Jesus

Death of a Youngster

I left my interim home at 8:30am, anticipating being in Temple, TX at 12:05pm. I arrived on time. I was the first one at the funeral. I stood in the foyer staring into the distance at an open casket with a body in it, that did not look like the last time, I had seen him. He was 15. He was 14 when his family left last year. Shot and killed immediately, he had been dead for 10 days.

Before, many others began arriving. I asked the aging pallbearer if I could view him. I only made it halfway into the sanctuary. I stood in the middle frozen, weeping, breathless. I left and walked outside, hoping to reclaim the air that death had stolen from me.

A fleet of cars pulls up. From the first proceeds a slew of family members, ending with his mother. Who looks the same except for her red hair. She looked at me and didn’t know who I was. I walked inside. It was in the foyer that she said my name. She left her family and gave me an embrace and cried. Instinctually and stupidly, I said, “It’s okay.” The words left my lips and slapped me in the face. This is not okay. Mothers should not bury their sons. A family member impatiently pulled her away telling her she needed to sit down. It was thirty minutes before the funeral began.

I walked in and seated myself in a position where I couldn’t see his face. He did not look like himself. In the time before the funeral, you could hear the irreverent cackling of the family. Mom sat alone and detached. She left the room. Moments later, I felt arms around my chest and a head upon my shoulder. It was mom. I immediately wept. I didn’t want to say any of the wrong words this time. I love you. I am so sorry. For twenty slightly interrupted minutes, she shared her sorrow with me. She shared her guilt and her pain. She shared her emptiness. Though I could not fully take them, I was graciously invited to an experience.

She returned to her family. I moved seats. I wanted to be closer to him. Throughout the funeral, the refrain was repeated in my mind, “Where would Jesus be in this scene?” The ceremony felt quick. The church was filled primarily with weeping adolescents processing death and grief. The two officiants used his death as to preach their messages of gun control and serve as a Beyond Scared Straight episode. It drove me insane. The forty or so youth in that service needed comfort. Many of them attended without their parents. The church should have comforted them.

Some of the family members cackled through the hymnals. I could see mom get irritated. The family was full of laughter, but she needed them to mourn with her. We caught eyes in the middle of the service. Seeing her with her family, her life made more sense. I could understand, why she is the way she is.

The service was over. As she arose, she let out the first wail of finality. It won’t be the only one. With every birthday, every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, the year he should have graduated she will wail like this. It hurt to hear it.

As we exited the sanctuary, we passed by his open casket. I finally looked in. Death has stolen his face. His bright honey complexion was greyed. His bouncing curls cut short. His eyes forever fastened closed. His mouth sealed to provide no opportunity for breath or speech. His rosary filled hands folded on his lap, looking out of place for him. He was resting, but it didn’t look peaceful.

I only stayed at the reception long enough to speak to the mother one last time. Then, I left.

The drive back from Temple to Houston was daunting. I played Miles Davis’s Kinda Blue and thought about everything else, but his death.

Death is a thief. I know that Life is a giver. We all wrestle with both. Death felt victorious on November 8th. Life has won the war. To answer the question, “Where would Jesus be in this scene?” I think He would just be there, wrought with sorrow and grief. Consoling the mother. Correcting the family. Comforting the adolescents. Speaking life into death. I am not Jesus, but I pray I was where he would be in this scene.I pray, that I will be that continually.

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Thirty-One Days Ago

Thirty-one days ago, I postponed my 27th birthday. My existence was in too fragile of a space to generate emotions, positive or negative. I just needed to know that I could live. Much has happened in the past month. There have been days where anhedonia set in so deeply that even food was not captivating. I know I have lost weight in this season. I moved away from the home I have dwelt in for nearly 3 years. Tucking my minimal belongings in a 5×5 storage unit. Work and home have become synonymous. School resumed for me and my students at work. I cried really hard. I have felt nothing. I have been depressed. Thirty-one days ago, I thought my life was over. Postponing my birthday was my own feeble attempt at creating a timeline where problems are solved in the span of a sitcom.

I drove past the Caversham Estate last night. Someone else had moved in already. I wept. I knew the house would not remain abandoned. I just didn’t know life would resume so quickly. There were plants and a chair on the patio with my old bedroom lights aglow. Selfishly, I wanted to be the only one to move on. I didn’t really want the house to be repaired before I was. Why does restoration of a home only take a month? Why can’t my healing process move more quickly? Why has God chosen an agrarian pace for growth? Is my life pruning or punishment?

Thirty-one days ago, I postponed my 27th birthday. I celebrated with friends yesterday, who have slowed their pace to walk with me in mine. Life doesn’t move at sitcom paces. Life moves at the rate of life. Thirty-one days later, I am realizing that that’s perfectly okay.

God, You’re gracious

God, You’re good

Help me change my attitude

By Your Hands

I am fed

Remind me that You’re Home again

Amen

First Rain Since Harvey Left

It is the first rain since Harvey departed. In his wake, he left ruins that still remain unbuilt. As disastrous as the Houston landscape has been it was merely been a physical representation of the human heart. I have been gutted. Noahic flooding that seems like judgment, but actually is healing. Personally, I still don’t know what to make of a hurricane that felt like that of a Grecian epic. I don’t think it is mine to decipher. I am not the one who controls it.

God is the Author. He is quite the Author, but such an interesting Reader and Listener to the story as well. He placed Himself in it momentarily, but it has always been about Him. He is a mysterious Author. The best books are the one that leaves me wondering what the author was trying to tell me. He has left a Commentary who teaches, but even then, mystery. Divine and material mystery.

I have gone through the gamut of human emotions since Harvey.

Sorrow. Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Displacement. Fear.

Fear.

Those have been my most persistent friends in this season. They are terrible friends; they leech themselves onto me. As I turn to them, they turn on me. I don’t think they have all departed. I still think they linger, but in this moment, I have felt something I have not felt since the flood waters rose.

Hope.

It was by way of a woman I have always admired. How kind is God in the midst of ruins to sift through the rubble.

Good Father,

I am devastated, in both definitions of the word. I have looked inward for so long, that I have lost sight. Your truth is so simple. Your call is so clear. My cross is so much. Teach me to trust. Teach me to bear burdens better. Remind me that you are both the Builder and the Cornerstone. When I burrow into the complexities of the human ego, remind me of the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Good News is the hope for those who have fear.

The Good News is a refuge for those who are displaced.

The Good News is reclamation for those who feel abandoned.

The Good News is gratitude in a heart that envies what is not hers.

The Good News is penitence in the place of shame.

The Good News is the hope of companionship for those who are burdened with loneliness.

The Good News is understanding rather than anger.

The Good News is joy in the middle of sorrow.

I am not fully “telos-ed” by the Gospel today. I will not know if I will be tomorrow, but Mrs. Ellen, thank you for the reminder. I don’t know if you will ever read these words but bless you.

In Christ. By Way of the Spirit. Directed to the Father.

Amen

Hope.

Hope. Refuge.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding. Joy

Change & Consistency

God,

Consistency and change are not opposite of each other but work together. If everything stayed the same life would get dull, but if change too frequently occurred life would be worrisome. Thank you for orienting the universe with both. The earth rotates on its axis for millennia at a time but brings about different days and different seasons with different temperatures. Humanities and kingdoms have risen and fell on the pale blue dot suspended in the sunbeam. There is no man in history studies, that has not walked on the same earth I have.

God, change and consistency are gifts. In this season of change, I have forged patterns of consistency. Perhaps that is your mercy. I felt both as I watched the sun rise beyond the chapel steeple. A change was inevitable. I live only blocks from the bayou. As I worked, I knew the waters would find residence in my home. How could a source of cleansing also be one of chaos?

God, You leave so many questions unanswered. Help me be okay with a lack of answers. Remind me that is doesn’t point to a God who is lacking answers. Be better than all the answers I think I need. Be the better question to ask. Be the change that brings about blossoms. Be the consistency that brings about stability. God be all that You say You are, just help me to believe it.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Jesus made this conversation possible, by connecting us through the Holy Spirit to the Father.

Amen

Displacement

God,

In Harvey’s ending, many people, for the first time, considered what it means to be displaced. I did not. 2014 raced through my head. I saw the hand of believers move to serve me, yet I focused on the depression of that year. Remembering the August night spent in my car, terrified and alone. I dwelled on the isolation of that year. The many nights, I remained in my office hours past close simply to be alone. I concentrated on the loss of that year. Initially, it was a job, a home, and children, but by the end, it was a sense of identity, value, and self. When 2014 ended. I was broken.

When you are displaced you lose much more than a home. You lose a rhythm and a schedule. You lose your daily patterns and cadences with people. You lose your ability to control meals. You lose the ability to shut the door in people’s face. You lose control. The only thing I gained in 2014 was weight. 25 pounds exactly and I still haven’t even lost that three years later.

God, I am at a total loss. My heart lies somewhere in the debris of drywall and flooring. I don’t know if it is even worthy of repair. I do know You are the Original Creative. I know You take chaos and disorder and bring life, sustainable life. Take the chaos of a dismantled heart and bring about life and order. I know I have been distant from You. I have wandered from You, but I need You for You to find me. I am done being prodigal. Be my home.

In the Son. Through the Spirit. To the Father

Amen

 

Solo Vacations

It only took a day for me to find out, I don’t vacation well.

I make hasty decisions. When I think back to adult decisions I have made, I have never spent more than 5 minutes before I have said yes. I know I should be a better Christian and “pray about it”, but God gives me wisdom and a gut feeling. My move to Texas, my car, and currently this vacation were rall decisions I made in less than 30 minutes. Most times, it pans out. I have now been in Texas for 5 years. I love my car. Sometimes though it doesn’t. Chicago is a struggle.

I came to Chicago for a Christian conference. Yesterday, I made it through the first general session and workshop. I walked to find something to eat. I settled in at Gino’s East for my first deep dish experience. Before my first bite of doughy, cheesy, meaty goodness, exhaustion hit me. And months of feelings and fears began to surface. Fortunately, a friend called me. I cried. I tried not to, but my tears escaped me…little bandits.

This is not my first time vacationing alone. I have been to London, Spain, Colorado, Portland, and Seattle alone. I revel in those memories. Walking the streets of London in the middle of the night. Driving haphazardly to Seattle. Prayer walking with a faithful dog named Lazarus in Divide, Colorado. This is the first time, I have been lonely while vacationing. No one should eat deep dish pizza alone. I want to experience life with a person. After lunch, I resigned to my room. In the building across from mine, people were living and moving and dancing and jumping. I lay on my bed. I didn’t go back until the next general session. I did the same today.

The only difference between yesterday and today is this. Today, I acknowledge I have run, filling my life with work and school. God will find me in my quiet resignation. I am uncomfortable being here. I am scared being here. I don’t like my withdrawal, but I can’t muster the will to engage. Luckily, God has always found people in the most random places.

Find me in the cave

Find me at the well

Find me in the river

Find me in the jail

Imperfect Love

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I have reflected on this verse often over the course of the past six months. I hear its refrain as I ponder on those whom I love and those who love me. I know imperfect love. It looms. I know it’s imperfect. It is fear-inducing and creates unnecessary risk. Fear-inducing love is not loving at all. Imperfect love is an oxymoron as it does not exist; love can only exist in complete perfection.

I got a glimpse of perfect love today. I saw it over breakfast and a coffee two hours afternoon. It was not a fear-inducing love, but one that feels freeing. One that assists in letting go. I pray for more of that love.

I pray I find it in the Lord.

I pray I find it in friends.

I pray it is found in me.