Unfinished Thought #4

Comparing Genesis 3:20-23 and John 20:15-18 (and the surrounding verses for context), I am chewing more nuanced similarities that add further context for Jesus’ resurrection ushering in the new Kingdom.

John 20 is the first time in which Jesus says to another person that God is their Father (as opposed to the Father, my Father). Jesus says, “…Go to my brothers and tell them I am returning to my Father and YOUR Father, to my God and YOUR God.” (v17, emphasis added.) This is the first encounter with Jesus prior to the resurrection. The new kingdom is here.

This morning I’m sitting on some drawn comparisons by John’s gospel to the Creation story.

Creation begins in a garden. The resurrection encounter is also in a garden.

Immediately following the curse by God, Adam names his wife Eve — the mother of all the living. Then, man is banished from the Garden of Eden and the freedom to eat from the Tree of Life. Yet, Jesus — who calls himself the true vine, the only way to the Father — is here, in a garden, with someone who’s name at root means “rebellious.”  In the garden with Mary, Jesus is unrecognized by her. She mistakes the LORD for the gardener. (Maybe Mary — although unknowing — was rightfully considering Jesus the gardener, one who creates and cultivated life.)

Perhaps, as Adam called his wife a name to recognize her place in the first kingdom (of the earth), Jesus’ personal calling out to Mary by her name is an understanding of all that is in man. We have the tendency for rebellion, but he still knows who we are. In the Kingdom of God we are known, and still loved, still cared for and sought out just as Jesus asked Mary why she cried.

Jesus’ entrance in a garden is a way that John’s gospel calls back to Genesis to confirm the resurrection as an ushering of a new kingdom that has restored all that was originally created by the LORD God.

Unfinished Thought #2


When we live in a society that perpetuates the illusion of safety with our entitled ways of comfort, it is then that we escape fear. We escape fear and we lose courage, and do it in such a way that we forget how to properly acknowledge reality.

There must be a proper way to empathize over death. But I question if many Americans know how to do it, and even further, there’s a large lack of care for the deceased if we don’t know or sense connection to the once breathing person.

Talking with a friend that lived in a third world country for a few years, she was taken back by the difference of response to death. In the third world, hearing of a death elicits an open, much more genuine response. One of empathy, a broken heart that connects with pain.

But we aren’t in a third world country. The first world allows us to hide behind glass and view everything from a distance, to remove ourselves from exposure to the painful parts of life, and we can do it at our own preferred immediacy. The only thing that stops our news intake is the speed our fingers can swipe or how quickly we can press the button for the next update. Since news is all around us, permeating everything we do, death is not something new or fresh or heartbreaking. It’s stale. Statistics need to be seen in astronomical proportions, and only in videos of three legged injured dogs or malnourished children.

The connection? At the surface, the connection is that I didn’t know about, nor did I care, about the death of Michael Brown. It doesn’t really matter. He’s one of many victims of police brutality. Death isn’t striking, and so I probably read half a status update and kept on scrolling through the day.

Deeper, there was a sense of realization that I’m adjusted to the bubble. The first world is more than safe at first glance, but underneath is the reality that we are out of touch. Something is terribly wrong.

I believe that was evidenced in her experience of the third world is that humans have the potential to hold a larger capacity for awareness, care, and respect for the ways the earth works. Not everyone has the internet at their finger tips, nor do they live in a glass bubble of manufactured tables and chairs in a place that serves complex coffee drinks with overpriced pastries in bright colors.

When my friend told me about how people reacted at the news of death I couldn’t stop knocking on the glass window next to me. With the consumeristic culture that allows me to choose between fifteen different cookies and selectively care about specific stories and events of life, I can tune out every and anything that doesn’t fit immediately within my selfish parameters.

Yet, when I understand the capacity for selective hearing and selfishly driven choices to numb reality, it opens my eyes to the ways that we function. Brokenness has taken a turn for the worst.

I can empathize and allow my soul to resonate with the lost hope that led Robin Williams to commit suicide. Most of us only know the man because of movies, a fantasized version of reality, a fake alternate form of escape into someone else’s life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the call to adventure. Getting lost in the strong chase for hope is something that affirms imagination in small boys, especially when they live on suburban blocks with freshly mowed lawns that take away any reason to believe there is danger out there. Nowadays danger looks like gunfights, and the adventures of riding bikes down large hills and playing under the train tracks are a lost world. When the only chase for hope is elicited by a movie my life is probably boring, or at the very least unlived (and we know what Peter Pan had to say about living life). We’ve reverted to controlled environments with safe keeping, on our living room floors with a video game controller in our hands. It robs us of imagination and puts specific ideas in our heads, along with the alternate agendas of empire.

We connected to Robin Williams in a specific way because he reminded us of hope, he taught us about love, he showed us the goodness of the world despite the badness. And yet, none of us knew him, like Michael Brown and every other person that becomes a selective statistic. But let’s not turn our heads to look out the glass bubble.

Deep down I wonder if it is selfish only to care about people that I know. It’s definitely easier to dismiss the ones I don’t, but the more I knock on the glass I realize how far the first world has removed me from reality.

There’s a long list of devices, organizations, and retailers to attack with blame and resentment because I’ve been sold gargantuan lies of this small world. Lately I’m learning that maturity doesn’t place blame and so I have to slowly and painfully forgive those who’ve pulled the truth far from the eyes of myself and my friends.

But then I have to move on, to live, with the awareness of painful reality. Healthy choices decide for the better, even when it separates us from the large masses of internet educated citizens.

I learned that Robin Williams fought a lifelong battle with depression, and that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. With all he did to teach us through his film career about hope and life I have to believe he understood reality to a fuller measure than the ones he was preaching to through cinema. When I take a step back and hold Michael Brown, the battles of the third world, and the glass bubble of the first world, I can receive a glimpse as to why Robin Williams couldn’t fight anymore.

Maybe he saw too much, carried a larger burden than most, and chose hope so much that when he received diagnosis that his life was coming to a close he wanted something simple. Life is a large burden to carry, especially when you encourage hope to the ones who may not even recognize you’re carrying it.

I’ve got my own tendencies towards depression, internal anxiety, apathy, lack of focus and hyper activity. And I think I’ve seen enough life to know that pain is real.

I’m bent on believing that most people simply want to fit in to society in such a way that they don’t have to think about pain or others or hope or life. I think our tendencies towards selfishness and imperial entitlements have only further bread humans this way. The world was broken long before the first capitalistic struggle. Regardless of awareness, greed and power have further corrupted us. We can buy ignorant identities that put us at the center of the universe, fitting in with everyone else that believes they are the center of the universe (irony in redundancy).

But, long before capitalism, hope was also born. It’s been here the whole time. I know that I’ve seen it in long moments, nature, specific people — despite their brokenness, and the overwhelming sense of freedom that would push a man with depression to encourage and influence others to live hope-filled lives.

Hope is not from this broken state of the world, but comes from somewhere, someone greater. It’s compelling me to look at the sky, to pause and turn my head, and to seek something other than what I’m currently offered by the first world buffet.

Hope is out there. Jesus is out there. I’ve simply got to find him.

Unfinished Thought #1


Life is tough. Last night I lay on my driveway and looked up at the sky. The streetlights illuminated paved roads and suburban homes, an assured sign of safety. But just past the golden haze, when I stared long enough, I could finally see stars deep in the dark night. That space was wild, an unknown frontier. From my driveway in Placentia I saw a shooting star and was filled with wonder. O, how I long for wonder.

[happened Aug 12.2014]
Little did I know we were in the middle of a meteor shower.

Relationships Matter: Death to the Adult Boy

Last night, a small piece of me died. Or, at least shrunk. I’m not sure how to talk about dead skin – whether it falls off and dissipates, or the new skin simply outgrows something that no longer belongs.

I often fall into the anxious and self-deprecating habits of inwardly viewing myself as a twenty-five year old adult boy. Reality is scary when I start to notice changes. Beyond puberty and driver licenses, college degrees and alcohol, as the days pass my friends are getting married and having kids. People are in pursuit of even higher education and start up businesses. All the while, there is evidence that I’m still a juvenile who leaves the cereal box on the counter and runs out the house without shoes.

While this feeling is extremely lonely, I know that I am not alone. There are many males my age who feel as though life is passing them by while others experience success. We cannot move forward or catch up. There is a wall blocking us, the adult boys, and on the other side of this wall are marriage, success, learned understanding, and a perceived peace that comes with growing up. How the hell do we grow up?

Without a proper or known answer, there are varying numbers of symptoms that perpetuate this cycle. It’s a dichotomous crippling irony. Somehow we’ll end up having kids – in or outside a marriage, with or without fathers, and these kids will experience the same damned fears because we won’t know how to teach them the secrets to going through the wall. And they’ll be doomed, overcompensating in excessive life styles with large amounts of debt, lifted trucks, and a gun collection, or senseless tattoos, drug and alcohol abuse, and a laundry list of women that we’ve either kicked to the curb or invited to be our mothers.

There are varying degrees to which it plays out, but from the outside with a sense of awareness it looks like a perceived toughness that drowns itself in uncertainty. My best guess believes that most of it is simply trying to figure out how to do life, how to evade the truths behind pride, and how to fit in so that we don’t stand out as that child, back on the playground where alpha males were born and sand was kicked in your face.

As I sit on my couch and waste the day away, staring at my internal wall that keeps me out of manhood, at first I avoid the problem. Then I get angry and cry, and then I blame my dad. He didn’t teach me how to be a man! It must be his fault. He was the distant one, he left my mom, and he wasn’t transparent or engaging or supportive of my emotional heart. And then he died.

Death. The ultimate abandonment. I am a boy alone.

But, then I look inwardly – do I truly believe this? And then I reflectively view his childhood. When he was five or six years old, his dad died. His mom was an alcoholic and wasn’t present. It was his grandpa that raised him up, but when he was ten or eleven he came home from school one day to find his grandpa dead on the floor from a heart attack. My dad essentially raised himself. Somehow, by grace, he found the LORD and came to know Christ, and then got married and adopted me and my siblings.

If I look back now, I see that my dad did a lot of things well. He gave five kids a better chance at life. My parents ran a general contracting business for twenty years and my dad worked his ass off to care for our family. I never had a financial need in the world. He was a great provider and showed his love in giving. And then, in later years he knew how much I loved movies and tried to take me to the cinema to relate my film school education in conversation.

There are some things he didn’t do well, like teaching me how to balance a budget, tie a tie, or how to be healthy in relationships (especially for longevity). But, how would he have known to do them? No one was there to teach him those things!

Without going much further into it, I must acknowledge the terrible roots of evil that perpetuate the failings we see in our fathers. The kingdom of earth holds many luring things that make for painful childhoods and continued brokenness. Ask the adult boys why we are like this, and then sit with us as we stare at the wall.

However, I have to set the stage with all of this only to share with you that I woke up today particularly proud of myself, and feeling extremely grateful and blessed. The kingdom of God is alive and well. And, it is active!

Somewhere in childhood I caught a glimpse of a manhood that works on cars. While I’m not a grease monkey, I see past the wall when I look at what can only be seen (today) in the greasers of American Graffiti and the Outsiders. I hear this manhood in the ’59 Sound of the Gaslight Anthem or the courage to stay strong and the do-it-yourself mentality of Minor Threat. Punk does something good to my soul.

Last night, I faced this wall. At twenty-five years old I learned how to change the brake pads on my car. Originally given as a gift by my parents, this 4Runner is now my sole responsibility. I stood under it last night as it was ten feet off the ground on the lift in an auto shop. And I didn’t stand there alone.

I don’t need to make a stronger case to say that, for me, I wish my dad taught me more about working on cars. Standing up strong is learning by doing. Last night I stood under the lift with my friend and mentor, and I felt the kingdom of God working past the past. He and I were looking up at my car, and we looked through the walls of my childhood.

I met this man in early college. It was a distinct chapter in both of our lives when God brought us together in an empty parking lot in Costa Mesa. We talked for three hours as planes landed and took off just overhead at John Wayne airport. Last night we looked up at my brakes and he helped me see deeper and deeper into this wall and beyond my baggage.

He saw the potential hidden inside of the adult boy. I think the longer he looks, the more he just sees a man. I’m only confident saying that because he knows I’m self aware and we’re on the same page. He can see what I see. Something is growing inside me, shedding the deadness of stale expired childhood.

Relationships matter. Particularly, it’s the investments that walk side by side with a person as he figures out life. I’ve had the blessing in receiving a hand up, as opposed to simply getting handouts, having everything done for me. My dad couldn’t teach me everything, and neither can this guy. Yet, in bits and pieces, with lots of patience, compassion, and love, I am learning.

While learning how to do brakes is only one step, it is one more that I can say I’ve taken. I have experienced something my personal value deems as pivotal. Going forward, with new knowledge there is the potential to expand upon this and teach others. I’ve been an eager disciple of spiritual direction and formation, and a curious learner of grace, but before that I could only claim title as a legalistic and overbearing sinner. You must walk in baby steps before you can hike the Narrows. If progress is evidenced elsewhere, then I’ll be customizing and building that ideal eco-friendly VW bus in no time.

My encouragement to every adult boy out there is to find someone with wisdom. Start following him around, asking questions, and learning by doing. Seek wisdom; the ability to carry forward your knowledge. Whether you missed out on shaving, yard work, balanced budgets, boundaries with women, spiritual disciplines, or grace, find someone that knows these things and inquire of truth. I am only one guy, young and still learning, but I feel myself outgrowing anxiety, childish ways, and the symptoms of compensation. If you believe the Kingdom of God can transform the world, then be part of that change by doing the work to transform it.

If you are a man, a father, or an uncle, then do your part. The future of the world depends on it, or the walls of boyhood will trap us entirely. There isn’t an adult boy out there who is not stumbling around, trying to figure out what it means to be a man. Invest in those who need to know how to be alive.

God’s grace is generational, having transcended the broken relationship that meant I’d be adopted. It meant that my dad would find Christ and be willing to take on five kids, and then to take me to church and a school where I’d be introduced to my first spiritual mentor. God’s grace then carried through to take my dad home and leave me here to find community in grace and love, people that understood healthy relationships and growing into manhood. Today, I realize this as I go forward to live into the potential that people have seen as I outgrow childish ways. His grace is that I would identify the walls in another adult boy and be in relationship with people who need freedom. His Kingdom collides with brokenness, as loving relationships heal the past. The LORD our God is faithful, the LORD our God is love.

When a person takes many small steps over long periods of time he will eventually look back and see that he is not now who he once was. In time I’ve grown, through small steps that walk through walls, as the man outgrows the adult boy.

I owe my life and salvation to God, my learned growth and understanding to relationships. The willingness to go forward is owed first to myself in grace. But second, though more importantly, to the people in my life who have been willing to wait with me and walk with me each and every step of life.

Living Love.

Life has changed. Within a matter of months it will be different again, but that’s because it always changes. As a creation of time, the linear grasp with which I hold life so dearly understands that something pivotal has taken place. My approach, my heart, my understanding of what it means to live in view of God — it has all seen more. I recall (now) what has happened (recently) so that I can go forward.

For Lent I spent 40 Days in Psalms 23. Over the course of that time so many events happened. I could barely keep up with writing them all down. Some of the best moments never made it to the page. When you live life as it is actually happening, its difficult to stop living in order to write stuff down!

I recently got out of debt and shifted into a new job. I am no longer in crisis mode, and this may be a first time as a true young adult that I grasp this concept. Without living purely in crisis survival I’m being pushed and pulled towards Christ in some incredible ways. I am truly wrestling with what it means to love God, love my neighbor, and do the good (not simply do well) – simply because I know it is good.

I think it was the weekend after Easter when I had these quick glimpse encounters with truth and the Spirit.

In church on a Sunday: I worked the closing shift the night before, slept very little, and was exhausted going to the morning service. I felt the sacrifice and the stretch to be there. I raised my hands in prayer during worship and met God. Something weird happened that I’m still chewing on.

God and I both reflectively looked at me: Sinful in my human state, but redeemed. Exhausted, but still going. When I seek him in all things He meets me in everything.

It was like I offered up my sin, my worn down brokenness, and my humanity. I lifted it all up to him, exactly as I was. No hiding or withholding. He and I were looking at the same version of myself, and I found joy in offering it all up to him.

Sometimes it can be pretty embarrassing to offer up my life, but this was a contented place because I was willing to let him be my Savior and King.

The next moment was later that afternoon when I bought new tires. I paid cash for them. I owe no one anything! Buying a major item without using credit or feeling the stretch on bills for next month felt so weird. Amanda and I were at Costco, and after walking the store for a bit we sat down on that display item lawn furniture.

There was more peace, and yet a subtle anxiousness. I tried to explain to her that I felt anxious because I wasn’t anxious. I had been so used to living in crisis so that now when I made a significant purchase without that familiar anxiety I didn’t know how to feel about it.
Peace can be alarming when I’m not used to it.

And thirdly, I’ve been reading a lot and spending time in purposeful conversation with mentors, mentees, and mutual peers. But, I’ve also spent intentional downtown sitting with God. As I meditate with the LORD, my posture towards sin is reshaping. Not that I am perfect by any stretch of work, but my recent questions have transitioned.

For a while I was learning to recognize my sinfulness. Then, my prayer was to be compelled to change.  I realized that I am not always “compelled” to stop sinning. There is still an intentional choice made. The beauty of being created in the image of God is that I have a critically thinking will that can choose good or bad. I am in control of each and every choice – despite peer pressure, desire, or physical impulse.

I’m also qualifying this against the truth that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.” (Romans 8:1) This understanding ought to stop my sinning, right? Wrong. Sin is still appealing if God is not my focus. And even when he is, the one who tempts knows how to lure us all.

My question became this: What is it going to take for me to simply stop sinning? Why would I even ask a question like that?

Why? Because I have experienced love like none before, and I desire to live apart from sin. I have hope. Actually, I am in love with the LORD God Almighty and believe that his son’s resurrection is the hope of salvation.

When I move beyond crisis and beyond the allure of sin (only by his power and opportunity), I start to see what it means to love God for his sake.

It’s done in fearful obedience, in reverence, in failing and receiving grace, and in trusting him because he is faithful.

There is a true desire within me to obey. Not because I want to look better than everyone else (I’ll fail), or because I am afraid of punishment, or because I want an earthly reward (this, too, is a let down).

There are still many areas of conflict, but I didn’t truly want to obey until I sat face to face with reality and until I invited God into a transparent conversation about all of my life. That moment in church when everything was laid out before God, as though we were sitting down at a table together examining me in all aspects, that moment was a large summation of time in prayer.

I’ve spent time alone with God in that still small space and laid my life out before him. He’s inviting me into some incredibly difficult things, but I’m following him further and seeing more of what he desires for his Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is love. It is love for God and love for my neighbor, and the LORD is the only one who knows how to teach me love like this.

I could be a faithless bastard every day for the rest of my life and God would still be faithful to his words, true to his love for me and everyone else.
It is this love that has captured my heart.

Last Night’s Excellency – An Evening w/ Propaganda

Propaganda [@prophiphop] performed at the Glasshouse in Pomona last night. Amanda and I went. I felt a little out of place going to a hip hop show, but I’ve listened to his album Excellent for a year now.  His music is awesome so I couldn’t pass up the chance. This was my take away.




A lot of words were spoken last night
And I drove away from the stage with a feeling of fright
Was it mere entertainment in my sight?
Am I doing life right?
I discovered my plight grew from how I write, and then let go of my spite only to be contrite

When excellence knows it is excellent and boldly expends the energy to tell us, it shames those who don’t even fall short because they never even try
So I stood there unalive, barely grasping the concept of what goes into making excellence and I started to see what makes me shy

It’s the pains of discipline and doing things right – not letting time pass me by
Devotion to the talent and growing life’s existence – it goes beyond standard living
Its truth inside from He who gives life, and compels people to be better

This man on the stage stood humbly emboldened
By the life he’d been given
He was outspoken
Without shying away from struggle and overcoming adversity
He got away from trouble and beat down apathy
There’s real life pain he faced — can see it in his face, eager to move beyond race
But stereotypes have defined generational potential
They present a clash that makes him stand out, stand away
So he must stand his ground

It was about more than repping a hometown
The Son of Man brought this one man together with other men to tell the story of the crimson cord
Told us where they’d been and brought truth of what He’d done so that none should run unless they’re sprinting the race of life with both feet – one in front of the other
And that’s how they arrived at this stage with the mic in their hands, only to take a stand for Christ on this land

So I drove away last night with terror about my life because so many times I’m just moving along at my own pace
It’s a tamed little putz with ifs, ands, or buts about going further, trying harder, living smarter, and achieving the potential of what I’ve been blessed with

I can start a book, but can I finish a run?
Am I only seeking fun? So that when I feel done – regardless of whether or not the project is complete I might feel satisfactory
Like mass-produced happiness in factories is my apathy about living excellently
But here I was in Pomona at the far end of the freeway to listen on a weekday
Could I pass more time without achieving life’s meaning of living reverently?
I ask this reflectively because it was spoken with broken overtones into the microphone and I’m left alone questioning my already rescued approach

Did God save me for the status quo?
Wake to the alarm on my cellular phone, take a long hot shower and abuse my comb, plowing the fields like a ceramic gnome, going to work and ignoring the unknown, give me more espresso because I’m simply a drone, only to get off the clock and get out of the zone, hand me a beer and deep fried calzone, so that I can come home and sit alone, fall asleep to the sounds of televised Joan, this is my life.
Is the adventure postponed?

But wait!
I stop
I got shocked and so I’ll to drop these rocks and unlock the cell block that holds me imprisoned
I don’t have to live scared
I can’t move without care of what Jesus has done
Life is renewed and I’ve been redeemed
God’s image is prevalent in me so I must live reverently to Elohim, the only King that lived and died and rose to save me
So I may live excellently for God’s own beauty and glory
This is the story that has yet to be finished and is still unwritten about how I’ll use my pen to write words to uncurse the path of status quo

Slow down
I’m slowing down to go better, and letting go of all the distraction and noise
I won’t drown the unknown or ignore what I’ve been shown

It’s a still small voice I’m trying to hear in that quiet place beyond my ears, where Jesus speaks and my will disappears so that the Spirit of life empowers my sight to see another Kingdom beyond my pride and the frights that dismiss excellence inside

Christ is my life and I can no longer hide so I must write

I must write
I will write
I will tell the stories of the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve been
He’s gone before me and only led to the redeemed
It’s my testimony of how I used to live in hell, ignoring God’s image in me
I was cursed under a spell, and sin’s grasp held tightly
But no longer, you see
I know Christ intimately
And finally
I’m learning to live faithfully, to trust him truthfully, to seek the good for the beauty of his glory

Thank you, Propaganda, for the evening you’ve shared, and a few of your friends that cared to live excellently and stand up beyond what the world tells us to be
You’ve impacted me for God’s story



When the LORD is my Shepherd: Easter

Photo Credit: The Daring Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com

Photo Credit: The Daring Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com


[Lent is over.]

The party started the moment I woke up. Sunday was full.

I worked Friday night, and a double on Saturday. Sunday morning a giggling little baby woke me up, which was a refreshing opposition to the normal annoying sounds of my alarm. My sister and her boyfriend are in town with my six-month-old niece.

Those first moments of the morning held a strange sense of both peace and excitement. Although exhausted from the long work weekend, I was glad to begin the day.

Proudly I marched up the stairs to my mom. She was sitting on her bed. I handed her a large wad of cash. It was the very last of my debt.


On Easter morning this held ironic, yet significant resonance. All of my sins are forgiven by Christ’s work on the cross, and the strength of will and blessing of work that God provided has swiftly killed my monetary debt.

All of my debts are paid.

Amanda and I started the morning with cinnamon rolls, coffee, and church. It was awesome to see everyone – close friends, familiar faces, and a couple that we had the opportunity to pray with at last year’s Easter service. It is an incredible blessing to be part of a group of people and feel so known.

After church we went to Amanda’s grandma’s house (lunch round 1), my mom’s house (round 2), and then my aunt’s house (dessert).
This was a gluttonous slew of awesomeness. It was also exciting to see all of the groups of family.

However, I noticed immediately the moment that the thrill of so many people became an exhausting drain on us. We later retreated to the brewery for some inward relaxation.

We sat for a while, just the two of us. It was a good stillness. We needed the time to sit by ourselves. Unfortunately, I saw people I knew and wanted to say hi. In hindsight, I see that even resting in the stillness takes a practice of self-control. My personality was drawn to these acquaintances like a moth to a flame. Amanda and I made more new friends.

Eventually we left, still desirous of alone time. Amanda’s house was the only place that was empty, and after being around people for the whole day it held incredible appeal.

The desire to simply sit and breathe caught up with us. Though together from the moment I picked her up yesterday morning, it wasn’t the quality time we wanted. Busy schedules felt like we were going from one thing to the next without truly enjoying being together.

In light of the practice of lent Amanda and I committed to fast from kissing each other and submit our physical boundaries to prayer and accountability. We don’t have a perfect record, but definitely learned a lot. At the end of a long exhausting Easter we retreated to her backyard to celebrate the end of this lent season.

But, we went too far. We put ourselves in a bad spot, away from other people, and we went further than the previously discussed physical boundaries. I’m grateful we kept our clothes on and retained some of those boundaries, but I still felt the weight of going further than my consciously peaceful mind originally intended before God. Dabbling in each other’s sexuality is still a sexual relationship that is not for our unmarried selves.

We lacked self-control, even on Easter.

Even on Easter we need the redemptive work of Christ.

If I encompass the day’s entirety, what I love most about reflecting on Easter is that I can see God in all of it.

All the people – the ones who claim Christ, the ones uncertain or apathetic, and even the people who don’t want to have anything to do with God.

All the food – celebration upon celebration, intentionally prepared and thought out planning, provisions and care for groups enjoying time together, and an excess of delicious flavors.

All the brokenness – sins and attitudes, the legalism, the disbelief, and even the bad theology we throw on people in attempts to force understanding.

All the redemption – baptisms, repentance, laughter, confessions, and the struggles and dialogues that lead toward a purified pursuit of the LORD God.

My reflections of yesterday are this:

It took a solid amount of time to get out of debt, and a hell of a lot of will power. But God and I walked together in getting out of debt.

I would not be free if it weren’t for him.

I zoomed out of the big picture of people that I encountered yesterday. With my family, friends, and everyone in between, I see the varying degrees of redemptive understanding, belief, and care for the LORD. Community looked different at each turn, as each group had a different set of standards. Praise the LORD that the significance of Easter is that I don’t have to live up to false expectations (of myself, of the world, of anyone!). Further, as I wrap my mind around the depths of a love big enough for the whole earth I am in awe of this massive, Holy God.

Amanda and I discussed our physical boundaries going forward, and it made me realize something about my need for Christ’s power in all areas. The need for Jesus is not so that I can do life, but because I cannot do life. I need him to be my life.

I don’t have self-control. When I recognize this I am then empowered in his name. I find freedom in setting up greater boundaries for my physical relationship with my girlfriend. Going forward, we will walk down a different road that is tangibly measured and understood by both willing parties. She and I are walking together in this for the sake of purity before God. We love him and we love each other.

Jesus has come and risen from the grave, and when I believe in his truth my life is different. My debts are paid, I am empowered by his love, and life is full.

Anxiety’s Last Day.

[Day 45] 

When the LORD is my Shepherd: Anxiety’s Last Day.

Photo Credit: Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com

Photo Credit: Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com

I am really excited about today.

Today was the last worst day. Ever.

Good Friday, set aside in memory of Jesus’ death, was the day that man finally killed him. Saturday was sort of a limbo day, a time in which al hope seemed lost, but when he rose from the grave Easter Sunday everything was different. 

Jesus’ purposes from the beginning of time model a different life available as we have full communion with God. When in relationship with the LORD all that we know to be true about the old ways of the earth has already been defeated. The old ways are conquered when we live in Christ. 

“… he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3


I don’t know when I pinpointed my anxiety. I’ve had it for some time now, potentially as far as I can remember. However, it was about two years ago that I took charge to intentionally pray against it.

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mark 4:35-41

It became a simple meditation. I reflected on my amount of faith, where I placed my hope, and I learned to trust in the LORD God. I have a small reference note that I’ve written next to this verse to turn to another verse:

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth…” Proverbs 8:22-29

The work of the LORD done from the very beginning, at the creation of time and the earth, is the same power that Jesus holds to command the waters in this gospel passage.


The words used,
“Quiet! Be still!”
are the strength of his presence, the voice of the LORD that shepherds my way against anxiety.

As anxiety challenges my steps, as it keeps me from seeking God, I return to the beginnings.

God, who created all the earth and the mere time structure that humans live inside of, goes beyond the linear fashion and knowledge that we possess. When life throws our boats up and down we have no reason to fear.

It is the LORD’s command to, “Be still,” that works against anxious living. David wrote this psalm prior to Jesus ever walking the earth. Yet, the same power of God is called upon to declare peace over life because he transcends all of creation.

I read this Proverbs verse and it ties together my understanding of David’s calling upon the LORD as his Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd commanding the waves at sea. The power of the LORD moves throughout all of time.

It has been active before the beginning!

As I reflect on the power of the LORD’s work done on the cross, I am excited because today is the last day ever in which death held us down. The same power that created the entire universe, the goodness that restored David’s soul and calmed the waves of the disciples’ fear, it is the same power that was crucified on the cross.

On that day, the barriers of the old way of living ended. Christ died and took all of the struggles in anxious living with him. The LORD’s power transcends any time gaps or ways of imagination.

There is no place we can go beyond him, which brings presence into how we live here and now. In all situations! We, too, are conquerors in Christ who loves us. The culmination of our Christian faith was killed today.

Not so that we can put an end to struggle, but so that we can live beyond those barriers. The resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday marks the celebration of new life, here and now.

We are freed. We are restored. We are redeemed.

I am excited (and probably celebrating a bit earlier than the rest of the church). The goodness of God’s love that heals my way is so present and alive in what he has killed on the cross.

Marked is the last day burdened by terrible living!

This is the end.

Today I say: Death to anxiety!


The Story So Far [Part 3]

[Day 44]

When the LORD is my Shepherd: The Story So Far [Part 3]


Photo Credit: Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com

Photo Credit: Nate Carson, www.natecarson.com

I can’t believe it’s Thursday! Lent is almost overTomorrow kicks off the weekend crux of our faith.

It’s been nearly a week since I’ve written anything, and I must simply acknowledge that these days have flown by!

Last Thursday, I paid off half of my debt! I’d been saving for a month and finally forked over the money. If I’ve budgeted myself correctly I will be out of debt by the end of April, if not before Easter!

Friday was weird. I’m still digesting it.

In the early morning I sent out the application document for one of the guys to get into the ranch in Oregon. It was the last step. Now, we wait. It has taken a while to get things going onward because of different meet ups, personal questions, and trying to communicate that I’m walking with him. He has no reason to truly fear, but all the reasons to come up with as to why it won’t work out.

Anyway, we’ve done our parts so far, and we can only pray for the results and decisions when the people at the ranch get his background check.

I met the face. THE FACE. She had frazzled ghostly white hair, dark skin, and she was homeless. Her name was Queen, and her eyes were milky and glassy either from partial blindness or some other physical ailment.

No doubt about it. This was her. In broad daylight, sitting on a bench wearing warm clothing in the heat of late morning with her shopping cart close by. I was coming up on mile five on a ten mile run, so I slowed my pace. Actually, I was running the same five-mile loop twice and passed her two times. On both I slowed up to chat, to look her in the eye, to hear her sweet voice. She was missing two front teeth, but had a joyful smile. We talked a bit as I ran in place.

Immediately following the run I met a friend for coffee. We talked about him facing into his “wall,” as friends around him move forward in careers, relationships, mortgages, and gray hair. He questions how to do so. It’s the same thing I struggle with, and more than likely a similar strain as the homeless people we spend Mondays with, too.

O, the oddity!
So many similarities and connected threads throughout the day…

We walked the downtown area to find one of our friends from Monday mornings that is no longer homeless. She has taken SO MANY STEPS, and is now in a program with a mentor that walks her through getting assimilated back into life.

Last year she was baptized at the Easter service, and now she is seeing the fruit of trusting God and moving forward in life!

She has an apartment, a job, and is making her way. She works at a local coffee shop and is no longer showing up Monday mornings! It was an incredible blessing to see what her amount of will power, along with the hand of God, can do to go beyond survival mode.

I worked Friday night, and a double shift on Saturday. I was exhausted by Saturday evening, but I had committed to telling this baptism story of our once homeless friend on Sunday morning.

When the time came, the other stories shared had a different theme and I ended up not having the space.

I was willing to sacrifice, but to show up and not be needed was frustrating.

Sitting in church I found many distractions as I waited for my turn to get up and speak. There was an excitement within, and I was grateful to be given an opportunity to speak in front of a group. However, I also felt anxiousness. Every little thing from a baby’s laugh to someone’s breath of moaning agreement with the sermon kept me from staying dialed in. I was let down because I felt the sacrifice of waking up on time after working until two AM the night before.

Afterward, when I talked with the person who’d asked me to share, his response: God had something else planned. After all, it was an open microphone with a few intentional stories.

God pulled me open.

When Amanda and I walked out of church I saw a guy that I’d met just last week. At the end of service a week prior, this guy put his hand on my chest and said an intense prayer about “fanning the flame” in my life. Now, he reaffirmed this and expanded his sense. He said…

“I see that if you are willing, there is the potential for exponential growth with God.”

Recognizing that God had something else going on, I decided not to come back to evening service. I needed rest, and took the day to meditate and relax. Most intentionally, I opened my ears to listen.

Monday I applied for jobs and worked the night. Tuesday I worked a double and then picked up Amanda from her end of tax season celebration. Wednesday I slept in (finally!), met with friends for coffee, took Amanda shoe shopping (tax day celebration), and then got called in last minute to cover the night shift. This was an awesome shift, an added bonus and blessing toward killing debt!

Today, Thursday, I am burnt out and exhausted.
(I think) I need rest. I know I want sleep.

I’m praying for the last bits of debt to be cleared, for a job on a career path, and energy, grace, and courage. I want to run head first, juggernaut style, through this “wall.”

I think I’m willing. I definitely desire growth.

I don’t want potential to be the word that hangs over my head the rest of life. 

What sort of path does God have in mind?

My eyes are turned to look both backwards and forwards at the same time.

What could hindsight teach me about these next steps?