power and are vivid. As a team we dream. I think God knew how much I’d like wrestling so God has incorporated it into my walk of faith. I find God won’t let go until He knows I am blessed and beloved.

 

The God and the Ghost of Present Christmas

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I read an Instagram post by Craig Groeschel about Christmas being a magnifier today.  (For those of you who don’t know who Craig Groeschel is, he’s one of those muscular pastors that talks about how he doesn’t have time to dress himself in the morning)  The intent of his post was to state how the holiday can take positive and negative emotions and circumstances and enlarge them. This is why it is so important to fix our attention and affection on Jesus as the center of our celebration especially when we bent toward the negative.

I enjoyed the encouragement and I agree. I actually was weirdly looking forward to working in the hospital on Christmas today. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe the escape, maybe to feel important, maybe to feel more or less alone?

It is lonely you know, being a ghost.

My friends came up with this little joke that I am everyone’s imaginary friend, but I myself am unaware of it. I like the concept, but that is not me. I am no ghost, although I try to be as transparent as one, when I can be, when the risk isn’t too much, when I’m not afraid of rejection or losing someone, when I’m safe, when I’m surrendered.

A patient’s husband said to me today, “You must feel good being able to help people as a chaplain and on Christmas.” I thought this statement curious because I wanted to say, “It feels okay, but that’s not why I do it.” I didn’t try this ministry out so I could merely feel good, although if you constructed a well enough argument I’d probably believe it.

I think I chose it to hopefully find God in it, desperate to find God in myself (the Spirit dwelling within). I think I chose it or rather God called and chose me, so I would live in the fear of the Lord and in the love of God. I think I chose it to be transparent about all my evident weaknesses and hoped I would find warm love in it. And yeah, maybe warm loyal love feels really good, but I often don’t feel that, which is why I wish I was a ghost sometimes.

I wish I was floating in and out of people’s lives unaffected by their pain, yet present to it and to them whenever I wished or they wished. I would be a source of comfort without the feeling. I would be present, without the awareness of when I’m not feeling a comforting touch or hug when I want to be hugged or close to someone.

To be a ghost seems to me to be without a need, to be a gift without holding onto one back. I felt like a ghost sometimes today. I felt like a guilt-ridden sinner sometimes today. I felt like one in need of love and redemption sometimes today.

I am one in need of Immanuel, God with us, and God in us by the Holy Ghost always today.

I need the God and the Ghost

Mommy and Dad (as you are in my phone) I Hope I get this Right

I’m so naïve. It didn’t take long. I wept for the first time today, and it wasn’t because I visited a church during an emotional service where they were saying goodbye to some people they really love, to send them to Burundi perhaps indefinitely. I didn’t weep because I was confronted with my own darkness, sin, and fears although that would not have surprised me.

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I broke because I am naïve and spent $26.00 on a signed copy of comedian Louie Anderson’s book “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother but You Can Read Them Too.” Louie Anderson plays a mom, as a man, on the TV show Baskets, a show I have developed a strange affinity for the past few years. I bought the book hoping to laugh. Instead, I read the intro and bawled my eyes out (won’t say for how long).

Yet this shouldn’t surprise me or you because, it is commonly stated that often comedy is birthed from a place of pain. Being able to laugh at the tragic or the familiarly uncomfortable is what allows us to cope. In this book, Louie writes to his mother who is 25 years deceased to recount to her his successes and his regrets as expresses his desires to speak to his mother face to face.

This utterly broke me because it touched on a very raw and vulnerable area of my heart that I have battled with over the last 2 weeks: the leaving behind of those who have known me longest and the fear of losing time that could have been spent with them, spent searching their soul.

It became suddenly real during one of my recent visits to my grandma. After all she is 92 and while healthy, I feared moving now would leave me with less time with her or worse the last time with her. And it became suddenly more real a week out when my dad was quickly and suddenly diagnosed with leukemia and started chemo 2 days before my move.

This news and uncertainty kind of cast this fog or shadow over the move or more so just me. Rather than being able to adequately process it all, I tried to drown it all out or at least find relief because nothing seemed to make sense even if it all made sense. I felt absent in my mind. When decisions become uncertain for me, it’s easy to forget yourself, forget who God has called you to be and sadly forget the intimacy that comes from a relationship with God. I feel like I was underwater slowly forgetting all of it.

It’s easy to turn my back on God when I feel like He has become the author of my distress. And that lie and the forgetfulness that the Devil also exists and is a liar contributed to the fog I lingered in too long.

And while I’m exiting the fog or the darkness of my descent, I now, weep. I weep despite hearing from my parents and brother that they are proud, despite consistently trying to sink back into this place of trust that God will care for the things that I seemingly cannot. I weep because I know how time works and I know it can feel unforgiving or like something slipped through my fingers. And I weep because of my lack of access.

My love language is Quality Time, occupying space with the people I love is important to me, and the new distance is scary.  And the distance becomes scarier without guarantees. I can’t cut this deal with God where I promise I’ll do a good job so long as nothing changes at home. I mostly can’t promise that because I can’t promise to do a good job.

I also can’t just have access to friendships quickly like I had at home. There are so few people in my life, like the Lane’s or the Victor’s or the Andrew Millins that I can call and expect to hear back from or see quickly. There are so rare friends like the ADK squad or the Daniel’s that I rest in assurance that they have me in their prayers and thoughts.

And while my first fear is based on what I could miss at home, my second fear is based on what I could miss here. I’m so afraid to fail at this. I’m so afraid to find out that the first ministry position I was let go from now 7 years ago got it right, and I’m not cut out for vocational ministry. I’m afraid to lay behind things that I was good at and comfortable with only to find out I sabotage the things I feel called to.

I’m afraid of it because I feel like that success and failure is in my hands. And my hands are soft, except for callouses on my upper palms where I hold weights. I have soft hands for someone who worked on a farm and in construction yet doesn’t give a dime about how firm a handshake I have.

And while I very strongly believe my hands were called and created to minister to the hurting and the growing, I weep over the sense of my self-constructed inhibition. I weep over my doubts about God’s plan and that the only measurement of success  that matters in eternity is faithfulness to love and live as Christ.

And I’m also afraid to screw up my new relationships/friendships. I’m so concerned about giving an honest rendition of James/Jimmy Passaro that I often don’t know where to begin. Do I share too much? Did they see me lick my fingers while eating(thanks Dad)? Did I accidentally say something that offended someone? Am I too needy, too worried? Did I listen enough? Did I listen so much that I forgot to share? Am I still in a fog/ in a “wonder where I am” place?

I think what I realize as I read this book and as I look at me in the mirror is:  I am my parents. I learned my disposition and ticks and qualities from them, yet I still have this unique essence that hasn’t changed since childhood.

On Sunday I probably met 40 new people. I even went back to church at night at 4:30 to attend a going away pizza and ice cream party for people from the Church who I never met, only invited through a generic come one out from the pastor from the stage that morning.

Then I played soccer afterwards with more new people from 7-8:45. That is exactly what 4-6-year old Jimmy would have done. He would have just gone anywhere and I tried to meet as many people as possible until he found someone he just clicked with. He would have done this to try to forget the loudness sometime scariness of home.

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Back then it was the loudness and scariness of disunity, now it is the quietness and scariness of the potential loneliness. And that can be scarier unless our okay with yourself. If you have healthy self-worth and a perspective of your purpose, being alone is not so daunting. But if you question that and are alone that isolation can be destructive.

So for the next week until I start work, I have some good practice ahead of me. Learn to live alone while maintaining contact at home while trying to meet new friends without scaring people away and becoming too self-reflective about whether or not I am presentable or worth love from other new people.

God I hope I get this right.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.