I’ve found the words if I could just stop thinking.
The room is spinning, I have got no choice.
Be patient, I am getting to the point.
- Spinning
, Jack’s Mannequin

Slow down. It’s spinning and I have no control over it. I have to let it spin, hold on for the next few weeks until I can reenter the life I want to live with the people I want to live it with. Too much has been lost this year, but much has been gained as well. The question is: what do I have to show institutions for these eight months of my life? Will they even care?

My head spins when I look too far ahead into a future that doesn’t exist. My mistakes in the present, the result of my poverty, make it hard to see a bright future ahead. Living in the now has meant living for momentary satisfaction, what I’ve needed to cope with life as it is right now. I can understand the plight of others, the mindset of living just to meet needs and feel secure for a day. With this understanding, I must move forward and work to gain the confidence and ambition that is needed to live this life successfully.


I know his secret.

He’s beautiful, but I don’t tell him that. You see, he has a secret and I know it now. I can’t let on that I know, because it’s his secret and his alone to hold onto or to tell the world. I just get to be one of the few that holds onto his secret, just as I hold onto my own secrets and the secrets of others. In many ways, his secret is that he is the same as me, that although we have so much in common, we would have more in common if we could talk about that secret. What would happen if we could depend on one another?


The letter (into the future)

Happiness feels a lot like sorrow. Let it be. You can’t make it come or go…
Happiness damn near destroys you, breaks your faith to pieces on the floor. So you tell yourself, “That’s enough for now.” But happiness has a violent roar.
– Happiness
, The Fray

I may have finally had the bad day I’ve been wanting for so long. I need a bad day every once in awhile to remind me of how good I really do have it. I need days with some sorrow, some grief, some emotions I can’t even describe. I got that today, and the only way to deal with it was to listen to music and write a letter to someone in the future.

I have a feeling I will remember this day for a long time to come. I have the letter to show for it, and someday it will go to who it’s supposed to. This gives me hope.

To my friend in the future,
I love you... That’s the most important thing. Mark 12:30-31 says to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s what I’m trying to do with my life. I hope that you pursue those same things. I know you do. Keep being the loving, generous person that you are.


Fifteen days

The blonde, the cat lady, the best friend, the newlyweds, the sixteen year-old, and the idealist—these are the people that the summer of 2009 has revolved around. Everyone that I’ve wanted to spend time with, I’ve done so about every fifteen days. These people make my life interesting. They give me opportunities to just be, without asking for anything in return. In fact, I sometimes find myself unwinding and talking only about myself when I’m around them, for it seems like I have to take every opportunity I can to process my thoughts and figure out where I’m at in this moment in time. However, the conversations are all starting to sound the same, and I begin to wonder if I’m actually moving forward or just stuck in this moment.

Having four months of summer gives one an opportunity to create and progress in one’s life. I’m not sure it was meant to be a standstill moment where one waits until life begins again at his or her school or university. Traditional college students are stuck in the routine of life they’ve had since they were five, perhaps even four years old, which is life lived from fall to spring, the demands of education being the demands of life. Summers during one’s childhood are full of laughter and play, but what are summers supposed to be for the young adult still in the educational schedule? Even my friends who pursued their Master’s degree right after their undergrad still find themselves waiting for life to begin come August or September. My friends who become teachers may never get out of this routine.

I wonder if the day will come for me when life won’t have to be lived out of suitcases and storage containers. These days a few clothes packed away, money, identification, and a means of transportation are my freedom to go where I please, to live life anywhere. It feels good to know I have this freedom, but on days when I actually use my given opportunities, I long for a home.

So much relies on a big man in his late forties, beaten down by the hardships of life and the mixed up chemicals in his brain. My sense of home, my sense of security, my sense of family; he holds these loosely.

I think I’ve seen them all in the last fifteen days. I’ve spent time with them, and others, trying to figure out who I am and how I got here and how they became my friends and family. That’s enough for now, but what happens come September?


Our Father, music, or humanity?

“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant that you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t know that your life is better, or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away; make you something different in an instant.” –George, Life As A House

As we stood in the dark singing, “Don’t let me go,” I couldn’t help but wonder who we were singing to? Was Isaac leading us in worship to Our Father, or to the god of music, or to the greatness of humanity?

Just three years ago I considered myself a worshiper with no boundaries. I found freedom in worship—freedom which meant being comfortable closing my eyes, raising my hands, and dancing. Over time, this comfort began to decrease. I began to criticize other worshipers because I saw those who experienced emotion in worship but no depth in life. I wonder if that was me back then. I wonder how I got here.

The difference between me then and now is the depth in my life and the way in which I experience worship. I don’t limit myself to the traditional worship experience, though I do find that worship services are some of the most meaningful times in my life. Instead, I believe that when I appreciate Creation, when I try to love others and do something selfless, when I ‘let go and let God,’ I worship because of my enchantment with the world and the presence of Almighty God in it.

Getting here has been such a slow change that I didn’t even realize it until Sunday night when I found myself worshiping with a crowd of thousands. I’m just not sure we were all worshiping the same thing. I’m not even sure if I was only worshiping Our Father. I may just have well been worshiping the music or the accomplishments of humanity. I wonder if well-played loud music in a dark setting with deliberately bright lighting on the players may just create a certain emotion and physical reaction for human beings. What is the purpose of a concert anyway? What is the purpose of a concert setting in a worship service? What does it mean that I acted the same way at a concert this week as I did just a few years ago in worship services?


Too young and too dumb: part 2

No one ever taught me how to be a son. It’s what I’ve always been expected to be just by being born into this world, but no one taught me how to fulfill this social role. Further, how was I supposed to know that this role would change over the course of one day, my 21st birthday, which I wasn’t even home to experience?

I live with my dad for about 5 months of the year, while the rest I spend living on my university campus, soaking up the independence I’ve gained over the last three years. That kind of independence is what I share with my peers, but I’ve always been more of an independent person than most. How is it that someone like me, so young and so dumb, has been able to grow up so fast?

I find it all too common for young people my age to have conflict with the same sex parent. Daughters resent their mothers and sons resent their fathers. As an adult son, I’ve been trying to work through my feelings toward my father that have developed over my childhood so that our relationship as two adults can be rooted in love and understanding. It’s extremely difficult, though, dealing with my emotions when I have an emotionally absent father. Or is it the other way around? Does he have too many mood swings? Have I lost the ability to feel? Have I never formed an attachment?

I watched the film Life As A House once today already, and I’m currently watching it now. Honestly, I could have cried several times throughout the film—if I could actually cry ever. I have these romantic notions of a perfect father/son relationship, and I know it will never happen for me. I don’t have a father like George, someone who wants to pursue me, and I’m too resolved to the fact that my father will never know me intimately. We can’t communicate on the same level—I guess I’m always trying to be better than him. Dad cries and wallows in depression because he sees himself as a failure. As much as I tell him he isn’t or doesn’t have to be, I also believe it’s true. So, I have to be “better.” I think some walls between us are just permanent, that we could never tear them down and rebuild a beautiful relationship. We’re simply individuals, he in danger of losing everything and I just starting life.

Too young and too dumb: part 1

I’ve been around for a little over twenty years,
And to anyone who needs advice on getting here
Don’t ask me, the path I took was not exactly by the book.

I was too young to know and too dumb to figure out
That you can lose yourself in all this traveling around,
And you can reach a point of no return
Losing touch with lessons learned…

And the only way to love yourself:
Giving love to someone else.
Don’t believe in everything you hear.
Growing up is more than simply living through the years…

So it took a little time to get this right.
The guilty and the innocent are always side by side.

I’ll be me, and you be you.

--Jon McLaughlin, The Middle

During the summer months when it can be hardest for college students to live fulfilled lives, I’ve found that I have been sustained by the blessings of friendship. Though it seems I have abandoned or set aside some relationships for the time being, there are also the select few that I have been able to consistently nurture, which I find benefits all involved. One of the greatest difficulties of growing up in our socially networked world is having the ability to know about everyone, but at the same time being clueless about who people really are. I ask those who want to get to know me to make the effort, while I also try to make the effort to truly know some of the people that I’m surrounded with. I admit that I may not want to know you as much as you want to know me, and maybe there are those that I want to get to know who don’t care to know me. What are we to do with that?

I’m reminded of something a friend once told me. Some friendships are only for a time, while others are life long. When you start one, you never know which it’s going to be.



I’ll give you this confession
I am taking you with me

I get the feeling we're so misdirected

I get the feeling we have lost control
Til then I'll turn you to the new religion
We're dropping out into the so unknown
- Drop Out-The So Unknown, Jack’s Mannequin

Although there are so many loved ones that I would like to take along on this journey, I find that I have abandoned more than I have taken with. If I ever think that my personal journey is more important than that of another, I am dreadfully mistaken. We’re all just trying to take our own journeys into the unknown, facing reality as we know it, and somehow wanting others to journey with us.

There are some of you that I have started taking with me. You don’t even know it yet. You and I are headed to the unknown destination just because we love each other and share dreams and direction. Have we dropped out of reality? Maybe. Maybe not. Keeping our lives centered in the present, we can know what’s real and what’s not and share ideals and values that we think can change the world. If we’re misdirected, how do we know it?

I have no power over your religion. It’s yours to find, but how I wish that you would listen to me and let me turn you to mine. It’s about love. It’s about concern for the poor. It’s about grace and redemption. It’s about creation. When you can understand where I’m coming from, the ups and downs of the journey so far, perhaps you will turn to this religion—the religion of the unkown.



Each day I seek to find ways to make this body better. I somehow hold the key that gives life to my doomed flesh. As I eat, drink, and run, I do so with purpose and determination. All I want to do is live. I don’t take my breaths for granted any more. I feel them. There is life flowing through my lungs, my veins, my muscles, and I am growing stronger.

In this critical time, I have learned that sacrifice and dedication are worth the price for the achievement of the goal ahead. I love this discipline, but it scares me. I’ve spent so much of my life being flexible and undisciplined that I fear this is only for a moment, that I will fail at this and be unsatisfied with who I become. I want any physical changes to compliment the progress I make in learning to live. I want my body, mind, and spirit to be fully connected, dependent on each other, not living separate lives.

Has running become my new religion? If so, what progress is that? It’s just one more change, one new lifestyle to adapt to, not the person anyone would expect me to be, a person I doubted I ever would be, but somehow I’m here.



I wonder still if it’s freedom or fearlessness that I truly desire. For I know this: freedom bound within the confines of a system is worthy of respect. Fearlessness often looked at as freedom outside of a system, can bring much glory or much criticism. And there are times when I think I want both. There are times when I see social norms as safe and life-giving, and times when there is much oppression and misunderstanding. Community standards and expectations do serve a purpose, but have they limited my friends from exploring the world and experiencing grace and truth?

When speaking the truth meant handing over a friend to discipline, I had to try to make sense of what consequences I would be bringing upon myself and others. I had to decide that speaking the truth meant my friend would learn a lesson and possibly modify his behaviors and attitudes. I had to ask myself if my truth was really the truth worth possibly losing a friend over. I had to ask if this is what accountability should look like. I was convicted in that moment, knowing that stepping into that office made me vulnerable to attacks and criticisms on every side. Telling the truth in that moment was either a way to wake up my friend or a door to my own fall and hypocrisy.

Though he kicked and screamed for a moment, he found the new pain was bearable. Getting caught breaking their community standards wasn’t the worst that had happened to him. He said he learned his lesson, but I cannot say for sure that he has, that he won’t break those standards again. In fact, I know he will. I also know that he answers to a higher Authority, and I cannot decide how to discern if that Authority has given authority to the institution. Further, I now want the clarity he has that somehow the institution is wrong. The reason I know he will break their standards is because I have, and we are forever linked. As I watch the powers of the world conflict with the powers above, I cannot help but become more confused in knowing exactly when heavenly Authority has been bestowed upon the kingdoms of this earth. I wonder if when I choose to submit to anyone, in some ways I am denying Our Father and not fully submitting to the Son.

So I can’t decide, and may never be able to decide, if I’m Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Reformed, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, Protestant, or whatever way you want me to label my religion. If I commit to one, I deny some of the great mystery and attribute of our God, the one and only Father, Son, and Spirit. Perhaps it is only in the mystery of the Trinity that I can find both fearlessness and freedom.


I must clean this up and move forward.

The ants have invaded, and I must decide how to react. I can remember back to the last time my life was invaded by ants. Everyone around me reacted differently. Some could care less. Others found it horribly disgusting. Some pointed blame. Others quietly and humbly cleaned up the mess. I was in the company of many then. I am almost alone now.

I don’t know whether to be angry at myself or at him. I know that I am not responsible for him and that the mess left behind was primarily my own. But, somehow, I can’t take full responsibility for the ants. I can, however, note that the ants are only a symptom of something else, deeper issues in life at home. I suppose rather than pass blame or get angry about this situation; I should just clean up the mess. I must clean this up and move forward. I can only hope that by keeping this space clean the ants will not return.

I need a helper, and I have become so bad at asking for help. I need someone to see the mess and come alongside me with a plan to help clean it up. Once it’s clean, I feel then I can let others in. Until then, I think I will push others away, or wait to go to them and not let them come to me. Not everyone can be so intimately involved. It’s not normal for me to show hospitality, but the day is coming when that will change.


Take the vows.

The religion that I thought I was lacking is not lost. It has been here all along. I have always had a religion, a devotion to Our Father, a faith. When I said that I am almost ready to say goodbye, I mean only to say goodbye to a past lacking in understanding and depth. As I pursue a deeper calling, I wonder if it is almost time to take the vows.

Poverty. Chastity. Obedience.

These historic vows have been taken by the greatest leaders of our Faith for centuries. Although they may not be necessary, I find them so vital for living a deeper life. These life-giving vows are promises to God to put aside the extra gifts of this world to pursue the Faith with more vigor.

Before I can take these vows, I need to find my place in the Church. I need to find a place to call home, where others can hold me to the calling that I know is there and where I can use my gifts and calling in faithful service to Our Father and to my brothers and sisters in the world.


Say goodbye.

Say goodbye, say goodbye to the girl next door
She don’t exist, she’s only in your head.
Say hello, say hello as you’re walking out the door
To yourself and to your past, they don’t exist anymore.
- Say Goodbye, Jeremy Junkin

"When I dwell with you, I do so in the present—I live in the present. Not that past, although much can be remembered and learned by looking back, but only for a visit, not an extended stay… [Imagining the future] is your desperate attempt to get some control over something you can’t. It is impossible for you to take power over the future because it isn’t even real, nor will it ever be real." - Jesus, in William P. Young's "The Shack"

If you and I haven’t met up or spoken for over a year, please don’t treat me like nothing has changed. Sometimes I think we hold back from being ourselves to keep up appearances. Making small talk can be one of the most dangerous things that old friends do. Instead of pretending that things are as they were we must remember that the past doesn’t exist and should only be visited for a short time. Yes, old friends need to catch each other up, but in such a way that gives dignity to both. If it’s been a year, assume I am someone you don’t know anymore, and ask me even the most basic questions. You may be surprised by what you find out.

I can feel Deep calling to deep. I can’t explain it. It keeps me up at night, my legs restless to walk out into the dark to find it. The most sacred places in the world are calling my name. They tell me to come, take off my sandals and kneel on holy ground. My innermost being wants an escape from mundane suburban life. If it means that I have to take those vows to find fulfillment, I will do that. You may not agree with everything about my religion, and not even do I understand its institutionalization. Look at me and how I practice. I just want grace, and I know where to find it. I eat the bread, I drink the cup, and I am satisfied. It is now that I see that nothing but full devotion will make sense to me. When my deep answers the Call of the Deep I will be in the world, serving the world—a bondservant to Our Father because of my vows.

I am almost ready to say goodbye.


Show me what I'm looking for.

In the silence, I meet lust. Not because I wanted him to be there, just because it was quiet enough for him to come out; my Tempter—always waiting for that moment when my focus is off.

Grace, redemption, and faithful and true love are evident in the Mysterious One. Through him I moved forward in understanding what the Kingdom of God is like. I have to share this story with you in its most pure and intimate form to help you understand. There’s something you must know about Our Father.

If the Mysterious One only knew what he was doing that morning was so easily turned into my temptation. He laid there on the couch, shirtless, rubbing his stomach so sensually. He laid there reading, playing with his navel, not taking any notice that I was watching. I could have continued to sit there watching, dreaming, lusting, and even getting angry at his tempting me. I struggled enough with him as it was. I had to leave. I had to leave and be angry for awhile—at him, at myself, at my Tempter.

“We need silence in our lives. We even desire it. But when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing ‘noises’ present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger, or many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face.

“What are we to do? Jesus says, ‘Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice’ (Matthew 9:13). Sacrifice here means ‘offering up,’ ‘cutting out,’ ‘burning away,’ or ‘killing.’ We shouldn’t do that with our lust and anger. It simply won’t work. But we can be merciful toward our own noisy selves and turn these enemies into friends.” –Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

As I learned to befriend my emotions that day I found that I could be merciful to myself, but also that others had mercy to offer me, including the Mysterious One. The Mysterious One, recognizing his own death, has allowed himself to say what Our Father would have him say, to do what Our Father would have him do, and even to be silent when Our Father would have him do so. That night Our Father had the Mysterious One give me all the love and affection I needed to redeem the day. Just when I thought that the Mysterious One was my tempter, I realized that Our Father had greater power than my Tempter.

In the silence, in the stillness, I must not be afraid to ask Our Father to show me what I’m looking for.


A Mother's Love

When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.” And in my hour of darkness She is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, “Let it be.”

Sometimes I forget what a mother’s love is like. I haven’t received love from my mother in almost five years now. I’ve received love from other mothers and mother figures, but it will never be the same as the love that my mother had to give. And I will never be able to give love in a way that a mother can. While I do hope to raise children someday, I can only show them the love of a father. Because of the absence of motherly love in my life, this love is such a mystery to me, but I think I know where to find it.

Mary is the Mother Love of God personified. She is the Chosen One, full of grace, obedience, compassion, and tenderness, abounding in love for the Son she was chosen to raise. And she has done much more than that. She has raised sons and daughters alike throughout the generations, and has fought on behalf of her children during times of trouble. She teaches us to live at peace with everyone, reminding us to take life for what it is and accept what the Father gives us.

Hail Mary,
Full of Grace,
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruitof thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary,
Mother of God,
pray for us sinners now,
and at the hour of death.



Remember that night at the end of December. Remember that it was on that night that I took a look back at who I was, feeling the pain of the past and looking forward to a future where freedom could be experienced. Remember what freedom looked like back then; it looked like anarchy. No rules. No consequences. Life could never be that simple.

As the last five months have played out, that night in December has found new meaning. For some, telling them about that night has changed their view of me. For others, that night is one of many that they know I’ve struggled through. They know that if God miraculously took away my pain I wouldn’t learn about grace, love, and redemption. They know that night is about truth and coming to grips with who I am. On that night I was unprepared for Africa. Now I find myself somehow prepared for anything.

You make a harsh mistake if you believe I deserve no sympathy because of that night, or because of any one night. Granted, you are the only one who can grant me sympathy, and if you don’t let me know how you feel it will never affect me. You still haven’t told me what sympathy I deserve, after all these weeks. What do you believe I have to show for these last five months of life? What will be my legacy of 2009?

I think I told them everything tonight. I talked so much my mouth became dry. They deserved to know as much as you deserve to know. They listened, and that is all I ask you to do. Listen, don’t talk; don’t interrupt. Wait for me to finish. You will get your turn. I can’t tell you all at once either. One or two at a time, please. I sometimes wonder why I even attempt such daring feats.

When all is said and done, perhaps today or tomorrow, you may never get the chance to decide my fate. You may never tell me what you think of me or how my life has impacted you. And should you do this? Or do we let our impending deaths separate us forever and let words go unsaid? But wait, I am already dead, and you may be too. It depends.

What is your religion?



We’ve been asking the questions for some time now. What is real? What is the truth? What are we supposed to believe? We still don’t have the answers, but we are searching.

When trying to live a spiritual life we must all ask ourselves how present God is in our lives. Is God still lurking in the everyday? Or has God been so far removed from today that it takes quite a search to find the Holy Mystery? Is our world still enchanted?

I live in a world that is full of Holy Mystery—a world where God is everywhere and grace is everywhere. Everything from my rising in the morning to my lying down to bed at night is an act of grace bestowed upon me. I am truly humbled to be living in light of that wonderful grace.

Do you live in the same world as I? How enchanted is your world?


Remain cheerful.

Dear Mysterious One,

You told me that I could be anything I want to be when I asked if I could be fearless. You said I had to leave the secrecy and deceptiveness behind. You told me to remain courageous in the honesty that I value so dearly. You said to use unambiguous language: “Say what you need to say.” You told me to remain cheerful.

Mysterious One, the truth is that I am marked. You and I both are marked. We have markings that link us and markings from different places and times. The markings that link us are the most on my mind these days.

Know this: Africa is not done with me yet. Lately I find myself lost in dreams of a future in Africa, a different Africa from the one we know but Africa very much the same. Africa hasn’t changed much since the beginning of time and I don’t expect a great difference in my lifetime. I have been reading, writing, meditating and working to find my center, a place that I buried long ago and often hide from when faced with the many social pressures of life. As I do this, Africa calls deeper and my soul groans back with hunger pains for the remainder of an experience cut short. I cannot get those last weeks back, and I would never want to, for I grew so much more on American soil, or so it seems. But I must answer this call. I must answer this call to be true to myself. I must answer this call to find my religion. I must answer this call because it is my destiny. And I find that answering the call means so many different things. It means learning to forgive and still remember. It means reading about Africa through novels, essays, and research, soaking up every piece of information I can. It means looking ahead in my life to a place and time in which I can go back to the Dark Continent and somehow walk forward into the light. It means having a willingness to learn and love above all else.

And how am I supposed to be dealing with Our Father? It seems I don’t have much of a religion these days. I don’t know how to follow Our Father religiously. To me it seems that my life, His Will, just falls into place. That is what I can remain cheerful about.



Sometimes in life we are called to leave a place or a state of being for the freedom that waits on the other side. The journey is the Exodus and the other side is the Promised Land.

The route by which I escaped Africa was a forced exodus, by men and women seeking their own interests in maintaining the reputation and integrity of an institution. They said that coming home would be easier because life in Africa was difficult. The goal was to move on and find some sort of freedom of living in a more comfortable land. I have not found that freedom, and Africa is a part of my center. It didn’t die with the Exodus. In fact, the Exodus made me realize that Africa had become home.

Some have tried to get me to make another Exodus, to abandon a part of my identity because it is controversial. What they don’t understand is that I can never escape my identity and the man I’ve developed into. I’ve learned that this kind of Exodus is deemed unethical by the profession in which I am entering, and I respect that perspective. I can understand the difficulties that some have with combining their religious ethics with those ethics set up by professional disciplines, but it’s an open-mindedness that allows us to be more realistic about the world we live in. What is religion anyway? How much longer will religion survive?

“I could never work out whether we were to view religion as a life-insurance policy or a life sentence.” –Orleanna Price, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible

“Religions commit suicide when they find their inspiration in dogma.” –Alfred North Whitehead

The story of life is the story of many exoduses and the freedom that is found beyond the journey. But which is more important, the journey or the destination? Remember, the Promised Land is unfamiliar territory to most.

I do suppose I need a religion. The people I respect the most have one, and they still suffer. Maybe religion is suffering. Maybe Love is suffering. Maybe Freedom doesn’t come without suffering. In searching for a religion, I’ll start with this: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27.



Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been so long since my last confession.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.

Forgive the rebellious sins of my youth; look instead through the eyes of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord.

I am unable to give or receive perfect love every day. Forgive me for putting my needs before yours. Though I desire to be there for you unconditionally, I cannot. I am limited.

What penance must I do? How can I receive this grace?

Grace is everywhere. God is everywhere.

You may forgive and still remember.



I am a man.

Start from the beginning.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 1 Corinthians 13:11

I am a man, who once was a boy. That boy was sheltered and naïve, but I cannot put blame on anyone for that. They all did the best they could. So now my childhood rests in the past. It affects me every day whether I know it or not, but mostly I know it.

I wonder why you may perceive my being a man as being rebellious. You cannot keep me young and innocent forever. I could tell you story upon story of my innocence lost, those pivotal events that changed my life. Are you ready for them, or should I keep them contained?

Recently I’ve shocked you and I’ve angered you because you just found out a little bit more of who I am. But you haven’t talked to me about it. What are you afraid of?

I’m not fearless yet, but I’m learning to be afraid and still act. I cannot just sit idly and watch the world go by. Sometimes it looks like that is all I am doing, but it’s not the truth. True, I am sitting here, but my mind is racing with thoughts. I am not even watching you, or anyone else for that matter. I sit here with these books—reading, learning. You are always welcome to come and sit with me. We can talk. I want to know what you have to say. Let’s dialogue, and leave this place changed.

Find out where the story ends.


There is still hope for one.

In a family of judgmental conservative Evangelicals, I find there is still hope for one, and even that hope is dwindling because they want to brainwash him. Maybe not brainwash, that’s harsh, but they want to stop him from freeing his mind and seeing other communities that will open their arms to him, free of judgment. He needs love—not their “love” which consists of tough love and a world full of absolutes—but true Love. He needs choices, not the oppression of traditions and fundamental values that are so far from the mainstream. He needs to be able to create himself and share himself openly with the world.

He made a mistake. He asked the oppressors for help, and they think that means he wants to conform. What he really needs is a different kind of help, an advocate, someone who is on his side. Because there are sides to this, and maybe not sides where one is right and the other is wrong, but there are sides. And it doesn’t look like one will change the other any time soon. They need to agree to disagree. That will give him his freedom. But what sixteen year-old has ever experienced true freedom?

I experienced a kind of freedom at age sixteen, but it’s not the kind of freedom that I want him to have. He will still need guidance and direction. And I ask myself, “Where’s my place in all of this?” I want to be a part of his life, but I’ve lost credibility by not living up to their standards. And I know what they think of me is partially based on lies. The truth about me isn’t clear to everyone, and I don’t know how to set the record straight. And do I have to? Is that my duty?

The Mysterious One asked me why I want people to know me so badly. The Mysterious One is charming because I never know what he is thinking. But I can’t be that way. Even if I don’t speak words you seem to know what I’m thinking. My eyes give it away. But the Mysterious One can’t read eyes, so he waits for me to speak. If only more of you could be like him. Stop passing judgment on my eyes, and wait as long as it takes for me to reveal the truth about me. I have no secrets, but it will take time for me to tell you everything.


Zambia: a conclusion

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”-Anais Nin

This is where you decide what sympathy I deserve. The way I see it I have not failed, but I have lived. I did not merely survive this experience, I lived every moment. And even though I have died, I have lived. You may ask how all of this is a story about love. I can say without a doubt that love has come. Redemption has come. And I ask you this, are you willing to let yourself be a part of this redeeming work in my life?


The following are sources for italicized quotes in this Zambia series. They are books worth your reading.

Achebe, Chinua, Things Fall Apart. Doubleday, N.Y., 1959.
Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness. London, 1899.
Kingsolver, Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible. HarperCollins, N.Y., 1998


Zambia: part 9

Though we were spared once, we would not be spared again. Without time to defend ourselves, our removal from Zambia was planned and executed. The ten of us left so suddenly, an event that is one of the scars I share with my nine brothers and sisters. The other six were left behind, to endure without us. We would all have to escape Africa by a different route.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a strong sense of family. When I look at my own, I see one side that is a bunch of men-hating single women and the other side that says they love God but has these ideals of perfection that no one could possibly live up to. Thus, in neither side of the family have I learned how to truly give and receive love. I have only learned this from experiencing family in other groups, such as at camp, at college, and in Zambia. So I have had to grieve recently because I was reminded by one of my Zambian sisters that we, as a unique group, fit together in Zambia in a way that we could never fit together back home. Our Zambian family has broken up.

I think about those family members and wonder if they are grieving the same way I am. I wonder if she is trying her hardest to escape Africa and put it out of her mind. I wonder if Africa is calling him back. I have seen the changes in some, and for others I can’t quite tell what affliction Africa might have caused them. Africa might not affect some of us until years down the road, and although I’d like to know how everyone is doing, perhaps it’s not for me to know. I have to let it be.


Zambia: part 8

We will never know what we were spared from that night. The night was very quiet. It was always quiet except on moonlight nights. Darkness held a vague terror for these people, even the bravest among them. Children were warned not to whistle at night for fear of evil spirits. We were told there is an ancient African belief that evil walks at night. We walked at night. We, the emissaries of light, stepped out into the darkness and walked. Stepping beyond the white walls of the compound, we left the safety of our secluded hideaway and trusted the good of humanity and the quietness of Chomatown with our lives. We brought light into the darkness, white into black territory. It exposed us. We were bare, defenseless, naïve. We could not connect with the fear of this culture. We felt impenetrable. But ten muguwas with intellect and faith are no match for the brute strength and weapons of the evil that walks at night.

It was a sin—a sin born out of ignorance. Intentional or not, it happened…and I wonder what new, disgusting sins we commit each day, holding our heads high in sacred ignorance while our neighbors gasp, hand to mouth.


Zambia: part 7

Though work in the field was an attending to incidents of the surface, reality hit hard in our house. Community life was not the kind of community life I had lived before. Our house was a dysfunctional family. The Outsiders had control while the Insiders wanted it, and the other three floated in between. And I wonder whatever happened to true dialogue.

It took less than a month for our household to fall into chaos…and only six weeks for its total destruction.

Yet, we fit together. We fit together well, and it was not of our own doing or that of those who had organized our going to Africa. No, Someone else was responsible for knowing how we would fit together—Our Father. Together we succeeded and together we fell. It was bound to happen because there were so many things we did not know.

“The things we do not know, independently and in unison as a family, would fill two separate baskets, each with a large hole in the bottom.” – Adah Price, The Poisonwood Bible


Zambia: part 6

I believe in connectedness. I am certain that actions and people in this world are connected, that there is meaning in everything, and that meaning is only found by visits to the past. Life events don’t always make sense, and although over and over we may be told that what we are doing is important, if we can’t make sense of the meaning, we can easily lose heart.

In Zambia, we were uncertain of the meaning of our work. We simply did what was asked of us. We scooped porridge into bowls for children. We fetched water for a poor couple with AIDS. We swung our hoes into the wet earth to loosen the weeds. We dug holes with our hands for the fence posts. When you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality—the reality, I tell you—fades. The inner truth is hidden—luckily, luckily.

I have to accept that the truth is that somehow God used these seemingly insignificant actions of mine to do a great work and touch the lives of the people I served. Sometimes I must remind myself that it is the Spirit working in me, using this dead flesh to do good works.


Zambia: part 5

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only.” – Marlow, Heart of Darkness

As I stepped onto a cornfield one day, I saw myself as the oppressor. I had no idea what to do, what fertilizing the field would require of me, but I still had the idea in my head that ultimately fertilizing the field is not my job—that I am destined for bigger and better things. But then I experienced a spiritual awakening and a moment of reconciliation.

As I walked and worked side by side with Derek, I recognized how little I was doing. Derek and the other caregivers spend hours bent over fertilizing, weeding, and harvesting. They continue in a lifestyle and structure that black Africans have been living for centuries. Perhaps oppression isn’t so direct today, the Africans are not physically enslaved to Westerners, but they are still suffering. And in Zambia, they are subject to both the West and the East. China and India seem to control the economy. China’s control of the mining industry is the current oppression the Zambians face. And I am still an oppressor.

But Derek didn’t seem to mind. He so graciously picked up my slack as we walked side by side sharing a bag of fertilizer. Row after row we walked, my legs sore from trying to keep my balance, my head covered in sweat, and my heart beating so fast. We completed each other, working as a single unit. It was the first time I felt connected to, loved by, and forgiven by a man I had just met.


Zambia: part 4

I have traveled through a land that seems so untouched by human hands, fresh, alive of its own right. I have seen places that only God has walked through.

Traveling by Land Cruiser was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world. To this day I cannot describe the feeling of driving through the undeveloped African bush and then suddenly seeing a small church building rise up over the tall bush grasses. In an instant, one could travel from nothingness into civilization.


Zambia: part 3

Arrival in Africa was the death of traditional academics this last semester, from which I haven’t recovered.

From Day 1 I knew that Zambia was where I would lose myself and start to find myself again. The first thing I wrote in my Zambia journal was How am I perceived by others? I started off making the trip about me. Maybe that was the result of cultural orientation, a sudden strong self-awareness—that has not ended.

Just as I am self-aware today, you don’t necessarily see it. For I often keep my thoughts to myself. Silence has many advantages. When you do not speak, other people presume you to be deaf or feeble-minded and promptly make a show of their own limitations. Only occasionally do I find I have to break my peace: shout or be lost in the shuffle. But mostly I am lost in the shuffle. You don't know me the way that I do.

I don’t know me the way that you do. It keeps us balanced, dancing this dance. But how I wish sometimes that you would tell me who I am, what I mean to you. Tell me what sympathy I deserve.

I never meant for my silence to be my strength. It’s the power through which I can keep secrets and deceive. Given a voice, I now have no secrets.


Zambia: part 2

“Let me claim that Africa and I kept company for awhile and then parted ways, as if we were both party to relations with a failed outcome. Or say I was afflicted with Africa like a bout of a rare disease, from which I have not managed a full recovery.” – Orleanna Price, The Poisonwood Bible

Who knew that Africa would be the death of me? Someone knew. Many knew. Anyone who had been to Africa before knew. I wonder if they kept it a secret. I wonder if they tried to tell me but I didn’t listen. I couldn’t listen. How could I know? How could I understand? I couldn’t. I had to experience it for myself. I had to die. Those who knew guarded the door of Darkness. Do I now do the same? Do I have a future of sitting around, knitting black wool and introducing others to the unknown? Will I sit there, scrutinizing the cheery faces, sending people to their deaths? There is no way I can prevent others from dying. I want others to die. I want others to experience Africa, the Darkness.

But there is now more than the Darkness. There is the light. Africa is also the light. Africa wounds. It heals as well, but not without scars.

I first stepped onto African land in the middle of the night. Johannesburg at night is a beautiful city. It was a similar experience to stepping outside the airport in Las Vegas. The warmth of the night hit me and I knew I was no longer in the midwestern United States. Everything was a rush. We just wanted to get to our hotel and settle in for the night. No time to dance underneath the African sky. No time to say a thankful prayer for our safe arrival. In our minds, we hadn’t arrived yet. Zambia was our destination, not South Africa. We were still in transit, in the developed world, not yet in the great unknown of the African bush.

One afternoon flight later and we were in Livingstone, Zambia. Stepping off the air-conditioned plane into the bright hot African sun was a shock to my body. It was the warmest January air I had ever experienced. Man oh man, are we in for it now… It [didn’t] look to me like we’re in charge of a thing, not even our own selves. No, after passing the immigration desk we met them, the white man and the black Zambian woman in tie-dye. They were in charge, and we were subject to their knowledge.

“Welcome to Zambia!”

Welcome to death.


Zambia: part 1

Just eleven days before the voyage to Africa, I sat in my living room watching Californication, a ridiculous show about a sex-addicted writer, and drinking a Bacardi and coke. Having just finished a cigarette, I began to write down my struggles and some of the most intimate details of my life in a pure, raw, and beautiful form. If I am to be honest about who I was before Africa, and for you to truly understand me and get a picture of who I am now, I need to share these things. They may hurt. They may change how you think of me, but that is the point. Remember, it is you who decides what sympathy I deserve.

(Names have been altered to protect the innocent.)


If it takes a show about sex, Bacardi and coke, and a cigarette to get me through the weekend, have I survived? Do I have to get fucked up in order to face this world and the situation I am in?

So much has been a long time coming, but suddenly all the hurts hit full force, when it’s not so convenient for me. Dad gets laid off. The family is a mess when they’re all together. I have to leave the country in 11 days. No one but "A" is in Joliet and really cares about my situation. Who am I left with to talk to?

Everyone fears loneliness. It’s a dreaded thing, yet I’ve spent many nights alone or at least semi-alone. Stuck with the old man sleeping, that breathing machine hissing in the other room. I struggle to fall asleep at night. Not even my new soft sheets give me comfort. I used to sleep only on my right side, leaving space open on the left of my bed, not used to the full mattress. Now, realizing that I have this space and it’s mine alone, I have managed to wear in the middle of the bed. I dream of having someone next to me. It would be nice. There’s no one. I think of those who I’ve wanted there, most recently "N". It’s never going to happen and I know that, but part of my heart is still with him. Who else have I wanted in my bed? Dare I say it. Two "M's", "J", perhaps even "J.L". I joke about the spiritual leaders who I’ve wanted to be mine in the flesh. Those brown-haired guitar players who sang me their songs of love and worship, although maybe it wasn’t so much of a performance, but I cannot help but remember singing along with or playing with each of them. Some of the most intimate moments of my life. I don’t even talk to these guys anymore. Some lame conversations every few months if that. A once a year lunch. A quick handshake and side hug that I only wish would turn into a long embrace. But how selfish am I? Just upset that I have no one to sleep with. That’s what started this whole thing anyway.

Who do you sleep with at night? That question still haunts me. In that cold, gray bathroom that smelled of sweat and urine I had no response to that question. I hid my emotions. I was silent. The kind of silence Jesus portrayed during his trial, the silence of the lamb being led to the slaughter. I was young and nervous, but I guess even in sixth grade I was curious about the other boys. I tried not to show it. Get in, get dressed, get out, right? Did I linger too long? The questions better left unanswered. But silence only leads to self-hatred, doubt, and resolves nothing. It was "J.J" (or was it me?) who broke the silence and changed everything. Does he even know?

That day will forever be in my memory. I was sitting there eating lunch when "J.J", who must have only been seven at the time, decided to tell my friends how I used to dress up like a girl and said that I wanted to be a girl. I was angry and I later started crying and had to tell someone everything. It was Mrs. D who I told first, that "A.A." and "T" continued to harass me in that bathroom, calling me gay and all sorts of things. It was she who took me up to the meeting where Mr. R, Mr. V, and my mom were there. Many tears were shed that day. Mom had left work at church to come to this meeting. It was a big deal.

Did nothing ever get solved? Did that moment in my life just add to my curiosity and sexual exploration? Have I had no self-esteem, no trustworthy people to talk to? And why bother now? Shoot, I’m going to be in Zambia for three months. That experience can be a turning point if I want it to, a time to stop thinking about sex for a while and really focusing on ministry and how my relationship with Jesus fits into the bigger picture. I’m concerned about coming home and falling back into routine. I keep dreaming of next summer, the ability to go out and drink and party where I want to, going to boys' town and maybe meeting someone. But why think of that now? I am totally unprepared for this trip. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long, but if I left tomorrow I would be in no state to handle it. Does that make any difference in the next 11 days? What can I do between now and then to get prepared?

There wasn’t much I could do, or did do, to get prepared. I had a packing list. I didn’t want to bring much. I don’t need much. And I was told to get used to not having much in Africa. Looking back now I realized I still overpacked. I never once wore those black dress shoes. I didn’t need so much deodorant or shampoo or body wash. Maybe I should have passed on those toilet paper rolls to the ladies. But at least I didn’t try to carry on any boxes of Betty Crocker cake mix. Nevertheless, I gathered some things together and headed back to campus. My bags even lacked textbooks, though I brought along the copy of Heart of Darkness that I was supposed to read in the summer of 2005 but never did. I just wanted to get back to the Indiana Wesleyan campus, see some friends, and leave the country for three months. I needed an escape. Dad lost his job in December and I knew I couldn’t handle living at home with him. Perhaps my absence would give him motivation. Maybe he’d land a job and when I had returned things would be good for us. I tried not to have my hopes too high. My motivation was the here-and-now—to get to Zambia, to love God, and to have community. Little did I know that I would face the real Africa, a place where I would die to myself, find new life, and where in the end it would seem that things had fallen apart.


Zambia: an introduction

"We need to let ourselves tell our stories of love—how love came to us over the course of our lives, or how it did not come, or how it left. We need to tell the story so that we understand." - Gerald May

She said to tell the story of how things fell apart—or how they didn’t. I say this is all part of a bigger story of love—love that sometimes came, sometimes didn’t, and sometimes left. If I don’t tell this story, I will never understand. If I don’t tell this story, you will never understand. But even after you read this, hear this, know this, you will still never understand. I was afflicted with Africa and changed forever. Although you may recognize that Zambia has impacted me, you may not always acknowledge the change. You have moved on. I understand. I have moved on too, but not without these scars. Don’t ask me to be who I was before Africa. I no longer know that person. Don’t ask. Instead be quiet, stay still. Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened. Listen to my story. Later on you can decide what sympathy I deserve.


I am dead.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, and it is the basis for starting this blog.


For out the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34b

I spoke the truth this week. I brought darkness into light. The Spirit of God so stirred me to. I could not sleep. I felt uneasy. Exposing the truth was hard, but I know it was right, and I have learned from this.

Why did God choose me to do that? Who am I? I am dead.

Yes, dead, or so it seems or should be. I am dead. But there are two spirits still battling. My flesh is dead. That has been predetermined. This body will rot, will decay, will only give birth to those that feed off of death. But when my flesh is gone, rotted, dry bones left, no more will there be life in or around my flesh. I will be dead, so I am dead.

I am dead. God’s Spirit is alive. The Spirit is alive—in me. Somewhere in this flesh there is no life but that of the Spirit. Somewhere. Somehow. Some days.

The flesh, the sin nature, likes to try to resurrect itself sometimes. Or maybe it is still alive; I cannot figure that out. The physical and spiritual are so interconnected that I really do not know where one ends and the other begins. Paul understood this. He understood the struggle with sin even though we are supposed to be dead to sin and alive in Christ.

So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
Romans 7:21-25

Paul says, In my mind [I] am a slave to God’s law, almost as if this is an illusion. Is it only an illusion? Are we all just wretches? Yes! We are. We are still in a state of sin. I am. I am dead. My continuation of sin is proof of that. I am dead.

God the Father, the Son, the Spirit is alive. The Spirit breathes into me the breath of life. The Spirit moves me to action. The Spirit in my heart directs me to speak the truth. I open my mouth, and it speaks. These things happen. They confuse my flesh. My mind asks for understanding, to learn how to be a better man, but there is no being a better man. That is another illusion. The truth is that I am a wretch. I will always be imperfect. My body is dying. My bones already ache. But one day, one time, outside of time, for eternity my spirit, my true self, will be fully redeemed. In a new, holy, perfect body I will glorify God. I will glorify the One who makes both the new and the old. I will be alive. Knowing this, I long for that day. This dead body experiences moments of life, moments when the Spirit of God uses this body to do good works.

Perhaps this is the great mystery of humanity. That a perfect God would use dead, lifeless flesh and breathe into it the breath of life. That God used clay, the dust of the earth, nonliving materials to create life and spirit. That spirit and matter have become one. They were meant to be one. That humans, both a man and a woman, sought to be like God, unhappy with their state of creation, and ate the fruit that caused the separation of the flesh and spirit. This disconnect, this fall, only led to a loving God remaining unchanged, yet now having opportunity to show that love to humanity in new ways. Redemption has since been the greatest manifestation of love. The flesh cannot survive on its own. The Spirit redeems the flesh.

Therefore, I am dead. The Spirit is alive, redeeming, restoring, and giving life to my death. In spite of my death, God is alive. Father, Son, Spirit is alive.