a time to mourn

There is a season

There is a season

They say there’s a season for everything
One for mourning
Another for dancing
My heart feels like rejoicing has thrived
So selfishly self-serving
That my mourning is maligned

If I could take a solitary second
In the cold of the night
To say a prayer and mourn
With those without strength to cry

I mourn for the people who sleep hungry
The heart-broken, the depressed
Those who would rather never wake
Aching numbness in their chest

I mourn for the damaged, abused, neglected
Who put on plastic smiles to never be detected
For those who know neither mercy or grace
Indoctrinated judgements, cheap, in their place

I mourn for the babies who never had a chance
I mourn for the mothers who saw no other way
I mourn for the women, objectified by a glance
I mourn for the men, denounced for being gay

No use is a task force
To solve this condition
No government initiative
To cure your addiction

We can’t look at these objects that need to be
Fixed to eliminate our lives of nuisance
That’s useless, these aren’t symptoms
Or “demographics,” or “mission fields,” or “unreached”
They’re people.

Plain and simple.

They’re people who I’ve known
They’re people who I’ve loved
They’re rejected by the church
With a verse and shove

And I know my hands are dirty,
The blood is caked and thick
Now these people lost and lonely?
My own sin makes me sick

I guess if you’re still reading this diatribe
And you gain any impetus towards resolve
Or if you have a heart at all
Don’t make a list of bullet points
Or a to-do that can do
Nothing to absolve your hand in this
Neither justify yourself, with a shrug
No “That’s not me”
No “Not my place”
No “Not my problem.”

Instead, grab some tissues
Weep with a man well acquainted with grief
Who spread His arms wide
And died
For the mess we made and continually make
For the people He’s loved
That we’ve ignored
Or don’t call him “Lord”
If you snub His sheep

Thy Will be done on earth as His heaven
Get your hands dirty
Start loving

Amen.

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Reflections on Auld Lang Syne – 2013

But seas between us broad have roared

But seas between us broad have roared

I’m not even sure where to begin with my feelings on 2012. For starters, I never covered 2011, which I sorely regret. That was a fairly big year for me. I went through a counseling group called “Mending the Soul” which stirred up a lot of areas in my heart where I desperately needed healing . While I’m not sure if healing came during that year, it at least raised my awareness for the coming years so that I won’t let the same issues rise again.

My heart was broken in 2012. At least twice. It’s easy to utter cliché phrases, and harder to forgive and move on. I did a bit of both. I literally have no idea what’s ahead of me. But I know good things are ahead, tied in with my own maturation. This year I stopped depending on others to define me. I had an epiphany that made me realize that I’m created the way I am for a purpose, and no female, jurisdiction, or any other entity can take that from me. And I won’t let them. I’m figuring out the details of what this means. That’s still part of the journey. But I’m done compromising for that which is inherently “me.”

As of today, I’m no longer employed by Whitton Avenue Bible Church. The last three and a half years were tumultuous, filled with tears of joy, anger, and desperation. I learned so much from my time there, but I knew that it had an expiration date. I could (and probably will) write an entire article on my time there, so I’ll save that post for another day.

I’ve decided to move to Portland, Oregon this year.  I can’t think of anything that scares the bejesus out of me more. It’s an almost absolute unknown that is waiting for me. To be honest, I’m petrified. I know that everything will be all right, but I’ve never left Phoenix for an undetermined amount of time. Anything can happen. I hope it will. I hope I learn, I hope I grow, and I hope I advance at becoming “me.” By God’s grace, I know I will.

What else? I feel like in the past, I’ve listed my hopes for the next year. Screw that. Time really doesn’t care about your hopes and dreams. Life won’t be always great. It will also be hard. It will let you down. The choice you have to make is this: do you let it keep you down or do you persevere? Every person with breath in his lungs has this option before him. Carry on or give up? I believe in a God who is a giver of good things. I also believe that what I know now isn’t the end of knowledge. I believe that in the future, my temporary struggles will be made poignant and in no way unnecessary. By this belief, I know that I have purpose here and now, and nobody – NOBODY – can take it away from me.

Last New Years, I remember being sad. I was sad that my wishes and ambitions would never become a reality. This New Years I spent realizing that I control my reality. I can choose how to spend my self-esteem. I don’t have to leave it in the hands of those who come behind me, who hope to fulfill themselves in my shadows. I am loved. I am blessed. I am content on my own, without another.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy 2013 to you all. I pray that you realize the blessings in your life, and those blessings cause your life to overflow with gratitude.

See you in Portland.

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One Day

20121212-200842.jpg

Figure it out

“She’d be famous one day”
I quipped aloud, silently adding,
“If she could get out of this town”
But isn’t that what they all say
About the could-be’s and the might-be’s

Maybe she should shine bright
In the empty and hallow
In the dark and fallow
And maybe this place might need her

And it’ll never know as it uses her
And leaves her as it is
Untouched and abused
Never knowing the beauty
beneath her skin

I wish for her happiness
And bright eyes and eager feet
For tomorrow may try to conquer her
And some place else might not
It might realize the fantastic
It might change the world
It might change her world

If she could get out of this town

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Sad Songs

Love is watching someone die

I’ve written a bit of reflective and melancholy essays lately, a bit of poetry as well, but I don’t post them because they’re fairly private. Beyond that, I feel a bit self-conscious writing more somber pieces because of the questions that inevitably follow. People asking if I’m OK, (I am) or assuming I’m depressed (I’m not.) It makes me feel that, in the back of my mind, nobody really wants to hear a sad song.

But why not? Why is there a façade among us that every thing – and every one – has to be perky, neat, and exhilarating? If there were no sad songs, would Dashboard Confessional even exist? Not to mention blues, cellos, or minor keys. No, the reality is we need sad songs. And as long as there is sadness in the world, there will be sad songs.

Sad songs don’t last forever. If I’m having a fantastic day, I most certainly don’t want to listen to “What Sarah Said.” But if I’m in a situation where I’m sitting around, waiting to find out if my best friend is going to live through the night – I need to know that someone understands the galaxy of emotions that are flashing in the depths of my heart. That’s the beauty of sad songs. They remind you that you aren’t alone.

I’ll be putting some of my poetry up in the next couple of days under the “sad song” category. It’s important that you understand this – it’s not a cry for help. Impersonal empathies make me feel super uncomfortable, actually. If you want to know more about it, I might share if you ask me about it and I feel we’re close enough. But beyond that, I’m putting these private things out in the open with the explicit intention that sometime, somewhere, someone will read them and know that they aren’t alone. 

May all who have gone before us
Remind us
That no agony is so deep or painful
That it’s never been known before
And may those who come after know
They are not alone

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Truth is

Underneath my skin I’m tired

I know what I said
With a toothy smile
And a chip on my shoulder
Or any other cliché you’d deem fit
It doesn’t really matter
They’ll all say the same thing

The truth

I’m dying inside
Though on the outside
All smiles
I’m fighting
Through pain and heartbreak
You’ll never know though
You don’t really care
Pearls before swine and such
I’ll save mine for another

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Chaos Theory Part Four: The Aftermath, The Remorse, and the Dream of the 90s

Hold my hand and carry me

A very wise man once passed this quote on to me:

When you have an important decision to make, flip a coin. When the coin is in the air, you know what you wanted all along.

In the aftermath of choosing a city out of a cup, I realized something important. I don’t want to live in Little Rock.* Which is actually a little weird, because going into it, I was really excited about the idea of Little Rock because it was so different and so weird.* But when it became an actuality, more than just an idea but a place where I was seriously starting to strategize moving to and living in, it freaked the crap out of me. Could I really handle a state more conservative (politically and theologically) than Arizona? Could I really be OK with humid summers, and tornadoes, and Southerners?*

Especially after Dan Hoffman spent so much time meticulously and a vividly describing what could be my life in Portland? (By the way Dan… terrible timing on that one. I literally read it a couple of hours before I drew. If you had done it two weeks earlier, I would probably be living in Portland right now.)

Here’s the meta-lesson I’ve been learning this year too. I could be happy anywhere. God has blessed me with an outlook that can make the most of any situation. I honestly believe I could be happy and content in Little Rock. Here’s the kicker – just because I could be happy there doesn’t make it the best fit. This has been an extraordinary truth to me in relationships, in locations, in life. It’s not always a square-peg in a round-hole situation. Sometimes it’s a slightly smaller, octogonal-peg in a round-hole. It fits. It could probably stay there for a while. But it’s not how it should be. It’s OK not to settle just because I could be happy. Stop settling, Jakob.

Here’s the good news, and slightly-better-than-living-in-Little-Rock* news.

I really want to live in Portland. And I’m not saying it’s a guaranteed, gonna happen thing yet, I’m “turning the ship” towards that place, on the same schedule, with the same intent to move. There are a few things that might make me stay, but I get so excited thinking about Portland! I think more people would be inclined to visit me in the beautiful Northwest. I get strangely nostalgic being able to experience the city where my dad grew up. I become more and more stoked every time I think about waking up in the City of Roses.

So I don’t have a date to move, but I’m going to go visit in November, God-willing. I have a Cheesecake Factory in Beaverton, a community of believers in Dan Hoffman, a state free from sales tax, a mess-load of hipsters to draw birds on all my things when I arrive. What else could I ask for?

I’m really thankful for my friends who didn’t just say “Hey, Little Rock is an insane idea and you’re an idiot,” but got excited for me and encouraged me and prayed for me. (Even if you’re in the group that said I was crazy in fewer words, I still love you.)

So what can I say? Here’s to my next chapter.

And for serious – check out Dan’s essay on Portland. You’ll want to move too.

*No offense, Lauren.

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Chaos Theory Part Three: The Decision

and I’m learning to breathe

As Dan Hoffman writes an eloquent essay encouraging me to choose Portland, today was the day to pick. And I picked… well. You’ll see.

Here’s the decision!

It cut out the first couple seconds, but I start saying “The time has come for me to make this huge decision.” Or something like that.

Enjoy! And I’ll probably post one final follow-up sometime this week.

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Chaos Theory Part Two: The Details

Black: the night that ends at last

Some clarifications on my decisions.

One of the biggest things I want to clarify to all of the concerned is that I really believe that, for once, I’m not running away from anything. More so, I feel like running to something, some opportunity somewhere. I feel fairly content in where I am right now (as you’ll see when I describe my cities of choice) but I also feel like I’m coming to a dead-end in a lot of ways that leads me to something new. I don’t believe this is an escapism maneuver, nor a “grass is always greener” mentality, but simply saying that there are a lot of awesome and wonderful places to see in this world with a ton of opportunity, and I want to open myself to as many as possible. This is a silly way of doing it, but I’ve always been kind of a silly person.

I know some people are a bit worried for me, or think I’m making a mistake, and.. well. That’s just it. I’m tired of being too afraid of making a mistake. Everything is a potential mistake if you think about it. I’m choosing not to let anything that I do be a mistake and making the most of whatever comes. Even if moving away sucks, God teaches the most through really sucky situations, so I don’t fear anything. We can chalk it up to character building.

So without further ado, here is my list of cities, accompanied by rationale for choosing each one. Note: I have a job lined up at all of these places. There’s finally a benefit in working in such a flexible industry, with such a national corporation. I have ideas for housing, and the biggest challenge would be finding a church body that I could connect to.

Phoenix:
I’m sure a few people are cheering for this option. Staying here would still mean changing a few things around in my life, because there could be a lot of different opportunities for ministry and job advancement here. If I stayed, I’d still have to figure out roommate situations and all that, but I know I have several important people here that I should go about connecting with.

Portland:
Portland is green and beautiful and totally granola. It’s full of outdoorsy people who love nature and love beautiful things. My dad came from Portland to Phoenix when he was a young adult, and it’d be fun to turn 180 and do the opposite of him. Also, there’s no sales tax is Oregon. How awesome is that?

Denver/Boulder:
This one is a little crazy because I’m going a bit on hearsay, but everyone who’s experience Colorado has told me that it’s my style — and from what I hear, it might be true. Awesome experience for the foodie in me, as well as local breweries everywhere. Again, a bit outdoorsy with gorgeous weather. Just around an hour away in Estes Park is Ravencrest, a Torchbearer Bible School that would give me an amazing opportunity to connect with and volunteer with a sister school of Holsby. One of my current manager will be transferring to the Denver CCF in a matter of weeks, and I would have an instant “in” there.

Little Rock
This one is a last minute throw-in. There was another city I was contemplating for a bit, but after prayer and some convincing from a friend (who happens to live in Little Rock) I realized I really was fairly uncomfortable about the other city, so this one took its place. From my brief visit to the South, I realized I actually am quite fond of southern hospitality. I’m told they have beautiful seasons, and have I mentioned my love for fried food and barbecue?

I have no idea what’s going to happen. It’s all really exciting – even staying in Phoenix seems exciting, because if I choose that, I know I’ll have a renewed vigor and passion for what I’m doing (or will be doing) here.

PLEASE keep praying for me, that the Lord is leading me, and even if you disagree with my decision making process, please pray that God’s will is done in my life.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21

Love you all. Looking forward to making a decision on Sunday. (Yikes.)

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Chaos Theory Part One: Draw or Don’t

You and me and a tambourine

For a change of pace, here’s a story about my life.

As some of you may know, I’ve had mild existential crises lately, making me wonder what on earth I’m doing with my life. My roommates are both getting married and moving out in a couple months, allowing forcing me to make some life decisions. Do I let them set me up with new roommates? Do I go back to living in an apartment? Do I go off and do something crazy? What’s the best choice?

Well… any of them.

I’m in an amazingly free period of my life where I can do just about anything that I want. I can choose to live anywhere, do anything, with little lasting consequence. I have no spouse, no children, no mortgage, and a job that allows for relocation pretty much across the nation. Maybe it’s a good chance for a change of scene.

So as I’m thinking of all this, I start to wonder, what’s the best plan of action to decide? After weeks of deliberation on all the opportunity in front of me, I’ve realized that the obvious conclusion is: chance. Whim. Fate. Destiny. God’s intricate and divine sovereignty. Call it what you will: I’m casting lots. I’ve toyed with the idea of putting a list of cities in a hat and picking one and deciding from there. Problem. I haven’t had the cajones to actually go through with the deciding process, so you know what I did about that? I let fate decide.

Last night I ripped a note card in four pieces. On two pieces I wrote “draw” and on two I wrote “don’t.” I then put them in a hat. If I pick a “Draw” then on a coming day, I’ll put the cities in a hat and pick them out. If I pick “don’t” then I’ll leave my decision-making process within my own logic and reason. And I picked…

“Draw.” (Though you probably knew that, or else I wouldn’t be writing this, would I?)

All this to say, on October 7th, I’m having a yard sale. Whatever I end up doing, I want to get rid of a lot of my stuff and start living more minimalistically. After the yard sale is over, I’ll be picking out from four options to decide my future. I’m going to record the process on my computer and share it with you so that you can see my reaction and join in my own surprise at what my future holds.

(edit: October 7th is a Sunday, and I have plans on October 6th. I’ll still pick on the 7th, but the yard sale is postponed until October 20th.)

I’ll write more a bit later this week on what my options are and why, but please please please pray for me through this process. The foundation of this is that God is taking care of me whatever I do and wherever I go. Worst case scenario is that I move away and everything goes terribly and I end up moving back after a couple of months. That’s in God’s hands. It all is. It always has been. It always will be.

So plan of action for you, the reader.

  1. Come to my yard sale on Saturday, October 20th. We have another mattress to get rid of, as well as some awesome movies and funny t-shirts.
  2. Pray for me. A lot.
  3. Pray for my mom, because she’s going to freak out. A lot.
  4. Stay tuned for the video I’ll post on the 7th. Or don’t. Really your call. But it’s going to be fun. I’m really excited about all the opportunity in front of me, and I hope you can be excited for me too. Even if you think I’m a little crazy, because hey, I do too.

If you have any questions, comments, complaints, riots, etc., please leave them in the comments so it can be more like a FAQ instead of having me answer a mess-load of texts.

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Rain

God's tear that flood the dryness of our hearts

His plan is more than I can know

I’ve been wrestling with God recently. I’ve felt pain and hurt, and so I’ve spent time in thought, prayer, reasoning, and scriptural study to try to make sense of it all. In doing this, I’ve confronted a lot of things I thought I believed solidly, and found them to be lacking. Among these wrestlings, a seemingly rudimentary faith-piece was challenged.

“Do I really believe that God loves me?”

We sing it in Sunday school. We tell our neighbors. We develop our doctrines on it. But do we believe deep down that God loves us and wants our well-being?

I didn’t.

When things go wrong, when pain comes, I always start questioning. As the avalanche of accusations fall, I undoubtedly arrive at similar phraseology. Phrases that start out “How could you…”, followed by “If you’re so good, why did you…” leading to the inevitable “If you really love me, you would have … ”

“As for me, I would seek God, and to God would I commit my cause, who does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number: he gives rain on the earth and sends waters on the fields…” Job 5:8-11 (ESV)

As I was ruminating through these ideas a few weeks ago, I decided to climb a mountain. God spoke to the people in the Old Testament on the mountaintops, so maybe it would be the same for me. I originally set out to climb this short, pretty hill, but as I left my house, I knew I had a bigger climb ahead of me. So I went to one of the larger mountains in Phoenix.

The entire hike was exhausting. I kept talking to God, expecting Him to show up, and expecting something huge when I got to the top. I noticed that there were rain clouds in the north, and as someone who always loves rain, I presented God with a challenge:

“God,” I said, “if you love me, you’ll make it rain.” 

As I reach the top, I watch the clouds for a while as I rest. I saw a storm system develop in the north, then start to come south, dissipating as it covers the West Valley.  I spent about forty-five minutes at the summit, and although I felt I had some good thoughts as I prepared my descent, I knew something was missing. I still wanted rain. I still felt that God hadn’t answered me, and I thought maybe,  just maybe, it was the confirmation of my doubt. God sent no rain, therefore, He doesn’t love me.

“Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O LORD our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.” Jeremiah 14:22 (ESV)

As I came down though, I noticed something else. The wind started to pick up. The sky grew dark. All of the sudden, a storm was approaching the area around the mountain, and it was about to hit hard. I was confused – was I paying so little attention on my way down that a storm snuck up on me? I was a bit distracted as I tried to take pictures of the sunset, and I was trying to watch my feet so I didn’t impale myself on the jagged rocks, but I couldn’t have missed this coming in… could I? And that’s when I realized  — I spent all my time looking north, and the storm came from the south.

It rained all night long. Hours after I got home, I stared our the window as it continued to pour down. It rained a third of an inch that night, more than I’d seen in a long time. I laid in my bed, dumbstruck by the idea that God cared enough to send me the sign I’d ask for, amazed that He did it in a way I couldn’t predict, and I felt childish that I’d ever ask.

Please note: He didn’t take away my pain and hurt. I know a lot of people who have prayed “How could you let my mother die,” or “If you were good, you’d take away the cancer,” or “If you loved me, you wouldn’t have let him rape me.” And many of those people have walked away from God, not receiving satisfactory answers.

I don’t know what your pain is, how long you’ve dealt with it, or how many times you’ve asked God to make it stop. He may or may not – I have absolutely no idea why God does things the way that He does. But I have learned this — He wants to rain on you.  He wants you to know that He is there in the midst of your suffering. He wants you to know that He’s in control. He wants you to know that your pain isn’t meaningless and your prayers aren’t unheard. He has kept your tears in a bottle, and He has counted all of your sleepless nights. He has promised not to leave you to fend for yourself, but has committed Himself to fighting for you.

I challenge you, whenever you go through fire, ask for rain. If we actually believe that God is love and that He has our best interests in mind, and that He is willing to prove it time and time again, then we have no fear. He will meet you at the depth of your need, and give you the firm foundation in knowing that He is at work.

 

May you be blessed to experience the sacred rain.

 

 

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