Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Forsaken Funereal

Courage out of struggle
The glass-ceiling closes in
Exhausted from rebuttal
Feeling like I cannot win

The clouds keep coming
The storms are relentless
Burden’s heavy drumming
Tearing down defenses

No love for self
No sign of light
Just a wounded animal
Out of fight

Scratching and clawing
In order to live the moment
The past a reflection
The future a lonely stone-tent

A cryptic heart and a broken body
Too weak to weep out the pain
The impossible fought me
Sending strength down the drain

Too fatigued to rise
Too young to retire
Through injured cries
In trail and fire

Stories that could inspire
Challenges that fill pages
Beaten to the mire
Darkness for cages

Where’s mercy?
Where’s grace?
For your servant’s disgrace

There’s persecution
Then, there’s abandonment
There’s the martyred
Or the forsaken

What am I without hope?
And forsaken.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Deconstructing and Rebuilding Dreams

In order for me to build new dreams, I have to deconstruct the dreams that have shaped who I am today. For over five years, I’ve been an active Youth Worker (as a volunteer and a professional)  and it is hard to see what is next for me in the ministry world. For more years than I can count, I’ve had one dream and that is to fall madly in love. These two things have driven my passions, brought out controversy, given me the times of my life, covered me in doubt, allowed me to give with more than I ever imagined possible, and left me very humbled. In fact, love and ministry have defined me – they have left me a changed man.

In a few of my posts, I have made it clear that my dream to be in love has undergone some serious evaluation and change. The question is, what do I do with those reevaluations? There are moments where I think the best thing for me would be to step away from dating altogether and pursue other goals. Yet, those moments are balanced with a desire not to sink into cynicism – I’ve been there and it’s not where I want to live. In turn, the best thing for me is to focus on my new developing goals and let love happen in the right timing. Of course, I’m not sure what that is because I’m notorious for bad timing. What is clear, is that my life is changing, and I don’t want to be stuck hurting over the way things have gone or dwelling on how I wish they would go differently.

In similar fashion, my time in the ministry field has had its share of ups and downs; it’s left me pondering what’s next and I’m not sure I have a clear idea. I love ministry, but ministry and I have sometimes been a dysfunctional family. It’s no secret that I’ve pushed the envelope, that I’ve created controversy at times, or that my attitude hasn’t always been in the game. The measure of my skills and character have been tested many times, but nothing like this past year. Right or wrong, I made mistakes in learning how to run a ministry that cost me my job and nothing has humbled me more than this experience. All I can do, is hope to move forward. I love God and I love ministry, but I need some inspiration. Thankfully, one of my best friends knew that I had love and talent for ministry and brought me onto his ministry team – it’s helped bring out smiles.

Nonetheless, my career and my life have been stuck because of the past. I constantly ponder whether this level of transparency helps or hurts my standing in ministry. This never-ending pondering, makes me wonder if my time in ministry has hit a precipice for change, letting go, and growing forward. I am not ready to retire from the ministry life.

In the past year, I feel as though I’ve found my limits or they have found me. Whether in love or ministry, I am on my knees, praying and seeking forgiveness. I want to live a dream. I’m the one that has to look myself in the mirror each day and realize that this is not where I wanted or expected my life to be after the journeys I’ve been blessed to have. Therefore, I pray for strength to have hope in a dream, confidence in my skills and abilities, and light in the midst of darkness. Lord, I need some inspiration, strength, and the ability to endure; so that I might share the gifts you’ve given me to inspire others.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday: Trial and Forgiveness

Tonight, I celebrated my second Maundy Thursday as a Lutheran and it was a beautiful, moving, experience. I haven’t forgotten Evangelical services I used to attend that gravitated towards an emotional response. But, this was very different. Now, I don’t long for or rely on emotions to move me spiritually. This evening, I had a genuine religious experience of emotion.

Truthfully, spirituality is not my thing these days – it’s been replaced by religion and orthodoxy. After practicing Lent, legitimately, for the first time in my life, I have had a lot of self-reflection. I gave up Facebook because it had become a large element of my life. God didn’t tell me to give up the social network, I’m sure the divine one would come up with something better than Facebook. I thought it would aid the process of reflection that I’ve been facing – I had no idea what I was in for – Lent has been a rude awakening.

Within the confines of Lent, my life has had some pretty major changes.  What do these things have to do with Lent and reflecting on sin and mortality? Potentially, nothing, but the season has changed my life.

When you take all that has happened during this Lent season into account, one can imagine that I’ve had a heavy heart. Christ’s death on the cross was and continues to be victorious over the condition of sin and its little individual sins that tag along for the ride. Right now, I am living in the forgiveness of the Lord; more than, simply, remembering it. In a way, I’d say one has to endure a little bit of death before they’re free to live. Of course, this may be subject to debate. The bottom line is that I was told to my face that my sin was forgiven and I felt it so much that I held back tears because I was too overjoyed to cry. Last, but not least, thank you Lord for not fast-forwarding me out this time of trial. Because, tonight wouldn’t mean what it does if you had produced an easier way out of life's hardships.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Word of God, Lamb of Grace: a Survey of John's Gospel Account , the First Chapter

Christ is the word of God; to some, this is a given, but to me it’s a revelation. Growing up Evangelical, the phrase, “Word of God,” was synonymous with scripture and the Bible. I’ve read this passage a thousand times and sort of glossed over the idea that Jesus is the word. It wasn’t that I never saw it, rather, I saw it differently – I saw it through a different lens. Christ being the word of God and with God is core to the function of this gospel account.
Furthermore, everything coming through Christ is broadcast differently, if Jesus is the word – I mean, how many more ways can you say that Jesus is the end-all-be-all? Without Christ, there is no faith, there is no salvation, there is no grace, there is no righteousness, and there is no sanctification. In other words, there is no choosing to follow Jesus; there is only acknowledging Jesus. As I read this passage I wanted to exegete the text, I didn’t read my Lutheran ideas into it. Instead, the text showed me how they truly work. Luther aside, this first chapter makes me wonder why I ever thought there was a choice involved.

Moreover, Jesus is life because everything else is death. There is the cross – the work of Christ – and then there is everything else. I can see why people would want to choose salvation or choose good over evil because not doing so makes us seem pretty helpless. Ironically, trying to put the choice in our hands neglects the truth that all things emanate from Christ. This passage seems pretty clear that salvation and sanctification are the work of God not humans (v. 13). Grace and truth came from Jesus – not the law – and that’s not a justification for doing whatever I please. The function of grace does what a decision for Christ is incapable of; grace covers the law and our inability to keep it perfectly. Grace is an act of kindness from a loving God and for many it will always be hard not to conceive grace as a license for mayhem.

Truly, the good news of Christ is that he takes away the sin of the world. For Evangelical Christians, the work of Christ allows us to be forgiven for our individual sins. For Theologians of the Cross, such as myself, the work of Christ takes away the effect of our sin condition (caused by Original Sin). For those who don’t acknowledge Jesus as Lord, Christ is redemption from the crap of this world and if you’ve ever wondered why so many bad things happen in this world then you might see why this world is in need of a redeemer. The event of the cross (Jesus’ death and resurrection) is our redemption act and Jesus Christ is our redeemer. If you don’t like it, I understand, but the work has already been done. Like I said, there’s the cross and then there’s everything else.

Hopefully, I hope I don’t come off arrogant because this is all pretty humbling for me. When I say that there is the cross and then there is everything else, I’m not saying it’s my way or the highway. I’m saying that the work of the cross is out of my hands – not because helplessness appeals to me – it is out of my hands because God is greater than me and kind enough to know that I need redemption. Indeed, I have heard the word of God and it is Jesus. Indeed, I have seen the light of God and it is Jesus. Indeed, I have received the Lamb of God and it is Jesus The Son of God is the word of God, a light in darkness, and a lamb of eternal grace. Thanks be to God.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lost in Transition

The events of life change us and I doubt this truth escapes the reality of being human. Dreams are often a core motivation for how and why people persevere in life. Occasionally, our dreams change or they change us.

As a result, I find that I am lost in transition. The challenge of having new goals is in determining what they are and how to fulfill a new dream. A large part of this transition period has been deep reflection on how and why I’m letting old dreams go and looking for new dreams. Past dreams have been a blessing, an accomplishment, an honor, and an endurance workout. But, sometimes, we want something so bad that it defines us, redefines us, and potentially breaks us.

Right now, my dreams are broken or, just plain, out of gas. Before I can move on to finding and embracing new dreams, I have to make amends for the old one. I owe a handful of women an apology (I would do this with you personally, but I’d rather leave the past behind us). I’m sorry for any word I’ve said or deed I’ve done between us to hurt you. At I move forward, it's time to focus on something else.

In time, I will no longer be lost in transition; I will have found a life-changing dream that proves to be what dreams are made of in life. Dreams have been very humbling because I finally had my dream in the palm of my hand and realized that now isn’t the time for that dream.

Honestly, writing this was unpleasant for me, but I felt I needed to admit it. I thank God for the grace of Christ through the work of the cross, without it, I can’t image how much more this would sting. Here’s to letting go of old dreams, here’s to embracing new dreams, and here’s to what dreams may come.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Music Curse
As some of my close friends know, I am a major Kid Rock fan. As a matter of fact, I think Kid Rock is one of the best, well-rounded, musicians walking God’s green earth. Though this piece is not about the Kid, his latest album Born Free sets the stage for this post. Born Free is nothing, like the Hip-Hop albums of the 1990’s that put Kid Rock on the map. Frankly, this fact displays Kid Rock as a music powerhouse and a man of amazing talent.

Now, what gets me is that artists (including myself) are criticized for sticking to their sound, but if they dare change it, it usually means they've lost their touch – this is a falsehood. I’ve been writing songs for a decade (I’m no Kid Rock) but if I were still writing the same stuff I was at the age of seventeen, I’d never grow as a musician. People ought to be allowed to change and evolve their art to fit a new canvas. I ran across some old Blues Traveler tonight and got curious to see if they had released anything since their 90’s hits (they’ve released several albums over the last fourteen years). Upon reading a review of their latest album (while sampling it of course) I felt that the critic slammed them for being more subdued than in the past. Honestly, no band should spit out the same album for nearly two decades.

Furthermore, a perfect example of why change is good, lies with the Rolling Stones. After a near fifty year run as a band they are still creative giants. Personally, I love spinning their new tunes right next to the hits that made them famous. The lives of music fans change throughout time, why shouldn’t the music of the artists they love? I hope I’m still creating music in another decade and I hope that it’s bigger, better, and on another planet from where I’m at today or where I’ve ever been before – art is about creating something and creation rarely comes in the form of re-creation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls: the Seasons Change

When the bell of change tolls we can ride it like a resounding gong or let it fade into indifference. The bell tolls for me. I face the next chapter of my life and I’ve chosen to face it differently. Never, did I think my dreams would change. Sadly, some dreams were not enough for me to ride the gong. A lot of self-evaluation has shown me, timing is important.

The bell tolls for me, yet again, as I face the fate of a different future. Soon, I will know whether I am up against surgery number ten or a road of physical therapy – the more things change, the more they stay the same. In this case, I will ride the resounding gong and do what must be done to return to a strong and healthy state. Having been through similar trials, I know this will take all the endurance and sacrifice I can muster – it is my priority.

Earlier today, I was reminded of prior bell toll of change. In about six weeks, it will have been three years since the passing of my mother. Remembering this event, I know that the bell tolls for us all and I am thankful for my place in life no matter how challenging it may be. God has provided, I may not have everything the way I’d like it, but life could be much worse, or the final bell could toll and it could end. The more I learn, the less I know as I walk down this road. I thank God for all that I have and for all that has come and gone.