Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Culture of Outrage — September 16, 2020

Culture of Outrage

Nowhere has been safe from 2020. In my small, idyllic town, we have had one unwelcome disruption after another. Recently, it was discovered that the elementary school is being swallowed by the earth (if the guesses are to be believed) and the administration KNEW it and inexplicably covered up (if the opinions on Facebook are to be believed).

I don’t have any idea if the ground is crumbling underneath the building and if eventually there will be a giant hole where the building now stands. No one does. But that doesn’t stop the trolls on social media from screaming and pointing fingers.

We’re all just one small step from losing our minds.

My very good friend calls it a culture of outrage. (She may have read it somewhere – and she may have even told me where, but I don’t remember so I’m happy to just attribute the wisdom to her.) We are constantly looking for offense. And if offense works like everything else, what we look for, we will find.

There is a school parents group on Facebook where parents wildly throw accusations and unfounded theories that are easily refuted, but the truth doesn’t seem too important so the same wild accusations are given the same weight and repeated and recycled. I wonder what we’re teaching our children. No, I know what we’re teaching our children, I just don’t like it.

The fabric of humanity is being stretched, threatening to tear us all apart. The isolation keeps us locked inside the stories we are telling ourselves, no matter how fantastical, and locked away from each other.

Then, this week a news report was released of absolutely unspeakable horror in this tiny, “perfect” town. Now, what will we do when faced with a new story? Will we come together or drift further apart? Will we hold each other in grief, or rip each other’s hearts out in anger and outrage? As in the lyrics of a Rise Against song, will we come alive or come undone?

If pre-COVID history is any indication, this community (with very few exceptions) will connect and find comfort together. However, we are no longer in a pre-COVID world, so it’s possible we’ll be thirsty for blood and revenge and most of all, blame. I hope we come alive, hope we remember that we are all a shared humanity and that the outrage subsides and is replaced by care and love. Instead of holding our opinions and rage, I hope we start holding each other again.

General Zod In Waco — July 30, 2020

General Zod In Waco

I told you last week that I was falling apart, right?

We’ll talk about that in a few paragraphs, but first I want to give you a quick recommendation/review. I followed up the Filthy Epstein documentary with the Waco series, also on Netflix. It’s a 6 part series based on books written by those closely involved, produced by and starring Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon. Taylor Kitsch hasn’t been in anything I’ve seen, but is outstanding as David Koresh. Michael Shannon has been in quite a few things I’ve seen (General Zod in the newest Superman movies, Walt Thrombey in the awesome Knives Out, etc) and is terrific in everything, including this, as the chief FBI negotiator.

It’s the feel-good hit chronicling how the FBI & ATF murdered 76 people. Maybe we can talk about the things the Branch Davidians (the group led by Koresh) did wrong or that we don’t like or understand. Surely, there are plenty of those to discuss. But I’m absolutely positive none of those things deserved the death penalty. It was disgusting and when the final credits rolled, I cried and cried. It’s beautifully written and acted, an excellent miniseries.

Now back to the beginning. Nothing is new about me falling apart from time to time. I have ups and downs, like everyone, but as I am told, not everyone feels them quite like I do. When I was much younger, the dark down parts felt like they’d never end and I’d often contemplate anything to end the darkness. Now, I don’t ever think about making today my last day, because I know the darkness isn’t forever. I know the darkness will pass and it will be light again, sometime. That’s as good of a definition of faith as I can find.

It’s been dark for me for some weeks now, and as my tears dried from the horrors of Waco, my heavy heart plodded to why? After breakups in college, I would listen exclusively to the Smiths, Morrissey and Depeche Mode and the other saddest songs I could find. I’d play “Unloveable” on repeat. Why purposefully walk deeper into that abyss? As I watch the pain of Federal Agents being sent into Seattle on the news, why am I choosing the story of Waco, TX? When I’m overwhelmed with sadness, maybe the murder of women and children isn’t the best option. Or is it?

Just like in the kitchen, it really matters a what we put in our bodies. But I’m not sure what that even means when it comes to this. I refuse to ignore or avoid the pain of real life…but maybe diving in so fully isn’t the healthiest, either. Maybe I need, say, 2 Morrissey albums and then a mindless electronic dj mix, like a cold glass of water tossed in my face to remind me that a full life contains joy as well as pain, mindless superficiality in addition to matters of weight. Depth includes laughter, too. Not just tears. Who knows?

But I can’t stand electronic dj mixes. (I call them mixes – maybe that’s what they call them, too – because they’re not songs or albums, they’re just beats and pulses. They’re not really anything, are they? Besides awful, I mean.)

So. I don’t have a nice tidy ending, here or in my broken heart. We’re just having these conversations.

Camp. — May 15, 2020

Camp.

This morning I watched Camp Hollywood, a documentary on the Highland Gardens hotel, providing the backdrop for actors trying to “make it” in an industry that is mostly indifferent. The ocean doesn’t care if you sink or swim and neither does Hollywood. For every name you know, there are millions and millions you don’t.

A reviewer named Naphiah on IMDb writes “this movie is really a love poem to each of our own lives.” I didn’t see it that way… It looked like a slice of life where once-hopefuls drown their despair in loads of alcohol and chain-smoked cigarettes. It was a depressing film, honestly; interesting, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say the actors enjoyed it, either. They arrived with huge dreams and a life savings that doesn’t last long enough. (The filmmaker, a stand-up comedian, had a plan and enough money to stay for 2 months, instead leaving after 20 and $87,000 in credit card debt.)

I have 2 thoughts.

It is actually about community, (as I’m finding most things are), about finding belonging, acceptance, a tribe. These people travel from Canada, usually, and form fast relationships as they face the struggle of auditions, finding celebration and far more often, rejection, together. We all know rejection goes down much smoother with another who understands. From a certain perspective, all of these documentaries are really about The Church. This would be obvious if only the local church knew how to hold the complexity of real life without cliche, knew how to hold depression and pain without scrambling to ignore it to preserve carefully crafted hairstyles and images. The Church could/must fill these holes (but without the destructive escape into substance abuse.) We could learn volumes about the words of Jesus through a Netflix (or in this case, Amazon Prime) curriculum.

Now, the other. Does the fact that they are rejected make them failures? What if they don’t book the role or the pilot isn’t picked up? What if they have to move home? Have they lost?

Naphiah also says, “the director captures…the real success of following one’s dreams. Each participant is therefore, already a success.” (I guess I found her review more inspiring than the movie.) Maybe she’s right. Probably she’s right. We can live sweet, contented lives with a “No,” but may never sleep again nursing a “what if?” These people took their shots, which is more than the majority of us do. Of course, it’s hard and it’ll take years to pay off the debt (and detox from the vodka and nicotine avalanche), but how will you ever really know unless you try?

I guess this is actually a film about courage and imagination, which is what my favorite parts of the Bible are about, which is what my favorite parts of sports and books and stories are about, which is what my favorite parts of life are about.

Both Hands — March 18, 2020

Both Hands

We are all quarantined (except for those on the beaches in Florida, I suppose.) The schools are closed, most businesses are affected, and it is causing a great deal of tension. We are not a society of people who take very kindly being told we can not. It seems like an infringement, an act of violence, even if the thing being taken away is undesirable or harmful.

This virus could kill us, or those close to us. But I wanna go to the mall or the movies or ANYWHERE!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said or heard that we’d want nothing more than to check out for a minute, stay home, lower the volume on the world and take a nap. Now we have to, and we are losing our collective mind about it.

But that’s people, it’s who we are.

I don’t really want to write about that, what I do want to write about is the truth of feeling, talking, living, fully engaged, able to see and hold wide ranges of emotions. A philosophy of “Both Hands.”

The virus is horrible. People are in pain, suffering and, in some cases, dying. The wide reaching state of emergency is heaping stress and anxiety upon countless more. How will we make it? How will we pay the rent, the bills, the groceries? What will we do??? Some of us are alone and lonely, the quarantine emphasizing our heartbreaking isolation.

At the same time, the quiet is lovely. The time at home, with my wife, my boys, is like water healing every broken or cracked part of me. The house is full of laughter and smooches, and this is a season where we would never have found this unhurried time to spend together. We play games, watch movies, music is always playing and we’re eating healthy around the dinner table. I called my mom yesterday, a gift I’ve neglected due to the demands of every day.

I am more thankful than I can express for the time. And I pray for it to end. This is the paradox of a life in between.

I sometimes get the blessing and honor of officiating funerals and nowhere is this more pronounced than in that thick space. We are sad and our hearts are aching…and we are hopeful for the promises of Jesus and grateful for the time we spent with the person we mourn. It’s a “both, and” situation, not “either, or.”

The problem is, we hide, we pretend, we try to fit an image we’ve decided is fitting, important, or spiritual. This masquerade requires us to eliminate one of our hands in the service of the great lie. We decide it is not Christian to weep, to ask why, to allow our sadness room to breathe, so instead we plaster on a smile and recite our practiced platitudes. And we suppress our pain and encourage others to do the same, which only results in super secret wounds that never heal. The only way is through.

Yes, this is the worst. It’s also the best. Sometimes in the very same moment. I have a good friend who says, “How can hell be any worse?” And I answer, “How can Heaven be any better?” We’re both right. And we’re both wrong. This is our prayer, it can only be offered from our open, honest hearts.

The Fear — February 5, 2020

The Fear

My sons were very young when I first began to explain the cliche, “follow the money.” Probably, if you were to listen to my wife, much too young. Maybe, but they are quick to ask the question (often, the only important question) and that answer usually frames the story into very easily understood pieces.

For instance, I watched a Netflix documentary on some sketchy food practices and spent most of it in awe, having my mind blown by the corruption and hypocrisy in the. It was only in the last 10ish minutes where the filmmaker played his hand, M. Night Shyamalan-style, and the whole doc turned out to be nothing more than a long-form commercial for vegan-ism (Big Vegan;). It was a disingenuous twist, exactly the sort he spent the entire film exposing in the evil animal product villains. It didn’t discount or minimize the truth he found or the impact of the truth, it simply displayed that, under different circumstances and different opportunities, he would have been working for the other side exposing the vegan propaganda.

My boys and I found no shortage of examples that were easy to find and see in professional sports – why would I narrow that to ‘professional?’ Collegiate athletics, high school, sheesh, even youth sports are rotten to the core. Anywhere there is money, of any amount, there will be leverage and abuse.

It was with great hesitation that I selected the series Broken and began with episode 1 and the plastic/recycling/petroleum industry. Then, episode 2 focused on cheap, disposable furniture, IKEA, and the environment. Obviously, this is all crushing and leaves little hope for the future. I used to see the Biblical story of Noah as one where an angry God wildly overreacts and nearly destroys all creation. And why? Because they had fallen so far, broken things so badly, nothing could ever go back to the garden where everything was “good.” I didn’t like that story then, but now, I can understand.

Which brings us to the Iowa Caucus… I don’t know why we can’t count votes. The short answer is that of course we can. The longer, more complicated answer is that we can’t only when we don’t want to, when we don’t like the outcome. I don’t know why we don’t want the outcome yet. I probably don’t want to know.

This is painted with such a broad brush, and everybody knows the American political system needs a Great Flood and a brand new start. We need a reset, an absolute zero. No one and nothing resembling this 2 party catastrophe can remain.

I don’t want to watch Broken anymore. Or the news (The dog and pony impeachment show is likely over by now, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.) Or sports. Or any more Netflix documentaries. Or voting “results.” But I will. You see, I am pretty thick like that. I don’t think it’s over, this beautiful story of us, and at some point, instead of being dismantled by all of this self-inflicted damage, we will find what has been lost and blow it all up, keep the pieces that matter, and build something fresh and new and hopeful and more fitting to our call. It’s coming. Maybe not tomorrow, probably not tomorrow. But it is coming.