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).

 

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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.

You’re Wrong, I think

I have a problem with the concept of safe spaces.

I’ve been toying around with this idea for a while. Letting these ideas ruminate. I didn’t want to share my thoughts if I was feeling particularly incensed about something. I tend to neglect someone’s perspective or feelings. when I’m upset or angry. My next move was to share following the conference I served at last week, I’ll share more on that later. The turning point was yesterday when my anxiety spiked again for no reason, well a reason I can’t quite pin down.

Safe Spaces. From what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Safe spaces are places where people can feel free to express themselves without disagreement. Now, as long as I am not vastly misunderstanding the premise, I have a problem with this in practicality and conception.

We live in a world of many different people each with their own identity and thought processes. That’s honestly one of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, or so I believe and have been told. When we are all different that means we will not all agree. One could argue that the existence of difference does not necessitate conflict. How can you tell me you have conviction in your beliefs and thoughts if it once does not ever cause you to come into some conflict?

You only need to look at the current political climate here in the USA to see how contentious disagreement can be, how differences can cause dividing lines. While it is nice to say that everyone should live in disagreement and not contention, I think it is a pipe dream, unrealistic and like I mentioned it means that people show little or no conviction. A personal observation on the polarization of the country: as long as we keep vilifying people based on information provided by those who are paid according to sensationalism, we will never see eye to eye.

Safe Spaces. While it would make life easier to have a “safe space” where only my opinions are shared, where everyone acquiesces to my particular frame of mind, it would severely limit me, my life, and in turn my world around me. More than just unrealistic, safe spaces lead to lives stunted, growth in egoism and as a result partisan factions. In fact, I’ll say that “safe spaces” are mini fascist communities.

Before you grab the pitchfork, think about it. All those novels and movies about dystopian societies feature similar narratives: sameness. No one like’s the sameness that is imposes on them, but if all conflict is stymied, then those with differing opinions to the popular thought are silenced.

Conflict on the other hand provides opportunities to learn, to see a situation in a perspective distinct from your own. Conflict brings a challenge that either helps you fortify the way you see a situation or amends it. There are so many metaphorical examples in nature that reveal this to be true. When a smith forges he (or she) uses intense heat and force to bend metal to the shape that is desired. Diamonds require heat and pressure to form. Purity in gold comes through heat and time. People are refined by conflict, if they allow it.

A bird will never learn to fly if it never leaves the nest. A caterpillar will never become a butterfly if it does not endure metamorphosis. I will never become stronger if I do not push my limits. I could never learn to swim if I left the shallow end.

We are refined in fire if we allow it.

No, conflict doesn’t feel good and oftentimes it requires time, but the things in life that are “worth it” need both. Our active participation allows the difficulty to change us for the better, whether that means our perspective is changed or strengthened. We have to be willing to face the difficulty and walk through it.

Well, I suppose this is unfair to just say “I walk through difficulty and grow every time” when in fact every time I face conflict on my own I buckle under the pressure. You see, I cheat. I depend on someone that is capable of so much more than I am able and He does the heavy lifting making sure I know I’m not alone in the conflict.

Last week I served at a rather large Church conference in Brooklyn New York at the Barclays Center. I was put in a role in which I was not prepared. My experience going in was on a much smaller scale, so this was beyond my skill or ability. And you know what, I soared. I felt, in an indescribable way, that I did well, despite the circumstances. I could regale you of the pressures of trying to seat about 5,000 (one night nearly 8,000) people in a venue within 30 minutes with very specific instructions, leading others who lead others, listing out every struggle from lack of sleep and food to rude and inconsiderate guests, but it would pale in comparison to the experience of it.

I was out of my depth, but I came out with stronger skills and intuition. While I believe anyone and everyone can grow in their lives, in character, in whatever way by being open to risk and trying, I believe I was able to make great strides because I had someone bigger than me helping me along.

But this is why safe spaces are harmful, we are not allowed to be tempered by fire.

Yesterday was a difficult day. It would have been nice to shut myself up and demand that no one require anything of me, but that is not realistic. We live in a world of people and responsibilities and we cannot run from them to shelter our precious psyches and personal comforts. I was forced to face life, to face my difficult situation and I’m still breathing. The circumstances haven’t changed but I have to allow myself to be tempered.

Now, to those who have serious psychological maladies (self-proscribed or clinically diagnosed) I believe the same is true for those. In my own experience, when I give into the anxieties, when I shelter myself from the world, there is no improvement, perhaps a slight abatement, but now growth or progress. (Now is when I would get told I don’t understand, or my struggle obviously couldn’t have been awful enough or else I wouldn’t say such. My challenge is twofold: 1. Using your logic, you cannot tell me what I have experienced is not significant 2. Before you get defensive take a moment and process my thought before disagreeing. I don’t have a problem if you disagree, I may be wrong, but please listen to what I have to say before you shout).

A safe space.

Now, I’ve hinted at how I cheat, now I will give you the full breakdown. If you immediately disagree, you have understood nothing, and there is nothing that I can say to change that. I hope one day, you will be able to digest someone’s words without immediately disregarding them.

My safe place. Jesus. It may sound cliche, but it’s real. I am not always so good at going to Him, but I am getting better. You see, in the Bible, He promises that His burden is light (Mt. 11:28-10). Now that doesn’t mean we get to disregard the conflict, that we ignore it. Contrarily, there are many times when Jesus says life will be difficult, but if we walk with Him, if we seek Him, if we talk to Him, cry out to Him, trust Him, argue with Him, find rest in Him, then we can face the furnace and come out stronger. I cannot face most conflict alone. I need God there with me every step reminding me who He is, who I am and that these situations just mean I am being refined, becoming better.

I believe Jesus is the best and final solution to life’s troubles and I will tell you that, but I will also listen. How else can I grow?

I am not Good, and neither are you

There are hard lessons that we cannot avoid and there are hard lessons that persist under the surface waiting to be taken hold of, to be understood and then relearned the next day.

And the next day.

And the day after that.

There are a few things I know, that are at the center of my “web of knowledge” (theory of knowledge buzz term).

In the top five category comes the knowledge that God is good.

Now this is difficult to say, to stand on because many people have trouble with this. In fact for many people tis is the main reason they cannot believe in God because they look at the world and wonder how a good entity could create something so “flawed”.

In fact, though this is a core belief, a core knowledge of mine, I wonder at it a lot of times. When I look at big things like poverty, war, abuse, etc. I wonder how do I reconcile this information with this truth that I know? When I look at my mom, her suffering, my dad’s journey through that, I wonder.

But I know God is good.

How do I know? (I apologize if Whitney Houston’s voice is now coursing through your brain)

How do I know God is good?

Honestly, I know when I see people get excited about something. When someone’s eyes light up because of something deep stirring inside of them. Passion.

Let me explain.

Recently I was discussing with one of my roommates the fatal flaw of socialism: people. Now regardless of your political standing, socialism always sounds great. Different peoples have been attempting Utopia for centuries, where everyone is equal, everyone does their part and we all love in peace and harmony. No poverty. No hunger. People can access opportunities for good health no matter their station. The lesson in History is this: Utopia doesn’t work. People don’t all pull their weight, some people want more, people mess up the system, and before long people begin to try to determine who can stay or who cannot and suddenly we enter dystopia, because suddenly it’s up to one or a few to decide what’s required of everyone. How did they get this power? Who’s standard are we supposed to follow?

People are flawed. That has been agreed upon.

“I’m only human”

So how can a bunch of people make a perfect system?
It’s not possible.

Now, before you think I’m sinking my own case, let me attempt to show the beauty of God.

In the beginning of things (well our beginning) God creates this being that has higher level thinking, they can think beyond urges and instincts. He gives them creativity and the ability to choose their path. Then He tells them the standard. That God made them to work in conjunction with Him. It’s all about this teamwork. So we were designed to run a certain way, this is declared as good. But because He is so intelligent and amazing He gave us the choice, because what kind of relationship would it be without choice.

Let be more clear, working as we are designed to work (namely with Him) anything else is not good. In other terms, bad.

So like day 27 of life (this is not theologically determined, rather given in the metaphorical sense for the purpose of narrative), the early beings working life with God made their first decision that was bad (read: not in their intended design). They thought they could try life on their own, which ended badly for everyone involved (and yet to be involved).

Humans are beings designed to work one way, but incapable of doing so, since this moment.

We are not good.

Our language and culture has watered down the word good to either mean well intentioned or beneficial to someone and it becomes this messy word that has lost its original meaning.

God is good, all that He embodies or characterized by is good, anything else is not.

Growing up my mom used to use a metaphor for truth, “You’re either pregnant or you’re not, there’s no kind of pregnant”. Similarly, as much as we would like, there is no kind of Good, there is or there isn’t.

“Woah, that’s kind of extreme, what about…?”

We could discuss this at nauseum, but at the end of the day that is where the word comes from, what it means. And when you look at people that are “kind of Good”, they’re kind of bad, too. Every well intentioned thought or action that does not stem from direct relationship to God, has selfish motives to it, self serving.

“But isn’t it good to take care of yourself?”

When we aren’t serving the needs of another we are drawing away from each other.
And when you’re honest with yourself, you will see the uncomfortable truth of this concept.

The story of God, written in the Bible, is Him in His goodness trying to get people to be good, restore the! To factory settings. Even those contentious moments are part of the narrative to motivate people to seek Him out, to be in relationship with Him, because that is the greatest Good. From that people can begin to love Him and in conjunction, love those He created.

So, all these terrible things in the world that we have brought upon ourselves by trying to go our own way, can be turned Good by God when we stop trying to fix it on our own, seek Him and move forward in that. Then people will understand Him, the way He meant life to be lived, and then the world begins to heal. It won’t ever be complete by our attempts.

Everyday, I must relearn this hard lesson, either from reflection or repeating mistakes, so that I can give up this false control I think I have over life and trust His control.

Situations may seem dire and I may doubt, but regardless of how I feel, He is good.