My focus seems to be pulled in many directions. It’s hard to stay on one path of thought or on one task. Lately, I don’t always listen, and certainly don’t remember all I hear. These months are very full with responsibilities – and that is a factor – but they are also full with MAJOR life markers/events. Our people are changing. Our home is transforming. Yes, it’s transforming into something wonderful, but it is transformation and that sort of stretching and metamorphosis is painful. Distraction is a danger every day, but especially in times of overwhelm. How do we focus and find peace in that?
I have found distraction to be a wholly negative state, but a word that sounds similar – disruption – is usually positive, even as it is uncomfortable. Disruption shakes us out of our ruts, out of our mindless routines. This season is one big disruption of the status quo. We are faced with new, unpaved roads to travel.
What I’ve learned is to hold myself gently (as I would hold others) in my own disruption. My heart is overflowing, with everything. So I’m not writing a new Bridge post, other than this introduction. But what I have done is included the post I wrote about songs and albums earlier this week for my other website, for 2 reasons. A, because maybe you want to read something. And 2, because it includes an answer to the earlier question (How do we focus and find peace in times of overwhelm?), which is, of course, jigsaw puzzles. You already know jigsaw puzzles are simply a tactic I use to remember to get, and stay, present and engaged, right? Whatever our “jigsaw puzzles” are, we just can’t miss the invitations, the disruptions, or the attention. We do what we must to turn our hearts to thankfulness – the pain and grief of the loss is simply gratitude that we had those people or relationships or journeys or moments or years for a time, and the glorious celebration we now get to share as new people or relationships or journeys or moments or years begin.
It’s called Round Here, and I hope you like it. I’ll see you soon.
The site prompt today is asking if I remember life before the internet. Yes, I do. For some reason, I’m often very nostalgic lately, so at those times that life B.I. seems preferable. Whether the time actually was more simple, or I was, doesn’t really matter in my head.
I love to put together jigsaw puzzles. Don’t ask me if I do that on an app – you already know the answer. I still read physical books, still turn pages. Now that I think of it, it’s mostly for the same reason. When life gets noisy and heavy, finding pieces that fit perfectly (or opening a book and turning pages) turns that volume down. These small acts reduce the complexity of everything that surrounds me. It’s a little like that aphorism: a journey of a million miles begins with a single step. We can’t finish a puzzle now, we can only give our time and focus to finding the next piece.
The puzzle on the dining room table is one called Rock ‘n’ Roll, and is made up of artists, album covers, ticket stubs, and instruments. It’s pretty good puzzle artwork, the overwhelming sadness in Kurt Cobain’s eyes is obvious and as heartbreaking on my table as it was in real life. There is Ray Charles, The Beatles & The Stones, Joan Jett, and Kiss to name only a few. There is also the album cover from the 2nd best album ever recorded: August & Everything After, by Counting Crows. (The best is, of course, The Queen Is Dead.)
So now I’m listening to the live version of August & Everything After. It’s the whole thing, in order, and it’s unusual in that Counting Crows live versions are mostly unrecognizable from the studio album tracks. You have to know the lyrics to know Mr. Jones at a concert to realize it’s Mr. Jones, but you still can’t sing along. This particular release, though, sounds like the original, but…extra. They’re a terrific band, even as they sort of under-achieved, never building on the perfection of this debut. But how could they, honestly? I am sometimes angry at the Goo Goo Dolls. I want them to make an entire great full-length album, and they don’t, they won’t. It’s like an act of rebellion. But Counting Crows made this 100% A+ masterpiece, and they deserve a pass forever.
Round Here is the first track and makes me cry every time I hear it (with both hands, it’s so sad and so beautiful. Like the great philosopher Rob Base once said, “joy and pain.”)
My wedding Anniversary was Saturday, and my son graduates high school on Friday. Those are the bookends to a week marked with the challenge of holding 2 life-changing events carefully and joyfully. I married the Angel 22 years ago, and the term soul mate is casually tossed around but rarely appropriate. She is easily mine and I hope I’ve risen to even 3% of what she deserves. My son is 18 and steps into an adult life that I get to watch from a front row seat, the best one in the world. He is everything I dreamed he’d be and more.
This week will have baseball games and work and blog posts about music puzzles and phone calls and workouts, but the majority of the week in my heart will be a staggering gratitude. I began this by talking about nostalgia, and I sort of miss Swatch watches and Atari 2600’s and getting up to change between 3 TV channels, but preferable? Baby, I wouldn’t change one thing about this amazing, messy, wonderful life that I have been so graciously given, and I wouldn’t miss these people and this week for anything.
Last night I gave a talk for a big room full of students who will graduate in 2 weeks and their families. It’s still shocking to me to find myself in these spaces, standing in front of people, talking, yet there we were.
Events like this (singular significant moments, like weddings, funerals, etc) can be particularly heavy, where the usual Sunday morning butterflies become birds and I find myself nervous. I’d tell you that’s a good thing, those disruptive birds mean you’re alive and that it matters. I’d say the problem would be if you didn’t feel anything, if you were indifferent to the gift you’ve been given. And now it makes perfect sense that you want to punch me in the mouth when I say those things, whether they’re right or not.
The birds aren’t nearly as big as they were years ago, when all of this began, but seconds before I was scheduled to go up onto the stage, they were certainly active.
The students plan this Baccalaureate service. I have no idea what this word means or how/why this has become a tradition. I’ve never been to one and had no idea what to expect. And I guess they have to plan it without teachers direction because church and state are separate and must remain that way. So, they plan it and I got to attend their meeting. They chose hymns, Scripture passages and readers, and ordered them. Mostly, I kept in quiet deference to their leadership, but I did suggest that one Joshua (1:1-9) passage might fit perfectly right before the message. That passage ended:
“As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
How many times can you command someone to “be strong and courageous?” I suppose until it takes, right? “Don’t be afraid…for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Sometimes moments are so noisy, it’s hard to hear God’s voice. In those spaces, it’s awfully helpful if He repeats it.
What is remarkable is the extent of the care God gives freely to us. We often think of God’s presence in one moment, comforting us, giving us peace, deliverance here and now. But this was proof that His hands had been working all along, even into this seemingly insignificant detail that meant the world to me. If His hands were holding me weeks earlier in the meeting, they were there months earlier as I was writing it, and they’d be there on the stage, behind a truly enormous pulpit.
And they were, the entire service was really beautiful, and I got to tell everyone in that room how much that same God loved them and would be with them wherever they go. I’m not right about everything, but I’m absolutely 100% spot on about that.
Youth Sports, pt ???: Fathers & Sons
I think I said I was finished writing posts on youth sports. Apparently not…
As my son Samuel’s final high school baseball season comes to a close, and Elisha’s final summer baseball season begins, I’m doing quite a lot of reflecting on fathers and sons, baseball, sports, and just how deeply all of it has shaped me.
I grew up with a dad who was a ball player. He was very very good, played professionally, and cast a wide shadow. I was never nearly as good as he was – as much as I asked, nobody ever paid me to play – and never stopped to consider if I even wanted to play. I simply did; I was a ball player raised by a ball player. He coached me for many years, we connected on fields and in dugouts and on our back porch reliving each inning of each game. It was really the best. And it’s what we do here, too. Maybe these boys value it as much as I did or as much as I do (probably not, we have a different kind of relationship), but when we coach, play, watch, and rehash every pitch and at-bat, it’s like there are 4 of us in that room instead of the 3 we can see and touch. I wonder if my dad would make the same decisions I do – he would almost certainly not. But mostly, I think about how much he’d love to meet and watch my boys play, or do anything, how much he’d love to see them live their lives and become the men they’re becoming. I miss him more than I can tell you, especially in baseball season.
I’m sappy and sentimental because it was our first game last night (I coach Elisha’s 16u team). He pitched, the boys were terrific and we won comfortably. I am not too great as a head coach (we’ll get to that in a minute), but the players on this team are as talented as they are beautiful souls, so that means they make me look ok.
As a player, I looked for my value in wins and losses, just as my dad always did. We were competitive – it made him great and it made him awful. It just made me moody, with a fragile identity that hung solely on performance.
So I’m a coach that isn’t awesome. In fact, I’m so not awesome that last year the president of the league walked up and down the line of both sides of spectating parents and spectators (including THE ANGEL!!!!!) detailing my many faults as a coach. He’s right. I have 3 great friends (Paul, Bryan, and Justin, not to name anyone) who coach circles around me, I’ve ridden their coattails to several championships. But how awesome (or not) doesn’t matter at all to me anymore. I’m a different sort of coach.
My dad taught me to be a ball player, and then in my 30’s, my Father taught me to be a human being, taught me to be a man. As that New Father (always there, present, always holding His arms open) loved me, as me, regardless of performance, separate from wins, losses, hits, or strikeouts, He re-wrote my identity. Of course, this process is taking years and years, but I notice it’s effect.
Sometimes I notice it more than others. Like game day. I want these kids to know I love them. They’ll make errors, sometimes soooo many errors, and I’ll yell at them, but they will know they are loved and that they have a group of men who would do anything for them. I want them to understand that baseball is like life in so many ways, that how they show up here is how they’ll show up everywhere. I want them to know they have a Father, too, whose love is bigger, deeper, wider, than all of us put together could ever dream of.
This Father gave me my dad, my boys, the lovely Angel, those friends, this team, every day, every moment, and you, and I am very full and very thankful. But today, I’m mostly thinking about how He opened my heart and gave me me.
In Genesis, chapter 28, verses 10-22: 10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
I know you’ve heard this story. I know you’ve heard me tell you why it’s so important. But it doesn’t hurt to hear it again. Some of us are moving to new homes in new towns. Some of us are welcoming new grandchildren. Some of us are struggling through transitions, celebrating transitions, probably struggling and celebrating at the same time. Some of us are graduating, and some of us are the parents of those graduating.
There is a joy in growth, but there is also a pain in the growing as well. We have been conditioned to eliminate (and if we can’t, ignore) that pain, but that pain is just as much a part of the growth as the joy. Most experiences, if we are engaged and authentic, are bittersweet, equally heartbreaking and euphoric. It’s the 2 hands theology; we hold everything with 2 hands. One hand is for the loss that is present in every change, the other is for the hope and wonder of those changes. In both hands is presence, beauty, depth, in both hands is boundless love.
It’s a short one today. Lean in, see that the LORD is surely in this place, shout “How awesome is this place!!!” And really live these amazing gifts He given of here, now, grace, peace, breath, this season, this day, and each other.
My reading lately has been pointing in the same direction. Everything I see or hear, intentionally or otherwise, sticks to the theme, like neon arrows moving me along a certain path. It feels as if it’s a conspiracy to make absolutely sure I don’t miss it, subtle as a sledgehammer.
This obvious theme is the words we use.
This shouldn’t be a surprise, if you’ve been awake and aware. The manner in which we speak to each other is disheartening, at best. We cut, we divide, we use our mouths violently to inflict the most damage. We used to try to retain some semblance of civility, even courtesy, but now that is mostly gone. Our fear and insecurity has outweighed our humanity, so we weaponize our posts and remarks, using tones we wouldn’t have dreamed of a few short years ago. Even when they’re not directed purposefully at others, our words are hopeless and cynical. We obsess over problems and worst-case scenarios.
I’m finished doing the same thing here, pointing out the broken parts. Instead, we’ll use one of my very favorite questions: What now? Where do we go from here? Is it really as inevitable as we’ve accepted?
Starting with the 3rd question, of course it isn’t. The tomb was empty, and nothing ever again can be said “is what it is,” because it’s simply not. It can be different and it can be today.
As for What now? and Where do we go from here? I have some ideas.
Proverbs 15:4 Gentle words bring life and health, a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 18:4 A person’s words can be life-giving water. Proverbs 12:6 …the words of the godly save lives, and 12:18 …the words of the wise bring healing. James 3:9-12 Sometimes [the tongue] praises Our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out in curses against those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth…this is not right! Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Can you pick olives from a fig tree or figs from a grapevine? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty pool.
The tongue has the power of life and death (Prov 18:21), and I’m guilty of both not acknowledging that overwhelming fact and not caring. That James passage cracks me like a giant egg with that praising God AND curing those made in His image. Right? I’m too often a salty pool. I’ve crushed spirits instead of healed, brought death instead of life.
So, here’s the idea, and there is an order. Waiting for others to change first, for us to respond got us all in this mess. Let’s just operate as if we’re the answers to our own prayers of reconciliation, and go from there. Let’s be fresh, life-giving water. Let’s be springs (instead of salty pools). We’ve tried to gauge & match the temperature of the world around us, and it has been a resounding failure. That temperature is way too cold. It’s time for us to set the environment. We can decide to forgive, to not hold grudges, to call up, build, point out beauty everywhere we see it, give grace, give the benefit of the doubt, throw away our scorecards and start new.
Yes, of course, this is sometimes going to end up hurting. Some of us are monsters and will take advantage of our kindness and love. It’ll feel like we’re alone, and we’ll second-guess, “what can we really do?” Yep, that’s all true. But it already hurts, we’re already taken advantage of, beaten up and attacked, the only difference will be why.
We can start to push against the tide of darkness. You know, the more I think about it. We only think we’re pushing against the tide. It’s probably more like this garbage of inhumanity is like a dam – that our original bend, present since our creation, to worship, to engage in authentic relationships, to love extravagantly, is actually the tide and once we can all bang hard enough to cause a few cracks, it’s only a matter of time until it all comes down. And that all starts with a word.
We’re working through a particularly challenging passage in 1 Corinthians (11:3), but why is it so challenging? It’s about headship, head coverings, and hairstyles. Aren’t there other passages that invite us into this kind of struggle? Probably Love your neighbor’ should be a major sticking point, or “Love your enemies” even more. What about the rich young ruler who is told to sell all of his stuff? Blessed are the poor in spirit?!? Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness? Why don’t these give me butterflies the size of birds, like this verse in Corinthians?
Maybe it’s because we’ve heard them so many times, we’re sort of numbed to the weight of what has actually been said. I’ve heard “Let It Be” 1,000 times, and it doesn’t break my heart anymore. So maybe that’s it, but I also wonder if it’s because we don’t take them quite as seriously as we could. This is a conversation worth having with ourselves, with each other, and especially with God, but it’s one we’re not going to have today.
This principle of headship is in our laps, what are we going to do with it? In fact, what do we do with any and all challenging, perhaps disagreeable, controversial, polarizing ideas and circumstances in our lives? What if your co-worker thinks very differently than you do? What if your sister voted for the “wrong” candidate? What if the person next to you in church holds a different interpretation or understanding of a parable of Jesus? What if she thinks a man is the head of a woman, or what if he doesn’t? What do we do with these treacherous areas between us in all relationships?
I know the Bible is teaching us about these principles – now, learning what, exactly, they’re teaching us is why we read and study, and probably changes over time, as we do. We don’t read the same book or step in the same river twice. These aphorisms, I suppose, are misused in this case. The book and the river remain the same, we do the changing. It’s a different Chad that reads that same book, a different foot that steps in the same river. Either way, you understand.
But the Bible is also teaching us how to handle the material, and how to handle the material in community. Do you think for a second all of the people at the church in Corinth were in lock step on every point? Actually, I bet Paul and Timothy (his apprentice) had conflicting ideas. We know the disciples did, they saw different behaviors, took different meanings from the words of Jesus. What do we do then? What if they disagreed with Paul, like we sometimes do?
The thing that drives us apart isn’t a divisive issue, it’s usually how tightly we hold those issues. We grip them so pridefully, tying our identity and worth to our right-ness.
What if we’re wrong? Does that exclude us from the love of Jesus? Certainly not. And what if they are wrong? They are still children of the Loving God. According to the 8th chapter of Romans, nothing at all can separate us from His love.
Of course theology is important, but as Paul is teaching us about what we believe, he is also giving lessons about how we believe. In the next chapter, he’ll tell us that the specific tenets of our faith, if they aren’t held in love, are just noise. Headship, homosexuality, abortion, war, money, materialism, authority, submission, sex, the list just goes on and on, we’re bound to hold different perspectives. I’m convinced the issues don’t divide, it’s us, when we stop talking and refuse to sit down together as family.
I’ve seen a new dynamic at the Bridge, one that allows us to walk right into these topics without hesitation. It’s why my mood is one of excitement instead of fear or trepidation. What we get to see on a weekly basis is how it can be, where the people are more significant than our fragile egos. It’s a beautiful picture of a Gospel identity, where hands are held, and the only name that matters is Jesus.
I just finished reading My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. This isn’t my first time reading it and I cried just like I did each of the others. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s inspiring and hopeful, and reminds us all why we don’t just give up when the news gets so bad and the searing pain of engagement gets so intense.
I turn down corners of pages that contain words, sentences, and/or passages that move me. When I re-read books, I look forward to those pages and sometimes I read the page several times and have no idea why I turned down that particular corner. Others, I know immediately. One of those turned down corners held this peach: “Because not all monsters were monsters in the beginning. Some are monsters born of sorrow.”
I’m thinking about the things we like and why we like the things we like. Maybe we choose the books/songs/movies, for whatever reasons (we like the cover art or it’s cheap or our friend gives us a gift). Or maybe those books/songs/films choose us (and we’d find them in our path somehow, over and over, until we finally pick it up when we’re exactly ready and explode). Do we like those things because we’re a certain way, or are we a certain way because we like them? Or a wonderful dance between the two? Maybe we are predisposed, open to the impact of a book about an 8 year-old girl, her grandmother, wurses, and monsters born of sorrow, and when we find each other, we join this dance.
On another page: “And probably a lot of people think Maud and Lennart shouldn’t do that, and that types of people like Sam shoudln’t even be allowed to live, let alone eat cookies. And those people are probably right. And they’re probably wrong too. But Maud says she’s firstly a grandmother and secondly a mother-in-law and thirdly a mother, and this is what grandmothers and mothers-in-law and mothers do. They fight for the good. And Lennart drinks coffee and agrees. And Maud bakes cookies, because when the darkness is too heavy to bear and too many things have been broken in too many ways to ever be fixed again, Maud doesn’t know what weapon to use if one can’t use dreams.”
I hope we’re all fighting for the good. In fact, I believe we’re all fighting for the good, in the way we fight for the good. (Well, mostly all – some people are selfish psychos who want to cause damage, but there are so few of them… Well, it’s like this. Bad pizza exists, but pizza is so rarely bad that it’s hardly worth ordering our lives around. Most bad pizzas aren’t psychos, they’re bad pizzas born of sorrow and loneliness and despair, and that sort of pizza doesn’t want to be awful at all.) So we’re fighting for the good, trying to find what weapons are ours to use.
Dreams are a Swedish cookie, that’s what Backman and Maud and Lennart are referring to. But when the darkness is too heavy to bear and too many things have been frozen in too many ways, maybe the other kind of dream is necessary, as well. (Actually, Maud and Lennart are the only ones referring to the cookie. Backman is obviously referring to both.) We get our imaginations drummed out of us very early, until we believe this is simply “how it is,” that people are untrustworthy, and all pizza is inherently bad. Reclaiming the truth requires, first, a dream. A dream that things can be better than they are, that we are worth fighting for, and that holding hands is still the best way to remember that all isn’t lost, that we are alive and that we are together.
Maybe amazing art like this is what made me so naive and awesome. Or maybe these books affirm my naïveté. It’s fun to think about but, in the end, who really cares? We have dreams to bake, people to love, and fighting to do.
This space, I find, is tending a little towards Bridge-specific content. That wasn’t the intention when I began writing it some years ago, but that’s ok. Hank Fortener used a term, “dynamic stability,” and it describes our lives, our communities, and this section of the website. We are stable because the God we serve is stable, but we hold the rest loosely, which allows us to adjust, adapt, bend, move, grow and transform. We can change course to follow the path He is calling us to tread. Having said that, it won’t always be Bridge-specific, the point is that it can be.
We began a new opportunity 2 weeks ago, a prayer ministry on Tuesday nights. I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t given much time, thought or energy to any expectation at all. I just know that every faith community needs a prayer ministry, right? Obviously. I called this the Open Door (with or without the ‘the’), and envisioned it as a room – with an open door to everyone – where anyone could gather and pray. That’s all.
We have a history with prayer meetings, and it’s not a great one. (Maybe that should have encouraged me to give the “time, thought and energy.”) Historically, it hasn’t been a wildly thriving enterprise, usually starting slowly and sadly fading away. Then, we are prompted to try again. I’m certain these promptings continue to come because prayer is an absolutely vital part of a life (individual as well as corporate) of faith. This time, I assure you it won’t fade away. If I’m the only one, I’ll be the only one.
But I’m not. There has been a group, passionate about this sort of expression of love and faith. Here’s what it looks like in practice, so far: We connect, laugh, share stories/burdens/celebrations/etc, write down each other’s prayer needs & requests, follow up on the previous needs & requests, and then turn some music on and sit, kneel, and lay down all over the building and pray however we pray. Prayer looks different for each of us, we all bring different lists (1 that we’ve discussed and another we haven’t, that sits on our heart and shoulders), and we all go to Jesus in our own unique fashion. Then, we pray for a minute together and go home, very grateful for the beautiful opportunity.
When I first communicated the idea for this Open Door, it was immediately clear that I was not the only one receiving prompts. Many of us were also considering some sort of group prayer. One of us was listening to a podcast, where she heard this, from Dr Alexis Gumbs:
“But I think what I remembered while I was writing that, was that all of it is happening at the same time. So we are holding the door open for the energy that needs to come through. And we are the energy coming through. And the door is there open for us. I needed to remember that. And I do think that’s another name for love, the open door, the energy coming through.”
I have no idea where the name “Open Door” came from, it didn’t appear to be particularly inspired, it was just a name (not even a clever one, at that.) Except now it seems that I do know.
Interestingly, how many times have you heard something that fits with something, or everything, that you’re working through right now and it’s in flashing neon? That same thing could have crossed your path a million other times, but this time it would be impossible to miss. I may have heard this exact Gumbs quote before, who knows? This woman who shared it with me might have heard this same podcast, and it didn’t track then. It sure does now. She heard a podcast and our announcement in such short succession that she couldn’t ignore.
We are holding the door open, we are coming through that door, the door is open for us. And another name for the all of this, for us, is love. Of course it is.
Former President Donald Trump pled not guilty to 34 felony counts, but as you can imagine, there’s no way that’s what we’re going to talk about here. Ha.
So, in the past few weeks, I’ve been asked several variations of the same question: “The world keeps getting worse and worse, people keep getting worse and worse, I’m feeling a crushing amount of despair and hopelessness, I’m sinking. What do you think/do about this?”
I understand the question, and I really understand the tears that usually travel with the words. We all see what’s going on, we all feel it. We’re sad, depressed, lonely, anxious, stressed, frustrated, angry, wondering how anything will ever get better, if anything will ever get better. I feel that, too. I’m not sure any of us are immune to those emotions, if we’re honest. A lot of the problem is that we’re hardly ever honest, and that ridiculous pretense (that we’re all ok, everything’s fine) is isolating us from each other, forced to face this darkness alone.
My answer to this question begins with the foundation that we’re not alone. We were never supposed to do any of this by ourselves. In Genesis, before the fall, one thing was “not good” – for the man to be alone – so He made him a companion. When the prophet Elijah was suicidal in a cave, God didn’t necessarily tell him things would be awesome, but did tell him where he could find some other people. 2 of the most powerful words ever uttered are “me too.” I’m scared. Me, too. Ok. Let’s be scared together. Things are always less scary together.
I see the same news, the same trends, the same division. I just might come to a different conclusion. We are certainly on a destructive path, I just don’t accept it’s inevitable we arrive. After all, it’s Easter and we’ll celebrate a resurrection. Death was the last word until it wasn’t, and if we actually believe that, nothing is impossible or hopeless.
So now what? A guy I follow on Instagram uses the phrase, “we do the things.” We get up and get outside, put our feet in the grass, take a walk, drink some water. We listen to our favorite playlist and lift heavy weights. Whatever the things are for us, we do them until we can breathe. Does it actually help to reverse the spiral? No, but it quiets the noise so we can remember what will: to Love God and to Love each other.
I no longer think it’s a top down solution (if there ever was a day I did). It’s you and me loving Jesus, each other, our neighbors, co-workers, enemies, and in-laws. We lean in, show up and forgive 70 x 7 times. We love our kids and all of the other kids, we relate with respect, have tough conversations, listen. We stop minding our own business and start walking together, hand in hand, carrying each other’s burdens.
Seriously, can you imagine how every single thing would change if, instead of entering every room from a place of inadequacy and fear, we stood on abundance and value? Instead of having to prove ourselves worthy, we just know we already are and there is nothing left to prove. If there was nothing to ‘win,’ we could listen with kindness and respect. Instead of operating out of the things we are not, we would rest in alllllll of the things we are. When we are no longer imprisoned inside a cell of the images we construct to ‘protect’ ourselves, we are free to run and fly.
We have been called to point to this reality, to live out of this beauty and joy and get it all over those we are blessed enough to meet. Can you believe there are some of us who don’t know and haven’t heard that we are loved? That we have been made on purpose, in/by/for love? Some of us don’t know the tomb is empty. I know! This is wholly unacceptable.
Here are some lyrics to a song by Andy Grammer, Naive:
*So call me naive. But I believe you’re gonna be okay. And call me naive. But tomorrow will be better than today. And if it’s stupid to see the good in everything. Lord, help me please, help me to be naive. See, I believe This life is something beautiful and sweet. I believe That love pulls me to you like gravity. And you could say I’m gullible. And I’m blind to all the lies and tragedies. I just think we focus all our time On poison and not the remedy. So call me naive. Say I’m living in a world of make-believe. And call me naive. But I don’t know another way to be.*
We get to choose, and as for me, I’ll choose to see a new Kingdom bursting through right in the middle of this one.
Maybe that’s naive, or maybe that’s the deepest level of realism. Either way, this is what we’re here for, individually and as the Bridge – to be naive. So, we’ll focus on the Remedy, whose name is Jesus, and the remedy, which is love. We’ll pray, we’ll do the things, we’ll love like crazy.
What could be a better time to take a sledgehammer to the cultural despair than Easter? (Actually, now that I think about it, I guess there is a better time: now;)
Lord, I hope I stay this kind of naive.
Eyes To See
I wrote this for my other blog, lovewithacapitall.com, and I think you might like it, too. Incidentally, the site that publishes our sites (now called Jetpack) gives a writing prompt every day. Today it’s, “What word best describes you?” and in light of the following, it’s clear I’d like to say grateful. And not so incidentally, today is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 79 today. I miss him more some days than others, and today is one of those. Maybe that is why I feel this post so deeply. Or maybe I would feel this post so deeply everyday, because I’m the man he raised everyday. Yes, very very grateful.
I go to a local store for something called creamed pearl tapioca pudding on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday. And then I drop it off with the Angel at her office, along with a fountain soda as thanks. What I tell her is that it needs to be refrigerated and I’m unable to access our fridge. I don’t need to take it to her. I take it all through the winter, when my car is colder than any available appliance, mostly so I can see her for those 30 seconds.
Yesterday was Tuesday, and while I was there, I was overwhelmed, speechless and in awe of this woman. I sent her a text from the parking lot that read, “No kidding, I can not believe I get to be married to you. You are a KNOCKOUT,” and then I added 2 emoji faces with hearts for eyes. We’ll only talk about how she looks today, but as you probably already know, the beauty on the outside isn’t close to how lovely she is on the inside. She’s pretty far out of my league, but that’s her problem, not mine.
The point is that sometimes we can be so familiar with something that we take it for granted, easily and often. I live with this Angel, see her everyday, in pajamas and in heels, I know she’s gorgeous. I know her smile in my sleep, the way her eyes shine, how her laugh sounds, her skin feels. I know all of this, but there are surely lots of moments where I don’t truly appreciate all of this.
And there are so many things just like her (well, not just like her), but equally overlooked, or dismissed as common when they are anything but.
Pizza, Lord of the Rings, vinyl, this blanket, Catfish, creamed pearl tapioca. There are things we couldn’t wait to get, absolutely had to have, and changed our lives, that we don’t even give a second thought today. I’m not sure we need a change of scenery nearly as much as we need to open our eyes to the current scenery, because at some point that new scenery is going to be the current scenery we are looking to change.
I haven’t listened to The Queen Is Dead in months, and the last time I did, I skipped some tracks. It’s a perfect album, and I treat it so cavalierly that I skip tracks. We eat in front of the tv or in the car, concentrating and appreciating nothing. We see sunrises and sunsets everyday more perfect than the finest art. The Angel is so stunning she could stop clocks.
How and when did we get so distracted and jaded that we miss all of this splendor? Somewhere we were sold the lie that there was anything in this fantastic world that is “ordinary.” Ordinary is for the blind and imagination-less. In the Bible, scales fall from the apostle Paul’s eyes and he can finally see things as they are, see reality as it is. Maybe our scales need to fall, as well. I don’t really want to take anything for granted anymore, and I certainly don’t want to take people for granted ever again. I don’t want to become so familiar with laying like spoons with the Angel that it loses it’s tender warmth and simply becomes something we do. It IS something we do, but it’s not simple at all, it’s also significant and perfect.
I wonder how many other things in our everyday lives are significant and perfect, if we only had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel them.