For my friend Brent

THis is the eulogy I wrote for my dear friend Brent who left this world on May 5th. I will not be able to attend the funeral but Kristie, our mutual friend, has graciously offered to read my thoughts and memories, this is what she will be reading.

 

When Kristie asked me to write about some of the memories I have of Brent I knew that this would be both an easy and a hard thing to do. It’s easy because there are a bunch to choose from, mostly involving the good times we had at karaoke shows and just hanging out together. Hard because many of these memories are tied into some of the hardest moments of my life, Brent was always there to see me through back to the good times and now that he is gone and we have to say goodbye I don’t know how I won’t lose my way in life.

Brent was many things, he was my best friend, a stand in brother, a marriage counselor, a side kick, a drinking buddy and, strangely enough, a moral compass. A lot of the memories I have aren’t really suitable for a church but then again, as Brent would agree, neither were the best parts of the bible. The scriptures are full of messed up broken people who God uses in crazy ways to get the gospel shared and our lives today are no exception. Brent was straight up, he lived without pretensions, he didn’t compromise about anything, he called it like he saw it and he was not afraid to tell the truth. In that spirit my memories of him are full of the straight up truth.

I met Brent through a fellow karaoke host named Tommy Young, at first we were acquaintances until one day Tommy was sick and I ended up filling in for him at a bar called Joe Palooka’s. I’m, right in the middle of the show when all of a sudden here comes this rebel rousing bald headed dude with a sleeveless shirt on he made himself, tattoos blazin, ballcap on, you guys can see him standing here as I type this can’t you? “Hey! Where’s Tommy??!!??” “Uhhh….. he’s sick dude” I stammer, not wanting to get my butt kicked. “OK!!” he says as he hands me about 8 slips of karaoke requests. He must have liked the way I ran my shows because it wasn’t long that I would see him at almost everyone. Then one day after the show was over and most of the bar had cleared out I asked him if he wanted to go get some breakfast. He said sure and that was the beginning of our friendship. He sat there and told me the story of some guy he knew that he was really good friends with and how he had died in a car wreck not long ago and how he was supposed to be in the car with him. “God wanted me here I guess” he said.

Brent had poor vision because of his progressing diabetes so he didn’t drive, that was no problem because he lived so close to me, Id swing by, pick him up, we’d go to the show together and he would help me set up. We’d hang and drink all night and then we’d tear down and sometimes we’d go get breakfast. One time my folks invited the two of us to go see a Rockies game and he brought along his handicap sticker That was the moment that he became my parents favorite friend of mine, not that I ever had too many of those.

My favorite memory is my 23rd birthday, a bunch of us were there, all of my favorite people. My brother, Brent, I think he had a girl at the time too. He and my brother signed me up to sing Barbie Girl and I was so drunk I didn’t care I did it anyway. When my brother died several months later Brent was one of the first folks I called. He did what he always did, he made sure that I got out to karaoke and we sang the night away. He was also at the funeral even though he barely knew Mark, he knew I needed support so he was there.

My least favorite memory was the night I threw a stool at him, He needed a ride clear across town and I was so drunk, and hurting, doing everything I could to stay numb, to not care. I said things I didn’t actually mean and threw the stool which he caught. He later told me he forgave me as soon as it left my hands, that was Brent too, he always forgave.

We were both avid wrestling fans and while watching Raw or Nitro if something crazy happened we’d call each other. Of course you’d never be able to tell what we were talking about in those conversations because it would sound like this “DUDE DID YOU JUST SEE THAT???” “DUDE YES!!! AWESOME” “DUDE!!!” “DUUUUUDE?” “DUDE!!” We were eloquent what can I say? The peak of our wrestling fandom happened when we went to Raw together, Brent scored floor seats. Shane McMahon ran right past us and for a slit second we were on live TV with our signs. After that we went to Denny’s like always and Brent told me all about American Idol and how awesome it is, I’m still not a fan but I am glad he liked it so much.

When I got married the first time Brent was my best man, when that marriage fell apart Brent was right there, told me to get my ass over to his house and pick him up to go to a karaoke show He always knew what I needed, the best friends are like that. When I moved to Tucson he and Kristie and Michael Pelshaw threw me a huge going away party. Hell even my parents came and they hate karaoke.

The last time I saw him was 9 years ago this month we went to lunch at Old Chicago and he looked me right in the eyes and he said “This one hurts because it’s like I know you’re never coming back” and he was right. I never saw him again, we’d still talk. He kept me up to date on his blindness, his brushes with death and losing his leg. When he got the new kidney and pancreas we rejoiced. We made jokes about used parts(his idea). When I finally became a Christian again 5years ago he told me he was glad to see I was finally on the right road. I honestly think I always was, God put him in my life to watch after me during my darkest days, to make sure I never strayed too far. Some would say that Brent was always looking for the party but I don’t think that is true. I believe that Brent always knew his time was short, he was not afraid of dying because as he said “I know where I’m going” and he just wanted to milk life for all he could for the time he had. He lived fully. I can see him now in heaven, this rebel rousing bald headed dude with a sleeveless shirt on he made himself, tattoos blazin, ballcap on, strolling up to the pearly gates saying “HOOOO WEEE what a freaking ride!! Where’s the karaoke show?

Mike Wise

5/6/2015

It’s hard to be a Christian

5 years ago I started a journey that has led me to where I am, I attend a church at which I also serve on the leadership team. I believe in God, the father, son and spirit, I live and die by Christ’s finished work on the cross, my faith is sure, not from my own effort but because of Christ who has begun a good work in me and has promised to finish it. Having said that though I freely admit to you that it’s hard to be a Christian.

It’s hard to be a Christian because to be a Christian means I have to admit I am not strong enough to fix this, not only my own personal issues but also the greater issues of the world. A few thousand years of human experience has proven that, given to our own devices, we will make things worse rather than better. I’m not different than anyone else. I wallow in the muck, I’ve actually gotten really good at it. It’s must easer to do this than to work to make things better and being a Christian means I believe that God is working to bring this world right again, and I am part of that process no matter how many growing pains I have to endure.

It’s hard to be a Christian because the close I get to Christ the more horrible the sight of my own sin becomes. I’m not getting better, I still fight and struggle with the old dead man that I drag towards the finish line, but the more I study, the more I learn to look to Jesus the more apparent my sins become. I put Jesus on the cross daily with my pride, my anger, my unwillingness to stand for what is right, my lust, my gluttony.

It’s hard to be a Christian because the longer I follow Christ the more my heart feels the sadness that his did. This world is dying, you can hear it’s death rattle if you listen close enough. The more we hate each other, fight each other, kill each other, cheat each other, lust after each other the more we can hear her choke. If you follow Christ you can no longer turn a blind eye to the brokenness of this world. You have to feel, smell, taste, see and hear the final gasping breaths of this world which God so loved.

It’s hard to be a Christian because it’s easier to be drunk. I want to numb out, to shut out the waiting world, to drink in the pleasures of life, to watch TV or state at any number of other screens in my life which provide nothing but endless entertainment. Being a Christian means that I am to remain sober minded, I have to not desensitize, I must feel every blow, I must shoulder the sadness that life heaps on. Without Jesus, without his gift, his grace I’d never be able to do it.

I spent 10 years of my life as an Agnostic, part of me wishes I still was because that life was a lot easier. Sure I was dying but at least I was numb right? But that’s the strangest thing, as much as it hurts to feel what Jesus feels, as horrible as it is to look on my own sin, as hard as it is to admit that I am weak and cannot save myself, as badly as I want to numb out I know I can no longer go back to my tomb

I have been made alive

I have been given peace

I have a new name

I have been granted a real identity

I have invited into a real permanent home.

It is hard to follow Christ, but it is what I have been called to do. I cannot trade the treasure I’ve been given for the security of a life in a closed casket. He promises he will never leave me and I have a lifetime of evidence to prove him right.

I am yours Jesus

Do with me what you will.

It’s ‘just’ anxiety

On the Sunday before last I had a wonderful opportunity to preach at my church. Usually I only get this chance once a year but this last year I have now had the chance to do it twice. I’ve been working on my sermon for a few weeks and was really excited to deliver the finished piece. It all started normally enough but right in the middle of speaking on the sinlessness of Jesus, that’s when it hit me.

A horrible anxiety attack

Panic

My chest was tight, I had tingling in my hands, I was getting dizzy, I was breathing heavy, I could not drink enough water my mouth was so dry I wasn’t sure if I was going to pass out, die or run but I knew I had to do something.

Just a week before that I was in the ER at the hospital just down the road, again, for similar symptoms. The ER thought I was well enough to send home.

See I get these panic attacks from time to time, I can go months, even years sometimes without having one and then I can have 2 or 3 in one day.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to them and I guess in a way I have but when you totally feel like death warmed over it is hard to convince yourself that what  you are fighting is all in your head.

Or as the Doctors like to say “Oh, it’s just anxiety”.

I was diagnosed as having Generalized Anxiety Disorder back in 2008, when I was 30 years old. You have to have chronic anxiety symptoms for over 6 months to be diagnosed I went an entire year.

I spent a couple years on medication and never really liked it. Since coming off drugs 4 years ago I’ve gone back and forth with the anxiety. SOme days, weeks, months are good and some not so much.

Lately my life has been in the not so much catagory.

I’ve had some major stress in my life, my dad got a diagnosis of kidney cancer and he had to have a kidney removed and well that sent me on the latest spiral.

Since my fears always center around my heart health(because I’m fat) I recently went to a cardiologist and was reassured that, once again, it was JUST anxiety.

You hear that a lot when you have anxiety as a mental disorder.

Oh you’re fine you’re just anxious

It’s just anxiety

It’s just your nerves it won’t kill you.

Yes they’re right to a point, panic attacks and generalized anxiety have yet to kill anyone but it’s still very flippant to dismiss the disorder as simply being just anxiety

It was just anxiety that led me to leaving my band a year ago. There were other reasons but the panic attacks and feelings of dread I was having due to the confrontations and stress that I was having in that band were making it difficult to function much les stay in the band.

It was just anxiety that has stopped me from working out as much and as hard as I once was, and let me tell you what I miss it I really do but when a mile walk gets you feeling dizzy it’s really hard to enjoy yourself.

It’s just anxiety that has stopped me from going out and doing things I used to love doing like seeing shows and doing karaoke.

It’s just anxiety that is making someone who has always ad a fairly active social life become much more of a homebody than I ever thought I’d be.

Anxiety disorders may not kill you but they will rob you of your joy. They’ll stop you from doing things you love to do, they will keep you at home, they will make you scared to death to take risks and chances. They hurt your mind, body and soul. I feel chronic pain of one kind or another every single day, the types of pain that a guy my age should not be feeling and I’ve been dealing witch that for the last 6, almost 7 years.

At least a couple times a week I get to feeling so dizzy and foggy headed I wonder if I am going to fall over. My life is changing and a lotm of it is because of the anxiety I deal with.

I keep waiting to get better, keep waiting for the day that will come that I’ll be able to do things I used to do and enjoy them without fear again but those days seem very far away. If I take medication I’m weak and I have to deal with ridiculous side effects but if I don’t than I have days when I feel pretty miserable and I spent a lot of my time wondering just what the hell is wrong with me.

My church, my wonderful church was so amazing and encouraging after I melted down in front of them last week. They have even told m that the sermon was good, but trust me it wasn’t. It was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had, I’d be surprised if they asked me to do it again.

My hope and prayer is that anxiety will just be something that I can grow out of. My fear is I never will and someday, sooner rather than later, it will make me be a shell of who God really wanted me to be.

Somewhere between what I hope and what I fear is the reality that life is going really fast and I feel like I’m being run over by it. That’s a but the best way to describe it.

The Autism problem

I find that I am not really proud of my autism nor am I ashamed of it. It is what it is I can no more be proud of ashamed of it as I can be proud or ashamed that my eyes are blue or that I am as tall as I am. To put too much stock in these things seems silly. Having said that though there are days I wsh I wasn’t autistic.

I’ve had a problem for most of my life, the problem is I don’t really feel like I am really living and by that what I mean is I don’t really feel like I am getting the most I can out of this life. I feel this way because of the way that anxiety has deeply affected how I approach life. I feel that if I didn’t have autism than I would not be as anxious as I am now. I could be wrong I suppose, I could have a brain that functions in typical ways and still have deeply rooted anxiety but sometimes I wonder if my brain would handle the anxiety differently.

I fixate on everything. Music, food, sex, God, status, money, death, everything. I can’t just causally think about something and then let it go I fixate on it to the point that it can drive me insane, but more than all the others the thing I fixate on the most is death. I fixate so much on death that most of the others things I do in life are done to try to fight the anxiety I feel about my own demise.

Last night I wrote a status on FB talking about my frustrations with my lack of weight loss lately. I admitted that when it came right down to it what I was really fighting was the fear that I was going to die from a heart attack, specifically it comes down to dying young from a heart attack. I feel as if I have family history nipping at my heels, my moms dad, my grandfather whom I never met, died when he was only 45 years old, by that time he had already had 3 heart attacks.

I just turned 36, every year on my birthday I say the same thing. I am one step closer to my goal of being an old fart. It’s tongue in cheek but it also comes from a place of fear, I really get scared sometimes that I will die before ‘my time’ whenever that might actually be. I want to live to be old but then again being old has it’s own list of issues. What I really want is immortality, to never have to go through the process of dying.

As I sit here typing this my back and chest feel tight, this is not a new sensation, it’s nothing that I haven’t felt dozens upon dozens of times before. It is something that has caused me to call EMTs and travel to emergency rooms before but because I have an understanding of what it is I sit here and just deal with it. I am not having a heart attack, yet the fear remains

I cannot remember a single day when the thought of whether or not I would die didn’t enter my mind. Seriously, as far back as I can remember, way back inm childhood at least once per day(but usuaully much much more) I have wondered if I was going to die that day. Sometimes I’ve actually felt as if I really was dying that very moment.

This is your brain

This is autism

This is your brain on autism

Any questions?

Yes, yes I have a question.

Could I have just one single day when I don’t feel as if my stupid autistic brain isn’t trying to beat me into submission? Can I have one day when I don’t worry as to whether or not I am going to die? Could I experience what life would be like if I didn’t have anxiety? If I just lived in the trust that my God has it all under his control no matter what I feel or experience? Just one stupid day where I don’t dance the dance of whether or not my symptoms are bad enough that I should go see a Dr or go to a hospital? It’s much easier to trust God when you aren’t scared for your very life? Could I have this without medicating myself? I am not even asking for my aches and pain to go away I’ll take them but can aches and pains please just be aches and pains and not send me into a proverbial tailspin?

So yeah I’m not proud of being an autistic person. I’m just a misfit who’s trying his best to get through life. SO far I’ve done ok but someday I’ll fail, I just hope it’s not today.

Tomorrow I’ll hope the exact same thing.

 

Whatever you do don’t do this…

Of course it happened, I knew it would, I’ve actually come to expect it.

My wife lost her job this week, this is the 3rd job that she has lost in the last year and a half. It’s horrible especially for her because of how it makes her feel about herself, but her losing her job isn’t the thing that I have come to expect to happen. No, it’s what always comes after, what always comes after any kind of crisis.

“Just remember to be strong.:

“Cheer up, God has a great plan for your life.”

“when God closes a door he opens a window”

“You should be thankful for what you DO have”

“You’re strong you can get through anything”

“God will never give you something you can’t handle”

Whoa…..

WHOA…..

Wait……… STOP!!!!!!!!!

Just STOP a second

We all have well meaning friends who, when they hear about something horrible happening in our lives, a lost job, a death, cancer, bills we can’t get paid, they begin spouting these little rays of sunshine at us.

It’s like advice but it’s not really advice… they’re meant to be encouraging but they leave you feeling anything but courageous.

If we’re really honest we’ve all probably said some of these things ourselves to others.

The intention are always good don’t get me wrong… But seriously, some of these sayings are just downright horrible, and false.

When I decided I wanted to write this post after seeing countless people say one or more of these cliches to my wife and myself I asked some of my Facebook friends to share some of the worst they’ve heard. The list is a sampling of some of the responses I got. I mean where do we begin?

“Just remember to be stong”, “You’re strong you can get through anything.” How bout we start with these? I mean in many cases this ight be technically correct, I know my wife is certainly strong she has weathered a lot through her years on earth but she is also discouraged. She has lost 3 jobs in a row in less than 2 years. Maybe reminding someone of their strength when they are hurting isn’t the best way to go about supporting someone.

“When God closes a door he opens a window.” What does this even mean? If a door is closed I’m supposed to find a window to crawl through? Perhaps I am not even supposed to visit that house. Sometimes horrible things happen and there are no open doors, open windows, heck there isn’t even a place to hide while tragedy bears down on you.

“God has a plan for your life.” While this is true, God has a plan for all of our lives when we state this we forget the free radical agent of sin and brokenness. Was it God’s plan for my brother to die all alone in a field? Was it God’s plan for one of my Facebook friends not be able to make her rent? Is it Gods plan for me to eat too much when stress gets the better of me? Now I believe that God will redeem all of the horrible things that happen but it’s just bad theology to say that it was all a part of God’s plan. It certainly doesn’t make anyone FEEL better. “I know you have lung cancer but don’t worry it’s all part of God’s plan.” “Well great, thanks for that God. Glad to know you love me so much as to afflict me with a horrible wasting disease.” It’s just wrong, stop saying it.

“God will never give you something you can’t handle”. I don’t even know where to start with this one. First of all IT’S NOT TRUE!! It’s not ion The Bible, go ahead go look I’ll wait here.

Can’t find it? That’s because it’s not there! The verse that you think says this is speaking about temptation. It’s 1 Corinthians 10:13   No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

That’s not about trials, it’s not about getting sick or losing your house or having someone you love die or losing your job it’s about resisting temptation. Every time I hear someone say this garbage I want to smack them upside the head with Young’s ANalytical Concordance..

So if all of these are horrible things to say how can we react to bad news?

Well for starters, don’t say anything. Listen. Hear(or read) everything the person has to say. Digest it, think about it, put yourself in their shoes.

If you do speak just start by telling the person that you’ve heard them, that you’re there for them. Be honest about your feelings, tell them that what they are going through sucks. Tell them you wish it would not happen.

you can try to get them talking more, ask open ended questions, clarify what they are feeling. “It sounds like you’re pretty overwhelmed” A few questions like this will help you to get to the root of the issue. ‘

Most importantly though pray. Pray with them but if they don’t want to pray than pray for them. The best thing that we can don for anyone who is in crisis mode is to bring them before God in prayer.

You’ll mess this up, we all will, but having a few tools in place can help you really be there for the people you love who are hurting. Mostly they want to know they’re not alone. Anyone can give them that assurance.

36 reasons why turning 36 is awesome.

Today is the final day of being 35 for me. This has been a crazy crazy year. I’ve released a CD, quit the band that I released the CD with, moved out of my parents house after having lived with them for 6 years, celebrated 5 years of being married and my wife and I decided that we were going to become foster parents.

It’s been a crazy good year, though not without it’s challenges.

I had a major generalized anxiety disorder episode right after we moved, I’ve had a chronic issue with my shoulder I also had some unexplained dizziness that made life pretty difficult,

Through all the triumphs and challenges though remains a feeling of blessing. I’m blessed, I am blessed beyond measure. To illustrate this, on the eve of my 36th birthday I figured I’s steal an idea I’ve seen other bloggers do and write down 36 reasons why turning 36 is awesome. I hope you are taking notes because there will be a test later.

First the big 5

1. God, It’s not quite correct to say that God is first on my list. It’s not a linear thing it’s more about orbit. God is the whole reason I am here and the only reason that I can put anything else on this list. Without him, without his love, his sacrifice on the cross, his discipleship I would not here much less be blessed. He owes me nothing and I owe him everything  and yet he truly has given me abundance

2. My wife: Corrie. My other half, my team mate, my best friend, my partner in crime, the cream to my coffee, the harmony to my melody, My teacher, student and study partner. I’m head over heels in love and lucky to have her by my side all of the time. It is an interesting challenge to be two autistic people in a marriage but it’s one made all the sweeter just because Corrie is who she is.

3 My family: My folks who have always been there, my in-laws who love me as if I was their own, My grandma, my aunts, uncles and cousins. My nieces and nephews. Some are here in town some are far away but whenever I get time with any of them it’s always as if no time has passed since the last time I saw him. I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to have a family like mine and trust me it’s not something I take for granted.

4. My church: I’ve been going to The Village so long and we are small enough that they all feel like family now. We hang out more than just on Sundays, we find reasons to be together whenever we can. We laugh together, cry together, encourage (which literally means give courage to) each other and in all ways we live in community as God’s kids and family. I cannot imagine another group of misfits I’d rather travel life with.

5. My friends: Whether you’ve known me for 20 years or 2 months, whether we’ve met in real life or simply had online conversations, if you consider me a friend thank you. My friends have always been a source of strength for me, a light in the darkness that life can sometimes be and I will always be in debt to you. My phone is always on and my door is always open if you need anything at all and you know that.

Now lets have some fun. The rest of these are in no particular order.

6. coffee: this is self explanatory. GIve me a cup of hot coffee in the morning and life all just falls into place from there.

7. Netflix streaming: Seriously why did it take so long to come up with this technology, where have you been all my life. Did we ever binge watch TV shows before this?

8. Theology: From Bunyon to Bell, From Confessions to Calvins Commentaries I love to study the word. I love to dig into the text and find the stories within the stories.

9. Pizza: Again pretty self explanatory. The world’s perfect food. Give me a pepperoni pizza and I’ll be happy as a kid on Christmas.

10 Walking. It was a few years ago I took up walking seriously and now it is still my favorite way to exercise. Forget the treadmill give me the sky, the sun, the earth and I am good. Speaking of which…

11: Sabino Canyon: One of my favorite places to hike. If you have never been come to Tucson and check it out.

12: Turner Classic Movies. I don’t know what it is about an old movie but something about it makes you feel good inside and we are lucky to have a cable channel like TCM that has so many in it’s library.

13: Eegee’s. This is a Tucson staple, again if you have never been come to town and try it at least once. You will be as hooked as I am.

14: My wife’s cooking: Corrie is a foodie and the best part of that is that I get to sample all of her idea’s. My personal favorite is her baked ziti which she makes from scratch.

15. Karaoke: There is always going to be a part of me that loves singing on a stage, any stage.

16. playing the drums at church: This happened as a fluke but I am glad it did. One of the purest ways in which I worship God is through rhythm. It’s not my way of showing off it is just a way of telling Jesus thank you.

17. The Denver Broncos: Come on, it was only a matter of time that I brought them up right?

18: Tucson sunsets: No where else on earth are the sunsets are pretty as they are here.

19. Pillow talk: Those conversations you have with your spouse right before you drift off to sleep. Those are special.

20: Good beer: Lagers are my favorite but I also will go for a stout or a porter.

21. Massage: I suppose the one plus side to the aches and pains of aging is it’s a good excuse to treat yourself to a much needed massage. I wish everyone could afford to have one of these every month, they really do wonders.

22: Texas country: If you want to hear good country music that is also new it’s not in Nashville it’s in Texas. Here are some names to get you started, Stoney Larue, Aaron Watson, Jason Abbott Band, The Rankin Twins, Kasey Musgraves.

23. Settlers of Catan: Greatest board game ever

24. Settlers of Catan Cities and Knights edition. Greatest board game ever on steroids.

25. This song which is the greatest song ever.

26. Old school soul from the 60’s and 70’s: Nuff said.

27. Finally getting to the point in life where In don’t feel as if I have as much to prove, I can just relax and be me and live. It’s not a race or a contest, that’s pretty awesome when you can learn that.

28. Having a Dunkin Donuts near the house(see #1. Coffee)

29. Nico’s red chilli burrito: It’s hard to pinpoint why this is so good it just is.

30. My buddy Max: I dunno if guys like him and me are really supposed to be friends but we are. When we get together usually something hilarious ensues.

31: Pastor Eric: Paul to my Timothy, I will follow you as you follow Christ.

32. My counselor Jen: Jen is not only a good friend but she has served as my Christian Counselor. She has been a very important signpost pointing me back ot Jesus in areas where I was trying to fix things myself. She is a blessing not only to me but to many others.

33. Facebook. This goes along with my comments on friends but also beyond that. Facebook has helped me in so many ways to connect to other people. Connection can be hard for someone with autism but Facebook has made it easier.

34. My job and my boss: Perhaps I don’t have the most exciting job, I am not saving the world whenever I connect someone to admissions but it’s a job to do, one I’ve held for approaching 4 years and my boss Bren has been a great support to me as not only a friend but as an employee with disabilities.

35. Pima college: It took me a long time to decide to go back to school but since making that choice Pima has made learning and earning a degree a pretty fun adventure.

and finally

36. The future. I don’t know if the future is carved in stone or if we’re making it up as we go along but the process of discovery is fantastic either way. Whatever happens, good or bad, life is a sweet experience. I am into the 2nd act the plot is unfolding and character is being developed. This is the best part about life and I am blessed to be living it.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

The moment when…..

*This is a true story but due to the nature of the accounts in this story I’ve changed names.

 

I can tell you the exact moment when my love affair with Jesus started.

It didn’t, strangely enough, start when I got saved at 12. I will admit that there was something in Jesus that I knew I needed and wanted but I don’t think salvation really took. I often ask myself the question as to whether or not I was really saved, I don’t know the answer to that question. I know my heart was in the right place and I know that I wanted nothing more than to be a Christian but I also know that I struggled with a lot of things in High School and well yeah my 20’s were spent in a fog of doubt, fear and anger. So I cannot honestly tell you whether I was ‘saved’ or not or even what being ‘saved’ really means.

The time I knew I needed Jesus happened not long after I decided to give faith another try. My friend and boss Beth gave me a book called Blue Like Jazz, it was a book I had heard of many times but it wasn’t something I was interested in reading when I first heard the title. That changed after some conversations with my wife and a few church visits. It’s weird because I don’t remember Beth ever bringing up the book I had actually been the one who asked about it and she just happened to have a copy of it. That’s how God works, through coincidences that are so convenient you slowly realize that there is no such thing as coincidence.

There is a ton of great stuff in that book but the thing that impacted me the most was the story he shared about a soldier. I don’t remember the specifics, what war it was or where, but a soldier broke into a prison where captives were being held and he came into a room and freed the prisoners there, he told them they were all free to go. Except that they didn’t. See these poor people were so terrified, so ravaged by the horrors they’ve experienced that they didn’t even get up off of the ground where they had been cowering in absolute fear. The soldier came back and again told them they were free but still they didn’t budge.

He could’ve left them right? I mean he had done his part, it was now their choice with what to do next, isn’t that how so many Christians treat salvation, once the gospel is presented the ball is in their court. If they choose to stay in the pit of their sin there is nothing more that can or should be done, God has already provided the way out and it’s up to us to take it.

What a lowly, sad, incomplete and downright disgusting view of grace.

That’s not what the soldier in the story did though. He comes back into the cell and he puts his guns down and then he gets down on the ground among these people. He kneels there with them in solidarity. He reaches his arms out and touches them gently and just kneels there with them until they can see that he is no enemy he is truly there to save them.

One of the most popular topics that people seem to ask me about, whether they are Christian or not, is my views on hell. It’s a topic that I admittedly have a hard time sharing my views, because they are not clear cut and they are not black and white. They are views which have been formed by my understanding of theology, and my own life experiences as someone who has rebelled and who has been woo’d back by a loving Christ.

I think there is some sort of hell, I think there are people there. I think there will be people there after this life. I don’t know where this hell is or who exactly will be there or how long the duration of that stay will be but I believe in it and I hope that no one experience it because it’s a terrible place.

Having said that I think that Jesus takes people out of hell all the time. I think that there are some aspects of hell that we experience in THIS life in much the same way that everyone regardless of their affiliation experiences what is called common grace. Common grace are the good things we experience in life, food, shelter, family, good times. But we also experience the ramifications of the fall. All of our bodies are perishing, the aches and pains we experience as we get older, our failing eyesight, colds and flus, make no mistake we are all slowly but surely dying. Some of us experience this in profound frighting ways.

I have a couple friends who I had a dialogue with this week. One is Rick and his father used to work for a church organization in the state they lived in. The other is Joseph and he is guy I knew in HS.

Rick’s dad was accused of horrible things, things he simply did not do. The accusations are so heinous that even though I’ve changed names I won’t repeat them. Because of the backlash of this Rick left the church and has lost his faith though he doesn’t really know how to label himself anymore.

Joseph grew up Mormon but he also grew up confused. He feels as if he is a woman trapped in a mans body and this has been absolute torture for him. To look in the mirror and not see who he believes that he is. Because of this he hates God because God has not fixed him either way and he has become a WIccan.

I guess this is where I differ from some Christians, I have no doubts of either Rick’s or Mitch’s place in the kingdom. Jesus isn’t standing outside of their prison cell with his exasperated hands in the air saying “Well I’ve set them free but they have decided to remain in prison, I can do no more”. No, like the soldier in the story he has come into the cell. He is sitting, kneeling, crying and suffering with my friends. When they are pissed at him he listens to their curses, he allows them to hit him if they feel the need, and when they are ready, and only when they are ready. He’ll take their hands and they will storm out of hell together.

How do I know this?

That’s exactly what he did with me, he allowed me to sit in my anger, my doubt and my fear for 10 years. Then when I was ready he led me into the sunshine of a life so abundant I could never imagine it, not even when I first got ‘saved’ when I was 12.

That’s why I want to be a pastor.

So I can be there to watch Jesus go into prisons. Prison of hate, of addiction, of anger, of grief and of ruin. See him get down on the level of these people that some would label as enemies. See him sit there in the midst of them and then watch them link hands and storm the gates of hell together.

I believe in Hell I just don’t believe it has a very good security system.

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