Monday, June 06, 2011

an old pair of new shoes.

My buddy / Co-worker Jake gave me my first pair of cowboy boots. I feel like the marks the beginning of a new era.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

What Child Abuse Taught Me About God's Favor

...and other benefits of skipping 3rd Grade.
Aaron moved in next door the summer after my second grade year. On a street full of houses mine was the last one on the right, and on the other side of our fence was a small apartment building. It was a strange location for apartments but as a kid those ugly brown buildings just held significance as the place where my best friend slept when he wasn’t at my house. Aaron’s mom had just gone through a divorce and was trying to get back on her feet. She and my mom became close as well.

The year my mother started homeschooling me I would have been going into third grade. A few other moms from church were homeschooling their children and convinced her to jump on the band wagon. But she didn’t just start teaching me; she started homeschooling Aaron as well. Since Aaron was a year older and starting 4th grade my mother decided third grade wasn’t that important and started me in fourth as well.

Homeschooling with my mom, who had been diagnosed with Lupus and Fibromyalgia a few years earlier, was a mixed bag. Some days she’d be in full teacher mode. Other days looked more like a list of assignments in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and the rest of the day playing with action figures and reading comic books until Aaron’s mom picked him up after work. I liked those days better.

Aaron was not the easiest best friend to have. He was taller than me, a better drawer than me, had more girls who liked him than me and he “accidentally” broke my ankle... twice. Also there were the 11 stitches on the top of my head thanks to Aaron and an incident with a large icicle. Come to think of it I’m lucky to be alive. Ironically I think we were both a little jealous of each other. My mom had just re-married so I had a Dad, and a house, and a mom who didn’t beat me.

I remember quite vividly an afternoon at Aaron's’ apartment, he got in trouble for mouthing off to his mom and she got so angry she smacked him across the face with a pair of scissors. As a kid you don’t know what to do in those situations. I remember being pretty scared. A few weeks later he lied to my mom about something and she called him out on it. She told him she would have to tell his mom and he’d have to write out I will not tell lies to Mrs. Morris  on paper a million times (okay it was probably only a hundred but when you’re in third fourth grade it’s the same thing). I was so afraid of his mom’s anger and punishment that I begged my mom to let me take the blame. We hadn’t been going to church that long but I threw out some beginner Sunday School jargon about grace and Jesus taking our punishment.

So I did. I wrote until my arm felt like it was going to fall off and then I wrote some more ... I will not lie to Mrs. Morris. And, yes, I wrote it out as if I were Aaron, which might have been the hardest part because for those few hours she wasn’t my mom. She was “Mrs. Morris”. Later in life she told me how hard it was to not just let me go and excuse the whole exercise. I wish I could say there were never times later that year when I was getting in trouble that I wished he’d stepped in and done the same for me ... or when he “accidentally” shot me in the arm with is Blow Dart Gun I didn’t think, “Seriously?! After all I’ve done for you?”

Then again I was 9.

What I did for Aaron had nothing to do with how nice he was to me, or how cool I thought he was. I mean, yes, I looked up to him; but in that moment it was my nine year old understanding of anger and pain that made me want to step in and rescue him. I had seen firsthand what would happen if his mom got upset and so it was compassion - not his height, or drawing skills, or luck with the ladies - that was at the heart of me taking the fall for my friend.

Isn't that what the Gospel is all about?" Jesus taking the fall for us? The fall of Adam, the fall of man, of humanity! Not because of how much he likes us or how cool we are (though He is fond of us!) but simply because He is good. He LOVES us, wants to be reconciled with us, and doesn't want to see us suffer... “That NONE should perish.”

Things with work have been pretty rough lately. Finances have been tight. And I've been thinking a lot about favor; about how growing up I heard that if God liked you enough he’d give you favor and money and nice cars. Sometimes when work gets slow I wonder if maybe God just doesn't like me or something.
I know, technically, that's not true but it's sort of this subtle conditioning that I have to fight against.

The more I read and study the more I wonder if favor is less about God building us up and setting us on some high pedestal and more about grace, and coming down to walk along side us, making way for redemption, loving us. I was looking at one of the words for “favor” specifically in Proverbs 3:3-4

3Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
       Bind them around your neck,
       Write them on the tablet of your heart.
4So you will find favor and good repute
       In the sight of God and man.

From the Greek and Hebrew
favor gracious, pleasant, precious, well-favored
From chanan; graciousness, i.e. Subjective (kindness, favor) or objective (beauty) -- favour, grace(-ious), pleasant, precious, (well-)favoured. see HEBREW chanan  beseech, fair, be, find, show favorable, be deal, give, grant graciously

A primitive root (compare chanah); properly, to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; causatively to implore (i.e. Move to favor by petition) -- beseech, X fair, (be, find, shew) favour(-able), be (deal, give, grant (gracious(-ly), intreat, (be) merciful, have (shew) mercy (on, upon), have pity upon, pray, make supplication, X very.
see HEBREW chanah

To bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior...which reminded me of this...Philippians 2

3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
I wonder if it's possible that I've spent all these years praying for the "Favor" of God when maybe I've had it all along.

What if it was that simple? What if the favor of God was simply the cross, and redemption, and the humility of a king being emptied that our hearts might be filled. I wonder if the fullness of God’s favor comes from unity and selflessness. Maybe favor is just the grace to keep loving God and loving others.

I once had someone pray over me and they said they felt like God was saying I was going to wear nice clothes and drive nice cars, and that He was going to use me to bring millions of dollars into the kingdom while having one foot in the ministry and one foot in the business world. I used to get frustrated when my bank account would be in the negative and I’d say to God (sarcastically), “where are those millions you promised?!?” And who knows? Someday I might look back and find that the old man who prayed for me was right. But the truth is, the balance in my bank account has nothing to do with how much God loves me.

Am I blessed and highly favored? Let me answer the question with a question. Did Jesus rise again?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I learned about the trinity from breathing.

I’ve been thinking about the trinity lately; about how I’m not sure if it’s really like an egg or an apple or water/ice/steam. Isn’t part of the beauty of God the fact that He’s a mystery? Let me ask the question in much less spiritual way. If the last scene of INCEPTION ended any differently would it have been as good of a movie? There’s something frustratingly beautiful about the unresolved tension of the unknown.  
There is a more full explanation of the following quote toward the end of this video start 7:45 - the end.


The Jewish name for God – Yahweh – was not spoken, but breathed.
Its correct pronunciation is an attempt to imitate the sound of
inhalation and exhalation. We do that every moment: our first and
last word as we enter and leave the world.
Richard Rohr

In Genesis we read the creation story and see the spirit moving across the face of the waters. That word spirit is “Ruah” and it’s Greek equivelant is Pnuma” which means to breath, more specifically to blow. Which is what we see happening as life is breathed into Adam. And we have Jesus referred to the “word in the beginning, that became flesh” All three of these things are very much connected to the mouth.

Life is sustained by breathing in the essence of God; by inhaling and exhaling love.
The Holy Spirit is that exhaled wind breath that doesn’t just sustain but forms and shapes. And when breath and exhalation are mixed with sound it creates the essence of love in truth, the word clothed in humanity.

Definition for “VOICE” by Webster.
c : expiration of air with the vocal cords drawn close so as to vibrate audibly (as in uttering vowels and consonant sounds as \v\ or \z\)

Loving God and Loving others is like inhaling and exhaling. Jesus is simply the perfect example of how to breathe. To live is pray without ceasing.

Israel Redeemed -Isaiah;43
1 But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: "Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and flame will not scorch you.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Babies on planes that teach me about Jesus.


I was sitting on the plane on my way to Dallas, next to a single mom who was visibly concerned that her child was going to be disruptive over our next 90 mins in the air together. Apparently the previous leg of the trip was quite rough for the young one. That’s in the top five worst air travel scenarios right?
  1. Sitting next to a screaming 2 year old.
  2. Sitting between two people who just asked for seat belt extensions.
  3. Having a connecting flight that leaves 10 mins after the first one landed late and having to sprint to concourse double Q.
  4. Drawing the losing straw in the TSA pat down/naked x-ray game
  5. Being stuck in Baltimore for 3 days because of a snow storm.

But I was prepared; I had my new smart phone loaded with some movies to watch and the worlds largest set of noise canceling headphones. So imagine my surprise when the potential noise maker started making oogley eyes at me. Her mom held her close and the little baby girl started petting my arm, I was sort of distracted at first by my phone cinema. But she fell asleep, head on her moms chest, hand on my arm. I don’t think the mom even noticed and I honestly thought it was kind of cute.

We all do this sometimes, instinctively, we reach out somewhat blindly for comfort, to feel connected, to feel love. It’s not always a healthy or wise endeavor. It can get twisted and show up between adults in the form of misappropriated sexual activity, competitiveness, fame mongering and a number of other self centered outcries. The “me monster” takes over and we lose ourselves.

But deeper than all of that there is something good and right and true. Something waiting to be redeemed. An opportunity to respond to the kingdom and interact with the Gospel.

Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them.

Jesus' touch, His hands, were an instrument of wellness. God give me the grace and let my hands be like His. When my neighbor, friend, and stranger reach out, out of their brokenness and into mine, may they be met with redemption, restoration, and a loving grace that is covered and anointed in the very essence of Jesus. Jesus whose hands not only healed the sick, but also took nails and flowed blood so that none should perish.

Oh church let’s not forget that we are named as the very same; Hands of redemption. Broken that redemption may abound. Though the idea of being the "hands and feet of God" is not a direct bible quotation, we are the Embodiment of Jesus the Christ.

A prayer of St.Teresa of Avila
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet, on earth but yours.
Your are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet
With which He walks to do good.
Your are the hands
With which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet.
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes, through which He Looks
compassion on the world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Who are YOU?


I'd like to start a conversation; with a question. What is it that defines us? 
For some it's work, faith, community, and so on. I'm not so much interested in the the "right" answer 
as I am in digging into the honest tension of identity. 

For those of you who are believers, that is you maintain some level of personal relationship with God. I'd like to take the conversation just a bit deeper and ask. 

1. What is your view of your spiritual identity and how did you arrive there?
2. what makes up the you underneath

There are lots of tools out there like "love languages", "strengths finders", core values, spiritual gifts, and others. Have you found any of these helpful, and in what ways?  Maybe you have a story of a moment when your identity became solidified in a tangible way. A mission trip that changed you or a family tragedy. 

Maybe your not a believer in the evangelical sense. What is it that drives you, motivates you, gives you purpose? 
My interest is not in debate, but rather in honest dialogue. My curiosity is in the human spirit and what brings it to life. What does the journey look like, what is the arc of the narrative of personal development? How self aware are you and why? 
What are the thieves of substance that rob us of who we are and who we are designed to be? 


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hipsters, E-Harmony, and Why You Should Date God

Spiritual Truths from Online Dating

Going to see live music is just part of the fabric of life in Nashville. At one point, while I was trying to sell myself as a music producer I was getting 6-10 show invites a week in my inbox. Going to all the shows is financial suicide; death by cover charge and PBR. But the night I met Alex and Rachel I was out to see a close friend of mine play drums with his new band. “The End” is an interesting little joint. It has all the trappings of a dive bar; the dim lighting, the poster-littered walls, and the big ole’ sound guy who’s been there since country was cool the first time. That particular night it seemed like all of the hipsters were in a swank match to see who could have the skinnier jeans and the more artsy fedora. The room felt like a Hollywood caricature of the Nashville Scene. Like some director filled the room with pretty people straight out of an urban outfitters catalogue. I remember thinking, “Where are all of these people in real life? I never see them out in the wild”.

Alex and Rachel were one of those unbelievably good looking couples. We began chatting while the stage was being reset for the next band. There was small talk for a bit and then I happened to ask how the two of them met.

“E-harmony” Alex said.

I honestly thought he was joking at first but he went on to tell the story. Alex was new in town and didn’t know anyone. He signed up for the service and met Rachel just a couple weeks later. They were just friends at first but it quickly became something deeper. My conversation with the pretty hipster couple didn’t go much further, the next band came on and I left after their set.

Later that week, I received an email informing me I could make a profile and try a free weekend on one of the online dating sites. I gave it a shot. I went out with Erica, the feisty sarcastic hairdresser who was slightly less attractive than profile pictures lead me to believe; Angie, the nanny who tried to get me in bed after the first date; and Danielle, the bartender who would have been perfect if she knew as much about Jesus as she did about Jersey Shore. I decided three strikes were enough for me. That was the end of my online dating adventures.

The thing about the online approach is that while a profile page can give you a picture of someone, tell you about them, let you know how much you have in common; a profile is not in and of itself a relationship. It leaves much to be desired. The inflections of a voice, the gentle touch of their skin, the goodness in their eyes are the things you cannot experience from a website.

And so I ask this question. I wonder if Scripture is like God’s E-Harmony page to humanity. Move past the obvious irony and consider it for a moment. The written word gives us a picture of who God is, but it is not the relationship itself. It’s a starting point but not and end unto itself. John tells us the “Word” has existed since the beginning. It was the Word that brought creation to life and that same Word that became humanity and gave up His life to redeem the very creation He once formed. To “obey” the Word is to follow Christ. Not Just a historical figure but rather the essence of truth and love that was embodied in Jesus and has existed throughout time.

Is the written Word profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction and instruction in righteousness? Yes. But I submit to you the idea that maybe we could view this written Word as a diving board into a deep pool of relationship. Forgive me for my harshness here but I am beginning to believe the reason we as believers strive so hard for dogma and doctrine is because the idea of a truly relational God by proxy of the Holy Spirit in our lives is scary.

Do you believe your God is big enough to care about you and your specific situation to speak to you in a real way? Is the Heavenly Father you pray to more than some cosmic pen pal who wrote us a letter 2000 years ago and hasn’t responded since because He assumes all we need to know is written in the first letter? I have a hard time believing that. Either God is alive and well and breathing and moving and desperately longing to have an intimate relationship with His beloved or He’s not.

The God I know is wildly imaginative, insatiably personal, eternally relational and in no way stoic, formulaic or mathematical. Do you want the 66 book e-harmony pocket edition Jesus or do you want the fullness? Brother, Sister, I implore you ... hear what I am saying. The Word of God is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. All of it. So yes! Take in all that scripture has to offer. Let it be a firm foundation for your faith.
But honey there’s more.

So much more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Back-story

North of Chicago, right on Lake Michigan, there’s a little town called Kenosha. I get up there once a year or so to spend time with one of my spiritual fathers and his family. I also go up there to clear my head and slow things down for a couple days. There’s a great little coffee shop on the water called Common Grounds where the barista asks questions like, “If you could be personified by one event in history, what would it be?” It’s the kind of place I imagine an author writing some inspiring memoir or iconic piece of fiction in; the kind of place that feels like it should be experienced in black and white.

Just down the road on the Main Street, which feels like the main street in many small towns, is a flower shop called Summer’s Garden. On one of my trips, I stopped in to kill a few minutes before the wine bar next-door opened up. There was a fantastic aroma coming from the front of the store but it wasn’t the flowers. It was soap! There were a number of different scents, some smelled more like something I wanted to eat than use in the shower. The shop owners, Lyna and Kevin, were so kind – I must have asked them a million questions about soap and they answered every one. Lyna makes it at home. She explained the process and the ingredients and the difference between good soap and great soap. She also told me about growing up in Kenosha and living in two houses her whole life. She began to tell the stories of each of the soap labels which were old family photos repurposed. Lyna had a fascinating story. I was so glad to have spent those ten or fifteen minutes listening before buying some soap to take home. I wasn’t just buying soap though – I was investing in her story.

One of the things I love about my church is the importance Pastor Jamie places not only on the narrative of the gospel but also on the interpersonal narratives within our community. Almost every year our small group takes a few weeks and gives everyone in the group an hour or so to share their back-story. It has really helped to create a deeper “soul environment”. It’s not easy telling people where you’ve been and what you’ve done but when you are with people that love you it takes the pressure off. It also opens up space for a continued conversation. The idea that a story doesn’t have to be a testimony is kind of refreshing. I mean that in the context of creating a space where the person sharing their back-story knows that it’s an unfinished narrative and it doesn’t need a happy ending. I’d like to share one such story with you, this is Sherry’s story – it’s not pretty but it is beautiful.
I was a victim of childhood molestation at the age of 5-6. As a teenager I got involved with drugs and alcohol. I overdosed in Jr. High. I was raped at 15 and began to live a promiscuous life style. By the end of my senior year I was pregnant and that pregnancy ended in abortion due to pressure. I moved from home just before I turned 18, into the home of a man twice my age that I had known for less than a month. We married 2 years later and the marriage ended in its first year. I had another relationship that resulted in a pregnancy and the father pressured me into having an abortion. Shortly after, he ended the relationship and moved across the country. I met another man that I shared my secrets with who assured me he loved me and he would never leave if I got pregnant. When I found myself pregnant once again, he tried to pressure me to have an abortion, saying it was something I had done in the past and he didn’t see why I couldn’t do it again. But I chose to carry my baby this time, and did it as a single mom.
I felt guilt, shame, rejection, abandoned, and damaged for all the bad choices I had made. I didn’t know how my life could change. But I loved my baby more than anything and I wanted to be better.
I tried psychological counseling but they wanted to excuse my behavior as “the only choices I could have made at the time” when deep down inside I knew that wasn’t the truth. The memories haunted me. My health was suffering, and I ended up having to take leave from my job.
Surgery and chronic pain left me addicted to pain meds and as a result my doctor placed me in a hospital for withdrawal. However, the in-house psychologist decided I should stay longer to address the past issues. I was in denial of my need or their ability to handle my need. My 3 day stay became a 30 day stay.
I hated being there, separated from my child. One night I cried out to God – on my knees in the library, asking if there really was a God, would he help me, admitting I couldn’t do it alone.
Through the rehab program I met my husband. He brought us to a church where I heard that Jesus loved me and wanted to forgive me for all my sins. In December of 1988 I was introduced to Jesus in a personal way and was amazed that He loved me and would forgive me for all I had done.
I was excited to be involved in church, serving in the office, prayer meetings, learning, and eventually even leading ladies studies. But inside of me I still cringed every time I heard a message on abortion and the murder it was. I sat in silence, guilt, and shame, believing that if anyone knew my story they wouldn’t want me teaching their kids, leading studies or even be part of fellowship. I was forgiven, but still in bondage.
I heard a woman speak on the radio one day who talked about the affects of abortion on women. When she listed the symptoms of post abortion trauma she was talking to me and the tears flowed down my face. I contacted the ministry and that was the beginning of my transition from forgiveness to healing.
The Word of God taught through the study helped me to see my sin and my life in light of God’s Word; to identify areas I needed to confess of my sins and ask forgiveness. But it also identified areas in my life where I needed to be willing to forgive what others had done that hurt me and showed me how to depend on God’s grace to walk out the choices of forgiveness.
Psalms 32:3-5 says, “When I kept silent in my sin my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was zapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” and you forgave the guilt of my sin”.
The enemy wants to keep us silent, groaning, drained, depressed and guilt ridden, but God doesn’t want that for us. God not only forgave the sin, he forgave the guilt of the sin. Continued guilt from confessed sin is not from Him.
Healing is a process…Confession and forgiveness is huge parts of that process.
Years ago a medical professional sexually molested me during therapy. I was devastated. I was almost crippled, as if I were the 5 year old child. But this time was different, I knew God, and I knew He would help me. So this time, instead of living in fear, hiding and owning someone else’s actions, with the support of my husband, my child, and my pastor I addressed it head on. It was one of the hardest and most painful things I ever faced. But, I was not alone. God’s love and grace walked with me through every uncomfortable step. And when the trial was over, although my assaulter was let go, I was free in a way I had never known possible. I had done the right thing and stood up.
As a result, I went to the ministry where I began my walk of healing, and inquired to become a bible leader and online counselor. I completed that training in 2008 and have since then shared my story with individuals, spoken at churches, and banquets. God did the healing and He always goes before me and prepares me when I speak. In 3 years I have worked with over 50 women through this program, either online or in person.
Most Christians know that I John 1:9 say’s “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” So, we know that God forgives our sins, but it is common for women and men involved with abortion to read this verse and think, “every sin but this one”. But 1 John 1:9 doesn’t say “every sin but this one.” It says; He forgives us all our sins, even “this one”.
I don’t live in my past. I don’t glorify my past. I seek to glorify the one who redeemed me from my past and made me whole… Jesus. When he places a hurting woman in my life, be it as a result of the ministry, or in an unexpected place, I am no longer ashamed; I know who I am in Him. That is true freedom.
It would be easy to zoom in on any part of Sherry’s story and be angry at God, on the surface it seems that there were decades where His goodness was missing. I don’t have an explanation for this. I do know that God worked all of that hurt and pain together for good. God is a God of redemption. Her love for God hopes all things and believes all things and has kept no record of wrong doing.

The narrative of Sherry’s life is deeply personal because the third pregnancy, the child she decided to carry was me. She is my mother.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Angel on Ice Skates

Unity of the adventure

Rochester, NY is known for a few things; like being home to the Kodak Film Co., Zwaggals Hot Dogs, their delicious Garbage Plate, and being bitterly cold in the winter. I spent this particular weekend in Rochester working on some demos in the studio. Mark’s brother was in a band and they had a pretty killer recording set up at his house.

On a good day the trip from Rochester back up to campus took about 4 hours. Winter weather however, is always somewhat of an unpredictable mystery. Between the lake effect snow, incoming nor’easters, and the occasional ice storm, the ride to Potsdam, NY can stretch out to six or seven hours. This was one of those rides; driving ten to fifteen miles under the speed limit, through white-out snow, wearing out whatever cd was in the deck. It was somewhere in the seventh hour that the snow turned to ice. The sun was setting and the road began to freeze.

Other vehicles had already pulled over but I am from New England. We believe we’re nearly invincible when it comes to storms and we are stubborn. I kept driving. I drove with the car in low gear and went no faster than 10 miles an hour. As I crested a hill and began the descent my wheels started to slip on the now thickening sheet of ice that had replaced the pavement. My little car was drifting. I knew I was in trouble.

My car slid off the road and hit another car, it was the only other vehicle for miles. Crunch! I got out and assessed that there wasn't any serious damage. Nor was there anyone around. I managed to get my little car out of the ditch and out of the way but there would be no more driving in this weather. The road was a sheet of ice.

My cell phone had no reception, the temperature was below freezing and dropping, and I was alone on highway 11 with a car in the ditch and nothing but a set of ice skates in the trunk. Staying in my car until it ran out of gas and I started losing appendages to frostbite seemed like a bad plan. Not that my contingency was much better. You know that Joni Mitchell song about skating away on a river? I kind of tried to do that. I strapped on that pair of ice skates in the trunk, locked my car, and started gliding – quite ungraciously – down the road. My skating escapade lasted about two miles before a set of head lights was shining behind me. Miss Annette and her family were intending on driving from NYC to their daughter’s new college due north. Unfortunately they had driven about 4 hours west when I met them. Miss Annette was a Jazz singer on the lower east side – a lovely women with a beautiful family. The picked me up and we braved the next several miles together. I told them about driving in a lower gear for traction and they told me about their crazy road trip across the state of New York. Eventually we made it into town, eyes tight from laughing.

They dropped me off at the top of the block. I waved goodbye and they shouted, “Thanks for being our angel on ice skates.” Since I left my shoes back in my car I clopped up the steps to my friends' house like a kid on the first day of pewee hockey. The next morning there was a knock on the bedroom door.

"J, the NY State Police are on the phone."
“Son we are going to need you to come down to the station and fill out some paper work.”

Good morning to you too officer.

I went to the station and told them what happened. They were practically rolling on the floor as I told the story. One of the officers had actually seen me and thought for sure I was a drunken fool out of his mind. I got a ticket for "skating away from the scene of damaged property" but to be truthful, it was totally worth it. I called the woman whose car I damaged to apologize and she was very gracious.

While I only shared a short period of time with Miss Annette and her family they were grateful for my company, the story, and even the advice from someone who had just learned the hard way what not to do. If anything, they saved me from my own silliness. But being an “angel” to them wasn’t like a hero reaching down and pulling a peasant out of the dirt, saying, “Oh you poor thing – let me help you.” It was all of us on the same adventure together; they were saving me too. I wonder if the greatest heroes don’t rescue victims but rather rescue friends. When we come along side of each other and really see one another like neighbors and family then we give and receive so great a help. The dualism of “us” and “them” begins to break, and the unity of loves begins to triumph.

“I wonder if anything is more urgent today, for the honour of Christ and for the spread of the gospel, than that the church should be, and should be seen to be, what by God’s purpose and Christ’s achievement it already is – a single new humanity, a model of human community, a family of reconciled brothers and sisters who love their Father and love each other, the evident dwelling place of God by his Spirit. Only then will the world believe in Christ as Peacemaker. Only then will God receive the glory due to his name.” -John Stott, God's New Society

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Nice Legs & Jesus

Miscommunication Heartbreak and the Holy Spirit

I missed the first couple weeks of class due to my trip to Europe with Mark the Photo Journalist, which wouldn’t have been a big deal save one very important piece of information. This media course required 10 one-page paper assignments to be turned in throughout the semester. That much was made clear. What wasn’t communicated was the academic value of these seemingly inconsequential tasks. So I missed a few here and there, shrugged a couple off, and at the end of the semester was met with a very surprising F. My assumption was that skipping a few simple assignments would be innocuous. I was wrong. Those suckers were worth 60% percent of the grade.

I did, however, meet Kelly the Communicator in that class. She sat two rows behind me. I looked over my shoulder a lot that first class. I liked her right away. She was attractive and she laughed at my jokes. She was the first girl I met who possessed a self-help, pop psychology, relationship book library as large as mine. I started walking Kelly back to her dorm after class; we would flirt and exchange stories. I remember being too scared to ask for her number so one day after class I said, “Hey call me later and let me know if you’re going to the basketball game” at which point, in a moment of successful manipulation, I got her to ask for MY number.

She quickly became a very close friend to both my sister and I; which was perfect at the time. Kelly is the kind of girl that makes a guy want to grow up and become better. She carries herself well, she’s articulate, and she is very loyal. When a couple guys from my floor decided to get a house off campus, Kelly and my sister decided it would be fun to rent out the house next door with a couple other girls. And so was the beginning of our little community. I finally asked Kelly the Communicator out at the end of the spring semester. She was the first girl I dated since high school. I was living the dream; dating the girl next door, playing music with my roommates and racking up heaps of student loan debt to do it.

Kelly was a great teammate, a trait I probably took advantage of too much. She was constantly helping me with class and even some of the work I was doing at the time. After my car was stolen she became my chauffeur. That poor girl did the best she could to put up with my worst. Looking back my truest failure was in my disillusion; I wanted to be a rock-star, plain and simple.

I think Kelly liked the idea of dating a musician until we started talking about the future. All of a sudden the uncertainty overshadowed the excitement and lent itself to worry. This was the beginning of the downward spiral. Little fights became big fights, feelings were hurt, and egos were bruised. My favorite argument was over a Jimi Hendrix poster in my music room. We duked it out over the phone for twenty minutes while I was wandering around a record store in the mall. Years later I realized her problem was not with the poster but with the ideology it represented.

We had many discussions that were tainted by miscommunication. What she would say and what I would hear would be different and vice versa. We did try to work through our differences. I would even wager to say we might have been too educated for our own good at that point. All those self-help relationship books shined in our ability to theorize on how to communicate with one another but proved destructive to the actual conversation. While she encouraged me to be the best possible version of myself academically and professionally I interpreted her loving encouragement as a threat and ploy to get me to give up on my dreams, quit music, and become a College Professor.

One night I asked Mark the Photo Journalist for some advice. He asked me two questions. 1. Does she love Jesus? and 2. Does she turn you on? The answer to both was yes. But I needed more than nice legs and Jesus to convince me that Kelly and I were meant for each other.

Sometimes relationships are like that media class I failed. You think you’re doing great and the mistakes you’re making are inconsequential. It feels familiar and easy but the next thing you know it’s over and your heart has a big F on it.

1 Cor 13 6-8
6 {love} rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never fails.

There’s no big red ribbon, no white-horse-happy-ending. Kelly and I broke up. It was ugly. I hurt her pretty deeply and we both made mistakes.

God is a God of restoration; this is one thing I know. Not only that, He’s also a God of relationship. I don’t know what eternity looks like; I’m not a scholar on the new heavens and the new earth. But I do wonder if those we tie our souls to in this life, the ones we let in, connect with on a deeper level, the people who are like family to us; I wonder if those are the people our spirits will rejoice with in eternity. If that’s true it makes me want to love well – here in this present life – so the next stage can be a little sweeter.

Years later Kelly and I reconnected and repaired our friendship. Clarity is a funny thing. It usually comes thirty seconds to late. Learning to listen, learning to communicate, learning to love isn’t something I’ve found in pop psychology books. It’s a painful beautiful process that I will walk through the rest of my life as I follow the spirit and commune with the Father.