Sojourner


I have always been interested in the unique word sojourner. To understand what the word, not necessarily the historical name, actually means takes a bit of research and some creativity. Even in the Bible. a few translations make reference to being a sojourner throughout the land. Slowly but surely I’m beginning to have a better understanding of what this word means, and how it applies to me.

Perhaps, I should begin by offering a heart-felt apology to so many people. I feel guilt. Shame. Abandonment even. It may not necessarily make sense at the moment, but please believe me when I state my aim is not to create hate, but instead confess my own confusion.

I do not understand this world.

I do not understand this society.

I do not understand the people.

While not impossible, I do firmly question how hard it is to be a Christian within the society that I currently dwell in. Maybe that is too broad of a statement and/or question. Perhaps I have not tried hard enough to emphasize my thoughts, God’s will, or Biblical interpretations in relation to last weeks election.

I feel…nothing.

*crowd throws tomatoes*

I am sorry. This is where my heart hurts. I see one side of people thrilled about an elected leader who is going to ‘change the status quo in Washington’. I see another side that is full of fear, sadness, and anger. I’m stuck in the middle because I feel sadness for both sides. I cannot look at any person, any group of people, and suddenly feel threatened by their power. God is a lot bigger then what we measly humans can conjure up. That realization, that fact, that truth is what I hold onto on a daily basis. In fact, literally this is something I carry on me in the form of in on my left shoulder:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I did not get a tattoo just because I wanted one. I received one because I wanted that reminder with me. Originally, I thought it would serve as a reminder of what God has done to protect me coming out of a horrific divorce. However, five years past those tragic days I see that God’s message holds true in many uncertain events.

Reality is understanding that bad things will always plague this world. We have done this to ourselves. History demonstrates that to us on a daily basis. We will always have leaders that strike fear throughout the masses, and there will always be groups of people trying to rewrite the laws of society. This is not a situation within just the United States, this is a situation that resides within the global community.

I have watched friends, colleagues, people of faith, and people without, tear at each other for the past seven days. I tiptoe around every conversation I can, barely giving recognition to the results of the previous week. Why? Because I’m not spiritually swayed one way or another, there is no line for me. I follow the government as instructed, and I follow the God that created all of it. I try to keep my regulations and rules to a minimum, and simplify thoughts so that I do not become lost within ‘red tape’.

However, the problem with the information stated above is that it does not sit well with anyone within society anymore. I can say the things above because I am “a middle class, white, male who owns personal property”. I’m ‘entitled’ to live life risk free because of elements that I cannot control within my own identity. With that said, if I do choose to take a side, most likely either viewpoint will immediately conflict within the Biblical principles that I am to hold myself accountable to. I can gain the whole world, but in turn I can also lose my soul.

I feel like a wanderer, a person without a home. I feel the urge to apologize to every person I come across since last week because there is not a camp that I fall into. I don’t understand how Christian’s can take such polarizing stances on any specific political topic inside our society. So much of everything conflicts with the governing nature of God, Himself. I know what Christ said about government, I know what God warned about in relation to government, and I know that the direction is at all times to trust God, love like Christ, and endure the world that I currently live in.

Currently, I am not mad, angry, or frustrated with any group of people within the United States. Extremists, political groups, advocates, social media stalkers, etc…I’m sad because inside my soul; I can tell I do not belong. I feel isolated and alone because I did not take a side*, pick a camp, or reside with specific people that have the same political views. I chose none of it because none of it made sense compared to the teachings that I have immersed myself in. I do not need Church leaders to tell me who to vote for, who to be afraid of, or when to panic. I need a body that is willing to focus on what and who is important and recognize that the kingdoms of this world with come and go. Only one will forever remain.

In conclusion; I am sorry that you do not find me with a  safety pin, and I apologize that I do not join you in jokes about protestors, immigration, and racial charged groups of people. I apologize that I have very little share on social media, and my ‘political education’ appears to be turning up nothing of value for fuel of those looking.

I am sorry that this one time I will agree with former teachers, leaders, parents, and everyone else; I cannot resist but to go against the grain and not follow the standard norm. I am a sojourner; this is a land where I realize I will never belonged.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19

-D-

*Note: As a citizen within this society, I would like to go on record of stating that I did vote within the election. Should be stated just as an act of clarification.

Shoes Instead of Pews


Life continues to be a world of ‘firsts’ throughout the 2016 year. So much of it has revolved around running, friendships, and breaking away from the standard system that I had grown to accustomed to over the years. The truth is; I think I am growing, and at the least I am beginning to think on my own versus accepting a reality that has been preprogrammed into my soul.

Perhaps I will say the wrong thing, upset the balance of acceptance, or maybe just rub a reader the wrong way. I would apologize for such strange ideas, but in my life, that tends to just be the direction of which my heart flows.

I am happy and sad all in the same mindset and my soul struggled to comprehend such explicit emotions…

I had an interesting weekend. Darco and I traveled north to Omaha, Nebraska. We were traveling with a group of 14ish other people with the same task; run. My challenge was a 21 mile trail race Sunday morning. It did not go quite as planned. I finished, but I finished with a limp, a waddle, and nearly a crawl. My body gave out early and I truly struggled to finish the race. Afterwards, I was not in a good spot. My body hurt, my heart hurt, and the only thing I knew I did not want to do…was to run. That is how extreme the course was in my perspective.

After a rough night of trying to sleep, and lounging around in the classroom through the day, I decided to head back out to the trails Monday night. In celebration for Halloween, our running group had decided to have a ‘costume run’. Meaning, I was on a trail between a unicorn and a clown. I told myself, I told my wife, I told my mentor/coach that I was just walking for a mile. That was all I wanted to do, still slightly disgusted with myself on the day prior.

Something happened though; perhaps it was lacing the dirty, crusty shoes, or feeling the October evening breeze, or perhaps even just kicking up a little dirt, but even in my soreness I had to run. I started running, painfully, but I kept moving. It became fun, each step, each breath, each conversation with the people that I have grown to love. A mile and a half passed by and I finally stopped for a drink and to catch my breath. I felt better. I could discuss the chemical reasons and reactions for why I felt better, but honestly my heart felt better. Even walking the mile back down to the trailhead I sang to myself, walked in the dark, and just embraced the moment. I felt clean. I felt pure. I felt free of guilt and disappointment.

What a strange sensation.

Life taught me that being dipped in the water, raising your hands, and following the chords of a guitar was to bring about that feeling. Laying hands, eating crackers, and clapping to a 4/4 beat was to bring about joy. Ensuring that you were in your seat at 8:30 Sunday morning, not leaving the building until 7:00 PM Sunday night, plus Wednesday night from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM, that is what was to bring about glory and peace. Listening to speakers discuss fear and politics, and voting strategies because God doesn’t know what He’s doing was the norm to bring the mind under control.

I cannot be tied down anymore. I have to escape.

The biggest joy in my life is knowing that God is amazing, patient, and never gives up on me. It is so humbling, terrifying, and inspiring; it’s something that I do not deserve. It does not make sense, it is not scientific, and at last check it is not necessarily politically correct.

But it is mine, and mine alone, and my heart feels so light because of it. What a beautiful gift.

What a beautiful gift I almost lost. What a brilliant joy that I almost forgot. What a marvelous prize that I almost gave up.

I love God. I just can no longer stand the institution.

What I witnessed last night was the beautiful benefit of God’s love through the element of friendship. Friendship that is not tied to work, and not tied to the Church, but tied together with heartstrings. I could not walk into a church, complain about feeling down after a race, and expect to find grace. Instead the pain tends to get buried under budgets, and bureaucrats, and business transactions that illuminate stained glass like the office lights along Wall Street. I’ve searched, I tried, and I have torn my heart apart to find what is so wrong with me for the sake that I cannot seem to locate a building, an institution, a congregation that can put down the Facebook posts and ignore the campaign signs and just breathe life.

Likes, shares, and retweets aside…simply I ask, why did Christians choose to make being a Christian in this society so difficult?

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Maybe shoes instead of pews could change a lot of lives.

-D-

Heart


I received a hand written letter tonight after a hot, muddy run through the woods. It was an awesome, encouraging thank you letter from the previous weekend.

I did well reading the encouragement, all the way until the final sentence. Only then did my emotional state become unstable. In the cursive font I read the following:

You’ve got the heart of an ultrarunner the same way you have a heart of a good Christian.

It has been at least six years since anyone has ever said good and Christian when identifying me. This didn’t come from a preacher, choir leader, Sunday School teacher, missionary, theological professor, elder, or deacon. It came from no one within the Church. It came from a person that I want to match step-for-step with in the mud one day.

I was called a good Christian.

I was called a good Christian.

I whisper this to myself with a half smile; facial muscles fighting off sobbing or quivering lips. This is something I never deserved to read:

I was called a good Christian.

The jealous, lustful, divorced, cheating, spiteful, hateful, flawed, ugly soul that roams this earth…was called a good Christian.

I was given a compliment that I had assumed I would never hear again in my lifetime.

Even through the stress of today I’m going to bed with a happy heart. I witnessed God’s grace tonight, and my soul smiles because of it.

Cool handwriting!

-D-

XXXI: Political Science


War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

I received a degree in Political Science because I wanted to seek out ‘truth’. At the time I had no idea what that looked like, how it could be used, and why it even mattered. Through lectures, textbooks, essays, and forums I spent my time trying to understand concepts such as rhetoric, manipulation, persuasion, and politicking.

Several years through college and several after, I still seek after that ‘truth’. I’m still curious as to the functionality of humans when it comes to interaction with each other, unspoken hierarchies, and the systems of which we have decided to govern one another.

Truly, there is no better time to be alive like today in order to witness all these questions unravel before your own eyes.

Receiving a degree in Political Science, as I’ve joked with my students, allows you to go one of two ways in life:

  1. Jump in over your head in the enjoyment of politics and the study of it
  2. Realize how unstable the world is and run away

…I’m still in the process of running.

My Facebook friends list is getting shorter by the week; pro or con arguments against political enemies or corporate conglomerate actions are enough to cause me to step away from the social media world. Reality is, everyone is upset about something or someone, and they firmly believe that their viewpoint is the dominate view compared to any other opposing thought.

There is a reason I do not speak much when it comes time for politics at the dinner table. In the past year I’ve witnessed teargas in Missouri, I’ve studied riots in California, and tried to understand economic sabotage by business both local and abroad.

I do desperately wish I had an answer that would explain the way that this world works. I’ve seen churches divide, and Christian’s step away from their faith, I’ve breathed in hypocrisy and on several occasions witnessed that a physical church building does not indeed keep the devil away.

I’m not overly sure which is harder to be in today’s world:

  1. One who holds a Political Science degree that tries to avoid political conversations
  2. A Christian that tries to avoid political conversations

In several instances I’ve come to believe that my social anxiety doesn’t stem from struggling to communicate with other sentient creatures. It stems from trying to understand that one election, one riot, one building on fire, or one country at war doesn’t describe our world as a whole.

The truth is far more painful to accept I’ve learned.

We are ruined.

We live in a global society that is dictated so strongly by the ways of which a secular culture breathes; in many instances the faith…a faith…is hardly recognizable. The reality is understanding that this world is so messed up, and personally from my education, I was taught that concept a long, long time ago. Additionally, if we’re thinking that the action by the masses is something new, we’ve obviously lost grasp of what history has taught us.

I can’t take a stand on political matter. I can’t examine and explain racial profiling and reactions that so many have towards one another. I can’t determine the cause of inflation, oil prices, or self proclaimed terrorists and their actions throughout the world.

I can only explain the fact that our world was ruined from the beginning (give or take a few days and one piece of fruit). I can examine and teach that in many ways, most likely, global life will continue to struggle. Masses will die, dynasties will end, and civilizations will collapse.

History tells us that.

I can also use historical text and ancient religious scholars to condemn the acts of so many; especially those who claim to be of one faith…or another.

Finally, I can take note that through my own religious teachings and upbringing, that my job isn’t to condemn, to judge, to execute, or to reject. I’m only supposed to love and protect.

Life is not a battlefield between…
…Hillary & Trump
…white & black
…USA & Mexico
…Christian & Muslim

It is simply about…
…love & hate
…good & evil
…ignorance & truth

-D-

XXXI: Failed Institution


GreetingsHands

Written in a form coinciding with political ideologies and humanities lack of conviction; I type this with sorrowful hands, a trembling heart, and a burning soul.

The institution has failed.

Perhaps one of the more polarizing pieces of publication written in the past five years churns alive on the screen. Trying to appropriately find the justification and words to transcribe the flowing thought of organic opinions is a struggle in these lazy hours of life. However, the truth needs to be shared with the public. The reality is that the institution has failed.

What is the institution? It isn’t a government, a system, agency or even a group of people. It’s a thought process, it’s a standard, it’s a form that has been recycled over the years in repetition without qualm of the people. Now, the cracks are showing, the people are vacating, and true images and colors are being displayed.

The institution…is the Church.

The institution has failed.
The Church has failed.
We have failed.

It’s troubling and nearly feeling sacrilegious in typing such troubling words. But, what else do you do when your heart breaks? When your soul is crushed? When the idea of love disappears, replaced with jealousy, rage, and hypocrisy? The truth is, the largest population in the land that I call home has left church…and they’re currently of no interest in returning.

Why are we ignoring this reality? I can walk into nearly any church today and get my fix of guitars, pianos, organs, and choirs. I can hear redemption, education, “three points and a poem”, and walk out the door. If this new generation doesn’t enjoy the comfort of fast food, why would they settle for the same of their spiritual guidance?

I’ve been in church of some sort since I was seven years old; I even went to a Christian affiliated university. I took courses on theology, studied my brain out of history of Christianity, argued nearly every denomination, and finally obtained degrees mixing sociology with a global faith. Yes, I am the person that sounds the bells when I see the failures of our past and our present. Out of twelve people inside a core youth group I was apart of when in high school, only two are currently active in their church (we’re all adults now). That was from a church in a town of 1200. What happened to the rest? Why did they stop, and why are we not going after them?

Currently, as reported by the Pew Research Center, Christians within my own homeland have decreased by nearly 10%. Much of this is being attributed to the Millennial generation not going to church, not seeing its importance, and not necessarily being reached.

From the person who struggles to step into the building each Sunday; it isn’t because of politics, it isn’t because of ease of access, it isn’t because of lack of coffee shops, it’s the struggle of feeling wanted, needed, and reminded that our objective it to rely on God and change the world.

That is my personal conviction, my sin if it’d gloss over the image a bit better. I can’t get enough of God. He guides me, He loves me, and man He takes care of me when I continue to screw up as some awful, trashy piece of human that I am. He picks me up, He cares for me, and He reminds me that I’m worth it.

The Church no longer does.

Can you imagine the strange sensation of being attached to your Father, knowing that God is the way, the truth, the life, the…everything. At the same time, nearly in a split personality, the idea of congregating with other people to hear about the political spectrum, reused candid terminology that establishes Christians similar to corporate jargon, and to repeat it weekly…really, what’s the point?

Yes, you cannot grow in your faith without the construct of the Church body (check out 1 Corinthians for a glimpse of that reality), but are we growing when we do arrive? That’s not just a corporate question, but a personal one.

I have seen cities created, societies manipulated, and hope delivered to millions. I’ve witnessed advancements in health and technology, assisting the people of this world. I’ve seen economies grow and cultures thrive. Now, why are the current leaders of those magnificent concepts no longer a part of the body of Christ? Why do we ignore the elephant in the room, and turn a blind eye to the fact that below our Sunday School/Small Group classes of 30-40 year olds; below that…it gets rather sparse in population.

I caution the Church. If you do not invest in the current fleeing generation, they will make no attempt to return. Additionally, understand that a return isn’t about their number in your box at your church; it’s about the return of understanding God’s love.

Perhaps we’re just a little too focused on us.
Perhaps we’re just a little out of touch.
Perhaps our arrogance has been called by the largest population on this planet.

We have nothing to show for these realizations except the opportunity to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, and to go forward and continue to reach this beautifully flawed world.

-D-

XXXI: Cowboys Cry Too


Yesterday I received word that my grandmother was not doing well at her nursing home (she’s 93). Darco and I were going to meet a few family members there around lunch today.

At 9:30 AM this morning I was notified that she had been moved to hospice.

I’ll let you fill in the rest.

Today took me north to the land of my father, literally and figuratively. I was around truckers, drinkers, racers, and dreamers. I saw a family that has more strength in a single toe, fairly compared to some full scale countries.

I saw my childhood rendition of the cowboys of the Wild West.

…and I was humbly shown that those great cowboys can cry too.

Throughout the day it was emotional swings of laughter and deep thoughts. It was catching up on what was, while carefully thinking about what quickly could be. I saw heroes from my childhood eyes, resting on canes, crutches, and couches.

The cowboys are tired.

I saw misty eyes while talking about ’66 1/2 model cars that ran 12.5 pistons instead of 12.6.

I heard simple political conversations, end smoothly as any cowboy would have:

The day my second amendment is gone is the day I become an outlaw.

I witnessed a dying monarch that had known nothing but love, family, and faith, rest easy as her time here begins to pass. My heart hurt of knowing about the other wounds suffered by these rough riders, how fate dealt such cruel cards to the kindest souls that roam the earth.

Through days end and the sun’s rest; these riders disembarked on another sealed journey’s past.

My concept of these cowboys has changed since my childhood.

They are so much stronger compared to what my past’s minds eye could have ever comprehended before.

-D-