I’m not good at balance. The pendulum of spirituality in my life drifts and swings back and forth from bitterness to worship, from selfishness to selflessness. It’s a constant wrestling match, this line I walk. Maybe it’s the same as mountains and valleys, but sometimes it seems more like a constant avalanche with a few seconds of holding onto ledges when I catch my bearings.
I want to be holy. I want to be pure. I want to find the rhythm of gods heart and connect my heart to that but I always seem to come just “this” close before I fall back down into the chasm that is distance.
Spiritual maturity has become an excuse for the death of passion.
May my life be used. May my heart be open to the things of a God who constantly searches for me and circles me. May my heart beat to the rhythm of a Creator who creates, daily, ways for me to connect with him.
"I have buried you - every place I’ve been. You keep ending up, in my shaking hands."
This is from a song of Justin Vernons (of Bon Iver greatness) “Song For a Lover of Long Ago.” While he may have written it for an ex girlfriend, it speaks much more to me. There are things I’ve buried, things I’ve left on the other side of the bridge and then cut the ropes only to find it again on this side. I’ve tried to let go of things, tried to run, but yet I’ve found there are still those things inside me.
And lately, it seems a flood has caused things to resurface and brought so many things that I have buried so long ago up through the ground. Whispers in darkness, things I have tried to drown out with success and prayer and ambition.
I don’t know if these things ever truly leave. Maybe we all have a “thorn in our sides” that we wish we could get rid of, words we wish we could hear, situations we could handle differently. I just don’t know.
What do I know? I know there is a God who loves us, a God who searches the Earth and the ground for the million little pieces our soul has been shattered in. A God who see’s the choices that we had no say in, and who chooses to heal them deeply, through hurt and through pain. A God who creates symphonies of love out of cries of brokenness and screams of anger. A God who looks at scars and hurt and pain and brokenness and says “I Am.” Whose grace is sufficient to pull every thorn away, even those that I don’t know about.
Scars are a testament to love. They are evidence that I can feel and love and hurt deeply. That I can be sliced open and I can still heal, can still live, can still love again. That when I heal, my scars make me stronger than I was at the start of this journey.
Scars are only ugly to those who can’t feel them.
There are memories that feel like a shipwreck. The pieces are scattered, can’t be put back together. They serve as reminders of what once was, what could’ve been, what will never be. What was shattered and what sent splinters everywhere. After a while you learn to swim and you learn to move to new places without the pieces of that shipwreck. You learn to sail again and to brave new waters. Steady, strong, slowly. The shipwreck gets smaller and smaller the further away you move from it.
There are reminders, sure. There always will be. There are paintings on the wall, the memories in the wind, a song, a food, the way your hair falls and blows in the wind. But they become fewer and fewer, and at some pint they serve to remind you just how far you’ve come, how far you’ve swam, how you’ve learn to sail again and how you are no longer alone.
We share our scars with others. They serve to help heal our wounds, to act as a bandage and to teach us to breathe again. To dive with us and help us build and help us swim.
Scars are only ugly to those who can’t feel them.
Instead of dropping our stones, we’ve turned into a culture that looks for a Bigger boulder. Since when was finger pointing the cool thing to do? Forget being a Christian, the greatest qualification we have is that we are humans. That qualifies us to seek grace and offer forgiveness. To give somebody the benefit of the doubt. We are supposed to protect one another. We are supposed to stand with those that are hurting, to fight for those that cannot fight themselves. Somewhere along the way in history, doubt has replaced hope and cynicism became our go to defense. We cut out world changing thoughts at the knees because we are uncertain and scared of what could happen if we were to latch on with hope and belief. We make ourselves feel better as we sit and doubt holding apathy by the reigns and cast spears, not caring where they land or who they’ll hurt. We forgot that we are all trying to change the world, one way or another. Whether it be through earning the almighty dollar or through loving somebody else, we all are hoping that our actions ripple throughout time and get caught in the current of life.
My heart is heavy tonight. Perhaps I am beginning to understand what it means to intercede. I am learning to stand in for somebody else. To take the brutal punches of cynical onlookers and those whose doubt only causes further pain. We can choose to love that way, and I’m afraid it only ends in a never ending tunnel of bitterness. Call me childish, but I believe in dreams and hope for days where we can truly change the world. Where we can hold hands with those around us and weep with them and build a hedge around them to protect them from the world. We are here to give people a break from the cruel world for a while, not to throw them further into the depths of it.
Think before you speak.
We’re all here, standing in your place tonight.
Fatigue will be my enemy.
It sneaks in, quietly, unnoticed, throughout the day, throughout the weeks it has grown and it has stolen compassion. It whispers “you don’t have time” or “we all have choices.”
As I drove through downtown Baltimore today, I took a wrong turn. I ended up on a street I haven’t been on. It was like I was instantly transported to another world. Closed stores, boarded windows, people in the street. For blocks and miles it continued like this…and I thought:
This is where I came from.
Yet, lately I’ve found I’ve closed myself off to this. Fatigue has stolen my compassion. Fatigue has so quickly made me forget where I came from and has made me lose sight of where I am going.
Maybe I have and maybe I still do use grace as a crutch. I don’t know. I don’t say that as a rebuttle, I say that as a confession. Every morning when I drive to work I watch the sun rise over the skyline of the city and I pray. I pray for things, for any and everything. I pray for hope. And this past week I’ve asked God to show me where I’m wrong and to help me to hate sin and to build some sort of strong character and that He shows me just how much I break his heart when I sin. Maybe that would make it more real to me and that would make me not mess up. But the more I pray and the more I think about it, the more I hear and feel God’s hands and arms holding me and saying that those things don’t matter. I think the power of grace and love is the fact that God’s view is always forward, never looking in the rear view. That’s not to say that sin is so real and sin is wrong, that’s to say that when God looks at me and looks at us, he see’s purity and beauty. Maybe when he said he was regretful he made man (back in the garden) it wasn’t because he was so angry, but he was moreso filled with remorse that we had seperated our hearts from his and he was regretful that he created us seperately. That he longed and still longs for the time where we can be one with him again, no longer living in a seperate space.
Maybe most of life is a war for persepctive. I drive to work and watch the sun rise, while on the other side somebody is sitting on a corner downtown in the shadows of buildings broken hearted because they can’t find a fix or they just found out they were pregnant or they haven’t seen their dad in years. I had a patient today. 27. HIV positive. Has struggled with IV drug abuse for years and he started to cry. His notes say he does this, that he knows the system because he’s been in and out of it for so long that he cries and feels bad and regretful but he never commits and he is noncompliant. But he cried and he cried because his daughter was also HIV positive. All of this was happening while the other doctors stood around, solid, maybe not judgemental but trained to be solid in situations where we can’t show emotions. On the inside I was crying along with him. Not because I can begin to even understand where he comes from, but because I understand grace. I understand the need for grace. I don’t understand his struggle but I understand that grace is a gift and that I have to choose to not buy into the lies that I am alone and that I am abandoned and that I was the cause for brokenness and that my life was not supposed to happen. Instead I’ve bought into the promise that my life was a gift and I was chosen and set apart and these dreams I have were because God put me into this generation and shaped me and molded me before I even knew it. I am loved beyond what I can understand. By the creator of the universe and by those around me. I just wish he could see that, too. That a CD4 count or three letters don’t give him a name, that his destiny isn’t over. That he can still make the choice to write a different story.
"Our families huddle closely, betting warmth against the cold. Our bruises seem to surface, like mud beneath the snow….May the melodies surround us, when the cracks begin to show." Sleeping At Last - Snow
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the phrase “the reason for the season” a million times, in one context or another, over and over again over the past month. I asked a few questions, like “what is advent?” Nobody really knew much.
Anticipation glimmering with hope. I think that is what came to me. 2000 years ago the world began to anticipate the one thing that could glue all the shattered pieces together. A little baby would go on to rewrite all history, disarm the world, remind the world daily that God is with us. Emmanuelle. God is with us. God. With us? Really? Every day, since the beginning of your life and infinitely before you took your first breath, God is with us.
In the darkness of fear and the sunshine of hope, God is with us.
As the lights glimmer on the tree we are reminded of what we do have, and what we don’t have. What we can’t offer to those that surround us, and how much they offer to us. It’s a time to anticipate presents, presence, smiles in the faces of love and surprises. Then, as the day passes the credits roll to resolutions and countdowns and a new picture to take. We frame our dreams in the lens and dream of closing the shutter.
Maybe that’s the real meaning of it all. A Hope that gave us hope. Hope to build our own future and our own memories. From bruises to an orchestrated beauty, brick by brick. Putting our fingerprints all over hope.
I guess thats my resolution. To hope, to love. To give everything I have. To love until I can’t. To show others that there is a better way to live.
Life is made up of moments and memories and words. We can intertwine those words into glimmers of hope if we choose, anticipating the next memory. With every gift, we are reminded just how important it is to start over.
And maybe there won’t be answers, but there will be resolutions, because wrapped in all that mess is hope. One day, we will be able to hear our hearts louder than our scars.
This is a season of hope. Where we realize the first half of the pages written matter no longer, and we rip them from the binding. Where we begin to see that the thickness of the pages in our right hand are much larger than the left and theres still so much left to fill in. This is a season where we realize that questions are really the only answers we need, and we take notes on that.
My life is full. My heart is warm. Ripping out the pages of fear and failure, I have so much hope.
When I forget my name, remind me
What defines me?
It is not my past. Not my mistakes or my triumphs. It is not my pain or my failures, nor my tears.
It is not my dreams or my ambitions. It is not medicine. Not my choices, my plans, my goals. My career. I am not defined by what is written on paper about me, how many degrees I have. I am not a number, whether significant or small. My relationships, my family, whether good or bad, do not define me.
I hope my life is defined by the smiles I cause. By the love that I allow to be show through me, a love that was shown to me. I hope I am not a person that is not defined by my reactions to things, but more-so my actions towards things. I pray that people see my heart and that my life is defined by the way I chose to live it. That it is transparent I love and believe in something so much greater than myself who facilitates things greater than I could have ever imagined. I hope I am if only a sliver of light, reflecting a greater light, that illuminates the fact we are apart of something so much better.
I hope my life paints a picture of grace, that I drown people in a sea of forgiveness and love, and I show them the way to redemption. Show me patience, so that I may be patient with others.
There are moments where my heart beats hard and I think its gonna leap out of my chest. When I feel like I can do anything, and I wish a door was in front of me so I could break it down and conquer the world. Or that I could climb a mountain and shout from the top and scream and listen to my voice echo.
2.5 years. Two-and-a-half years. I studied my butt off. For once in my life, I put everything I had into something. I had always taken the easy way out before. I hate to admit it, it pains me to actually type those words but they are true. I was given some sort of brains, whether a lot or a little, and I abused them and I mistook not being challenged as being bored. I let my life and my dreams be defined by “just enough.”
Then it happened. I realized that I had to fight for my dreams. Instead of writing them down and thinking about them, instead of closing my eyes and allowing myself to drift to a place of orphans and sutures and houses and kids and a wife, I realized that the more I let things slip away - the more I would lose sight of my dreams. I learned that dreams are given, but they are moreso earned through blood and sweat and tears. They are gained in the late hours when everybody else has given up. They come to fruition when you are out of breath, when sweat blinds your vision and when you have failed and failed and failed.
So. I did it. We did it. I am so blessed. My life is the culmination of something greater than me carrying me in His hands and for some reason looking upon me and giving me what my heart asks for. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I’ve been given what I have been, and I don’t know why I’ve chosen to forget about it at times. But I assure you, I see it now. I will choose to fight for it, for the rest of my life, I will guard my dreams and my blessings with my own two hands.
Thank you. For not giving up on me. For believing in me. For carrying my feet when they were tired and for picking me up when I would fall. Your whispers of grace and your strength has carried me further than I could have ever come on my own. You are the reason I am me. You. Are. Me. I am surrounded by friends and family and love and by dreams and grace and hope and beauty.
I’m tryin’ to put it all back together.
I’ve got a story and I’m tryin’ to tell it right.
I’ve got the kerosene and the desire.
I’m trying to start a flame in the heart of the night
Oh you gotta fire and it’s burnin’ in the rain.
I’m not sure if this is something I was born with. If this is something passed down, given to me. Probably. My dad was (and still is) this way. My mom was steady, firmly planted and let her roots go deep. She was content with being in one place and could withstand storms and winds.
My dad, on the other hand, runs. I’ve heard that there are those with wandering souls, or “nomads.” ”Papa was a rolling stone - wherever he laid his hat was his home.” So that blessing, or that curse, was probably passed on me. I’ve made my home in the most distant of places. I’ve slept on couches, in corners, even boxes. I learned (and this I get from my mother) to make a home out of wherever I am.
I don’t think it’s running. I don’t think it’s running from things I am scared of, or letting bridges burn. Maybe it stems from that, and maybe I am still sorting through some of that. I think it’s mostly been chasing my dreams…
So what do you do when you find your dreams and you wonder what in the hell you are doing and what to do with it?
You carry it. Carry with the weight of everything, the weight of what it is: fragile, brittle, delicate, sacred. When you find the answer to your questions you begin to realize your ears are too small to hear the echoes of those promises. I’ve pinned my dreams to my eyelids, for fear that I would lose them when I close my eyes, and they’ve been burned into my brain. And seeing these things, sometimes I am filled with fear. But like a hallway we must learn to walk through it, hands feeling for the walls beside us, behind us, in front of us. We must reach for a door handle and learn to shed a little light in as we cling to the hope of all this.
Maybe it’s been a journey of planting my feet, finding my way back home, wherever that may be. But, I’m almost home. Though my pockets are empty, my hands are overflowing with these letters I’ve left scattered all over, connecting the dots and criss crossing my dreams. I’m learning that they’ve all pointed to this moment, screaming at me to be present here and to pull in the echoes as it bounces off the walls as if to point the next direction I should go…but I’m seeing that I wasn’t meant to always go, to chase things with my net. That sometimes these things come to you and you’re meant to hold them there, hold them right here. This is home. An intangible place of safety and vulnerability and hope and love and passion and the only fear is the fear of knowing that all these rivers have been flowing into the same ocean, and my boat has been traveling this direction for quite some time. Though I can’t grasp it, I understand that this is what makes my heart breathe…That this pilgrimage is a secret one, and nobody understands this journey that you and I are on. So, one foot in front of the other.
I am almost home.
I don’t understand why things happen the way they do. Why it’s sunny one moment, and the next the clouds cover the sky and rain falls from the highest places. I don’t know why people are born to struggle, to work their asses off only to have to start over multiple times. I don’t know how to find purpose in genocide, in homelessness, in death, starvation and disease.
I don’t understand pain. I can’t grasp the complexity of a broken heart when somebody is here one moment and then today they leave us. Whether by choice of their own or somebody else’s.
Life is fragile. Death and pain and loss are constant reminders of that and how our choices effect the circle of those people our life and fate (read: God) has chosen to connect us with. There is freedom and honesty when a hand is raised and people ask for help. Most never get to that point. So we need to listen. Listen to the cries of a broken heart and be reminded that things are broken even if they seem to be put together. People respond to love and we all need to be rescued.
Sometimes we get lost in all the losing. We lose our innocence in the midst of defeat and think that our strength is found in hiding our secrets. Maybe that’s a lie. Maybe strength is found in the person who says “I need to talk…” or “I have this weight on my shoulders, this lie I’ve been carrying….”
The easy answer is to say that God is enough. That everything will be okay. That there is a “brighter day.” The harder answer is to say: you have to choose to walk forward. You have to choose to walk through the thickness of hurt and pain, and you will carry the weight of questions for a while. Your choice will be to not give up, to not quit. To carry hope and grace to those around you and to be a poster hanging on the walls to shine grace and redemption and victory of your own demons.
Sometimes all we can do is walk forward. Within that walking you’ll find maybe a bit of peace, that even the deepest wounds begin to heal and even the tiniest splinters of shattered glass can be found and the pieces put together again.
I believe in a God who loves, a God who hurts with His creation and who aches with His people. I believe in a God who doesn’t scream judgement but screams in the face of pain in the most quiet of moments. A God who longs to wrap His arms around His children and show them that tomorrow, a brighter day with new rays of hope will surely shine through the midst of the current storm.
"But Where is god in the night sky?
Where is god in the city light?
Where is god in the earthquake?
Where is god in the genocide?
Where are you in my broken heart?
Everything seems to fall apart
Everything feels rusted over
Tell me that you’re there
I know that there is meaning to it all
A little resurrection everytime i fall”
"I just want to be not what i am today
I just want to be better than my friends might say
I just want a small part in your passion play”
Cynicism. It can be your best friend. Or at least, it was mine for quite a while. It’s like this when you believe its lies: It leads you down a hallway, starts out with laughs, things like that….you know, innocent stuff. Then, all of the sudden the lights are off and you can’t see anything but the thick black in front of you. You’re left with the glowing images of what used to be there only a second ago and you hold your hands out in front of you feeling for the walls of your past beliefs. And you begin to wonder how you got here, in the midst of nothing, so fast and so quick and so alone.
It was all a mask, really. A mask for fear, disbelief, hurt, the pain of not seeing promises come to pass and seeing dreams fail. So, you start to joke and poke fun and it’s easier to laugh than it is to admit you have no idea why in the hell things happen the way they do and why things crumble so easily and why you’ve prayed for the same thing for years but are only now realizing it probably won’t happen.
If I had to sum up what I believe, or why I believe what I believe in one word (which I couldn’t) I guess I could say:
hope. or maybe love. but a lot of hope and a lot of walking.
I learned really young that the only way to carry the weight of dreams forgotten, or promises that were broken was hope. Hope that one day they would happen. Hope that they weren’t forgotten, that they were buried somewhere, not too far below the surface and that maybe one day the rain would come and wash the soil away uncovering your true desires and you would live to see the fruit of that belief. I learned that it’s okay to pile it all in the same place, faith and doubt, pain and hope, love and brokenness.
Those wounds that happened, maybe some were done to you, or because of things you did. Maybe they were on behalf of somebody else, either accidental or on purpose. Those wounds aren’t allowed to destroy you. They are a part of your story, and they matter. They may seem so enormous at times, or they may seem so minute. You may tell yourself they don’t matter, but they do. They don’t define you. Hope says “you are not that.” Hope knows you will appear on the other side of it all, still standing, shoulders back and nose in the air.
Time will pass. Slowly, little by little, the pain will fall and you’ll be left with a beautiful end. The pain of loss, of losing somebody you love, the pain of unforgivness, of abandonment, will fade. You’ll learn to believe again. You’ll learn to love again. You’ll learn to see that this world is good, that its filled with treasures for you to uncover and dreams for you to fulfill. And the best thing is you aren’t alone. We’re all here, looking for a hand to hold, a shirt to cling to. Somebody to tell us it’s okay to be afraid, somebody to grab on to that will keep us from falling down. Somebody to show us how to live, to show us how to hope, together…in the midst of all of it.
Theres a story to be written, and without your hope and a lot of walking, words will never fill your pages.
Life is funny sometimes. Most of the time, I guess.
You fight, and fight. And you fight some more and push like hell and wrestle with your dreams and your future and your heart. And then one day, you kind of just stop and stand still and decide that you aren’t really giving up but you aren’t really giving in and you just aren’t….going to give but that you are still here.
And I think that’s when life happens. When you finally give it a chance to work and to untangle the mess you created with your little hands, things begin to move and fall into place. For years, you bang your head against a wall and into selfish ambition only to stop and discover “Hey….that’s not really what I want.” And that ricochets into every corner of your life, the parts that you thought were gone.
Then you start living. You breathe a bit deeper, smile a bit bigger, laugh deeper. The air is more fresh. You find your heart, in the midst of chaos and quietness, you are there. Splintered from the shattered pride and things you created, you are there, still standing.
Sometimes you have to let go and get your hands out of things to find life.
It feels good to be alive. To feel like you are home after years of feeling that home was just an abstract place and something you’d always dig for but never truly discover. Independence is a form of selfishness that tends to burrow itself deeper and deeper within your soul the further you let it. It hides there, always telling you that you are stronger, and a fighter, and you don’t need anybody to lean on. That you don’t need a home, you were made this way, with a sojourners heart.
Maybe those are lies. Maybe home isn’t really a place or a structure. Maybe its somebody else. Maybe its contentment and relationships and intentionality and friends and something so much greater than our own dreams and our own ambitions. Maybe it’s learning to fall in love with the world again.