Chaussures

Shoes. The oldest storyteller.
How far have they gone? What roads have they travelled?
How many miles have they seen?

Dusty and sore, blissfully resting.
Worried and impatient.
Rushing! Running! Sprinting!
Slow and languid, soaking up the feeling of every crack. Stone. Blade of grass.

Scuffed. Dirty. Tattered.
Sleek. Polished. New.
Assumptions made by the state of our shoes.
Quick to judge at first glance. Truth hides within.

Shoes. The oldest storyteller.
Not in words alone.
Hear. Sense. Touch. Walk for just a moment.
Where will these shoes take you?
What will you see?

Importantly. What will you feel walking in a stranger’s shoes?

Paris metro

Life is complex, and yet, not so complex.

Life is mysterious, and yet, more mysteries desire to be solved.

Life is beautiful, and yet, ruthless, untamed as fire.

Life, in its simplest form, pure and unadulterated, stripped down to the first layer,

Pulling rags away from the mummy’s skin.

Life. A babbling brook or raging river. Of decisions.

Choices made for good or for bad. Lives altered by the course we take.

Should we go left? Shall we go right? What becomes of our lives if we choose fight over flight, but never do battle?

Are our lives validated by our choices, or rendered useless by those whose choices do not mirror our own?

What of those who cannot or will not decide? Lives hanging in a precarious state. Afraid of falling short.

It is funny, in a sad, pitiful way. We are afraid to take action. To step into the roles we play, for others, the directors, control us.

Still we live. Still we choose. Never mind who has control.

Forgive

I could start out this piece with a witty turn of phrase or a deep philosophical sentence. Truth is, I like to throw a lot of big words around for the mere sake of taking up space and turning a simple point into an exhaustive one, but isn’t that what writers do? We like to take a mundane, simple concept and turn it into an eloquent, grand idea. This makes us feel better about ourselves…

Today I am going to do something different; something I don’t usually do. Instead of carefully bobbing and weaving my way around a topic to drop some major truth bombs, I am going to shoot straight with you and divulge what is on my mind. I do hope you enjoy.

Why did I get the word, “forgive”, tattooed on my arm? Seems silly right? Everybody has a tattoo these days. Its the cool thing to do. It says, “Look at me I’m creative and mysterious, no one can understand the complex human I am.” You’re fooling yourself if thats what you think.

My answer is a simple one.

A reminder.

A moment to pause and think about my choices throughout my everyday interactions with other people. A remembrance of failed attempts at forgiveness, but also the victories. An avenue for people to see this word more often and hopefully think about their own lives and choices and how the complex act of forgiveness can change the course of our future forever.

It is a reminder to forgive others. No longer will grudges or feelings of anger control my thoughts and emotions. No longer will I be a slave to bitterness and contempt. My life is too precious to waste on holding forgiveness from someone.

It is also a promise. Proverbs 17:9 says “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” I choose forgiveness in my relationships believing love will prosper if I forgive offenses. The state of my relationships is directly related to my capacity for forgiveness. I can grow and nourish my relationships or I can starve and corrupt them.

Finally, it is a reminder to forgive myself.

I am my worst enemy.

My loudest naysayer.

My harshest critic.

When I fall, I fall hard, and I have a hard time getting back up for the simple fact of continuously beating myself up for my mistakes. But when I stop to look at these seven little letters on my arm I’m reminded to forgive myself and move on. It is not the long walk home that will change my heart, but the welcome I receive at the end of that walk.

Forgive, endlessly.

Words

I and love and you. 
Three singular words, apart nothing, but
together meaningful.
I becomes you. You becomes me.
Love becomes the bridge connecting two.
Apart nothing, but together meaningful.

I love you.
In the morning before coffee;
sleep riddled eyes and slow, languid stretches.
Silently staring into the ether.
What thoughts are you pondering?
Peace, contentment, and joy.

I love you.
Through busy days and sleepless nights,
working tirelessly for dreams yet to come.
Exhaustion and fatigue. Still moving forward.
Is it worth it? Can dreams come true?
I will not lay down for the scavengers.

I love you.
In candlelight and soft jazz waiting for food.
Walking through the aisle, “Is this the right
bread?”
With colds and aching bones, runny nose and
puffy eyes. It doesn’t matter how you look.

I love you.
In summer, winter, fall and spring.
I love you.
At Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving.
I love you.
In anger and fear. In happiness and sorrow.

I love you.
More than well chosen words.
More than emotion and logic.
More than a free pass into your heart.
A promise to show trust and compassion.
An intent to never leave, but to always stay.

I and love and you.
Three singular words, apart nothing, but
together meaningful.
I becomes you. You becomes me.
Love becomes the bridge connecting two.
Apart nothing, but together meaningful.

 

 

 

Paper Faces on Parade

I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till the word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces? – C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

One of the greatest joys of relationships is the process of knowing and being known. There is a basic need to understand the world around us, to make sense of the seemingly insignificant events that make up our day-to-day lives. This same basic need extends to the people who make up our world. We have a need to be understood, to be known for who we truly are, and to be unconditionally accepted.

The problem, however, lies in the being known. We long for and desire the intimacy of being known by another person, but we fail to present our true selves to them. Instead, we hide behind carefully crafted masks that hide all of the doubts, insecurities, and imperfections we fear we possess. These masks make us feel safe, they are our comfort zone, yet they hinder us from being in true connection and relationship to the people around us.

We long to be known, but we are terrified of revealing our true self to others. Lies have been spoken over us and we have believed them. They have become more than just words; they are now our identities.

Worthless.

Shameful.

Ugliness.

Ignorance.

Violence.

Like chains longer and heavier than Marley’s we drag these lies around and we allow them to become our identity. We become something we are not and never open the door for someone to know us, to really understand us, because they may witness our weakness and struggles.

The Greeks say, “know thyself.”

Buddha says, “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” and “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Ephesians says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The ability to know another human being cannot be achieved without first knowing yourself. And who are you?

You are not worthless. You are worthwhile.

You are not shameful. You are honorable

You are not ugly. You are beautiful.

You are not ignorant. You are wise.

You are not violent. You are peaceful.

Why?

Because God created you in His image. You are his perfect workmanship, a treasure, the apple of your Father’s eye and the pride of His heart. Listen to what He has to say about you and believe it.

Do not listen to the lies you tell yourself. Do not hide behind the masks any longer. Revel in the love and adoration the Father has for you and bask in His goodness.

He is good. He is faithful. He loves you.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. – 1 Cor. 13:12

 

 

 

Mutationis

Change is inevitable. It is the natural process of life. Flowers bloom in the spring after months of harsh, biting cold. Seeds are planted in the ground and watered with diligent care to become nourishing, life-giving food. An oak tree rises up from a tiny acorn thought abandoned in the forest, but now stands tall and regal.

change:  to make or become different.

In 2008 the American people were promised change we could believe in.  It was an iconic and tumultuous time in America’s history.  The first African-American had been elected President and it felt as if the country was on the precipice of greatness or failure.  At the helm of our great nation was a man who was not white and had a funny sounding name.  Naturally, he could not be trusted.

He promised change and change occurred.  Depending on your perception, these changes have either been detrimental to the morality of the United States or a positive step towards equality for all citizens.

Fast forward to 2017 and America has a new man at the steering wheel.

A white man.

A rich man.

A man who shoots from the hip and says what he thinks with little regard for the consequences of his words.  Depending on your perception, these qualities are essential to being the President of the United States or you believe a man who doesn’t know when to speak up or stay quiet has no wisdom in him.

This man has also promised change, and we are all waiting with bated breath to see how these changes occur.  He has promised to build walls, dismantle terrorists, dispel illegal immigrants, advocate for the middle class, provide more jobs and work for the people of this country. Some believe these changes are needful and necessary, while others are wondering what happened to the America that used to be a safe haven for all people.

Regardless of your views or opinions of the new President of the United States, change is happening.  Change is terrifying and the natural response is to resist it, but resisting change stunts our growth and is never the solution to problems.  The question does not become how can I stop this change, but transforms into how can I respond to this change?

Should I respond with anger, hate and hostility, or with love, patience and acceptance?

Should I seek to understand the burdens of the families around me, or blind myself to the injustices occurring around me?

Could I try to have a conversation with someone from a different culture, different skin color, or different religion?

Should I just stay the same?

yellowstone-wildflowers-9351

Change is all around us.  It is the rattle and hum of this complex machine called Life.

It is present in me.

It is present in you.

Change is the transforming power to put others needs before your own.  Change is the amazing beauty of a helpless baby growing into a strong, independent individual who has the potential change the world.

Change is the formation of thousands of people descending upon Washington to march for what they believe is right.  Change is the compassion to finally understand the perspective of your enemy and empathize with his plight instead of hating him.

Change is a God abandoning a perfect world for a dirty, broken one just to be with us.  Change is letting Your creation kill You in their ignorance, only to redeem them after three days time.

In the coming days and months we are bound to see change.  It is useless to stop it; it will happen.  Some of it will be positive and some of it will be negative.  Negative change has a way of casting shadows on positive change, but light always outshines the darkness.

Right now the world may seem bleak to some, while others see the sun shining brightly.  Personally, I believe the clouds are just hiding behind the sun’s rays for a bit.  All is not lost.  Hope is still rampant across this great country and this world.  Let’s put aside our differences and work together to make this nation truly the land of the free and home of the brave.

Don’t resist the change.  Just change the way you respond to it.

 

 

 

 

 

Prosper

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” Prov 17:9

Lately I have been spending a good deal of my time thinking about relationships. The highs and the lows of relationships and the various forms they take. I have even been thinking about broken relationships. Here is what I have found to be true.

Relationships are messy.

Relationships can leave you bruised and beaten.

Sometimes it feels like you are in the trenches and never gaining any ground.

However, despite all of the heartache and pain, relationships can be the singular most beautiful aspect of life that we experience. Relating to other people in ways that cause us to sacrifice our wants and needs, to give of ourselves unselfishly and freely, is a picture of the kind of love Jesus tried to show us when he walked the deserts of the Middle East.

But sometimes we don’t love this way. We feel slighted by the other person and treat them with malice and ill intent as punishment for what they have done to us. We were created to love. We can aspire to love, but we can just as easily aspire to hate. Why?

Because we have been jaded by someone.

We have been hurt.

We have been treated with hostility and anger, spoken to in degrading tones, and those words have entered into our thoughts and minds like venom from a snake bite.

We have not been treated like we wish to be treated, so why would we treat others with love and kindness? Why should I sacrifice for you when you will not sacrifice for me? As I grow older I realize the old adage, “you reap what you sow”, holds a wealth of truth.

Imagine two gardens planted by different men. One garden is haphazardly planted. The rows are crooked, the ground hasn’t been turned and the weeds are so thick you can’t even tell where the tomato plants begin. The air is thick with the stench of rotting vegetables and the plants are wilted from lack of water.

However, the other garden is pristine. It looks like it belongs on the front page of a magazine. The rows are exactly two feet apart. The ground is so soft your feet sink into the soil. The plants are fertilized and watered on a schedule that could rival a production line. There are no weeds, just lush vegetation. The air smells of tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers. The whole neighborhood enjoys the spoils of this garden.

Which garden would you want to have? Would you want the garden with vegetables rotting on the vine or the garden of your dreams?

Naturally we want the garden that is beautiful and produces good fruit, but to achieve this we have to work at it. Nobody sees the hours our fictional old man spends weeding, watering, pruning and picking his garden. We don’t see the labor of love he puts into it. We don’t see the value he has placed upon this garden.

We want the good garden, but our actions say we are content with the rotting one.

We desire a fantastic marriage, yet we treat our spouse with indifference. We no longer see the love of our life standing in front of us. Instead, we see a person with faults and problems who only cares about themselves. We no longer see the value in the person we couldn’t live without.

We want our kids to be the best they can be, but we degrade them and never speak encouragement into their lives. We constantly yell at them, fight with them and bully them into submission. We, the parents, have the perfect path planned for them, yet we forget they are unique individuals with their own path to walk. Our job as parents is to help them find that path, not force them on one they were never meant to walk.

Negativity breeds negativity.

Jealousy breeds jealousy.

Hate breeds hate.

Nobody wants hate in their life, yet they let it in by the way they treat people. I understand being hurt and wanting justification. I understand treating people the same way we have been treated, but doing that only continues the cycle of hate and anger.

Love calls me to pour good things into those around me.

Love calls me to show hope to the hopeless.

Love calls me to encourage the destitute and to heal the broken.

Love calls me to go deeper, to go higher and to go farther into the heartaches and pains of people around me.

I am willing to sow into people exponentially and to see the fruits spring forth. I am willing to get my hands dirty and fight in the trenches for my relationships. I am no longer satisfied with the rotting, stinking gardens that we have become so accustomed to.

I want the good garden.

I want to prosper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Love”

Perhaps love is a symbol of things beyond ourselves.

Some will forget it completely, like old photographs on a shelf.

Still some adhere to its principles, for the meaning that it holds,

without ever understanding its essence for it is all just a show.

Some refuse it completely, locking themselves away,

they choose to be swallowed by the night, forsaking the light of day.

Love is a marvelous mystery we will never fully comprehend,

it drives us toward each other, and may soon be our end.

What is love to me?

How can I explain?

Is it rules?

Is it forgotten? A door to a higher plane?

Perhaps, if I may, steal a few lines,

of what love means to me and how it’s changed over time.

Love is a feeling, deep inside the chest,

starting in the center and flowing out to the rest.

Love is a shifting moving sphere of fantastic energy,

guiding us all through life, bringing you to me.

Love is a word!

A touch!

A smile that brightens the heart!

It is an ever-burning ember just waiting for a spark.

It propels us and it moves us to do magnificent things.

Love is the one you’re lying next to, the song you are meant to sing.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

But above all else…

Love always thinks of others, not just of itself.

What Wakes You

Friends, I must admit… It’s been entirely too long since the last time you heard from me. This was no one’s fault but my own, for I lost sight of why I started writing.

I became drunk with pride.

Hungry for attention.

Longing for praise.

I started this blog just a little over a year ago as a creative outlet for my ideas and thoughts, stories, and music. My private journal was no longer enough. I had a desire to share what I was writing. I longed for the excitement of writing something that would help someone in some way. Perhaps cause a smile or a laugh, a new perspective on life, or even an awakening of the soul.

For awhile things were going magnificently. Ideas were flowing into my mind and through my fingers like a babbling brook filled with new snow melt. I was enjoying the process of my writing, listening to God’s voice and what He wished me to say. I was in love with it all….

But soon, my dream turned into a nightmare. I began to look at the counter more and more. I began to write with the intent of reaching the masses, instead of writing for the love of the craft. I somehow acquired tunnel vision. I only focused on getting more views.

More views meant I was successful.

More views meant I was a great writer.

More views meant I was better than other writers.

Notice a trend?

I became selfish.

I became arrogant.

I became egotistical.

In short, I became everything I never wanted to be. A greedy, selfish, arrogant man. I was disgusted with myself. So I quit.

I was finished. Done… But God wasn’t done with me.

2014 is dead and gone. A new year has come and with it new challenges and changes. It’s terrifying, but at the same time exhilerating.

It means a clean slate.

It means a fresh start.

It means new beginnings.

2014 was a time of shedding off some excess baggage.

A time of growth and humility. A time to wait and listen.

A time to abide in Him, and to understand His heart again.

God has shown His grace to me in so many ways this past year. I have a heart full of thankfulness, but perhaps the most miraculous thing He has done was remind me just exactly who I am and why I write.

I am good.

I am loved.

I am the pearl of great price.

I am His son.

I do not write for fame, or numbers on a counter, or satisfaction from earthly words.

“The best thing you can do for your fellow, next to rousing his conscience, is — not to give him things to think about, but to wake things up that are in him; or say, to make him think things for himself.”
― George MacDonald, A Dish of Orts

I write because He has placed a desire upon my heart to share with you what is in mine. I write because through what I say, maybe you will see a piece of yourself and hope will be rekindled, a spark will be lit, or the flame of a dream will burn brighter.

He makes my dreams fully realized and more beautiful than I could ever imagine. Yours are no exception.

You are good.

He loves you.

You have immeasurable potential.

You are the pearl of great price.

It’s a new year. A new season. A new start.

Let us walk this path together. Let us learn from each other. Let us live life with passion.

But most importantly… Let us love.

A Barnabas

The young man stares out into the horizon on a warm summer’s night on the Mediterranean Sea hoping this ship he has found passage on will take him far away from his pain. Far away from his shame and failure; from his mistake.

He listens to the lap of the waves on the aged wood, the creak of the weathered sails, the smell of the salt in the air. He tries to absorb it all, to feel everything all at once so he cannot focus on what he has done. He cannot afford to or the shame will crush him, but the thoughts burn through his mind like a hot flame.

He thinks of his family and his insides burn with guilt. They were so proud. So proud of the man he was becoming and the opportunity that had been given him. He could still feel the strength of his father’s arms as they embraced before he started on his journey. He could even see his mother’s tears as she watched her little boy leave to become a man. But now he was coming home disgraced. He was a failure.

What would they say? Dare he face them? Could he even be called a son anymore or would he be treated as one of the lepers? As an outcast. The thought is too painful to ruminate upon. He must think of other things.

He remembers a little girl he met on one of their travels. She was hungry, dirty, and in need of help. Paul had been busy attending to local church matters, so he went to the little girl. She was shy at first, but her hunger for the bread in his hand soon overpowered her shyness, and she warmed up to him. Her name was Lila and his heart is warmed by memories of her. How she held his hand and called him her best friend. Children are precious he thinks as his lips form into a smile and tears wet his eyes… If only he could have overcome his fear just as Lila had overcome hers.

Fear. He had always been afraid as a child. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of the animals. Afraid of his father’s anger. Always afraid of something he could not control. He surprised his family and himself when he agreed to go with Paul. Paul was his opposite. Where he was fearful, Paul was courageous. Where he was doubtful, Paul was optimistic. Wherever he was lacking, Paul was overflowing.

But after all the struggles and the advice and the encouragement, he had still given up. He had turned his back and ran. That was what he was doing now. Running. Running away from it all. Running away from his mistakes…. Or so he thought.

“This is your stop kid.” The young man jolts out of his trance and looks around him. He was so deep in thought he didn’t even realize the familiar shape of the shores surrounding his home. After all, it had only been six months since he last saw them, it wasn’t like he had become a stranger to his home during that time. “Time to get off the boat kid,” the helmsman says again. He’s eyeing me warily like I have a disease. I wonder if my shame is visible. Perhaps I have some sign that describes all of my negative qualities or maybe my cowardice is just that noticeable.

The boat gently glides into the harbor and I cautiously make the step from boat to dock. I do not move for a breath. I can still get back on the boat and run even farther away from my problems. Anything would be better than enduring the scorn and ridicule that is sure to come from my family and the townspeople. I have decided to get back on the boat and become a sailor. I’ll trade passage for work. I am about to take a step back onto this vessel I have come to know as my refuge when I hear my name. I freeze.

“John Mark.” I do not recognize that voice. My heart is beating wildly and I am petrified with fear. Who is this?

“John Mark.” My name again. I slowly turn around to face this disembodied voice and to see who has walked into my life.
I see an older man with deep brown eyes and a soft, kind face behind a snow-white beard. Instantly, I am content. I feel safe.

“Who are you,” I ask with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. As I wait for the answer from this stranger I feel a sudden weight upon my shoulders, as if this very moment were predestined before time to happen and my choice will end my life or allow it to begin again.

“John Mark,” the stranger says with a paternal smile,  “My name is Barnabas and I am here to help you.” “Help?” I say fast and sharp. “I do not need any help.” His eyes never leave mine, as if he is staring into my very soul. I feel like I am being examined by this man. Every thing I have ever done is on display for him to view and I am powerless to stop it. He knows what I have done, I think to myself.

“John Mark you are not a failure.” He’s still  looking at me. “You are loved. You are important. You have a purpose to fulfill, and I can help you find it, just come with me.” He extends his hand as an invitation. “Get off the boat John Mark and let me encourage you. Let me help you.” His eyes are still on mine. HIs hand is still outstretched. Genuine love and concern is pouring from his body.

I look down. I look up. I look anywhere so I don’t have to look at him. His words are ringing in my ears. You are loved. You are important. You have purpose. I look back into those kind eyes and I surrender. I surrender my guilt, shame, fear, and self-hatred to the Creator. I will let Him say who I am. I am His child.

I take Barnabas’s hand and he pulls me up onto the dock. He gives me a pat on the back and we head into the city. Into the unknown. Into the future.

“Everybody needs a little help John Mark,” he says with a wink and a smile. I smile back and for the first time in a long time I feel hope.

“36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” (Acts 15:36-40 ESV)

In every mistake and in every failure there is always someone in our lives who is like Barnabas. Someone who sticks with us through thick and thin, who believes in us despite our own unbelief in ourselves, and who lifts us up when we can’t. They hear what the naysayers say about us and they hear all the negative things, but they are still there for us.

Still encouraging us.

Still cheering us on.

John Mark made a mistake. It was a big enough mistake that Paul lost confidence in John Mark. In Paul’s eyes, John Mark was no good.

Not dependable.

Worthless.

Useless.

But Barnabas saw John Mark’s potential. He saw what John Mark could become. The integrity that was still there and the force that God could use for good. So Barnabas believed in John Mark and he encouraged him. He helped him see what he truly was.

John Mark was dependable.

He did have worth.

He was useful.

And eventually, Paul came around too.

“Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11 ESV)

You fell.

You made a mistake.

You messed up.

Don’t worry. It’s all going to be alright. Keep your head up. A Barnabas is coming and you will realize your potential and just what you are capable of.