Top 5 Weirdest Dudes

I’m currently blogging at church. I can’t not attend right now but goddamit I’m going to suffer through it by writing on my phone’s WordPress app.

Someone wrote on Reddit – “When you believe in something, you close your mind to wonder.” What a selfish, inane fucking statement.

Qualifiers for “top weird” – Having an unorthodox perspective that inspires one to question the nature of existence and allow wonder and imagination free reign.

Is that not, at it’s core, what belief is? In fairness, this person with no belief had, like millions before him, experienced faith mixed with the old natured man – The effects of sin over generations and generations that bleeds a river of pain tragedy and dullness through time.

I believe this to be true- we are free to believe wrong things. There must be something worthy, even wonderful, in people if they think something or someone is worth fighting for. It would seem to me a product of design.

Unregrettingly

I think I can carry on in this world. I am learning to trust again and be trusted deeply in return. I have found beauty blooming defiantly through the cracks.

“Do you guys go to dinner by yourself?”  She asked this to a friend of mine and me after church last night.

“Yes, I go to dinner by myself all the time. I do a lot of things alone.”

“I can’t do that. I can’t even go to church by myself.”

Hmm. This weekend I listened with a heavy yet hopeful heart to a beloved friend’s story of her experience with long term abuse and unhealthy relationships. God’s healing and continual redemption. For the past year or so, I have experienced more fully, questioned harder, angered more bitterly, listened more presently, conversed more slowly, sat in uncomfortable feelings longer, shouted louder, bullshitted unregrettingly, sang unfiltered. I lived more as my self intertwined with the Holy Spirit. Autocorrect thinks “unregrettingly” should be changed. I think it should be translated and adopted into the daily vernacular of every single language on this planet.

I want to sit with people in their junk. The PTSDs, the suicidal veterans. The abused traumatized child. Men and women who can’t find their place in this world. Who think they’re alone and can’t go anywhere without latching on to another person’s confidence and strength. Their voices will be heard – I will sing for them. There’s no guarantee I will find what I’m looking for in the military, in urban social work, in missions in countries with a GDP per citizen of a couple potatoes and the clothes on their back. But if I can find these people in a Christian church in suburban America- well- I think God has something to say about the dreams he’s given us, and why.

Have you ever held a human heart? In college, I took the opportunity to scientifically examine the internals of a cadaver of a woman who died just a couple days before. They removed the outer skin to “depersonalize” her before a bunch of smelly, indifferent students stuck their grubby, gloved hands between her large intestines and pancreas; her lungs and rib cage. (btw a healthy, non-smoker’s lung feels like squeezing one of those foam temperpedic mattresses – a smoker’s is like pinching fatty barbecue burnt on the grill). It seems, after these mortal bodies of ours give out, there is little physical evidence of our life stories, let alone our personalities and deepest soul desires and hurts. Some cigarette stained teeth here, a bit of discoloration of the organ there.

But what about her struggles as a child to please her father to receive a love she would never get from him? How her naivete and innocence were taken advantage of by her first boyfriend? The man who lost the father he loved at a pivotal time in his life, and hasn’t had many older men since then teach him who he is? The woman who says she never goes anywhere alone, but almost certainly experiences heartbreaking loneliness when she returns to her quieter moments?

I don’t know. I read through Hosea earlier. I want to say that I believe in redeeming love that confounds the wisdom of this universe. In a consuming flame of Divine Pursuit that penetrates the frozen stonewalls of millions of calloused, dulled, aching hearts. It’s more than we can carry.

“I can feel the warmth of morning on my face
Though the storm had tossed me
‘Til I thought I’d nearly lost my way
And now the night is fading and the storm is past
And everything that could be shaken was shaken
And all that remains is all I ever really had
What I’d have settled for
You’ve blown so far away
What You brought me to
I thought I could not reach
And I came so close to giving up
But You never did give up on me”

The Flight of the Philistine

The following is an article by Rich Mullins, released in 1993 in Release Magazine.

It was sometime near the end of the twentieth century, somewhere between England and France on a ferry loaded with bleary-eyed tourists and weary looking locals, sometime in the morning – a morning that had not distinguished itself with any kind of sunrise, one that was just kind of colorless and undark.

It was near the end of that cursed Age of Enlightenment, when the supreme God of Reason had puttered out and the court of the world was cluttered with computer clowns and information peddlers, where ideas passed hands like a currency that was not backed by gold. It was where and when I met her and she was pretty and mildly likeable and this was a conversation. And although her thoughts were vague, she voiced them with something that sounded like conviction.

She said, “I don’t believe in war. I can’t imagine anything that would make someone want to fight another human being, let alone kill one. I don’t believe in war and if everyone wouldn’t believe in it, then we could all be at peace.”

Of course, you can never be sure what someone means when they talk about peace or belief or most anything else, but I wasn’t too sold on the idea that disbelief in war would bring about peace. I felt kind of embarrassed – kind of Philistine. I could easily imagine wanting to fight another human being. I could imagine hunger and I could imagine (or, more honestly, I could remember) greed. I could imagine rage over injustice and I could imagine honest (even if mistaken) fear. I could imagine a woman two men would wrangle over. I’d like to be the sort of man two women might quarrel over. I can imagine, remember and even presently see a lot of things that would make someone want to fight another person. And worse, I suspect that a world emptied of these things would be no more peaceful – it would just be more dead.

The person who doesn’t believe in gravity is no more apt to fly than the person who does believe in it. Chances are, the person who believes in gravity (who recognizes it, studies it, appreciates its power and properties and comes to terms with them) is more likely to discover the secret of flight than the person who denies the reality of weight. They will mount up with wings like eagles while the others sink into desperate, deliberate and useless denial. They both will dream but one will wake in flight and the other will crush himself in the comfort of sleep.

We walk by faith and not by sight – not because we are blind, but because faith gives us the courage to face our fears and puts those fears in a context that makes them less frightful. We walk by faith and not by sight because there are places to go that cannot be seen and the scope of our vision is too small for our strides. Faith is not a denial of facts – it is a broadening of focus. It does not deny the hardness of guitar strings, it plucks them into a sweetness of sound.

I don’t know how that sets at the present – it probably sounds foolish – but I wish I could have said something like that (only more persuasive and even mildly brilliant) to that girl on the ferry that morning on the English Channel on this end of the Age of Enlightenment, so near to yet another century of war and longing for peace and faith and denial and gravity and flight. Maybe I’ll meet her there, maybe you will. She’s very pretty – brown hair and eyes and all. If you see her, tell her that the Philistine on the ferry is flying and at peace and that he hopes she is as well. Tell her, “we walk by faith and not by sight.” We fly that way, too.

cliffs

though the hand of the wicked man prospers

lost boys buy caged girls in rundown hotels

and blind beggars lay down on the sidewalks

never finding rest

though the daughter hates the mother

the weary son despises the father

and none are able to to name it

a place to call home

though the decay paints creation

with a sadness of a fallen eden

misting in the eyes of the dying chieftain

last of his kind

though cruel emperors spill blood

belonging to other’s veins

and the widow cancels her future

her back bent to the ground

though i stand in the ruins of my former world

and all i have known is ripped from my hands

though you slay me

yet i will trust you

these cliffs, these jagged edges

are where you are building your Kingdom

i awoke in the house of God

Exiles, Immigrants, Pilgrims*

En Route to the Bay Area

En Route to the Bay Area

I. Exiles

Last week I was in the San Francisco Bay area for three days, attending a wedding. My cousin’s bride’s family is El Salvadoran. He is half European-American (because I do not know where Caucasia is on the globe) and Filipino, my biological family’s ancestry. For three days, mostly by car ride and shared meals, I watched and listened as my dad, aunts, uncles and cousins caught up logistically and recounted stories of life as it has become in the United States. Finally being able to connect who goes where and put faces to them . . . my whole perspective just blew up, richly. Jesus. You are a wild man.

    II. Immigrants

I quietly noted reactions, traditions and implied expectations in conversation. In many of their voices, there is uncertainty… fear… even when they were surface questions directed towards me and the place in life I am. One of my cousins just recently left the Philippines last year to live and work in America. Even with job security and surrounding family comfort it was unable to erase the worry I felt from them. We’re far from home, our homesick hearts softly sing. I can’t take it sometimes. There is beauty here, but  much tragedy and suffering. The dullness of hearts in the church. Boston explosions. Side by side with the compassionate and brave first responders and the dissonant (yet oh so harmonious) voices who will speak for those without.  My home is wherever You are.

III. Pilgrims

What now? Each of us return to the battlefield as it is for every individual. It was surreal to hear my dad and uncles casually talk about their preferred interring method such as cremation. Where the heck am I? I would probably choose burning or a sky burial. I may go back to the Philippines for a short time next year. My surviving grandmother will not remember me. Neither do I have any memory of her from my toddler years. But I will remember her. The history of my family and our people. Their tenacity and fighting will to live and seek a better life. How toilet paper and running water is mostly a luxury on most of the islands.

What now? I will try everything, risk everything, hope all things, believe all things, fight ferociously and love lavishly and with furious abandon. Whether that is teaching music on a reservation, social justiceing, forest ranging, horse ranching and homesteading, video gaming, novel writing,  language translating, or absolutely none of the above. One way or the other, I will cross the finish line. I want to be as ragged and battle hardened as I can be when I reach the other side of the Jordan.

Led by the Spirit of love, onwards through the night. I will march on. No weapon formed against me shall prosper.

“What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

*coincidentally, the title of a book I plan on writing

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Back to Life (Double Entendres?)

Happy 12/12/12, self and non-existent reader! Today is the last three of a kind date in my earthly lifetime. Speaking of which, how cool would it be if we counted in base 12? Sooo much easier. Think about it.

Allow me to deliver a quick really real life oopdate while I ‘m a a non-productive member of society who will inevitably have no time to reflect or jot down important things because his future self will be too busy. Hopefully sarcasm. 😦

  • I am learning music theory plus sight reading after something like 7+ years of just knowing how to read tabs and chords for the instruments I play. Goal: To finally finish writing songs instead of leaving them hanging, and to be able to play the game music I absolutely adore (mostly Chrono Trigger) and to teach kids not just how to play, but why.
  • I’ve picked up some basic acrylics and some good medium and fine detailing brushes. (Still need a blocking brush and awaiting some canvases I ordered.) Haven’t painted since high school.
  • After baking a blueberry banana crumble for the ranch, roughly 8 people and a dog proceeded to devour all of it. I’m not usually receptive to praise, but it felt good to hear their genuine delight. I’ve become a much better cook and baker. Things are more natural and integrating different flavors, spices and ingredients has become more intuitive. If I get to my golden years I will likely open a bakery/restaurant.
  • The Spirit has been cultivating the “Charismatic” side of me, which until this last year, has been dulled and veiled by religiosity and disbelief. While I would “rather speak five words in understanding then a thousand in tongues” as far as teaching goes, I’m beginning to appreciate the sacredness of the prayer language I’ve been given. My heart and soul are warmed supernaturally as I commune with God this way. I desire to interpret tongues. I’ve also become more confident in His ability and authority. I’ve got a roaring lion in me!
  • On a related note, haters need to back off Bethel Church. Certainly, when humans are involved, a little or a lot of flesh gets tossed into the bowl. But when Jesus is being lifted up, infirmities are being healed, veils are being cast off, well. Am I going to go with that sexiness or the grumpy dudes who are just sowing division and controversy among the family? I’ve been that guy. It’s not worth it.
  •  I miss raw, genuine musical worship. My visit to Bethel in May was the last time I can remember believers worshiping in spirit and truth without compromising the source and focus for entertainment value, inflated emotion, or to otherwise serve the flesh. It’s a rare thing. Someday, Lord desiring, I want to return to leading worship.
  • Before, I would say “I don’t like people, but I love them.” This is still true.  Yet as much as I have vagabond soul impulses, I’m slowly but surely disliking the idea of doing what Salinger did at any point in my life- it wouldn’t be right. I’ve all but given up the plan I had to be homeless for awhile because it lost any and all purpose (if it had any).
  • My point is that I’ve become a lot more gracious with myself and others by the freedom I find in the Holy Spirit. While I still have my douchebag radar on (and why would I give that up? It’s come in handy) I enjoy hoping for others, believing for them without any conditional expectations. At the same time accepting that I often have nothing to offer this person, but Jesus will. He’s got dat authority.

May your Christmas be massed with Christ, non-existent reader. I’ll probably see you in the new year, if the world didn’t end as they say it will. (ZOMG WALKING DEAD SOOO GAH BUT SOO GUD).

I would dominate the zombie apocalypse.

Image

Hazelnut Lattes

Last night my car got towed out of some parking lot by campus. It would have been a ridonkulous amount of monopoly money to pick it up immediately, so I decided to pick it up in the morning for a significantly reduced fee. Prior to this, my beloved campus ministry had its weekly meeting with a hangout afterwards. Ok. Good. Now you have some context, dear nonexistent reader.

I figured it out. Why people ask what I do and where I go to school and what I am studying. You know, super shitty superficial questions. It would be fine. But they just stop there. They do not follow up with anything deeper to even make me think I’m being cared about for who I am beneath what I do. I realized, after they hear my response, they are quiet for some time. In their minds, they’re trying to see if their identity is comparable to mine so they can validate their life’s framework. There are patterns and constants and I am a repeated variable! Every event and relationship leading up to our meeting affirms this belief.

That is to say, I must mean something and have a place in this world because of these external factors, right? You know, I think I will answer every lame question and its bloated kinfolk with claiming to be a hobo who hops trains from place to place. It makes people feel better about themselves and I can vicariously live as a freewheeling McCandless in that fiction. Really simplifies things.

The people in my brief human life who I’ve connected with the most have never given a flying fart about my education or career, as crazy as that almost sounded typing that on my keyboard. I flip through pages of memories, and I know I am absolutely correct when I say this- these souls are content to just be. To be who they were made to be by the God who has given us everything- to love and be loved, to listen and be listened to in return. Why is this trait so rare? And why does it seem like I don’t appreciate those who just are like they deserve, like a masterwork painting or a delicately spun hazelnut latte? They are enduring pathlights, and if any of you happen to read this twenty years from now- thank you for walking with me, sitting with me, being with me.

Jane, an older redheaded lady who let me into the impound lot, responded to my question with a snippet, a glimpse of a world where people treat each other terribly.

“Well, everyone hates me at this job and half the time I get blamed for it.”

Well goddamnit, I thought with a new determination. With my signature roguish grin I told her,

“I don’t blame you. It was my fault. I think you’re doing fine.”

If I were a betting man, I’d go 1000:1 odds to say that was the first time she had ever been asked how her week has been at her present job by a client or her bosses. Fuck that nonsense. I won’t stand for that.

This woman is a treasure, a daughter, an heir to the riches of a King who is not the least bit stingy with his gifts. He will seat her at his table, a place of honor and unmatched intimacy. I’ll believe this for her until it becomes real to her and anyone who thinks that life has dealt them a poor hand or that they don’t meet some asinine standard. I will wring my bones out against all odds for Steve, the man who lost it all, whom I met at the winter shelter. Until he realizes his pockets are already filled and are bursting at the seams.

People will say it can’t be done, but it’s too late. I can’t be stopped. Jesus has given me songs to drown out the murmur and the weapons to conquer what is already a victory in his fierce wake.

“So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future– all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

through rolling breakers and crushes

I will not be moved an inch

There are many things a younger me would never have expected his future self in 2012 to do. Some of those things I will briefly list.

– Leave in the night to go on his first road trip as an adult- to the Grand Canyon

– Puke his guts out with 300 other people on a boat getting thrashed by 10 ft. waves

– Help build a couple hundred lb. wooden cross and carry it up a mountain

– Leave in the middle of the night to drive solo to Northern California for a wedding

– Be completely content as a single man with the greatest lover in Jesus

– Decide I actually want to get married and have kids

– Build an entire computer system from parts in a couple hours

– Learn to play the ukulele and the harmonica

– Drive two hours to L.A. to visit a friend

About that last one. . ..  She is genuine. She loves Jesus. She has a great sense of humor and is fun to be around. I knew these things two years ago- but ever since she moved for college- it’s been out of sight, out of mind. A couple weeks ago, I spontaneously decided to ask her if I could come up to hang out with her and have a jam session.

Before I knew it, I was at her front door and… well? Infinitesimally minor yet Wholly Significant. You know in that list above how I mentioned being completely content as a single man? That has been the truest thing this last year. However, the full story is simple. I fell in love with Jesus. After the hot air balloon of my aggregated years of pushing and concerted effort floated away and popped, I just collapsed. He was there to catch me and apply the salve of his grace onto the bone-deep cuts of yesteryear.

Madly, completely, ruined in love.  But here we were, emphatically conversing about the refining, fiery nature of God in a Thai restaurant. She already knows I think she’d make a good mother. Good friends can hear that well.

Fast forward a couple weeks later, a late night conversation in a car with a friend. His ex-girlfriend recently killed herself.

I had a friend who shot himself in the head with a shotgun in his bathroom. A couple weeks before, I had held that weapon, been inside that bathroom. I remember ignoring one of his calls in the weeks leading up to his suicide. The bright screen of my cell and his name appearing on top of the muted shadows and black gradient of a nacent evening drive.

I don’t trust my emotions. I still feel them like bricks in the small of my back. Where’s the resolution? to wondering the “could be’s” and “could’ve beens” of a distant event and present memory, an indelible present and distant possibility- and the eternal bloom of unchanging, ineffable communion with the Divine King…?

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Birthday Bucket

A birthday bucket

Around the healthy age of 7 and 8 years. I would go to my friends’ birthday parties, and after all the roughhousing our tiny frames could handle, their mom would send us home with small buckets (or bag, or similar container) in tow. Now, if their family was somewhat well off, we’d probably find an assortment of good candy (M&Ms, Jolly Ranchers) and an Etch-a-sketch among the pencils & erasers. Most of the time I’d get Twizzlers, Sweethearts and their disgusting, mutant friends (candy buttons?).

My uncle had a birthday party a week ago. It would have been like any and all of the other  family gatherings, had he not called for a time testimonies and prayer. He shared how he died as a child, and when the doctor gave up and left, the faith of his mother and her close friend gave way to sight. He came back to life. God was faithful then, and he is alive today to bless His heart and others with acts and words of grace. Now let me clarify something- I knew my aunt and uncle were Christian, but this circle of witnesses to faithfulness completely rocked my view of them, forever. I didn’t know any of their names, but one after another, the ten or so of my uncle’s friends relayed stories of how Jesus walked them through cancer, disease, quadruple bypasses, helplessness. Nearly all of them came to America with barely any pesos to get them through the month, and they only had the shirt on their back (though knowing a bit of the Filipino psyche, I know they had to have smuggled a few clean pairs of underwear somehow). They wanted a better life for themselves, and for their children- my sister and I’s generation. Our strong and tender Father gave them that and more.

My parents, sister, brother-in-law, and my cousins (of my generation) are not exactly the most “Christian” people one would meet on a street and opine that they must be very religious folk. Neither am I, before we forget. They were listening. Intently. Later on  my dad would sarcastically comment that he was practically falling asleep in there. I recall that is the first time I could not laugh at one of his normally funny quips. The Spirit was gently whispering something. A brief silence passed and he asked if we do that at my church, “the one where the pastor talks too fast”. He and mom watched one of my dance performances a couple years back. I nodded and told him yes.

Some days later, my own birthday would come and go; I would find myself with my family at an Argentinian restaurant. We are a very introverted bunch, aside from my mom. My dad, sister, brother-in-law and I mostly chowed down and commented on the out-of-this-world sweet potato fries and steak while my mom and dad took pictures of the food and us. Normal stuff, really. Non-coincidentally, a friend I met through Intervarsity(this warrants another story, but we’ll save that for another time. It’s a really good one.) was at this restaurant the same night we were, and came over to our table to say hello. I knew he went abroad, so I hadn’t seen him in a year. He got back a month ago from teaching English in Iraq. Did I mention he was also a beekeeper? Gentle soul. Outside, before we nightcapped with some froyo, my dad asked me about him. I said that we used to visit mosques together and hang out with Muslims.

Sunday night church- I ended up sitting behind a row of ASL teachers and deaf visitors. Sign language happens to be one of my favorite communication methods, and I plan on becoming fluent. Not by chance, my friend who also knows some of the language ended up sitting next to me. I love ASL worship. In the sermon, our pastor made a comment about circumcision. Those of us who were watching the translator watched her dance around the vocabulary and the front right corner of the auditorium burst into laughter. The baptisms began. There were ten or so souls who had a fresh touch from God share a bit of why they wanted to be immersed. I love baptisms. Up until recently (a nebulous term with my atypical sense of time) I didn’t understand their purpose, neither was I aware of the fruit of it. Why did John baptize? How come baptism is commanded? Even having been through the initiation myself in the coldest of oceans, I never quite figured it out until I got to help dunk a friend. Applause and uproarious celebrations.

Ten friends who have seen it hit the fan time and time again. The dreams they dreamed. Our generations lives today as an irrefutable testament to them becoming reality. Their hope is permanently fixated on one Healer, one Source of comfort. One family going from dysfunctional, to functional, to looking like hey, we may never be great conversationalists around each other, but we enjoy each other’s company. Ten former strangers initiated into a family of friends who are standing up for and standing with their local body of believers. They are beginning to dream, to find their strength in You as they traverse the highways to Zion.

As I dragged various buckets towards the drainage grates outside, inevitably the warm, tepid water splashed onto my glasses, my face and all over my shirt and jeans. We couldn’t find the pump to empty the baptism pool so a group of men I am truly stoked to call brothers grabbed empty trash cans and containers from backstage to begin the mission. The disgusting, sweat filled water washed off the last of my disillusionment. Births can happen in two ways. What I was grateful to witness this past week is a revelation of God I hope to share with those who’ve come before, to those just beginning, to the souls yet to come but already destined to experience grace and the presence of the King who is Wholeness. In fact, what I saw were births and labor pains that were not caused by human will or flesh, but of God. 

I feel like I can dust off that part of me that loves a good fight. I’m pumped to watch Jesus take back from the strong man and free the captives. He will rescue the dead and cast off shackles. The time of labor will be over; and I will witness God reconcile the nations to himself in time for the greatest party ever to be thrown. I can only imagine the birthday buckets he’ll have then.

obsession

Stone stacking

Jesus is all I can think about. I should be doing “productive” activities, like making fat monies and marrying a sweet honey. Then I can pop out tiny, crying humans with her. I could also be working out my nearly-diamond-on-the-Mohs-scale mussculls.

Nope.

One of my pastors quoted Philippians 4:8, and you know what all I could think about is? Did you guess right, friend? Yup. It was Jesus Christ. It is him. All day, every day, it’s GTL (God’s Triumphant Love). I know what you’re thinking. “Broseph, bro, my man, you are off your rocker.” Perhaps. I will concede one thing- God is in love with me, and there is no way around it. I’ve tried dodging to the left, turning on my cloak implant, doing a barrel roll, all of it! Alas, his arrow still hits my bullseye and knocks me flat on my arse (potential non-existent wife reader, take note that I didn’t specify which mussculls are diamond-hard).

The stupefying nature of it all. I don’t want to get up! I was reminded of a potent truth last week at the ranch and at my church’s zombie course. We are always children. Annoying, mostly self-focused, obsessed about something we want. As awkward, yearning teenagers. Up to the prime of our adulthood. Through our midlife existential crises and when we feel like invalid retirees, thinking we are losing control.

I want to lose control! Far be it from me that I should ever tamper with any semblance of it in the first place! The One with all the authority, let him wave his hand over my life to make the flowers bloom and the tree branches grow. I am okay with him doing that now.

I think my soul is paraphrasing Steffany Frizzell (now Gretzinger, as she got married the week before I visited Bethel Redding. I can forgive her absence now- she was getting busy. Yeah baby!) when I say God just happens to be the perfect father, the most intimate lover, and the best friend I could ever ask for.

The Holy Spirit confirms this wonderful revelation in many forms, many fashions. He loves us, he likes us, he wants the best for us. Jesus is stoked about our lives- he crafted us tenderly, with such care (Have you examined your body lately? I mean besides what I do, which is checking out my six-pack in the mirror.  Our eyes are masterpieces! As are we.) He thinks we’re pretty cool. He wants to stir our souls towards beauty. He wants to ravish our hearts fully with delight and joy. If he has his way, boy, watch out. If he has his way, I think it’s safe to say we’re boned.

God is obsessed with us.