Transformation

As I reflect on the fact that I have now spent 29 years on this planet, I have realized that my life has been anything but boring. I am at the point in my life where I can see where I’ve been and imagine what I want my future to be. I have my share of regrets and but overall I’ve accomplished quite a bit. I’ve graduated from high school, earned a bachelor’s degree. I’ve spent 3 years living and teaching in Slovakia. I’m 2/3 through my master’s of divinity program (I didn’t even think grad school was for me). I am spent a year working as a Chaplain and I’m off to start my internship with Grace Lutheran in Petersburg,WV. I’ve been able to meet people and go places others have only wished about. I am truly blessed.

There are still things in life I want to do. I want to travel, I want to have a family, most important I want to know I’ve made a mark in the universe. I am looking forward to completing my training as a Lutheran pastor. I look forward to sharing my life with somebody and being a father. I look forward to having a legacy.

As I look back on the year in particular, It has been marked extraordinary transformation. I feel my eyes have been opened. In my ways I’ve feel I’m finally a man, rather than a scared little boy. I’ve had quite a few bumps and bruises as I’ve spent the year looking at my self. Coming to terms with the flaws of my family, the flaws in myself. I have learned to embrace myself as a flawed man striving for God. I’ve had to learn to love me as God loves me and reclaim what I want for myself as a man.

This revelation has been because of 2 things, my work as a Chaplain in my CPE residency and the break-up of a significant relationship.

My work as a Chaplain at Palmetto Health has been very demanding. I have experienced pain, suffering, joy and sorrow that most people never get exposed to. I’ve seen people die in the trauma bay, I’ve been with families as loved ones die, I’ve walked with patients who were critical and now are healed. It has been basically an emotional rollercoaster. It has been an exhausting year. My work as a Chaplain is in coordination with a chaplain training education CPE. This process involved intense group work that digs deep into understanding who you are to better serve and be with patients. There have been moments this year where I have discovered things about myself I didn’t like. I have had to learn to love parents as flawed humans being rather than the perfect examples of life I have held them up to be. I think the biggest thing I’ve had to do is dig deep and learn to love me for who I am rather what everybody else says. I spent the first half the year living into patterns of self-sabotage. Allow myself to live in shame and fear. I don’t want to do that anymore. I do have a choice and I’ve learned to recognize those patterns in my life and now I can do something about it. I can choice who I want to be rather than blaming my parents or my circumstances.

The second thing this year that has had major impact was the break-up with my girlfriend. I was in a very emotional place when she decided to end our relationship. She was a source of strength and joy especially as I was trying to rediscover who I was and coming to terms with understanding myself. I was devastated. I can blame her for a lot of things (which is unfair on my part) but in many ways her ending our relationship was a catalyst for me to figure out who I really am and learn to love myself rather than relying on somebody else. I went through anger, sorrow and feeling like I was unloved and unlovable. For a while I resented her but I figured out it was easier to continue loving her from a distance than to hate her. I still care for her deeply. Despite her reasons for ending our relationship, I still think we could have had something great. I know I’m flawed but I know she made me a better person. I think about her most moments of the day. I still love her more than she’ll ever realize but maybe my love wasn’t enough for her. I’m still hoping she’ll figure it out. I hope she can learn to lower her guard and let somebody’s love be enough.

God has used this year despite all its deep valleys to make me a stronger person, to mold me into a man who is ready for the challenges the rest of my life will bring.

#zombie #startrek

The other day I was watching an interview with LeVar Burton, Bill Nye and Larry King. The were talking about the future of education and what it means. They asked him about what Star Trek means He mentioned that with all the popularity of dystopian future, Star Trek was a beacon of hope that our future might just look a little better than it is right now. Then Bill Nye mentioned Zombies.

Anyway, this thought connected well what I have been reading in “To know as we are known.” In the book Park J. Palmer talks about how young people are increasingly optimistic about their own personal futures but pessimistic about the world around them. He states “They believe as, I once did, that they can ‘win’ whole everyone around them is losing.” In terms of Zombies, If survive a zombie hoard what’s the point if I end up alone, I’ll end up a zombie anyway. There are numerous sources that state the Zombification of America is a result of the over commercialized, materialistic and consumeristic culture. We have become self absorbed and self obsessed. The Zombies are meant to be a metaphor for modern society. What do you think? Maybe that’s why it is so popular and people relate to it. It is no longer a metaphor but a reality. The problem with our obsession of a Zombie apocalypse is that we slowly begin to dehumanize one another and start to see each and every person as less than human. Frankly I want to obsess about a future in which every person is more human not less.

In the United States, I think we are at a crossroads between a future in which we dehumanize each other like zombies in hopes of surviving the mess and in the end becoming zombies ourselves or; we choose to live and support one another for a better future. Gene Roddenberry describes this idealized vision of the future.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”

Roddenberry’s vision for the future was one in which we acted as a community to celebrate similarities and differences to solve problems. We took delight in one another rather than fight or hate each other. Star Trek however is a fictional utopia. I can only hope it is possible. It is a hopeful future but I place my hope in Christ and the future he has planned for us.

When we look at the Resurrection of Christ, we need to realize that his Resurrection what not just a bodily resurrection but a spiritual one. Christ was no Zombie. Christ was fully human and fully divine. He lived fully and was resurrected fully. The zombie virus is not just physical, it is spiritual. When we look at zombies, they have lost touch with their humanity. They have no ability to connect and relate to others. They have lost their spirit, they have become soulless. They are physically there, but spiritually dead. Maybe that sounds familiar. The Christian message of hope is that as humans we are meant to live in community. Community with God, with one another. In baptism, we participate in Christ’s death and Resurrection. We longer die alone or live alone; we are with Christ, forever! Because Christ died we can live.

Through Christ we are restored to the “Image of God” we were originally created to be. If there is a cure for the Zombie virus, Christ is It. His example of life, love and sacrifice draws all his disciples together in love to do as the Lord’s prayer  tells us to Let God’s Kingdom Come, on earth as it is in Heaven. A future we do not have to fear of is a Zombie Apocalypse because Christ is the victory. The future we hope for is not Star Trek but God’s Kingdom on earth.

Amen!!

 

Double_Take

As I was sitting and listening to the passion narrative read during the Good Friday service. I began to realize that I am not as familiar with the story as I should be. There were points where I thought; that’s not how I remember it or is that in the wrong order. Of course the four gospels have different narratives of the Passion but it got me to think. How often do I speak about or refer to the bible with what I think I know, or from what I remember. How often do I take the time to actually deeply know how each gospel portrays the life, death and resurrection of Christ. I have to confess that I do not read the Bible as much as a should. I often rely of what I think I know. The sin of relying on the memory of Christ’s story is that we can turn the story to fit our needs. We can fill in the blanks spots of our memory with our own version.

As Christians were claim the narrative of Christ but do we really know it? Do we deeply contemplate this story and make it a part of our own story and lives?  I don’t think we do. Throughout the Old and New Testament we are reminded to remember, the Passover is a reminder of God’s grace and mercy on Israel and their deliverance. How often did Israel forget and have to be reminded by Prophets. (Anyone know what that number is? I guess the point is that is was a lot.)

As we celebrate Easter we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. That his death as an act of love bought us freedom from sin. We should not relegate his story to mere myth, We should make sure that this story is authentic and accurate. We should not only refresh our hearts of the Salvation Christ brings to the world but also our minds. In the first half of Duet 11:18 it says “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds.” Human memory fails. If the story of Christ shapes and forms our lives, we should know it. It should be the one story we cling to and want to know as accurately as possible. So take a deep look at the Story of Christ, at this death and resurrection. Maybe you’ll find something that surprises you, maybe you’ll have a double take.

I wonder how the world would change if us Christians actually knew the Gospel story rather than assuming we did?

Accusations

I am reading a book call “To be know as we are known” by Park Palmer. It describes how we have taken the spiritual task of knowing and knowledge out of the learning process. We’ve turned it into facts and power rather than a journey of self-discovery and discovering the world around us. One quote really stuck with me

“The self creates the world by means of projection. Much of the world’s violence, for example, is an acting-out of the violence we find within ourselves, an effort to get rid of our inner demons by projecting them “out there.” We help create the outward enemy (be it russians or asians, blacks and WASPs) to distract us from the inward enemy who always threatens to overcome us.” – Parker Palmer

I find it so true. As a Chaplain, the more I learn about myself the more I am at peace with others. I think in today’s society because of vague spirituality and lack of community there is so much inner violence. The world needs community and resources to help us understand and confront our own inner demons.

Jesus for me is the source of strength and guidance in the journey. He dealt with temptation. He calls us to look inward and see the inner violence and how it affects the world around us. The Christian community although not perfect should strive for peace within ourselves so that we can give it to others. The heart of the Gospel is that God loves  us. Much of our inner turmoil is from a self-hatred or low value of our place in the world. God values us and has a place in his kingdom. When we realize that we can share that awesome message to others.

So far this book is pretty good. I’ll keep you posted as a read more of it.