Narrative: Nostalgia, Crayola Creations, and Santa Monica Pier

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It’s 4 am, mom, and I’m going to California. I can remember the times you would watch VH1’s “Behind the Music“, The Crüe’s history unfolding on the screen, dreaming of the day you’d see the City of Angels. You told me you were upset because I got to go before you, but you taught me to dream and I know you’ll see it soon.

So now it’s southwest on SouthWest, caught between the giddy anxiety of making my dreams come true and the frustrated exhaustion of yesterday’s hard day. The muted rumbling, “Carrie & Lowell“, and increased G Force rocked me to sleep. I dreamt of a time I’ve always hoped for, where I’d come home to a wife and a couple kids, greeted with flirtatious sarcasm, a kiss, and Crayola creations. Our house was yellow and we were blue like Smurfs, we were beaming with our orange smiles, holding hands in harmony.

The screech and jerking of touch down woke me up. The pictures on the fridge were fading fast as we were walking off the flight deck and into the San Diego air. We couldn’t see the ocean yet, but the smell of salt was noticeable in the sea breeze as our Über pulled up.

I can’t remember his name, but I can remember everything else. He was gullible and didn’t understand my sarcasm. I messed with him a bit until I realized he would never pick up on the joke. He asked us about Chiefs football as we wove through the city streets, changing the station from Lana Del Rey to The Band Perry. He asked us what we were doing in San Diego and we told him we didn’t know. He perked up and a smile crept across his face as he began to talk about all his free time activities. “I like to go out a couple miles to the kelp forests and spear-fish. You just sit on the bottom, release the bait, and wait in the cool water till something comes by. Then when you spear it, you’ve gotta grab it and ride it till it dies.” It brought this vivid image into my mind of the sun’s rays piercing through the kelp, casting a green shadow on the diver. The glint of the spear as it shoots through the blue, red spilling from the fish as if Jackson Pollock did water colors.

There was never a lull in conversation as he jumped from topic to topic, from the Padres bullpen, medicinal marijuana, authentic mexican food, to late nights on the beach, and second base at the club. I was annoyed at the volume of shallow conversation. He asked us what we did, Ryan explained his position with SouthWest as I fought through reluctance to share about my life. When I told him I worked with homeless youth, there was a change in his demeanor. He began to explain how he was going through a divorce. His wife had left him after his real estate business went under. I could feel the pain in his voice as he told us his wife had accused him of being a drug addict, alienating him from his own mother, and painting him as an abuser. He flipped down his visor, a picture of a girl in a pink sundress, no older than 6, was covering the mirror. “I have to do this because my wife left me with this beautiful girl.” He smiled and stroked the photo, weaving through traffic. “This is what I have left of my life.”

He dropped us off at Hertz and I felt sad and relieved as we said our goodbyes. Our rental was a tiny Chevy Spark, we had Chick Fil-a for breakfast, and it was off to Pacific Beach. You could hear the waves crashing before you could see the Pacific and the breeze was refreshing. The sand was fine and the water was cool as the surf hit our feet. There were people doing Crossfit under the Pier, surfers began filling the shallows as waves started to swell, kelp lined the shores, and birds with stilt-like legs ran from the waves. We went geocaching on the bay and I almost stepped on a jellyfish, the houses were packed together in a menagerie of color and foliage. Ryan grabbed a quick cup of coffee and we expressed our appreciation for one another as we took off to have some West Coast brews.

We went to a few breweries and we weren’t too impressed, had some In N Out and moved north to Ballast Point.  It was a nice change of pace from mediocre beer. I ordered 7, headed to the restroom and nearly exposed myself because the urinals were much further away than anticipated. I told Ryan and we laughed at my foolishness. The beers were daring and different, and I discussed them with one of the brewers. He gave me his card and told me he was interested in more of my opinions. I left feeling larger than life, the world was spinning and the heat sunk deep into my bones. I was mesmerized by the mountains and the ocean being in the same view as we drove up the 405. “This is blowing my mind. Seriously God, how the fuck did you come up with something so beautiful?” I couldn’t keep my eyes open, passing out as we were passing cars in the carpool.

I awoke and we were in Marina Del Rey, gorgeous houses lined the street and I spotted the reason we were in California: Phil. I ran across the street and wrapped him up in a bear hug. He laughed his elegant laugh as we all embraced each other, I remember nostalgia rushing over me as memories of D&D, how I used to say both with an “L“, playing Sufjan on the ukulele at bonfires, and the Cloud Atlas Sextet before bed. He invited us in as we sat down to dinner with his Missional Community. It was a Mac and Cheese competition for one of the girl’s 16th birthday and too much dairy for me to be able to eat. Everyone smiled as they went around the table, giving praise to the birthday girl for her love of people and heart of service for Christ. I wish we took more time to tell each other the good that we see. The compassion they had for one another was almost tangible in the air. It almost felt like Christmas or the 4th of July, full of excitement and wonder.

We had to leave, back up the 405, Mötley Crüe’s “Live Wire” on the radio. Phil’s complex was like a little village with cobblestone streets running through the buildings. We spent some time in the hot tub conversing about the Meyers-Briggs discussing the personalities we didn’t like. Two lovers sat with us, their eyes only on each other they giggled with each comment made to each other as if at a one man show for the others stand-up. I never understood infatuation, and I feel conflicted about being so wrapped up in one person. It’s scary and you can’t see your surroundings. I want someone to walk next to, not to be an end goal or an everything. These thoughts about the lovers kept playing in my head as I slept on the floor and my friends played Munchkin in the background.

I dreamt I was married again, only this time there were no kids. I remembered walking on the beach with her, she was leaning on my arm and the breeze was making her hair cascade around her neck. We had light hearted conversation, plotting out the rest of our day. The warmth from her felt better than the sun’s. She whispered something in my ear and kissed me on the cheek as if she knew I was waking and that it was time for her to go.

It was Tuesday now and we were hungry. We set out to find a mexican restaurant in the hopes of having authentic tacos. I programmed a place called Don Chuy’s into my maps, they had jalapeños in their salsa, reminding me of the times I’d have to eat them for “lying“, and there was too much raw onion on the tacos. We left disappointed and still hungry, making our way up the coast to Malibu.

We didn’t see Tony Stark’s house, but we stopped at an overlook, admiring the town and it’s denizens. My cold was getting to me, and I had to blow my nose in some leaves as J. Cole was singing, “That’s why I keep a cross on my chest, that or a vest. Do you believe that Eve had Adam in check? And if so you gotta expect to sip juice from the forbidden fruit and get loose.” We found a trail in the mountains and hiked it for a while. Bearded dragons and leopard geckos ran across the path, trying to soak in some heat for the day. There was a boulder that we tried to push off the cliff but it wouldn’t move. We found a dam on our way up and on our way down I picked mountain flowers for someone back home. One of them smelled like vanilla and honey. Purples, oranges, yellows, and reds I was going to press them all and send them to you, but they wilted too fast and I had to throw them away.

Our next stop was a winery, small and quaint. We came inside and a man greeted us. He was French and had been here for over 20 years. He had his doctorate in laser physics, taught classes at UCLA, explained his background over a glass of Chardonnay. The Frenchman explained how he hated socialism and inadvertently insulted my intelligence. I respected him for his honesty and was too fearful I’d trip over my words or seem pretentious if I spoke to him in his native tongue. He poured us an oak-aged Port and told me the most important thing to do in life is pursue your passion endlessly and find a lover to serve. I wasn’t sure if the air of romanticism was coming from the lilt of his accent as he encouraged us or from the 12 or so wines we’d tasted, but I felt like romance was actually plausible and those two lovers in the hot tub didn’t seem so crazy after all. I bought a bottle of wine and thanked the Frenchman for his time and conversation. I kept thinking about the dreams I had as we cruised back down to LA. Caught up in romance the traffic isn’t as bad as you’d think, you just have to carpool and be aggressive. We made it everywhere we were going early. Ryan made the comment, “So many people so close together but so disconnected.” I jokingly asked if I should roll down the window and start a conversation with a stranger. We both laughed as we passed a cherry red, 60’s Mustang that Aaron West just so happened to be singing about in the background.

We met up with Phil and hopped into his red convertible Mustang. Our destination was Santa Monica Pier, Phil and I sang out “For my prayer has always been love” and “Oh, be my rest, be my fantasy“. The parking garage kept track of open spaces and I admired it’s convenience. There was an impromptu marathon running past as we made our way west. Dinner was served on a rooftop of an Italian restaurant on the pier. I watched people ride the West Coaster as I ate my calzone, some people from London ate dinner perpendicular to us. The theme park had closed by the time we’d finished eating. It was only 8 and I bought a funnel cake because I wanted to at least feel like I went. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel as the street performers played melodies from the 70’s. We walked out onto the beach as the tide was coming in. We played a game where we’d see how far out we could chase the tide without getting wet. Phil sang Deas Vail’s “Shoreline” under the waxing moon, it was so peaceful. I got tar on my shoes and we started our trek back home. We talked about gravity and how hard it is to be perpendicular beings. Thoughts of humans being quadrupeds made me laugh as we drove back home to LA.

This was the last night. Tomorrow I’d be back in Missouri. Tomorrow I’d go back to responsibility. Tomorrow I’d spend my entire day on a plane as the time zones shaved off hours from the day. Tomorrow I’d be exhausted and let too much get to me.

I dreamt of a more recent time where I wasn’t married. I was working and one of my kids punched another in the face. I went home to relax but my wife from my dreams was there, but we weren’t married yet. I couldn’t ever remember what she looked like, but I still knew it was her. She saw the stress on my face and rubbed my shoulders as she told me really bad jokes to distract me. I made us dinner and we watched a movie together afterwards. I remember falling asleep on the couch with her in my dream then waking in the floor in LA.

It was tomorrow. I found myself wishing I’d had more yesterdays as the day of travel ensued, hoping those dreams were a not so distant tomorrow.

Thoughts: Cardboard Box Spaceships and Bob Dylan’s Hair

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I wanna see the veins in the poplar’s leaves, four points pointing at me, stoic trees singing in the spring. UV dancing through the green tint, lost in all of it, like Calvin and Hobbes I need some stripes, a tail, and a cardboard box to travel this world, even if I have to make them up to make it all worth more.

Feet planted in the Rockies, “Laugh with me, buddy. Jest with me, buddy.” Just playing through my head. Thousands of feet above the sea, up in the air, through the pines, my God why can’t it always be like this!?

I forget about these moments, losing my imagination, wandering through my trials like I’m caught in some sort of trench. “Your pipes are frozen, by the way. A squirrel’s made his home in your ceiling, no sleep when there’s scuttling above your head. You needed to pay your rent last week, but all your bills come at the same time. But time’s not a thing you really have, work harder, damn it! Work that job you don’t feel competent at, slaving away as no one notices that you’re a drunk, drowning in the things you never wanted to become. YOU’RE NEVER ENOUGH!”

So I find myself singing Dustin Kensrue to get by, “It’s Not Enough” and it never will be. Yahweh won’t you find me and hold my hand for a bit? I’m tired of being plagued with these diseases that leave me drained and wondering if the air I’m breathing should be for someone else. Can we just have five minutes to sit and give it up? I know I don’t have the time, but maybe we can make it? I’ve got it all with me, it’s always in my head. Maybe you can take it for a summer, just one summer, that’d be grand. I could spend it in the Tetons or maybe Pugit Sound! I could take in everything with a new lens, see colors again, anything but gray.

I’m just a bit scared, you see, a friend of mine got choked out by your zealots and now you’re not real. But I can’t help but see your outline more clearly. Why is it that he can put his faith away and mine can’t be hidden?  I’m just a bit nervous, not that you’ll leave, but that you’ve become too real. I keep praying for joy and I’m afraid you’ll give it to me, like it’s Valentine’s Day and it’s a gift I knew I was getting but was surprised to receive wrapped in a heart shaped box.

I remember in the 4th grade I got an award for being optimistic, and to this day that’s the award I’m most proud of. I just want that to be real again. Jesus, can’t we be 10 once more, I know I left my joy there. I don’t want to be cynical anymore. I don’t want to have to worry about getting hurt, about waking up at 2am to anxiety attacks. Let me see this Great Cloud of Witnesses I’m surrounded by, I want to lay down this sin that clings so closely, it’s so heavy God!

I don’t have any endurance to run anymore.

So now I’m left with this heart-shaped box. I know what’s in there: joy and a deeper understanding of my faith. I’m afraid to open it because I’ve never known what that is. Every time I think I’m getting close to it, it’s taken back before I open it, or it’s one of those cans that explode into snakes, or there’s just nothing inside.

So could you help me open it, and could you stay for a while? Can we go on adventures and find out more about the things you’ve created? I really like this ribbon you’ve chosen, what’s this knot you’ve tied? I’m just trying to distract you from the fear I have for what’s inside. Can we write some songs about barn owls or about Bob Dylan’s hair? Maybe we can joke about the future, or about how bad horror movies are now. I’ll just shake the box a bit to feel the weight of what’s about to happen. I’m caught in this giddy state of brainstorming all the things that could make me happy, the longest Christmas Eve.

Maybe tomorrow will be Christmas, maybe it will be next week. All I know is I have the gift, I’ve already had a peek.

For the first time in a long time I’m excited about my life. I feel as if I am capable of being happy. It’s scary, and uncomfortable, but I’ve been waiting for so long. I hope this lasts for a while and I swear I’ll do what I can to get used to smiling. 

Thoughts: Quand allons-nous aimer?

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Mon Dieu, pourquoi?

The sobbing in the streets where we used to sit and sip our café au lait,  watching our neighbors pass by as they carry out their lives. We were just smoking our cigarettes, laughing, lounging.

Now we’re putting out our buildings instead, drinking up the sadness with the madness, our streets flooded with confusion, with anger.

Mon Dieu, mon cœur! Ce n’est pas possible!

Could it be that our nightmares were reality? Our streets were refuge for the fleeing, our homes were shelter for the weak. Could it be that these people are just like me?

Identifying with the outcasts, identifying it was also me. No home to go to, mourning in the streets, white roses in bullet holes in glass, our pain as theirs, home’s not safe.

Remember when things were calm and the waves were soothing? When man loved one another? When humanity was more human?

Oh Jesus I’m up in arms, I’m ready for war! But how do you fight an enemy that isn’t tangible? It’s not an army or a nation or a people group, it’s our hearts.

God, why can’t anyone see, that it’s people who are fucked up, and people are the key to setting things right with humanity. Everything we touch turns to dust, we try and create only to decimate, pushing for betterment of things that weren’t meant to be. All our hearts are black, all our ambitions are driven by our selfish conditions with visions of pornography, of celebrity fame, of a cause with a voice and no action.

What the fuck are we doing?

I’m not any different than anyone else. I’ve got my hands tied with my emotions, grasping for relationships I know aren’t good for me, concerned with the thread counts in my sheets, looking at parts of women that weren’t meant for me. Anger wells up in my chest, I can’t rest, I’m not functioning at my best, I’m not functioning at all.

I’m just existing.

Sometimes that’s all I can do.

A dear friend looked me in my eye and told me I wasn’t the same. He said, “You’re angry now, like there’s no hope.” Well I never asked for any of this pain, any of this shame, I was just trying to stand up for what’s right! I was just trying to be a decent human being!

“Who are you to determine what’s right? You know, when I’m angry, it’s because I’m afraid. Our anger is a reaction to our fear. What are you so afraid of?”

And thus from his lips it did depart, that I was caught, and it was time to face my fear. It boiled down to my shame, that I was the person I was, that I was actively fighting against everything I believed. I was afraid I would never be wanted, that my best would never be best for someone else.

Well Christ reminds me that even my worst is good for him, so I’ll get angry at him for calling me out, then get angry at me for getting angry at him, and get angry that I’m the way I am, then get angry at me for telling myself that.

We’re all so layered, sediments and stone, but canyons don’t get so beautiful without weathering to show their bones. When you look at how complex you are, and realize so is everyone else, pieces start to fall in place. Pain is what shapes our perspective, pain is what pushes us into the light, pain is created by us, pain is existent only because of us.

So “shadows prove the sunshine” and we’re woven together. Sometimes we’re in the shade, sometimes we’re not, none of this will make any sense until you can admit to yourself that your joy only comes at the cost of someone else’s pain.

“Do you think some people were made for suffering so others could experience joy. I think about that often. I think maybe that’s me.”

Thoughts: Peaks, Valleys, Brothers & Cardinals

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I have had the most epic of weeks. I took a spontaneous trip to Colorado, stood on top of Pike’s Peak for the first time in my life, falling deeper in love with the hoary headed crags, drank some of the best beer I’ve ever had in my life at 10 different breweries throughout the state, witnessed the snowfall on the mountains, caught up with a friend from LA on a happy coincidence, drove back to Missouri, slept a bit, and then went to watch The Wonder Years pour their hearts out on the Blue Note’s stage.

I’ve had some really good times! It was refreshing, it was full of life, it was wild and natural, which has led me to some really great revelations:

Nature Restores.

On the excruciatingly long drive through Kansas, you build up this excitement to see the wonder that is the Rocky Mountain Range. It’s not until you’re about an hour into Colorado that you see the mountains as you come around a bend. As soon as I saw the peaks I welled up with tears. It had been so long since I’d seen them and it felt like coming home. I forgot about everything that was stressing me out. My job, my friends, my family, my endeavors, my fears, my insecurities, the troubles of this world, all dwarfed in the shade of the Rockies.  I started sobbing a bit, trying to stay on the interstate, while my friend Ryan looked at me confused and asked if I was okay.  I was more than okay, I was hopeful again for the first time in a long time. We drove straight to The Inclime at the base of Pike’s and climbed it. I almost passed out as I was not used to the altitude yet, having to stop every 100ft as Coloradoans passed by in oxygen restrictive masks as if they were taking a leisurely stroll. We only made it halfway and I had to stop, but I still felt so accomplished. I felt full, I felt understood. Then I wondered how it was that a Mountain could understand a man so well and man couldn’t understand much of anything?  Which led me to my next realization:

The Creation can connect us with The Creator.

It’s a funny thing how you can live your life, treading on the grass, breathing in the air, to climb into a car made of resources exhumed from the earth, driving over the rocks we’ve crushed to a paste to our homes we’ve made of fell trees and not one time recognize the Earth we are in. It’s not until you’re forced to see it out in the wilds that we’ve either “preserved” or haven’t destroyed yet that there is so much beauty in the Creation and how God our Mother birthed such a wonderful child.  You feel understood and fulfilled between the pines and cedars, sappy in more than one way, as you can better hear Earth breathe. It’s in the whistling of the frigid wind on top of the snow-covered Pike’s that I could hear the voice of Christ. He was tugging on my heart, I was just anesthetized by how “tame” we’ve made this Beautiful Blue Marble. We block out any sounds of YHWH with the sounds of chainsaws, automotive emissions, city lights, social media updates, and our own bullshit. I attempted to say nothing to anyone on this trip, taking only a few pictures, trying not to answer any messages I may have received and the product was wonderful. I could enjoy and appreciate everything I saw in nature, everything I ate tasted better, all the beer I drank felt life-giving, every footstep I climbed, walked, or ran had purpose. I have never felt more like an actual human being in my life. I was understood at a level that I had never been understood before.

We find ourselves when we let ourselves go.

Being understood is a human’s deepest desire. We LONG to be known and to be known fully, yet most of the time this can’t happen because humans aren’t capable of fully understanding one another and our own selfish desires often get in the way of us even trying. It seems in my life, that the more I try and change myself, the more damage I actually do to my person and the people around me. I get so so concerned with change that I don’t actually take the time to get to know myself. I get so wrapped up in wanting to be interesting and wanting to be wanted by others that I become something I never wanted to be. Then there’s this whole process of getting back to me. It’s long, it’s painful, and it’s exhausting. It’s only been in these past few months that I’ve been able to let go of the person I think I need to be and let the person I am actually grow. A few months ago, I would have been more concerned with people knowing I was in Colorado, that I was doing something interesting, that I was having a meaningful experience. Today, I realize how hollow all of that is. It’s riddled with loneliness, vanity, and pride. It’s so much easier to get hurt when you’ve got so many holes created by these things. But when you let go of the grips you have on who you believe you should be, there’s room for love, there’s no expectation of perfection and no pain when you inevitably let yourself down, relationships are more meaningful, you can flourish as a person. You can finally find things you love about you. I really enjoy how adventurous I am, how I can make my own path, how compassionate I am, how willing to accept criticism, how I push myself to accept compliments when they’re given, how much of a role model for my brothers I am, how open I am to admitting my faults, how I do what I can to encourage the best in others and love them in spite of however messed up they may be or however many times they may fuck me over, how it physically pains me to be dishonest, and so many other things. Encourage the best in yourself, so you can encourage the best in others.

We are really good at making things something they’re not.

After having all these shenanigans on mountains and highways, I went back to work on 2 hours of sleep, running right back into the thick of the stress. The day was long, it was hard, and almost more exhausting than when I’d left. I felt defeated. All this time spent chasing myself, chasing rest, and it was gone in less than 12 hours. I slept for 14 hours that night, hoping I could shake some of the exhaustion.

It didn’t work.

I considered quitting the next day. I was in a terrible mood and it seemed like all the problems I left appeared again where I’d left them. They greeted me like a passive-aggressive lover, sapping my strength and self esteem. I was done when my good friend Austin Doyle messaged me, telling me he’d bought me a ticket to see The Wonder Years.

I was elated again.

I got to hang out with the best guy I know, a guy who always makes me feel important and like a difference maker, and on top of that, I got to get my frustrations out in a mosh pit as Dave Campbell screamed that he was “Awkward and Nervous” and lamented because “we’re not saviors if we can’t save our brothers”. He dedicated the show to those who lost their lives in Paris, pouring out everything he had to shed light on something that mattered so much more. It was breathtaking.

Or at least it should have been.

The crowd was terrible. There were several drunk women who couldn’t keep themselves safe, a woman who spilled 4 PBR tall boys on our feet, and not being able to mosh at all because there were 5 guys doing nothing but trying to hurt others as I took a hit to the nose. I was furious. My time was completely ruined because people wanted to take an experience and make it something it wasn’t.

We push so hard to get our way, for this ideal that’s so far off. Disillusioned and naïve we’ll do what we can to throw others under the bus to get what we want. Cheat, guilt, steal, shame, manipulate, we’ve got all our cards at the ready, trying to be Gambit from the X-Men. Even the selfless things we do have selfish intentions. We can’t ever let things be what they are, we run from feelings because we’re scared, we’ll push everything away if it means it will be easier, if there’ll be less pain involved.
I have to be honest, this week has been extravagantly joyous and incredibly horrendous. It’s been so up and down that it’s felt like 2 months. In a period of 7 days my heart has been at the lightest and heaviest it’s ever been. I wiped clean my burdens and filled the slate again almost in the same stroke. I’m caught in this state of melancholic contentment. I’m tired of the rollercoaster and I’d like a break for just a bit. It’s been hard for me to accomplish anything lately. One thing after another after another for months now. I’d really just like to catch a break.

I’m not sure how to resolve this post. I’m not entirely sure how to feel. What I do know is this:

There is no light without dark.

We cannot have successes without failures.

We cannot know love without heartbreak.

We can’t appreciate others until we can appreciate ourselves.

We cannot be understood without the risk of being hurt.

And finally, “Don’t apologize for things you’re not sorry for”.

Thoughts: “Questions We Can’t Stomach or How to Glaze Over Things That Matter”

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But who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

I was asked this question repeatedly this week. It’s a question that has created a lot of hurt in our world, a question that is looking for a means to an end we could never understand, but we can’t be comfortable with not knowing, we can’t be comfortable with believing that the evil of this world can be forgiven. This question sparks a lot of things within me: my chest aches in sorrow because there are people who believe that this is the ultimate goal; Heaven and Hell. My brain is wracked by the apathy and calloused acceptance of the thought of people being tortured by fire and fiend for eternity. My skin burns with rage for people’s inability to see that it’s not the point.

This post isn’t about whether or not I believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell. It’s not about how Heaven or Hell works or how it “brings glory to the Creator”. This question got me thinking quite a bit, I posed myself with a question: Why are we focused on the future and what we don’t have? When will we be grateful?

There’s a huge problem with human thought today. We can’t handle being uncomfortable, we turn our focus to how many likes we have on a photo, how clever our hashtags are, making our lives look picturesque and interesting. It’s kind of pathetic. Our days can be completely ruined because our data was throttled when there are people who don’t even have paper to communicate with one another, or someone put mustard on our McDoubles that we specifically asked for no mustard when there are children who work in sweat shops just for a few measly scraps of food, or we get furious because we have to wait in a line for 3 minutes at H&M to purchase a $20 scarf when the most prized possession that a kid in the Republic of Congo is a Nike t-shirt from 1980 that someone so kindly “donated” to United Way.

We have a perspective problem. I will go out of my way to avoid a panhandler because I don’t want to take the time and effort to help this person when it would take maybe 5 minutes tops and I work at a fucking homeless shelter with loads of resources. But my time is too precious. All the time I spend eating food that’s not good for me, watching reruns of American Dad (a show I don’t even really care for honestly), and God forbid I give up my time to indulge my porn addiction.

It’s no wonder I’m so cynical. I can’t see the good in this world because I’m such a big part of the problem. I’m over here watching porn indulging in the dehumanizing and devaluing of women, feeding into the ideological zeitgeist of acting like human trafficking isn’t a thing, eating fast food like twice a day and then throwing away half of it when there’s kids that I work with that are just getting out of a situation where they didn’t even have food, sitting on a phone all day and complaining that there’s nothing to occupy my time when there’s people out there who can’t even enjoy life because they’re working 3 jobs to avoid being evicted.

Sometimes I really wish I were one of the people who pretended that the world was a peach and their only problems were that they didn’t get whipped cream on their pumpkin spice latè. To live in ignorance so that way I weren’t always ruining moods or killing vibes. I would do so much to just be light-hearted. I just really want to not hate everything.

So who do you think goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

To be honest, I kind of wish we all went to Hell. That may sound pretty extreme, but with the way that our American culture sets us up, we’re really not that far off. We live in a world where we don’t bat an eye at those on the street starving, backing politicians who would sacrifice honorable military lives for oil and petty squabbles, charging ridiculous amounts of money for medical services because of a piece of paper some lady got from an Ivy League college.

I’m trying really hard to turn this around but I am just so pissed.

So who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell?

If Christ came just to sort people into heaven and hell I think I’d rather believe the universe was a spontaneous event and be content with secular humanism. There has to be more to this life than just Heaven and Hell. I’m not gonna sit here and say, “Golly gee, just think on Heaven and the blessings to come.” This is what a lot of Christians do to cope with the world and feel better about suffering. But this thought is passive, it solves nothing and only makes apathy and being calloused okay. It’s non-committal. It’s passing the buck so we don’t have to have any more responsibilities. There’s no love in a mindset that focuses on Heaven and Hell.

My life and thoughts have changed a lot in the past year. I have been doing what I can to focus on Christ and the love of his actions. I’ve been trying to find Christ in the Old Testament. I’ve been trying to understand why he loves the way that he does. It’s shifted my perspective a lot. I find that the more I focus on letting religion go, the easier it is to see Jesus. I can love more fully, I can escape from these things that I do that are not productive and be grateful for what I have.

“I’m trying my best to be a better man. Despite all my fears, I really am.”

I’m trying to be more hopeful, trying to be more light-hearted, trying to be more grateful, trying to help others where I can. I’ve found a few people who help me do that. People I love and cherish, people who have the most gorgeous souls, people who love so deeply, people who make me feel light-hearted and loved. It’s a tough transition for a cynic, but it’s a worthwhile one.

It’s funny how the people who don’t know Christ have more willingness to love than those who do. It’s intriguing how those “destined for Hell” bring so much of Heaven to this earth. I just want to call for a perspective change. Be more grateful, love people, be involved and informed, soften our hearts.

We’re more than just being separated into “elect” and “fallen sheep”. We’re more.

Thoughts: What Kind of Mop Do You Use to Sop Up Wasted Love?

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“Were you there when I was hungry? Were you there when I thirsted? Did you have my name in your actions instead of your mouth? Did you love me when I had none?”

I can’t help but struggle with the concept of love. Watching Romantic Comedies, listening to As Cities Burn’s “The Widow”, having a heart-felt conversation with my roommate, bickering with my mother, having lunch with my grandmother and aunt, struggling with a desire to be loved as much as I love others. I’m always wondering where the reciprocation is? Caught between hopeful expectancy and melancholy apathy.

I know love is self-sacrificing because I’ve given myself so many times. I’m always surprised at the amount of me’s that I can pull out of my chest, like the machine from “The Prestige” is just pumping away right behind my sternum. Giving my clones away to passers-by like a man in a hotdog suit. “It’s by one get one free!” I call out after them, only to see the flyers of me discarded on the ground as they round the corner.

So I quit giving myself away. This paper-man had lived in so many different garbage cans by now that Oscar was getting upset for encroaching on his realty. So I moved upstate, into the seclusion. There was fresh air, there were song birds calling at every moment, there was the gargling as the rivers rushed about to meet their mistress the Atlantic, no reason to shave the forest that grew from my chin. I was akin to the stones and conversed often with the elk. We would talk at length, but the pines always brought back the same question from the elk’s mountainous hideaways:

“You know you weren’t made for solitude. You call to us like we can save you. We weren’t made for your companionship and we weren’t made to piece you back together. You always tell us of this man who made us as if we don’t know him. You call him by name, but his name is all you know.”

Elk always were the wise and mysterious sort. It was back to the Midwest where I would try and find community, where I would try and make a home. Find a cozy house with good bones, work harder at knowing Christ, find time to figure out what I believe and how love really works.

Sometimes, I like to lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling. It’s nice to look  at the bumps and ridges. They’re like their own little landscape, like another world inverted from ours. It often reminds me that that’s how I see things, like Death Cab’s “Lack of Color”, always fixated on the wrong things. I wonder how God does it. How we’re so small he can see us all with one gaze yet we’re oh so much more than bumps on the ceiling.

How do we love so effectively as you do? All I am is a mess of depression addled nonsense. I know I am more than that but how? Everything we are pushes against you as if our poles were magnetized to be opposite. The Creation has continued to sing you a love song since your thundering voice sounded those billions of years ago and all we do is sow in the discord. Every time I love, I love too much. Every time I guard myself I become calloused and cold. How can I be compassionate and look after myself at the same time?

There are few things I get anxious about, but love is one of them. It’s messy and I often times don’t know how to do it. I’ve messed up a lot of relationships and friendships. I’ve been too selfish, or too forward, or too vulgar. I’m constantly stewing in what I could or couldn’t have done, Bugs Bunny cutting up carrots as I yammer away, unknowingly boiling alive.

I’m really hoping that someday I will understand how to love fully. How to be compassionate and invested for the right reasons. How to keep a healthy distance to allow myself to grow and flourish just as much as those I give love to. Maybe someday I’ll realize that I’m not the only one who struggles with this and maybe one day this will allow someone to be honest with themselves, that’s all I can really hope.

Seeing Self Regain “I”

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Maybe it’s in a thicket of conifers, maybe an isle in the gulf, maybe in a bay window, sun-soaked yellowing pages provoked by thumb and index. Smudged hearts and streaks left from the Windex.

It’s so difficult to find joy. Under a rock,  perhaps hidden in some tea leaves; Earl Grey. 

Grey, grey, grey.

It’s the filter over your eyes, scales and veils, caught in Kansas with no Oz in sight. Left dreary and dreadful, with only cynical realism because these synapses hold Seratonin ransom like a POW in the Land of the Rising Sun.

But the sun never comes up. Caught in perpetual dawn, your whole earth groaning for the sunlight. Blades of grass and limbs of leaves stretching just to get a peek.

Even from the peaks, no light, no dark, just tepid glow. Knowing there’s good, so out of focus because of the bad. No lenses to change, shutter speed slowed to seizure.

Paralyzed.

Caught in a waltz of “I need to be heard” and “I won’t say a word” like a nun and a mime on a ballroom floor. It’s not gracing your ears like a dandelion in the wind, more like the incessant tapping of a pencil on a desk, an anxiety-ridden insomniac leads the cadence. It’s not so bad at first, but it sinks in to the bone, sucking you dry of happiness, no Patronus charm could fend off the horde.

I want to believe it will stop, I want to see the Reds and yellows, be a jolly fellow, greet each day with a warm ‘Hello’, a little Beethoven in the background on the cello. Like every moment a miracle given from Yahweh, so precious, so Crimson, so whole. The summer nights holding hands while the fireflies lit the fields, you tell me you love me and I believe that it’s true. Or those days by the beach when I made you that castle, I want to build you a kingdom, a Queen of the sea, shells in your hair and sand in your toes.

It’s not a matter of choosing light over dark. There isn’t choice with a grayscale voice. I wish it weren’t so, stuck here with my woe, when my woe won’t leave me be.

So Christ will the sun rise only in Japan, or can it rise for me? Where Joy can be a reality, and the woe plays a lesser role? Find time to find time in a busy heart? Your Lazarus witnessed the wrath and decay, but breathed fresh air with dead lungs. Your woman of Serene drew living water from a man with no shame. Your Judas let loose that silver and your Peter walked tall on your waves. 

Can I have a simple mind? It’d be just as much a miracle to me.

I know I frequent your ears with my breath stained of needs and wants. Crude and honest because I’m exasperated. Crude and honest because I hate who I am. Crude and honest because I know you don’t. Maybe some day I’ll see your hand guiding me. Maybe someday we’ll have more to talk about than my self-created, obsessive woes. Maybe someday you’ll convince me I am wanted.

Thoughts: Temporary Ground

The movie "Back to the Future", directed by Robert Zemeckis.  Seen here, a photographic print taken in the future, featuring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly and the fading existence of his sister, Linda.  Initial theatrical release July 3, 1985.  Screen capture. © 1985 Universal Pictures. Credit: © 1985 Universal Pictures / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz. 
Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

Finite beings with finite feelings, is there really any love in us at all? We claim to love, put it on a pedestal, give it names spoke in whisper. But do those names mean anything? Because our love isn’t valid unless it’s bought for 5.95 out of a People magazine. Our sex isn’t good enough out side of a Cosmopolitan dream.

Living in a world where I can’t express how I feel towards others. Not a single word of encouragement or beauty or it’ll be awkward. Can’t tell a woman she’s beautiful, can’t tell a man he’s admired.

It’s not that we don’t want the attention. That’s all we ever want is attention. “But with strings attached? That’s absurd!” Always thought of but never heard. Ultron couldn’t have said it better, funny how a made up animatron can be so human. More human than most I’d say, because at least he’s honest.

Strings: what a thing. Connection. We can’t handle that. “You want to tell me that I matter? You want to tell me that I’m loved? How can you parade around such infinite claims when my death’s just around the corner? Crafted from the same explosion as the stars, we’re just star dust. And even eons from now, stars still burn out.”

How abysmal. How tragic. How selfish. We can’t even accept love because we’re afraid we’ll lose it. You want to talk about temporary ground, well we’re all standing on it. The claims you stand on are just as temporary as the dirt. Funny how we can be offered something so beautiful, a soft kiss on the cheek, a summer’s eve spent by the pond, holding-hands on the train as the sun streaks through our hair, a cool real bow on a gift someone went out of their way to get you, words about how lovely we are from the lips of someone we respect and love, yet we can’t accept those things because then we would mean something. And when we mean something what we do has worth. It has weight. It has consequence.

“Well what if we get hurt? What if we cause the pain? What if we’re left out in the rain, sitting by the fields where we play ball? What if our hearts are broken?”

So what if?

“Then let’s break everyone else’s heart first. Keep your veins filled with your own sentiments. Keep your words to yourself. I’ll keep you 12 inches away, so when I need you I can use you. But when it’s all said and done, I’ll get out my ruler, and at 12 inches you’ll stay. Cut you out of my life so I don’t have to feel the pain of knowing you love me. Out of my sight so I don’t have to remember that I was worth something to someone, so I have nothing to lose.”

I know we’re stuck on temporary ground, but why does that have to be so lonely? Why can’t I tell you that I love you, why can’t we make mistakes?  Why can’t things be awkward? Why can’t we sort it out? Why do I have to suffer with not being a part of your life? If there’s one thing that Christ has taught me, and one thing I know is true, is that he is not temporary. “Everything is temporary, except for Christ, and that’s what I’m clinging to.”

Those words give purpose to everything. In Christ everything is infinite. Through him, I don’t have to worry about loss, I don’t have to fear consequence. Such beautiful words from the mouth of such a gorgeous person. Someone who’s always spoken life into me when I’ve needed it, especially when they didn’t know I needed it. Someone who is so dear and so infinitely wonderful.

Make things weird. Let people know how much they mean to you. Don’t live in a calloused world, we have enough pain without people numbing it out of their thoughts. Feeling is a great thing, don’t let others fade like the McFly’s in Back to the Future. Sometimes heartbreak will happen, but heartbreak creates heartache, and heartache leads to passion for a better world. Love is a hard path, but it’s the only path that actually leads somewhere.

Thoughts: A Scatterplot Faith in a Straight Line World

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You said you want to hear my story, well that’s fine. I’ve told it so many times, pedaling it for nickels and dimes, believing that’s what it’s worth. Some spare change. I could spare change, there’s so much it’s fluid. Never having a single constant, never feeling at home. I thought I had it a few times, warmed my feet at the hearth at the promise of safety emblazoned my face and pierced my bones. It was just enough to feel at peace, just enough to feel released, just enough for some relief. But soon it was back out into the dark, back out into a void of lamplight and concrete. 

I often tell myself it’s my fault. You’re the one who can’t stay. They’re right when they say you’re flighty. They’re right when they say you don’t belong. You’re love wasn’t needed and it sure as hell wasn’t wanted. Did you truly believe your Christ was worth following? Look at where you are now: cursed to wander and wander. Christ had no place for you on this earth. You had no comfort in store. 

No community. 

No constants.

And I’ll believe every word I’ll tell myself, because that’s all I’m hearing. That’s all that’s reinforced around me. I don’t want that to be true.

Is it selfish to want a home? Is it selfish to want to be wanted? To want to throw off every weight of sin? To want to endure but not be able to? I’ve been running this race for so long, yes I know I haven’t shed blood, and yes I know you’ve called me son, but damn it, I’m so tired.

I can’t be honest with you because it’s not seemly, I can’t wear a mask because it’s not honest. Caught in the middle of some sort of existential keep-away, always the monkey in the middle. You throw the ball too high, how can anyone expect to catch it? Then when we’re fed up with playing we’re shunned.

Jesus why would you love this lot?

Why would you love me?

I’ve been told so many times that I drag your name through the mud. Told I’m a bad influence. That I’m a bad Christian.

When can I be loved for being honest? When can I say that I’m suffering and feel like it matters? When can I be human again?

It’s so hard to have so much knowledge about you. I see who you are, but when I put that into action I become a monster.

Can you be more than just words on a page? Can you be more than just subjective theology where you’re only one thing to one person with one goal and one dimension? Where’d your mystery go? Didn’t you know, we figured you out. We’re your God now, and we’ll use you to lord over those we don’t agree with.

I’m not trying to say I’m right. I’m not trying to say others are wrong. I just need to say what I feel.

I’ve been following your voice around for a decade now. Wandering aimlessly on trust, taking the criticisms along the way. I’m just ready to find an address with my name on it. 10 years is a long time to wander. My feet are tired and I need to rest. I remember you said your yoke was easy and your burden light, mine is not, and it feels like it always will be.

Do you know what it’s like to always be sad and never have a way out? I just want to know what it’s like to feel joy and purpose.

Thoughts: Not So Social Media

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Something that’s been on my mind lately is loneliness. It’s so perplexing that in a time where we can communicate faster than lightning across hundreds of thousands of miles that we are so distant from people. We’re about posting statuses on Facebook that make it look like we’re adventurous, deep, and incredibly joyous. We post photos on Instagram that make us seem more interesting, more attractive, more passionate, more ambitious. We Tweet on Twitter things that make us seem more witty, things that make us seem connected to the outside world, to those that are famous. Yet we don’t even know how to interact with actual people.

Sadly, most of these things are complete bullshit.

People are so afraid to be real. We want to be exactly like what the media wants us to be, yet we’ll ridicule the media for creating such outlandish expectations for a human being. So why do we continue to desire to be exactly what the media wants? Why do we continue to let it happen and then complain for pity? There’s no way on Earth we can be interesting, attractive, stylish, hip, kind, loving, selfless, or intelligent all of the time. No one person knows exactly how to function properly. No one political party is correct. No one view is completely correct.

It’s frustrating living in a world where putting on a mask is as easy as turning on a 4″ screen. I can’t have a decent conversation with most people because they are so concerned about snapchating every single aspect of their life or can’t handle going 2 seconds without taking a selfie because if someone else doesn’t like it then they’re not beautiful that day. Social media makes me hate people, and the sad thing is, it’s because those people don’t want to be who they actually are.

In this time, it’s so hard to be single. I am trying desperately to find a wife who is an actual person, who has flaws, who needs me to help them, whom I need to help me. I can’t find her though, because there’s not a single woman who knows how to take compliments without instantly comparing themselves to someone they think is better. So often, when I tell a woman she’s beautiful, she may say thank you, but what she’s really thinking is, “But not to me”. Everyone is hiding behind 6 layers of makeup, tight clothes, salads, and push-up bras.

That’s so heartbreaking. And it’s the same for men. We compare, we don’t feel “manly” enough, whatever the hell that means, we shoot for ideals we can never attain. Ideals of physical attraction, style, intrigue, how to please a woman.

Ideals.

That’s what we create. That’s what we’re after. But ideals aren’t real.

Sadly, we try and make those ideals real, and we try to make real things into ideals to make ourselves feel like we can attain something great. We want that glory and acclaim that accomplishing those ideals will bring. We’ll be such a great person, we’ll have such a great life. If we can get to this point, we won’t need anything else.

Christians often make Christ an ideal. More often than not, living in a small, conservative town with conservative churches, Christ becomes this set of rules. Christ becomes this specific time and amount of prayer. Christ becomes Scripture in a book. Christ becomes words in a cheesy, cliché song that doesn’t really mean anything. It’s the same for th liberal church, just with things skewed way too far to the left. Christ becomes so ethereal, you can claim him to be anything. Christ is all around always, so you don’t have to spend time with him. Christ can only be found in the spontaneous and unstaged.

It’s all bad and it’s all not real. Christ is a person. Christ is real. He touches people. He speaks to people. He is present with people. He loves, He’s awkward, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. He doesn’t try to look perfect for every single person on the planet.

When was the last time you prayed because you wanted to and not because you felt you had to or didn’t want to feel guilty about not praying? When was the last time you read scripture because you wanted to see the word of Yahweh rather than searching for some sort of answer to life? When was the last time you worshipped on your own rather than waving your arms about in church because you feel you have to? When was the last time you repented because you wanted your life to change rather than out of fear of looking bad to others or being fearful of things like sex, alcohol, or cursing themselves? There’s just so much Religion.

Religion: a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.

Whatever your religion may be, whether it be social media, other’s opinions, an ideal, drop it. Religion causes so many problems on this earth, and not just the kind involving the spiritual. It’s everywhere and I want to encourage you to live your life apart from ideals that you can never attain. It’s perfectly fine to have beliefs and to want to strive for something greater, but it’s not okay to make that thing ultimate. There is so much to life, life can never be just one thing. Be with people, stay off your phones more often, experience life outside of a 4″ screen.