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are you dead, or just sleeping

Its a Dead Mans Party…who could ask for more?

I have been all worked up about the small groups I go to. It seems to me that the job is to share experience, strength and hope. You tell about who you were, what happened and what you are like now. Its really simple. However, I have been going to groups that allow for more of a group counseling approach. I have heard stories about brothers diabetic feet, some 2nd cousin who might or might not have a problem with porn. I have heard more at an hour meeting than I heard all day at work with psychiatric patients. I am a little annoyed.

Its a Dead Mans Party

IT came to me today. The group dynamic lends itself for being a dead mans party. The whole idea of trying to be authentic with your journey beckons to be melo-dramatic. It becomes a competition on who has it the worst. The one upmanship of being downtrodden. It is the idea of stripping away life and allowing for the rebirth. In order to be reborn, you have to die first. You die to who you were. You have the option of being resurrected or resuscitated. You can be fully dead and move onto your new self…resurrected. Or you can hold onto the past and resume how you were-resuscitated back into the same old stale life. You get to live like a zombie. You get to join the dead mans party. You get to leave your body and soul at the door. You are without substance.

Its a Dead Mans Party.

I also had another idea of the dead mans party with relationships. I am scared to death of being in love. I lived my former life behind a mask. I hid from authenticity. I manipulated. I lied. I would tell long stories about how miserable I was, and how I needed someone, to put them in a hero role. I could then be the victim. It manipulated relationship into a duty. I have changed. I see now the only way to resurrection is absolute vulnerability. The concern for me is that vulnerability seems like leaving your body and soul at the door. I feel exposed and transparent. It hurts, like an open wound. If I stay in the mode of fear, I join the dead mans party. I can allow myself to shed the corporeal. I can shed the past. The vulnerability doesn’t have to hurt this bad. It takes practice to be exposed and still live. I want to live. I want to love. Do not resuscitate. I want resurrection.

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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in journey, life, Uncategorized

 

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wear the mask or forgive

The boy was dirty. He smelled bad. He had rolled around in the gutter of life and ate from the trough of despair. He cowered and was skittish. If you could bare to watch him for any length of time, you could see intelligence in his eyes. You could feel the desire to be loved and to love completely. Inside, he knew this wasn’t how he wanted to be but had no idea how to change it. He had grown to believe the taunts and hurtful rantings of others as they walked by, giving a wide birth. He was not worthy. He was a waste. He was slime.

“Oh, you will be a wonderful Christian soldier.” “You are a boy who is a leader.” “Come, and be with me and we will have a picture perfect life.” “If only you could see you as I see you.” Oh, the words she said. They felt good. They rang so different. They felt like someone was actually speaking his language for the first time. It almost didn’t matter what it was she said, he was ready to absorb it all. He felt as the lepers must have felt when Jesus touched them. Finally, someone told him he could be redeemed. All he had to do was become what this girl told him he already was. He wanted to be the person she saw. He wanted to be loved for filling that role. He wanted to see himself through her eyes. He wanted to not have to eat from the trough. He tried to fill the role. He wore a mask of beautiful white because he thought that spoke of the innocence he would need to be a Christian leader in a perfect life. mask3 He tried. He knew he would be unable to fully live up to expectations. He understood that the mask had to be protected and secured into place. Without it, he was not that person and surely would be unlovable. The mask was stifling. The mask burned his face. The mask began to crumble and the boy wanted to let it go. He was resentful at having to wear it. He was afraid of not wearing it. He cried behind it. The mask fell. The woman rejected what she saw and he walked away.

“You are so strong.” “You are so kind, so good.” “I love you so much for who I see.” “If only you could see yourself as I see you.” Oh the words she spoke. Certainly, she must be right. He was strong. It took strength to keep living. He was kind. He wanted desperately to see himself as she saw him. He started out just being himself. She seemed to respond and he was gloriously happy. “I don’t think you need to remember your days of filth.” “I wonder if the language you speak is true.” “I wonder if I see you.” He panicked. He worked harder at being the man she saw. He climbed, he searched, he held secret the pain. He hid behind a new mask. mask2IT was bright colors and fun. He tried to smile to match it. The pain he felt overwhelmed him and he had to drop the mask. He didn’t want to and it took a long time to fully let go. He loved the fun. He loved the woman. He wanted to be the person she saw. He just wasn’t. The mask fell.

“I wish you would see yourself like I do.” “You should be doing your life in this way.” “When you finally figure out the right way to do things, I will love you like you should be loved.” IT had been a long time since he had felt anyone really wanted to be with him. She wanted to make him a better man. She wanted a companion that could live up to the ideals she had created. He had struggled and fought to find out who he was without a mask. He thought he was equipped to be that perfect match. She echoed the sentiment. The mask was utilitarian.mask1 It was slate gray. It had little life, but followed all the rules. It wasn’t comfortable or fun, but it was exactly what he expected. He wore the mask, but his feet kept dancing and he shuffled right out the door.

He moaned that he couldn’t seem to become what anyone wanted. He was just himself. He was hurt and bruised. He ached to love and be loved. He knew the past would haunt him forever. He had made such monumental mistakes that no one would ever see past them. He felt lower than when he wallowed amongst the pigs. He looked to God and yelled, “I wish you could see me as you see me.” He cried.

God whispered back, “No, you don’t and you can’t.”

“Oh great, even God can’t get over my past.”

“No, to see you like I see you is both glorious and heart wrenching. I see your good and your bad. I see your heart and your fear. You don’t want to see the disparity. You don’t want to see the whole. You focus on either the good or the bad, never both. You can’t see you for who you are until you forgive yourself like I do. You won’t ever stop hiding and running behind the next mask until you are able to embrace ALL of you. My wish for you is that I wish you could forgive yourself as I forgive you.”forgiveyourself1

“I can try.”

“Let it happen, it is already there.”

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in faith, journey, life

 

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precipice

The crowd gathers, staring in the sun, shielding their eyes. They gaze up. Thoughts and emotions vary.

A young man looks worried. He is full of hope. He dreams of a life soaring. Yesterday, he played with Matchbox cars. He dreamt of adventures and a life unknown. He thought of a wife and kids and a job. He dreamt of riches and glory. He never thought of pain or fear or suffering. Even watching now, he couldn’t fathom that.

An old man looks up, not impressed. He has seen the world. He has forgotten the dream of delight. He is jaded. The hurt is deep. The pain severe. He is alone, scared, and sad. He navigates the pain and winces as it surges. He hurt yesterday and will hurt tomorrow. He in uninterested, and yet curious.

A middle age woman yells for the man on the precipice to jump. She is angry and hurt. She ignores the journey. She ignored the crowd, she focuses only on the man and yells, “Jump.”

Surrounding her are kids, desperately trying to get her attention, clamoring. They echo her voice and look at her from an approving glance. They mistake her sneer for a smile. They confuse that with acceptance and love.

There are others: some ignore, some disdain.

The man is on the precipice. Yesterday, he heard the voices and felt the stares. He knew the faces. He remembered living a life in the crowd. He recalled smiling and pretending the fear and voices didn’t hurt.

Today, he remembers the journey. He recalls the ones who helped him climb the mountain. He revels in the sweat and tears. He feels his aches and enjoys them. He listens to the voices from bellow. He weeps at the woman and the kids. The pain returns. Suddenly, he feels the sun. He giggles. He isn’t there to jump. He is there to soar.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in journey, life

 

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with and without

I listen to the pastors preamble in a large cattle ring at a Fairgrounds. I thought there were going to be a crowd. I wasn’t sure to expect, but seemed like fun to check it out. I really enjoy seeing what it is that draws people to God. I like to experience and examine different journeys. This was very unlike my usual journey. The pastor was a nice enough fellow. He was meek and kinda nerdy. His hair had gel in it, but was combed with bangs, maybe 1 inch long. He talked slow and methodical. I kept expecting him to say, “We call it a Slingblade.” It was a tad distracting. Then, he started one long sentence. He talked louder and faster. He joined sentences together with a guttural sound. He made a noise when breathing in. It was never quiet. There was no pause for effect. He spokeandspokeandspoke. I think it was pretty good, but I missed much of it. I worried a bit that he would pass out. I have heard of people saying they have been touched by the spirit and channeling the word of God. I was afraid and embarrassed to ask if this is what that was.

The next day I went to an Episcopalian service. It was very ordered and packed full of familiar rituals. We talked about things I knew: Richard Rohr, CS Lewis. I felt comfortable, but somewhat sterile.

I wonder about a journey of religion without spirituality or spirituality without religion.
The journey to God doesn’t require ritual or structure. We are born in the image of Christ, which means returning to God is natural, it is innate, it is a spiritual yearning that we only need to succumb. However, we are also pretty naural liars. Since Adam in the garden jumped into the bush, trying to hide from an all powerful, all knowing God, we have invented stories assigning blame. We jump out and say, “Eve made me do it.” Eve the first scape-goat. She is the predecessor to the fat kid on every playground in the world. Left to our own devices and our own choice, we seem to make some pretty bad choices. The same is true with spiritual journeys without a guide. We might be making great time, but we are lost.

What about religion without spirituality. I wonder about rituals and platitudes without substance. Rote memorization and reciting of different oaths and creeds. I entered into that world, thinking that I found it anemic and sad. I met with a fellow who put a spin on each ritual that will stick with me forever. He talked about how whatever measures of comfort and tradition aid in the journey to God are a spiritual journey worth keeping.

One without the other seem like a treasure hunt without a map or a map without a journey.

God is pretty dang mysterious. What a ride!

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2014 in journey

 

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Alpha and omega

Its the beginning and the end. Its the Genesis and Revelation. It is the conclusion and orientation.

This is not what I started to write about. I was going to contrast the two church services I went to this week. my fingers seem to have something to say and so I will just let them go . I hope its good.

I have been hitting the reset button for a few years now. In reality I started about 8 years ago. I put down my beer and picked up a new life. It was painful. It was strange and new. There is a scene in Narnia. One of the boys has developed scales all over his body. He meets with Aslan and wants to be freed from his affliction. He is sent to the lake. I imagine he is hoping the water will free him like a baptism. Aslan takes a claw and swipes at the boy. Some of the scales fall. He is in pain and bleeding and Aslan swipes again. And then again. The scales fall away and the boy is freed. He must heal and be clean. The boy is in pain and has to start again. It is the end of the pain of hiding in the scales, dark and hidden. It is the beginning of something new.

8 years ago, Aslan took his swipe. The scales of the bottle fell to the side. I was bloodied and in pain. I wasn’t done. I began to heal. I thought I was clean. 2 years ago, the darkness crept into my life again. I had hidden it behind the healed wounds. I didn’t see it, but I had not let Aslan finish the job with the first swipe. The recognition of my wounds, my scales hurt again. This time I knew I wasn’t done. I had the pain again when friends and family turned away from my bloodied and cold , naked body. I was not done and Aslan swiped again, stripping the trappings of life, my false idols. I was freed from me. Many had left, I had surrendered my career, my business, my life and stood ready to grow and be. I prayed the only honest prayer I know, “Help me.” He did.

I paused frequently. I let myself be lead into strange and unusual situations and careers. I felt the calmness and warmth of the lake. I knew Aslan was with me. When I surrendered for the third time and decided to finally let my career choice go by the wayside, He gave it back. It is a new beginning. It is the end and the beginning.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2014 in faith, journey

 

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umm, one more thing…

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Someone mentioned that book recently. I really like Shel Silverstein’s books and this was no exception. I felt a little superior to those in the room who hadn’t read it. I am a renaissance man. They unfolded it with several different interpretations: the boy was selfish and a taker, the tree an enabler, the boy was direct and could ask for what he wanted, the tree freely gave in sacrificial love. There were many others, but I was horrified and stopped paying attention. For some reason, my relationship with God kept nagging in my brain. Was I in a relationship or was I simply taking and expecting? Was I allowing God to relate to me in the moment or was I denying Him when things didn’t go my way?

In my journey, I have adopted the strategy of not merely apologizing or asking forgiveness, but making amends. I strive to mend the relationship by asking what it is that I need to do to make it right, or to make the person feel whole or in the direction of whole.

Quick side note: If you decide to do this, you will need to explain what you are doing almost every time you do it. I’ve had people ask me to please just say I am sorry.

I have been selfish with God. After my divorce, I was at a real low spot for some time. Our friends felt a need to choose sides, and I lost most of them. My pastors stopped responding to emails. Many of my patients were told elaborate and, most times, embellished stories about me and turned away in public settings. Her family reprimanded me and then blocked me on phones and email. My kids were told horrible things about me and told to call me by my first name rather than Dad. Not a single person asked me my side of the story. I had lost my career and my practice as well. I would apply for 500+ jobs in the next 2 years. I worked cleaning golf carts and driving the tractor to pick up golf balls. (That was really pretty fun.) I drove a school bus. I got 2 advanced online degrees. I bought a house by cashing in some of my retirement money and crossed my fingers that a job would come along. I begged God to help me find work and moaned about Him not getting me a job. I didn’t recognize the amazing gift I was being given. I was being granted a life vacation while I got my heart and head organized. I didn’t see it or take advantage of it the way some people would. I spent time growing and learning, but never went to the alps, finished my book, or created wonderous works of art.

I made new friends and meet new people. The friends I had stood by me, shoulder to shoulder. I also had the opportunity to see who I was independently. I got an opportunity to meet and greet myself. I grew to like me again. I was given the chance to see what true friendship is and true forgiveness could look like. I was held accountable, and loved. I lamented the loss of people I called friends and family. I felt isolated and alone. I still ache at the separation and alienation from my kids. I forgot the God had made sure I wasn’t alone. I had friends and family that supported me, that held me, that held me up.

I realized the other day, while riding my “temple bike”, that I have been blaming God for His followers. I have been upset that Christians gossiped about me, judged and condemned me, ignored me, would not forgive me, moved to the other side of the road as they passed by me. I could not understand why all this was happening to me. I was hurt, lost, scared, and felt alone. I was angry at God. The Truth is that I made the choices that led to my downfall and isolation. The Truth is that despite my actions, God stood shoulder to shoulder with me. He allowed me to breath and regroup. He allowed me to understand myself and to grow. He allowed me to open my heart and mind to live more fully into who He sees me as. The Truth is that God didn’t gossip, judge, condemn, ignore, or pass me by. God forgave me, even before I did it.

“God, I have been selfish, dishonest, and insincere. How do I make it right?”

“I already did.”

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in journey, life

 

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hold my hand

Pastor: This is a place you are safe.
Sinner: No, it isn’t.

Pastor: This is a place to come to feel comforted.
Sinner: No it isn’t.

Pastor: We forgive as we are forgiven.
Sinner: No you don’t.

Pastor: We welcome you as you are.
Sinner: No, you don’t.

Pastor: We will accept you.
Sinner: I want to believe it. I haven’t seen it.

Pastor: You are cleansed. (sprinkling water on kneeling sinner)
Sinner: Yes, I am

Sinner: Are you my family, my friends?
Pastor: Sometimes

AA member: We are.
Buddhist: We are.
Gang member: We can be.
Porn star: for a price
Alcohol: for your liver
Money: for your heart
Drugs: for your brain
Satan: for your soul

A hand reaches over the crowd. A tear stained face whispers above the din of noise and grasps mine. “I will.”
I see in his face the love of a murderer, a sinner, an adulterer, a thief, a beggar, a stutterer. I felt at home. I held the hand.

“Im not a superhero, I will let you down. I cant seem to run fast. I feel weak and unable. I am not worthy.”

I held the hand and we walked. I felt blood from his wrist run down my arm. I smelled the vinegar.

“You are my superhero.” I believed him.
“I will welcome you.” “I know”
“I am your family and friends.” “I know”
“I will accept you as you are.” “I know”

I saw the faces of his loved ones: the list of people who fell short. I knew that if I wanted to be them I would instantly be among them. I also looked back at the others and knew as soon as I longed to not be them, I would be them. I held the hand.

“I don’t ever want to let go.” I thought
“I don’t either, I never have and never will.” Jesus said

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in faith, journey, life

 

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