Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Come What May

I got to ride down to Indianapolis this week. One of my best friends works there...it's a bit of a commute from the Jackson area, a bit over 4 hours with a stop for Starbucks...and he invited me to ride down with him on Sunday and hang out for a couple days. It's a trip I might repeat in the future...when it's not so hot. During my visit, I saw on the news that they set the record for the most days over 90 in the Indianapolis area during the month of July...but this is neither here nor there. I had a great ride down with my friend, despite the heat, and we traversed some great blacktop as we took the backroads and two lane highways for most of our trip down.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to spend the whole week with him. I had to head back home today. As I was getting back onto I-69 North, watching Indianapolis fade into the background in my rearview mirror, a small voice in the back of my head said, "Don't forget to call Sara at your next stop to let her know what time you'll be home."

It took about 5 to 10 seconds for whatever cranial control center is responsible for managing all the various aspects of my life to come to a screeching halt in response to what had just happened...now all the little voices in my head start scrambling, trying to figure out how there's any part of me, even so small, that could have forgotten what happened 18 months ago.

"What?! What just happened?"

"Ummmmm...not sure...we seem to have misplaced some important information...we're trying to find the responsible party."

"No...seriously...have you been hiding under a rock somewhere for the past 18 months?!"

"Look, I don't know why we said that...it just came out. We're trying to figure out why."

While all the little versions of me that run my existence continued to scramble around inside my head trying to figure this all out, the duet of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Dr. Chase Meridian came up in the playlist I had chosen for the ride home.

Never knew I could feel like this
Like I've never seen the sky before
Want to vanish inside your kiss
Everyday I love you more and more
Listen to my heart, can you hear it sings
Telling me to give you everything
Seasons may change winter to spring
But I love you until the end of time

Come what may, come what may
I will love you until my dying day

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place
Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace
Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste
It all revolves around you

And there's no mountain too high, no river too wide
Sing out this song and I'll be there by your side
Storm clouds may gather and stars may collide
But I love you until the end of time

Come what may, come what may 
I will love you until my dying day
Oh come what may, come what may 
I will love you 

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place...

Come what may, come what may 
I will love you until my dying day

Come What May is a beautiful duet from the movie Moulin Rouge...I listened to it three times in a row while all the mini-me's in my head continued flailing around. Sigh...I was blessed to have have that love for 15 years...

It's no secret I've been dating. Whether good or bad, it's been happening. I was even engaged at one point, which I now realize I shouldn't have been, but it happened. It ended...unpleasantly, as things like that often do when they end; there's always a lot of hurt on both sides. It's not easy...not just because of my loss, but because it's so different from what I remember from 17 years ago...and emotions and feelings, like the ones that overwhelm me when I hear a song like this, make it even more difficult.

As I continue to move on, trying to move forward, I'm realizing that life often offers few answers to the many questions it raises. My own list continues to grow.

Abba, I bring you my brokenness and place it at your feet. You know the questions of my heart. You know the longings and desires. I give them to you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


How can I get this jumble of thoughts out of my brain and into this well defined and manageable space? I'm starting to wonder if it's possible. I'm wrestling with Christian pop-culture and the messages we're inundating ourselves with in regards to hardship, pain, and suffering. I'm wrestling, because I don't have an answer. The rest of this may just end up being word vomit...

You must, you must think I'm strong
To give me what I'm going through

The above lyrics are the first lines from a great song, Strong Enough, by Matthew West. BUT...I don't like them. I really really really really don't like them. I have to remind myself not to let what, in my opinion, is a poorly written set of lyrics take away from the rest of the message, that only God has the strength to get us through the turmoil of life. We can't do it on our own.

So what don't I like about those first few lyrics? It's the same thing I don't like about the kitchy "encouragement" I keep hearing on The Message between songs: God won't protect you from it, if he can refine you through it.

Those aren't the only two examples of what's bugging me, or what I'm wrestling with, they're just two of the best, most recent, examples. I feel like the message from them is that God allows us to, and/or makes us, suffer...on purpose. I'm wrestling with this because I do know and believe that God "allows" us to suffer, sin is in the world...suffering is part of the curse. However, I get this sense that it's not that He's allowing it, He's just not preventing it...not yet. He could...He's the creator of all that we know and everything we don't, Lord of the Heavens and the earth...but He doesn't.  What I'm wrestling with is the concept of Him purposefully, as part of "His plan," making us suffer. That feels like the message I'm receiving in so many sermons, songs, and pithy Chrisianisms...the message that God "afflicts" us with suffering as part of His plan.

Does God actually give us suffering and pain as part of His plan? Or...does His plan just account for the suffering and pain that a broken and sinful world brings to us? I realize it might sound like I'm quibbling, mostly internally, over semantics...but it doesn't feel like it. "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 I'm trying to reconcile the God who has plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future, with the same God who, according to what I feel I'm being taught, gives me suffering...on purpose.

Have you ever read something, had it eat at you for a few weeks, and then had to go back and re-read it again, just to make sure you were getting it? I have, I did it today...chapter 4 of Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. It's a chapter where he talks about the need for us to not only turn to God in our times of great pain and suffering but to turn to each other or, more specifically, to people who have been trained to provide emotional and psychological support as we navigate the often dark and difficult waters of this life. Until recently, I believed in the power of counseling...for other people. Weak people. I didn't need it. After all, God won't give me more than I can handle on my own, right? That's the message I've been receiving for years. God will never put more on my plate than what I can eat.

In Velvet Elvis, Bell opens up about his own breakdown as "superpastor" of Mars Hill, the megachurch he started in Grand Rapids, Michigan, back in 1999. He shares about the pain of healing. How true healing, coming to terms with our junk, is not possible without an incredible amount of pain, "It was in that abyss that I broke and got help...because it's only when you hit the bottom and are desperate enough that things start to bet better." It can mean digging deep into our past to unearth the root causes and events that shape who we are and why we react to the world in the way we do. He talks about the healing power of salvation, the healing power of Christ, being a holistic healing, applying to the whole being, all of who we are. Healing that is supposed to bring us back in line with who God created us to be. Healing of our souls. He want's to experience shalom, which according to Bell is, "the presence of of the goodness of God. It's the presence of wholeness, completeness." Healing, shalom, that far too many Christians don't get...and that's left me wrestling with "why?"

What if God isn't giving us everything on our plates? What if the things in life that cause us the most pain, the greatest suffering, aren't from God? What if they're just really really bad things that happened to us because the world is broken? Things that happen because, until Christ returns, sin and death own this world? And what if it's this message, that God gives us suffering and only gives us what we can handle, that creates a false sense of "I can do this on my own" that keeps us from seeking help when we really really need it? A message that even imbues of with the ability to even forget that we must lean on Him? What if instead of inflicting suffering on us for our own good, and His Glory, God stands beside us, holding us, crying with us, and saying, "I'm sorry that this has happened to you, my child. It's not what I had planned, but I knew it would happen, and if you let me hold you and guide you, my plan will restore you."

What if?

Like I said, I've got more questions than answers...if I have any answers at all. I've got a reading list that's a mile wide, a mile deep, and as long as the Mississippi. Maybe He'll have an answer for me somewhere in there...maybe not. Maybe I'll just end up wrestling with it until my bones break.

Abba, I lay my brokenness at your feet. My humanness. Please help me find shalom in you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


It's been a while, it feels good to be back. I didn't fall of the edge of the earth, just got distracted with some travel and other things. Over the past couple weeks I've had plenty of songs, plenty of things I've read, spark something inside...but didn't find time to write about it.

So...today I'm breaking my rule. I said I'd only write about a song, or something I'd read, if I'd actually heard or read it that same day. Today I'm gong to write about a song I heard yesterday while I was on my way to Detroit (shopping, running errands, going to a Tiger's game, etc.) I didn't get home until very late; as much as I wanted to write about it last night, I wanted to sleep more. :)

I've heard Natalie Grant's Held many times over the past year...and I don't like it. I'm still not sure I like it, but when I heard it yesterday it struck a new chord in my heart and mind. In retrospect, maybe the root of my dislike for the song is that the message is so raw, so close to what I've lived, that I just haven't been at a place where I could embrace the truth of it.

Two months is too little.
They let him go.
They had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would
Take a child from his mother while she prays
Is appalling.

Who told us we'd be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We're asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It's unfair.

No...it's not fair...is it? I had a professor in college who, when students would complain that something wasn't fair, would respond with a simple, consistent, quiet, "Life's not fair, life just is." We all knew it was coming. We all laughed when he said it. I don't think any of us really got it. It wasn't funny. It was a truth that far too many of us just don't experience in our life...until we do. At which point our response is paramount.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred NUMB our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.

Bitterness is easy. Bitterness can make us feel like we have control. Bitterness can present itself as a salve...but it's not. It's poison. It's sneaky. It seeps in when we're not looking, when we think we're healing, progressing, getting better...it attacks when we are most vulnerable. It can keep us from seeing, from knowing, truth. It can keep us from experiencing healing. I think bitterness kept me from hearing the message of Held, the message past the pain, past the hurt, the message of being at rock bottom...we are Held...when it's all taken away...when we've been stripped, beaten, and robbed by life...we are Held...when if feels like all we have left is the breath in our lungs...we are Held...

This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we'd be held.

Abba, I bring you my brokenness, I place it at your feet, hold me.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Simple complexity

"The issue then isn’t my beating myself up over all of the things I am not doing or the things I am doing poorly; the issue is my learning who this person is who God keeps insisting I already am...There is nothing we can do, and there is nothing we ever could have done, to earn God’s favor. We already have it...We cannot earn what we have always had. What we can do is trust that what God keeps insisting is true about us is actually true." Miscellaneous quotes from Velvet Elvis: Repainting The Christian Faith, by Rob Bell

"Only let us live up to what we have already attained." - Philippians 3:16

It already mine...it's already yours...

I have to be honest, I'm struggling with the concept/process of trusting God as opposed to pleasing God. Maybe struggling isn't the right word...maybe it's just about internalizing it, chewing it up, swallowing it down, digesting it, and letting it infuse into my being.  It's not that I don't believe it...it just feels so much the opposite of what I feel like I've been taught my whole life (whether that is indeed what I was taught or not.)

My inner voice keeps wanting to pipe up and say, "it's all about not doing bad things, punching that ticket to Heaven, avoiding Hell." Somewhere, in the back, there's a new voice...one that is quietly encouraging me to stop worrying so much about what I do and don't do, what I did and didn't do, and start LIVING up to what I have already attained. I have ALREADY attained Heaven. Am I listening to myself? I have ALREADY attained Heaven.

It's almost too complex to put into words...because it's so simple...which, I guess, makes sense...since it's complex to integrate into my core, too. I mean, after all, if I live up to what I've already attained, the inner voice will be satisfied, right? The difference will be...motivation?...inspiration?...reason?

I've lived a lot of my "avoiding" God, not running away...just avoiding, because I didn't think I could live up to His expectations...now I'm realizing the expectations I wasn't living up to were mine. I've avoided grace because I thought I couldn't be good enough to earn it...now, I'm finally realizing it can never be earned.

Abba, I bring you my brokenness. I ask that you help me internalize the reality that I already have what you've given me. That the joy over receiving this gift should drive the way I live, not worrying about earning something I can't earn.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I'm trying to read through the Bible in a year. To help me accomplish this task, I bought the One Year Bible. What seemed like a daunting task, is actually turning out to be rather easy. Of course, I'm not sure why we make it seem like reading through the Bible in one year is such a huge undertaking to begin with. Yes, it's a long book, but most of us have read other long books in a much shorter time period than a year. The Lord of The Rings trilogy is a long book, but I can read it from cover to cover in a matter of a few weeks. The Harry Potter series, if you read all 7 books in a row, is a loooooong book, but I can read it from the cover of the first book to the back cover of the last in less than a few months. Yet, the Bible seems almost impossible to consider reading in a year. I'm starting to wonder if this Christian "accomplishment" is much ado about nothing. Do we make it seems harder than it is just because it's not something we look forward to? If so, why don't we look forward to it? After all, it's the Word of God. The Word we are supposed to hide in our hearts, which I think might require reading it more than once....hmmmmm...I shall think on these thoughts and try to internalize them for myself.

"Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did." 2 Kings 17:41

I read this passage today. Unfortunately, my eyes kept wandering back to it as I was trying to move on, which made it hard to concentrate on the rest of the readings. At first, my thoughts were predominantly about how sad this verse is. It pretty much sums up what most of the books of 1 Kings and 2 Kings is about. The people of God wanted a king, so God gave them a king, then the kings turn their backs on Him, the people follow suit, and the results are always disastrous. Every once in a while, a king comes along who tries to turn the people back to God, but either he turns away before he dies or the people do when the next king takes the throne. It's a horrible and sad cycle. It's a dark time in the history of Israel and Judah. The people of God are scattered to the wind time and time again. Yet, they don't seem to learn their lesson.

The more I pondered this, the more I started to wonder if we are any different, or, more importantly, am I any different than these wayward children of the most High and Holy God? I constantly find myself "serving" the idols in my life, whether it be TV, travel, food, etc. Given the choice of serving God or serving myself, I tend to lean more towards serving myself.

Which brings me back to reading the One Year Bible. Maybe the desire to do this came from Him. I thought I was the one who wanted to read the scriptures in a year...but, maybe He wanted me read them. I thought I was doing this to please Him...but, maybe He wants me to read them so that I'll trust Him.

As sad as the words of 2 Kings 17:41 are, in the end there always seems to be redemption, and the redemption of Israel, the redemption of God's people, is ultimately what the scriptures are about, not the failings. The failings are recorded and put on display to prove a point...God is always here. He is always waiting to redeem His children. We just need to change our hearts to allow Him to do it.

Abba, I come to you today in brokenness. I offer you my failings and trade them for a redemption that only comes through Christ. Father, help me keep my focus on you when the idols of my life loom large.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I Am A Servant

I've recently been wondering what to do with the rest of my life. There are plenty of folks offering me suggestions, which I do appreciate, but I also know when the answer comes it's going to come from within.

When I lost Sara and Miranda, I was fortunate to work for an employer who allowed me to use the Family Medical Leave Act to take a few months off work to begin the healing process. It was a very beneficial time for me. Not having to worry about work allowed me to let grief do it's dirty work without having to worry about maintaining my composure for significant part of the day. It let me give in to grief's vicious nature, allowing myself to be chewed up, spit out, and chewed up again, and again, and again. I could cry when I needed to cry, yell when I needed to yell, curl up in a ball when I need to curl up, and hurt when I needed to hurt. A lot of people who live through a loss of that magnitude don't have that opportunity (or worse, aren't informed that they may legally be entitled to it) and, for some, they wouldn't want it; there are those who might find more comfort in immersing themselves back in their work (although I would tend to agree with most grief specialists that that is actually a grief avoidance choice...but that's neither here nor there.)

I went back to work about 5 months after the accident. It was good to be back, doing what I was good at doing, enjoying the company of some great co-workers, and getting back into "the groove" of things. However, it only took a couple of months for me to realize my heart just wasn't in it...the things that had previously "turned my crank" held no motivation or satisfaction for me. Leaving my job wasn't easy, but it was something that I knew in my heart was the best thing for me and for the organization. I could have stayed and just gone through the motions. Many of the people I provided support to may have never known...but, I would have...and I just don't think I could have endured that.

That was nine months ago. While there have been a few people, very few, who have been overly critical of me taking this time off, most of my family and close friends have been very understanding about how important it has been to me to be a relatively free spirit during since that time. I've been involved in some pretty high stress work environments over the past 15 years. That alone can seriously harm a persons emotional and psychological well being if it's not managed well and, to be honest, I had not been managing that stress well in the years prior to the accident. When that is added to the loss of a spouse and child, the impact can be overwhelming...I was overwhelmed.

I went out for my not-so-daily walk this evening and, in the course of normal events, popped my headphones in and started listening to the iTunes genius playlist I built a couple of weeks ago based on the song Why Should The Father Bother, by Petra. Of all the genius playlists I've built, this one seems to have more songs that I love than any of the others. It's a keeper. As I was getting into my last mile, I Am A Servant, by Larry Norman, came on. It got me thinking about this whole work thing and trying to figure out how I want to address it. Do I need to attack it aggressively? Do I need to just sit back and wait for something to come along that sparks my passion? What to do? What to do?

I am a servant, I am listening for my name,
I sit here waiting, I've been looking at the game
That I've been playing, and I've been staying much the same
When you are lonely, you're the only one to blame.

I am a servant, I am waiting for the call,
I've been unfaithful, so I sit here in the hall.
How can you use me when I've never given all,
How can you choose me when you know I'd quickly fall.

So you feed my soul and you make me grow,
And you let me know you love me.
And I'm worthless now, but I've made a vow,
I will humbly bow before thee.
O please use me, I am lonely.

I am a servant getting ready for my part,
There's been a change, a rearrangement in my heart.
At last I'm learning, there's no returning once I start.
To live's a privilege, to love is such an art
But I need your help to start,
O please purify my heart, I am your servant

I went through some counseling last month, it was something I should have done a while ago...better late than never. During one of my sessions, I mentioned that I'd been feeling a little pressure, both internal and external, to jump back into the "rat race." My only problem is I haven't come across that spark, that passion, the thing that is going to be good for me, good for those around me, and good for those for whom I am working. After hearing me out, the Godly couple I was working with provided me with the reassurance that when I was ready, God would provide what I was looking for, what I need, what He needs me to do. Beyond that, I should just seek His heart. Tonight, this song was a great confirmation for me that waiting is OK, patience IS a virtue. and it's OK to want it, long for it, even if I don't know what "it" is.

Over the past few weeks, as I've contemplated my next path, I have realized that I may need to open myself up to ideas and things that I may not have considered before. Maybe I won't just get a new job. Maybe I'll end up finding a whole new career. Maybe I'm right where God needs/wants me. Maybe all he wants me to do is write my blog. Can I learn to be content with that? Is there someone, somewhere, someday, who will read these things I've written and find their own spark, or be drawn closer to Him...just because I waited? I am a servant...waiting for the call.

Abba, I come to you in brokenness. I offer myself to you to be used in whatever way you need. Help me to sit, and listen for your call, to listen for the Master's voice. Purify my heart, I am your servant.