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A Broken Hallelujah or…an Apt Title for What Can Simply be Referred to as My ‘Spiritual Journey’

When I hear the words ‘spiritual journey,’ it’s difficult to keep my mind from thinking that what is desired is a whole bunch of Christian jargon strung together to formulate so cohesive a whole that it ends up looking like a religious résumé, where words and phrases like ‘hard-working,’ and ‘honest,’ are replaced with ‘repented(ance),’ and ‘it was me who murdered Jesus.’

Truth is, I believe at my core that the ‘journey’—the ‘Pilgrim’s progress from this world to that which is to come’ IS Jesus.
And Jesus is (and, through His revelation, has become) so much bigger and grander than I have ever imagined or can imagine.

I honestly don’t know if I’ve been fully ‘converted.’ Like the woman at the well, I’ve tasted living water, yet unlike what the Scriptures say, I’ve gone away thirsty again…and again…and again, as if I forget the presence of Jesus—His love and His grace. So I wander off; forgetting what is good, and even at times forgetting to remember. It’s like I’ve been awoken from a dream to reality: seeing the proverbial windmills for what they truly are (giants), and yet fall back asleep again, forgetting that it’s a dream, thinking giants to be ‘just windmills,’ and this world to be what is, not what isn’t.

Why?

If I’ve truly had a ‘conversion’ why do I not feel fully ‘converted?’

In my history, I’ve had the private time as a child alone in my room, ‘asking’ Jesus to come into my heart (as if the drawing to him—the romance was entirely up to me), battled sickness and disease meant to take my life (or at the very least, my spirit), I’ve been brought to utter ruin at the hands of others (and still bear the scars on my body to prove it), brought myself to utter ruin (time and time again), lived a year or so in utter anger towards my maker (never once forsaking or denying truth, but despising it all the same), made a covenant with God that I would follow Him and do what He brought to me to do (in a state of loneliness of drink and smoke, where I felt as if I made my ‘bed in Sheol’ and yet, He was still there with me), fallen in and ‘out’ of love, struggled with grace, wrestled with unrelenting love, and come to see that at the center of it all, in it all, through it all, IS JESUS.

So I keep coming back. Back when my ‘brains dry up,’ back when my spirit runs dry. Because to me, I have not had a ‘conversion experience;’ that is to say rather, I believe Jesus is AT ALL TIMES SINCE BEFORE MY BIRTH CONVERTING ME.
And it’s a process that both hurts and frees.
It’s a process that requires me to be ‘unmade’ in order that one day I will be fully ‘made;’ made in the image of God.
I believe the converting fire is a refiner’s fire, and that fire is good. For fire is what burns away that which is not real, to bare that which is.
And lately, that fire has been burning hot.

I have seen myself as God sees me. Not through an absence of my sin, my failures, my mistakes, my ruin, but all encompassing. That I am created for no other reason but love, and loved for no other reason but I’m created.
And that for me to see that, I NEED a nature that keeps me from God, for it is because of that nature that keeps me from Him, that He sent His son. While I was/am still a sinner, CHRIST DIED FOR ME. I cannot see His unrelenting love and His irresistible grace that is Christ Jesus without seeing and knowing that because of my sin nature, God demonstrated His love, that there is nothing in me and of me that makes God love me. He just loves because He IS LOVE.

Thus, it’s not that I ‘chose’ to be converted—that I ‘chose’ the Way, but the Way CHOSE ME. Not only that, but the Way is constantly choosing me, constantly in the process of converting me, until such a time as “It is finished.”

What do I wish to do then? I wish to be a voice.
I wish to vocalize the unrelenting Love and irresistible Grace of God.
Not to bring, but to reveal.
Not to convert, but to be an ambassador.
To show just where Jesus IS in other’s lives, and reveal how HE HAS LOVED THEM.
To bring others to see that Jesus isn’t the Way OUT OF THE FIRE, but THROUGH IT. That as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan, Jesus isn’t at all safe, but He is good.
And that is something to trust in.
That Jesus will bring about the death of you.
But that part of experiencing the love that is all around us, in us, through us, working, like Paul says in the beginning of Colossians.
And I have come to believe that part of that calling requires further education and credentials (a Masters in Theology) on my part, in order to have clout and backing to wherever He is calling me to, and placing me in specifically.

Beyond that—that is, what that is exactly, is still veiled to me, and that’s okay. For just as the story has been told whether I know its details or not, it will continue to do so. All I can do is what is and has always been in me to do: to seek where God is, what He is doing, and my part in it all.
This pursuit has led me in and out of service in the Church, be it leading Bible studies, being a group leader, leading a college group on Metro Campus, leading worship, being part of various worship teams, volunteering in various capacities in my present church, to working in retail, and teaching Early Childhood for 4 years, getting married, writing and maintaining a blog, writing and composing music, the possibility of writing for the Religion section of an online News Source, the possibility of being an adjunct at Metro State and teaching a course on Hell, gaining jobs, losing them, and going in and out of the ‘Wilderness.’

And no, it hasn’t always BEEN SAFE, but it’s been good.

Of late, that safety has been less and less a reality. We’ve come to see just what a young married couple can survive on whilst still maintaining bill pay, insurance, rent, when one is working full time and one is on meager unemployment. Yet deeper than mere fiscal safety, a spiritual safety and trust has been tested—tempered.

Song # 1 to listen to whilst reading this:

It’s strange to think that it grew to be easy to say that I would and do trust not merely God himself, but that He IS Good—that I am not afraid, that He WILL provide what is good, He will show just what path I’m meant to take, but compared to the difficulty faced presently, of course it would seem easy to say previously.
And yet even with the difficulty and challenges staring me—us, square between the eyes, and the ease at which I could just give up, stop fighting, stop seeking, stop longing, to question God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness, God’s love, I still can’t seem to bring myself to do it.
No matter how much I may want to.
No matter how much I think I do give up in the darkest of moments; alone, longing for the sanctuary of sleep, but cannot bring my heart to stop pounding, my head to stop swimming.

But that’s just the thing about hope, I guess.

Hope is what has spurred me ever forward, never satisfied, constantly seeking, and yet also presented me with some of my greatest challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. You see, when there is hope—true hope, I’ve learned that one pours all they have and all they are into their endeavors; and that can be a very dangerous thing to do when one is not prepared to be scorned and covered with scars. For hope leads to reality beyond what is seen, heard, felt, but it can also lead to heartache, heart break, and being battered and war torn.

Is this ideal? I don’t truly know. For I cannot rest assure and put forth that my relentless hope has led solely to accolades, accomplishments, honors, and prestige. Whether I’m an old fool of a soul yet or not, one thing’s for sure, the parallels between Don Quixote and I seem to grow more deep and rich.

Hope.

My hope, in its unrelenting way has many times left me realizing I’m merely fighting windmills, or that royalty are merely mule drivers. Yet Quixote could not give up hope. Hope that he was something beyond what people saw, and therefore called to fight for what is not seen. To the world and everyone in it, his brains dried up. To him, he had awoken from a dream into what was truly reality, and he lived fighting to bring about what ‘should be’—or at the very least, make it what ‘could be’ to those and for those still sleeping.

The world considered him mad; a madman in world prone to see the extraordinary as ordinary, yet void of the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary. I hold that Quixote’s madness lay not in having the ability to do both, but verily, in the hope of bringing his reality to the world’s doorstep and into its house.

My Wife, Ricci, has been reading a book in which at one point the main character comes to a fork in the road with a sign post labeling each direction which reads:
“Lose your way”
“Lose your mind”
“Lose your life”
“Lose your heart”

It struck me as an interesting question to be presented with: if faced with the choice of losing one of these, which would you actually choose?

I wish it were that easy.

For I’ve been in a constant seeking my entire life of just what is my ‘way,’ so to lose what it seems I have not yet found is to fall into a groove of assuming I have found a way, yet it being the wrong one.
I’ve lost my life (or so it feels) time and time again, so the loss of that does not seem to be so difficult a path for me to walk down, yet with the unceasing hope God has created me with, I cannot seem to shake that there is a reason I’m still here, still traversing, still purposed.

Thus, the challenge would be choosing between losing my heart or losing my mind.
Having lost my heart plenty, and trying (in vain) to guard against that, I would not under any circumstances choose that path again. And truly, having seemingly traversed the roads and ways I have thus far, I can’t shake the feeling that to lose your heart and to lose your life may be one and the same road, if not, then at the very least being parallel.

If it were up to me, I’d take the path to lose my mind.
The problem is not knowing before I head down that path whether or not I still will feel when my heart gets broken, or lost, or hurt. Would I know? Would I be concerned?
What if I have already lost my mind? Again, can unrelenting hope when surrounded by hopelessness be considered madness?
Then I’m mad. I’ve already lost it.
And I still feel every hurt, every ache, every heart break.

And I still feel mad, I look at myself and think “you must be crazy.” After all this, to still continue on, to still Dream the Impossible Dream.
So perhaps I’ve taken the way of losing my mind long ago, and–it being my first path, have traversed all the rest without realizing it. Loss of way, loss of heart, loss of life.

I just can’t for the life of me give up and give in. I feel urged to press forward, onward, upward, into or out of darkness.

And I’ve got to keep believing that the world will truly be, ‘better for this.’

Song # 2 to listen to:

Song # 3 to listen to:

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A Dark Night Risen

This morning I wake up to texts and calls from family. Some—who live locally, wish to know if I’ve seen the news this morning. The others who don’t, ask if I or anyone I know went to the midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises where the mass shooting occurred. If I’m okay, alive, or shaken personally by this.

When I’m suddenly faced with a darkness that not only takes me by surprise, but seems to slap me sideways—reminding me that I forgot about evil, forgot that it’s out there, ready to forsake innocence, to steal, to kill, and to destroy,
what do I say?
What is my response?

It’s at times like these it seems, that both Atheists and Theists utter a word they do or do not believe to be real:
“Oh God.”
Further, the question of direction and place is posited, “Oh God, where are you now?” While each of us ask the same question, the meaning behind the question varies contingent on the asker. Some seek to really see just where God is, and why God chose to let this happen. Others seek to see the utter absence of God; they seek to see that God is nowhere.

(Sufjan Stevens’ “Oh God, Where Are You Now?”)

And to be honest, times like these can make me feel this to be the case.

It’s not just in the act of carnage that one wicked man chose to inflict on innocence—looking to be entertained, in whatever way, for whatever reason looking to escape reality, but in the mere fact that for me, for many in the area, life merely goes on.

We respond to loved one queries on Facebook that yes, we’re okay. No, we didn’t go to the midnight showing last night. Aurora isn’t anywhere near where we live and there’s a whole bunch of theaters between here and there that I would pick over going there. No, Aurora and Columbine are nowhere near each other. No, we don’t have any inside information.

And then we go back to our daily routine. Life doesn’t stop. Our obligations don’t stop. So just where is God in that? Where is God in the banal continuation of life when evil has occurred that shocks and shakes us, yet doesn’t truly affect us, and thus, we move on instantaneously?

The hardest thing about my personal belief in God is not the times debating God’s existence, not the times I’m poked fun of as the guy who always has his Bible handy, nor arguing a campus preacher or family about believing that God IS LOVE, and because of that, Hell is not eternal; no. The most difficult times for me are to be faced with the utter mystery of it all. The times where something happens that I can’t reveal my heart, or my knowledge of God. The times that seem to surprise attack me with a slap in the neck and a “where’s your God now?!?!?” attitude.

Because it’s these times where I don’t have anything to fall back on but faith, hope, and love.

Can I explain in clear and precise theological detail what God is doing in the specifics of the gruesome event and why? NO.

And honestly, it would be blasphemous and insulting to the people involved—those that lost their lives, those that lost loved ones, those that were injured, if I (or anyone) attempted to.

Increasingly I’ve become faced with not only the utter mystery of God, but that my true fear in life is that God is not good. I’m not afraid of death. I’ve faced it too many times in too many ways. What I am scared to death of is that there’s no greater purpose to it all. That God—the creator, sustainer, Father of ALL things, isn’t a good God.

So no, I can’t tell you God’s purpose in this attack. I can’t say that it will all work out to good.

I CAN however, say that when Jesus breathed his last breath on the Cross, and ‘released his Spirit,’ the Veil in the Temple separating the Holy of Holies (traditionally believed to be where God dwelled) was torn in two, from top to bottom, symbolizing the outpouring into all the world. (Matthew. 27: 50, 51)

I can tell you that it’s not the sacred that is in danger of the profane, but with the veil torn and the Holy of Holies being poured out, it in fact is the profane that is in danger of becoming sacred.I can say that Jesus has said that He is “making ALL THINGS new.” (Revelation 21: 5)

That is where my faith and hope lay.

As for love, I have not been affected personally by this tragedy, nor know anyone who has, but I am choosing to honor those that have by not attempting to explain away their loss, their sadness, their darkness. And while perfect love casts out, dispels fear, what does it mean when I’m still afraid? What does it mean for those that were afraid? That are dealing with the aftermath of something that caused so much fear and pain?

I cannot say WHAT God is doing, but I can say that I know and trust that God IS doing [something].

And the world will be better for this…

FOR MORE OF MY THOUGHTS ON TRAGEDY, VIEW MY SEPTEMBER 11TH BLOG HERE

AND BE SURE TO VIEW BELOW FOR MY EXTRA SIDE NOTE COMMENT ONE EVIL, GOOD, AND TRUST IN GOD

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Christmas Traditions I CANNOT Do Without

Pt. 2 (continued from “Christmas Traditions I Can Do Without”)

When I was living out my bachelorhood in a small apartment, there was a time when my bathroom sink stopped draining. I—of course, was far too busy to do anything about this so I created my own remedy; I found a way around this dilemma out of my control. I used the shower for water—as to wet my toothbrush and such, and I’d spit in the toilet.
Thereby, I didn’t need to use the sink. I had crafted a way to completely avoid it’s necessity.
Around the time of 7th grade, my world was forcibly shamed into a similar predicament. (*In case you haven’t been privy to that story, you can see me speak on it here) In fact, it occurred around the same time as the Christmas season (which, is actually also the time of my own celebration of Birth—December 8th).

I was forced into making my world work for me. And it left an extreme distaste for Christmas—much less my birthday.
It tainted the celebration of the season.
I went from a life of innocence to a life profane. And I began to strive to make the profane, sacred. To create for myself, a self worthy of Heaven. Not in God’s eyes, but in mine.
I feared my failures, I feared my missteps, I feared that I was just shy of nice too often to make the cut.

I crafted a well enough working means to live. But it was still a shower and toilet substitute for a working bathroom sink.

The past two years I’ve been privy to an abundance of discovery of not merely who God isn’t, but who God is.

God isn’t Santa.

He doesn’t watch your every move to make sure you’re not naughty.

God doesn’t delight in sending people to Hell.

He has not preassigned, consigned, predestined some for an eternity of being eaten by Krampus. Though he has woven Krampus and Hell into His story, and many—if not all, will feel it’s sting. But not for eternity.

God isn’t in danger of being made profane.

The curtain that separated the Holy of Holy’s was not to protect God from us. Nor is in war for his creation with Krampus, where a victor for the world (in its entirety) has yet to be decided, Krampus is not God’s equivalent.

God is Sacred.

The profane cannot enter the presence of the sacred, but the sacred is free and able to enter in to the profane. When Christ was born, he was birthed in to a manger—the sacred was clothed in profanity, but did not become profane. When Christ died, the curtain of the Holy of Holy’s was torn, and the sacred flooded in to a world profane.

God is Love.

He created out of Love, He redeems out of Love, He woos out of Love, He finishes His story out of Love, He tells His story to us and through us out of Love. If God is Love, then everything He does, even allowing some to feel death and Hell’s sting, to even Hate (Esau I have Hated) is out of Love.

He allows himself to be birthed, later allowing his birth to be associated with the winter solstice; years upon years before I was born, before I felt what profanity creates, so that I can be shown a clear example of what is Sacred being birthed in the midst of the profane, in order to make what is profane, sacred.

Christmas is naught to me but that action.
God—creator of everything,
Jesus—the image of the invisible God,
born in a state of vulnerability–not merely on the earth–in level with it, but even lower, below it, in a cave, in a manger;
a riddle of Heaven–in an instant, trading its position above the Earth, with that of its alleged antithesis; taking a position under the Earth,
turning the Earth upside down, and beginning a revolution, nay, the revolution.

The revolution that shows me that nothing I can do—and nothing that can be done to me, can ever outweigh Him and His sacredness.

The sacred is not in danger of becoming profane; it is the profane that is in constant danger of becoming sanctified.

And His Love for me outweighs any depth of Hell I may encounter—by choice or forced upon me, in this present life or for all time.

Love consumes Krampus, the profane WILL be sanctified.

Fear of either is then cast aside, and a heart and life of love, of sanctified profanity is free to be and celebrate with memories of it all: of profanity, of innocence, and of sacrality, every December, and all year around.

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