Letters to a Future Son: 6(ish) Weeks To Go

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Artwork from Sleeping At Last’s song “Son” created by Elicia Edijanto

*Before reading you might want to read an explanation/disclaimer about this series of blog entries found below.

Dear Son,

The past months have been a journey, especially for your mother.  Pregnancy is crazy.  It’s been fun and strange to watch your legs and arms rub against Alie’s belly.  I wonder if you can hear us.  It seems like you like food based on your activity after Alie eats.  You take after your father.  Anyways, we can’t wait to meet you.

This week we’re about 6 weeks from your expected delivery date.  It feels so close but also an eternity away.  We’re slowly but surely getting your room ready.  I wish we had a bigger home for you.  One with a yard.  I wish we didn’t live on a noisy street, but I’m sure you’ll come to love where we live.  It’s a wonderful city in a beautiful place, and like a portrait of humanity, is messy and amazing at the same time.  I’m also excited for you to meet our dog Sonny.  He chases shadows and loves to cuddle.  I’m sure you’ll find his fluffy, quirky presence intriguing, and hopefully he’ll be good around you.  Either way, we’ll keep you safe.

There is so much to see.  I can’t wait to show this place to you.  I can’t wait to watch you discover things.  I can’t wait to watch you learn words, remember faces, and become who you are.  We’re committed to loving and supporting you for who you are no matter what.

As long as you’re an A’s fan.

But seriously my son, there is so much to experience: movies, touch, redwood trees, ice cream, philosophy, giraffes, time, Myanmar, ocean waves, jokes, laughter, literature, friendship, scotch (we’ll save that one till later)…

There is also pain.  We won’t be able to spare you from that, and we all hate that it even exists.  Just remember that the bad things of life do not get the last word.

I’ve been praying for you.  Praying is a concept we’ll talk about at some point.   It’s sort of a hopeful trust in, surrender to, and communication with the ultimate benevolence of reality.   It comes from a part of our world that is a big part of my life, faith.  Faith and  the things we’ve created around faith reflect the best and sometimes the worst of us.  I think we’re all people of faith and for me, my faith is in Love.  Which is another big topic.  We’ll get there.  There are some pretty amazing stories that will help.

But like I said, I’ve been praying for you.  Praying that you are healthy.  Praying that we’re ready to care for you in the ways you deserve.  Praying that you’ll know that you are loved.  Praying that you’ll be a person of compassion and heart.  Praying that you’ll be the kind of baby that sleeps well.  All the books say that’s sort of a challenge at first.

So here we go.

For me, this moment feels like a waiting area before a marathon race.  Last time I ran a half marathon it was delayed for about 45 minutes.  There I stood, on a foggy Oakland morning, waiting, wondering if I have what it takes, if I’ve trained enough, and curious about each step, sight, sound, and scene that lay ahead.

Son, I already love you and I can’t wait to rediscover the world with you,

Your Dad




*This post if from a series of blogs written in the 6(ish) weeks before my wife and I meet our first child, who the doctors tell us will be a boy.  As a soon to be father of a son, my insides are a kaleidoscope of fear, excitement, insecurity, amazement, stress, and wonder; and I’m not even the one growing a human being within their body.  Words can’t capture the respect and admiration I have for my soul mate and life partner as she’s endured the precious miracle of pregnancy.  What follows is written from my vantage point- a personal exploration of anticipation as I get closer and closer to becoming a dad.  While there are a legion of topics that intersect with this current point in our lives, ranging from social gender constructions to spiritual pontifications, the aim of these posts is not an attempt at resolution or reconstruction.  My agenda in these messages is to explore things my soul longs to tell this person, who will soon reset my whole reality, about life as I’m learning to see it.





Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves


A poem/prayer of lament for myself, my friends, and our world:

You, the great promise maker
The one who said you’d always be there
Where’d you go?
Don’t you see us?

Down here at the bottom
Below who you’ve made us to be
Alone with everyone else

We can’t get out
We’re all drowning
And it’s getting worse

Send us a line
Break these barriers
Do something!

If we do our best to be still and hear you, will you say something?
If our lives become holy prayers why do you still let us suffer?
Why are you so silent to us?
Why do you let us drown in these depths?

Swimming for air we’re powerless
Our best efforts have only brought us deeper
We’ve lost sight of north and south
Where have you gone?

Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves
I thought you loved us?
I thought you were near?


Still nothing


Currents change in the dark wavy light
The pressure lessons
The tides wane
The shadows subside

Before we could understand
Before we could open our eyes
Before we could reach out our hands
The threshold is broken

We choke and cough and gasp
Salty sea and saliva
Painful breath
The first painful breath, every time its the same.

Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves
Draw us out
Pull us up
Stop neglecting our muted prayers

Carry us through
Give us the shore
Warm our icy skin

Breath into our lungs
Be who you are
Be the one who’s always been there

We’ll do our best to trust
We’ll try our hardest to hope
But we’ve only got so much
Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves




Church Pastor, Can You…?

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Can you do this thing for me?
I mean, you don’t have anything else going on right?
I don’t think I’m asking much.

Can you give me a ride?
And be there when I need you?
Can you visit my mom in the hospital?
And can you make church better?

Actually, can you answer for the entire church?
And when I have an idea for something, can you be the one to execute it?
And when you do the thing I said you should do, but I don’t show, can you be cool with that?
Can you just create a church that meets my standards and lives up to my expectations?

When I post things online about how messed up the church is, don’t take it personally.
And can you be sure never to call me on it?
Because that’s probably your white fragility or you’re just man-splaining.
Seriously, can you just be what I need you to be?

And definitely don’t talk about money.
This thing is free right?
I mean my yoga class is $60 a session, but I just need it.

Speaking of money, can you get the church to give money to my cause?
And when it does, can I still complain about how the church never gives money to anything?

Can you be sure to always be accessible?
Like you’re on call for me 24/7, right?
Hey, how come you didn’t respond to my text last night?

Can you be sure to promote my event?
And when it doesn’t go well, can I blame you?
You’re coming right? No one else in the church has events right?

Can you meet me on your day off?
And can you make sure your sermon says what I told you I like to hear?
Oh, and can you update the website?
How come the podcasts are old?

I was thinking I should try to come to service once in a while.
But I was up late binging the new season and sometimes the free coffee is out by the time I get there.
Seems like you should probably get some more volunteers, can you get on that?
And that guy who talks too much in the discussion time, can you handle that too?

Can you make church modern but historic, inclusive but just for me, and welcoming of the outsider but ‘deep’ for us church folks?
Can you meet my needs for community but not expect me to give much back?
Can you be real with us, but not so real that I’d have to see you as more than a caricature?

Can you call out the things I don’t like about church, but keep doing the things that I do like?
Can you do my wedding for free and with a sense of professionalism, but not act like clergy all the times I don’t need it?
Can you have grace for my issues and the people I have grace for, but call out the people who I think are wrong?
Pretty simple right?

Can you be the object of all my critiques of religion?
Can you be the punching bag for all my frustrations with God?
Can you just let me tell you that you’re whats wrong with the world?
And don’t get discouraged, but if you do, please don’t show it.

In that vein, can you actually stop being a white man?
Seriously, I’m over those people.
In fact can you answer for all historic racism and injustice?
I mean you’re a white man, so… that’s on you pastor.

Can you be sure to not get on my case when I can’t make it to the service project at the homeless shelter?  Again, I was out late the night before.  Spent way too much on drinks and that Uber fare was crazy.
Seems like that shelter does cool work though.

In fact, can you get the church to do something about homelessness?
Oh and also poverty, education, human trafficking, education, equality, refugees, famines, droughts, the environment, gun violence, current legislation, police brutality, racism, healthcare, access to clean water, women’s rights, and everything else I’m passionate about in my facebook feed?
It’s about time the church runs a shelter, starts a school, or opens a hospital somewhere.

Can you be an anchor for my life as I travel and take jobs and leave?
I kind of forgot about you while I was away,
But now that I’m back in town, can I have a bunch of your time?
Like, we’re grabbing coffee and I’m staying at your place right?

Can you do these things for me?
Can you make me feel happy and safe while at the same time challenge me to grow?
Can you run an organization that’s well managed and tax compliant, but still makes me feel like it’s only all about relationships and authenticity?

Can you just be the church I long for?
Can I bring all my issues and still be loved?
I know it’s a lot.
But underneath it all, I need you.
I’ll learn to let go.

Because what I’m really asking is
Can you tell me I’m enough?
And point me towards grace?

Can you see me?
Can you walk with me?
Can you carry this burden?
Can you acknowledge my trauma?
Can you hold my pain?
Can you show me that you care?

I’m lost and I hurt.
I’m alone and I ache.
And I need some one.
I know you’ve got a lot going on, but can you?

Some Thoughts on Reading & My 2017 Book List

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Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland. Prob the coolest looking collection of books that you can’t touch in the world.  Almost as cool as my personal library.

Growing up in a digital age where the most expansive and colorful universes lived behind every illuminated screen, bound paper and ink were not always my favorite medium of mental engagement.  Additionally, I was not always, and am still not the fastest of readers.  Reading always felt like homework while movies and video games were invitations into sensory experiences at another level entirely.

At some point in early adulthood things began to change.  I began to be interested in things of deeper consequence.  I began to wonder about current events, global challenges, human complexity, and especially about God and the nature of existence. In trying to find conversation partners that I could explore these questions with, I was led back to books, this time with fresh eyes, and in them I’ve found a soil rich and fertile with a potential for nourishing my being in ways that silver screens and first person shooters never could.   Now, I still love film and enjoy digital escapes as much as anyone, but I’ve learned that the written and spoken word actually invites us into something unique and beautiful, some of which I’d like to explore with a haiku introduction:

Reading is like Scotch
Pure like a fresh mountain spring
It’s good for the soul

Reading is like Scotch
For many, Scotch is an acquired taste.  What does that mean and what does that have to do with reading?  It means that in order to acquire the capacity for experiencing the symphony of  flavors, aromas, narratives, and dynamism contained in each dram of, what Ron Swanson calls, “God’s chosen elixir”, one must learn to develop an awareness of those dynamics.  Over time, and often with the help of others, what at first sip appears to be nothing more than a golden, fumy liquid becomes a work of art.

In the same way, literature may at first appear like a less engaging way to communicate or tell stories, but with a little bit of time and curiosity, it can quickly become a labyrinth of discovery and wonder.  For some people this process comes easier and for others it takes more effort, but the same treasure is available to us all.  In my case I had to endure for a little while, but eventually the galaxies of prose revealed themselves in the sky as my eyes adjusted to the new lighting scheme.

Pure like a fresh mountain spring
There is something deeply refreshing about the the written word.  Even though papyrus scrolls have become bound pages, which have become kindle pixels, and even though quill and paper has become printing presses, which have become digital keypads, the essence of reading and writing is still ancient and true.  And in an age of constant sensory distraction, exploring the words and thoughts of another human being through nothing more than symbols and shapes taps into a part of our humanity as profound as any other.  Literature is simple, raw, quite, uncontaminated and unassuming.  It was there before we were, and will likely be there after me.  It’s like drinking cold, clean, clear water after years of carbonated, colorful, corn-syrup infused soda.

It’s good for the soul
Reading does something for my insides.   For both my mind and body.  It lowers my blood pressure and nurtures my spirit.  Spiritual traditions often call this intersection of being, soul, and it’s that part of me that reading tends to, like a gardener to a garden.   The ideas, phrases, and stories that I encounter in books have a way of sticking around my subconscious and exposing my unconscious.

Most days I read in the morning, usually the Bible and some other book (recently from the list below).  While this habit doesn’t seem to have a particular impact on any given morning, over time I see the affect.  It helps me center, takes my mind off the the news cycle, and sparks my imagination.  And as I converse with authors from across the centuries and continents, I learn about our shared humanity, about things unseen, and about myself.


Reading is like Scotch
Pure like a fresh mountain spring
It’s good for the soul

2017 Book List

Below you’ll find a list of the books I read this last year.  I’ve noted my favorite books of the year with three of these ***.  Also, I’ve included an amazon link and a brief sentence or two recap for some context and for my own documentation and, done my best to place them in similar categories. The aim of this list is for my own benefit- so that I won’t forget. I tend to do that pretty often. Where was I?  For an explanation of my process here is my introduction from last year.

Alright, here they are:


The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell, W Kamau Bell***
One of my favorites of the year.  This book is essentially an first person exploration of Bell’s journey as black male comic who also happens to be a nerd and spends a lot of time in the Bay Area.  I found Bells writing funny, engaging, and interesting.

If It Were Not For Love, Kook-Hui Lee Kim
This one is not hyperlinked because it was given to me as a PDF translated from Korean.  The author of this book is a dear friend’s mom who retells her family’s epic, multi-generational story as they leave North Korea, find themselves in church ministry in Japan, and eventually put down roots on the west coast of the US.  I was inspired and amazed as I read of the experiences of their family.

Mother Teresa: In Her Own Words, Mother Teresa
This book was a collection of Mother Teresa’s sayings, sermons, and teachings woven together by a narrator who spent time with her and offered some wonderful commentary and context along the way.  For anyone looking to get a glimpse into this beautiful and complex saint, In Her Own Words is a great resource.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coats
In what’s already an important work that I had only skimmed the year before, Coats’ writing opens a window in the the American black experience through the form of narrative/letter between a father and a son.  For anyone looking to understand the perspective and forces underneath American race dynamics this book is a must read.

We Goin’ Be Alright, Jeff Chang
During some challenging and important conversations at our church, a friend organized a discussion on this book which was timely, at times difficult, and productive as we processed together some recent events regarding the racial and economic inequality affecting our country today.  As Chang wrestled with his own position and documented recent demographic shifts and current issues like gentrification, the reader is challenged to become more deeply aware of privilege and marginalization.  For a recent exploration of these issues, Chang’s work is a great supplement to Coats’.  I especially liked this book because Chang talks a lot about Oakland and the Bay Area.


Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, Neil deGrasse Tyson
This book was so good!  I’ve always loved pretty much everything Neil deGrasse Tyson does and says and this book felt like it was written for me- an overview of the entire field of Astrophysics in a few hundred pages!  No need to get a PHD, just spend a couple days with this book!

A Little History of Philosophy, Nigel Warburton
In a similar fashion to my previous entry, Warburton quickly summarizes the major names and movements in the history of (mostly Western) Philosophy.  For anyone who’s taken a philosophy class in college, this will likely serve as a refresher course, and could be a great help if you’re on a pub trivia team, which everyone should be.

The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt ***
The subtitle for this book is “Why good people are divided by politics and religion”.  As a moral psychologist, Haidt draws on his years of work to explore why we’re so divided, placing the causes in our biology and culture, and eventually offering ways we can work past our inherent “us vs them” instincts.  This book couldn’t be any more relevant to our modern predicament and though it was a rather long and at times academic read, I found it an extremely important contribution.

The Myth of Equality, Ken Wytsma
This aim of this book is to unpack the roots on racial inequality in America with a theological lens.  Ken spoke at our church this Summer and was obviously well studied in this subject.  Admittedly, Ken was writing to a largely white audience with the intention of helping them understand and deconstruct their privilege, so Myth of Equality might not be for everyone, but as a white leader in a faith community I found his historical overviews and connections very important.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who identifies as a Christian and cares about justice, equality, etc., especially if you voted for Trump 🙂

Originals, Adam Grant
Every year dozens of books get written by CEOs, sociologists, and other Malcom Gladwell like voices that offer their insight into how/why people are successful, how society changes, and what cultivates great corporate cultures.  Generally I’m not a fan of these kinds of books, but I found Originals… well, somewhat original.  In summary the book is an exploration of people who create culture and chart new pathways instead being simply successful at life.  As some one who’s mostly created jobs for myself, I resonated with much of Grant’s research and musings.  Great book if you like that kind of stuff.


Greetings from Myanmar, David Bockino
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was really excited about something and talked to you about it as if you didn’t know much about it but in actuality you knew way more than them?  That’s what this book felt like to me.  I’ve pretty much lost count of the times I’ve traveled to Myanmar, but it was still fun reading the experiences of this wonderful country from some one who was having them for the first time.  It reminded me of the times I’ve taken people to places I love and watched their responses.  For anyone interested in Myanmar’s history or curious about what travelling there might be like, Greetings is worth checking out.


Bone, Yrsa Daley-Ward ***
Through conversation with a really inspiring friend I was turned on to Yrsa’s poetry.  She crafts words that expose a her own rawness in ways that draw readers into her experiences and reflections.  Bone explores womanhood, sexuality, being a minority, relationships and more.   I found that her art and vantage point felt deeply authentic and in many ways original.  If you’re into poetry and haven’t checked out Yrsa’s work, do it.


Help, Thanks, Wow, Ann Lamott
In her typical sarcastic-but-profound style, Ann explores here the idea that most of our prayers, whether we call them that or not, derive from one of three base postures: help, thanks, and wow.  I’ve always enjoyed Ann’s reflections and like most of her other work, the reader is just as likely to laugh as they are to cry.

Hallelujah Anyway, Ann Lamott***
I deeply resonate with Ann Lamott’s understanding of spirituality, humanity, God, life, etc., and read this book while traveling through Scotland, which was breathtakingly beautiful, which might have affected why I have such positive memories of it.  Hallelujah Anyway is all about finding meaning in the messiness of life in mercy and kindness.  For anyone interested in the big questions, you should read any of her work- but this is one of her best IMHO.

Prayer and the Modern Man, Jacques Ellul
French, Christian, and an Anarchist are three words that you don’t often hear together, but in Jacques Ellul they sing like a three piece harmony.  Writing after WWII, Ellul explores the nature of modern society in ways that are just as relevant today as they were at the time of writing.  In Prayer he reflects on the nature of prayer by deconstructing and reconstructing some of the various ways we’ve misunderstood its essence in ways that I found very thought provoking and challenging.

Presence in the Modern World, Jacques Ellul
While Prayer dealt with the practice of prayer in specific, Presence deals being a person spiritually awake within the trappings of modern society.  So many times while reading this book I had to remind myself that it was written five decades ago because it felt like something that would have been penned today.  Of the two Ellul books I read this year, I’d recommend Presence over Prayer.  Also, I think I’m a Christian Anarchist.

Life and Holiness, Thomas Merton***
For a good chunk of the year, a small section book was part of my daily reading ritual each morning.  Generally working in the same genre as the two Ellul books above,  in Life Merton, who is a Trappist monk, explores how to learn peace and holiness amidst the anxieties of modern life.  This book was one of my favorites because of Merton’s straightforward, honest, and deeply true writing.  Life and Holiness was good for my soul

Culture Care, Makoto Fujimora
As an well respected artist who also oversees The Brehm Center at Fuller Seminary (often rated the best seminary in the universe), which seeks to strengthen the relationship between the arts and the church, Fujimora is uniquely steeped in creativity and theology.  Culture Care is essentially an exploration of the relationship between Christian efforts and societies culture.  In the past Christians have often had an antagonistic relationship with secular culture, seeking to convert it or in some cases stand against it.  Fujimora argues that we should instead care for culture, bringing out the glimmers of beauty and goodness inherently found within it, especially through the arts.  Anyone interested in the intersection of art, faith, and modern culture would find this work thought provoking and worth reading.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Ruth Haley Barton
In Strengthening, Ruth Haley Barton invites readers, especially those who are in faith-community leadership roles, to examine  health of their soul.  Often public positions can lead people to neglect their inner health and spirituality while externally appearing to have it all together.  Using the example of Moses, Barton writes about how to maintain health and also warns of potential pitfalls that come with spiritual leadership.  I’ve ready lots of books in this genre, and many of them regurgitate the same ideas, but I found Barton’s offering fresh and encouraging.  I’d recommend this book to anyone in or thinking about getting into ministry.

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrims Tale, Iran Morgan Cron***
I loved this book even though it was a little cheesy at times.  Chasing Francis tells the story of a megachurch pastor who’s burnt out on flashy Americanized Christianity and finds himself traveling with a group of Franciscan monks through Italy.  As high jinks ensue, the lead pilgrim discovers the simple and subversive spirituality of St. Francis and is “re-converted” into a a robust faith, refreshed and nurtured in ways he hadn’t experienced before.  I appreciated this book because it made fun of many aspects of American Christianity in ways that I could relate to and also because the story introduced readers to St. Francis in an engaging way.  Anyone who’s processing faith issues or interested in St. Francis would be encouraged by this book.

Between Heaven and Mirth, Fr James Martin
I’ve really enjoyed getting acquainted with the work of Father Martin.  He’s a catholic priest with a heart for justice and who frequently appeared as guest on the Colbert Report.  This book outlines something that often gets neglected in Jesus faith circles, that humor is a big part of the Bible.  While I didn’t laugh quite as much as I would have thought reading a book about humor in the Bible, it was still worth the read.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Eugene Petersen***
Petersen has been one of my favorite authors for a long time.  He’s a humble, soft spoken, well read, pastor.  This book is a compilation of some of his sermons from his career at a small local church.  As a pastor myself, I’ve always found his example inspiring, and getting a glimpse into his heart through his conversations with his congregation is a treasure.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Petersen
As he explores the wisdom of the Psalms, Petersen paints a picture of life and faith as something more about simplicity, patience, and faithfulness rather than immediacy or pomp and circumstance.  You could say that his thesis in this book is that living a life of faith is summarized in the books title, “A long obedience in the same direction”, which interestingly enough was a phrase he borrowed from Niche.  In my experience, this concept has proven true, and it’s within this simple faithfulness that the richness and presence of the Divine become known.


The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald***
I guess I don’t really read a lot of fiction.  There are probably some good reasons behind this that would shed light on my personality and proclivities, but I’ll save that for another time.  I chose this book because I was traveling in Scotland earlier this year and out of all the legendary Scottish authors to choose from as travel partners I chose George MacDonald, I think because he was a pastor too.  And also because he was one of C.S. Lewis’ biggest influences.  The Princes is a fairy tale story that follows a young heiress and her miner friend as they uncover a sinister underworld of goblins who are scheming to take down the kingdom.  It’s a fun read with short chapters, which I like.

For Reference:
2016 Book List
2015 Book List

Why UFOs Tickle my Fancy

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Earlier this week I had a conversation with some friends about the recent New York Times story that detailed a US Government program which tracked UFO encounters with military personal.  The report was, to my knowledge, the first time any admission of this kind had been made by our government and even included videos of fighter pilots tracking some of these mysterious objects.  When I brought this story up with my friends, their reactions varied from mild curiosity to indifference, which is also the way this article was reported by the media.  For some reason this surprised me.

Maybe it’s because I watched the X-Files a lot as a kid, but doesn’t the possibility of “something” outside of our realm of understanding have significant implications on our lives and the way we see reality?  If we’re being visited by beings from another dimension or planet, does that re-frame our global politics?  Does the stress of our jobs or our course work seem less significant, or at least different, in light of cosmic events?  If there was something beyond our lives and our planet, would we change the way we live?

As someone who vocationally thinks about existential things, the UFO story caught my interest because it presented the opportunity, at least for a moment, to ponder our place in the cosmos in ways that were not compartmentalized to a particular tribe, party, or religion.

For most of us, we hardly have time to wonder about the big questions, and I would argue that wrestling with these things is not only a gift, but a fundamental part being human.  When we’re confronted by “something” from “somewhere”, we’re invited to do something that our culture is very much deprived of, to look up at the stars and marvel at it all – marvel at the infinite and the miracle of our simple existence.    In my study of us homo-sapiens, these questions are somewhat unique in our planet’s living taxonomies, and almost always lingering below the surface of our lives waiting for an opportunity to be uncovered.

I guess it’s not about Aliens for me, but rather the reminder they present, that we are, relatively speaking, incredibly finite when compared to what’s happening all around us all the time.  As Sagan reminded us, you don’t have to travel far from Earth to be humbled by the vastness of existence, that all of our problems and struggles exist on a “Pale Blue Dot”.

So, when was the last time you wondered at it all?

What if there was more to life than being a set of accidental atoms floating though endless space on a planet perfectly positioned for you to read this blog post?

What makes you ask the big questions?

But then again, this could just be a government plant to get us distracted from the new tax code………..

Only the cigarette smoking man knows.

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These lines are the scars I bear
I’ve had them since I was 13 or so
They run along my sides and chest like a freight train pulling earth
And I’ve carried this burden of longing every night
Wishing I carried less
Praying to be a narrower, harder

My hands never built more than the words of faith and friendships
If only they measured up to a warriors grip
Then I’d feel ok
No more hiding

I’m soft, I’m ashamed
Cotton cloth reveals all my sides
But hide the grief of inadequacy

I never like the way I looked
I’m always at war
The battle lines are so hard to hold
And deep inside I know I’ll eventually suffer defeat

Scars born of boundaries crossed and discipline lost can’t be undone
Terrified of exposure but safe in hiding

A mans grief held in a body
Alone in the fear of falling short
Confronts me in the mirror
Skin and form and shame

Irish, Scottish, and Nordic genes
Didn’t bestow a vikings form
And a love of sports doesn’t translate to inherent prowess

But what a gift this body is
Allows my soul to receive the senses
Invites my imagination to observe beauties presence
And lays bare, naked, and exposed, the lessons of pain

As much as I hate this freckled solitary cell
It’s taught me that these scares are also of shame turned to love

Like an oceans embrace I carry your burden too
All surrounding I hold you up
You stay afloat on the waves of my changing shape
Your pain in my heart

In calm or stormy seas
These scars carry
Rising and resting my body doesn’t impose or threaten
It feels

These lines are the scars of love
Of life love, but held loosely
They’ve taught me this love
Solidarity, terrifying and vulnerable
Always aware, never confident or comfortable

This is how I am in a world of perfect objects without lines or round sides
Under the surface- shame and fear
But an essence formed along the way by the resilient tenderness of mercy beyond

Safe, near, seeing, and feeling
These lines are the scars I bear
Not only of my corporeal grief
But of love still learning how to be loved

What’s the thing?

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We were a bakers dozen or so.  A beautifully eclectic bunch of folks gathered in our living room last night.  Our quirky and lovable fluff-monster was there too, usually on the brick red carpet that centered our group.

The intent for our gathering was informative.  We had invited newcomers to our church over in order to share the story of our faith community, offer ways to get connected, and answer any questions that people may have had with regards to the church or faith.

As a start up community, we’re always experimenting with ways to build community and for people to hear one another’s stories.   We started hosting these newcomers desserts about a year ago and I’ve been consistently captivated by the diversity of backgrounds and experiences of the folks who hang with our church.  People from various faith traditions or no faith background, from a range of careers and regions, and all with a unique expression of personality and perspective.  Getting to know people is absolutely one of the gifts of my job.

After introductions I shared our church’s story and offered some ways to get connected.  Towards the end of our time together we open up the floor for questions or comments.  There were several comments and a few questions, but one question stuck with me.

Quick disclaimer.  I’m writing this the morning after, so I’m paraphrasing to the best of my memory. 

The question was something like this:  “It seems like the church is has a sense of its values and what’s important to it.  But what’s important to you personally?  What do you care most about with the church?”

Once the question was asked I did my best to restate it to make sure I was hearing it.

“When it comes to our still young and forming church, what’s the thing I care about the most?”

It was a great question, and one I was thankful to be asked.  Often people direct questions to me about our community that are more institutional or abstract in nature, so the concern for my personal experience felt nice.

As my mind bounced around in that moment considering a reply, a few different thought kernels popped open.

Is it involvement that I hope for the most? Like, for people to actually be a part of the work of the church rather than just being attendees?  For people to move from spectators to participants?

Yeah, that’s important but that’s not the thing.

Is it for our church to make an impact in our community?  For folks to be an expression of justice in a world of so much injustice?

Gosh, that’s up there, but that only feels like part of it.

What’s the thing?

What’s the deepest hope I have for the people who engage with our church community?

Over the last few months and even years our community has grown into an established and somewhat stable church, and much of my energy and focus has gone towards establishing teams and systems that get us closer to sustainability.  Because of this, I don’t think about the thing as much as I used to.

So, here it goes. My attempt to restate what I said last night and also put some more thought into it in ways I couldn’t flesh out in the moment.

For me, the deepest hope I have for our church, a work I’ve consumed myself with, is that people encounter Jesus.

For me, the Jesus story, and the experience of life tangled up with that story, with its reality and with its mystery, has been everything.

It’s formed me and shaped me towards love and empathy more than anything else.

It’s been the biggest source of comfort, strength, and hope in my entire life, and even beyond.

It’s invited me to offer and receive grace at the most vulnerable levels.

Encountering, following, learning from, wrestling with, and discovering the love of Jesus has made me who I am.

It’s in a very real sense rescued me.

It’s subverted my worldview an upended my politics.

It’s transformed the ways I see other people.

It’s sent me into homeless camps, high-rise corner offices, jungle prayer circles, holy slums, wedding altars, hospital bedsides, mountain top monasteries, sacred cemeteries, pub-theater congregations, and a increasing list of incarnate contexts that my memory can’t fully hold.

Its forced me to confront my own darkness and the darkness of the world and illuminated the ways of freedom through repentance and forgiveness.

Its a story that has been wed to my soul at the deepest level and unveiled the infinite orbits in the universe of Love.  And it’s this love that I’m still learning.

Because of my following Christ I care about justice, am learning to love my enemies, and believe in Resurrection; that new life really can happen in this world.

Jesus Christ, in all of the complexity and mystery surrounding those two identifying words, has been life, hope, nourishment, healing, transformation, joy, joyful-sorrow, peace, and more.

Jesus has been everything to me.

And if there was a word I could use to say everything that didn’t feel like an understatement, I’d use that word.

Jesus hasn’t given me all the answers or cleared up all the deep questions of my life or of our world, but Jesus has always been near.

In tears, ecstasy and everything in between, there has consistently been a presence of solidarity, hope, and still small love that has haunted me in the best of ways.  No accomplishment, possession, or experience has ever come close to comparing to the immensely rich sense that lives somewhere deep inside my being of Jesus’ love for me.

That’s the thing.

That’s the thing I hope our church can reflect and that people can catch a glimpse of.  Involvement, attendance, membership, activism, charity, and even theology- all those things are distant seconds.

To be honest it’s not that important to me if people label themselves as Christian, share my political positions, give to our church, behave in ways that match my morality, or volunteer in the community.  Those things have their urgent importance and are part of the equation, but hyperbolically speaking, those things don’t compare.  My very real experience is that those things will be transformed as people encounter Jesus and begin to walk, step by step, day by day, meal by meal, purchase by purchase, vote by vote, conversation by conversation, and encounter by encounter with the personification of divine love found in Jesus.

That’s THE thing.