I can’t believe they are not thinking of my needs right now!

“I can’t believe you actually believe that!”

“Don’t you know this is just going to ramp up again? Or don’t you care about anyone beside yourself?”

“Look at the long term affects of this, I think this will have some worse after affects”

“Not everyone has that luxury”

“Can’t you see how this is disproportionately affecting those of a lower economic class, especially people of color?”

“Wow, you think it’s okay to do this, but not that? How does that make any sense”

Here’s my personal, unasked for, but freely given hot-take on all of this anxiety inducing, rage bubbling, rhetoric.

People are generally trying their best and are not intentionally malicious.

Since this pandemic began in the US almost three months ago, emotions have become strained. There is a lot of confusion and fear. People’s normal way of living has been in a large way thrown out of rhythm. Life stopped for some and for others became chaotic overwork load. One of the most difficult aspects about this entire scenario is that no one knew what would happen and everyone was making their best attempts to find the right way to handle this unknown situation.

No one was prepared.

You can have all the data, all the information, run all the simulations you want and still not be exactly prepared. We were concerned with making sure the spread was kept to a minimum. How do you know well enough that the curve has flattened sufficiently? There are many people with the exact same credentials giving contrasting results. That’s normal when there are so many unknowns.

But how do we know what to do then?

We don’t, but you know what’s a relief and should be freeing? No one knows, so that means everyone is in the same place trying their best to figure out how to handle this as best as possible.

Recently I’ve felt overwhelmed with this anxiety that others are having about what to with moving “forward”. There are people I know that are jobless and don’t know where to turn next. There are people with jobs terrified to return to work and put themselves (and their loved ones) in a vulnerable place). People I know leaving for “safer places” and people who wish they could but have no where else to go. And everyone is reacting to their unique circumstances in a way that is completely understandable.

The discussions about whether we overreacted or we still are not reacting strong enough are important to have, how else will we learn (even if we still don’t know which one is true). The concern whether the government is overstepping or being too lax is also an important conversation. The obvious discrepancy between protestors and racial bias is an important conversation to have. The discussion over body autonomy is an important discussion to have.

Taking a step back when you see people are acting in ways that appear to be contradictory to former statements it’s important to note, people will always argue in favor of their bias. It’s human nature.

Black Lives Matter protestors frustrated over the egregious unfortunate visualization of white armed protestors is understandable, but I wonder is the question whether they should be allowed to protest or whether what their protesting about of significance to you? The same goes for those who say that if “people just did what the police asked” rage at the injustice of being told what to do, I wonder is the discussion about whether you think compliance is the answer only if you agree with the law?

Pro-life people who say it’s a personal right to put themselves at risk, do you think the same goes for those who say the same in regards to pregnancy. The argument goes that it’s not just one life but two in terms of pregnancy, does not the same logic apply to those who could be harming others with their own “personal risk assessments”. And those who would say it’s a personal choice, how can you not see the argument here as well.

All I am saying is I wonder if we looked more honestly at our motives will we begin to understand others better. We justify our stances with our personal beliefs. Absolutely that makes sense, but if we are to use logic without hypocrisy we must look a little deeper, and I think that’s fine. That’s the point. What are you really upset about? Is it the law? Is it other people’s actions? Or rather is it a sense of personal justices that has been affronted? Someone else is getting away with something that you have been expected to adjust for? And it’s not fair?

Many American Christians are using the argument that if grocery stores and liquor stores can handle being open than so should they, ignoring that there are still capacity minimums in grocery stores and liquor stores, not to mention you don’t regularly sit inside a grocery store over an hour singing and talking to a lot of people. There’s a perception of being “attacked” when in other countries meeting in small groups of 10, hiding from the government is the norm and they’re not fined for breaking the law, in many cases they’re imprisoned or killed.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t meet up, but what is the church really?

The church is a group of people worshipping together and sharing life. And that is very difficult to do alone. That’s the real hardship.

Loneliness.

And a lot of people are experiencing it, and fighting against it. There is sadness. Places of worship are spaces where people can gather and curb the edging loneliness, the hopelessness of life. Let’s be honest here, the reason we want to gather as a church is because we want hope, we want love. And that’s an okay thing to want.

That is probably also why the “Karens” want their hair salons and coffee shops open. People are despairing and they need human connection to feel comfort.

All that being said, perhaps we can do better at figuring ways to do that in a smart and safe way.

I’ll be the first to admit, I loved having people “break quarantine” for me when my mom died. Some friends invited me over to be at their house for dinner and dessert. Other friends came by my apartment for dinner and quality time. So I am grateful.

After my mom died, I “broke” the rules and flew to my dad’s place in Oregon and we moved him out. Drove down to California and stayed with my sister a while. I lied to the grocery store clerk when she checked my NY ID and about had a heart attack that I was out in the world. I said I had been out of NY for over two weeks when it had only been twelve days. I knew I had been careful, but instead of explaining all my precautions I just lied to make her feel more at ease. Do I regret it, no. Get mad at me for being irresponsible.

From California we drove through Arizona and New Mexico to Texas, where my grandparents live and where my dad would live. Each state had slightly varied requirements but all were trying to do their best with social distancing and cleaning. Being from NY I can tell you first hand that the risk was much lower in those wide open spaces. Why should people who live in densely populated areas tell people who don’t how to stay safe? Why should people who live in low risk environments tell those who live and work in high risk areas when they should reopen?

Your friend living in a large four bedroom home telling you to reopen the economy doesn’t understand what it’s like to live in a two bedroom in a building with over a hundred people. Your son’s friend or your niece living in a tight metropolis cannot understand that the closest you’ve been to a person in weeks is at the drive through.

People who have invested all their life savings into a company will have different fears than those who haven’t. I understand first hand what it is to work food service and how frustrating it is to have someone who has never been behind a register tell you how to do your job or why you should be grateful for work, but I have never had to take out multiple loans to get a business afloat, tied all my worth to a business.

What am I driving at?

If we all begin to understand that the rhetoric is not the real fear we can begin to have real conversations.

We make funny memes about extroverts struggling, but seriously in the same way introverts don’t want to be shamed for leaving an event needing to protect their mental health, how do we help people who are emotionally starving right now? Do we just say, “get over it?”

When people talk about “restarting the economy” to they talk about the long term concern for human life not having resources? How long can a government sustain this? For the frontline workers in “essential business” when they speak about their anxiety do we listen or just say, “be grateful you have work”.

It’s complicated and messy, but perhaps if we start with, “I’m afraid” or “I’m feeling…” maybe we can begin to work through this.

Life is scary and dangerous, and I think because we in the US have had “generally” an easy time this is a reminder that life is risky and scary, but overcoming is what makes life worth it.

The people who want to be with others again aren’t intentionally trying to hurt others, they’re scared and lonely. The people who want to not rush out the door are not intentionally trying to hurt others, they’re scared and cautious.

Using false logic, listening to pundits who benefit from chaos, passing on click-bait videos will continue to divide and hurt one another.

I’ll finish with a story. [TW: Suicide]

Yesterday, on my (social distant) run I noticed a lot of helicopters and boats near Brooklyn Bridge. Continuing on the path I ran through probably the densest grouping of people I’ve seen in a while all looking up. There was a man standing on the top of one of the major braces for the bridge and police officers visibly talking to him. I kept running. I have in the past had the misfortune of walking towards a building as someone jumped off and had no desire to experience that again.

Why do we stop? Why do the cameras start aiming up? What were they waiting for? I am hoping most were wishing to see a successful rescue, but in any case there was money to be gained with photos sold to the news and media outlets. Why? Because news and media make a profit off of salacious images, images that we can’t help be curious enough to look at, to click on.

Wouldn’t it make sense if the same were true regarding this pandemic. There is profit to be gained with news, with click bait, with quipped titles that help form or ratify personal bias. There is little money to be gained from the stories of unity and health.

You will hardly ever see articles that don’t fan the flame of contention.

I’ll end my rant here, please, please understand. That person that you disagree with is scared, too and like you doing what they think best in their situation.

Joy in the time of Grief

Joy. What a joke, am I right?

At the beginning of 2020 I did what many in the Western Church do at the start of the year, I prayed for a word. A word so full of depth that it would define my year. A word to focus my energy on in my prayer time, a word full of meaning that would flavor all of the moments of the year.

Honestly I have no idea where this concept for a word for the year started. It probably comes from those psuedo-Christian manifesting your energy into the universe. Realistically it is a psychological trigger for you to intentionally find patterns and meaning into the daily, normal stuff. I don’t have a problem with it, I think it can be a good way to bring focus. As a Christian it can only be a good thing to focus on the good qualities of faith life right? Look at the fruits of the spirit?

We should just focus on spending time with the Holy Spirit and allow Him to develop fruit in our lives, but hey, it’s helpful to have some practical tools and lenses.

Anyway, so the idea is you ideally spend some time in prayer asking for a word from the Holy Spirit. The word will be a special focus for the year. Some people fast while they do this to zero in the focus on the prayer time. I intended to fast this year for a week and pray asking for my word for the year. In my time of prayer where I was telling God my extra special sanctified plan He replied I didn’t need to do that to hear Him and He had my word for me.

Joy.

Joy is going to be the word that defines 2020.

To be honest my heart fell. Perhaps this is pessimistic, or perhaps cynicism, not quite sure how to describe why my thoughts turned dark. Perhaps because I know that most of the time these fruits of the spirit grow in adversity. One of the overused jokes in church growing up was be careful what you pray for, if you pray for patience God will give you a lot of opportunity to develop that character attribute.

So joy.

My first thought was, “I wonder if this means this is the year mom will finally pass away”. I put away that thought and said, perhaps this will actually not turn out so negative, maybe I’ll get a promotion, or a girlfriend, or maybe I’ll just find joy in the simple things of my life.

Then the world turned upside down. Fear and anxiety, slowly at first and then all of the sudden, spilled out over everything. People lost so much. I was able to maintain my job, so I was grateful and just saw it as a “free vacation”, a time to work on some good habits, do a puzzle. I could find joy in spite of this, I could be happy.

“Your mom isn’t doing well” has been a common phrase with my family for a while now, but for some reason it hit different this time.

“She hasn’t eaten in days”

“She’s not really responsive”

“The nurse wanted me to tell you to think about flying out”

That Thursday night after dad had mentioned flying out to be with her I went to my church to help film for Sunday’s worship set and just really cried out to God, in so much pain.

Why now?

Realistically my mom had been sick for a very long time, so why in the middle of a Pandemic should this happen.

“CDC recommends that no one fly out of New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut unless it’s essential”

To be very candid that Thursday night was full of anguish. I couldn’t fall asleep. I began to truly understand the phrase, “Cry out to God”. There was a lot of frustration, confusion and anger. And also there was peace. Unless you have experienced this, it will be very hard to understand but God spoke to me. Not in the booming voice of television, but in the quiet stillness that comes after a storm.

“She’s coming home tomorrow morning. She will finally be with her parents again. Her grandmother. She’s been missing her mother for a long time, too. I’ll be taking her at 7”

You may think I’m crazy, but that’s fine.

Friday morning March 27th my mom died around 7.

I woke up early and made breakfast, meandered around my apartment and looked up sheet music to the old Sunday School Song, “Rise & Shine”. It was a favorite of my mom’s to wake us all up. She would roam around the house, swing our doors wide belting,

“Rise and shine, and give God the glory, glory”

Over and over the same refrain.

It was about the same time I started playing that my mom rose and began shining with God, giving Him the glory.

Grief is strange. I find myself saying this to people a lot lately. It is the best way to describe it. It’s like waves on the ocean, sometimes its a sweet up and down and then at times you get pulled into the undertow, not knowing which way is up.

My problem is that I keep trying to figure out the “right way” to grieve. Should I be weeping? Should I cry for a little bit and then put on a brave face. What happens if tears don’t come? What happens if they don’t stop. And why do I keep getting stupid Mother’s Day ads? What happens if I go an entire day and not think about her? What happens if I can’t stop? If I can just do this the right way then I can contain it, understand it, label it, categorize it. Then I can focus.

Where is the joy in all this?

Is it hiding in the corner? Is it in a funny memory of my mom? Is it giggle fits with my sister? Is it knowing that mom is in a better place? That I’ll see her again?

I’ve been told that joy isn’t the same thing as happiness. Happiness is circumstantial.

“The joy of the Lord is my strength”

Nehemiah 8

What is the context for this Christian phrase we embroider on so many throw pillows and pieces of wall art. Where do we get this phrase we like to post in flowery writing on our social media websites?

“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’”

Nehemiah 8:10

So why do these Israelites need to be told to not be grieved and told to celebrate?

They as a people had been displaced. A neighboring warring country had come in and overtaken them. The Babylonians had removed them from their land. Nehemiah was a politician who requested to take an envoy of fellow Israelites to rebuild the walls of their former capitol in Jerusalem. They had begun the work and Nehemiah was about to read from the Law. The Israelites were grieved to hear their crimes against God because it was their crimes that they were subjected to the Babylonians in the first place.

God’s response was to tell them to stop grieving and rejoice.

So what does this have to do with my grief?

Mom didn’t die because of my sin or her sin.

Maybe nothing, but maybe the principle is the same?

Too often we like to take little pieces of scripture out of context and we are reassured because the words are nice, but grief is too heavy. But how am I to be reassured, how am I to find joy in the midst of this pain? Maybe I’m not.

Bear with me here, for a moment.

Jesus grieved and it was good. We are told that He even grieved when He knew that there would be a happy ending. He knew He was to bring Lazarus back to life and yet He still wept for His friend with His friends, the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus knew He would be victorious over death and bring redemption and yet He still wept with so much anguish He bled in His sweat.

So where is the joy?

I’ve been writing from the standpoint that I’ve had for a long time and I think that a lot of people have, especially in America, especially in American victory Christianity. The same culture that tells you that your deceased family is in a better place, that she’s no longer hurting, the culture that says where there is grief there is no joy, that they cannot exist in the same space. The same culture that hinted that grief is a bad thing instead of saying it is the response to the broken thing.

Almost four years ago a good friend of mine passed away and while at her funeral her aunt said something so profound to me about grief. “You all are speaking about where my girl is and I am glad that you are consoled about her well-being, but she’s gone, she’s not here, she’s mine and I don’t have her anymore”

And in one of my favorite movies that I find almost too difficult to watch, a young Peter Llewelyn asks of J.M. Barrie, “It’s just I thought she’d always be here….But why did she have to die?”

I honestly don’t quite know where I’m going with this or what I am trying to say, other than I don’t think joy and grief are mutually exclusive. The joy of the Lord is my strength but I miss my mom and I think that’s okay. I think the joy is that the story isn’t over. We’re in the really hard part now but I hold onto the hope of joy in the future.

I can have joy in this moment in my memories of my mom and also in the knowledge that I will see her again. I am joyful now because I know I will have joy again and yet I also can grieve now because some part of joy is lost temporarily.

The hope of Christ, what makes Him different, is that He grieves with us and celebrates with us. He never promised life without difficulty, He promised that He would be there in the valleys. At times I have wondered, what’s the point if I follow Jesus and I still suffer? Perhaps because there is a purpose in the sadness or at least a relief in the big picture knowledge and that joy is much richer because there is eternity out there in the making.

I think this also applies to this season our planet is in collectively. Jewish law mandated every 50 years a break, a year where the land could rest, the people would rest, debts would be amended, etc. While I know a lot of essential workers are still out there in the thick of it, the world at large is still in repose. A pause. They called this year jubilee. Joy. Now these Hebrew words were different, but the understanding that jubilee was release, was exultation. Joy is exultation. A victory.

I grieve and some days it feels like I’m smothered, but there is victory and there will be victory. I am not going to diminish my grief but I will hold onto joy, even as I try to figure out how.

The Road Taken by NOT Robert Frost

It’s warm, not quite hot, and it’s humid, but there’s a slight breeze to alleviate the stifled air. The slightly overgrown path snakes downward towards the water, making the city feel more jungle, less concrete. That’s it! I feel less concrete. These Saturdays slumber on slowly as they press me in to learn to stop. Stop making, stop producing, stop demanding, stop doing, and simply be. Sabbath.

I love this city. I love how the old parks make it feel like this place is stuck in between worlds, the grit of reality and the magic of fantasy. Old poets, playwrights, authors, song writers, and movie makers will convince you the same. New York is always ready for adventure. Even on these slow days, anything can happen. You can be anywhere. Anyone. So why do I feel so trapped in me?

My problem? I have the sensibilities of an artist, I want words that wax and wane, describing my days as if they are pages or scenes or stanzas or verses. Even writing these thoughts I am pressured to present them with pomp and circumstance. Each Instagram Post illuminating the pieces of an imaginary existence. I can’t even write a blog without sounding pretentious and indulgent.

I am not imaginary. My life is not fantasy.

I am real.

And sometimes that’s the trouble. There’s no plotted course, there’s no perfect next step. Where is my arc taking me? Am I a flat character in someone else’s narrative? I should get to the point.

I am real.

Carpe diem. Seize the day.

I am responsible for what I do. I am responsible for my decisions. I don’t have a script. I am not a victim of my life. I am responsible. I deal with the repercussions of my actions.

Now, I have a good life. I think there are many decisions I chose right. But how can I know for sure?

If I was the hero of a story I would have a clear course, a path from A to Z. Defeat the monster. Get the girl. But who is she? Does she want to be get? Be gotten? She has her own story. So what if the girl decides she doesn’t want this hero? Does she want the black smith? Is she the hero? Am I even in her story?

See, it’s getting muddy.

There’s no clear cast. I am the hero. I am the mentor. I am the plucky sidekick. I am farmer #2. I am the villain. I am the son. I am the brother. I am the friend. I am the crush. I am the crushed. I am the actor. I am the director. I am the stage hand. I am the barista. I am the grandson. I am the supervisor. I am the coach. I am the coffee roaster. I am the roommate. Who am I in my story?

Who are the others in my story? Who stays? Who is supposed to leave?

Stories are good because they teach us lessons, but the best teacher is experience, it is also the hardest.

You see why it’s easier to cloud my thoughts. Fill the space with activity. With things. With other people’s worries. With work. With watching other’s lives through a 6″ screen. With reading someone else’s story?

 

 

silence

 

 

Can you tell I have a flair for the melodrama?

That’s my problem I suppose. My brain sees everything in technicolor and life is a more subdued hues. I am too scared to make a decision because the consequences.

What if it never happens?

Well what if it does?

And what’s the worst that happens if it doesn’t?

I suppose it is less either/or and more in between or and. And maybe I’m making this bigger than it ought to be and I am so worried about making the wrong decision, I make no decision at all. I don’t live in a fantasy, but what if I forget to even live in reality? I suppose I should get more comfortable in the nebulous.

 

Sometimes I wish God would be more clear about every step I should take instead of trusting me to live the life He’s given me. Then I don’t. How great is that He gives me life to live, messy and rife with possibility, and chooses to direct when needed, but more often than not just walk along.

 

Walking down an overgrown path snaking down towards the water. The path splits. Where should I go?

 

Fasting leads to Tantrums

I am terrible at fasting. I don’t know if there’s a way to be good at it, but I definitely know I fall short of that mark. Every time I embark on a fast I realize I have the emotional maturity of a toddler after missing just one meal. For a while I rationalized why fasting wasn’t needed, after all, I can still pray and talk to God without skipping lunch. Right?

Two weeks ago I was challenged by a pastor (via his Instagram story) to fast one day a week, at least until sundown. He argued that fasting was something that Jesus did, something He tells us to do, and that it brings a focus in on what you’re praying about. Fasting also provides the added character development of foregoing pleasure, of building endurance to wait and be patient.

Knowing this discipline was something I have always struggled with I picked a day, Wednesdays. Well last week I did Thursday, but that is beside the point. I set out to hold off eating until sundown. The day progressed fairly well, I think mostly due to me spending most of the day travelling to New York from Central Pennsylvania and having slept in late. As the day drew on (mind you this was the day after the longest day of the year) I got hungry, and anxious. Last Thursday was the day I met with a potential roommate to see if the place was a right fit and whether I was a good fit for the roommate. I knew I would have a home in the City, I mean I had to, it was just a matter of it being good.

A year ago I began to get restless about where I was living. There was a lot happening and I was just ready to move out and into Manhattan. I started doing prayer walks around the Upper West Side, praying and hoping for some miraculous apartment to open up to me. I knew it would be a longer commute to the Starbucks I was working at, but I was ready to be in a new environment. As is often the case with my prayers the answer came indirectly while answering another prayer. I got a promotion.

My store manager recommended that I apply for a position as a Roaster Operator (technically it’s the machine that’s called a Coffee Roaster, I just tell the machine what to do) for the Reserve Roastery being built in Chelsea. I put it off, disregarding the opportunity. It was a different career path than what I moved to the city for in the first place, well mostly (but more on that later). Plus, I had no coffee roasting knowledge, other than it happened. A few weeks later he announced that He got the role of Operations Supervisor for the Roastery and again strongly recommended that I apply for the position. I am glad he did.

I’ve spent the last eight months learning how to roast coffee in Pennsylvania and Seattle. This opportunity has afforded me the ability for that change I was praying for, albeit not in the way I imagined. As my training drew to a close I began to think more towards housing in New York, where I would live, how I would live. I wanted to live in the Upper West Side in a studio to myself, while my promotion does have a significant pay increase, it is not Upper West Side studio level pay. In Seattle I started to get more anxious looking at different sites for places, I had wonderful friends send me recommendations as well as more sites to peruse. I had a lot to sift through and only two weeks to figure it out.

Moving to New York, even moving in New York, is not something you can plan far in advance. It’s not something you look at six months ahead, not even three months ahead. Most brokers will tell you not to even try looking until you’re within a month of your move in day. The last time I moved to the city I left on a missions trip three weeks before I had to move out not knowing where I was going to be. On that trip I met my former roommates for the first time and made a move in agreement.

Thursday, last week, I began my trek back to the city. I hadn’t eaten breakfast, nor had I eaten lunch. I determined I would meet with the potential roommate and follow it with a meal to break my fast. Life can seem overwhelming when you’re driving through Manhattan, hungry and worried where you’re going to live. I knew I would like this place, I just had this instinct that I would love the neighborhood. And part of me was bummed because I was still slightly hoping for an 11th hour UWS-Studio-apartment-in my-budget miracle, and I knew that I would love the neighborhood and want to give up on the Upper West (technically Washington Heights is just Upper Upper Upper West Side).

Throughout this housing process, I was going through this crisis of faith. Bear with me on this. I was thinking that since I prayed for an apartment in a specific neighborhood (I walked around a five block radius) and this job came miraculously God would provide the optimum apartment and it would be this great moment of glory for Him. I could say, “I prayed for this apartment, and I shouldn’t be able to afford it, but look at what He did”. So I worried that if I settled for anything less, God wouldn’t get as much glory. If I’m being honest, God’s still getting the glory, I’m just getting less, and other people won’t be as jealous of me.

I have this desire to be well liked by everyone and I want people to see that good things are still coming to me. I want people not to think, “Oh he gave up acting because he couldn’t get a part for three years”, but I want them to just be amazed at where my story is going. My vanity is at stake. Not getting the miraculous, unnecessary apartment, is a blow to my pride, not God’s glory. He still answered my prayer, and He got me a place in Manhattan with views of the Hudson and a beautiful bridge.

To be quite honest, the apartment I got is probably more what I want. It’s convenient access to the city, but feels like a slight retreat away, with some breathtaking views. I digress.

By the time I reached the potential apartment, I was hungry and anxious, not a good combo. I loved the neighborhood. I knew I would. And I really liked the apartment. The room looked big enough to house my books, there’s a washer/dryer in unit, there are lots of trees everywhere. It’s amazing. Now I just had to impress the potential roommate. I think we hit it off. Following the tour of the apartment, we went on a tour of the neighborhood, and closed off with something to drink and for me, something to eat.

I was very candid, I told him, I was interested but I would be viewing another place the following day. He responded in kind by telling me he also would be meeting with another potential roommate the next day. We agreed to confer after.

To add a little more chaos, I was driving up to Connecticut the next day to meet with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle. After viewing the awesomely located closet of a room on 80th st, I drove north. I knew I wanted the apartment in Washington Heights, I was just hoping I could eke out the competition.

I did.

In another episode of anxious Manhattan driving I was able to give the security deposit to my new roommate. I have a home.

So, back in Pennsylvania for the week packing and tidying up until I can move in. Today I am fasting. And I say this not as a pat on the back for me, or to show off how spiritual I am, but in reality to recognize how unspiritual I am, and how bad I am at fasting.

I’m hungry and cranky. It seems it has taken little time at all to forget how awesome God is, all He has done for me in dying on the cross and on top of that all He continues to do in my life. I forget these things easily because I haven’t had a sandwich.

You know that feeling when you know you’re being irrational but you can’t stop because it’s consuming your thoughts?

Me either….

But really, what I am learning over and over. God is so good and I am a petulant child that He loves anyway. He is redeeming me, rebuilding me, no matter how long it takes to wait out my temper tantrums. And He’s so patient.

I’m trying to see what’s next. I’m trying to budget better. I am trying to love people better, open up and be vulnerable. I realize over and over again that I am more worried about how people see me than I am. I panic about how people’s perceptions of me might change, and it’s funny because I don’t even know what your perceptions are…

I watched this cooking competition show and one of the contestants always seems to have it together, he makes a delicious and beautiful finished product. On one of the last episodes his dessert fell apart and he didn’t have a back up. He fell apart. One of the other competitors, was shocked and tried to reassure him. The perfectionist chef managed to put it back together. I resonated with the chef because he keeps it cool and collected until something goes wrong and he crumbles.

Fasting reminds me: I am not as cool and collected as I think I am, but God is always there for me.

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.

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.

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.

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.