Monthly Archives: October 2016

Politics, Forgiveness, & Lobsters

I have spent a lot of this political season being very… well, political. I have a strong opinion about the situation our political candidating system has put us in this election cycle, & who is to blame for it (Spoiler Alert: I blame the arrogance of Americanism, which is not the same as loving the ideals of America). I have a strong reaction to the false link between Republicanism & Christianity. And I have a very strong reaction to the amount of people giving opinions & directives that they call biblical & Christ-centered, without actually quoting Jesus or the Bible. And this crap stresses me out.

And it has also caused some significant conflicts & tension.

Tension Sends Us in One of Two Directions

In a previous post (Stress Management & Other Stuff I FAIL At), I wrote about the implications of tension on life. And in reality, I believe that we go one of two ways when confronted by true tensions: stress or balance. 

Last week, a friend I’ve known for longer than I’ve known Jesus (so, 16+ years) got very heated with me over some things I had posted on Facebook. He called me a joke, questioned my faith in Christ, & made a few unfavorable comparisons with me & some ‘ministers’ that I do not admire or even agree with. He also posted a couple of comments on this blog site about me & my “un-Christian” views. 

It was hard. And frankly, it bothered me. In fact, it still bothers me. So, if I’m being transparent, I stressed out about it. I went back & forth between anger, disappointment, self-doubt, & sadness because that’s just what we do when we stress. Our emotional responses drive us & inevitably derail us. We lose confidence. We forget purpose, & we focus on that one pothole that was there a couple miles back. And once derailed, a train is awfully hard to get back on its track.

Take What You Can Get

I have no idea where that phrase comes from. And truthfully, it’s full of logical & philosophical holes. But in the context of stress & emotional upheaval, I think it has some truthiness behind it. When you’re looking to re-center or find your bearings again, taking any little assistance that comes your way seems wise. 

I was rocked. Was I a fraud? Am I asking people to think unbiblically? Is what I believe in my heart to be true, really a truth to believe in?

So first, I went to my foundations. More simply, I prayed, spoke with my wife Grace, & I opened my Bible. Grace believes in me. When she disagrees with the content of a post or blog, she tells me. When my delivery could have been better, but my message was solid, she critiques me. When I say something she likes, she applauds me. And when I’m down, she unwaveringly supports, loves, & cheers for me. And this is not the job of a wife… this is just what partners do. So with my best friend by my side, reminding me of the worthiness of justice for all humanity, I went to the Bible. And, since this isn’t intended to be a politically or socially driven post, I’ll just say that Scripture more than confirmed my passions & calling to the least of our society. Maybe I’ll post more on my heart for all people later, but for now…

Once again firm on my foundation, every good structure needs help being built. The terrific compliments & encouragements from some parents on the kids soccer team I coach. When a friend called to tell me that her son prays for that crazy preacher man every night. When talking to a few solid folks at our church, & they chime in with a thought I was thinking, but was a little wary to say. Embarrassingly… Facebook likes & positive comments. New friend requests with wonderful notes attached. A joking note telling me that if I get any more famous I’ll have to start a Facebook fan page… which is apparently a thing. The warm message from a friend & sister in Christ that was born with darker skin than me, thanking me for holding on in the face of attack & disagreement.  

I needed every note. I needed the texts & calls & nice things said to my wife while I was yelling at your kids. And I love our friends that we’ve made here in Tacoma. But mostly, I needed the confidence that, as a believer in Christ, I am walking in the light of what I believe to be important biblical truth, & therefore, a priority to Christ’s mission. I know that isn’t the primary burden on all of you, but it is the main thing for me. So whatever your main thing is, get back to it. Get back to your faith or your center or your calm. Get the train back on the track. That’s how we move forward. 

Breaking Through The Phase

Lobsters spend their whole life growing. It’s something called intermediate growth. And all the while, they have a hard shell that does a terrific job of protecting them from vulnerabilities, but it’s terrible for growth. So every now & then, they grow beyond the confines of their own protection. And, at the risk of being vulnerable, they break free from their shell. 

Growth is terrifying. It makes us vulnerable. We now know enough to move beyond our own present state, but we aren’t ready to BE just yet. But life doesn’t wait. So, a bit green in our new stage of growth, we move out. And sometimes… it sucks. And maybe wounded… ok, likely wounded… we have to limp. And it’s uncomfortable, kinda embarrassing, & overwhelmingly consuming, until your shell grows back. Then you keep growing. And you learn to be irritated by your shell all over again. But you keep moving. Keep growing. And hopefully, as you move forward, you are walking in the direction that keeps you closest to your center point. Because I think that’s how living is done. Whether someone hurt you, you inflicted pain on yourself through a failure, flaw or addiction, or you’re walking through grief, or life just kinda hits you harder than you’re ready to be hit, you choose. Stay miserable behind the shell of your former self, or grow beyond the need to stay covered & hidden. 

It is risky, this growing thing. But it is what we were made for. And without growing, we doom ourselves to a discomfort we weren’t designed to endure. 

You’re Still You

So now, vulnerable & wounded, you are moving in light of a growth you hadn’t expected. I’m there right now. Over a month ago, I buried a close friend & it still makes me sad. Just a few days ago, disagreement & anger cost me a friend. And the shell of comfort broke open & I really do not like it.

What do you call a lobster without its shell? It’s called… a lobster. 

Just because you don’t have the protection of ignorance or comfort any more, does not mean that you stop being who you are. This kind of growth isn’t a metamorphosis as much as it is a shedding of an older, less prepared you. And those things that cracked your confidence aren’t gone. So what does a man or woman do when life deals them some tough blows?? They keep on being the man or woman that they are, but stronger, more faithful, & more determined. 

As I continue to grieve Tripp’s death, I try to love my friends better. I call his wife & check in. And this morning, I took an hour & we taught our son to ride his bike. It was awesome.

And to the friend that is now disconnected from me, I have to be the first to forgive. Not because I’m better or anything like that. But Christ is my foundation, & forgiveness is required in obedience. And truthfully, though it certainly stings, when I told my friend that I had become a Christian back in 2000, he was supportive & confident that it was good for me. He was more confident than I was. And that investment cannot be tossed away. 

And more hurt will come… I’ll let someone down. I’ll say something that someone strongly disagrees with. And I’ll see the hurt that others endure & feel the burden of responsibility & owning the sufferings of others. Someone is going to hurt me. It’s inevitable. 

But I will grow. I will break out from behind the comfort & keep on moving forward. I’m drawn to people groups that are hurting, & that’s never going to end. I’m drawn to the kind of faith that sees humanity through the lens of Christ’s sacrifice & service. And I’m flawed & often in need of being forgiven, so I must be a man of forgiveness & understanding. Because shell or no shell, I’m still the man I was created to be. 

So when life forces me to grow in directions that I really didn’t want to grow, I just have to keep moving. Keep growing. Staying true to the center of who I am, I will love who I love, believe what I believe, & speak out for the things that I feel so passionate about.

I hope you will too.

Always forward. God bless. 

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Good Grief: Making a Choice

I wrote a blog last week. Over 3,300 people have viewed it. And I wrote it because I was sad, hopeful, & inspired I suppose. Tripp had died the prior week, I had been called in by his sweet wife & awesome parents to officiate a funeral that I was not remotely prepared for, & I had spent every day back home in N Carolina with someone who was suddenly fatherless, husbandless, or sonless. And that blog exploded. 

For perspective, I hadn’t written anything in over a year. And when I was writing, it would be impressive for one entry to get 200 views. And that was more than enough for me. It was an exercise in fun & public journaling, & not much more. But then Tripp died, & my name was in his obituary, & it seems like a lot more people were watching. A lot of them still are. And to all of you, thank you. Tripp’s influence will forever loom large in my life. 

So I wrote a blog on a Tuesday morning flight. And then late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, Tripp’s mom died. She had been battling a rare & terminal illness that had certainly taken its toll, but she was still sweet & caring, up to the very last second. And grief came rushing back. I could not stop thinking about Tripp’s dad & sisters. And then his wife. It’s a process…

Grieving Healthy

As I write, I’m outside of an Sicilian bakery in Tacoma, Washington. I’m literally on the coastline of the Puget Sound. It’s a breathtaking picture. And the bakery is crazy good. So many awesome things that I can’t pronounce, but none of them healthy. So I make a choice; eat healthy or not. 

The cannoli was incredible… Don’t judge me. At least I walked here.

And similarly, I have found myself parked right at the door of grieving. And my options for consumption are unending. I can grieve however I want. I can numb the grief by ignoring it & pretending I’m fine, or I can find some thing or person that gives me a false & temporary feeling that just masks grief. Or I can eat healthy… but if you’re like me, there’s a dark secret about healthy living. It kinda sucks. 

Choosing

Allow me to sermonize for a moment. In the book of Joshua, God brought his people through some incredible difficulties & challenges. Often, those challenges were met by the raw emotions of people who knew God, had seen His work, & been blessed by his provision. But in the midst of their crises, some felt hopeless. Usually, it was a lot of people. And they were desperate for answers or revelation or solutions. And in a moment of profound wisdom, Joshua asks them to choose this day whom you will serve (ref. Joshua 24:15). Because, like the bakery beside me, in grief we have a choice.

I spoke with Tripp’s dad today. We talk/text daily. And today is his wife’s birthday. Yes, four days after she passed away, their family was faced with funeral visitation on her birthday. Horrible.

But they made a choice. Someone had the idea to give mom some balloons. So they gathered a bunch of the family together & sent some balloons heavenward. And while it is a small gesture, it’s a healing one. It forces them to smile through sadness. It doesn’t ‘grief-proof’ their day, but it makes the daily process better. And when the story was relayed to me, it was a happy story. And there is nothing better then happiness when you’re sad. I’m so glad that they chose good grief. Because tomorrow will have its troubles, & they will need more reasons to look heavenward. More chances to place some happiness in their sadness will be needed. So if you’re in Durham & you know any of them, send a text & tell them you love ’em. That stuff is gold!

As Joshua was finishing his challenge to Israel, he turned it personal. And that’s how I should end this blog too. It would be arrogant & foolish to pretend that I didn’t think of Tripp the moment I woke up today. And I was immediately sad. And I’ve had a rough dream or two. And when my oldest son, Parker asks me about Tripp or if I’m sad, I admit my grief & occasionally get a little lost in it. But I have a choice in my grief & sadness. And there are two things that Tripp’s family has shown me this week: choose happiness & look heavenward. So I’m going to try & do that more often. 

I hope you find a balloon today, & send your heart to Jesus. 

Brad
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” ‭‭Joshua‬ ‭24:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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