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.