Love With A Capital L

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

Family — July 8, 2020

Family

We need to talk about The Family on Netflix. It’s about a super-secret Christian organization that may or may not be pulling all of the strings in America. Full disclosure: I’m only 2 episodes in (out of 5), maybe by episode 4 or 5 I will no longer use the phrase “may or may not be pulling the strings.” That appears to be the way it’s going. The music is ominous and in my experience, it’s not usually very awesome anytime anything is super-secret. But I don’t know that yet.

So far, it’s a group of boys hanging out together having Bible studies and playing football, men having clandestine meetings with politicians and world leaders, and women who say things like, “the men spend all their time serving others, who is serving them?” Maybe that’s ok. Maybe it’s even ok to have frat house-ish buildings with tax-exempt religious status, too.

But politicians seem to historically have pretty much trouble with infidelity, and this super-secret Family rationalizes these indiscretions with a shoulder shrug and a questionable reading of the story of David & Bathsheba: an “oh well, when you’re chosen by God, these missteps don’t matter much.” And then the bright lights go away, politicians keep their offices and their club memberships. And maybe that is how it should be. Forgiveness is a vital tenet of the faith, right? We all fall, right? These politicians get caught, (then, ONLY then, always after they get caught) are sorry, have a community in place around them to help pick up the pieces of their lives and re-dedicate themselves to their wives, children and constituents. Is that cool? Redemption in real time?

I suppose it depends on where you stand how you tell (or interpret) the story.

For the first 22 years of my life, I hated God and Christians. I would have heard this story as one of pure corruption. The “Family’ of swine are grossly manipulating a nation of marks, using Bible verses to achieve and increase their money and power. It would make me want to throw up all over their frat-houses and twisted insincere ‘apologies.’

Then I fell in love with Jesus and for the last 8 years, have been a pastor of a local church. Now, I hear this story and…

Well, if I am honest, I hear it exactly the same. However, the big difference is that now I can hear that there might be another side of the story. I can watch 2 episodes and think that though I don’t personally know John Ensign (former Senator from Nevada, whose repaired marriage ended in divorce after he resigned from his seat), he might not be a high character guy.  But if he is in fact a swine, maybe they all aren’t. Maybe some are just young guys looking for meaning and a space where they can support the leaders of our country, love the people who live here, and play football in Washington DC grass.

When you gain or lose weight, it’s slow and over time, totally unnoticeable until someone you haven’t seen for a while reacts, right? It’s that way with spiritual growth. We don’t really feel like we’re moving all that much, still make mistakes, still raise our voices to our children, get heated when we’re cut off in traffic. But it’s less often. And there’s less and less time between when we act like idiots and when we know we’ve acted like idiots. Watching this documentary, I can recognize that I am different. I still don’t have all the answers, but I’m far less inclined to pretend that I do, and that’s really something.

Princess Poppy — July 4, 2020

Princess Poppy

Yesterday I was working out and a song from the animated movie Trolls came on my playlist, “Get Back Up Again.” I’ll give you a second to find it and listen.

…. 

It’s great, right? But it isn’t the most masculine thing (or progressive or in any way ‘cool’) you’ve ever heard. Usually, I listen to punk rock and Morrissey and, well, right now I have a new song by Beck playing. My taste in music is exemplary, I take great pleasure in finding new and exciting artists and records. Then there is this embarrassing Trolls song that I repeated 4 times in a row during my workout. Just a sweaty dude listening to Trolls. 

If you were to know only that about me – that I LOVED “Get Back Up Again” – you could draw certain conclusions about me. Conclusions that would probably be wrong.

Todd Snyder wrote in one of his greatest songs, about a woman referred to by another as a prostitute: “I’m sure she is, but that’s not all she is.”    

She was all kinds of other things, too. So am I, and so are you. 

I write so much about this lately, (and in every election cycle), because I pay an inordinate amount of attention to social patterns and culture, and it’s impossible not to notice how we’ve been divided into groups based solely on 1 facet of ourselves. We’ve been sold the lie that this one facet is the only thing about us that matters. Now, this has always been a temptation, from the beginnings of history. In the Bible, a man asks (about Jesus) if He knows “what kind of woman she is.”

As Todd Snyder would say, “I’m sure she is, but that’s not all she is.”  

Yes, we are addicts, alcoholics, abusers, prostitutes, mask-wearers, non-mask-wearers, Republicans, Democrats, cheaters, liars, vegetarians, pescatarians, Keto, nurses, pastors, punk rockers, jazz elitists, smokers, non-smokers, people who read books on a Kindle, even people who LOVE an Anna Kendrick song from Trolls.

But that’s not all we are.

We are Children of the Living God, created in His image – Republicans and Democrats alike (gasp!!!) – and we’ve been created by, in, and for, love. This terrible lie has caused us to forget that simple, monumental fact. Almost nothing that is happening can be called love. Instead, it’s the same old violence, rained upon each other and upon ourselves.

I keep writing about it because I’m so sad to see how easily we’ve been manipulated into believing that we are so different, that these differences are irreconcilable, and that these differences are so fundamental to our existence that we would behave so awfully towards one another. I’m just so sad, the heartbreak compounded by the largely ignored truth that each act of violence originates from an unbearably deep reservoir of fear and pain in the violator.   

It’s another page in the us/them fictional dogma we accept. Huge segments (maybe all) of the things we see and hear are grounded in a desperate need to draw battle lines, where “we” are 100% right and “they” are 100% wrong. This pandering rips at the fabric of human decency and the only real desperate need is for revolution.

So, let’s do that. But it’ll be a revolution of love. We will show up to love each other – no matter who the ‘each other’ is. Our Each Others will be our neighbors and our enemies, our co-workers and our brothers and sisters, Republicans and Democrats.  

It’s an unlearning of centuries of curriculum, a complete overhaul of the theology of comparison and competition, and I can’t imagine that it’ll be easy or smooth or without some real setbacks, but as Princess Poppy sings, “Hey! I’m not giving up today. There’s nothing getting in my way. And if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again.”

The Beach — July 2, 2020

The Beach

Last week, my family took a short vacation to a Delaware beach and here are a few observations from our time away.

Human beings continue to grow while the bathing suits continue to shrink, at an almost equal rate. There was more skin on very public display than I was prepared to see, and I just cannot imagine the hormonal overdrive my teenage sons were forced to manage. I guess the takeaway is that maybe the self-loathing body consciousness that so many deal with on a daily basis is disappearing. That’s a very good thing, but I’m left wondering what acceptable beach attire will be in 10, 15, 20 years. I also now understand the stodgy old folks who were always complaining that “nothing is left to the imagination.” If we are shown everything all the time, what are the consequences? I know I’m dangerously close to becoming stodgy and old, but there is something to be said for butterflies, anticipation, and those beautiful intimate things we share only with another, isn’t there?

At the beach we stayed (Rehoboth), masks were mandatory only on the boardwalk. That said, in one block, we counted 60 individuals without any sort of face covering. Why? Why do we so strongly resist this mandate? I was in a convenience store recently where NO ONE (including the employee) wore the masks the signs lied were required. This screaming rebellion is obviously an act of aggression, but against who? Me? (What did I do?) You? (What did you do?) The Governor? The entire government? Authority? Maybe it’s simply a re-claiming of our personal freedom. In that case, I can probably get on board with that. 1 question: Is this revolution against any and all forms of law? Or just this one? It’s just a mask. Honestly, I hate it, too. I miss your faces & smiles and to wear them forever seems like that might be too high a cost, but it’s been 3 months and maybe we’ve saved lives…but we all draw our battle lines in different places.

Speaking of masks, I ordered a sport mask in early April that hasn’t arrived yet. They sent another when I complained that also hasn’t arrived. If masks are so important, I wish we could get some. Or at least, I wish I could someday get mine. (There’s going to be a super nasty review on Amazon coming.)

On the way home from the beach, I discovered that there was a COVID-19 outbreak and anyone who was there should be tested immediately. So I’m mostly quarantined again. I’ve been waiting like an animal for my gym to open and it does tomorrow and I CAN’T GO!!! I still don’t know if it’s a “new normal” or if this, too, shall pass, but I do know I’m different than when this all began. My vision is clear and focused – many of the things that proved distracting are being excised. My restlessness is being replaced with patience, gratitude and kindness. There’s a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. And to be honest with you, that’s a pretty great place to be.

It’ll be fascinating to look back in 1 or 5 or 20 years to see who we all became.

— June 24, 2020

I haven’t watched anything awesome lately. This space has sort of become a de facto reviews page, where I describe the documentaries (usually) and other artwork that has recently moved me. I really love to do it, art is a thing that can bring us all together in our humanity, in our shared experience and emotion.

But I can’t help but notice, as a society, we are pretty uninterested in being together. We don’t care very much about our humanity or in sharing anything.

We fight on all platforms of social media, arguing over every possible position. Scrolling through Facebook is the virtual equivalent of family holiday meals, with one huge difference. We’ve been told to steer clear of politics and religion in conversation (On the one hand, I could never understand that – they are the most fascinating topics to discuss. On the other, because of our desperate need to win and validate ourselves, these exchanges turn violent in no time flat.) and for the most part we do, in real life. But from behind our screens and keyboards, we become so aggressive and condescending to each other in ways we never would face to face. Everything has become a Fortnite battle royale, complete with guns and pickaxes.

It’s so depressing. That’s what you hear in my words. I haven’t watched anything – or at least nothing I want to write about – because this pall that’s hanging over us is more and more oppressive, dulling our smiles and spirits. I’m awfully sensitive, as well.

We have forgotten – maybe it’s due to the isolation of this pandemic – that we are deeply connected. The Facebook “friends” aren’t just pictures and profiles, they’re flesh & blood mommies and daddies, sisters, brothers, neighbors. “They” read, laugh, pray, cry, do pushups, just like “us,” wherever we choose to draw our lines between us and them. Just because he wants to open businesses or not, just because he wants to wear a mask or not, just because he’s voting for that guy or not. These decisions don’t necessarily make him a monster, it just makes him agree or disagree. Who knows why he does? We’d have to ask to find out and nobody is willing to ask, we’re far more content to guess and cast those conclusions in stone.

I haven’t given up. You know by now I’m not that guy. We’ll remember who we are, and we’ll remember how to love and care for each other. Of course we will. But sometimes, baby, it just gets really heavy.

Both Hands — June 17, 2020

Both Hands

Both Hands is a terrific song by Ani DiFranco. It’s also what I’m calling this post. I should probably call it 2 Hands Theology, but if you’re reading this, maybe you’ll check that song out as you’re reading this (or after you read this, the two are unrelated as far as I can tell – the song is about a last night of passion and this post is about Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Hmm. Maybe they are related…I’ll try to tie these 2 clouds together at the end.)

So. The new 30 For 30 ESPN documentary is about the great home run race of 1998. These 2 behemoths hit homeruns at a rate we hadn’t seen before, breaking all records and “saving baseball.” Later, we’d acknowledge the fact that was hiding in plain sight all along: that they were juiced out of their minds. Of course we knew. Everybody knew. But we agreed to act shocked and disgusted later if anybody pointed out this heaving musclebound mammoth in the middle of the room. A few years later, Barry Bonds would return from the offseason with 30 extra pounds of muscle and a hat sized 25% bigger than last year and break that homerun record.

Now, I really couldn’t care less about the discussion of performance enhancing drugs and statistics and halls of fame. We were happy then to pretend, so maybe the asterisk belongs in our homes and not next to Bonds’ 73. Whatever.

What I care about is how our lives and the surrounding circumstances are rarely strictly black and white. We pretend they are, too. We have such frustration with the complexity of reality, of authenticity.

We loved the home run race. They were just really great guys playing the game they loved for us. (Probably not.)

Then, they were “outed” as “cheaters.” Sosa lied to Congress and pretended he couldn’t speak English. They were monsters. (Also probably not.)

Instead, I would be willing to bet they are human beings, just like me and you. Maybe under the weight of expectation and dollars, I would make the same decision.

I pastor a small church in a small town and all through the old Testament, we read the story of the Israelites, “God’s chosen people.” The narrative is a roller coaster, where they make all the mistakes, call out and are rescued, then make all the mistakes again until they call out and are rescued again, then make all the mistakes again and on and on, ad nauseam. We read that and say “Those people,” while shaking our heads. King David is “a man after God’s own heart,” AND a guy who slept with his buddy’s wife and when she was pregnant, had him killed. There are examples on nearly every page of the Bible of things that don’t fit. Our palms get sweaty because of the unresolved nature, the inability to generalize. What do we do when our boxes absolutely don’t apply?

Barry Bonds is the best baseball player I’ve ever seen, narrowly beating Roger Clemens for that imaginary honor. Both were, by all accounts, humongous donkeys to everyone they viewed as less than them. All of that is true. I had posters of Clemens on my wall growing up. (I also had posters of Morrissey. On one side was toxic masculinity and on the other, its antithesis.)

The danger of judgment is that judgment is usually based on only one aspect of our personality or behavior. McGwire and Sosa are cheaters…and dads and friends and grandfathers and neighbors and would probably carry an elderly woman’s groceries into her house for her. (I’m not sure about Bonds or Clemens carrying groceries, though, but who knows? For sure not me.)

David is flawed. He’s also courageous and forgiving and faithful. The Israelites are a foolish, stubborn lot who live a maddening loop. And yet there is tremendous kindness and generosity as this loop repeats. We are all of this. God, and the Bible, seem very comfortable with us, with this dichotomy.

Ani and her girlfriend can’t make it work, no matter “how hard they tried.” This is their “swan song.” And yet they are sharing this moment, clearly still in love. Both can be true. As a country, as neighbors, as a culture, we’ve been sold a lie that we are all 1 thing. We are Democrats OR Republicans and forced to draw battle lines and choose sides. The truth is, we are far more like a Venn diagram, where the vast majority of us overlap. Of course there are parts that don’t, but when did we start to believe that those were the only parts that matter?

It’s easy to hold tightly to our need to judge and label, it neatly suits our need for control. And look where easy got us; do you feel in control? Maybe we need to adopt this 2 Hands Theology and this fresh, new metanarrative where we are fingers AND toes, cheaters AND daddies, foolish AND faithful, but always human.

 

A Tale of Two 30 For 30’s — June 10, 2020

A Tale of Two 30 For 30’s

2 different documentaries were released by ESPN this year followed much the same outline: Huge star athlete brought down by scandal and where is he now? They clung pretty close to the template, but they felt like polar opposites.

Lance Armstrong won 7 Tour de France’s (Tours de France?) amid wide doping speculation that he vehemently denied, destroying the lives of all those who happened to get in his way. As it turns out, he was using performance enhancing drugs forever and if you search Tour de France winners, his name is excised. Nobody won those years.

Michael Vick transformed football by transforming the quarterback position – everything is different today directly because of his talent, success and impact…until he was jailed for nearly 2 years for dogfighting. He returned to football and was, again, successful on the field but still walks around with the criminal brand he earned.

Now, why are they so different? On the surface, it’s just 2 supremely gifted athletes who lost everything. And so what? Why do we care?

They are different because Armstrong continues to blame everyone else. He was, by all accounts, a mean, nasty, arrogant jerk. It is still not his fault. He admits his act through clenched teeth, but it is only in the context of “everyone else was doing it.” The real villains in his story are the people who blew the whistle to bring down such an American hero. The film ends and we did not enjoy it. We do not like him. We would NEVER trust Lance Armstrong.

They are different because Vick has looked (and continues to look) squarely in the mirror at his own wrongdoing. He has reasons but never excuses. He was the one responsible for his downfall. We did enjoy this film. We may not like or understand him, but we are proud of him. His is a story of redemption and beauty.

(I recognize 2 things. 1. That Vick’s crimes were far more heinous than Armstrong’s. I do not and could not ever defend what he did. 2. I never guessed that I’d call a film that included some of the ugliest behavior I’ve seen “a story of… beauty.”)

Now, so what, why do we care? Genesis 3 has a man passively, quietly stand by while the woman eats the fruit specifically forbidden. When God asks them about it, the man says, “She did it!” Then continues, “And as far as that goes, You put her here!” God asks her, and she says, “It was the serpent, he tricked me!”

Today has us all explaining that “He did it!” “She made me!” “I was scared what would happen if I didn’t go along.” I clicked because she didn’t…”

Genesis 3, Adam, Eden, 2020, me, you, Cleona, Los Angeles. “I’m sorry, but…” is just another way to say “you’re mad, but it’s not my fault.” It’s your fault, or his, or theirs. I only know it’s not mine, or if it is, I’m going to do any sort of contortion to avoid the responsibility of the action.

We care because blame is as old as human beings and it is still just as gross as it was the first time. It has never gotten less obvious or less pathetic.

The problem is that it’s such a lie. Dishonesty interrupts relationship, distracts from connection, until we are so far apart we have no idea what’s real and what isn’t. You and I will have conflict. You and I will disagree. I will let you down. You will, too. Each close relationship has countless hiccups, missteps and offenses that we endure. Blame is the wall that makes forgiveness impossible and prevents reconciliation absolutely, our arrogance in this deception keeps us behind masks of being “right.”

There is amazing power in “I’m sorry,” the kind of power that allows us to celebrate Michael Vick and shake our heads at Lance Armstrong. The kind that makes marriages work and friendships last. The kind that that gives fresh starts, leads us to grow and transform into brand new me’s and you’s and Michael Vick’s (but not yet Lance Armstrong’s), and sees what is possible instead of what has always been.

Catfish, pt ? — June 9, 2020

Catfish, pt ?

This morning on a Catfish repeat, the players all ended up to be exactly who they said they were. You’d think this would be cause for celebration and “…happily ever after,” but you’d be wrong.

I started that last week, and I just cannot remember why! I don’t remember the people or the show, how they met or why I cared so much to write it to you. There is a certain discontent, maybe we would call it a holy discontent, that slides into places and situations where we long for the one thing (husband/wife, job, house, baby, etc) that will complete us. And when we get that thing, we are still not complete. I heard once in a talk that people with a porn problem always have an anger problem – because we want it to be something that it can’t, to fill a hole it can’t, and when it doesn’t, we get frustrated, using more and more, clicking more and more, and no amount can be enough to do what we want it to. But that’s true for so much more than porn, isn’t it? 

The couple on Catfish had dreams of a blissful life once they would meet, that they would ride into a painted sunset with their prince/princess, but when they did they discovered to their horror that each was only a human being. What a disappointment! 

I wonder how much of our lives are built on an altar of misguided expectations. How much of our relational conflict revolves around the ugly reality that they just WILL NOT do what I want them to do? That the world is not as I think it should be? How many fights begin on the stories I tell myself, often having no basis in reality? How much of our faith is centered upon an idea that God will smooth all rough patches and answer all of our prayers?

This is just another way we avoid being fully present in what is happening here and now. We are waiting, expecting something (the best or the worst) and it’s suddenly over and we only know it wasn’t… What was it? Who knows? It’s gone and we missed it.

I‘m finding that our lives are really an ongoing process of simplification. When we start to drift into the ‘what if’ dreamworld, it’s vital to pull back. What if Or What is? ‘What if’ is a question loaded with, and almost indistinguishable from, the fear that whispers the question into our vulnerable ears. ‘What is’ is grounded (perhaps distantly) in a gratitude for the gift of today. Sometimes today is rough. Sometimes today is too much to bear. Sometimes today is heartbreaking and full of bitter tears. But there is blessing in that, too. So many of our favorite moments were born out of the ashes of the previous ones. 

We had yesterday, have tomorrow, but today we can plant seeds for a new creation, if only we can stop trusting the stories our fear is feeding us in our unrealistic, unhealthy expectations.

The Spider-Verse — June 5, 2020

The Spider-Verse

We watched Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse for the 10th or 20th time last night. It is an animated film. Technically speaking, that’s all it is. As my wife would say, it’s a cartoon. She’s wrong, though, it’s much more than that. It is an hour and 57 minutes that rearranges the notion of what is possible in film, story, technology. Historically, there have been movies that mark a clear before and after. An easy example was Pulp Fiction. Before its release, cinema followed certain accepted structures. After, those walls had been bulldozed and filmmakers, writers, actors were all free to run and chase their imaginations into spaces previously thought nonexistent.

This creative explosion happens in every area of humanity; athletics, architecture, music, education, even religion. I remember many instances that blew my rational mind, profoundly changing my tiny idea of what God could and would do in any circumstance. I’ve seen people transform seemingly in front of my eyes, organizations metamorphose into the butterflies we all needed but whose creators couldn’t have conceived.

These seismic shifts invite us to dream, to exorcise the despair that says what was will always be, that believes “it is what it is,” that lost the childlike hope of faith.

Then there are other moments that confirm that our wildest dreams of what is possible were not misplaced. Against all evidence to the contrary, our fantastical visions are validated and that gives us the strength to take one more step into the darkness. 

Yesterday was one of those for me. 2 young women, aged 19 and 20 (!!!), organized a protest to respond to this abhorrent racism that we all see and feel all around us right now. It’s a divisive topic and I can’t even begin to figure out why. Life is the most sacred gift we have, why would we not want to protect that for all of God’s children? Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. And it’s painfully obvious our silence hasn’t fixed anything, as if it ever could. Why would we not gather to express our collective pain?

Because it won’t work, or it’ll turn violent, or whatever. There are so many ‘because’s, so many ‘why not’s. When I asked my boys if they wanted to go, they were afraid of the riots on tv, the burned out stores and city street chaos. I guess it’s fear that mostly keeps any of us from challenging what has always been. We’re often scared to leave unfulfilling jobs, abusive relationships, unhealthy pattern because the unknown can be more terrifying than the now that is dismantling us. 

We went anyway, because we follow Jesus and that requires us to believe we’re all brothers and sisters , and that tomorrow can be different from today. That everything matters and we can…no, that we are called to bring, to make, peace. 

There were many colors and a sacred energy that what we were doing was vital to the healing of our world. It did not turn violent. Of course, there were reports of some regrettable behavior, which will happen when people get together, but no violence. There was kindness and kinship in our shared goal. Maybe it won’t work, but it certainly won’t work if we all stay home.

Now. Here’s what I have to tell you. We are not wrong. Our faith is justified, what we imagine possible, is. We can make a difference, we can change the world. It won’t be in our silence and it won’t be in violence. It will be in presence and love, and like yesterday afternoon, it will be amazing.

Observations (On Cults) — June 3, 2020

Observations (On Cults)

…Or Observations (On Documentaries On Cults).

I think I’m finished watching documentaries on cults. The last several have been just  crushing, breaking my heart over and over. I’m much too sensitive, it’s honestly surprising that I’ve survived this long. I figured not to make it out of my teens, then for sure not seeing 30. Now, who knows? But it’s really uncomfortable, sometimes unbearable, like my heart is going to explode or actually literally break apart.

So, I might be done with them, but what I’ve learned is pretty valuable. You know the George Santayana saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Incidentally, this quote was on the wall of an outside sanctuary at Jonestown.)

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned that must not be forgotten:

* The story of each and every cult can’t be told without an understanding of our need to belong. We all ask, why? Why would they follow that guy, why would they do what they did, why would they poison the water, drink the Kool-Aid, kill the Congressman, whatever? Why? For the exact same reason we do so many of the things we do (good and bad): bully other kids at school, have sex, go out to eat, participate in violent hazing rituals, play sports, join a sorority, go to church, wear a Dallas Cowboys jersey, get married, everything I can think of. We all have a need to be with others that can be traced easily to the earliest men in the earliest accounts, “it is not good for man to be alone.” It is there, a hole in the deepest recesses of our souls. And it must be met, the only question is how. That’s why they/we follow.

*  Why do they start? A cult begins with a man’s (or much less often, a woman’s) desire/thirst for power, money, or sex (most times all 3.) This isn’t too surprising, either. I guess this is our way of being significant, of being remembered, of being our own god.

Now, a rule of thumb, so we don’t go on repeating the past. If you see a group that wears the same colors or uniforms worshipping a guy that says “be a part of my special club – the only real qualification is that you sleep with/marry me,” or kill those that don’t belong, or kill those who do (including you), no matter how cool the people or the uniforms are, that’s probably not the best idea. Can we agree on that?

(I recognize the “don’t kill those who don’t belong” rule can lead to pretty interesting conversations about the Bible’s Old Testament. And a blog might not be the best place for that. What I can safely say is that we’re not in the Old Testament anymore, and when Jesus said, “Don’t kill,” He meant it.)

One more. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you are a grown-up (kids don’t read anymore, they only play Fortnite and watch TikTok videos.) That’s important because we  choose where we will belong. If you do decide to say Yes to the guru who wants you to be his 97th wife, give him all of your money, and contaminate water supplies with beavers (actually happened!!!!), that is your prerogative. You are free to do that, if you really want to.

The part of the cult documentaries that drove me away is the predilection of these leaders to sleep with (i.e. abuse, rape) children. You see, you are allowed to do what you want, but these kids don’t get that choice and lines must be drawn. It’s where curiosity and novelty pierced my heart and I can no longer roll my eyes or call it entertainment. I can no longer abide. When the ‘least of these’ (I mean no disrespect, I just use a phrase that describe the oppressed, the forgotten, the discriminated against, the minimized, the squashed, the abused, the raped… in other words, all of us at some point) are violated simply because somebody thought he had that power while we stood idly by, watching… well, that’s an agreement I can no longer tolerate.

The Barkley — May 26, 2020

The Barkley

You know I love to watch documentaries… I may need forgiveness in a minute, my neighbor just flooded the street with the sweet smell of burning tires and my headache is beginning and stomach turning and maybe the fumes will cause all kinds of nonsense. No, I don’t know why they do the things they do, I just know they do. I don’t have to know why. If you come by any night between 9-11pm, they’re outside revving various engines and you can ask them yourself.

Anyway, I love documentaries, right? I saw one Friday that was my very favorite. It’s called The Barkley Marathons and details a roughly 130 mile ultra marathon through the mountains of Tennessee. Most years, people don’t finish. Since its inception, 13 people have finished. It’s called a race, but that implies competition and the only competition is against the course and against the voices in your own head that tell you to stop, you can’t do it.

I have 3 quotes I wrote down to talk about with you.

The Barkley was created to “Give people the opportunity to really find out something about themselves.” What would I find out about myself in 130 miles that I wouldn’t otherwise? Everything. We do planks in this house and they always end with my face inches from Samuel’s, saying, “you can do this, your body can do this, it’s only your mind telling you you can’t, and that isn’t true, it’s lying to you. I KNOW you can.” And then he does, goes longer than he thought was possible for his screaming muscles, and he finds out that the limits he thought he had minutes ago aren’t actually his limits at all.

“You never know how much you can do until you try to do more.” I think we’re conditioned to seek comfort, so when that desire is threatened, we stop. It’s called our Comfort Zone, and it’s so much more dangerous than bears and mountain lions and my neighbors. Our soft cozy couches encourage complacency, and complacent isn’t where we were called to be. (Contentment is. They are different, and we should maybe talk about that some time.) We are called to grow and growth requires discomfort. Growth requires us to try something new, something we hadn’t done, something at which we might fail (gasp!).

What is that old cliche? The only way you can not fail is to never try anything new. The only way you can never miss the last shot is to never take it.

Growth requires us to risk. Because maybe we can. This Barkley Marathon is like everything else – nobody could do it until somebody did. It was impossible until it wasn’t. No one could run a sub-4 minute mile, but then when Bannister did, many others followed.

I don’t know if we’re afraid to fail or afraid to succeed (probably both), I just know we’re afraid.

So these people start the race and it’s hot or it rains. They have no idea where to go, there’s no map and the route changes every year. The creator, Lazarus, says, “So many things aren’t going to be the way you planned it,” and that sounds EXACTLY like this year, 2020. Well, it sounds like every year, to be honest.

And when we face these uncertainties, these disruptions, then what do we do? Do we hold tighter to our plans? Grasp even angrier for some form of control? Do we quit? Do we hide?

Or will we take another step?

I married a couple Saturday and, every wedding I officiate, I reflect on the tremendous risk they’re taking. Saying “I do” to another and saying “I do” to this ridiculous marathon is so similar. We don’t know where it’s going, and when it goes there, will I be enough, can I do it??? It’s the same as saying “I do” to Jesus and “I do” to our lives. Maybe we can’t do it today, maybe not tomorrow, but we have to ask, we have to try. It’s the greatest moment of a wedding, that space between my question and their answer. I saw the significance of the choice in their eyes, and I knew they understood what it meant to look straight up a mountain face they did not know for sure they could climb. And we all celebrated like crazy when they said they would find out