These Disappearing Feelings, The Lying Chair, and This Hurt I Feel

I am hurting.

This morning I came across an article purporting that the professional football team in DC was finally going to change its racist and demeaning name.  I read the article in disbelief. I whispered to myself, “I hope this is true.” My heart filled with joy. I was overcome with emotion. I imagined my grandfather celebrating this victory. I felt that the political will of Native people in this Nation has finally moved from the shadows and in to the light of day. We were being heard!

I remembered the broken treaties that have shaped the relationship between indigenous cultures and the manifest destiny of U.S. will for the past 250 plus years. I remember the high addiction rates, the high sexual violence, and the sparse opportunities that Native people endure in this modern industrial power. I remember the stories my grandfather told of when he was taken from his home, separated from his sister, and forced to attend boarding schools to rid him of the Indian within.

I remember growing up in Los Angeles and having to attend a special program in public school that taught us how to be “Indian.” This school homogenized Native cultures into something that resembled a solitary Hollywood commodity of red faced savages that spoke in grunts & hand signals, wore buckskin, and lived in teepees.  I looked nothing like what they approved as Indian.  I was not red enough for them.

When I read that article I let my guard down and got excited. I was relieved that finally the Native voice was heard. We have moved past the Facebook check-ins by the masses to assist the water protectors endeavor to seek political clout. We have moved beyond the annual flurry of post by folks around Thanksgiving that espouse the ills of that first holiday in which pilgrims and Indians made nice and founded our country.

I am hurting.

I hurt because I should have known better that to let my guard down and hold any hope in that the Native plight is worth anything more that the history books and a collective national guilt to be brought out when folks in power feel bad. I hurt.

I have no idea who is responsible for this hoax. If it is a Native group I would love to know what this was intended to serve. If this is any other group then I say, “fuck you!” I do not need any more assistance in feeling bad or depressed about myself. I got that down. I kind of don’t care who did this and why. I hurt. I hurt because once again Native voice and Native people are a commodity to be swung around in a political game of power and privilege just waiting to be considered real enough to be taken seriously and offered a full measure of humanity.

I am hurting. Today, I am going to feel this. Tomorrow I will remember this. I will not believe you again. I know you will not change. I know this because you are not hurt by what you did.


Heart of Glass


Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to Abba.  Having loved those who were in the world, this love was present to the end.  The devil had already set upon the heart of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray him.  And during supper Jesus, knowing that Abba had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.”  For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.  If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.  I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:1-17, 31b-35

There was a time in my life in which I was a young and promising church leader. I was connected to many people and conversations about where, what, and how the church would prosper in the future. I was desperately intent on saving the church or at the very least I wanted to preserve a small space for me in it.

While in this role I read many pieces about worship, mission focus, and theological application. I advocated for what I believed to be helpful in nurturing church and holding church leadership and systems accountable. I was right in some but mostly I was passionately misguided. I was part of some really interesting projects that may or may not have led to goodness, healthy, and positive change in the church. I do know that I was really intent upon being a part of something that was righteous, caring, compassionate, and sought to be like Christ in the world. I imagine we could have numerous conversations regarding the effectiveness of these endeavors and we would discover a varying degree of success as often as we could find folks that affirmed or opposed what I did.

I have been out of church leadership for almost six years now. Not being in leadership has been a painful process. Becoming a church leader was a process that utterly transformed me. Not being a church leader was a process that utterly destroyed me. Pain and suffering are no longer strangers nor are they the defining factors of my life. I have found new life.

I still read those articles on worship, church growth, and mission. I have a different lens I read these with these days. I am a social worker. I am a co-occurring therapist that works in community mental health. When I first began this role I placed my ordination certificate and seminary degree on my wall alongside my Master of Social Work degree. I was not ready to let go of the painful past, nor move into that new life that awaited me.

A couple months ago I moved my office. In this move I did not put my ordination certificate or my seminary degree up on my wall. They reside in a file cabinet in my office. There is no malice or anger in this action. I just felt moved to embrace the new life as a Social Worker. It was liberating. It was scary. It was peaceful. It was.

When I was wrestling with new life and holding on to my church leadership identity I hated hearing, “But you will always be a part of the church.” or “You are still a minister, just in a different context.” It wasn’t the sentiment behind these statements that hurt but the actual severing of the identity to which I nestled my mind, body, and spirit to and her absence that hurt. I was not able to see the forest through the trees as I was healing.

I am new life I am blessed to work with folks that embody the “wounded healer” in ways I never experienced as a church leader. In living with the daily hurt and woe of others I am reminded of the healing path that my own life has taken. I am also reminded that positive self-care is important in treating others. I cannot treat others or be present for others if I am not healthy myself. There it is right there…in this text from John that will be read at my churches by many church leaders, “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” The root to loving others is to first love yourself.

I am at peace with new life. I have made friends with my role outside of church leadership. I still minister. I have a congregation that consists of those suffering from mental illness, addiction, and that are bound in systemic generational poverty. I have no supporting church body. I do this in the margins of church. I am a secular missionary seeking to be light in a world so full of darkness that despair and woe are torches that illuminate our cave.

Now, I read articles on budget cuts and witness how this will impact my congregation. The limited resources that we have to work with will become even more limited. The hopelessness will become bolder. The despair becomes a brighter light. The cave deepens and the shadows cast upon the walls dim. Eventually, we will no longer be able to see the dirt under our nails having long forgotten the reflection of our own faces; we no longer see the reflection of humanity amongst those around us.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which Jesus dinned with the disciples and readied all for his impending death. A meal was shared. People were physically nourished. The mental dimension was readied for a shift as the body was equipped for the journey. Care was administered.

I used to approach today with a solemn demeanor and a steady face, a sort of Ash Wednesday Lite. I never really gave myself the opportunity to do something different. I did not give this day another thought. I packed it away with most other things that reminded me of my life as a church leader. There my posture stood. I supported my wife as she performed and led the faith through this period. Me abiding by the supportive spouse role and showing up for a meal, helping out, and preparing for Easter Day (one of the few times I go to church).

I am not sure what is entirely different this go-around. It might be the thought of becoming a father again and how I want to model faith in community for my children. It might be the exhaustion from witnessing the evisceration of public mental health and substance abuse services in Oklahoma. I felt moved to read this text from John.

I felt a connection to the darkness offered in this text. Amongst the meal, the cleanliness, and the love is hope. A hope that I missed before. Jesus is preparing for us to go it alone. He is saying, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Where is he going?

When I went to seminary, a loving older, more conservative member of my home church warned me against being ruined by all that academic stuff I would be exposed to and told me to measure my faith against the question of, “Where did Jesus go when he died?” I quickly lost focus of this question amongst the hardship of classes and the fellowship of community at seminary. I am reminded of that question now.

Jesus was preparing us to go it alone. Jesus was preparing himself to go to hell. Jesus literally was entering a space where despair and woe are rampant. Jesus was preparing to empty himself of all he had to check-in at the marginalized motel. Jesus was going to hangout with my congregation.

If you have not been in relationship with someone that suffers with mental illness, addiction, or poverty you are missing out on Jesus. It is a challenging world full of unhealthy actions and broken trust that desperately wants love. “Where I am going, you cannot come.” But y’all must love each other as I have loved you. Jesus is saying, in order to do this you must love yourself as I love you. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a far cry from the way we treat those with mental illness. We are failing in being disciples in the absence of real and equitable treatment for those wrestling with the disease of addiction. We do not practice self-care and love ourselves as parts of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creation waste away in poverty. We are failing to understand the purpose of Jesus feeding our bodies and washing our feet. We get fixated on righteousness as cleanliness and divide up the remnants of Christ’s cloak before it is even of his back.

Today is a reminder that in the midst of the darkness, it the heat of the moment hope is not lost. There is a way out. We have a choice. We are empowered to move towards healthy. We cannot go where Jesus is going because Jesus lives there…Jesus doesn’t leave the despair, the hopelessness, the brokenness. Jesus lives there so that those that encounter the hurt, the pain, and the brokenness of mental illness, addiction, and poverty are not alone. We are called to not live there so that we might be those that Christ calls to enter that space and shepherd of siblings to the Promised Land of health. Our very health depends upon this.

Jesus prepares us for this journey and warns us of the dangers. Nothing is as it seems. Here, Christ puts light to the shadows of our cave and draws us out into community. Fear subsides. Anger relents. Wellness embraced. Wholeness found. Community realized. Today is a day of action. Today is the first day of your new life.

Wild Is The Wind


Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Mark 9:2-9

We are familiar with mountaintops. We have longingly starred upon their majestic beauty from afar. We have stridden in confidence and trepidation towards their sturdy feet, looking up at the insurmountable task. We have endured, step-by-step up the mountaintop until, exhausted, we stood upon it and surveyed the lands below. We are intimately familiar with both figurative and literal mountaintops.

Mountaintops are not just physical earthly forms that divide continents and riddle her landscape with water. Mountaintops are the moments where you dream dreams of liberty and justice for all. Mountaintops are the times when you dare to hunger for equality. Mountaintops are shelters in which you discover your true self away from the violence and hatred of the here and now. Mountaintops are the not yet realized in the fallen world apart from the luscious garden of yore.

Mountaintops are beautiful and alluring. Mountaintops are awe-inspiring and attractive. Mountaintops are exhilarating and intoxicating. Mountaintops are treacherous and risky.

Mountaintops are places where mysterious things happen and what you see is not always what you get. Mountaintops reach in to the heavens beckoning us to look up in to the thin veiled sky and testify to the glories above. Mountaintops are reminders of the finitude and impermanence that plague the human condition.

The problem is that mountaintops do not sustain life. They are semi-barren with little to support you. Mountaintops have the power to transform but they do not have the power to sustain.

It is difficult to visit the history of Black America without engaging mountaintops. This nations history is filled with the ebb and flow of black mountaintops yearning for freedom and equality. Demanding the fullness of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made decree.

Mountaintops shake the foundations of our institutions as they proclaim the injustice of privileged citizenship and point to the hypocrisy of declared liberty. Mountaintops challenge the status quo. Mountaintops are risky. They are risky because they challenge, provoke, and demand. Mountaintops are risky because they magnify silence and invite us into the presence of a whispering God.

The same God that whispered Creation into existence rests upon that mountaintop and guides those that visit that mountaintop towards justice, peace, and liberation from the bonds of this world. Standing in the presence of this power, this whispering God in this mortal coil is risky. We are not prepared to deliver this mortal coil to the presence of Our Creator, Our God.

Mountaintops provide respite from the brokenness of this world and renew our spirit for the journey to life’s valleys. Life cannot be all mountaintops. We are called to walk up and down the mountaintops, through the valleys, and across the rivers of life. This is not a sprint or a race to the top. This is an endurance race of step-by-step, moment-by-moment, relationship-by-relationship of God working, wonderment. We are called to community.

Jesus did not transform alone. He had community surrounding him. He had an inner circle, Disciples, followers, family, and advisories. And upon his last mountaintop Jesus engaged in community and moved from the top to the valley to be near us. Jesus continued to model community for us.

If you stay on the mountaintop there is nothing or nobody present long enough to be in community with. I am reminded of the powerful charge of Howard Thurman when he said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Alive, Is this not what God has commanded of us? Alive, is this not what we have been born into this world to be? ALIVE! One cannot be truly alive up on that mountaintop. Alive is a state we are in as we depart the mountaintop and traverse the lands below, the valleys between those divine, glory-filled breaths of mountaintop glee. Alive, we are called to be alive.

What makes you come alive?

I invite you to close your eyes. Let us walk the valley floor towards the mountaintop. What does it look like? Is it cold? Is it warm? Are there trees as we make our way up that mountain? Feel the earth beneath your feet. What does it feel like? Feel the air fill your lungs. What does it feel like to take breath? What emotions are being evoked? Who is with you? What do you hear as we make our way up the mountain? We near the mountaintop…pause and look from where you have come. Look out over the valley below. What do you see from the mountaintop? What are you feeling as you look out? What emotions are present with you? Let us rest. Take a deep breath in through your mouth, pause, and exhale through your nose. Again, take a breath through your mouth, pause, and exhale through your nose. As you continue to breath, what is God speaking to you up on this mountaintop?

What makes you come alive? As you breath “what” becomes I feel alive…I am alive.

Transformation is here. Purpose is here. We have been to the mountaintop. We are alive. What are we going to do? We dream dreams that we might share our life with this world. It’s good to visit the mountaintop; we are just not supposed to stay there. You can’t stay alive on the mountaintop. You are alive. Go and share this with the world.


What A Wonderful World.

While I was studying to become a social worker I got to intern in a transitional corrections facility. It was a wonderful experience for me. I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates, conduct family systems assessments, and engage in supervised therapy. Alongside me conducting these operations I was under clinical and direct supervision in which I reported my activity and debriefed in regards as to how I treated clients and why I used the particular methods I did. I also was seeing a personal therapist on a weekly basis.

This was a deep and meaningful period of my life in which I did lots of work on myself and processed the baggage of my past. As I conducted biopsychosocial examinations on arriving inmates I had to submit to a biopsychosocial examination of my own. I was grilled like I was on Oprah and was challenged by my supervisor until I broke. This was painful for me. I was invited to deal with the growing edges of my life in order to better serve my clients. I had to get to know myself before I was able to guide these men and women towards a truer and fuller version of themselves. As painful as that process was it paled in comparison to me having to interview my family and conduct a family systems assessment on them.

This was agonizing. It bared all those deeply hidden secrets of my youth and shed light to the perspective of my parents. Up until then I have witnessed my parents as human only in the idea that they are aging (as am I) and the full faculty of vigor is waning. I have unjustly denied my parents full humanity.

I have been particularly hard on my mom for things I perceived to have gone horribly wrong and I have not questioned my father for his part in these same horribly wrong events.  This is the kind of shit that one wants to write about but waits until their parents die or that their own kids find tucked away in some half-ass leather bound journal filled with shaky, hastily written script. This is one boogeyman.

I had to engage this head on and write a paper about it. I put it off for as long as I could. Then at the 11th hour I made a phone call to my mom, she didn’t answer. I left a message. Then I called my pop. He answered.

I tried to explain to him what I was doing in a way that someone tries to explain away the fact they got caught masturbating to this year’s SEARS catalog. I stuttered and struggled through my words. Finally, I asked my father, “Could you tell me about the five years before my birth and the five years after my birth?”

My father retorted, “What?”

I explained again what family systems entails and invited him in to the conversation, again. I was silently nervous. I am asking my John Wayne, my Superman to engage the emotions around my birth. I felt like I was treading on holy group. I waited for God to strike me dead and send me to the place of Uzzah.

Silence slowly started to lift and my father told me that he and my mom had experienced several miscarriages and had all but given up on having children of their own. So, my parents entered in to the adoption process. They were knee-deep into the process and even had a little boy staying with them when my mother found out she was pregnant with me.

My father’s words were filled with sorrow, wonder, and reservation. It was like he had opened up a part of himself that he had long ago closed off and worked to bury. You see, when my mom found out she was pregnant the adoption process was going to end. This potential brother was removed and my parents were sent on their merry way. My father’s voice ached as he shared this with me.

The conversation flowed a little more freely after that. I seemed to have stepped upon a place in which my father no longer feared my questions and even welcomed having a safe face to explore these long forgotten memories. We talked for almost two hours and I learned more about my father than I ever had. My pop became Dorothy’s son, Karen’s brother, Liz’s first love, and Arlene’s soulmate. My pop was human. He has dreams independent on mine. He has a heart for others. He loves strangely and imperfectly.

When my son was born I remembered this conversation. I pondered how I would live in a manner that my son could know I am human, I have faults. How will I live so that my son will not suffer the fate of many of the men of my family? The longer I ran these scenarios through my mind the more and more I wanted to rest near my father as I did when I was a child.

Parenting is the hardest thing I have embarked upon in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am doing great and in other moments I worry that I am utterly fucking with the health of my child. It is in these moments I wish I could lay in my father’s lap as he strokes my head and we watch Elvira together. Most of all I pray that my son gives me more grace to me than I did to my parents. I pray he understand that I am human as well.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

This year has been a year of change. I graduated from Social Work School. I became a substance abuse therapist as I ended my hope of returning to vocational ministry. I embarked on a journey towards whole body health in preparation of the end of my “young adult” years. I became a father. I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of me finishing my undergrad studies and embarking on a life changing adventure in Kenya. I look back on these past 10-years and am amazed at where I find myself.

I have not always been the best at reflection and healthy processing. My natural state is to push through the moment or risk getting bound by reflection and mired in a melancholy state of being. In this state I do not really do much of anything but regret, hope, pine, and have the occasional moment of clarity. There has been a common theme in my life that has come to my attention, the search for identity.

I have been on a quest to discover who and what I am for as long as I can remember. I am not sure if I had any solid identity growing up. I can remember ebbing and flowing amongst my friends and contemporaries likes and dislikes. I was a very impressionable youth that most aptly played parts over lived life. I tried to fit in and be affirmed by damn near anyone. As an adult I am not sure this was a bad thing. As a youth it led to a series of heartaches and many bad decisions in my quest to identify with others and find a place in this world.

In the last 10-years I have discovered my place in this world and am recently becoming comfortable with it. I have chased myself in seminary and sought to get answers in answering a call. I chased identity in a bottle and found myself struggling to understand my destructive side. I have come to grips with my battle with food and moving through the unglamorous addition to food. I have found and lost an identity as a minister. This may have been the most painful of lessons for me to learn in the past 10-years.

I discovered a depth of love that I have never known in my partner, friend, and love, Mere. I found a piece of me in marriage that I adore. And it has been this love that has delivered me to my most human of identities, fatherhood.

I have only been a father for 5 and a half months. Yet, I have dreamed of this identity for decades. In middle school I dreamed of being a husband and father. It has always been a matrix to which I have measured myself; the dream to which I lost myself in the most. Now that I am a father I dream different dreams.

I stare into my sons eyes and see my life reflected in him. I want so much for him. I want him to be compassionate, caring, and loving. All of these things I hope to model for him to learn. I want him to be happy and learn early on that happiness is an inside job and that who he is today is wonderful. That he is fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s Image. I want to spare him the ills I suffered for being a chubby kid. I want him to avoid the painful humiliation of poverty. I want him to speak truth in a way that is peaceful and full of truth. I want him to appreciate the beauty of life and wander more than he searches this world for the thin places.

I would love it if he played First Base for The Los Angeles Dodgers. I would settle if he never played football or grew up. I want him to never forget that I love him dearly and that those hushed whispers of dawn were in fact my hungry heart willing my love around him. I want him to know his smile makes a bad day good and that I am proud to be his father. I want him to know that if I ever depart this moral coil early, that I will do all that is possible to watch him from afar.

My search for identity has not ceased. The shame, guilt, or woe of who and what I am, is no longer the sharp pain it was. Rather, those emotions are the currency to which I paid for travel to this place of fatherhood and I regret none of it.

I hold my son in my arms and reflect on the pride my parents had in holding me in their arms. I see the painful struggles of poverty that eventually split my parents. I see the joy in their eyes as they watch me hold my son with tears caressing their cheeks and pride illuminating theirs smiles. The hurt of my youth is not trivialized as much as it is put in to perspective. I have always been loved, even when I did not feel it nor had the ability to realize it. The search for identity was about finding a place to be loved. I had that love all along. The one thing I want my son to know is that I loved him before he was born.

I loved him when I was lost amongst the living trying to awaken to love. I loved him as he grew in his mother’s belly. I dreamed of his face as I felt his internal kicks for liberation. And now that I see him that love continues to grow. I love myself because I was a party in loving him to life. And if he doesn’t play for The Dodgers let it be anybody but the Yankees or Giants.

Draft Sermon 072014

So, don’t you see that we owe this old do-it-yourself life nothing? There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Revitalizing Spirit gestures us to come nearer. There are things to do, people to see, and places to go!

This resurrected life you receive from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously pregnant with courage, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We awaken to our true self. We awaken to who God is, and we discern who we are: Parent and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—a fantastic inheritance! We are called to live as Christ has lived. We are to go through the hard times with him, and then we’re indubitably going to go through the good times with him!

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can scarcely wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is dimmed. God maintains restraint until creation and all creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead as our joyful expectancy deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult suffering throughout the world are birth pangs. Pain that is not only within us, but also around us. The Spirit of God is stirring us from within. We experience the birthing pangs together and apart from each other. These fruitless and stark bodies of ours long for complete liberation. That is why waiting does not diminish us; any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, do not see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our hope is.

Romans 8:12-25

I am not sure if Tracy warned you about me. I feel like I ought to plaster a disclaimer across the pulpit saying, “He is just one expression of a Reformed Faith. It’ll be ok, it’s just 12 minutes.” I am only partial joking. I might offer relief to some in telling you that I have retired from professional ministry and am now a social worker in South Oklahoma City serving a community mental heath center and only moonlight as a pastor when friends and colleagues need someone to stride into the pulpit and offer proof that the radical nature of Christ leads to a life of pregnant adventure.

Ten years ago I was doing something very similar to what I am doing right now today. I was traveling from church to church in Los Angeles trying to garner financial and spiritual support for my upcoming YAV year in Kenya. I would show up to worship and share a bit about the program. YAV stands for Young Adult Volunteers and it is a PCUSA mission service component for youth 18-30 to serve in various national and international contexts in which they explore faith in service to others.

Full of fear and trepidation I approached pulpit after pulpit and delivered my best testimony about how I got to this place in my life. The Lord was calling me to service. The church that I had served as a youth worker and high school youth director had recognized gifts of service in me and challenged me to pray about it. I am not a man of in-betweens or moderation. I am the same man that has been baptized 3 times, been a sandwich board street preacher, witnessed to drunk folks in bars, and never meets strangers. So, I accept their challenge and I pray that God give me a life of adventure and make me dangerous to the ills of the world.

The next year in Kenya brought me to places and people that still shape me in profound ways. I arrived a staunch evangelical conservative Christian and left as a confused and wounded lover of Christ. I started seminary 2 weeks after I left Kenya. I soon found my way to a bottle to mask my suffering. I had no idea then that I was struggling with PTSD. I had no clue where I began or where I ended. My identity was in shambles.

I got a job bouncing and cooking at a bar 422 steps from Austin Seminary. I poured my heart and soul in to that pub. I would read about Tillich, Gutiérrez, Calvin, Barth, and DiForinza and I would share this in conversation with my co-workers and customers. It became know that I was a priest or something. People would seek me out. There I was, a fella with a broken heart, hiding in a bottle, and ministering to the margins. It was the best ministry I had been a part of.

I had to get out of there; my health would not take any more of it. I quit working at the pub and buckled down. I graduated, got married, and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. My wife worked at the Presbyterian Center and I was going to go to Social Work school. I had been dismissed from the ordination process and had become disenfranchised with the church. There was no place for a fella with a broken heart that had hid in a bottle and ministered to the margins.

I soon found myself serving a Disciples of Christ church that wanted me to minister to the LGBTQ community in Louisville. I love this idea, to minister to the community that had gotten me dismissed from the PCUSA ordination process. It was an amazing time of awakening to the beauty and power of God working in and through folks that I had always thought would burn in hell or that at the very least would be hard pressed to be used as instruments of God’s love.

Those three years delivered me to apostasy in the eyes of Pat Robertson and Al Mohler. I received more messages explaining that I was in error and was leading those I professed to love down the broad road to hell. It was an enlightening time of pregnant adventure. It was also a hard time for the church, longtime members became upset when the national news caught wind of things we were doing and when the nation got word that I and the other pastor on staff were not going to act as agents of the State any longer by signing marriage certificates, the camels back was broke. This lead to a slow decline in my support and the niche I had found was no longer supported.

This eventually brought me to Oklahoma. My wife was called to a lovely church in Oklahoma City where her gifts in ministry are utilized in a spectacular display of loving-kindness. I was branded as a liberal, rebel-rousing type and barred from seeking a call in Oklahoma. I mourn that loss still. I crawled through the open window God left ajar and finished my master of social work at OU.

I wrestled with the thought of failure. When we graduated in 2008 from Austin Seminary we were told that in five years 50% of us would not be in ministry any longer. I had made it three years of full time ordained ministry before I burned out of church. I was one of the statistics. I was bathed in shame. The pregnant adventure I had always prayed for had abandoned me. The thing is, the adventurously pregnant life doesn’t leave us. The suffering, the frustration, the difficulty are part of the birth pangs. “All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult suffering throughout the world are birth pangs. Pain that is not only within us, but also around us. The Spirit of God is stirring us from within. We experience the birthing pangs together and apart from each other. These fruitless and stark bodies of ours long for complete liberation. That is why waiting does not diminish us; any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, do not see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our hope is.”

God is not calling any of us to an easy life of leisure. To be a fisher of [men but need a gender neutral way to express this] means we must toil and labor. There is joy in the work but there is never NOT risk. It is a risky and dangerous prospect to put ones life in the hands of Christ and be light in a world that is full of biased hatred of a redeeming and reconciling Emmanuel. The world hates the justice, the peace, and the love that flows forth from the Human-struck wounds of Jesus.