Category Archives: life in general

Final Post – A matter of conscience

What do you do when it just stops? What do you do when you just can’t muster any energy to have faith anymore… to believe in something that you’ve devoted your life to?

I haven’t written on this blog for some time, and I believe that it’s indicative of just what I was going through for the last couple of years. A lot of people write about this after they’ve figured it out, or really solidified what they are. I thought it could be nice to say goodbye to this blog, and begin a new chapter.

Up front, I’m not an atheist. This isn’t that announcement. Sometimes, because of my incessant guilt and shame obsession, I wish I were.

Sometimes I really doubt a lot. But, I talk to God… at least, I think I do.

I don’t even know that I’m an agnostic. I don’t quite know what it is that you might want to label what I believe. But that’s actually kinda the point, I’ve grown weary with worrying about beliefs, and stuck in a rut of not living. But, I talk to God, all day… at least I think I do.

Sometimes it’s hard to know. But am I saying that to just make people feel better about where I’m at? Maybe. That’s another big part of the point.

I’m writing this because I don’t want to tell the same story over and over. I don’t want to explain myself over and over. In reality, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, but there are people who have invested many years in my life, and I’m attempting to explain my heart in order to honor them. They matter. They know who they are. (and if they’re taking the time to read this, thank you)

What is happening to me is difficult to explain to those who’ve poured love, help and concern into the last 11 years of my life. I have been hesitant for fear of disappointing them. I adore them. They helped me through some of the toughest years I ever experienced.

For decades, however, as long as I can remember, I’ve believed myself a monster. It wasn’t a constant thing, but more like one of those core memories that shape the constant things. If it were in Inside Out, I’d have a Monster-Demon-Possessed-Island. I didn’t think about it all the time, but you know, it’s back there.

Mom and dad would have their church friends rebuke the “demons” in me. They always wanted to fix me. And I found great comfort in the structure of the children’s home that I lived in as an 11-15 year old.

Looking back, it seems that after that I sort of went from authority structure to authority structure, finding people to please and make happy. I learned to survive that way. Adapt and become what they really want you to be… that was my motto. But I didn’t know that.

I am no victim. If I am, I do not know who by. It’s just me, it’s mine. It’s the path I’ve been walking.

All the time that I’ve been walking my path I kept looking off into the distance, hoping that one day I wouldn’t be a monster anymore. I was hoping that one day I wouldn’t be the piece of crud that I believed myself to be.

People pleasing, blending in to someone else’s agenda, became the prime way that I fought my own self-hatred. If I was making them happy and becoming a good me, then I could feel good.

Again, no one made me do this… I thought I had to in order to survive. It’s mine.

If I’m honest with myself, I know that over the last two years I’d been becoming increasingly skeptical of the stories in the Bible. I was having a very difficult time enjoying fellowship with my church. I simply could hardly relate to it anymore.

In June, we did a concert at that same Children’s home I lived in so long ago, and that day something just clicked inside my head. I was driving down the road, listening to our Dragons EP, (which, by the way, is all about this… though I didn’t know it when I wrote it) and I just started bawling.

I’ve been believing a whole lot of lies about myself. I’m a grown man and I don’t have to be afraid of being who I am.

That may sound stupid to some, but not to me. To me, it was the most liberating thing I’d ever experienced. EVER.

That weekend I knew that we would move out on our own.

If there’s anything my friends of faith and godlessness alike have taught me, it’s that you have to obey your conscience. If you can’t do it, then you just can’t do it.

I realized that my conscience was so messed up. I had to move out on my own. I had to figure it out and start over. I knew that I was pretending to be something that I wasn’t. I knew that this wasn’t a matter of disagreement, but of heart, and my heart simply wasn’t in it anymore. No one had hurt us and no one made us do it. I simply wasn’t there anymore.

But when I moved out, something happened that I simply didn’t expect.

Every passion for my “faith” or “religion” stopped. Every urge, every desire, every obligatory bit of drive was just done. I wanted to hide in a hermit hole and be alone… but no, I wanted to play with my kids. I wanted to just be done.

It was gone… just, not there. Suddenly I found myself panicking going, “What the heck do I even believe about anything?!?” I was terrified that I’d made a huge mistake.

This subsided when I saw the conversations growing between my daughters and I. When I saw myself making decisions based on what was good for our family and not what my guilt or shame was dictating.

So a month or so ago, I gave myself permission to be officially done, at least for now. I gave myself permission to say, “I am not a Christian.”

But I’m not done, and I know it.

I’ve tried learning about atheism, zen, whatever… I’ve talked to people who’ve left the faith. I’ve tried to bolster it. I’ve got nothing.

I get up each day and talk to “God.” I ask, “What are we doing today?”

And in some ways, I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.

My guilt and shame addictions are non-existent for the most part. That’s a big deal. A life-crippling, emotionally paralyzing big deal.

The self-hatred has no place in my home. I won’t allow it anymore.

I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to question anything you don’t see evidence for. I’m teaching us to be kind and merciful to each other as well as our neighbors. I’m teaching them that they don’t have to be afraid to be themselves when they walk through the streets… that, in fact, the world needs more colorful little girls who are unabashedly themselves.

The world also needs more dads who have their dad bods and aren’t afraid to play with princesses.

I don’t know where I’ll land. Honestly, I’m not worried about it. My faith was so desperately tied up, twisted into and weaved into my people pleasing that I couldn’t, in any way, distinguish the two.

I can’t sort these out while still in the middle. Imagine trying to untangle a ball of twisted up twine from the center out. It won’t work. Instead you have to be on the outside of it all to sift through it.

So, we’re simply restarting many aspects of life. We’re going to move across the state and begin anew. We’re going to dance in the moment, right here and now. We’re going to keep asking questions because, well, anyone who knows us knows that this is what we do.

We’re going to play and live today.

Now, to some, this may sound like many things. Even the act of writing this was excruciating. For the most part lately, I just feel calm and peaceful, but when the voices of what I *think* others will think get going in my head, it brings on a stress that’s like no other… and then I get dishonest.

I can’t debate this, it’s simply my experience and where I’m at.

I can’t sit around and be talked into anything by some random blogger or facebook user that reads this. It’s simply not where I’m at.

I’m going to take some time to live. Some may think that this is a loss, that we’ve lost faith, or that we’re giving up.

I will argue this. I feel more alive than I can remember feeling in quite some time. I’m not hanging anything up. I felt a song calling me away, and I just had to follow it and see where it led. Now I can’t look back. Our hearts simply aren’t there anymore.

It’s hard to not fear disappointing, or even angering those who’ve invested in us. It’s hard to even work up the language to describe the experience or the thoughts.

But… declaring to my friends that my conscience wouldn’t allow me to work against them and pretend to be one of them was one of the hardest and best decisions that I’ve ever made. But I’m glad I did it, and I’m so crazy excited to see what’s next.

My wife and I, (and even our kids for the most part) believe that in our case, we simply need to start new to figure out what we even want, and who we even are.

How often do you have a chance to ask yourself, “Is this my life?” and if it’s not, how often do you get a chance to start all over.

I think it’s worth asking ourselves this question each and every day, and live life today, here and now, playing along with the music.

We’re going to take this time to celebrate our family and dig in to see who we are and what beauty is there. And hopefully, we’ll get chances celebrate everyone in our path.

Oh, to live… it’s the greatest adventure.

 

Confessions of an Ungrateful Heart

“O Lord, hear my prayer!

Pay attention to my cry for help!

Do not ignore me in my time of trouble!

Listen to me!

When I call out to you, quickly answer me!

For my days go up in smoke, and my bones are charred like a fireplace… Because of anxiety that makes me groan…

For the last couple of months I’ve been downright tired. In fact, more than a few times I’ve grumbled under my breath that I hate my life.

More and more I had been wanting to escape and just sleep, watch movies… fade away.

We just had an annual festival here, a festival where we get together and celebrate our life together… it’s a weekend where we really enjoy each other and rejoice. I spent most of the weekend longing for my bed. I tried to want to be with people… I did.

I hate that feeling. You’re exhausted inside and out. You know that it’s off, you know that you should want to be with the church, good people who are filled with love, but you just don’t have it in you.

I was walking around watching people smiling and laughing, and I just couldn’t muster it up without being the biggest phony ever.

I know that there’s some out there who believe in the “fake it till you make it” philosophy… but I just don’t buy it. At least, not for the long run. When you’re trying, day after day, and not “making it” then something is wrong.

My friend Shammah told my wife and I once, “There’s nothing more important than being in the presence of God. If you can’t find it, you have to halt everything and get back with Him.” He explained that if we really believe what we say that we believe, then there is no greater task than being next to our heavenly Father… everything else can wait.

That’s not faking it, that’s honesty.

I didn’t feel my God anywhere… but it’s funny, I saw him everywhere. I even saw him working through me and the situations around me. I saw him working despite me. I just wanted to go to sleep.

Finally, I snapped. I wanted to hurt everyone around me. I was annoyed by them all. I couldn’t see gratefulness worth anything.

Sometimes, on my lunch breaks I’ll exercise and watch a mystery show on Netflix or something… it’s great for unwinding. But last Thursday, I just couldn’t. I needed to hash it out with God. I needed something.

If I was hiding sin I wanted it revealed. If I was filled with hatred I wanted to know. I wanted God to show me so that I could make him happy!!!!

But all that I got was love. It was one of those moments when he simply wraps around you and says, “Son, you’re fine, and you need a nap.”

So I laid there and cried. I know, sounds like a weak thing to do. But I’m weak. I’m pitiful without my God. I just wanted to be a good dad, husband, friend… and God was telling me that I needed a nap.

I cried for a while, and came inside and my friend pulled me aside and told me how much Yvonne and I really needed sleep. Wow, what a shocker. It was sweet really.

Having real and true friends is the best combatant of depression. You need people to tell you, “No, you don’t actually hate everyone, you’re just tired. Have a nap and relax. You are loved.” And to believe them and rest in them is so wonderful.

I’ll write more about the following few days tomorrow… because God had a WHOLE lot more to say about the subject, and especially on those first few bits of Psalm 102 that I posted there.

The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything

Are you in a rut? Stuck? Feeling without vision? Feeling like the day to day simply isn’t adventurous enough… I have an answer.

And yes… I’m truly that presumptuous.

Douglas Adams wrote humorous stories about beings wandering the universe, looking for the meaning of it all. They were looking for the answer. In observing my kids, and the way that they bloom the best, I believe that I’ve stumbled across one such answer.

Day to day, my three daughters love to create. They constantly have a stream of designs, cartoons, crafts and life flowing out of them. There’s nary a day that I don’t find one more piece of art declaring their love for me on my desk at home.

But seldom, very seldom do these little ladies make things just for themselves. There is always another motive. In every stroke you’ll usually find the intent of brightening the day of someone near to their little hearts.

Their life is a playground of creativity and gift giving for them to dance and play in.

Can you say that about your life?

I can’t… but I’m sure as hellfire gonna learn.

Let’s take this weekend, for example. These little girls drew, worked on marionettes, started making puppet ideas, and even did some yard work too. Almost all of it, minus the marionettes were things to give and use for the delight of others.

I, however, was exhausted most of the weekend. I had my aspirations of giving myself to learning and playing with the kids. But alas, I found myself a vegetable, struggling to be dragged along for the ride.

At the end of it all, I felt like I’d wasted it away. That is, until we prayed.

Late last night as we talked to God together, my oldest daughter, Aletheia Mercy ( truth and mercy) prayed to our wonderful creator God. “God thank you so much for all of the things we got to do for people this weekend. It was so much fun!”

Her heart was full, and she would lay down to sleep with a clear conscience and a sound heart.

They gave of themselves all weekend. They poured out the love that we pour in to them on everyone around them, in their own little ways.

So here’s the challenge; do you?

Can you?

Is what you’re doing working for ya?

___________

Last night a young fella came to me, wondering what to do. . . he was stuck, and his mother was pushing for him to look for some answers.

This guy has amazing things inside of him, but instead, he wastes the sweetness inside of him on video games and self-gratification. This particular guy is made for helping little ones. If you knew him, you’d agree.

I’ve seen who he is, but he’s 17 and squandering it. Consequently, he’s miserable. But instead of looking at the real answers, like most 17-year-olds, he looks to finding “more.”

More intense games.

More extreme energy drinks.

More adrenaline rushes.

But it will never be enough. I told him this straight up. “You can be a vampire, or you can be who you’re made to be.”

It’s not the video games. And it’s not enjoying movies and a red bull now and then. It’s living for your own gratification.

“Greater love has no man that he would lay down his life for his friends.”

We know it, but I don’t think that we know just how to live it day in and out.

It’s the small things that give us vision. It’s the teeny little projects of love that drive my little girls to be filled with vision and drive day in and day out.

They have filled their hearts with a desire to see you smile.

May we do the same.

This is the answer. This is the key. This is that kingdom that spreads like little, unremarkable shrubs throughout the whole earth, giving hope, life and vision to all around.

As you finish this, ask yourself, “Am I really happy?”

Yes… No? Well, go visit that sweet lady who’s all alone.

Take out the trash.

Set up a card game with a lonely friend.

Do something, anything, for somebody else.

 

Confessions of a Pirate – Enjoying the Small Things

I’m veering a bit from my usual blog fare for a moment of appreciation for the arts and intellectual property. This is, however, a concept that I want to teach to my kids. (pirating is not)

This morning I did something that is becoming a new and improved habit in my life, I bought a CD. Yes, I know. . . For those who know me this is coming as a shock. But this last year I’ve been progressively setting aside my pirating ways in favor of a clearer conscience.

I’ve rediscovered something that had been lost in my life for a very long time. You may think me corny for saying this, but oh well.  I wanted to share it with you.

When was the last time that you sat down and listened to a CD all the way through?

Honest, sit there and ask yourself.

Most of us would say that we don’t have the time to do this. I normally would say the same.

Do you remember the days when you’d buy a tape or a record, and couldn’t wait to plug it in to your walkman on or set the needle down and listen to it, from start to finish? It was an adventure.

I don’t know why, but when I think about this concept I often think about the old grunge and alt-rock albums I bought in middle school. The first time that I clicked my fresh copy of Pearl Jam’s “VS” album in my walkman in the big back seat of my parents car I was just drifting away. The sounds were incredible.

It was the same with R.E.M., Nirvana, The Prayer Chain and so many others. These bands, though some aren’t much to my tastes these days, worked very hard on each and every song, ordering them in a way to take you on a journey and leave you with a message, a feeling, a thought.

An well written album is like performing “inception” on the listener. Any record worth listening to from start to finish has been made to share, teach, impart or give something to the listener.

This concept has been all but lost lately. I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about a little debate she had with her 17-year-old about how she only buys single songs off of iTunes and never hears the whole records.

99 cents for a song is an easy buy for an easy fix of a catchy tune.

My kids are all under 10, and they gravitate toward this too. They like a song that is playing as they prance through the room, and they ask for it to be played over and over and over. It’s a normal tendency.

But there’s another thing, for those of us to whom the likes of the “peer-to-peer” universe has infected. When we have access to everything, nearly everything ceases to be special.

Let me repeat that. . .

When we have access to everything, nearly everything ceases to be special or precious to us.

I have gone through phases where I had so much stinkin music on my computer that I’d never know what to listen to. I could download the entire catalog of any recording artist of any time.

But the magic is lost.

When I was 16 I was so in love with the album “Siamese Dream” by Smashing Pumpkins that I couldn’t wait for the follow up collection of out-takes and b-sides to come out. I skipped school to be the first one into the record store. Then, I went straight home and listened to it beginning to end, three or four times.

There was so much anticipation with each record, but with the age of file “sharing” this has become a lost delight. Most kids really don’t look forward to new cds. You click the download button, load your iPod and add it to the play list.

This morning I downloaded “Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen” by alt-rock legends, The Choir. They’re an amazing bunch of guys who write convicting and insightful masterpieces about life in Christ.

At lunch, I enjoyed every last note and lyric. I ingested the album. I loved it. It took me somewhere, and it was somewhere that I wanted to go. I felt, by the end, close to the band and their heart. I heard them… and I came back from my lunch ready to enjoy my friends, work. . . my life.

In a recent newsletter put out by a great guy named Jeff Goins, he quoted Stephen King saying that “Art is a support system for life, not the other way around.”

I love that God has given us music. I love that these recording artists put hundreds of hours of heart and soul into these recordings. I want to experience them with them. I want to utilize art in the way that it was made to be utilized; a support for life. It breeds new perspective, encouragement and reflection, it’s great.

This is one more area where our society is simply hell-bent on disposable consumption. We’re treating art, movies, music the same way we do fast food.

We all know what happens when we eat too fast. You get indigestion. Right?

I’m beginning to believe that it’s the same with life, the universe, and everything. . .

Do You See It?

I love the sky

It’s a simple concept, but it often causes great rage within us.

“Because they do not regard the works of the Lord, nor the deeds of His hands, He will tear them down and not build them up.”

What a statement. It’s from Psalm 28. It’s quite a prayer.

It’s often very frustrating and difficult for us to acknowledge the hand of God and all of his works and deeds. It can raise a thousand and one questions to which I simply don’t have the answer. . . But in the end, God’s hand is everywhere.

He’s there, beside us, wanting to work through the horrific tragedy that we wreak upon one another. Whether in the jungles of Africa and the torture of children, to the abusive enslavement of generations to hollywood in America, God is trying to work.

God is there, attempting to reach in and help us. Why? Why on earth would he be mindful of us? Why?

I don’t know… but he is.

And here’s the clincher on that passage above; David seems to believe that because people don’t look for the work of God in and through our world, God makes a choice to not build them up.

So many times we’ve seen people like Mother Teresa, Shane Claiborne, Kathy Kelly, Rich Mullins. . . I’m sure you could list them off. There’s many that I could list off right here that you’ve never heard of. But these people were not, are not rich by any means. In fact, some of them you could downright say that they are stricken by God. Their lives are riddled with tragedy, but yet, a smile beamed, or still yet beams across their faces.

Why?

Because they made, and are making a choice.

They’re looking for the hand of God. They’re looking for the presence of their glorious Lord and master.

They’re not afraid of laws passed, or governments or tyrants. They know who is truly in charge, and that nothing escapes his gaze.

And they are built up by God.

When we make the choice to look for him in all things, to ask him to reveal himself in all things, the God of all creation will truly show himself to you!

One of my favorite passages in all the scriptures is from Malachi.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this. . . if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”

Just to be clear, the word ‘tithe’ isn’t referring to the bogus nonsense that churches preach and use to fund their buildings and pastor’s salaries. The tithe was for the people, together. The tithe was for a big party for the people of God to celebrate and delight in the Lord’s abundance. Honest… go look!

Anyway, God says, through Malachi that if we put everything that we’ve got into the Kingdom of God, He’ll give us everything he’s got as well. He even goes so far as to say, “test me now in this”. This is pretty well the only time in the scriptures where the God of creation is inviting us to put him to the test.

May we take this challenge seriously.

You can’t lie about it, and pretend. . . this is the God who formed you in the womb. This is the God who designed you to be who you are. This God had a plan to express some part of who he is through your personality. . . through your eyes.

Look for him, he’s looking for you.

The Suffering Servant – revisited

I actually wrote this about a year or so ago… I found it, and it hit me hard- I thought I’d share it with you all. There’s been a lot of  rough stuff going on around me as of late, and sometimes God just doesn’t look like we’d like Him to, and that’s worth thinking about…

_______

“For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” Isaiah 53:2

It’s interesting, this description of Messiah. Not exactly the type of savior many want; in fact, if you are honest, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not the type of savior and lord that you want interfering with your life either.

A friend of mine posted this quote:

“Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.” – George MacDonald

God knew what we needed, and as stated above, we often will not take it. Not only do we not take it, we often refuse to believe that it’s even from the hand of God.

We look at that despicable thing happening to us or coming at us, or that frustrating and irritating person talking to us and think, “there’s no way this is God; this is horrible.” But that’s exactly what people said about our Lord. “What good comes from Nazareth?”

“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Isaiah 53:3-5

I have a rough time reading these verses. Why? Well, I’ve too often turned away from His horrid face. It’s too hard to look at.

I want to challenge us all to dwell on these passages and images though… deeply. They really should make you weep. They should make you look around and see where you might be hiding your face from Him. They should make us realize that us prideful men often don’t like to look on the face of our Lord at all. We’re grateful that he died for us, but not so happy to watch Him do it.

I find it funny about us, even those who are endeavoring to be dedicated disciples, that we know in our heads that these verses are the very face of our Lord. But yet, in our hearts we still long for a mighty, Hollywood warrior to come and make it all right.

But He doesn’t always make it all right, does He? The Father didn’t make it all right for Him either… did He? And we’re supposed to take up our cross, and follow Him, aren’t we?

It’s for our own good – and it will save us from our wretched selves.

God, our Father… please change our hearts and vision, that we would be able to see the real You, and not long for You to be different. Please don’t let us send you away when we see Your affliction.

Let us receive You openly. Let us welcome You with open arms. Deliver us from our lust for might, strength, and worldly power. Let Your kingdom come, Lord… and let us not be too blind to see it.

Little children, love one another

A friend of mine found a story in a book full of early Church history. The story really hit me, and the more that I think on it, the more it means to me.

First let me state a couple of things…

I believe that we have to fight not to be hard hearted.

I believe that we have to grapple with the fact that most, if not EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US AMERICAN CHRISTIANS, would be lumped in with Pharisees and Scribes that Christ so thoroughly rebuked. (if you don’t believe this, please stop reading, because you’ll hate where this is going.)

I believe that we like to think we’re right. We love to have our ducks in a row. We love to label, systematize, and put things in neat boxes, formulas and methodologies.

I believe that all of this is sin.

I wish I could shake the evil ‘rightness’ out of us all, so that we could see real and pure light. I wish someone would slap the urge to argue and debate in battles of words right out of me. I wish we could all simply rest in the fact that God is God, and we need to simply be near Him. He can defend himself, and you can be darn sure that He can defend us as well… if we’re not too busy fighting.

We miss so much much of the central message of Christ because we’re so busy pontificating ‘rightness’ instead of being obedient children.

So here’s the story…

When the apostle John had grown very old, he was nearing the turn of a century of life, he had become slow and unable to move well. At gatherings, he had to be helped in, and sometimes carried.

Many would speak, but at every gathering, John would speak up, and say the same thing…

“Little children; love one another.”

Over… and over…. and over…

“Little children; love one another.”

Gathering after gathering, he would speak the same thing. Never anything new or different.

“Little children; love one another.”

Eventually, the other men became annoyed, and finally asked him, “Why do you keep saying this to us?”

His reply…

“Because if you do it- it is enough.”

This is the teachings of a dying apostle. The last one left. All the others had gone on in glorious martyrdom. He didn’t speak a systematic theology. He didn’t give the four spiritual laws. He didn’t teach on the Romans Road. He didn’t talk of heaven and hell. What are the words of this dying man? He talked about here, and now.

“Little children; love one another.”

Is it enough for you?

Can you believe what Jesus said? That the greatest commands were to love God with your everything, and to love your neighbor as yourself?

Do you want to argue with John? I know that I often do…

But it covers everything… like our Lord said, it covers the law, and all of the prophets.

So I’ll repeat it again- and challenge us all to live this way today.

“Little children; love one another…. for if you do, it is enough.”