Patience Lord

I don’t mean to be this way. I aspire every day to be better. I like to think of myself as a loving, kind, caring person who always thinks the best of others. But then I get into conversations like the ones I’ve had lately where I openly complain or bitch about somebody else who is pissing me off. I let them get to me and all that caring and loving go right out the door.

They are the one causing all my problems. It’s their fault. They should be held responsible. I’m sick and tired of them.

Oh and tomorrow I’m going to be singing some songs and leading a community worship night to celebrate the all loving God I believe in and worship.

“Oh that I would be delivered from this body of death…” Does anyone else struggle with this inconsistency between who they think they are, and who they are in front of others when life maybe becomes a little stressful.

I’ve heard it said that when times get tough you see who people really are. I really hope that’s not true, at least of myself because if it is, I’m a jerk.

I wish I could shut myself up. I wish I could always think the best of others. I wish I was not who my mouth makes me out to be on too many occasions.

I swear too much. I drink too much occasionally. I talk behind people’s backs. I blame others instead of taking responsibility for my own actions, thoughts, and emotions. Somebody else may do something that I don’t like, but I can’t seem to capture my emotions and understand that I am still responsible for how I respond to them.

All the while, I have people looking at me as some sort of leader in what it means to love others… Are you friggin kidding me? Find another example folks. Don’t follow me.

I swear I am trying to love God and to love my neighbor. I promise you I am trying to do that. I haven’t figured out how, but maybe someday by the grace of God I will have it.

Until that grand and glorious day, please understand I am as broken as anyone else. I don’t mean to swear so much, or drink that third glass of whiskey, or think and talk poorly of others, but I still do it. Maybe that is the real me coming thru, maybe not. I am more inclined to believe it is the false me talking way louder and being the typical jerk he can be. A selfish, egotistical, narcicist with little concern for the hearts of others. The real me is buried underneath of that whispering in my ear about how that person I am mad at is just as broken as I am and deserves the same exact grace, mercy, and love I would want to have extended to me, because it has in fact been extended.

It is mine, and it is theirs. Love, mercy, grace, compassion, forgiveness. All there for us all. Even me. God have mercy on me. I know not what I am doing. I want to be who you want me to be, and I believe you have me on that path even if the progress is sometimes slow. Two steps forward, one step back. Patience Lord. Not that I need it from you because I believe I have it. Help me to have patience for myself and for others…

And as I wait… be honored by the best parts of me.

In My Hands, My Feet, My Words

I’ve thought much as of late about the suffering of the world. About the suffering in me. The suffering in me as a microcosm of the suffering in the world. My own depression, anger, and loneliness magnified seven billion fold in the hearts of humanity. What a dark sea we are tossed about in. This reckless raging tempest that is the world. Flesh and bone, breath and blood, eternal and ephemeral. We are alone, and we are united.

Why does God not show? What is He waiting for? I was raised to believe the rapture and all the endless debate about timeframes and endtime scenarios. Yet the world carries on. Much like it did the day Rob died. “Sorry Ricky, Rob died last night…” Words that entered my ear, but not my heart. Steve, the guy running the cash register at Seiffert’s truck stop, told me about my best friend having died in a car accident. Rob and I played the video games at Seiffert’s almost daily, bought Mt. Dew, and rode our bikes around the massive parking lot. He said the words, and for a good five minutes I must have just stared at him. What did that mean that he died. This didn’t make sense to me. Rob was only seventeen. What does dead mean?

I walked out the door of the truck stop and the sun was shining. The wind was blowing. People stopped at the gas pumps to get a fill up of gas. Cars continued down the highway next to the truck stop. Rob was my best friend. Was he really gone? My brother. My best friend. From the day I stepped on the bus in kindergarten until the day he died when I was a sophomore in high school. In the blink of an eye. Gone.

I think about it every day. This formative event, forming me. Changing me and how I see the world. How I see God.

I grew up believing that most everyone was headed to hell. You had to say just the right word combination, and believe just the right things to get into heaven. According to my baptist upbringing, it was a pretty select few who would get thru those pearly gates. Everyone else, well sorry, but you’re headed to the bad place.

I find myself lately rejecting most everything that I was raised to believe. I’m worn down by it. The freedom I was told it would bring has actually brought torment and anguish. I want mercy where none was shown. I want grace where I thought none was possible. I want love it seems most absent.

And what of this end time? This Jesus Christ coming on the clouds and we will in the blink of an eye be caught up to be with him forever… What of this end times where God descends from heaven and brings low all those idolators and heretics, murders and malevolents, sinners each and every one. Where is this? “By August of 1997, Christ will return according to my calculations.” Or so my uncle taught me. Until September of that year all I could think about was having sex. I hadn’t had sex yet and I definitely wanted to before Christ came back. But you know, you had to be married as well to have sex and maybe my uncle was wrong. Here’s to hoping because I want to have sex before Jesus comes back.

What a world I was raised in. Believe this and you will go to heaven. Reject that and you’re headed to hell. Jesus is literally returning at any moment so get yourself right with the Lord. Oh and get married and have sex.

All the while, this world is burning. We’re told to save ourselves by being saved, but the world… the world is on it’s own.

I just read a book called When Invisible Children Sing about a young Taiwanese/American medical student who decides to serve the street children of Bolivia for a year. It is a pretty dark account of a man serving children who are rejected, beaten, raped, abused and tossed aside by the world. There is so much pain in each of their stories, and there isn’t a glimmer of hope through most of the book. Most of the time I found myself asking, “Where is God? Why doesn’t He do something?”

In a later chapter of the book you get just a little bit to think about when Chi, the main character, starts talking about opening a home for the street children where he can care for them and take them in.

Where is God? God is in Chi. This is what began to dawn on me. We wait, and we wait for this God to break down through the clouds. We wait for Him to step foot into our world and save us thus absolving us of all responsibility.

God is in my hands. God is in my feet. God is in my words. Where I go, God goes. Where you go God goes. This God who we all long for comes down in the flesh when we open our eyes and realize that we are Him. I don’t say this as a heretical “I am God” type of statement. Rather, I am the hands of God. I am the eyes of God. I am the words of God.

When I see pain, I can hold it with my hands and speak love to it.

My own pain be damned. For the worthlessness that it makes me feel of myself. For the loneliness that it pours into the quiet night around me, and the friends it strips from me. For the hell that I sometimes feel like awaits me… Christ gave it all up and faced the fall for the sake of his loved ones, and his loved ones are all. I want my loved ones to be all. I want every one to be ok. I want pain to end. I want death to die.

I want a mended world, and for that I believe I need a broken heart.

I’ve been drinking. I’ve been confronted again with my loneliness, and the hopelessness that sometimes wants to overtake me. It makes me want to scream. It makes me want to cry and hold my loved ones tight to my chest.

I want a mended world. I want hope to be real. Maybe that happens through my own hands, my own feet, my own eyes, and my own words. Maybe the God I doubt, shows up when I let myself suffer for and serve others.

Maybe I’m tired of doctrine and pointless conversations about God that don’t help those who are suffering, including me. Maybe I’m ready for a real God, who really loves. Maybe the god I was given was too small.

I have to believe, in light of the suffering of the world, the god I was told about isn’t up for the task. But maybe there is a God, who is ready to die for those He loves, again, and again, and again… and maybe He’ll do it through people who are lonely, depressed, and angry. Maybe He’ll do it through me, even in my doubt… even in my fear… even in my depression.

I’m tired…

Seems the past 10 years have been a long process of reorienting myself. Nothing fits like it use to. I don’t feel like I know how to talk about it even. I actually find myself fearful to talk about it because I don’t think people will understand. So I keep to myself more and more. My circle of friends has changed drastically and too many times over the past few years. I still have friends, but I struggle to feel like I have that one friend. The one who gets me. My wife is pretty much it, and she’s honestly the best person I know. I’m not sure how I’d survive many days without her. She occasionally drives me batshit crazy, but I’m sure I do the same to her on many more occasions and she still sticks with me. So I’ll stick with her.

My Christian faith has been utterly dissassembled as of the past few years. There is so much that I grew up believing that just doesn’t work or make sense to me anymore. I find myself hovering around just a few verses from scripture. One such verse is Mark 12:30-31 which says,

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Seems pretty simple right? Jesus really took all that old testament law and dumbed it down just for me it would seem. Another verse, which I now have tattooed on my arm is Psalm 62:11-12… I like the Jon Foreman translation from his song “Your Love Is Strong” which says,

“Two things you’ve told me:
that you are strong,
and you love me.”

That’s a reassuring statement. God is strong, and He loves me. I can hang on to that. So love God, love your neigbor, God is strong, and God loves you. There’s the base. Everything else seems to be up for grabs.

I still love music. I still like to write, record, and perform music. However, for the past, well long time, I’ve had a pretty major mental block. I haven’t written much if anything, and most the time I don’t feel like I have the energy to spend writing, the money to record, or the right venue to perform it. It’s all been frustrated. I use to want to be a worship leader at a mega church, but that desire has been utterly beat out of me, which is good, but also seems to have stripped away some of those benefits like having people to play music with, and purposeful time playing music. Now I sit in my basement office alone strumming my guitar maybe a couple times a week for a few minutes. I mostly just listen to music now and remember the good old days when I was out playing it. I keep thinking maybe someday, perhaps when the kids are older, I’ll have time again… For now though it would seem it needs to take a back seat. I still lead worship at my church, but if I’m honest I feel like I’m doing that most days for the people from my church who like to have me up front because it gives them some continuity between the church we were a part of that collapsed, and the new church we decided to merge with…

Speaking of church… We left a church 5 years ago or so that we had been at for something like 15 years. We joined a small church plant in our home town and we grew very close with that community of people. Then one year ago we lost our meeting space, and within the next 6 months the whole thing collapsed very quickly. We ended up merging with another church. The new church is full of great people, but all in all it’s just been a rough few years for my standing with church. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and just attend bedside baptist on Sundays, or start up some sort of house church.

I’m a father to 6 kids. My kids range in age from 5 years old to almost 14. It’s hard. I don’t know if there’s a better way to say it other than to throw in some cuss words. They are constantly presenting challenges to us and my wife and I are always having to figure out how to parent them well without screwing them up. Then there is the world that our kids are growing up in. The political instability, the environmental problems, the violence that is visible every where and celebrated in weird ways by youtube videos of kids beating up other kids or worse, the over sexualized everything… This is the world we’re handing off to our children…? Good luck kids.

Anyway, just needed to say something. I feel like I could sit here and go on for a while, but I’ll stop. I’m not looking for answers or prayers. You all are there too I’m sure, or have been there before. Life is hard. Maybe it’s just my 30’s… Maybe it’s just the way things are. I’m tired. But in all this, life is good.

Thank God for …
good whiskey,
camp fires and good conversations with friends,
for stupid games we play with family just for laughs,
for good food,
for my wife, my companion,
for the times when my kids are goofy,
for shelter and provision,
for air in my lungs,
for the blood in my veins and a heart that moves it well enough…

Small mercies that keep me going.

Ride Out With Me

King Theoden: “What can men do against such reckless hate?” Aragorn: “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Sam: “It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” – Plato

That’s a lot of quotes I know, and nerdy ones at that. However, every one of them rings true in our time.

Yesterday was Super Tuesday and Donald Trump won the majority of the states for the Republicans. I found it hard to believe, all the while knowing it was going to happen. Something in the pit of my stomach knew it was going to go this way.

Ever notice how all good stories have that moment of absolute despair?

In the best stories, such as The Lord of the Rings, there is a moment of absolute hopelessness when all seems to be lost. When it actually becomes hard to read further because you can’t imagine how it could get any better.

This may be that very time in our country’s history. The darkest hour when all seems lost. Unfortunately, the old adage “it’ll get worse before it gets better” may also be true. Just like the rotten feeling in my gut that made me think Donald Trump would win Super Tuesday, something in me wouldn’t be surprised to see him go all the way. I’ve seen the angry mobs that cheer at his rallies. The man can literally say anything and not be held accountable to it. He is the king narcissist in a society that has been grooming him for just such an occasion.

Ever think about where social media and reality TV have been leading us? Making celebrities of people who have no business being celebrities. Giving room for anyone to think they should be known, or that they should be the next big thing… or maybe the next president of the United States.

I should note that the irony is not lost on me that I am writing this on my presidential Facebook page. The main difference being that I am willing to acknowledge that I know literally nothing about leading a country. I’m just waiting for a good man to step up to the plate, and if no good men will step up then put me in the game coach.

Which brings me to the question, “What can men do against such reckless hate?”
“Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them.”

If all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, then I want to do something.

I’ve been thinking all day about what is the role of good men in times like this. It’s to step up and do something yes, but what is the something? How does a nobody from the village of Saranac, Michigan go about doing anything that makes a difference?

It’s strange to have started this Facebook page. I feel deluded and desperate at the same time. “I can’t believe that no one better is stepping up. Maybe I could be the one.” It sounds absolutely nuts I realize. But what if it’s not necessarily the presidency that I’m stepping up to? What if it’s just a timid voice that decides to speak in the middle of a crowd that’s been scared into sitting silently?

Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe it’s you too. It’s stirring in the hearts of many right now. I’ve had a few conversations with others already who are trying to find the answers to the same questions. If it’s stirring in your heart then join us. We’ll figure this out together.

My heart tells me that love is the answer. In that moment of utter despair in all the good stories, love is what turns it around. Not anger, fear, or hatred.

Love, courage, faith, hope. These make good stories. Along with them comes sacrifice. This is not easy. In all the good stories, the good guys may win, but it comes at great costs and sacrifices. There will be no easily won victories.

It may seem dramatic, but think about the times we live in. These days will be talked about for a long time to come. How America responds to Donald Trump will be mourned or celebrated for generations to come I think. We will either regret our ignorance and inability to listen to our hearts, or we will celebrate the day we stepped up to reject hatred, anger, and fear. We will learn to be courageous, or we will wallow in our cowardice.

We will unite, or we will fall.

Is this epic sounding enough yet? I want to be part of good stories. I want my life to be a good story. When I die I want my children to know that I loved them deeply, I want my wife to know that she was the only one for me, and I want the world to know that I cared. I want to have contributed something to the unfolding of history that points people to something bigger.

We are not alone.
We are all equal.
We are all loved.
We are all cherished.

Jesus Christ on the cross. The Hope of humanity nailed to a Roman crucifix, bleeding out and breathing his last. He doesn’t call down power from Heaven. He lets death take him. All hope is lost. His followers go into hiding, afraid for their own lives, struggling to believe that their friend who was called the Savior of the world was now dead.
Until he wasn’t.

He gave Himself up for the love of us all. It wasn’t easy. It was hard, and it was terrifying. But He was part of the best story. The sun rose on the third day at the same time he did.

Guess what…? He’s calling us to the same thing. Let’s be part of better stories.

Disclaimer: I am no expert in politics. I am a simple man who sees the field of candidates available to us and finds it lacking. I can not in good conscience vote for any of these people, or at least the people who look to be the ones getting the nominations from their respective parties. I fully accept that I may not have details or a general understanding of how some systems work. Please extend me some grace as most of this is just me processing my own thoughts and coming to more concrete opinions and beliefs on the many topics that face us today.

Vote for Rick Hopkins For President.
https://www.facebook.com/rickhopkinsforpresident/

The Politics Of Preservation

So to start out… I’m sort of running for President of the United States. If you’re looking for an alternative choice this election season, please write me in. I’ll do my best. Check out my Facebook page…

https://www.facebook.com/rickhopkinsforpresident/

Last night I wrote up this post. Let me know your thoughts.

———-
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
– Frederick Buechner

This quote has been rattling in my head for the past year or so. Every time there is breaking news of another shooting, or ISIS performs some horrific act on video for the world to see, when death takes another friend, when natural disasters strike some part of the world wreaking havoc, death and destruction… when the current crew of political candidates take the stage.

Don’t be afraid.

The current political climate is one where fear, anger, and hatred are used to push people into embracing the politics of self preservation. It’s causing us to embrace the worst parts of ourselves. It’s modeled for us in how the candidates talk about each other, how they interact with their followers, and in their policies and beliefs.

We have fallen to fear. Anger and hatred descend from fear. It is the root.

Don’t be afraid.

I don’t wish to dance around the elephant in the room much longer. Donald Trump is unlike any other presidential candidate I’ve seen in my life. He says whatever he wants, and no one seems to hold him accountable. He is bold and brash, careless and merciless, graceless and clumsy, speaks too quickly and thinks too slowly. He uses fear, anger, and hatred as only a salesman could to convince people that he has the answers and that we need to buy whatever he’s selling.

He’s selling himself and he is a reflection of us.

Our tendencies are to react with anger when we’re wronged, to react with fear when we are threatened, and react with hatred to those who think differently. So here is the kicker. He thinks differently than me. The people who follow him think differently than I do.

Don’t be afraid.

All my life I’ve tried my best to be a follower of Christ. Many of you who read this will say the same thing. Some of you won’t, and that’s ok. I’m not here to preach. But indulge me for a moment please.

The words of Christ call us to fight against our natural tendencies of fear, anger, hatred, and self preservation. They call us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. His words call us to kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness, and over all of these, love.

Even Donald Trump is a child of God. Hard to believe, but it’s true. He’s a shining example of the prodigal son, pre-return to the father whose face he spat in. If you have a hard time hearing that you may be the older brother who got mad when the Father welcomed the prodigal back. Only the prodigal hasn’t returned yet. He’s still off doing what he wants and feeding pigs. I realize the metaphor is getting thick at this point, but what I’m trying to say is that Donald Trump is just as broken as you or I. You may think you are better than he is, but you are not. If I’ve learned anything over the course of my life it is that any one of us is capable of allowing our brokenness to become who we are instead of allowing our sonship in God to be our identity.

Please don’t hear me wrong, I will not be voting for Donald Trump and honestly I hope you don’t either. In fact I wonder if not voting for Donald Trump is possibly the most loving thing we can do for him. If we’re called to love him, maybe public humiliation in defeat is the best thing we can do.

The bigger part of my argument is this: Don’t vote for a man who feeds on your fear of what the world could do to you. Don’t vote for a man who brings out the worst in you. But also, don’t hate the man who stands against you. Don’t hate.

Don’t be afraid.

“The New Colossus” was a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus read at the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I don’t place this here to convince you of immigration policies, but rather to show you that at one time the United States stood for hope. At one time the United States was a beacon to the lost, the hurting, and the hopeless. The promise of a better life was here safe from harm, hurt, and hate. I’m not sure if it ever measured up to that, but it could if we could get our acts together. If we could stop responding to everything out of fear, anger, and hatred.

Don’t be afraid.

Don’t fear the man who shouts loudest. Don’t fear what may happen if he wins. Don’t fear what may happen if he loses, and some other candidate you disagree with wins. More than likely you will wake up the next morning and breathe the air, see the sun rise, go to work, and live your life like you did before.

Love your enemies.
Don’t hate.
Don’t be afraid.

It’s not easy by any means, but necessary for actual change to begin working into the world.

Oh and by the way, I’m running for president 🙂 You can vote for me.

Disclaimer: I am no expert in politics. I am a simple man who sees the field of candidates available to us and finds it lacking. I can not in good conscience vote for any of these people, or at least the people who look to be the ones getting the nominations from their respective parties. I fully accept that I may not have details or a general understanding of how some systems work. Please extend me some grace as most of this is just me processing my own thoughts and coming to more concrete opinions and beliefs on the many topics that face us today.

Here’s To The New Year!

There’s so much to be thankful for
And so much to be forgotten
There’s no perfect secret
To the things that bring us joy

Ha ha! to the old year
Goodbye to the cold fear
Gonna cry when I need it, smile when I need it
Goodbye, denial

– “The Old Year (of Denial)” by Eric Peters

Two-thousand fifteen has come to an end and I am grateful.  Grateful not because the year was rough, but rather because this really was a great year with the exception of my car breaking down and costing me way more money then I ever want to spend on a car repair again.

My wife and I got two new daughters this year. They have their challenges, but they are a blessing none the less and we know that God is working through this whole situation to change all of us. Occasionally I am convicted that they receive less attention and affection than my biological children. This year I’m hoping to be a better father to these girls who need that desperately.

My oldest son turned 13. It is strange to watch him grow up. What really blows me away is to think about how fast these 13 years went by and that in another 13 years he could be married with kids and a life all of his own. I’m not scared of growing old, but it does put an ache in my chest to watch my kids grow older and realize time is moving quickly. The time I have with him is precious and he is a blessing to me. This year he gained so much personality and I see little glimpses of who is going to be. I hope to help him more on that track this year.

This past year I’ve begun to see the cynic in me loosen his grip just a little. The darkness that seems to have shrouded my heart for a while now seems to be breaking up at least a little. The negative emotions that have bogged me down for a while are losing ground. Little by little hope is moving back into my heart. Grace and mercy have come to have renewed meaning, and have laid responsibility on my back to be a better human being. This year I’m praying for more grace, more mercy, more love for my fellow man, and a deeper walk with my God.

There’s a ton of stuff I could talk about, but I’ll leave it with this. May your new year be blessed. May the love of our Father God invade you (and me) and bring us closer to Him as we also draw closer together.

Dumb Car

I’m trying something new I guess. I really like the singer/songwriter style and how an artist can take what would be a somewhat common story from their life and turn it into this cool song infused with meaning and purpose. One struggle that I’ve been working through lately is feeling insignificant and also trying to run from pain in life instead of facing it. I sort of want to leave the lead in to these lyrics as generic as that I guess and let you read your own meaning in as well. I’ll try to get a cheap recording before too long so you can hear the melody. So without further ado here are the lyrics to the song I’ve entitled “Dumb Car”.

PS. Yes it’s meant to be a little fun, and a little serious. I’d love your thoughts.

—–

Well I bought it for the speed and for the thrill of feeling young again
and when it ran I ran far from all my problems
at least the ones I couldn’t fix
oh, push down the pedal watch them all fade away in my mirrors
driving in my car

One night I pulled out of my driveway
and the night had all but pulled into my heart
With all my worries and my doubts I pressed that pedal to the ground
and all the death that lived in me caused life to flee
from that dumb car

Oh a five dollar part cost me four thousand more
Isn’t life good at teaching this?
That five dollar parts can not be forgotten…

Well I bought it for the speed and for the thrill of feeling young again
but age is teaching me that I can’t run from pain
in that dumb car

—–

UPDATE:
I did a quick recording of the song just for fun… Enjoy!

Here Is The World

here-is-the-world-beautiful-and-terrible-things-will-happen-dont-be-afraid-6

I’ve had a really hard time writing music lately. There is this anxiety in me that maybe the well has run dry and I’ll never write anything beautiful again. In response, I’ve been sort of forcing myself to sit with my acoustic guitar for at least a few minutes every day and just strum some chords to see if anything comes to mind. Usually I’ll open up Evernote and get a new note ready only to stare at the blank screen. Then a couple weeks ago some inspiration came. It wasn’t the kind of inspiration I wanted, but it got me writing again if only to give me a verse and chorus.

My wife’s grandmother passed away. My wife had just gotten off the phone with her mother and found out that her grandmother had passed away at 6:42 that evening. There was a lost look in Nicole’s eyes, or like she was disconnected from the reality of it. It was going to take some time to sink in and she knew that. That one moment in time when she told me what happened and I saw it on her face started the words below. As I wrote I was reminded of a quote from Frederick Buechner where he says, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” This in my mind instantly became the chorus. In the second verse I tried to juxtapose the loss of a loved one with the birth of my daughter Grace. A beautiful things contrasted with a terrible thing. Both events being a possible source of fear for me.

I’m still working through the lyrics of the second verse, but I wanted to share it just because I like sharing lyrics with people. I like sharing my heart and wearing it on my sleeve a bit. I hope you enjoy them. I’ve entitled the song “Here Is The World”. When I get the actual song recorded in some fashion I will share that as well.

—–

You said that she left us at 6:42
And I saw in your eyes you were gone somewhere too
Your heart hadn’t met with your head just yet
But you knew it was coming soon

Here is the world
Here is the world
Beautiful things
Terrible things will occur
Don’t be afraid…

When she was born
she broke shadow from light
I touched my lips to her skin and I cried
My heart and my head had just met with a kiss
and I knew that I was meant to live for moments like this

Here is the world
Here is the world
Beautiful things
Terrible things will occur
Don’t be afraid…

oh no…
But you’re not alone
Just call my name
I’ll walk with you home

—–

UPDATE:
I created a really quick recording of this one. Enjoy!

Violence

I find myself struggling to know how to respond to our current situation in the world. The problem with ISIS, the Syrian refugee crisis, gun control, any number of political issues, climate change, etc… Everything that comes at us through social media or news coverage seems to want us to react out of fear.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

That statement is way easier said than done. One thing I didn’t see Jesus do was react out of fear. He said the night before being crucified, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) After praying this the authorities come to take him away and Peter, a close follower, pulls out a sword and hacks a guys ear off. Peter has chosen the way of violence. Jesus scolds him and tells him to put the sword away. “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”

Could that be restated in our modern times as “He who lives by the gun dies by the gun?”

Jesus acknowledges that if he wanted to he could have a whole legion of angels at his side immediately defending and saving him from the hands of his enemies. But he doesn’t do that. Instead he gives himself over to those he knew would kill him. Not only does he give himself over, but he prays for them while they are killing him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

How does he do that? How can he pray for the very people who are nailing him to a cross and actually mean the words that are coming out of his mouth? This is the example we’re to follow? Who can do this?

My wife and I started doing foster care in 2011. When we started I thought I’d be disgusted by the parents of these kids for the horrible things they had put the kids through. In most cases it was neglect brought on my drug addiction, but in other cases there was domestic violence involved that the children witnessed. The girls we have now were witness to horrible acts of violence by their father who was also a crack addict. He took the stand in his own defense at the final trial to determine if the kids would be taken away from him permanently. On the stand he said some of the most atrocious things I’ve ever heard a human being say. “I believe in a marriage it’s normal for a man to slap the woman around a little bit, and if she’s the kind of woman who would call the cops well then he doesn’t need to be with her…” He said this like it was normal, like we all knew it to be true. I wanted to be mad at the guy for the things he did to these girls’ mother, who had since passed away… I wanted to be mad at him for what he’d put the girls through. The lying, the drug use, the violence and lack of taking responsibility. But something happened in my heart towards him.

I pitied him. He genuinely thought that in a normal world this is what life was like. You survived by being the biggest, meanest brute you could be, and that you got what you wanted by physically dominating other people. Show your strength, induce fear in those you mean to dominate, and finally get what you want by domination and strength.

I wasn’t mad. I pitied him, and then even deeper… I loved him. I felt for him because he was beat as a child. He was not shown love, and so he never learned love. He didn’t learn compassion or empathy. He only knew power, control, manipulation, fear and anger. So I didn’t want to hate him, rather I wanted to love him and see him made new.

So the man I thought I’d hate or who would be my enemy, became the man I prayed for even though he had done terrible things, not to me directly, but to the girls I now call daughters. But the real question I face is this… What would I do if someone was attacking my family?

I had this dream the other night that my family and I were eating dinner all together at Applebees. I love that place. I don’t care what you think of me. In the dream we’re all having a great time until a rather large, drunk guy comes over to our table and starts threatening to hurt my kids and wife. Dreams being what they are I can’t remember the whole thing, but I remember being faced with this question… what am I going to do here? I realize I’m either going to have to watch this guy take down my family, or I’m going to do something to stop him. Also, in the dream I didn’t get the sense that this drunk brute was the type of guy to be bargained with, nor was he going to let it end until one of us was no more. I woke up before any of that happened and the question still faces me.

In the situation where those I love are endangered what do I do? On the one hand I’m told to “love your enemies and pray for them…” On the other hand I’m told, “True love has no other than this… to lay down one’s life for his friends.”

I am trying to resolve myself to never react in fear, but to always give my reaction time to figure out what reacting in love would mean. But if in an instance it was forced upon me how should I respond? Kill or be killed?

I can’t imagine not defending my wife and children from the attack of any brute or bully who came after us with intent to kill. I’d do anything I had to do I think to take this guy down. I wouldn’t want to, but if it came down to it I’d defend them to my death. Is this not inline with the teachings of Jesus? If Jesus had raised a family and they were threatened, what would he have done? I can’t imagine him standing by while they were slaughtered. I’d imagine him laying his life down for them.

Because that’s what he did. He laid his life down for his children. He laid his life down for his wife, the Church. He let the violence take him, but not at the expense of his children or his wife.

I guess all I’m saying is that this is a hard thing to work through. The Christian left would say absolutely no violence whatsoever, but the Christian right seems ready to go kick ass and take names… or kill them all and let God sort them out. I find that the rest of the world operates more closely to the Christian right… Violence begets violence. With Christian university leaders encouraging students to carry weapons so they can “end those muslims”… This can’t be the way either can it? Train us for violence…? However going to the left too far seems a mistake as well because are we not supposed to help the helpless? Are we not supposed to save the weak and those who are bullied, marginalized, persecuted, murdered… whatever it may be.

These Syrian refugees, if we were to send them back to their home in Syria, stand a good chance of being killed by either Assad or ISIS. Syria is not the only place with an issue like this. People the world over live in danger of others who have too much power. Are we supposed to just stand by and let that happen? I’ve heard we could cut off money or support to these groups in different ways… Will that really do the trick? Will they slowly fade away into the history books?

I don’t know the answers. I’m mostly just thinking and typing. I lean more towards defending those who need defending, and giving myself up to do so. Does that mean I need a concealed carry permit just in case it happens when I attend the movies with my family, or go out to dinner? I don’t know anymore.

I think as a Christian I am called to give myself up for those whom God loves. I’m called to lay my life down in the hopes that Christ will take it up again. God loves us all though… so you see my issue.

God help me to never react in fear. Help me Lord to always react in a way that is reflective of how you would respond. God save us all… God have mercy on us, sinners each one… God redeem your world.

Come, Lord Jesus…

Somewhat Random Ramblings

I sat with the family around the dinner table tonight. In observance of Advent as a family we lit the first candle representing hope.
Hope… in the midst of losing Nicole’s grandmother last night at 6:42pm.
Hope… in the midst of an email from a friend whose wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Hope… in the midst of a flood of text messages letting me know that a close friend with a heart condition received 4 shocks from his pacemaker and is being rushed to the ER.
Hope…
Isaiah 42:3
He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.

My two adopted daughters sat on my lap most the afternoon either drawing pictures, or typing on my computer, or playing games on my phone. I pretended to be busy on my computer, but I was really just watching them. It must have been 3 hours that they were in and out of my office just wanting to sit with me and be together. I can’t come up with words to describe how it made me feel. There was a sense of love for these girls that I don’t always feel, but the intensity of it was overpowering. 
After dinner I watched a movie with my 3 oldest. Half way through the movie I went up to tell the 3 younger kids goodnight. Like every night I prayed with each of them. Tonight as I prayed with the three younger I was holding their hands and I felt the smallness of it in my hand. I felt how delicate it was in my hand.
The girls kissed me on the cheek in their usual fashion which is to mush their lips against my face leaving a bit of their spit on my face that I have to wipe off afterwards. Also, each one refuses to kiss the same cheek as their sister so I have it on both sides of my face. Tonight I took their kisses and left them on my face without wiping. I prayed for them like I usually do… “God thank you for Nevaeh and Mya. Thank you for making them my daughters. Keep them safe and give them rest.”
God made them my daughters. I love these girls.
Then I went to say goodnight to Brock. He was reading a book about the Incredible Hulk, his favorite super hero. I bent down and took his hand and I prayed, “Dear God, thank you for my son Brock… Keep him safe tonight and give him rest. Thank you for making him my son.” 
God made him my son. I love this kid. 
I went down to finish the movie with the three older kids. I had to get after Jack quite a few times because he always has a problem just watching movies. In fact Nicole and I had to get after Jack a number of times the entire day. After the movie I sent the 3 older kids to bed. First I went to Jack and had a talk with him about how many times I had to say things to him and correct him today. I know I probably sound like a broken record to that kid, but there is this ache I get in my chest for him. Probably because he is most like me, in all my worst traits, of all the kids. Insecure, fearful, unsure of himself… But he is strong beyond what he knows. I want so badly for him to realize that. I prayed with him… “Thank you Lord for Jack. Thank you for making him my son. I love him so much. Help him to realize you do to…” A prayer for my son. A prayer for me.
God made him my son. I love this kid. 
I went downstairs to pray with Grace. Grace my daughter basically has me wrapped around her finger, and has since the day she was born. She has always been so beautiful to me. As she gets older her personality and characteristics start to jump out at me. She is strong, independent, funny, and unwavering in what she knows to be right. She hugs me like I’m her favorite person in the world. I held her hand tonight, hugged her and prayed… “God thank you for Grace… I love her so much. Thank you for making her my daughter. Give her rest and a good nights sleep.”
God made her my daughter. I love this kid. 
Finally, I prayed with Derek. My first born son and one of the coolest kids I know. I feel our relationship in the beginning stages of transitioning from father / son to father / friend… In my most stressed out moments when I am about to absolutely lose control, he is there to make me laugh. Knowing he is almost 13 scares me… Those 13 years went so fast and in another 13 he could be married with his own kids and a home and all the worries of the world strapped on this his shoulders, much like his father. I prayed, “Thank you Lord for Derek. I love him so much. Thank you for making him my son. Give him rest tonight Lord and keep him safe.”
God make him my son. I love this kid.
I walked upstairs with the weight of the world wearing me down. I went to the fridge for a glass of whiskey to help quiet the noise in my head. Nicole walked over and hugged me and we just stood there in our kitchen for a moment. I think about our 16 years of marriage, the 6 kids we have, the jobs, homes, cars, tragedies and triumphs that have come along the way. I think about her grandmother passing. Her grandmother had less then a year ago lost her husband after many years of marriage. I think about my friend Rob and his death at the young age of 17. I think about my friend rushed to the hospital tonight with heart issues. I think about the email we got earlier from the friend whose wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. All sorts of beauty and brokenness rushing into my head at the same time. 
I’m so thankful for life. Even in it’s difficulties. I find myself despairing at the thought that I could lose this. At any moment, this could all be gone. I could lose a child. I could lose my wife. My kids and wife could lose me. I could lose my parents… my sisters, my friends… 
I wish I was better at living. I wish I was better and just seeing every moment like this. Like a precious gift from the hand of our Maker. I wish I was better at living every moment like it was my last. I wish I could see every moment for the gift that it is. 
I have trouble believing I should look forward to some afterlife that is better than this. What I want is my life… and my life lived to the fullest without my inadequacies, fears, worries, stresses, anxieties… I want to walk in the garden with my God, while my kids play around me, and my wife walks with me hand in hand… I want freedom from this body of death…
Do not break me Lord… I am the weakest of reeds.
Do not snuff me out Lord… I am the weakest of candles.

Somehow the death of Christ on the cross is a victory over all that is broken. God help me to cling to that.