from today

truth does not heal, only love.

it is not truth that we need today, but healing. truth is fleeting; it rarely will stick for very long. it is important, but not as much as we tend to place on it--we get that from the greeks, not the bible.

i guess maybe we cling to truth because we can find it much easier than love. we can possess it under our control. or so we think. love is much more elusive. or at least it is as we so often look for it.

how easily we forget that Christ's love cannot be separated from us. his is the love we truly need. it is always there, right before us, in any instant. we need only to access it, to accept it, to receive that wholesome love. let your heart be flooded by his love, by his blood that cleanses, that washes out bitterness and anger and hurt.

Lord help me to remember it now every day, as i will need it at least that often.


it's the season

to be jolly. hm.

christmas season is my favorite time of year--i guess it technically isn't a season so it doesn't surpass fall, but it is my favorite month-long time of the year by far. i love the anticipation of the season, all looking forward to that great day of arrival, of God coming to be with us, of emmanuel. i love the lights. i love the cold. i love the music (well, some of it). but most of all it is the spiritual side of it, the joy of the greatest gift that humanity has ever received.

but this year i just don't have that excitement. life does not feel like a gift, and God's presence does not seem like cause for celebration and glad tidings. there is a loss, a lack in me now that quiets the carols and mutes the bells. there is a sting that cuts at the heart and seeps bitterness, flooding the seeds of joy and hope. because isn't that what christmas is about? hope? the hope that a savior has come to rescue us from...from what exactly again? from the cruelties of this world? from death? from slavery to sin? from pain? from struggle? i've heard all of those but they're not all right.

i think often with christmas we forget that the coming of jesus wasn't just about laying down his sweet head. or do we forget that the wise-men's gifts were burial spices? his coming meant his death for us. and it meant the coming of all of our deaths--sure our resurrection too, but death first. it meant the coming of the need to take up our cross daily. the coming of our exile into being aliens and strangers in this world.

what it comes down to is how you respond to the arrival of Christ in your own life. there will be great joy and great freedom, but in time there will also be great pain and much loss. it is the path of the disciple. it might be a long time before Jesus brings you there, but we all must drink his cup. there is no getting around it. not if we want to follow him.

so do you want to follow? i know i haven't made it sound the most appealing, and i perhaps like matthew am given a moment to hesitate. see caravaggio tell it:

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68.

do we welcome the Lord into our lives only when he is coming in joy and peace and comfort? or do we celebrate the coming of the new born king? a king that we subject ourselves to--that goes against our idea of freedom and always choosing/getting what we want, doing what we want to do. a king who can take anything from us at any moment, because it is not really ours but his. a king who will send us this way or that to accomplish his purposes. if you're going to be that kind of subject, you better very deeply believe that he is good. and that you are not like any other normal citizen, but that you are a beloved son or daughter. you will not be sent out needlessly or carelessly into the fray. but you will be sent out.

peace on earth goodwill toward men - "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matt. 10:34

oh tidings of comfort and joy - "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

o come o come emmanuel - these are the lyrics to my favorite christmas song. and they are the words that i need to reach my heart...



thanksgiving is a strange holiday. somehow it has become about watching football and gorging ourselves and then laying around lazily. damn tryptophan. somehow it celebrates our unity with the indians and how they gave to us, conveniently forgetting what we later gave them in return. somehow it has become a party to celebrate all that we have while the rest of the world struggles to just get by, while so many don't have anything or even food for the day. we throw ourselves a big party and revel in our consumption that is entirely unhealthy and selfish. yet it's ok because we feel good about it because we're thankful for it. that makes it a good thing then of course.

thanksgiving is a strange holiday. it, perhaps you might think, would be the most impervious to commercialization and americanization--which might be a strange thing to say since it is a distinctly american holiday. what i mean by that is that somehow we make every holiday all about us. ok maybe not entirely, but at least to some extent. and you would think that this would be hard to do to a holiday that has "thanks" in its name. we have found a way.

what is it that we are thankful for? often it is quite good things, like family or friends or the little blessings in our lives. sometimes it is also about our possessions or the things that we own that give us pleasure. either way, and any way, our thankfulness is always connected to our possession, to our having. there is something wrong with this.

why are we only thankful for the things that we have? what if having is not always the best thing? implicit in our thanks of all our many blessings is the idea that it is better to have all of these things in our lives and around us. but statistically speaking, most people who live in third world countries with far less are just as happy as americans if not more. so much for best buy's new slogan "live happier." we all somehow intuitively know that having more does not mean that life will be better, but we don't live or shop that way. what if it is better to be without something? can we be thankful for that?

what about those who do not have? and i'm not just talking about possessions. we can be thankful for our parents, but what about those who have lost their parents? we can be thankful for our friends, but what about those who have lost their friends? that is not to say that we shouldn't be thankful, but we would do well to remember that for all we have there are many who do not--and the history of america is laden with us giving thanks for things that we have taken at the expense of others, from the native americans right on down to the cheap goods we get at the exploitation of third-world countries. i don't say that to induce guilt, though maybe that wouldn't actually be such a bad thing every now and then, but rather just to be conscious.

i guess i am thinking this way because of seeing the things that i do not have. sure there is so much that i do have that i am thankful for, but man is it easy to focus on the few have-nots. and i suppose it's more the losses than that which i am without. which makes me think about all those others who hold losses in their lives. and we can look at this day, thanksgiving, as a time to set all those things aside and be grateful for all we do have--which of course we should do, but also as a time to learn to become thankful even for what we do not have or what we have lost. i'm so not there yet, but i want to be.

there is some loss that we can be thankful for ultimately because of how it creates space for something better to come in for which we will be more thankful. this is like a future-oriented thankfulness and still based on having. or we can be thankful for what we did have and what it gave us before whatever was lost--another having just based in the past. but there is other loss that cannot be replaced or made-up. can we be thankful for that too? even when we can find no judgment of our own to give a thing value--for isn't that based on us getting something out of the deal ultimately?

why is it all about us? can we be thankful for giving? is that not truly the better way? can we be thankful that we don't have something because we have given it away? and not because it made us feel better. can we be thankful that we don't have something, because perhaps it would take too much from us if we were "blessed" with it? can we be thankful for our lack of abundance? i guess that's harder to do when there is so little that we lack. but that is my challenge to myself (and you too i guess), to give thanks not just for what i've been given, but also for what has been taken from me and what i've given away. if for nothing else than to release my judgment on God and life and to identify with the poor in spirit--for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


against the nations

this is the title of a stanley hauerwas book that i really want to read, any of you want to join me? perhaps i should ask rather at the end of this post. i have been exposed to it through a book i'm reading now that is quite good, though very challenging. and as i read over this section i can't help but now put these quotes up. please note that in these quotes the term "liberalism" is not referring to left-wing politics, but rather a whole social and political system. and now the quotes:

The churches of America, whether conservative or liberal, are divided in their loyalty; divided between allegiance to American liberal democracy and society on the one hand and to the triune God revealed in Jesus Christ on the other. When it comes to the decisive moments--the apocalyptic revelatory moments, when America goes to war in the name of "freedom," "justice," and "democracy"--the latter loyalty almost always takes second place to the former. What Hauerwas "hates" is idolatry. American liberal democracy is the One Great Thing for which most American Christians are prepared to make the costliest sacrifice: the lives of their own and others' children. Such human sacrifices declare final--apocalyptic allegiances.

Hauerwas reveals the totalizing way in which liberalism persistently attacks and dissolves the political significance of all particular social groups and historical traditions that might stand between the individual and the state, by recognizing the individual alone as the only important political unit of liberal society. Particular groups and traditions "are now understood only as those arbitrary institutions sustained by the private desires of individuals." There is in America, argues Hauerwas, as much a "monism" of political existence as in the Soviet system. "Though it is less immediately coercive than that of the Soviet Union, it is the monism of the freedom of the individual." The freedom of religion in America is guarded only insofar as particular religious traditions, including the Christian churches, do not promote themselves as particular political alternatives, but rather provide religious support for and promotion of the wider liberal political regime. We should not be led to believe, then,
"that democratic societies and states by being democratic are any less omnivorous in their appetites for our loyalties than non-democratic states. Indeed, exactly because we assume that democracies protect our freedoms as Christians we may well miss the ways the democratic state remains a state that continues to wear the head of the beast. For example, democratic societies and states, no less than totalitarian ones, reserve the right to command our conscience to take up arms and kill not only other human beings but other Christians in the name of the relative moral goods."

If American liberalism can get gospel and church to serve its cause, then it will have triumphed in its "imperial demands"; it will have consumed gospel and church with its "omnivorous appetite." And all of this happens precisely in the place where the church in America believes it will be saved: separation of church and state and freedom of religion. Implicit in each of these phrases is the prior conviction that religion is in the first place a "matter of the heart," an inner, private event of the experience of the sublime, which may serve the emotional or spiritual well-being of the individual but has no intrinsic social or political character. Indeed, even the church is understood not primarily, appropriately, and necessarily as a socio-political body, but only secondarily, intrusively, and accidentally so, since its primary purpose is thought to be encouraging and nurturing the "interior dimension" of human life. On this understanding, while the church may be given the freedom to "touch the soul" of the "believer" (if one chooses to believe), America as a society, economy, polity, and nation nevertheless makes an absolute claim on--seizes--the bodies and therefore the public actions of its subjects.
But this way of "saving" religion by securing a safe but innocuous place for it is at the very same time the way of killing the church.

America and American liberal democracy is wrong because it directly and powerfully makes an imperial claim on its subjects which is precisely counter in scope and substance to the claim which the risen Jesus Christ makes on humanity through the proclamation of his crucifixion and the creation of the church in the power of the Holy Spirit.

(quotation marked sections are hauerwas, others are harink in summary)

now before you go thinking that hauerwas or harink is advocating constantinianism see this one more quote from one of john howard yoder's books, christian difference:

"Christendom may in fact be a vision of shalom, and our argument with Constantinians is not over the vision so much as the sinful effort to grasp at its fulness through violence, before its eschatological time. Hauerwas is quite consistent once you see that he does want to create a Christian society (polis, societas)--a community and way of life shaped fully by Christian convictions. He rejects Constantinianism because "the world" cannot be this society, and we only distract ourselves from building a truly Christian society by trying to make our nation into that society, rather than be content with living as a community-in-exile."


these are not easy thoughts and challenges, and i suspect that some of you might heartily disagree with them. at the very least they are challenging, and it is good to read things that you disagree with (see previous post :)). these are not ideas that should be taken lightly in any event, as american citizens or american christians. or is it christian americans? i forget which comes first.


a journey through lord of the rings (pt.i)

(those of you who read the last post, i know what you're thinking...you're thinking, "am i old enough to not miss the brackets now???" i'm wondering the same thing.)

i'm undertaking the task of reading the lord of the rings, which is definitely an investment. it is not the quickest reading nor is it russian, which makes it naturally harder for me to understand. i have greatly enjoyed the movies and recently God has been speaking to me through images from the movie, several times in fact.

so, since it is a bit of an investment i thought, why keep it all just to myself? i hope you enjoy reading a few quotes as i go through this and echo what has spoken to me.

"They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire. They were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember it."

and no that quote doesn't speak to me about america the great.
"The genealogical trees at the end of the Red Book of Westmarch are a small book in themselves, and all but Hobbits would find them exceedingly dull. Hobbits delighted in such things, if they were accurate: they liked to have books filled with things that they already knew, set out fair and square with no contradictions."
"'But where shall I find courage?' asked Frodo. 'That is what I chiefly need.'
'Courage is found in unlikely places,' said Gildor. 'Be of good hope!'"
Sam: "I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back. It isn't to see Elves now, nor dragons, nor mountains, that I want--I don't rightly know what I want: but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead, not in the Shire. I must see it through, sir, if you understand me."


family first

so this weekend was the family reunion in florida at a place called the villages, only the largest retirement community in the country--it is its own city with 80,000 senior citizens. i wish i had the cord to my camera so that i could put up pictures of all the pimped out golf carts down there. you think i'm kidding? my favorite were the jaguar cart and the hummer cart. maybe i'll put pictures up later. it was quite a place. 280 holes of golf, maybe 5 people under the age of 30, rampant problems with alcoholism and stds (yeah gross, i know). all i know is that this crazy western idea of "retirement" where you go off and play golf and do nothing else is really weird in so many ways. and i even like golf.

but the weekend wasn't really about the place really, odd as it is. no, there were several hilarious things about this weekend, as i expected with my volatile italian/irish family getting together. let me give you a few stories:

~ i took more crap this weekend for my beard than what is just decent. i knew i was going to be looked on as the family bum, but didn't realize that it would be one of the main topics of conversation all the time. it's like, there is a lull in the conversation, hey, there's luke's beard, let's rag on that again! at least it got me lots of attention, which i just love.

~ apparently though, the beard did not scare away the kids, as i was the official kid magnet of the weekend. it was my second cousins mostly. they flocked to me. probably because i was the only one that would give them any real attention. three healy kids living with their single mother--i felt connected. i hope a little male attention was good for them. they were adorable and i was reminded how much i love kids. i want some. but i guess for that i probably need a wife first...and that requires a woman...and that requires a loss of sanity...damn, tough spot.

~ best story of the weekend: my cousin lance, who is about 40 now, is just hilarious. now one of the things about a reunion like this is that inevitably all the younger generation talks about how crazy and weird the older generation is, and we're able to relate on how oddly similar many of our experiences were growing up. my dad isn't quite too similar to my uncle in a lot of ways, so know that going into this story.

anyway, so lance decides to tell a story about his dad and his parenting methods. this is called "the brackets of life" story. when lance was about 14 his dad found some pot in his room. so the next day his dad takes him out to lunch and sits him down to talk. and lance is thinking, oh you just try to tell me anything because lance knew that his dad continued to do more than his fair share of lighting up the grass. as they're sitting there, his dad takes the cocktail napkin and draws a set of brackets on them. "son" he said, "these are the brackets of life. and the goal, is to get inside these brackets. now you're way down here," and he pointed to the bottom of the napkin. "if you start going off and doing all these things that will take you off course, you're going to veer off to the side and miss the brackets." his dad paused to look for understanding. lance nodded. "you see," his dad continued, "if you start these things a little later in life" as his hand pointed higher up the napkin, "you might veer off a little but you are still going to make it inside the brackets."

thus, the parenting theory of how it is ok to do anything as long as you don't start too early.

i could tell more stories but i won't keep you any longer. instead, enjoy this wonderful commercial for where i spent my weekend. don't let the song get stuck in your head....


they shall know us

i spent three hours this morning/afternoon discussing/debating with four other guys in a continuation of an online discussion over a facebook note. it was connected to politics, abortion, scripture, american christianity, emergent church, and things of that sort. it was hopefully in some way helpful. it was utterly exhausting. i think there probably wasn't a lot of change brought about from the whole thing.

i spent two hours the last two nights in the den of satan/aggieville celebrating/carousing for my friend's birthday, having a few drinks, talking with lots of friends, joking, laughing, having a good time. we smoked cigars. maybe there were a few vices, but then again maybe they weren't what that time was about. i lost some sleep but i don't mind at all (even as i'm staying up to write this post and have a very early flight in the morning). i think these nights meant a lot to a few people. and i think in some way for me too.

i spent seven hours last friday night in a trailer park playing risk with a group of guys. we ate pizza and candy and joked around and i dominated the world. twice. i am getting to know a family i never would have met if i didn't get out of a stinking church building (or house) and knock on a few doors. and they are beautiful in a very broken way. before i hang out with them sometimes i feel worn out/attacked, but while i am with them my heart is alive. i think there is a lot of change happening here.

so which of these things is the most "christian"? i'll let you be the judge. and you should also read this, which also speaks to part of the heart behind this post.


i want to talk a bit more about audrey though. audrey is the little girl who lives at the trailer park. she is 5 and the sweetest child you're likely to meet. she has the most giving heart of i think anyone i've ever met. you walk in the door and she has something in her hand ready to give you, even if it's just bubbles because to her that is just as good a gift as anything else. one night she gave away over half of her halloween candy to my roommate tyler. they were sitting at the table and she just kept pulling out more and more and giving it to him. when he tried to say no she would open up the package and hand him the candy right there. and of course, it had been opened so he couldn't just let it go to waste.

the other day when we got there she came up to me and tyler with a single cheez-it in each hand and gave them to us. one cheez-it. i ate it smiling, thinking about how much i love cheez-its but how it could have been a stick of broccoli and i would have loved it. her grandma says that whenever audrey gets any money she just gives it away to a friend or in the offering at church. all of it.

for some reason, and i suspect because of little audrey, i have been in just an absolute giving mood recently. i am just overjoyed to give so much away. it is not a natural gift of mine and it is usually difficult for me. but i was encouraged and challenged by a 5 year-old girl to realize that what is mine is not, and the smile on her face anytime she gives something away is enough to make scrooge take sleeping pills (i.e. no need for the three ghosts, get it? yeah? uh huh?).

audrey has some form of kidney disease, and so her muscles retain a lot of water and she has lots of complications and sickness in her life because of it. this makes her a bigger girl in an odd sort of way, which leads to teasing at school. every so often she gets treatments down in wichita and much is drained from her body--after which i guess she looks completely different. my heart aches for this little girl i barely know. i love her and i am torn up to see her have to endure so much (not to mention all the family stuff), and still live so free and giving and loving and joyful and innocent. i am praying that the power of God would be present sometime soon for healing for audrey. and right now i think there is very little in life that would bring me more joy than to see that happen.


well i better try to get some sleep. hope you all have a great weekend in the cold :). i also hope you didn't miss the second song of the two i posted last, cause it's my favorite right now--in a weird way. you gotta hear all the lyrics. oh and props to zach last night--way to be a man! alright and i'm out. and by out i mean off to florida for the weekend...in a mere 4 hours. family reunion!


noah and the whale

so i've been posting a lot of music recently, but this one is also for my buddy zach p.
unless of course things change tonight with that girl from last night...

"2 atoms in a molecule"

"shape of my heart"



…what you want.

Arms stretched out across the field,
The long shadows topple to the earth.
The commander is hours from victory
But darkness calls sooner,
And no staff can hold up that sun.

A Deal
in the back alley,
money exchanged
for the price of love.
We try to be discreet
but a trench coat can’t hide Cupid’s wings.
the arrow pierces a heart
a shot of love
who knew that it could be

Chubby fingers stretch
and reach the rim.
Eyes shimmer as the prize is pulled—
a cookie.
And then it’s gone with the semi-sweet consolation,
you’ll spoil your dinner

held so tightly
it fell through the fingers
of a clenched fist.
then the cramped hand opened
and life flowed again,
flowering a pale hand.


what am i made of?

i'm 25. yes folks, that's kind of old. i suppose not in the grand scheme of things, but then today i found out that tyler thigpen is 24 (he's the chief's quarterback). i was also recently reading an article in sojourners magazine about all these 20-somethings who are doing some of the coolest stuff. i would list a few but the magazine is out in my car and it's cold and dark out there. see, what am i going to accomplish? i won't even go out to my car for this.

a friend of mine recently told me that he felt like God was asking him, "what are you made of?" and thinking about it i'm glad God was asking him and not me. because i don't know about me. i don't know what i'm made of. i think about how i have handled some of the hard times in my life, or about all the things that i continually fail to accomplish every day. there's a nice list on my desk that's been there way too long.

i don't want my life to be about crossing off lists. sometimes i'm ok with not knowing really where my life is headed, who i'll be headed there with, or what i'll be doing along the way. sometimes. but then other times i feel like i'm getting a little too old for that. or that no one really wants to attach themselves to a wanderer. well, maybe that's too strong of a word--but that security thing, people like that i am told.

i feel like a lot of life is about watching the pieces of it fall away one way or another. and even if we were to try to pick back up the ones we could, the sum of those parts cannot equal the whole from before. we can hold on to some of those parts a little better than we often do--but we also must be free to look for the new things that can recreate our lives constantly. i think that's where i have trouble, letting my life become something new. but i'm getting better. maybe. i think...

maybe i need to think outside the fox. yes, the fox--that crafty little devil. like there being something new and grand far beyond anything i have around me now--that life is waiting to unfold in some far off distant land with great adventure and new opportunities. but i feel like i don't have the energy for that, for starting all over. but if that's what i'm supposed to do...

at the moment it's not. and thinking that or reaching for that is an attempt to reclaim a life that is being crucified, a life that is being taken from me, a life i am trying to lose. i guess at this point that includes future direction, plans, and some companionship. i am thankful for who and what i do have now though--especially my wonderful friends.

so one moment at a time, another look at the list and a sigh knowing that's not what my life is about. it's about following God in faith. and faith and sight aren't always the best of friends.

and it's about these questions from nouwen lately:

"Can my hope in God grow deeper and stronger even when my many wishes remain unfulfilled?"

"Do I fully trust that with God at my side, I will find my true home?"


the weepies

"how you survive the war"


bob roberts jr.

"Are the churches we are a part of seeing transformation?"

"At best, institutions are the remains of our stories and embody the values necessary to engage the world. At worst, they confuse methodology with value. Regardless, there is no sustainability or future without the multiplication of churches. The highest demonstration of maturity for a local church is when it multiplies. Only something alive can reproduce, and it will do so only if it is healthy."


taize: looking back (and forward)

this time two years ago i was in europe. last year it was still very fresh in my mind--i could remember every weekend of the month and which place i was off visiting that same time the year before. i still remember mostly, but i usually don't think about it that concretely anymore. i have taken down off my walls a lot of the pictures from that time in an attempt to not live too connected to the past. they were almost painful at times to look at. it's funny, when you're there it almost doesn't seem so far away, but when you return the memories become oceans away.

but tonight i remembered that right about this time two years ago i was in central france at an ecumenical monastery called taize. and all things considered, it was probably my favorite four days of my whole time over there (closely rivaled with the four in santorini). it is really an incredible place that i think is worth a pilgrimage to for any one of you. it is really beyond description in a lot of ways. but if you want you can see pictures of it and hear my telling from two years back here.

i want to go again, and i'm already scheming about when i possibly might be able to do it. i would love to go when it isn't crowded, so i'm thinking maybe early january in a little over a year...? i don't know. but anyone interested in going with me? i am totally serious. let me know.

the thing of it all is, beyond just remembering a great place and longing to go back, that there at taize was really when my life took a new course--one it's been on for two years. and i feel like perhaps that course is changing. i can't lump the entire two years together as all the same, but there has been a characterization of it that came from something God released me to right there in that french monastery.

it was then when i was released to experiencing God through the lens of intimate relationship. it would mark a time of really learning what love is. i think before then i didn't truly know. not that i know now--but i have such a greater idea and experience of it.

before that point i tried to study love--reading kierkegaard and lewis and whoever else to learn what it means to love truly and deeply. but it wasn't till experiencing it that it became something i could at least begin to understand. and much more some way i could experience the heart of God. i experienced adoration, devotion, loyalty, fighting for someone, rejection, fear, loss, hope, renewal, heartbreak, passion, honesty, and truth. these words took on much more meaning for me. i experienced them before that, but differently. that's not to say you can't experience these things deeply outside of romantic love--of course you can. but for me it was an important vehicle to enrich my way of living and understanding life.

were these relationships about experiencing and learning those things? absolutely not. their value is not in any function they perform for me now, but for what they were. we cannot justify loss through pragmatic denigration of the true reality of a thing. it is not about what we can take away from anything, but what was given. it was in the giving that i truly learned and grew, and in a lot of ways it still is.

i can't begin to summarize all the things i have learned about the heart of God through these experiences, and i won't bore you with any more excessive reminiscing. but i am thankful for this path of the last two years. and right now feels like something different. no, i'm not done with love. but it doesn't have to be a major way i experience God anymore, or a way i feel fulfilled through giving and devotion, or the thing that at times became far too central in my life and my plans.

that is the changing of the season. that is the mark of these two years that is no more. i hope i can learn to fully step into that freedom.


community story

(this is a continued story. read these first: part i. part ii.)

The loud screech is a little off-putting, but you decide that you can't be a coward forever. And besides, the rain is picking up and you feel your body begin to shudder from the cold--or was it fear? You want to get back to Claire, your bride to be, but you also want to get back alive, so you approach the mouth of the cave.

Fortunately for you, your carabiner is still attached to your belt loop. You grab your keys and the attached deluxe survival keychain. It's soaking wet but not crushed from your fall out of the truck; it's some piece of equipment! You press the button for the LED light when a piercing screech comes from it. Wrong button! You have pressed the panic alarm and now anyone within a two mile radius can hear you.

In fright you run into the cave in the dark. You push the other button for the light but it doesn't work. Piece of junk! "Lemming Poo!" echoes throughout the cave, along with the sound of bouncing plastic as you have thrown your deluxe survival keychain deep into the cave. "My keys!" you think. Oh no. You go deeper into the cave feeling around--you have to find those keys, well, really most importantly you can't lose that one special key.

You feel around with your hands when suddenly you touch something that is not rock. In fact, it's wood. It's a trap door in the ground. You find a handle and pull up to reveal a lighted tunnel with a ladder going down.

Do you go down the ladder or keep looking for your keys?

continue the adventure! yes i mean you! see rules.



recently, taking buechner's advice to "listen to my life," i feel like it has been saying simply, "reclaim." so in an effort to listen actively i headed out a few days ago to a favorite location of mine and spent some time alone. and after a few short hours it was all taken care of.


in the last few years i have tried to live by the idea that "the more you give away in love the more you are," another buechner adage. and sometimes i wonder if that was not very naive--and not just that but much of the way i look at the world and people. because the reality is that things aren't always what they seem, and what has been given can never be returned. what has been lost cannot be recovered.

and i hate it. i hate the loss. some of the loss just comes from time, things changing. other loss comes more directly from choice--a move, a disconnect, a divorce. and the loss is so much more than just the presence, but all that has been shared in that relationship before. when what is given is not received, it is still lost. you do not get to continue to keep it. it has been taken but not received or shared--and then it seems to only produce emptiness, not more.

i had an image once of that buechner idea--that of a heart of flesh with part of it gone, given away. and then in place of the old part in that space were a bunch of sparkly particles or something. spirit i guess. and i think that was in a lot of ways mystically idealistic. it feels very disconnected from my experiences.

but then again feeling is not the end-all. maybe life has to be in some way idealistic like that, or else life will just become a constant chipping away at your heart. and then i begin to fear that life will get the best of me--that there is just too much that is and will be so hard. maybe those parts of our heart can be restored. or maybe i'm just not giving enough credit to the ability to heal. i think some heal better than others, or maybe it's just that for some wounds go deeper because they allowed the other deeper in them.

i don't know how to try to reclaim so many things in my life. i don't think it's possible. so we accept much as lost, and we do our best to let go. and the scars still feel.

so what do you do? you give and it just gets taken from you--how is it more blessed? and yet i know i would find no satisfaction in just taking as much as i can. so...i don't have an answer.

life cannot be about taking. it cannot be about getting the most out of life. "sucking the marrow" out of life is a somewhat common phrase, and though it has good intentions, i think it can very easily become very selfish--life is all about what you get out of it. and that's when the difference between hurting and harming others comes into play. in life, hurt is unavoidable and necessary at times. but harm comes from reckless insensitivity--trying too much to get out what you want. it usually happens (though with good intentions) as you suck for yourself. and somewhere along the line this somehow became not only acceptable but also applauded. you go get yours.

i want to believe buechner. i want to believe nouwen when he says that life is a gift. i want to learn how to receive it. and i want to see mine received. i want life to be about giving. giving may be more blessed, but it also seems a heck of a lot harder, especially when you're not accepted. even when you are, so much of what you give is not. much is not understood. and the disconnection between you and others is felt even deeper.

i don't have any answers. i don't have any way to wrap all this up, like i feel i've been trying to do recently in small ways, perhaps to make it slightly more bearable. but tonight i leave all these tensions open, as they are to me. and the weight of them steals my energy. so i go to sleep early on a lonely saturday night.


george macdonald

To think thou workest in us verily:
Bad sea-boats we, and manned with wretched crews--
That doubt the captain, watch the storm spray flee...

How suddenly some rapid turn of thought
May throw the life-machine all out of gear,
Clouding the window with the steam of doubt,
Filling the eyes with dust, with noise the ear!
Who knows not then where dwells the engineer,
Rushes aghast into the pathless night,
And wanders in a land of dreary fright.

Amazed at sightless whirring of their wheels,
Confounded with the recklessness and strife,
Distract with fears of what may next ensue,
Some break rude exit from the house of life,
And plunge into a silence out of view--
Whence not a cry, no wafture once reveals
What door they have broke open with the knife.

Help me, my Father, in whatever dismay,
Whatever terror in whatever shape,
To hold the faster by thy garment's hem;
When my heart sinks, oh, lift it up, I pray;
Thy child should never fear though hell should gape,
Not blench though all the ills that men affray
Stood round him like the Roman round Jerusalem.

Too eager I must not be to understand.
How should the work the master goes about
Fit the vague sketch my compasses have planned?
I am his house--for him to go in and out.
He builds me now--and if I cannot see
At any time what he is doing with me,
'Tis that he makes the house for me too grand.

--The Diary of an Old Soul


is it worth it?

i feel like i've been asking this question a lot recently. and i'm not even sure that i really know what both of those pronouns are referring to. but i don't have to know exactly i don't think. its variations are there too. will it be worth it? what is even really worth it ultimately?

"what can we carry, what will stay with us
what will shine like gold when the story’s told
some things will tarry, some will return to dust
there are things we can and things we cannot keep"

i guess you start asking that question when things get hard in life, when the choices you've made or the choices made to you press things, when things get pushed enough to expose all the other lackings that you were able to get by with before, when things start falling away, when the cost begins to rise. and you realize that as there is so much you cannot keep, you wonder what even you really can. at best only for so long. and it makes letting go that much harder.

it makes risk a much more difficult thing.

risk to commit.
risk to give.
risk to love.
risk to let go.
risk to hope.
risk to lose.

i look at all the books on my shelf. i look at my new phone or any of the other gadgets around the room. i look at photos of places and people far away and long past. i look at the music that is almost a part of my emotions now. i look at my bank statement. i look at my wish list. i look at my house. and none of it really means anything. what is it all really worth? what have i chosen to surround myself with if it doesn't really matter anyway? it's all trivial. no. none of it is worth it.

and then i look into the disabled veteran's tired eyes as he laughs at his own joke. i look at grandma jane trying to raise her three grandkids while her son is left unable to throw the ball with his son. i see the eyes of the guy across the table and coffee cup from me, telling me what God has been saying to him. i see little bradley so excited to tell me about the alien dna he found outside his school. i see the prayer of tears in another. i see a girl's excitement at finding purpose. i see in one a flash of hope that life is maybe more than all the cruelty and loss and loneliness.

and i remember,

my life is not my own.

and i am not the one to give it worth--nor is anyone else who i might look for affirmation from. my worth is not rooted in this place, in these circumstances, in what i do and who loves me or doesn't. because the life i hold has no worth of itself, not from what i can grasp.

but just one of those sets of eyes would be worth it, and right now i can see so many. those are the eyes i need to see. because you can't see your own--they can't tell you anything you didn't already know. and closing them won't help. no. see those eyes out there. go and find them. for such is the kingdom of God, which when true is always worth it.


something new today

a new president will be elected today. there is certainly a lot of excitement around all of this, as most feel that any change will be a good change. there is also a lot of fear, causing nervous excitement as people will constantly look at maps to see them change blue or red. things are going to change today.

and as you watch, remember that whoever gets elected today will not only mean all the good possibilities of that candidate's promises, but it will also mean the fate of thousands if not millions of lives. and the deaths of millions of lives. different lives for each candidate of course.

today is a very significant day. and like all very significant days i think we should respond not with blind excitement--but with reverence and gravity. and pray that God would forgive us.

...geez am i a downer or what?



O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee:
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee:
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine's blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee:
I lay in dust life's glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

--George Matheson, 1842-1906