Swell

Breathe. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe.

I’ve been here before, but it’s been a long time. I thought I was done here, done with this; I wasn’t supposed to come back to this.

Breathe.

One little thing doesn’t go your way, well and that other thing which could fall apart. Or that one thing that just consistently seems to fall apart. I’m supposed to be happy. I’m supposed to be grateful. I am grateful and I do feel happy, sometimes. Emotions ebb and flow, I tell other people this all the time.

Why does it seem different when you’re the one to ebb and flow. Waves. The tide rolls out before it rolls in.

Keep your eyes above the waves! I am not supposed to succumb to fear! I have seen so much, experienced so much, I’ve experienced miracles. I’m not supposed to let the waves bother me. I’m not supposed to be a victim of the tide. I am supposed to walk on water. I’m supposed to climb every crest, stride through the swells.

Swell. It’s swell. It is swell. It is well.

It is well.

It will be well.

I’m anxious, but…

it will be well.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

As my training in Pennsylvania draws to a close I begin to search for a new place. I was hoping to find my own place and either I am naive, currently facing a rude awakening, or to be faithful and trust God to find the perfect place. Maybe it’s a mix of both. Please pray for me, that I would have wisdom and faith bigger than a mustard seed.

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This is Not what I Wanted

I can’t believe Jesus has the nerve to not give me what I want; He’s not the savior I thought He would be and yet He still calls himself good.

Growing up attending church, I consistently felt strange and uncomfortable on Palm Sunday. The Sunday before Easter Sunday, the Sunday we dressed up like first century Israelites and waved fake palm branches and shouted Hosanna while one of the guys in the church with a beard walked down the center aisle of the sanctuary (we didn’t have the budget or approval for live animals). I had a difficult time wrapping my mind around the people in Jerusalem were so excited about Jesus’ arrival to turn on him five days later. Living in Southern California, I also thought it strange we didn’t just pull real palm branches down from the tree outside, but that is beside the point.

I know the story of Easter. Jesus gets betrayed by his friend, He is tortured and killed as punishment for sin, but because He was pure and didn’t deserve death, because He gave up his blameless life for the broken life, taking punishment, He broke the punishment. Jesus didn’t die. He came back to life. Some have viewed this as the first recorded incident of a zombie, but there’s no record of Him feasting on brains, so I don’t give credence in that. From my own study, I think He was alive again, with a better bod.

I digress.

Palm Sunday. Celebration. Director’s notes, “let’s have a lot of energy. This is the guy that fed five thousand, turned water to wine, brought dead people back to life. He’s the Messiah, let’s get jazzed.” So the scene is set. We’re celebrating the entrance of the King, the redeemer. Get into character. I found it extremely difficult to get into this character, finding the motivation when I thought about this same role I would play Friday night. Here I am on Sunday praising this guy and I know Friday I’ll be screaming “Crucify Him” with the rest of the extras.

Why?

Hosanna?

Let me start there.The commentary section in my Bible says that this word is transliterated to English. Transliteration is taking a word in it’s original language and spelling the same word in another language, rather than translating it, which would be to use a corresponding meaning. So, Hosanna is the Greek word used here, but it was also transliterated to Greek from Hebrew. Specifically Hosanna was the Hebrew word, meaning “Save now” found in Psalm 118:25 which was a prayer asking for deliverance from enemies, deliverance from oppression.  According to this Bible Dictionary Hosanna was part of prayer used in reference to the Passover and Feast of Tabernacles, an active prayer of gratitude and askance for salvation from oppression linking to the Exodus from Egyptian Slavery.

So, the Israelites are excited and using this prayer/praise word from their holiday tradition in reference to Jesus as the Messiah. Deliverance.

The Israelites had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Christ, the Messiah, the one to free them from oppression, and here comes this Jesus into Jerusalem the week of Passover, the week they celebrated and remembered what God did through Moses when he led them out of slavery into their promised land. As Jesus entered this town there was an expectation of deliverance, of freedom, from what, or rather from whom?

A quick google search reveals that the Romans conquered Jerusalem just under 100 years prior to this moment. While Rome is known for it’s achievements and prowess as a conquering kingdom, it’s not quite known for kindness and generosity. Some reading through the Gospel writings reveals that the general populace were not fans.

It doesn’t take a lot to figure out now why the people are so jazzed about Jesus. Redeemer. The one spoken of to take the people out of oppression. He’s their contemporary Moses. He’ll lead them out of under the thumb of Roman rule. Perhaps not a great Exodus from Jerusalem, but an ousting of military might. A would be king to replace Caesar.

What could possibly go so wrong?

Now the Roman rule allowed the people to still worship in their synagogues and follow the leadership of the religious teachers of the time, but it seems the odd government allowed for a power dichotomy from the religious rulers and the lay people (everyone else). It is the unfortunate pattern that people will use whatever is at their disposal to gain power, control over others, even something that is disguised with benign belief. There were a few individuals who were not super stoked about someone overthrowing the current regime which allowed them to wield such power.

The first story told after Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is everyone’s favorite Jesus story with turning tables. Jesus is angry. He’s so incensed He causes a scene. The religious leaders have been levying their power to line the offering baskets. At Passover the people of Israel had to make a sacrifice in the temple of a pure lamb, but not everyone had a perfect lamb, so they could purchase one at the temple. Basically these offering shops were set up to abuse the poverty of the people. It perpetuated a system of economic disparity. The church remains wealthy and the people are poor. Jesus gets upset.

Okay, so off the bat Jesus is showing that things are changing. I’d assume that for the general public this is welcome, but for some of the church elites, this is problematic. Jesus also tells the story of the sheep and goats during His time in Jerusalem, another win for those in need. Jesus makes it clear that those that know Him, know His father (YHWH) are definitely caring about those in need.

So, why still did we not have Jesus as the populist King of Israel borne on the backs of the down and out itching for political reform.

John mentions a time where Jesus knowingly avoids some people because they try to force Him to be their revolutionary (John 6:15). Within the parables told between the Triumphant Entry and the Lord’s Supper, Jesus shows more of His intentions, of the specific nature of His kingdom and what the Messiah came to do. One of the most notable moments comes when some of the Teachers of the Mosaic law come to Jesus to trap Him in a bipartisan argument (Mt. 22:15-22; Mk. 12:13-17; Lk. 20:20-26). They ask Jesus if taxes should be paid to Caesar. Should the “Kingdom of God” pay fealty taxes to a conquering King? If Jesus was to say no, siding with revolutionaries, He would be committing treason. If He said yes, He was acknowledging Roman right to rule, and not the “redeemer” that people wanted.

He basically said yes and no. He called them out on their hypocrisy. The denarius was the money utilized throughout Jerusalem by Romans and Israelites alike. How could they use the common currency without themselves acknowledging Roman rule. He said, give them taxes out of the Roman currency they used. He was also cluing the people into what kind of King he was not.

I think Jesus reveals His intentions again when He is anointed in Bethany as told in Matthew and Mark. The disciples are frustrated that she would waste so much money that could be shared with the poor. Even the disciples think they know what kind of Messiah Jesus is, upturning the waste of the wealthy for the spreading of funds.

Jesus says something upsetting, “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them anytime you want.” (Mk. 14:6).

I used to think Jesus was being a little hypocritical here, uncaring about poor people. But in context with the rest of His work and words, I don’t think Jesus is saying not to help the poor, in fact far from it. I think He was actually calling out the disciples and their smug, judgment. In this moment Jesus also makes clear that though we are to help the poor (obviously should do it whenever we can) that His Kingdom is not solely about public works and infrastructure.

Hosanna!

Save us! Thank you for saving us!

Hosanna!

Jesus came to save. Messiah!

Revolutionary.

But not in the traditional sense. He’s not Che Guevara. He’s not Moses. He’s not George Washington. He’s not Cesar Chavez. He’s not William Wallace. He’s not Maximilien Robespierre. He’s not Malcolm X. He’s not Martin Luthor King Jr. He’s not Vladimir Lenin. He’s not Mahatma Gandhi. He’s not Toussaint L’Ouverture.

And historically that made people mad.

It would’ve been simpler, if He was. His death may have still been imminent, perhaps later, but it would’ve been less remembered.

He arrived the first day of the week to adulation, but He wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted to have the world change for them, but He said people had to change for the world. What’s worse, He said they couldn’t do it on their own. I think that’s what really bothers people about Jesus (I know it bothers me a lot). There’s not a five step process to save myself. I need Jesus.

That’s it. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the redeemer. Savior. Salvation. But from what? A flaw, not in the design, but in application of design. We are creatures made of physical body, mind, and a spirit. Our lives are dependent on the life force, the spirit of creator. Made for community, for love, for communion with creator. But we have to choose, that’s key in love, in relationship. There has to be freedom of choice. Which means we are free to sever ties from life, from good.

History is evidence of the choice.

If every decision we made was circumvented because it brought  us or others harm, that would not be choice. That would not be freedom. Which means for now, “the poor you will always have with you”. That means separation from good. While there is separation, a broken agreement, there cannot be communion. We can’t engage with someone we’re estranged with until someone does the work to bring unity. In this case, takes the result of separation, death, in the stead of another person. It’s like shooting up but someone else takes the kidney failure, the heart failure. We chose a high over life, and there is an effect.

Jesus did that.

So, this Sunday we celebrate His arrival. By Friday we’ll be crying for his death because He’s not what we want, and you know what, He’s definitely not what we deserve.

You know what else is crazy? He knew. He knew riding in where He was going. He went anyway.

This is why Palm Sunday makes me uncomfortable. I am in that crowd praising Jesus for being a cultural revolutionary, for upsetting the establishment, but I am also in the crowd on Friday. Angry and upset that I am not getting my way. To follow Him means I have to allow those things go. My plans. My wishes. My way. My perception that I can do it on my own. I have to allow Him to take those things with Him upon the cross. I have to admit that I should be the one with nails in my hands. I should be the one eternally separate from life, from good. And I’m angry because He loves me, does this for me willingly. He’s better than me.

I cannot save myself. I am not self-sufficient.

Once I let this go, I can live. I can rise.

Palm Sunday is a lie. It is a celebration of perception. Friday is when the lie dies. Sunday, Easter, is where truth comes to life. Throwing off the dead things that hindered me, I can run my race. I am not in control of my destiny, and I never was, but now I know the one who is and He is good.

Be Still

Monday. Get up, make coffee. Read my bible. Make breakfast. Eat breakfast. Practice Piano. Sing. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Make lunch. Eat lunch. Work. Jeopardy. Food Network.

Tuesday. Get up, coffee. Read Bible. Make breakfast. Eat it. Play at the keys a little bit. Sing. Sit. Drink more coffee. Drag myself to the fitness center. Workout. Drink smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Jeopardy. “You’ve been Chopped”. Read.

Wednesday. Ugh. Snooze. Snooze. Get up, GET UP! Coffee. Bible. Breakfast. Look at piano. Scroll through Instagram. Play major chords. Get frustrated at lack of improvement. More coffee. More instagram. What’s Vero? It’s time to get up and get moving. I’ll move when I damn well please. Sigh. Workout. Smoothie. Shower. Lunch. Work. Read. GO TO SLEEP. Read. Sleep.

Thursday. Snooze. Snoooze. Snooooooooze. Grumble. Coffee. Bible. Why am I so slovenly? Breakfast. Put your phone down. Look at piano. Sit on the couch. Open laptop.

 

Disciplines. Why am I even trying? What are my goals?

Practice makes perfect.

Last year, around Christmas (I wanted to start before New Years resolutions) I decided I wanted more disciplines in my life. Little daily “tasks” that would keep me fresh in some areas, grow in others, and just refine my life. I wanted to spend less time on my phone, more time with the Holy Spirit, I wanted to live a better life. I wanted to be more frugal. I wanted to trust God better. I wanted to be ready for the day when I would be called into an audition. I wanted to be ready to have more people in my life, I wanted to be ready to have a person in my life. Significant other. Girlfriend. Leading lady.

I digress.

I set out with a few different areas I wanted to “master” so that I would be “sucking the marrow” out of life, taking the most of every opportunity. I wanted to live fully.

Now I’m sitting at my computer (previously on the couch) feeling sorry for myself. I feel as though I haven’t improved in piano playing much at all. I don’t see any audition in the near future (in fact I will be quite busy for the next year with this new job). I don’t have a six pack, I just have five packs of girl scout cookies. And I’ve been getting super critical of my lack of progress. And the most frustrating part of this, I feel I am worried about what other people are thinking.

I can’t even get through one of these blog posts without wondering if people will think I’m clever.

It’s a weird dichotomy, because it’s like I’m obsessed with how people perceive me and I assume it’s all for the worst. I don’t believe people’s genuine compliments because I’ve such an unhealthy view of myself I think they’re just trying to make me feel better.

“You’re doing a great job”

What’s funny though, I think the less I try to impress the more people actually like the real me. That’s scary though, because you know, I’m a mess. I probably don’t give myself enough credit, too.

I got corrected when I said I did nothing to deserve this amazing job I have now, this amazing journey to be a coffee roaster. I have worked hard and I have been consistent.

I have made working out a habit. Even if it’s something small, I still do it.

I’ve improved my eating habits.

I have been on social media less (this one is a weird ebb and flow, some weeks are better than others).

I have allowed myself to become closer with some people, inviting them into my broken areas with honesty. I’ve got some great people in my life.

I have been playing piano weekly (almost four times on average). There has been some improvement.

 

But more than anything and not because I am super awesome, but I think I am doing better at spending time with the Holy Spirit, even when I feel like muck. I am allowing myself to be honest with Him. To invite Him into those days when I feel gross. When I spend time with Him, He makes me better, more like Jesus. I think that’s progress.

Then I realize. Regardless of  how “good” I am, how much I discipline myself, I cannot make myself truly good. I cannot do the work that the Holy Spirit came to do, so I think I’ll be okay.

I definitely don’t deserve what Jesus did on the cross for me. And though I think I could try to spend my life “earning” it, I will never love enough, give enough, hope enough, or be enough, but that’s okay, because I don’t have to. Part of what Jesus did was to set up an exchange, my failing, my failed attempts at goodness, my mistakes, my broken life in exchange for His holy one. It doesn’t make sense why He would do that, but He did. So now  I have His holy life. Now I have submitted my old life to Him, I will follow where His spirit leads, just as He did. I will abide. I will lean on His strength.

Maybe practice doesn’t need to be perfect.

I think for a long time and even now, on a Wednesday morning, or a Sunday evening, I worry I am not abiding enough, that my journey of becoming more like Christ is not going well enough, fast enough, “I should be perfect by now, I’m nearly 27”. Ha!

Breathe in. Breathe out. I’ve got forever.

But…

But what about all I am supposed to accomplish, all that I want to do, all the people that need to know, what if I mess up again, I mean what will happen when I mess up again? Am I no longer victorious? Does that mean that I am not allowing enough of the fullness of God’s presence to overwhelm me? What if I never speak to a stadium of people to get them to know how good God is? What if I can’t even get the courage to talk to a coworker? A friend? Will they know? Will I ever get past my vanity? My too strong desire to be well received, liked.

Breathe in. Breathe out. God is bigger than me. His grace is bigger.

Be still, for He is God.

Be still and know

Be still…

But, my disciplines. I keep messing up. I am like that slob who can’t even bring his hand from the bowl to feed himself.

Be still……..

But, I mean I know He is good and His grace is sufficient, but surely He’s tired by now. I mean isn’t he disappointed.

Do I think my failings are some how bigger or stronger than the creator of the universe?

Breathe

Be still…..

I Give Up

hey,

it’s been a while huh? Nearly six months, right? Not much has happened.

No, wait, that’s a lie.

A lot has happened.

After fighting to get up this morning, making my french press, making breakfast, and sometime during the partaking of breakfast, I realized something: I gave up my dream again.

And it’s pretty much the best decision I made. Let me explain.

The last post I wrote was about mid-July. Probably just a few weeks later my store manager told me to apply for a job within the company. A Roaster Operator for the Willy Wonka coffee experience they are building in New York City. I brushed it off. That job couldn’t be for me. I don’t even know how to roast coffee. It would require too much and I am about to really press in with these disciplines that will show God I am serious about being faithful to Him and His calling to the city.

Two weeks later my manager told the store that he would be leaving at the New Year because he just got hired as the supervisor of operations for the Reserve Roastery (Willy Wonka coffee) and he turned to me and asked if I had submitted my application yet for an operator position. He implored me to apply. Fine, but who knows what will happen, and applying doesn’t mean I’ve taken a job.

Three days later I was on the phone with the Roastery Operations Manager. And you know the truly terrible thing? I started getting hopeful, excited, and completely full of dread. By the time my next interview came around, the interview with the Operations Supervisor (my at the time store manager and the one who insisted on my application), I was in a kerfuffle (a word which here means, stressed and excited all at once). I believed I moved to the city to join the theatre world, to act, to bring glory to God by how He took my crazy story to bring me there. Was this job turning my back on God’s plan?

Four weeks from the initial phone interview I was offered the job.

If you were to go back through some of my posts (probably my more melodramatic ones) you’ll see multiple times where God has asked me to trust Him with my dream. Where He has asked me to hand over perceivable common sense for the sake of trusting Him, believing He is the good Father who fulfills His promises. In these moments I am always reminded of a message one of my professors gave, “The Cost of Discipleship”, also consequently, the book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the same name. Following Jesus requires sacrifice, and without condition.

Something I find remarkable about the disciples and apostles in the Acts church is their passion for Christ and what His call looks like in their lives. They are not frequently bemoaning that they aren’t accomplishing their dreams. In fact, they just are focused on sharing Christ, of living life to bring Him glory and tell as many people about Him until His return. They have given up whatever ambition or life they had before for the sake of the gospel and they are content in that alone. Much of the historical great people of the church have the same attitude. Now, sure they all have specific desires within that paradigm: Paul wanted to preach to Romans in Rome, Luther wanted to bring the word of God to the common people, Bonhoeffer wanted to see the end of the Nazi regime in His home. I am sure there are countless others who bear a similar story, but the most notable thing is that fueling their desires is a love for Christ and a desire to be obedient whatever that looks like.

“But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” – 1 Samuel 15:22

This is my calling. Obedience, whatever that looks like.

Back to the job.

I have told a few people this already, but I have never gotten a job that I discovered and went out for. To clarify, I have never been hired for any job I found in a posting or did the proper apply, call back a week later, interview, etc. Every job I have gotten had the cards stacked in my favor, the application process was expedited or I was simply given the job. I was “given” my job at the Disney Store (I was recommended by the head honcho). I applied to work at my College’s Cafeteria, was offered a job at the coffee shop instead. I applied for an out of state Starbucks three days before moving, was interviewed and hired the first full day living there, starting work two days later. I was hired at Panera 2 hours after submitting an application. I was rehired at Starbucks after just being around the store enough (I was interviewed a year prior but there weren’t openings). This job at the Roastery feels as though it was given to me. I had an expedited application process, interviewed by the one who recommended me for the job in the first place.

I took the job.

And it was the best decision. I’ve given back my dream to God to hold. I am still working on disciplines. I am practicing piano. I do vocal warm ups, almost daily. I work on monologues a few times a week. I am practicing my Spanish. I mean I have so much free time, why waste it?

This job is one of those jobs I didn’t know I would love and be perfect for. Every day is a puzzle and when we open doors in the fall, I will be able to use my interpersonal (and stage) skills to engage customers, gushing about one of my favorite things: coffee. It’s strange because this time of “giving back” my dream I feel like I have been given another.

Looking back on this post, makes it seem to me that there is still some vanity to work out, I could not possibly compare my struggles of giving up my dream to those who gave their life for the sake of the gospel. There is a cost to following Jesus, all I’ve wanted to say is that I keep discovering how much there is to gain by being obedient and trusting His leading. If I was to hold onto this small view of where He wants to lead me, I would miss out on a lot. It’s terrifying, admitting I don’t have control, but you know what that makes it exciting.

I give up trying to do it all on my own steam.

Perhaps that’s how God does it, one day, when He sees I am ready, He’ll give me that acting gig. And I’ll get to give Him all the credit.

Buy the Umbrella, Pack the Bag

Discipline. Sometimes it feels like this ten letter word should only have four letters. At least to me. A swear word. I have for a long time operated under the delusion that I am intrinsically good. Talented. Capable. Call it millennialism or naivete, whatever you will, I had it and unfortunately I’m still trying to let go of the dream.

I believe everyone has a few natural talents, things they just do well at, but for everything else there’s elbow grease and gumption. For a long time I would stay in my lane, stick to that which came readily to me. The problem I came to encounter were those things that I enjoyed that I was only moderately good at, or those things, those behaviors I ought to do, which I had to work at developing.

I could belabor all the habits, behaviors, skills, etc that I need to improve, but that’s not what this post endeavors to relay.

I haven’t written on this blog for a while now (four months) for two reasons. For the past couple of months I have been in a slump, feeling down and out. I wasn’t disciplined enough to sit down and write.

I have often thought that I can write passably well when I want to, that I can communicate my thoughts coherently and even to an extent with flourish. The problem with this presupposition arises when you examine the need for a want. You see, even the things I want to do, that I believe I can do well, I have to want to do in order to do them. Follow that?

I have to want to act. I have to want to write. I have to want to go to the gym. But I don’t always want what I want.

This is where discipline comes in to the picture. You see, discipline fills in the gaps. Discipline means committing what you said you would regardless of how you feel. You see why I might have an issue with this concept? If you’ve read my blog previously, or if you know me in person I can surmise that you know I am an emotive person, much like anyone. I am fickle in my feelings, flighty in my fancies, you get the idea. Just this morning I woke up, slept in an hour past the time I had planned on getting up just because I didn’t “feel” like getting up.

This isn’t a post about mental illness, I am wildly under educated in this field.

This is a post about discipline, routines. I don’t know where or when the change took place, and it probably was slow and gradual. I read a book. I heard a sermon. I read a quote. I had a good conversation. All of these moments led to a realization in two parts: I needed discipline, to do these things without the necessity of feeling “up to it”, and I needed to recommit myself to what God’s calling to me was on. The book “Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small” by Mark Batterson brought these ideas to a head. It gave me a realization that I wasn’t living like a man with faith, I wasn’t acting on the promise that God had given me, trusting Him with what He promised. He told me He was going to make it rain and I stopped building my boat.

You see that’s the thing with faith and discipline. They go hand in hand. “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it in different words, you cannot have faith without obedience and obedience stems from faith, we obey because we have faith. I can develop disciplines because I have faith that God will come through. I can work hard, not to accomplish my own dreams, not to accomplish what God has in store for my life, but rather to be prepared when it does come, to prepare my heart, to show how I trust Him that He is doing what He said He will do.

This past Sunday we heard a recorded message of Jentezen Franklin’s preaching from Hillsong Conference in Australia. His message revolved around the ancient near east tradition of measurement. He said they used Cubits, which is the measurement from the end of your middle finger to the nape of your elbow, or six hand-breadths. A hand breadth is pinky to index finger, basically the width of your palm. Franklin tells of how when God gives the measurements for the new temple he extends the original single cubits to a cubit and one handbreadth, seven handbreadths. He explains the cultural significance of six referring to the number of man and seven being God’s number. Simply put, Franklin indicated that God was telling the Israelites He was adding to what they could accomplish on their own. Six handbreadths was nice, but the seventh meant completion, what God could accomplish.

Pastor Franklin passionately iterated that God wants us to do our “six handbreadths” our “cubit’s worth”. He said that the cubit length seemed to draw on the part of the human that creates, that builds, that manufactures. A cubit is our contribution, but it takes the seventh to fulfill. The sermon then moved to the story of Elijah and his prayer for rain in the drought. 1 Kings 18 records Elijah as praying seven times before the glimmer of a cloud, but after each prayer he sent the attendant to look to the skies for rain. That means that six times the attendant saw clear skies. In verse 44, it describes the attendant running out a seventh time and seeing a cloud “no bigger than a man’s hand”; the promise fulfilled in God’s “seventh hand”.

This message solidified a lot of the fresh perspectives I had been feeling and seeing. A few weeks ago I began to plan for new disciplines. In order to plan, I sat down and thought through (and prayed through) all the promises God has placed on my life and then I began to plan my days and weeks around the idea, “If I was living in the fulfillment of God’s promises, how would my days and weeks look?” I’ve been reading more plays, I memorized a few new monologues. I’ve been waking up earlier to accommodate. One of my dreams is to travel to Ireland and Scotland on an extended trip, so I even sat down and planned my dream Celtic Road trip. Obviously it’s a process and not all days are a “success” but I think I am not a better trajectory.

Last week a potentially derailing thought wormed it’s way into my head. I prayed it out to God, “If I am doing all these disciplines to be ready, won’t it end up appearing to me and to others that I just got busy and made it happen.” I whined and asked Him to show up miraculously because otherwise I might think I accomplished it all. It seems petty in hindsight, and slightly manipulating, but I think at the core there was a genuine concern. God promptly reprimanded me and then a few days later boasted to me in the form of miraculous provision.

Last Friday evening I hung out with two friends with whom I used to lead a team at church. They gave me one of the best and most unexpected presents for my Birthday, a shadowbox decorated with pictures of Ireland and Scotland. I thought the gift an inspirational motivator, that the dream would happen, a holder for the end of the trip to fill with souvenirs. They said it could be that, but they intended it to hold the cash that would pay for the trip, a dream piggy bank. Not only did they create this wonderful gift but they planted the seed and told my friends about it. Others who saw their gift (who don’t know them) also felt inclined to give. I am nearly 20% raised on this dream trip. I did nothing, well I planned it and created a budget, I did a cubit’s worth. God showed up to reveal to me that when I step out in faith He’ll make me walk on waves.

“When you pray for rain, make sure you buy an umbrella” – Jentezen Franklin

I’m packing my bags.

Not as Alone as I Think

I want to say something,  something illogical and foolish, but please bear with me. It’s been a while since I have written anything. There’s good reason for this, well no, actually it makes sense but it’s not a good reason, in fact it’s rather counter intuitive.

In the past month(s) I’ve come to realize something about me. I enjoy being around people, not ground breaking, but I need to be around people. I need to be with people I trust and I can be completely vulnerable with. The difficulty I’ve found is that though I have people around me I close myself off, in part because I worry about people’s thoughts about me, what I’m sharing, but in large part due to this feeling that I will overwhelm the people I care about with the extensive overthinking I do.

I feel as though, because I want to care for people around me who carry so much as it is, I cannot load more on their shoulders.

So the problem persists, grows, and compounds, creating an unhealthy Greg, withdrawn from the people that care for me and stewing in negative thoughts or just too many thoughts.

Foolish right?

Now, in the past to sort of “sidetrack” this issue, or for an eloquent “put together” way of expressing my internal turmoil, I blog, I write about it. (This is beyond the daily journaling I do). This way I can share a struggle, a frustration, a confusion, without true intimacy because I give it themes and metaphorical meaning, externally processing with the enigmatic wide web which includes whomever “chooses to read/hear” my stresses. Typically written blogs give an air of finality to personal struggles, like “writing about it means it’s solved, or mostly solved” which is much more manageable than unresolved conflict, which is messy.

Since I have been trying to work on friendships (or rather this is what I told myself) I didn’t want to share my struggles via blog without cluing in at least some people because then I’d get the typical former response of, “Hey I had no idea, please come to me if you ever need to talk”. I want people to know me, I need people. This is why I haven’t been blogging.

While this has been “good” I haven’t been doing my part. I haven’t been sharing.

I recently reread “Scary Close” by Donald Miller, this is now the third time reading it (I think this will become a habit). The book outlines how Don struggles with intimacy, how he’s been “performing” his whole life. He walks through his journey of discovery through his relationship patterns up until his wife. The book explores how life is meant to be shared and though it’s scary, to be known by people.

Rereading this book and a moment of clarity on a Sunday at church woke me up. My ideas culminated to a realization, I’ve been emotionally unhealthy. I realized it fully when my friend asked me why I was sitting on my own reading my Bible rather than be at lunch with my team/friends.

Reading the Bible is not the issue, in fact it’s a great thing, an essential aspect to life. It was the timing and the scenario. I timed my day in such a way that I missed lunch with my friends, in fact I didn’t miss eating, I had grabbed food on my own and then sat down to read. I told my friend as I was realizing it for myself. Because I need people to process my own thoughts with, I isolate myself when I am feeling anxious because I don’t want to overwhelm my friends with my anxieties.

I’ve been making things worse.

Last night as I was sharing with my friend an encounter I had with God this week, a moment where God was again asking me to trust Him which I was struggling to do. It was interesting though because after I shared, after I included him in my struggling and the process God was walking me through he thanked me. Not just for sharing “myself”, my process, with him, but also he was reminded of something God had spoken to him. My friend basically told me that not only should I share with people for my health but for others to learn.

Life is meant to be lived with others, to share the burdens we are not strong enough to carry on our own. To get perspective from those not within a situation, not themselves crushed by a specific anxiety. We can learn from hearing what people are processing and realize that we are not as alone as we may perceive.

Heads in the Sand

Can I speak?

No, I mean I can, but I really meant

Should I speak?

I have some conflicting ideas. On one hand, I was always told to speak your mind, express yourself, that I live in a free country and can have an opinion. In school I was rewarded for speaking up, for asking questions, for processing aloud. On the other hand, I was told that sometimes it’s better to have peace than to have my perspective shared. In this climate lately, I’ve been told explicitly and implicitly my perspective doesn’t matter, well unless my opinion reflects those who speak the loudest and most passionately now.

I also happen to carry certain identifiers that also render my opinion invalid because of the crimes of my predecessors. I’m not here to make another whiny no-one-will-listen-to-a-white-christian-male post, I’m just clarifying that lately I’ve felt less inclined to express my opinion for the fear that it will be completely disregarded, not that some (most) of the criticisms are valid. I mean it has been colonialism that have led to many of our worldly woes.

I digress.

I honestly haven’t written in a long time for a myriad of reasons. Most of them are internal. I hated repeating the whiny broken record of “Why God? It doesn’t make sense! I’m living in one of the greatest places on earth and don’t know what I’m doing. I have a dependable job with benefits that is flexible for life. I have to pay off dental bills for the fixing of my teeth. Wah”

It’s exhausting to go through the motions in and of them self to then rehash it out for others.

So my throat tightened.

My thoughts and emotions suppressed.

Left to sit.

But..

When God designed me, when he set the parameters for how I was raised, He made me to express and share. In fact I don’t function well at all if I don’t talk things out, to formulate my thoughts out loud, and hopefully with someone as a sounding board. The last few months I’ve been sick, not visibly but internally, heart sick. All the thoughts and feelings have been stewing inside and creating poison. Every now and then I release a little bit, I allow some to seep out or some of the poison lashed out, but up until about two weeks ago when I began to work on healing, I allowed poison to grow. I knew it was there but I tried to distract myself with a million little things to avoid the truth.

The thing about truth, whether personal or objective, it is good when let out, but it’s not always pretty. Towards the end of last year when I was exhausted from asking God to heal me, or bring focus, He challenged me to begin to pull away from my self medications, my distractions. I slowly began pulling them out by the root and had serious withdrawals. Most of my distractions were simple but effective (social media being king). I wouldn’t allow for a moment to go by without occupying my mind, so I began to allow myself to be bored, to not be distracted. It was awful. I was in a scary place.

I was alone, alone with my thoughts.

All those things I had not dealt with, that had lingered, now stared me down. I couldn’t face them alone, so I prayed.

Relief. Sweet relief.

I began to realize my problem, I was never able to receive healing because I was ignoring my problem, my sickness. Ignoring a knife wound and willing it away doesn’t fix it. Dressing it up in fancy wraps doesn’t mend it. Making self-deprecating jokes doesn’t heal. You’ve go to take the knife out (not immediately, in the presence of a great surgeon) and allow yourself to be patched up.

Lately, things have been getting chaotic. And ignoring it won’t help. So now I look at it and now I will process out loud. If you’ve read this far, hopefully that means you won’t readily discount my thoughts. I know my personal struggle lends nothing to my education or my perspective, but I hope it allows you to see that I am human, that I struggle and that I have some personal character.

Breathe.

The world is a messy place. You know that, I know that. It’s also a beautiful place.

It’s sick. For a long time people have liked to think otherwise, that the problem is “those people”, but the problem is those people are just like you, part of humanity, flawed, messy, and beautiful. You who argue that morality is gray, how can you say I am wrong that all humans are simultaneously capable of wonder and atrocity.

There’s healing available. Good healing. The caveat requires that we give up something of ourselves, our pride mostly. We have to all recognize how we contribute to the problem before we can figure out how to be part of the healing.

That’s the rub isn’t it though, it’s so much easier to see someone else’s problems, “Can you believe that person would say or do this thing that I abhor”, you say. They retort, “At least I don’t do that thing or think the way you do!”

Right now we have a President in the USA who is making a lot of bold moves that are scary to a lot of people. If you are not concerned with how concerned the country is, I wan’t you to ask someone why they are scared. If you are in a fever pitch with how disgusted you are, can you ask someone what fear they had that led them to their perspective? If you who scream tolerance are intolerant of another how do expect progress? If you claim to love your neighbor but won’t stop to hear their story how can you expect love to grow? Are you able to confidently accuse someone else of bias without recognizing your own limited bias?

Can I march with you if I don’t agree with everything you say or support?

Can I not march and still feel passionately?

Will you listen to what I have to say before disregarding what I have to say, without a retort ready on your lips?

What if I told you I am Pro-life and think defunding Planned Parenthood is terrible?

That I believe in the right to bear arms but I think war is deplorable.

What if I told you some of the most brilliant, open minded individuals have an accent different than yours?

I believe in empathy and understanding, but I don’t think safe spaces are a healthy solution.

Can you imagine a world, a country, a room even where people are not afraid to share their perspective for fear of being shamed or disregarded? Isn’t that what has this been about? Or has all of history just been a repeating cycle of the bullied becoming the bullies?

 

Now, this is where I become more divisive. I believe the healing we need is love. The love I refer to is not the one that is permissive, that allows children (who are still developing and need direction) to do whatever they want. (sidebar, why do we spend so much money on training and disciplining pets if we don’t care enough for our children to guide them) Not the love that is unhealthy and codependent allowing for abuses because one day someone might turn around. I mean the active, healthy good love we all need. The love that comes to us and tells us when we’re messing up but makes sure to walk alongside us when we need it. The love that gets into the ditch to help up out when we’ve slipped. The love that celebrates our victories with the most relish. The love that protects but urges us to be brave. The love that makes us our best and the most we could be.

I believe that love comes from one source. You have every freedom to disagree with my “limited” view but in my life when everything is crashing, when I am what I described above that love is God, made apparent in Jesus Christ. My attempts at good are a farce in comparison to what I have done through Him. (not ignoring all those who misuse his name and character, that is evident in their character) Jesus is my healer and the one to heal the seeping wound of this world.

 

Now you know what I think. Now I’ve just got to get better at representing Him. Although the great thing is, all I have to do is let down my guard with Him. (Which is scary). Recognize that part of me is the cause of hurt and as long as I continually go to Him I will become part of the solution.

That’s all I meant to say, I’ve gotta take my head out of the sand. I’ve gotta speak and be a part of the solution.

 

 

A Post Script for those who follow Christ as I have aforementioned. I don’t understand how we can ignore the pain and the cries of so many, even if you disagree with policy. How is the red, white, and blue greater than the Kingdom of Heaven? I thought we were not of this world? I thought we pay taxes to Caesar, honor and pray for him (or her), but we are not nationalists. We are not supposed to be Greek, Jew, Gentile but citizens of heaven? With all that how can you offer me a “but…”? I will listen, I do think the system is messed up, but never has our hope or salvation been in a political leader or policy? We cannot become pharisees, we cannot wish so badly to adopt the customs of our neighbors that we get Saul at the end of his reign, or an Absalom (at least he was of the line of David?). Why do we want a king so badly? Let’s learn from Israel’s history, not repeat it (this is not a political stance on current nation of Israel a critical view at Biblical Israel).

 

Terrible American

First off, I want to apologize. I am sorry. I don’t know if I have the right to share my opinion. I am not a good American. I didn’t exercise my right as a citizen today.

I didn’t vote.

I didn’t vote and so I probably have no right to share my opinion. I mean I have a vaguish reasonable reason I didn’t vote. Though I am from California, my last residence was Virginia and I live in New York. I should have done an absentee ballot, but I assumed I would go and change my formal residency and voter’s status. I procrastinated. On the last day I could register to vote in New York (which I was reminded of that day by a stranger on a train) I did not have my correct paperwork with me to send in. I was not allowed to vote by my high hopes and poor follow through.

If I can be honest though, I didn’t want to either.

I don’t like our candidates. The crazy thing, as far as I can tell, I am in the majority. Most of the people I speak to don’t like either candidate and while in the past the elections have been a voting for the “lesser of two evils”, I don’t think it has been seen so strongly by so many. On one hand, we have a candidate who “tells it like it is” but what “it is” is gross, racist, misogynistic, and all around frightening. On the other hand, we have “the first woman to be president, who also happens to not be Trump” but there are a lot of people who are not Trump, and this not Trump has a history is deception, inconsistency, and pandering to what people want to get into a place of power.

Who should I vote for?

“How can you even ask that?”

Should I go third party?

“and throw away your vote to them?”

Why do we even have a system where this is becoming the norm?

A part of me thinks: I could not live with myself if I voted for someone who’s behavior is so erratic, who has said so many terrible things, and makes obscure promises, and of those promises some of them just seem to fly in the face of the grace and love I am supposed to exude as a follower of Christ? How could I support someone who instills so much deep seeded fear into my friends?

but

If someone so obviously terrible to so many comes into power, perhaps people will then be stirred into action. Perhaps large scale (hopefully peaceful) rebellion will start up where people begin to lobby to get policies to change, our party system may be examined. People will be impassioned to bring change. I think my fear with a corrupt politician (though more appealing emotionally and for the sake of “peace”) is that we will fall into the fugue of status quo. We as the masses will forget about politics again (except to gripe) for the next four years. We need change…but at what cost?

That’s the other thing. I, a white cis male, carry with me a set of lenses that are narrow. I know for a lot of people even the potential of these awful promises is terrifying. I have never experienced that anxiety. My citizenship has never been in question, my faith and appearance puts me in a “randomly unscreened” category when I go through security or when I pass by a police officer. Will this possible political upset, be too upsetting? Individuals are at stake.

But you know what really makes me glad I am not “allowed” to vote?

Because this election has been stirring up deep seeded feelings, it has stirred up deep seeded hatred and contention. People are either abrasive with their opinions, everyone else be damned, or you’re afraid to share what you’re wrestling with because you’re a villain or a fool if you even consider the other terrible candidate. This election is dividing people in the worst way, no longer do we just disagree on opinions, but now we demonize one another for our decisions, worse our potential thoughts and concerns. Heavy moral implications are placed on both candidates. So how can a person decide, well reasonably, when they feel like they are being tossed between two echoing walls of people perpetuating the same arguments.

I am uncertain. People are stressed and worried. I don’t know how to help.

But you know what gives me peace? In general, bad things have happened and people still thrive, but more than that I believe people are more than citizens of a nation with a ruler higher than kings and emperors. Here it comes.

Jesus. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I believe, aside from all this politics I know who leads my life, I know who is in control of the world. God has been constant and because all people are flawed He has still made good regardless of the appearance of hopelessness. He still moves and His creation is still beautiful, as are His people, even when we act ugly. So, while the waves thrash, I know the one who calms storms.

Admonishment (the following is to professed Christians, if you do not share this, feel free to end above):

We are not meant to worry about these things (Mt. 6:25-34; Col. 3:1-3; and the stories of the seeds planted along the road, don’t create unneeded weeds). Please. Please. I implore you, do not get caught up in the frenzy. I think it’s fine to share your concerns, to be nervous, to feel, if I didn’t I’d be pretty hypocritical to add this to the previous post. What I mean is please don’t demonize people, don’t ostracize people, we’re all mixed up and some people have different views than you. Sometimes their views can be hurtful, but at the end of the day we’re all sinners in need of grace and love. Please let’s trust that God has control still no matter the outcome. If it turns out as bad as people fear, God is still in control, in either case and remember, we’re more than citizens of this country, of this earth…remember that. Please, let’s not add more fear to the already tense times and lets bring instead the fruits of the spirits and try to be an ambassador of Heaven to all people. End admonishment…I will try to do my best.

Insufficient Funds

*Insufficient Funds*

Again. MetroCard. Add time. Unlimited 7 Day, thirty-one dollars. Debit Card.

*Insufficient Funds*

It was enough to make me want to quit. I had spent the weekend wonderfully with friends from college celebrating the marriage of two of our friends. It was a nice break from the city life routine and visit where I used to live, making a small trip down memory lane. We explored parts of LA, we spent the day Saturday running around getting last minute details ready, and all of Sunday was for wedding events. I had forgotten how much I loved having my close friends around.

Living in college, especially where I went to school, you end up spending a lot of time with the people you go to school with. When you leave the safe folds of college, you go out into the wild world and no longer have the tight community you’re used to and if you’re like me and “escape” Bible college without a serious significant other and you don’t return home, you go out into the world alone. As it is, I didn’t realize how connected I felt with these people until I saw them again when I visited the school again, after that I saw them less frequently, typically at weddings, but after every time I would get a little sad that I would be leaving again.

It’s all part of this dream, the calling i have on my life, and it’s probably the cost I feel the most.

I think I’m addicted to the feeling of having close friends around, friends that have watched you grown and have helped push you to be better, friends that genuinely care for you. Outside of school I haven’t felt that depth of connection and it feels as if when I leave them I go through slight withdrawal. As these are the things that I have been feeling, returning home to New York was daunting.

All weekend people keep asking me, “You’re living in New York! Are you loving every minute of it?!” You see I’m living my dream, so why wouldn’t I love it? That’s the thing about dreams though, they take work, they take time, and they take character development. Yes, I love it, but I don’t always like it. I’ve lamented enough on the internet for people to know how much of a struggle this life is and how money has been tight. Coming home meant coming back from the dream, the memory, to the present reality of struggle and process.

I have trouble living in the present, because I over glorify the past and pine for the promises of the potential possibility, but that is to be discussed another time.

This time, coming home I was determined to be more vigilant, to be proactive in my faith, and to carry on fighting well. I wanted to talk about how I will persist in my calling, regardless of what it looked like to the outside world and regardless of the circumstance. It seems as if the city was ready to test my resolve, pushing back on me. This city will do that, it pushes you to your limit.

On the plane ride over I spent half the time praying. I have been reading Hebrews these past few weeks for my devotional time. The whole book is about how Jesus is the perfect sacrifice and the perfect priest, sacrificing himself and setting himself up to bear the cost of our sins so we could interact with the Father. So we could be free of sin. Hebrews says that a life of those who are saved, of those who walk with Christ and know Him is characterized by faith.

Hebrews 11:1 says that, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” This is the basis of being a Christian. A personal assurance the the Bible is true, that what is says about God, His character, and what Jesus did is true. A conviction that God is working things together for the good, not necessarily for what I just want, but what is good for me. The difficulty with faith is that it is difficult. It’s using what you’ve read and what you’ve experienced to believe in what will be that is not tangible, it’s seeing a guarantee.

That’s the thing though, God always comes through with exactly what I need, when I need it, but it just doesn’t always look the way I want it to.

So, I come back from this trip, determined to look at the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb.12:1) and walk in faith. Circumstances may not be ideal, bills may not be paid, opportunities may not be evident, the raucous waves may be rising higher, but I will not be found without faith. God provided amazingly for this weekend, that’s evidence enough, with the plane tickets, the tux rental and all the transportation and housing.

I get off the plane, tote my luggage to the AirTrain, transfer to the NJ transit (which the train just arrives perfectly) and when I stroll up to the Metrocard fare kiosk, follow the directions prompted,

*Insufficient Funds*

I felt all my resolve crashing.

I can’t do this, why did I even move to this city? Why did I even think this was my calling? I can’t make it in this city. All my friends are gone, spread to the corners.

All my fears, all the lies, came bubbling up, threatening to unhinge me.

“Where is your faith?”

I know I have friends (perhaps different than before) but I still have friends. Money is tight, but God will provide. I am in process. I will continue to trust Him, I will continue to believe He will take care of me. I will fight. I will carry on.

I managed to finagle my bank accounts (you see I have a checking and a savings and I had to transfer) and I stopped by work to get my tips from last week to buy enough peanut butter to last the week. I’ll make it, God will provide, God will meet my needs. I can trust Him, I will continue to trust His plan no matter how crazy it looks. Watch, one day you’ll look at me and say, “If God took Greg from that to this, perhaps I can trust Him, too” and that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Giving Up: Coming to Terms with No Longer Trying

Trying too hard not to try.

No.

Working too much at not working?

What I’m endeavoring [how many words in the Thesaurus can I find for attempt] to accomplish is to not work like I can accomplish what I want to accomplish.

Nope, that sounds wrong, too.

Here’s the problem. I have this desire at the very core of who I am, to matter, to do something worthwhile in the world. It’s the manifestation of wanting to be well liked, I think. You see, if I do something so amazing, people will have to stop and look to say, “Wow! What a guy, he has done something. I wish I could’ve done that”.

The problem is Jesus.

Jesus, for those of you not familiar with Him, was this great guy who did the biggest thing possible. Not only did He live a perfect life, loving all sorts of people along the way, but He also died for a crime He didn’t commit to break down a barrier between God and man. He accomplished something by dying, that men everywhere had been attempting for centuries, for millennia. Then He came back to life, as the piece de resistance. 

This is why I can’t be great, because what could top that?

Now, I’m sure you’re saying that I’m setting myself up to an achievable standard. I’d agree, but to me how can you say anything else is great when  such eminence (fancy word for greatness) exists?

Nothing I do can compare.

But I can try, and try I do, but you know what? When you stand next to perfection, everything looks shoddy.

What’s worse, He wants me to be great too, that’s the whole purpose behind the amazing life He lived, so that I could live similarly. But, as I have said, I cannot do it. He must do it for me, He must set me up and I have to in turn trust Him for this to happen. If I get my ruddy fists on it and try my might, it will only amount to dust.

I have a desire to be worthwhile to the world, to make some difference. I have to stop trying and start trusting.

This little rant came about from a recent rerevelation. I made up this word to signify that I have had this revelation multiple times and try as I might, I always forget it, if I don’t consistently remind myself. I believe I am a pretty skilled individual and I know I have certain talents. One of my biggest strengths is my aptitude for learning. I absorb information very quickly and I am able to typically understand it well, just as fast (apparently not in this life lesson, though; I digress). I also believe I am charismatic or charming. Having these skill sets it may be a wonder that I have never gotten a job that I was interviewed in.

Looking at my work record, none of my work opportunities came from a traditional: application, call/check to show interest, interview and follow up call. I find this odd knowing my mother worked so long in Human Resources and knew well what companies looked for and how to be hired. The only jobs I have worked have had miraculous circumstances, whether it be knowing well a senior level boss, being hired off an application, being hired living a state away, being chosen for a more desired role over the one I applied for, etc. All of my work life has been miraculous at the start. In fact, many of the opportunities I have had I did nothing to warrant receiving them. The places, the roles that I have pursued and did deserve, I did not get.

It would be a wonder why, after looking at these patterns, I’d try at all.

The voices in my head. The voices telling me that nothing is owed to me and that I must work to achieve or earn anything. The same voice that tallies gifts from friends, money from strangers, and favors from loved ones, tallies to pay back eventually. I haven’t had a difficult life, but one of the lessons I have known a long time is you need to work to achieve a goal.

While I am learning that the world is not always so black and white in that way I am still trying to reconcile this idea. I am trying to do enough good to outweigh the good, or even just meet the weight of the good done that I don’t deserve. To even try and earn the grace given to me. But Paul is very clear that you cannot earn a gift, and grace is a gift.(Ephesians 2)

I think God is expanding that viewpoint for me, but I’m scared, and this is where it gets ridiculous; I am worried that if I finally come to terms with the free grace of God, how much He wants to give to His children, then people would think I am not doing as much as I ought to. I am worried about what people think. I am worried that I will live my life with so much freedom, expecting my God to do so many amazing things in my life, that people will call me crazy and delusional. That I will be seen as lazy and living off the gifts, the bleeding hearts of others, that I can’t manage life on my own.

Here’s the rub, it’s true. I can’t. I wasn’t meant to. Neither are you!

I will never be great, I was never meant to. It’s hard to let that die, that image of being worthwhile. Jesus will always outshadow me, and the more I live in the freedom He provides the more attention He’ll get for it. People will see how little I am doing and as a result see how much He is. That’s what life is all about.

I can’t handle life. God can. If I admit this, allow Him to run the course, life is easy. I no longer have to try. I’ll just take each day in and walk it out.

So…I guess that’s it. I’m giving up. I am done trying.