Saturday, December 24, 2011

DecembeREALLY?

Emotionally, December always feels mixed to me. In years past, I've felt everything from utter peace when I would sit outside of my parents' house and listen to the snow falling (if you've never tried listening to snow - trust me: it's amazing) to feeling loss, depression, anxiety...you name it.

This year, God apparently decided to up the emotional ante and kick my mind and heart to eleven. And true to type, I fought accepting everything offered to me - due in part to a misplaced sense of self-worth - until I felt more than heard God say "You know, sometimes I do just want to bless you." 

So, in chronological order, here are the (thus far) ways in which God is attempting to get me to at least listen to if not speak in a new love language:

DECEMBER 10: If you happened to miss the proceeding month's-worth of Facebook updates and Tweets of mine, let me sum it up for thus: I was published in a for-real, honest-to-God book. And the fact that the paperback version of the book I was published in about being a stay-at-home dad (The Myth of Mr. Mom) was available for purchase the day after what would have been my dad's birthday...beauty. Sheer beauty.

DECEMBER 12: The phone rang. While this in and of itself was not a great shock, the voice on the other end of the phone was. The voice in question belonging to none other than Steve Taylor. Yes. That Steve Taylor. He of Chagall Guevara fame. He who was and remains one of the single greatest influences on my life. Period. Of all time. And the fact that one of my heroes, mentors (by distance) and a man whose work I admire and respect called me (as part of that whole "backers" plan from Blue Like Jazz)...beauty. Sheer beauty.

DECEMBER 17: Ashley and I have been making do in a one-car house for almost a year and a half now. While this has led to some - ahem - tense discussions regarding time management, we have been managing okay. This was due in part to her having a moped to drive back and forth to work. But then...the moped was stolen. From our house. So, when her dad came to visit, he got us our Christmas present: a car. A new car. An amazing, high-safety-rated car. And the fact that Kai can now ride in comfort in a car that isn't pushing 140,000 miles and is over twelve years old...beauty. Sheer beauty.

DECEMBER 19: ...and as it now turns out, we will NEED two cars. In a move which falls square under the umbrella of "shock and awe," I was offered and accepted the position of part-time Interim Youth Pastor at St. Andrews Baptist Church here in Columbia. 

Which means I can remain a stay-at-home dad (hello, book).

Which means I can be a mentor and influence the lives of these kids (hello, Steve).

Which means I have closed a loop in my heart which has remained open for far too long.

And the fact that God is choosing to use my broken, imperfect, "not a licensed or ordained minister" self in this way...

Beauty. Sheer beauty.

  

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From One Word to One Theme 2011





It started with a "simple" enough idea from my friend Alece.


At the risk of grossly oversimplifying her plan, the idea was to pray about finding the one word that would define, shape, and structure your year in 2011. 


And so, I felt like God showed me a word in Hebrew which I needed to focus on: shalam


The word itself has a number of meanings, including to be in a covenant of peace; to be at peace; to be complete; to be sound; and to make whole or good, restore, to make compensation.


And I wrote about what God was teaching me about this word and how it was impacting my life here...and here...and here...and here...and here...and here...and here...and here...


So, of course, the manner in which I thought this word would be defined and lived out in me has wound up being nothing like what God had panned. Ain't that just always the way?


Whereas I thought it meant I would be granted something, I have instead been shown where I could give. 


Whereas I thought it meant I would finally lay down portions of my past, I was shown the aspects I had been holding on to and needed to release and deal with before I could gain peace.


Whereas I thought it meant the year might be sound and stable, I have been rocked, challenged and broken like never before.


Whereas I thought things might be given to me to "make up" to me for what I had lost, I learned (okay: re-learned) that those things which are of the greatest value are the ones you sometimes have to fit for and earn.


So, my shalam felt more "SHAZAM" in the way it was delivered to me; namely, hitting my like a bolt out of the sky. (Yes, that was an old 1950s comic book reference. Captain Marvel is one of my favorite four-color characters of all time, and it's rare I get to utilize him with a spiritual twist. Let me have this one, okay?) But to be honest, I wouldn't have had it any other way. 


In fact, I'm almost embarrassed at how "simple" I thought this might be at the outset. And I am thankful, blessed, humbled, and honored at how much this word and this journey have taught me. And I can't wait to see how it continues today out in my life, heart, and mind. 


 ...and makes what I think is supposed to be my One Word for 2012 both frightening and invigorating. And just a tad cheesy.


But that's another post for another year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Come As A Child

Do you know what I have observed as the most effective ministerial tool in church, regardless of the denomination, affiliation, or style of worship? Puppets. Because once kids are called down front for the children's sermon, whether you are a parent (praying silently under your breath that your kid stays still and quiet or doesn't pass gas loudly) or not, every eye is transfixed on the felt missionaries of the Gospel at the front of the church.
Puppets available from www.puppetville.com

Maybe it's because we have a Jim Henson-induced nostalgic twinge in our hearts when the show begins. Or maybe it's because the message is so simple that it resonates at a deeper level than all the rest of the service before or after the puppet show. 

...which is why I always hate to follow the things when I speak. It's like they're the ultimate opening act.

I know that I often fall into the trap of "how do I package this message" when I am preparing to preach. It's not that I believe that I should deliver my message by rote with no passion or vocal inflection, nor that I should obsess over working on making it a production complete with trendy and hip backgrounds, music, fonts, and clothes worn by me. But why do we - I - try to at times make things far more difficult and complex than they need to be? Am I truly trying to say what the Spirit has laid upon my heart, or am I trying to hyper-intellectualize my lesson, fearing that if I boil it down it will seem too simple?

Since this is a seasonal-appropriate example to give: go watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Not only will you probably sit there in silence as you watch it (now contrast that with how many times you allow yourself to be distracted/intentionally distract yourself in church), but when you get to that scene...and you know the scene I'm talking about...

You'll remember what Christmas is all about.

And maybe, just maybe, what church is all about.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

i 2 (eye)

Yes, that is a very dated reference to a Michael W. Smith album, one of the only two that I can stomach. This post is inspired by the words given by my good friend Christina Whitehouse-Suggs this past Sunday. Really, if you're not following her on Twitter or reading her blog, you're cheating yourself.

So let's talk pedestals for a moment, shall we?



Image from
http://photo-dictionary.com
I used to put people on pedestals. A lot. I was the one who would ape Wayne and Garth in my heart and think "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!" when I would consider placing myself on their level. Youth ministry? No way am I as good as X. Speaking in church? Please; X has me beat. As a classroom teacher? I am not even worthy to dust the erasers of X.

And I'm kidding myself when I refer to my pedestaling in the past tense; today, if you were to pick three random people whose blogs I read and put my name in with theirs as someone who is a good writer, I would get all "aw, shucks"-ish and wave my hand dismissing your compliment. Part of this comes from growing up in the South, and being force-fed politeness. Part of this comes from growing up in church, and being force-fed humility. And to be honest, a large part of it extends from an at-times low sense of self-esteem.

However, we have an inherent drive in our hearts to worship something, as well as an ill-placed desire in our hearts to BE worshipped. And in there lies part of the true danger of pedestals.

When we place someone on a pedestal - mentors, teachers, pastors, writers, Joss Whedon - we put them in the position of forcing them to have to "come down" to our level at some point. Most of the time, they know that "level" is both literal and figurative in where we need to be in order to interact with us. Yet we keep trying to put them back up where we believe they belong, because we feel far more comfortable in looking up than in looking them in the eye. As an equal.

When we allow ourselves be placed on a pedestal, although whatever genuine humility we possess may try to stop it, there's something inside us that enjoys the sensation of rising above. Of being considered good. Better. Inspiring.

But no matter what your pedestal is made of - concrete, cement, lies - at some point, something will cause you to fall. The ground will shake. The foundation will crack. And your pedestal, and your ego, will come tumbling, with the danger of taking down the people who were gathered around looking up at you.

Only One that I know of was worthy to be lifted up, and we put Him there: first to crucify Him, and later to celebrate His resurrection and the forgiveness of our sins. And even though we try at times to put Him back up - putting Him "in His place," so to speak - He came down. And He continues to come down, time and again, to interact with us. To look us in the eyes. To let us touch His side. To feel His hands.

To call us beloved.

Who do you have placed on a pedestal?

Monday, December 05, 2011

An Exercise in Prayer


All parents hope for the best and dream big dreams for their kids. I'm certain that based on the aptitudes he has already shown, Kai has the talent and ability to be a philosopher, writer, actor, scientist, super hero, chef, geologist, and engineer. All at the same time. 

However, based on his sleep patterns, he's undoubtedly going to be a farmer. This kid has the inability to sleep in. And as such, it has caused me and Ashley no small amount of frustration and short tempers with each other due to our sleep deprivation, physical, mental and emotional exhaustion during the day, and has created some of the most amazing dark circles, wrinkles and grey hair on me. 

As part of our attempt the keep this monster corralled during the still-dark-hours of the morning, we put a baby gate up leading into his room so that he can't escape and go eat an entire box of Special K while waiting on us to rouse from the dead. But because this is a new and - as I can surmise from the amount of tears he sheds - traumatic experience for him, we take turns sitting outside the gate for a while to reassure him that mommy and daddy have not defected to North Korea and left him all alone. During my last turn at Kaisitting, I took the opportunity to sit on the floor in the dark and quiet and just...be. Still. Relaxed(ish). 

I think the last time I did this was in 2007. In Athens. 

And while I was sitting there, I decided to take the opportunity to actually pray. 

Now, I have to confess: I'm one of those "pray without ceasing" kind of people who prays to God in 140 characters or less while on the go. I rarely if ever take time to sit and bask in the stillness of life, despite how much I know that it grounds me and connects me. I rarely if ever have any consistency about letting myself hear something other than the sound of my own voice echoing in my prayers. I do hear/feel nudges of conviction and moments of the Spirit moving in and through me, but taking time to reflect and meditate feels as much a luxury to me as buying non-generic label groceries would be.

But this morning, I was reminded how physical our prayer life can and should be. There is nothing in the world wrong with having a continual dialogue with God, but we should not do so at the expense of taking time to ground and connect with - well, the ground. We are both physical and spiritual in nature, and as such, we should feed both portions in our prayer and faith life. Because to be honest, while I was sitting there letting myself just be, I felt more in tune with God than I do when I offer up my half-prayers throughout the day. And this practice of intentional meditation (on Scripture), intentional quiet, and intentional listening is something I need to do a lot more of. 

And next time, maybe I can do more than JUST pray that Kai would go back to sleep.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Had Happened Was...


Yes. I know this blog has been quiet. 
Yes. I know my Twitter feed has been less interactive than usual. 
Yes. I know that Facebook hasn't see my face for a while. 

And here's why: 

Between guest posting like mad during the month of October at other websites, taking on the job of "Interim Pastor" (for lack of a better word) at a local church, and dealing with creative and personal struggles and dead-ends...I've been spent. Worn out. Used up. And not only has my writing suffered for it, but I'm willing to go on record as saying I have not been the best father, husband or even person that I could have been. 

But no more. Because I am tired of going through the motions, but also because I am tired of others suffering due to my slacking. And no offense, but I kind of rank Ashley & Kai a little above those of you who read my blog.

So, my priorities are realigning. My heart, which has been emptied out, is being filled again. My mind, which I have allowed to be cluttered with so much unnecessary junk I feel like I should be on HOARDERS, is being made new. Refreshed.

All I have to do is make it through this holiday season and not...lose it.

2008 was not one of the hardest years of my life, but the final three months most assuredly were. In rapid succession, I lost my dog of 13 years in October, then in November I lost my father (11/8), had a birthday (11/17), and limped through Thanksgiving before making it to December only to deal with what would have been my dad's birthday (12/9), my parents' wedding anniversary (12/22), and then Christmas. Then I had a three-month "break" before Kai was born (3/26).

So, yeah. The holiday season is moderately bittersweet to me.

But I'm trying to find the joy of the season in the smile of Kai as he sees our Christmas tree with the "sparkling stars." I'm trying to not focus on my losses and instead see what gifts I have been given in family and friends. I'm trying to turn away from myself - all the while acknowledging what I am feeling and going through but not letting it dominate me - and instead remember what this season symbolizes, and hold on to that hope. 

What, if anything do you struggle with at this time of year? How have you found that you can cope with your emotions or thoughts during this time of year?

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Advent Menace


The year was 1999. A new millennium was set to begin, the impending terror of Y2K was starting to reach a crescendo, and for millions around the country, it was the culmination of years of patience and anticipation: May 25th would see the release of STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE. I actually took off work to go to a screening in New Orleans, because this moment was what I felt like I had waited for all of my adult life. Sixteen years had passed since RETURN OF THE JEDI had debuted. For once, I did NOT have to wait for my parents to take me to the theater when a STAR WARS film was playing.

Around 45 minutes into the film, I hit that moment, the moment that has only happened to me before a handful of times while watching a movie. I took my eyes from the screen, checked my watch, and was amazed that three and a half hours hadn't passed already...because it sure felt like time had lost all meaning. THIS was what we'd waited for all these years? George Lucas had 16 years to get this story right, and this was what we got? A CGI story on the trade deficit?

In this season when we reflect upon the coming of Messiah, it's interesting to transpose this idea of remembering how I felt about the rebirth of the STAR WARS saga with Jesus' birth. His birth had been prophesied about and foretold for centuries, yet when He arrived - in a manger, in a corner of an unimportant city - this was not what was expected. Yet unlike what Lucas pulled with STAR WARS, this was the plan.

The passage in Mark 13:24-37 illustrates how Jesus, when speaking about His return, continues the theme regarding how much prophecy had been made - and was continuing to be made - about the coming of the Messiah. The repeated theme of "stay alert - stay awake - be ready" was not given as a warning because Jesus is going to jump out from behind a cloud and yell "GOTCHA!" It's because blepo, the word translated in verse 33 as "take heed," means to express a more intentional, earnest contemplation. To be aware. Or, as the Psalmist said, to "be still and know."

At the human core of waiting and anticipating, we tend to go from the excited to the bland: the energy of a new job quickly settles to a routine. A new romantic relationship fizzles into a routine ("You wanna just go grab some pizza?"). And no matter how much you may love the Christmas season, when the decorations start to go on sale in August, you will eventually become jaded to the sight of them as you enter a store. What was supposed to excite you has become something...routine.

Maybe one of the reasons why all the prophecies people make about the return of Jesus fail is that if we knew that time and date, in many ways we'd anticipate it as the end and not the start. We'd lose the excitement, the joy and love of life and settle into a routine. Of waiting. But not waiting with eager anticipation for what was to come next (much like I did at the outset with the STAR WARS Prequels) but waiting for what we think might come next in the plan. We'd be ready to just wrap things up an move on - but that's not what we're called to do.

"Advent" is translated as "coming" - but what's "nerd cool" is that the verb usage of "Advent" is in the perfect passive participle. This means that when we consider Advent, the coming is perceived at the same time in the past, present, and future. We find Him coming first as a child, then in our hearts, and eventually will be in person again. This means there is never a time when Christ is not with you. John 4:24 states "For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." Spirit permeates. Even the schlockiest of ghost hunter shows on television often talk about a presence. Here, here, here - all around us.

At its deepest level, Advent is an invitation to give up our search & simply let ourselves be found. To celebrate that coming by being willing to be found. Even the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 speaks to how the father came to the son when we was searching for a way to return.

In this season, more than considering what you are waiting for - presents, family, or a written apology from George Lucas - understand, reflect and meditate on how we already have an answer. He is here. I AM is here.

In the search, in the finding, and in the daily living of our lives, we have already been found. And found loved.

And it's all according to plan.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

New Hope Sermon Notes: Questions of Faith, Week One

NOTE FROM SONNY: Because people have asked, I am posting my sermon notes from the last three weeks here in all their unedited and rambling glory. You can probably fill in the grammatical gaps.  


"Who told you that you were naked?"
"What have you done?"
"Whom shall go for us? Whom shall I send?"
"Have you considered my servant Job?"
"Who do you say that I am?"
"Do you love Me?"

One of Kai's favorite books to read at night is something called "The Going to Bed Book." Creative title, I know. He's been read to from this book for at least two years now, so he has it pretty well memorized. But the other day, while we were walking, for some reason I started quoting from it. The opening line is "The sun has set, not long ago." Now Kai, who has heard this line about 87 billion times, looks up at me like he's just heard this for the first time in his life and says, "Daddy, what means 'not long ago?'"

Keep in mind this kid is two and a half. The questions are only going to get easier from here on out, I'm sure.

So, before I answer him, my train of thought goes something like this: "How do I explain linear time to him? Do I begin with verb tenses? Do I begin with verbs?" So, I did what any respectable, loving parent would do: I told him to look at the squirrel running down the sidewalk. Parenting, like all other forms of magic, is all about the art of misdirection.

"Who told you that you were naked?"
"What have you done?"
"Whom shall go for us? Whom shall I send?"
"Have you considered my servant Job?"
"Who do you say that I am?"
"Do you love Me?"

God does not "squirrel" us, but I have to wonder: when we ask for something, what all else at times might God have to explain to us within the answer to the question we pose? And are we even willing to listen to what might frame the answer to the question we ask, or do we just want the answer to the question? It's like pulling one verse out of Scripture, ignoring the context it is given in, and quoting it without paying attention to what was said before or after it.

We often accuse or set Him up as such, but God is not so much a God of rules as He is a Counselor (which is what His Spirit is referred to as). He asks the questions that make us think, instead of just laying down edicts about our actions. As someone who has been through therapy, I can tell you that for as annoying as those questions can be, they're also what helps us grow and learn. (As opposed to having someone just say "Please just take these drugs and stop talking to me about your mother." Worst. Therapist. Ever.). 

God has a voice. And He doesn't just tell us what to do; He also asks us questions.

"Who told you that you were naked?"
"What have you done?"
"Whom shall go for us? Whom shall I send?"
"Have you considered my servant Job?"
"Who do you say that I am?"
"Do you love Me?"

We can ask questions as well. It's a dialogue. It involves listening, but not just listening.
  
Question one: what is a question about our faith you have that you feel comfortable in sharing? Not "why do bad things happen to good people" or anything about speaking in tongues, but the day to day, nitty-gritty struggles and questions we have. 

Question two: what is a question, a struggle you have with God? A question which maybe only the two of you know. "Have I truly been forgiven of this? How can I forgive this person? Why did they have to die?" maybe this is a question you have carried and thought about a lot, but have never looked at it. Never seen this question. I can say a lot of stuff out loud - and I typically do when prepping for Sundays - but when I see it, when I am confronted with my words, I rethink and reframe what I say a lot of the time.   Judges 13:18 - "But the angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why do you ask my name, seeing it is Wonderful?'" We may at times ask for things which are beyond our ability to understand. So after God told Samson's father he was to have a child, he kept asking questions, some of which weren't pertinent to the miracle taking place. Because my first thought when a miracle occurs is to offer a goat.

Job 42:6 Job repented of questioning God. Sometimes we think the act of questioning means we have little faith. Or that doubts are a sign of weak character. But consider this: when we question, we're still speaking to and asking God. When we doubt, we're not doubting ourselves, but God. In doing so, we acknowledge that He is there. Compare simply questioning if God knows what He's doing - like what Job did - to trying to take matters into your own hands and prove you know what's best - like what Adam did. Which was a sin of rebellion?

I Corinthians 13:12 - for now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I have also been fully known. In my teenage rebellion questioning phase (which ended day before yesterday) this album meant more to me than I can say.

When Answers Don't Come Easy - Leslie Phillips
I can wait
It's enough to know you can hear me now
Oh I can wait
It's enough to feel so near you now
And when answers don't come easy
I can wait


We sometimes feel like in our faith, we have to have all the answers. We have to have a concrete response to when people ask us something. One of the greatest complaints lobbied against my people in the emergent/emerging movement is that we take truth to be subjective or pliable. While some do - and I don't excuse them for it - the better thing that i think we do is we allow for the tension. We embrace the questions. And we learn - slowly, painfully - to accept the fact we may not have the answer, and that this is in some ways the essence of our faith. Hoping for something unseen. 


Monday, November 07, 2011

You Live Here

I've never seen the movie Hitch in its entirety. Never.

Let's be honest: the thing already airs on basic cable what feels like every nine hours, so if I wanted to watch it, all I'd need to do is sit down, wait for a few episodes of King of Queens to end, then I could catch it. But as it is, my post-Kai-going-to-sleep time is so limited, before I fall asleep at night sitting up on the couch (...what? Don't judge...) I choose to spend my valuable time watching other things.

The other reason that I've not seen this movie is that Hitch suffers from what I term HSSS: Hollywood Soundbite Scene Syndrome. It's an affliction that affects numerous modern films. Films that have HSSS typically have the best or most memorable scenes contained in their trailer, or else they've become so quoted and referenced that you already know the entire plot of the movie without ever seeing the film.


(c) 2005 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


"I'm just expressing myself." 

"This is where you live right here. This is home."

See? I don't have to say anything else, and a number of you immediately know the scene I'm talking about.

What's interesting is that the above exchange seems like a back-and-forth discussion I feel like I have with God a lot of times. Not so much about my dance moves (it's hard to talk about something which does not exist exist; I got no skills on the dance floor), but about my life. I want to express myself. I want to do what I want to do. I want to take my life and make it - well, what seems extreme. Reckless. Untethered. Much like the spasmodic jerking Kevin James thought was his ability to dance. It was offensive to anyone who knows how to dance, as was evidenced by Will Smith's reaction. 


Yes, yes, yes - we all laugh at the scene, but the reality is he thought that - those special, special moves - was what was best. Not with the same innocence a child might think making a pie out of mud could transubstantiate into a blueberry pie, but with an "I know what's best" mentality.

Welcome to sin nature.

Mercifully, after me demonstrating this nature, God has never slapped me across the face and told me to get out. Reality has slapped me across the face, to be sure, but never God. He gently - and sometimes less than subtly - reminds me of where my heart needs to be, and not to let it go bouncing about like a lunatic wherever it wishes, whenever it wishes. This is one of the reasons the words of the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" just pierce me whenever I hear it:

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

I want to run. I want to make pizza and use Q-tips (metaphorically speaking). God gives me the freedom to make an utter idiot of myself should I so choose to, but He also gives me the maturity to be able to choose. Not guilt. Not manipulation. Maturity.

I just need to remember that His biding doesn't chafe.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Cata-List - 2011 Edition

When I wrote this post about last year's adventures at Catalyst, and how I felt attending it, I never knew that history was going to repeat itself. Strongly.

This year was about fellowship. Not leadership. 

I think there may have been some people who stood on a stage somewhere and spoke about something, and maybe there was a gymnast at one point. But in all honesty, I didn't take as many notes as I usually do. I didn't pay as close attention as I usually do. I didn't try to find myself I the words spoken by the presenters.

I found myself in the throngs of the people I saw, hugged, and shared this journey with.

Matt Appling. (Whom I still owe a Skype date with...again...)
Joshua Freshour. (My unintentional Catalyst shadow.)
Ashley Linne. (Best. Editor. Ever.)
Angus Nelson. (My twin. Sort of.)
Nicole Unice. (Whom I really wish I could have spoken more to - she's awesome.)
Dustin Valencia. (I'm not sure that it's legal for him to be as tall as he is...)
Darrell Vesterfelt. (If you ever need a place to crash in SC...)

Now go enrich yourself. Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter. Stalk them in the grocery store. 

Each and every one of these people made the conference come to life for me. 

I owe all of you coffee. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Catalyst 2011 and Socks

I used to over-pack for conferences. Like, crazy over-pack: one professional and one casual set of clothes for each day, plus at least one entire extra set of clothes "just in case." Multiple shoes, multiple belts...you name it. But time, a reshifting of priorities, and having a toddler have taught me to pack light and pack well.

Case in point: I took three pairs of socks to Catalyst this year. Just three. For a five day trip. I have learned the art and majesty of recycling my clothes. But that's fine. I only needed three pairs of socks. Because the individuals I saw in person helped to shore me up and support me in so many ways.

I don't think I have any socks larger than Moe, who is larger than life. But for all the online bluster and joviality he brings, the man is a lover, not a fighter. All the time we were together, he was hugging. High-fiving. Fist-bumping. He wants you to know you matter, you are heard, and you are important to him.

I think I have socks that weigh more than Tracee. Seriously - she redefines petite, but in a ridiculously cute yet very professional way. And she has a heart that has such courage, such faith, and such power that it inspires me. And challenges me. And I very much regret not saying that to her face.

I don't think I have socks in better shape than Scott. Although our personal interactions have been too few and too short, I am in awe of and humbled by this man who has it all together. No loose stitching. No holes. And that he has chosen to interact with me gives me an incredible sense of self-worth. And hope. And having him as a friend (if I may be so bold) challenges me - in a good way - to be a better husband and father. 

I don't think I own* any socks more beautiful than Alece. Like me, she has socks she does not want to wear. They are socks that the world would say are unclean, beyond repair, and have no worth. But she has taught me to see the beauty in the brokenness of my own socks, to honor the journey in which I wore them, and to be courageous. And that they are indeed of infinite worth.

* = Ashley and Kai ARE more beautiful than you, Alece. I just don't own them. They're my favorite socks to have and to wear 24/7.

I know I don't have any socks as fun as Amanda. But just like a pair of goofy, fun socks - she has warmth. Depth. And a complexity and intelligence that makes her fun-sock self that much more valuable to have in the drawer. Meeting her was like meeting family.

I don't think I have any hiking socks as good as Jamie. I love to hike, and if there was anyone that I wanted to just blow off the conference with to spend time talking, walking around with and drinking deep of life, it was Jamie and her husband Steve. I mean, Jamie saw me. SAW me and came to intentionally speak to me. ME. She knew my name, and knew me. Knew about me. Sometimes we forget that hiking socks are designed for longevity and endurance, and these two are people that I would love to have opportunities to just be a big freaking goofballs with, because I have a feeling the goofy times would be intertwined with some amazingly meaningful times as well.


Thank you for being in my drawer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Guest Post: Philemon II - This Time, It's Personal...


This letter is from Onesimus. Yeah. It’s me. I know you’ve already gotten a letter from Paul, but I wanted to follow up on his, and take a moment to touch base before I returned to you.
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I am writing to you, Philemon, because like Paul, I kept hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I had to wonder: was this the same Philemon I knew and served? Because I have to be honest, there were times when I did not feel that love shown to me. That respect shown to me. And as a servant to you, that hurt. It cut deeply. 

To read the rest of the story, head on over to The Usual Suspects at BetaChristian.net

Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review: NOT ALONE

The subtitle for this book could have been Stories of Hope, and I don't think anyone would have found it ironic. 

Not Alone, available now from Civitas Press, is a beautiful example of what has become a growing trend from some publishers. Gone is the idea that a sole contributor can and does know everything about a specific topic; instead, this book is community based in its authorship. It spans a wide gamut of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with clinical depression. And it is the very fact that so many different and unique people have allowed us as readers to take a peek into their often private struggles that the book finds it's greatest strength: proclaiming not proudly but with open arms "You are not alone."

At first, the wide and sometimes jarring differences in writing styles, tones, and narration of the stories can be a little off-putting, but that is because we as readers have become adjusted to the comfortable sotto voce of a single writer sharing her or his opinion. In Not Alone, we are reminded that what one person experiences in dealing with depression is not the same as what every individual experiences. Age, gender, life experiences, sexual orientation, spiritual development - all are variables that can and do affect how we respond. A heterosexual male may not be able to fully, completely "get" what it's like to be a mother suffering from postpartum depression, yet both may be in the throes of their own versions of depression. And it is in this shared pain that they find community and common ground. Two or more are gathered in the name of hope, and they express to others the grace shown to them by the One who gives hope. In doing so, they offer help to one another to be able to emerge out of the darkness.

That is the true beauty of this project, especially for those of us as readers who may suffer from depression [raises hand]. Not Alone reminds us that for as much as we may feel we are at times, we're NOT alone. The title is not just a cute play on a phrase. We may suffer in a silence of our own choosing, but the authors recognize that many of us share a variation on the same theme of pain. By having the courage to speak up, to lay bare their souls and their sufferings, their accomplishments and their failures, their good days and bad ones, the family of Not Alone invites you...us...me...to join them at this table.


Two words of caution: (1) the language in this book is as authentic as the pain and frustration that some of the authors feel, and as such, it at times comes across as raw. Real. And beautiful and perfect in the freedom to share what may be offensive to some; and (2) do NOT try to read this in one sitting. Soak in the lives of the people who are sharing themselves with you. Let the reality of what you are reading take root in you.

And if you see yourself in some ways on that printed page - know that you are not alone. 




Saturday, October 01, 2011

Guest Blog: Careful - You Never Know What'll Stick


Kids used to scare me. Now I'm a stay-at-home parent. God loves to play "Gotcha!" with me.
One of my first exposures to dealing with kids – and learning how much one has to be CAREFUL when speaking around them - came one evening under the warmth of the summer Georgia sun. My friends Scott*, Trevor* and I were engaged in the manly art of charbroiling animal flesh. Scott's two daughters (Gail*, age 2 & Tina*, age 4) were with us because that's clearly where toddlers should be: with men who are holding sharp spears and raw meat while standing around a charcoal altar. At one point, Scott got it into his noggin that he could flip a chicken breast into the air and have it safely land back on the grill. You can imagine how well this went.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Guest Blog: Wasteband of Brothers


We’ve all been there. We’ve seen it played out in a movie, bore witness during the glory that was middle-school gym class, or we may have been the unfortunate recipient of one ourselves (raises hand).
courtesy of Fox
That’s right: I’m talking about the bane of the existence of every prepubescent boy who was a band geek, A/V club member, or who ever played or talked about Magic: The Gathering while at school.
The wedgie.

For the rest of the story, click here to head on over to KC's website.