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.

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.”

…..

..

.

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.

 

 

 

 

Imagination Love

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The romance you require is rote

it is more stable than whimsical

perhaps more ideal and less physical

mine does not need to emote

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I confuse necessity with reality

whats real to me isn’t necessarily

ideal. These dreams proceed warily

the exact and fact don’t appeal to me

 

I’ve held onto every fiber of strain

telling those feeling parts to drop you

to find someone else to pursue

activities formerly absent of pain

 

I suppose my devotion to be a farce

or do I misplace hope like my keys?

should I be knocking in my knees?

or is the beloved just that scarce?

 

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This becomes an admission of icognisance

as I search your path for the obscure

leave me, a love relic and your lore

to be sent off from among the congregants

 

for my mistake might lie in tarrying

while my gaze is affixed to your bright

then your gaze locked in to my sight

found something within worth marrying

 

Are my mind tales better left earthen?

grounded under the dust of your feet

just stay and let your roots rest on me

while I’m willing to shoulder our burden

 

An observer may recognize my error

such affection need not be so weighty

what strong love bore for Lord and Lady

caused me to wait for one, none fairer

 

You entertain my vain imagining

until the intensity, then disallows

if only, if only we’d be held by vows

to prevent endings from happening

The Cleansing Gospel: My Favorite

Sufficiency

This currency of mine

it will lift you

like a house hung from a balloon

or a wife off her feet by her husband

This urgency of time

let it pass you

like the drive in a car to vacation

like angst before returning home

This destination is a comma

in the adventure

where nothing is left behind

as moments move us toward what’s whole

The past may have scratched

skipped the favorite part of your song

though it’s been pardoned in your present

buffered into tomorrow

and now your flawless to me

you’ve become my lens of love

as I’ve become your trade

My ambition is to be spent for you

My ambition is to be sent by you

to the store for groceries

to your room to fetch you something

to aid the family

to the earth until its end or my own

My yearning is to be mercy in your hand

My yearning is to glow in your eyes

to be a trust in generosity

to be evocative of Love

to be an advocate of you.

I give you my breath and my beat and my me

and I hope its enough.

I’m enough.

John 13:1-17: Love Cleans Up

The phrasing in verse 1 always moves me.

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

Then, Jesus shocks the system. The Divine touches the lowest part of our existence, to wash off wherever the disciples feet have tread. It’s absurd, yet Jesus insists. In the middle of dinner, he stops to clean the dirty:

No holiday, no meal, no moment in my life compares to the gravity of this moment with Jesus and his disciples. Furthermore, in this moment, Jesus washes the feet of someone who already decided to betray Him and what’s more, He knew about it.

Jesus took his hands just prior to being pierced and washed the feet of the man who sold Him out. He washed the feet also of Peter who debated with Him about whether Jesus should wash His feet.

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In verse 7 and 8 are more game changing verses.

“You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

I could write a book on verse 7 alone, but I’ll settle for a paragraph or two for now.

How many times have you wondered what God is doing and why you don’t understand?

There have been times and seasons when I did not realize what was going on then and have often pleaded with God for understanding. Because I didn’t understand, sometimes, to my detriment I have said to God, “do not touch me,” which was another way of saying “I don’t trust you to fix this.” A wounded dog fears greater pain.

But Jesus’ response in verse 8 puts the emphasis on His actions, not Peter’s understanding. To take part in this love, Jesus says, “allow me to do this.” Jesus is cleansing where they have been and even where they are going, which makes the thought of Judas’ betrayal so heart wrenching.

I’m cleansing your feet yet where your feet are about to take you will carry us both to our death. For Jesus there was a resurrection.

After washing their feet Jesus closes in verses 14-17 saying, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet… Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus often likes to end things with good promises. He likes us to be #blessed.

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But what makes us blessed is the way in which we share ourselves. You will be blessed if you wash one another’s feet, you will be blessed if you give your time and intimacy to God and if you share love with others. You will be blessed if you offer the gospel to your enemy. I hope I find my blessing in being able to relinquish my self-serving for the sake of Jesus Christ my Savior.

This is my endeavor and this is why I can’t shake taking a step of faith in this season of life. Jesus cleansing and the grace he gives, makes me enough. It is my reminder in my next footstep.

 

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.