Wrecks

I stand and stare at the open sea.

I can hear nothing but the screams of shipwrecks. All I can see is the wreckage to come. The horizon appears to be nothing but splintered dreams and sinking hopes. 

I let my eyes fall to the feet beneath where the constrictors of chains coil and squeeze. I am but nothing more than a prisoner on this here shore. 

I look up to the captain, my captor. I feel the desperation in my respiration. I look into his hardened eyes and warn him of the cries to come. He laughs. 

"This ship is to set sail for Rome, and you are to come. Don't you remember it was your zeal that made this appeal? So to Caesar you will go, I am solely the retriever."

That southern breeze is nothing more than a tease reminding me that I am the least of these. It is the cue to the crew that is time to go.

So they hurry to grab the prisoners, and load the cargo. Including me as they tighten their grip to pull upon my chains as a leash. As a dog being led to the kill shelter at sea.

Anchors weighed.

Sails filled.

Land disappeared.

Despair guaranteed.

The beauty of the sea is that she is humbly a beast, Quiet and still...until she wants her fill. So when that Northeaster roared we became a feast for her. 

The battering began and so did the shattering. So we each took our ropes to run under each of our ships. Maybe, just maybe we can hold it together, If we get our ropes tight enough maybe it will hide our trembling lips. 

Just as the sun and stars vanished in the raging of the sea, so did our hopes. And those ropes we once believed to be our saving grace began to fray. After all it is our hearts that are prone to betray..

Maybe its not too late if we just get rid of all our weight? So crate by crate into the sea went all the things we once held dear. But, this ship, sinking, is encumbered by fear. 

I look to the crew and captain who once thought they were in control; all I see is fellow captives. 

The captain has lost that confident grin as realizes that he is me. And I am him. Captains. Captors. Captives to each of our ships.

Now from this here shore I look back at that there shore where the captain, my captor, looked down upon me in the chains that constricted me. But, in that shipwreck my chains became reins and I set my captor free. He looks up to me with his softened eyes and he cries.. 

Backwards

We cannot escape the fact that the environment or the culture that we grew up in and exist within influences who we are and how we interact. This is a natural occurrence. Prime example: Dominicans can move their hips in ways an American could never dream of doing. 

Many, if not all of us in the millennial generation and all to come have or will be affected, rather infected by the culture. I am specifically dwelling on the 'wanderlust' epidemic. The symptoms may include but are not limited to pictures with a keep exploring flag, comparison, discontentment, and the inability to commit. The symptoms become the focus. We try to treat them, but we forget about the infection that is behind it. 

Full disclosure: I have been fortunate to have traveled to many places throughout the world, and spent much of my time in breathtaking places. If you look at my Instagram you will find a slew of pictures from mountain tops all over, to cities in foreign countries, and a healthy dose of some feeble attempt at a good caption or hashtag. If you text me I might not be able to get back to you for a couple days or longer because I don't have service. As I currently write this I am in the Dominican Republic, where I have been for the past two months. Can you say hypocrite? Bear with me for a moment. 

I have been working in the DR alongside long term missionaries, locals, as well as short term teams. I by all means fall in the short term category, even if 3 months sounds long compared to a week. I have learned many things, which I will share as time goes on, but I want to focus on the corruption of our motives. Including mine at times.

If you consider yourself a follower of Christ you are a missionary. Whether in your neighborhood, or in a foreign place, you are a missionary. Period. There is no separation between the Young Life leader in the local high school, the woman who moved to India to serve or the old lady who invites the new young couple next door over for dinner. The only difference is the geography and context, the mission remains the same; to be an ambassador of Christ in this broken world. Aforementioned we are influenced by our cultures and environments, whether you notice it or like it. I think we often allow the culture to taint our motives, or maybe, we use the Gospel to paint over our impure motives.

Gospel Painted Egocentrism

"...and to the ends of the earth." "Go and make disciples of all nations" We have heard these passages time and time again. All scripture is God breathed including these passages where the calling to go and make disciples is declared. I do not seek to devalue the weight of the scripture, but the weight of our sin in the way we interpret and live out this command. 

If you were to initially look at this passage and read the words to go to the ends of the earth, it would imply that you are not at the ends of the earth, but that they lie over the hills and horizon. We also have the tendency to assume we are the intended audience, and have the inclination to assume that we are indeed the center. I believe this to be the nature of fallen man, and to be all the more true of American culture today. Modern day society preaches that life is all about the self. I don't think I need to try to convince you of that. 

What has this done in terms of corruption? We believe we are the center. That the gospel is ours and it is ours to carry to the "ends of the earth". That it is ours to put in our backpacks and go to hand out. After all we are doing it in the name of Jesus. But, we forget that this was written to the disciples in the Middle East, not the midwest. We forget that we are the ends of the earth... 

What does this mean? Are you telling me to not go? Not necessarily, I am just encouraging you to check yourself. Have you painted the Gospel over the egocentrism that you have been taught is normal.

Jesus Stamped Selfishness

A little more personal than the culture shaping egocentrism is the selfishness of our own hearts. Our desires. Our plans. Our dreams. Our mission. How can we take all those things and find some scripture to fit and justify them? So often we conjure up our own direction and put the Jesus stamp on it. We have taken our own desire to travel and justified it through mission work. We have shared all of our photos on instagram to show people what God is doing on said trip. Or is it to show people how humble we are to serve over our spring break? After all how would they know if we didn't tell them.

This may sound a little harsh, and extreme, which it may be, but I do not write these things to accuse or say that this is the case always. Obviously there are people who God has given the passion for the nations to(I have met them and am blown away by their hearts), or the eye of a photographer that can capture rare moments that glorify the Lord. All I am asking is that we begin to check ourselves and the decisions we make. 

Don't Assume

We cannot assume that just because our desires sound or look good that they are indeed good. I encourage you to really reflect on why is it that you desire what you do? What or who has influenced those things? For the good? The bad? Does it align with scripture? Am I seeking God for discernment in my decisions rather than just putting his stamp on it? Have I used the Gospel as paint to cover my blemishes, or have I let the carpenter sand and chisel them away making something pure?

 

 

 

To Go

Well, today is the last day in the states(well technically I just landed in the DR) for awhile. The next few months will be spent in the Dominican Republic. I can't help but reflect on how I came to this decision, and the reason to go. 


If you know me now you probably would never guess that when I was kid I was scared to spend the night away from home. Now, I don't even know where home is, is it my tent in the Alps, the back of my Subaru, on the floor of best friends apartments, or will it be in Jarabacoa? The jury is still out on that one, but one thing is clear I am not hesitant to go. What changed? Why go?

I don't know when I was no longer scared to be away from home, maybe it was just a childhood fear that I got too tall for. But, before I knew it I dreamt of wild spaces and foreign places. I have been extremely fortunate to have seen some of those day dreams come true. Step by step I found myself grateful, and blown away by the way the Lord has used each experience even if it took me a long time to see. With that I also found myself with a fear of stagnation. A fear that if I got too comfortable I would be engulfed by the motions and find myself resuscitated just in time to realize that I hadn't trusted Jesus' promises of a life to the full. I want to be careful in saying that though. One doesn't need to go abroad to experience the promise He is offering, we can each day in the office or neighborhood, it's a posture of the heart not the place or situation. 
 
But the fear of stagnation comes with opposition. The desire to be rooted in community. To plant. To water. To see relationships grow and flourish. Surely that can happen over distance, but that is a battle of its own. I digress, back to the point: why are you going? 

In short: Freedom. I had found myself in a unique place as I exited university. No debt. No mortgage. No lease. No kids. No significant other. No set destination. What I did have was the immense freedom found in Christ.  As I realized this I felt a conviction overcome my heart. One that wasn't necessarily new, but stronger now. It begins with that my life is not my own, it was bought at a price, and it an ends with a desire to serve and follow. I don't want this rare freedom to go to waste. Jesus is good. And his King. So, to him I entrust my freedom. Striving to follow the spirits lead is what has brought me here. I don't know what he is going to do, but I can trust He will move in big ways. I am looking forward to this time in the DR, and sharing how He moves. 

Love. 

A Psalm pt. 2

There it is; a beacon of light. It just might?

Could it be? 

Has the King himself come to save me? 

A voice beckons:

"Child, child do you not see? 

I exist and abound in this very sea. 

You sink and drown from your doubt and fear. 

You have ears, but do you hear?

Look to me. Just look at me. 

Your focus, that is what broke us. 

Just come to me and be free.

Child, child do you not see?

I exist and abound in this dark sea.

I control its very tide. Come and abide. 

Abide in me, I am light personified."

The waves, they cave

But, for you I crave

You save me in these dark seas

So I will sing

"You are King. You are King. The One who frees me in these dark seas."

A Psalm pt. 1

I battle alone in the darkness

Fighting and clawing at this beast

But weakness brings me to my knees

I have lost the battle and my soul it rattles

I took the bait. The very, very thing I hate

The outcome is known, it's brutality shown

Death itself reigns in moments like these

Won't you save me from these dark seas?

I can't swim...

Sinking...sinking...thinking...thinking

I'm thinking of my sinking

Of the way the air disappears

Of the way despair has become my oxygen

Inhale....I'm drowning...I'm drowning

My lungs inflate filled with hopelessness

I'm drowning, won't you save me from these dark seas?

The waves, they cave

The light is looking pretty thin now. 

(Written 10/26/15)

Couragous vs. Fearless

 

I think for a long time I viewed being courageous and fearless as one in the same. Maybe you have or do too. But, I have come to realize they are not, and they shouldn't be. Both of these ideas can have a distinct role in the way we view God and live out our faith. 

When we take courage as fearlessness we find suppression risking trust, intimacy & growth. I am a master of suppression. You scared? Nope. Worried? Definitely not. Ultimately I do this saying it's because I trust the Lord. But is it? Or is it my pride? Or is it actually the very fear I claim I don't have? 

Courage has been defined, and debated by countless people for centuries from Plato, Socrates, to today in my own heart. Courage has largely been defined as the "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere , and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty" or to act despite fear. If those are the traditional definitions, then why would I even think it was fearlessness? Though these are the technical definitions the ones society paints(or the way I perceived them) often look like the valiant, maybe even a little stoic, warrior who ran into battle without a second thought and returned with no tears. Today I am reminded what courage is:

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

“There is no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bear witness that a man has the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”- Viktor Frankl

These two men faced many fears; Nelson Mandela countless social injustices and persecution, and Frankl survived the holocaust. So as Frankl a man acquainted with immense suffering and facing our darkest fears claims courage can be seen through the lens of tears, I believe it. Another man of great sorrow, one acquainted with grief, displays the greatest example of courage to ever exist. 

Christ weeping in the Garden, taken by fear to the point of sweating blood, crying out in the darkness for another way is our greatest example of courage. It wasn't pretty, buttoned up and shiny; it was raw and ugly(you know when your face looks like its made of wax melting as you sob kind of ugly?). Not the face of bravery I would of painted growing up. 

Christ weeping in the Garden, taken by fear to the point of sweating blood, crying out in the darkness for another way is our greatest example of courage.

Christ in that Garden felt every fear, doubt, or pain you have bore or will ever bear. He felt it. He was scared. Trembling. Weeping. He feared what was ahead, and was terrified of his separation from the Father for the first time in eternity that was coming. "Yet, not my will, but yours be done"

Jesus was no stranger to fear, he knew it better than we will ever. Yet, he acted despite the fears. Why? Because, he acted in love, and trust in his Father. Our Father.  

If Christ was not fearless, nor should we aspire to be. We have found something greater than fearlessness, we found the ability to be courageous. To live courageously is to live in trust and contentment of the Lord not our circumstances, no matter how uncertain or scary. Our hope is found in the love that conquers fear. May we see fear. Feel suffering. Tremble. Weep. May we not be paralyzed by fear, but propelled to Christ who feared so we can trust. 

 

A Baptism

Into the forest alone I entered. Well me, who others say I am, what the world expects of me and who others want me to be. I carry them in the bottom of the pack of my mind often forgetting they are there.

One step after the other, wandering. Eyes watching my step, careful not to stumble on the roots and rocks.

The trees begin to scream "Do you not see? Won't you look at me?"

Eyes shifted upward as their branches reached heavenward.

The granite cliffs, gods themselves, were but nothing more than a cathedral. This place. This place was a place of worship you see.

Wandering. Wandering. Wandering.

Wondering. Wondering. Wondering.

Wondering why this pack is feeling so heavy.

The untouched peak looks down upon me asking "Won't you come and see?"

With an eager heart I race for the summit. Climbing higher and higher......and higher.

The trees but twigs now. The forest creatures: dust now. It is just me and the wolves of the wind as they begin to howl, leaving no room for my voice.

This pack of mine is weighing me down now. Why is it so heavy? There isn't that much in here? So I begin to search. To find that it isn't just me here, but I have been carrying who you want me to be, who they want me to be, what they all want me to be.

If I am to continue on I must leave it all behind, it must just be me.

The wind whips and strips away who I once was. I am not who you want me to be. Who they want me to be.  I am but a speck. I am but the moss atop this rock. Here in this moment I am nothing, here in this moment I am free. Free to be who I was created to be. Today, I am nothing and everything.

 

Words & Art.

Words surround us, and consume us all the time. From media. From politicians. From friends. From family. Some good. Some bad. We have books and poetry filled with beautiful imagery. But when asked to describe God, do not all these words stumble and falter? Attempts are made always, yes, but are they not merely attempts? Always falling short? Indeed they are.

Is this to say we are to not think, to write, to dream? By no means. He gave us the ability to do all these things to his glory. To see glimpses of His beauty. Have you ever read a line in literature and your heart stirs? Have you ever greeted a metaphor as a new friend to soon find it as a lover that changes the way you see the world? What about a painting that catches your gaze to soon find yourself embarking into a foreign land?

The real beauty is not in the words of your favorite novel, a painting, or a breathtaking photo. The real beauty is in the author's, the poet's, the artist's mind, in his dreams, in her creativity, in imagination itself. In the Creator of imagination himself.

Let us dream. Let us write. Let us create. Let us live. All to His glory.