Too Far Beyond the End.

THERE'S NO ART to beginning – you just do.  Clumsily, luckily, unsure or maybe mostly confident, or maybe in full ignorance, you find yourself too far beyond the end for it to possibly still be considered the end.  That’s just how it happened for me – too far beyond the end.

Swallowed by an ending, the spotlight quick faded before the curtains could even touch closed.  It’s absolutely isolating and frightening, both at the same time.

I am a survivor, but by no means at all is my story a tale of a self-made man who overcame great odds and bootstrapped to victory.  No, mine is a story of the kind of survivor who was found just wanting the end.  

Quite simply and never forgetting, the beginning found me. I should be duly clear here: the beginning was, and is, God.  And not god as in, a god or feeling or some self-sustaining resolute strength discovered within myself fueled by an ambiguous goodness somewhere out there, I thoroughly mean the Creator, Divine Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  There is no forever blooming, never spoiling beginning outside of Him.  Understanding the psychology of grief and my breaking couldn’t nor wouldn’t get me to a new beginning.  Neither would time’s passing, which is such an empty lie to tell someone suffering the shock of loss or tragedy of life unraveling.  God in all of His regular might led me far, far beyond the end of my first wife’s death to the warmth of a day I could’ve never dreamt up in my best, undisturbed night of sleep.

Journal entries that pawed at death and ash in the form of spiraling questions, accusation and curses, discovered God’s welcome, even His beckon.  ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy burdened,’ echoed determinedly in my sunken heart.  I came because He called to me and I had nowhere else to go.  My dreams, my hopes and my security – the life I built – lay ruined and left me without home.  That’s where I was found.  Those original journal entries grew into pages of words telling the grandest of stories of my finding, in the too far beyond the end.  Those pages piled into a book that I called, Earth and Sky.

Today, I celebrate the writing, but more so, the story.  It’s who I was, where I’ve been and who I’ve become.  I do hope you find the time to read my story.  It is one far greater than I could ever tell, one that will forever define me, for it was in those pages that I was truly born again.

rust, bone and other worthlessness.

image credit: shane grammer

day above all others

when hearts bleed no more

     and cries are silenced by everything

     and faces are known.

in time, all will be seen as worthless thieves to Your glory.

hands known will release their grasp

     and men will know

the gods of the people are empty,

the semblance of our raised hearts.

     a lie formed by our hearts wanting happy without holy.

     a lust for rust and bone,

for what can be had now.

a diseased want always opposed to that day above all others.

all this, sloped to confession,

to lean us to You.

the emptiness we cannot resolve

hidden in our hurts that won't relent.

found in Your grace, a hunting love undeterred by sin.

Let's talk about writing ...oh, and a bit of a surprise

creativetrainingday In one week's time, I'll be leading a session for Linger Conference's Creative Training day on writing and authoring a book.  If you'll be in the Dallas area, you can acquire your ticket here.

Perhaps I'll walk them through my manic ebb and flow of discipline and myriad of ideas webbing in disconcerting fashion leading to dead ends and rabbit trails.  And, of course, there's the deal with insecurity that echoed in each keystroke while writing my book, which leads me to think now why in the world am I leading this session again?  Oh right, I wrote a book.  After all, I am just beginning to break the habit of response when people who know something of my blog or book ask me just what is it that I do.  My typical response was that I was in sales or business development, which was true of my day-to-day, but not totally accurate of my dream.

While I am by no means an expert, I don't need to be.  You see, a dream must be worth more than the humdrum of day-to-day and story more than silencing fear, or insecurity or expertise or experience or excuses . . . or anything else.  Every person who's ever white knuckled the pursuit of writing a book or accomplishing a dream bigger than present, for that matter, started from a common place called the beginning.  And it is from there the book is written, the canvas painted, the song crafted and the creation is determined - at the beginning where every disqualifying reason succumbs to completion decided.

What I know about writing is that the craft matters less than the continual pursuit of story.  Tell the story - all of the story, more than should be told - and the writing will happen.  I am less convinced of the magic of authoring a book and more confident in the discipline of story and its telling.  And so, it is on this knowing that I'll give a talk and lead a creative breakout session on writing, story and authoring a book.

As a bit of a surprise, my publisher (Influence Resources) has worked tirelessly to print special pre-release copies of my book, Earth and Sky, just for Linger Conference.  This is a very limited printing of my book months before its official release date.  In fact, the only other copies going out will be to those who supported my Kickstarter campaign last year, which will be a special edition pressing including original cover design.

I'm very excited to share a bit of my story and experience both in the form of a talk and my book.  I hope you can make it out!

Jesus doesn't fix anything.

advent star (image credit: Virginia Wieringa)

in a manger still and obscure hidden beneath a star shone bright swaddled in ancient words and found by foreign men bruised heal before lungs even drew a quiet night diseasing evil forever

after all, bruised beats broken and that’s what the angels were singing to shepherds, to wise, to whored and to falsely whole

    we swallow brokenness like the drugs keeping us afloat     our heads nod in restlessness and the receiving     our hearts return us to the well to see the seer

and so this is Christmas all white in the absence of snow our hearts pushed in, and we know the bruises beat the broken

holy night, hushed and aglow promise’s arrival to a heavy handed world time a refugee in the camp Grace swallowed the Virgin knows what mothers do not: how to hold the King of Angels O, come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord

Christmas comes earlier once again.  Sales announce the season and joy fills our hearts.  It seems as though more of Christmas is lost in commercialism each year.  The story, faded into well balanced nativity sets sold for shelves and lawns grows more native in an adapted knowing that Christ came so we spread good will and cheer.

But look at the night.  Jesus doesn’t fix anything.  In fact, things get worse; a lot worse.  The king of the moment feels threatened at the report of foreign wise men arrived to see the foretold promise under a star.  So the king commands all babies under the age of two be found and murdered.  The people of the foretold promise bleeding again under the tyrannical rule of other men.  I’d say things worsened. We’ve heard the story bookended by Christmas and Easter unfold - the child grew.  The story builds anticipation as some realize the Promise arrived in a manger, grew into a man, touched people like God.  He gathered the bruised and buried the broken.  And then the story reaches climax with his public, gory death - worsened once again.  A strong shift of circumstance happens in Jesus’ resurrection, and then, a sort of to be continued hangs as those closest to him watch him ascend into the heavens.

And here we are.  Holders of the promise awaiting God’s glorious arrival, as a people once did.  So much of our world is broken; our very lives broken, too.

What if Jesus comes hushed again, undetected in our world obsessed with its own healing, demanding all must be whole before all can be all right?

Jesus doesn’t fix anything.  He comes.

Into the worst conditions, among a family gone amok, through the unchangeable circumstance of death and all the more that can go wrong, Jesus comes right into the middle where you are and abides.

And so, this is Christmas, this is Advent, this is promise and this is Jesus.  O, come let us adore him and belong to a Savior come and not a known cure.

parenting is the simplest thing ever :: A Deeper Family post

chloeglasses The blades just kept spinning like life and order and nothingness.  Everything made sense in its whispered hum.  I just faded in the noise, into time unaccountable and in the realization that my hands do less these days while my mind just spins in circles –much like the humming fan blades turning intoxicatingly.

I do far less these days, but I’m busier.  And tired(er).

On an average of five hours sleep, I go until I cannot or should not.

Just a handful of months ago, I finished my first book to much joy and self-adulation.  The amount of focus needed to see an idea through to storyboard, gruelingly sliced and shaped into an outline and then strung tighter together with words, pushed limits broader than I knew possible.  I met the day earlier than dawn and the kids to work with diligence closer to the end.  Words filled blank pages deep into night after the kids went to bed, all the while, working and learning to be a single parent between the margins of writing.  As I look back at pictures of daddy daughter dates, first experiences as a single parent and too many dessert overloaded movie nights to count, I see me smiling easier.

Those days didn’t escape.  We leaned into each moment honestly and didn’t even know it.  We didn’t need to.  The moment was enough and it was all we wanted – nothing more.


Continue to full article at Deeper Family



10 Habits to Break (and NOT live by) :: routine.

Antarctic-Plateau We live in circles and lines defined more and better each day in routines, in habits.  The habits we tolerate shape our pace through life and weave together the perspective in which we gaze out at the world alive around us.  In similar fashion, we fail to perceive or even recognize the panorama of what could be when we become hemmed in by habits.

If we always return home the same way everyday, we may never become aware of a shortcut, a better way home.

There comes a time when ascent flattens and pace slows to life less than extraordinary.  In youth, we excitedly run with risk absent of consequence as we pursue dreams unhinged to plausibility.  Call it youthful exuberance or recklessness, but there is an invigorating vitality in running through each day with a hunger for more and a thirst for tomorrow.  As a result, we grow exponentially in youth, not because of the mere pace of our going, but our openness to new experiences and investigative curiosity in all surrounding us.  Naturally, we slow in our lean into adulthood as we take on responsibility and schedules.  The pace of yesteryear cannot be maintained in the same way as we draw circles of priority and lines of direction.  

But plateauing should never be our resigned position; learning and experiences are necessary to our growth and development as professionals, parents, spouses and friends.

When each day fades into undisturbed routine and the rush of wind pushing against our face as we pursue life more calms to barely whispering breeze in our halted stance, we reach stasis - the point where things will be as they will be and dreams are excused as insubordinate and unwise fantasies.  In our circles and lines, we drown in deadlines, goals and schedules and the panoramic disappears leaving only what’s immediately in front of us.

For me, walking outside the lines of routine holds high priority and considered an absolute necessity to continual growth.

Across the board, I violate lines appropriated safe by responsibility.  This is how I escape routine reigning as sacred in my life.  My violations are subtle, but transformative to how I value life and what really matters.  As an example, my schedule isn’t allowed as much value as what I’m actually doing.  So if one part of my schedule requires more time to do it well, the schedule bows to the activity.  Common within my scheduled writing time are moments when the words don’t fit together like they should in order to give proper voice to what I’m writing - in other words, writer’s block.  Instead of moving on for the sake of sticking to the schedule, I push through the block and closer to mastery.

Even more important than writing and routines, family holds a much higher regard.  Just last night, I sat up an hour later than my oldest’s regular bedtime to hear her heart and set right insecurities festering within her emotions.

I believe we develop far deeper and much more stable in our pursuit of life in moments outside the lines rather than holding to patterns and routines boasting safety.  And I believe God invites us to run outside the lines and deems it befitting of His immeasurably sufficient, unconcerned with safe grace alive in each of our days.  Sacred and safe routines are means of preservation and reek of a me-centric attitude void of God’s leading as primary.  Regularly, I remind myself that God rarely seems to be concerned with safe, but instead provokes curiosity and ideas of ahead within us.  Consider the apostle Paul’s positioning of God in Ephesians chapter 3:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

In every opportunity, may we reach outside the lines to grasp life well strengthened by a power alive and at work within us, and may we resign routine a lesser priority unable to threatened what really matters.

*(image: Ross Anderson)

10 Habits to Break (and NOT live by) :: seriousness.

  I just stood there, my eyes filled with tears colored disappointment.

I expected something different and didn’t take well to the surprise.  My mother confused, bent low and spoke soft as she tried to understand how such a dead ringer of a gift could somehow bring grief to my bothered little soul.  But the other kids laughed and cheered in front of our fellow kindergarteners as they teetered with larger boxes and tore through endless amounts of wrapping paper.  I remember my turn; my eyes scanning the room hiding the ferocity of excitement within finally landed on the box being brought toward me.

The smallest of all boxes was laid before me.  Little primal like chants rose to fill the room buzzing with holiday mania, “OPEN IT! OPEN IT! OPEN IT!” When I did get through the wrapping paper and into the box, I discovered a toy unique and ill fit for the milieu of gifts setting in front of my classmates.  A toy truck, a gun, handcuffs, action hero figures, all seemed so similar and friendly to each other while the prosthetic like E.T. finger with light up tip stood out like a sore thumb - pun, now, delightfully intended.

To this day, E.T. remains one of my all time favorite movies.  As I think back, the alien wrinkled prosthetic finger gift my mother brought to my kindergarten Christmas party was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.  I missed the glory of going up to my friends, reciting the line, “E.T. phone home” and pressing the outstretched finger to demonstrate the complimentary light up function.

I was far too serious that day and in many days subsequent.

Life is days passing.  In the coming and going, the rising and falling, the good and bad, each day resembles the many before, but holds its own uniqueness.  Some days require seriousness and focused attention to see it all the way through.  A deadline met demands your consistent effort.  Without it, you don’t make the deadline.  The ability to focus in on project or responsibility typically brings you most of the way to successful completion.  Talent and experience alone can’t get you there dependably.

For every unapprehended dream, you’ll find an artist, athlete and aspiring professional who let go.

In regard to focus, the same holds true for parenting.  Consistency is king and a currency owning far greater value than most things you can give your child.  I maintain a low-grade focus fixed on who I see my daughters to one day be with a simple strategy: short daily prayers.  When I drop them off at school, as I return to pick them up at the end of the day, at bedtime and in the unplanned spaces throughout the day my memory prompts me to, I pray brief prayers for now and all grace needed to get us to then.  This seriousness I have learned to be absolutely vital to my parental effort, if not maintained, I see them only small and bound to now.

Herein lies seriousness’s trickiness in my life, a thin habit in need of breaking.

While all holds true to the necessity of seriousness in our aim for and achievement of success and completion in life, seriousness can also weigh our days unbalanced.  When we heavily focus, we risk losing sight of all else and robotically hone in only on one area.  Prolonged seriousness equals a preoccupied mind with little room for new ideas, inspiration and your best effort.  Like the little kindergartener years back, I easily settle into preoccupied thought leaving me unavailable to the moment and unable to see the bigger opportunity.

This habit rears its intrusive head in my creative life as well as my personal life.  I’m unavailable to new ideas and productive writing when I remain preoccupied in serious thought about the quality of my writing and how it will be read and received.  Likewise, I pull myself to the sidelines of my personal life, parenting included, when I disappear into seriousness on a preoccupied level – life happening right in front of me.

And so here’s the kung fu aggression to the habit of ill-balanced, preoccupied seriousness in my life: laugh and let go.

We can be so engaged in what seriousness reinforces as worshipful importance, that all becomes about us rather than us being alive in the surrounding panoramic.  Instead of a pensive disposition, I’m learning to disengage long enough to belly laugh better and leave fires burning to be more available to all that matters.