A little inspiration at the end of a rope

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I am tired, and wondering if I’ve bit off more than I can chew again. But tonight as I sit here, I am also irritated. I want to be able to handle more. I feel weak.

Last night, I started running again. That single mile reminded me muscles ache and lungs burn. That single mile also begin purging my lungs. It hurt a little, but it also felt great. Furthermore, it reminded me that building stamina, strength, and wind is going to take time. It won’t happen overnight.

So I sit here tired, but I am writing this post. Thankful to have found a moment’s inspiration to share. I have to trust that, as I find my path, I will get stronger and then I will be able to handle more. I will feel a little less weak. I will get a little closer to living the life I want to live.

In the meantime, I know I need to give myself grace to figure it out. And honestly, I probably need to rest. Resting is something I’m not good at, but I’m fairly certain I’m experiencing weariness right now because I have been pushing myself too hard. I need to give the well time to recover.

My thoughts are many and scattered, but I’ll write a few of them here anyway. It’s a way of sharing some of what’s running about in my mind.

I am not sure whether daily haikus are a good idea or not. On the upside, they challenge me to regularly flex my creative muscles, but I hate it when I feel like I’m phoning it in for lack of inspiration or energy. I don’t want to cop out, but I don’t want to wear out either. And this week, I’ve done nothing. By the time I got home I have been drained emotionally, spiritually and physically. There has been nothing left to give. (I am also spending more time writing songs, which is what I set out to do with the haikus in the first place. That may be enough.)

Mornings are my most valuable time. I need to get them back. That means taking control of my nights again.

I love the people who have given me a place to stay while I am selling my house. They are dear and generous friends. At the same time, I am ready to be back in my own space again. Change can be good, but I certainly feel it as it’s wreaked havoc on my routines. Making new routines is exhausting. Necessary, but exhausting.

And lastly, my thoughts have brought me full circle to an earlier conversation. It’s the reason I won’t give up on all of this even as it wears me out and forces me to figure out this chaos. I don’t remember exactly what my friend and I were talking about, but it came back to the sheer numbers of our culture who are busy watching other people live their lives. I won’t say it’s all bad. It probably isn’t. You know, all things in moderation. But as I limit the shows I watch, the media I interact with, the social media I consume, I find I’m living a little more. It’s harder to live that way. Mostly because I’m having to learn new, more valuable things to fill my time. The vacuum created by giving something up is the greatest danger. It begs for that easy habit to step back in. And going back to the start of this post, new habits don’t come quickly or easily. But I guess, even as tired as I feel, I don’t want easy. Easy won’t get me where I want to go.

In the end, I want adventure and excitement. I just want to make sure it’s my own.

Old and New

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Tuesday’s show marked an important first step. The whole experience has left me encouraged and hopeful for the future. That I expected. The whole experience also left me completely exhausted. I had nothing to give yesterday and no amount of coffee could get me over the hump. That I should have expected. The whole experience left me feeling empty. That, I didn’t expect.

The past three weeks I lived laser focused. My purpose to make the night something special. I prayed every night for the artists, the inspiration, the message and those who would hear it. I kept in contact with everyone involved. Worked out details for the coffee shop and people to run it. Talked it up at every opportunity to friends, family and fellow coffee drinkers. For a glorious three weeks, I pretty much knew exactly what I needed to do each day and I did it.

And it’s gone. It’s complete. It’s over.

I suppose I’m going to have to get used to this. Nothing lasts forever. I don’t like the vacuum, but that feeling led me to an important question.

“What’s next?”

Playing for the condo’s Christmas party provides an immediate answer, but an unsatisfying one. I’ve resolved to lean in so that I can grow from that commitment, but I find it lacking. Until a moment ago, I couldn’t articulate why. I feel it’s a desire for more of what Tuesday’s show gave me – collaboration and a greater purpose.

Thankfully, my goals for 2020 seem pointed in that direction. One, I am accepting a challenge to live this journey publicly. It will require me to engage with social media, something I’ve avoided in the past, but it continues in the spirit of Tuesday night’s show. I will share the process as I chase my dream in hopes of inspiring others to do the same. I’ll share more as it takes shape. Two, I will be writing songs. This is the one thing that by doing it, everything else I want to do will either become easier or unnecessary. While it’s not quite the laser focused sense of purpose that has guided me over the past few weeks, I feel confident I have a good start and today I feel a little less empty.

Here’s to new beginnings!

 

Engaging the Other

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Over the past few years, I’ve been searching for a church home. A dear friend and partner in ministry recommended I check out a local church. A couple weeks later I did. Most of what happened that day is unclear but for general feelings, but one moment stands out with complete clarity.

I entered the church, grabbed a bulletin from the greeter at the entrance and took up a seat nearer to the back. I suppose I intended to remain inconspicuous. Just ahead on the right I noticed two familiar faces, a gay couple I’d known for years as a barista as Starbucks. They are both wonderful people. I made a note to say hello after the service. When it came time to celebrate communion, I rose to join the line funneling its way forward and noticed these same friends in the next line over. My gut clenched. At this time, I hold the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Nothing in my study has persuaded me otherwise. To say the moment challenged me is probably an understatement. But, at the same time, I realized something very important. I needed that tension in my life and in my walk with Christ.

Yesterday’s sermon spoke to this need, and as I listened and reflected I knew today’s post needed to change.

The core of the sermon can probably be summed up in a single word – “We.” Rather than unpack everything, I want to focus on a single point. The common ground, the 99.5%, better known as the DNA we all share as human beings. In our study of the human genome, only 0.5% varies from person to person. And yet we tend to focus our attention on that 0.5%. I realize this is a physiological statement, but I believe the concept goes beyond that to the psychological and philosophical. As humans, we gravitate to people who share our views, our ideas, our goals, our likes and dislikes – in short, people like us. And the church has been no exception.

In fact, I was taught embracing and engaging those who did not believe like me placed me in danger. By doing so, I risked tainting my faith. I believe this is one of the most destructive trends in modern local churches and in society at large. We’re taught to fear the other. So we sit in judgment, in ignorance, and often in hatred. Fear is toxic.

But fear is not from God.

Fear is not ever from God!

In saying this, do I mean to do away with fear of God. I cannot go so far. Scripture rebuts such a statement. We have statements like “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) or “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). These do not always mean merely an awe of God either. For those under judgment it should be a terrifying thing.

But it is not fear of God I am speaking of here, but fear of everything else. Fear that does not know the God who drives out all fear. For those of us who know Him, His power, and His love, there is no fear. (1 John 4:18) God is bigger than all our fears. And God is bigger than anything that waits across the aisle. I’ve mentioned before that the point at which we refuse further revelation is the point at which we cease to grow. By standing in the shadow of fear and refusing to engage the things that make us uncomfortable and challenge us, we are closing ourselves off from growth. Most heartbreaking, we are closing ourselves off from the blessing of God’s deeper revelation of Himself.

I get it. It’s scary. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. But we desperately need it. Engaging the other leads to transformation as we engage more deeply with God. And God is bigger than any fear we can imagine.

Maybe it’s time to trust Him, to be courageous and step across the aisle, across denominations, across political lines, across divides of sexuality, across the tracks, and engage the other. Not to win them over or change them, though that may happen, but instead to listen and learn. And in so doing, to change. Yes, it will change us. Taking us from caterpillar to butterfly. Drawing us more into the image and likeness of God himself.

Unexpected Gift

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A short few months ago I met a girl. From the moment she entered my life I experienced an awakening. Now if you’re expecting a tale of romance, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.  But it is the beginning of a happy story and one I am thankful for.

That said, let me begin with a bit of someone else’s story.

 

I recently watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty again. He and I share more in common than I would like to admit. I zone out less, but we both have vivid imaginations and neither of us are living the life we imagine. At one point in the film, he turns down a free ride that will further the quest. Not that I blame him, riding a helicopter into a storm with a drunk pilot is not generally a recipe for wisdom. It is then that an imagined Cheryl Melhoff, his love interest, takes the stage singing David Bowie’s Space Oddity. A song she herself said is about bravery and going into the unknown. It moves him to action and moments later he leaps into a rising helicopter, a look of shock on his face at what he’s just done.

That’s a bit how I feel.

There are things I deeply admire about this woman. Some of them are hopes I have for my own life that I see her living as a world traveler and an artist. Others are the simple joy of easy conversation and good company. Not to mention she’s also a fighter. She’s the kind of woman  you’d want at your side for a grand adventure.

Her life became a catalyst for me, accelerating the changes already in progress in my life and, in some places, inspiring new ones. At first, I questioned the motivation. After all, shouldn’t these things be motivated by God. In the midst of that line of questioning, I chose to accept a word of advice from Darren Hardy. Whatever motivates you, use it. In so doing, I came to recognize that her presence in my life was a gift from God. A gift that, among other things, has drawn me closer to Him. She happens to be what I needed at the moment I needed it.

So where does that leave me now? I suppose it leaves me still staring down the corridor of the unknown. A future I prefer to call a mystery. It’s undiscovered territory. There is no telling where it will lead, who it will lead to or what it holds for my future. And thanks to her presence, God’s gift of this friend I deeply value, I am further on down the line than I was before. And I’m thankful, because the simple fact that someone like her exists has given me hope for the future.

I’ll close with a quote from The Four Loves. It touched me the moment I read it, and it captures how I feel.

“Appreciative love gazes and holds its breath and is silent, rejoices that such a wonder should exist even if not for him, will not be wholly dejected by losing her, would rather have it so than never to have seen her at all.”  – C.S. Lewis

 

The Other Side

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Time away from the local church and its meetings and ministries opens a door. For some it reads ‘Exit’. For others it is more like a backstage pass, an invitation to go deeper. As I mentioned in my last post, for me it was the latter.

As I’ve written, rewritten and changed this post time and again I’ve began to wonder why it was an invitation for me and not an ending.

Ultimately, I believe it is a result of the grace of God. I remember a specific moment in my past filled with doubt when I realized I don’t have a say in the matter. I knew that, even if I didn’t want to be a Christian, I was. I am His. Period.

When I take that into consideration, all the other things fall into place. He’s doing the work of sanctification. Making me more like Him. And He’s opening up the door for me to enter in and dine with Him, talk with Him, know Him. It reminds me of the only definition of eternal life I’ve seen thus far in scripture.

“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”   – John 17:3

But knowing Him is not the same as knowing about Him. These past few years have been the testing ground of my knowledge about Him, and the deepening of that knowledge into understanding Him better. More often that not it is a relationship forged in the furnace.

It’s been a while since I’ve considered the trials of my furnace. Loneliness, definitely. Frustration also. Fear. Doubt. I’ve continuously struggled with who I am. Recently, in reading someone else’s struggles I think I gained a little more insight into why. She explained how she never felt accepted for who she was as a child. I feel like my story is a lot like hers. No matter what I did, it was never good enough. I’m not sure where this idea came from. I’m not sure who I was looking to for approval. All I know is that I decided that strength was being good at everything. I had to be Superman to be accepted. I would make everyone look up to me. Looking back, this wrecked me. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve found more freedom to be myself, weaknesses and all. It’s also only recently that I’ve allowed myself to admit that I desperately need other people, and not just admit it, but really know that it’s okay to need others.

It helps me to see another truth. As God exposes me, He is healing me. I feel like someone waking up. He’s freed me to dream again in places I hadn’t realized I’d given up. In so doing, He’s also helped me to know Him more. I have never been more aware of His love, His pride and His belief in me and who He made me to be. He’s cultivating me still to be an image bearer and a beacon of His glory to the world. Where I think it’s too late. He reminds me that it is never too late.

Never too late to create.

Never too late to have a family.

Never too late to see the world.

The adventure is just beginning!

 

 

 

 

To Share a Journey

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My return to the world of blogs is the result of a confluence. A desire to grow as a writer, and a desire to unpack my faith journey over the past few years, specifically as regards the church. These two things have spurred me on in what I hope will, in the end, bless us both.

The landmarks of my journey are connected to recurring themes – community, the arts, worship, social justice, and freedom. They weave their way throughout my story and will provide the markers by which we’ll navigate. So you can follow one or all of these ideas as they progress.

I hope my journey may be of use to those who are or have been where I’ve been. My path has brought me from an early faith bound in legalism, to the first whispers of grace and on to a growing freedom in Christ. I’ve been “in the ministry”, I’ve served in the church and I’ve simply lived as a Christian. For most of my life I never missed a service. Until I did, and for a handful of years I hardly darkened a church door. And I feel compelled to state – those were not dark years. I was not living the life of a prodigal outside the church. They were enlightening years, and my relationship with God grew as a result. I have seen in every season the rise and fall of my own depravity and the heights and depths of God’s miraculous love.

I do not claim to be a scholar. I do not claim to be an authority. I am only a man sharing my own story. You are free to disagree with me. You are free to challenge my ideas, though I do ask you to be civil. That, when all is said and done, God may teach us both.

 

Progressive Revelation

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“Progressive Revelation is a movement from truth to more truth and so to full truth.”

– Alec Motyer

If you google Progressive Revelation you’ll find a series of definitions, all referencing God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture. Of those, I like Mr. Motyer’s best. It leaves room for God’s voice outside of Scripture alone, that growing revelation that takes the truth of scripture, and through life, makes it breathe by the Spirit.

For those who read my last post you’ll recognize a theme here, that of discovery. I believe this concept of progressive revelation is what should mark both the life and the anticipation of a Christ follower. We live. We journey. And along the way we come face to face with God again and again that we may know him more.

Sometimes it is in the manner of the mural, a scene we return to over and over again. Each time we visit we find a deeper understanding and appreciation of who God is, and sometimes more importantly who we are to God. I still remember an illustration from Oswald Chambers. He likened our revelation to a staircase. God will repeatedly bring us back to the next step until we take it, and then we can move another step closer. Time and again growing closer and closer to Him.

That said, the answers we get are not always the answers we seek. I came across a line in my journal earlier today. I wrote it down after finding news of the death of Rachel Held Evans. She was a writer I followed a few years ago. A writer who challenged my own closely held ideas and forced me to explore issues of faith from a different perspective. I don’t know if these words are my own, but I am challenged by them.

‘Christianity isn’t all about answers. Sometimes it’s about living with the questions.’

Progressive revelation is the result of engaging with life. Life can be beautiful, and it can be ugly and cruel. Life can be crystal clear at moments, and beyond comprehension at others. Life will raise us to great heights, and it will crush us beneath its heel. And, at least for me, this kind of living is full of questions. Far more questions than answers.

Sometimes, when it’s really hard, it’s tempting to flee. To give in to the hurt and run. We close ourselves off and refuse to take another step. If nothing else, it feels safe. But safety of that kind is an illusion. I’ve tried living it in the past, and it is a stunted and broken life bent only on survival. Living is more than just survival.

Let me leave you with two progressive revelations that have only grown deeper as I return to them time and again. When I am afraid, I lean on these truths, and I hope they will help you along the way.

One, God loves me. In a way I don’t understand. The more I delve the deeper it gets. It brings me to tears. I can’t understand it, but I know it. And I trust it.

Two, that at all times, God is present. In the darkness, in the light, in the answers and in the questions. I am never alone, and my companion is truth.

When I remember these two things, I find courage to face my fears and doubts. For the only thing that awaits me, even in the questions, is God.