“Stop It or I’ll Bury You Alive in A Box”

I’m tired of it.

Men, I’m really, really tired of it.

Why do you have to keep giving us men such a bad name?

Seriously.

This pandemic of neanderthal, immature, pathetic, despicable masculinity needs to stop – yesterday. Actually, that’s not good enough. It should have stopped years and years ago. It should have never even happened in the first place.

I just don’t get it.

It isn’t that hard.

Really. It can’t be that hard. Right?

Wake up. Mature up.

Get your stuff together men. Today, tomorrow, and absolutely forever.

How hard is it to not sexually harass or assault another human being?

Just stop it!

Serious.

Why do you do it? Why do you think it’s okay to treat someone that way?

The names, the stories, the faces, the people are numerous and growing. I can only imagine what it has been like to carry these scars, these wounds, these pains, these stories for all this time. I can only imagine the weight and toll it takes on a person to carry this for all this time.

How has it been so hidden for so long? What’s it been like for these brave women to carry these secrets and pain for all these years?

Now, as I think about all these brave women who have been willing to come out and begin to change the conversation – or start the conversation – all I can think of is how do we fix this? What needs to change? Why has it taken so long to change in the first place? It doesn’t make any sense and it hurts my soul.

It needs to stop.

It needs to change.

I’m tired of hearing these news stories. I’m tired of it.

So, if you’re man, I have a simple message for you – but first watch the video if you haven’t already.

“Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box.”

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Work Formation

For the past hour I have pulled up my socks, downloaded gifs, texted, listened to podcasts, and doodled.

Now, to be fair, doodled is a bit extreme. I don’t want to give doodlers a bad name.

My definition of doodling is taking an old coffee sleeve from Starbucks and filling it in with a pen.

That’s true art.

All the while I’ve been doing this, I have been hoping for a magical e-mail to ping into my Microsoft Outlook inbox. I’ve been dreaming for something to do, to pass the time sitting in my cubicle til lunch. If it wasn’t for the cup of coffee I’ve been nursing all morning I may go crazy. I may also fall asleep at my desk if it wasn’t for this magical bean – that’s not a good look.

For this season of transition, of waiting, this is forming me.

Work, all work, forms us.

Not just the work which gives you callouses or makes your clothes dirty; not just the work that saves lives or rescues the orphan out of slavery.

All work forms us.

Even Microsoft Outlook.

Even spreadsheets.

Even the moments of work where you have nothing to do and you long for a stack of pencils, a pencil sharpener, and an office roof soft enough to allow your pencils a landing spot.

The boredom. The lack. The taunting blinking of the cursor. 

It shapes you. It forms you.

Where do you go in these spaces? Where do you find your mind wandering? Do you day dream like Walter Mitty?  Are you dreaming of the day you can retire or your fun weekend plans? Do you turn towards brainless TMZ gossip or do you find yourself looking for Jesus in your day, in your life, in the spreadsheet, in that blinking cursor?

The wandering. It’s soul shaping. It’s the moments you can see what bubbles up to the surface.

What bubbles up to your surface?

Advent

Christmas.

Can you believe it?

December is already here.

Advent is beginning. Houses are decorated. Trees are up. Lights be twinklin. Parties are being planned. The weather has a chill which feels like winter.

Can you believe it?

Red, green, and gold is everywhere you look. Wishlist’s have been sent off to Santa – or parents – your choice.

And, if you didn’t know it, Thanksgiving is long behind us and Black Friday gave way to Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and even Giving Tuesday.

It’s December.

Where has the year gone?

I love December, for lots of reason. The Christmas seasons is definitely at the top of the list. It’s a time to celebrate, to give, to explore, to enjoy art and beauty, to eat good food, and be with your favorite people in the world.  It’s the best, smiling is my favorite.

It’s also busy; in a time which should encourage slowness and does – when we get there – the getting there is extremely busy. It can wear you down, it can make December fly by even faster than it should. I kind picture it getting like getting stuck on a treadmill or in one of those revolving doors.

That’s why I love Advent.

It’s a reminder to be expectant and anticipant of what can happen, of what God can do and wants to do.

Are you busy?

Is your calendar full?

Are you tired of circling in parking lots looking for a space?

Speaking of space, are you creating it or are you running at a pace too fast?

We all need space and we all have a pace.

How’s yours?

Practice and celebrate Advent.

Figure out your space and pace as we wind down 2017.

Season of Thankfulness

As 2017 winds down, the holiday season is already upon us. Our first beacon in taking a moment to savor our season, to examine where we find ourselves has already passed.

We’ve gone from enjoying the turkey and indulging on the second helping of desert to already forgetting about the leftovers in our fridges.

Therefore, on purpose, a few days late, I share what I’m thankful for – because I don’t want it to be confined to one day, to one meal, to a few minutes on Thanksgiving. I want to live my life in a posture of thankfulness I intentionally practice during the holidays.

I’m thankful for:

  • God’s continual and daily grace through His healing, making me new, and loving me despite my many imperfections and various screw ups.
  • Ellie. She’s a woman of grace, love, and compassion. Her tenderness and joy is absolutely intoxicating, invigorating, and motivating. She makes me a better man every day. She loves Jesus more than she loves me, and that is all I could want – on top of the multitude of compliments and praises I could give her.
  • Family: mine isn’t perfect, but I’m thankful for parents who taught me to love Jesus and follow Him. I have a sister who is a best friend, and and I don’t know anything more special. I’m even thankful for my brother, plus, I have three adorable nephews, so that’s a nice perk.
  • Friends: even over a thousand miles away, I have some of the best friends I could ask for. They are a brotherhood I don’t take for granted. In the past year plus, I’ve been able to begin to build community here in Seattle – through a few, strong, and deep friendships. I’m blessed through this daily.
  • Mentors: I know I’ll never have arrived as a man, leader, son, boyfriend, friend, brother, etc. Having older, wiser, stronger, men choose to pour and invest in me is something I long to model and pass down for generations. I’m thankful for those men in the past, in the present, and those people who are to come.
  • Since August of 2016, I’ve been living life in the season of #PacificNorthWelch. It has been one of the most challenging and rewarding times of my life. God has taught me, led me, grown me, and given me fresh vision for life and ministry. I seriously can’t imagine where I’d be or who I’d be without this season of my life.
  • There are hundreds of other items to be thankful for: books – fiction and non-fiction alike, an education, television, movies, music, sports, baseball, clothes, weather, the sun when it pops out from behind clouds, physical activity, technology, cars, planes, health, a job, physical activity, a roof over my head, the rain, nature, really amazing coffee, and Rainbow Sandals.
  • Maybe, as I think about it, I’m most grateful for what is to come. This past season has been incredible, but I know what’s before me is even better. I know God is calling. I don’t know what stories are to be told, but I can’t wait to find out.

Thankful.

Grateful.

Blessed.

Humbled.

Slow.

Pause.

Repeat.

Don’t let the busyness of the season cause you to lose sight of the season.

Getting Lost

Sometimes, you need to get lost in order to be found.

When you’re lost, you actually find out where you are.

In the wandering you find out where you’re heading.

A few weeks ago, on one of our adventures, my girlfriend and I got lost. I mean really lost. So lost, at one point, we seriously wondered if we’d ever make it back to our car and home to Seattle.

I’m sure you’ve been there – forgetting where you park at the mall during the holiday season, what level of the parking structure you happen to be on, losing the trail on a hike, or even having your GPS take you to the middle of nowhere – to a place GPS doesn’t even work.

Finding your way through life can be a bit of a maze and you don’t know you’re lost – until you’re lost.

We all get lost.

Getting lost is disorienting.

Back to my story a few weeks ago. For the first time in my life I did a corn maze (#bucketlistachieved). That corn maze was designed to get us lost and it did not disappoint. We got lost. In ways I couldn’t have foreseen.
In the middle of getting lost, all sense of time evaporated. An hour could have been a minute. A minute could have been a second.

At least it’s a good thing we were in a corn maze, because we would have had food to eat if we wound up out there for days.

Lost in a corn maze.

Walking through the corn stalks, the sun was peaking through the gaps. It was bright, yet, we were stuck in the shadows.

We were already lost. Everything was already looking the same. This shadowy maze of corn and people began to disorient us. Our thinking, our heads, got a bit hazy, and we got dizzy.

 

In the midst of our disorientation, I could tell my internal “I’m man and I’m a leader, I need to be able to figure out where we are going or my girlfriend is going to wind up disappointed in me and not find me attractive anymore because I can’t figure out how to lead us out of the corn maze” alarm was going off.  See, in my wiring, I put so much pressure on myself to be right, to be perfect, to know where I’m going, to see where God is leading, and if I can’t get my directional compass in check, I beat myself up.

I get defensive.

I blame shift.

I get frustrated.

This is not the pretty side of myself; it’s pretty ugly actually.

But this is what happens when you’re lost. You get a look into the makings, the tender part of your soul. It exposes what is actually going on, because what is inherently in you starts to bubble up.

As we were lost in the corn maze, my frustration was growing. My self worth and self image was rapidly decreasing. Honestly, I was afraid of letting it bubble up and ruining all the fun we were having at Bob’s Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze.

Truthfully, we were lost because I couldn’t read the map. I thought I knew what direction we were heading, but then, every turn seemed to get us more and more confused. Go right, dead end. Go left, didn’t we past that pile of trash before?

Going in circles – that’s life isn’t it? Sometimes, when we’re disoriented, we seem to be going in circles – making wrong move after wrong move and winding up back where we started – if we’re lucky.

The disorientation makes us mad, makes us feel hopeless.

Until, we see hope.

Until, we sense the season is changing.

 

For us, in the corn maze, this happened, when we found a bridge in front of us. In this moment, we still didn’t know where we were. In fact, it was here, at the discovery of the bridge, where we learned just how off we were.

Yet, this bridge was the beginning of our reorientation.

The bridge above our heads, let us figure out where we were on the map.

At the bridge, we learned where we needed to go.

Our bridge was hope.

Our bridge was the beginning to the other side.

Our bridge chartered a new course for what was to come.

Once we hit the bridge, we knew how to read the map.

When we could read the map, we learned how to follow the map.

When we learned how to follow the map, we were faithfully, joyfully, right on our way again. The stress evaporated.

For the last several months, it would be an understatement to say I felt disoriented and lost.

My map no longer made sense.

It was frustrating. When I moved to Seattle over a year ago,  and started my #PacificNorthWelch journey – I didn’t know how it would play out. But, while I was here, encountering Jesus in the most beautiful ways, I began to dream and look ahead on the unwritten map. I began to write my own map and create my own trails.

Then, one day, I found out that map didn’t exist anymore.

It was a time of disorientation.

But, in October, the map began to get clearer – I had found my bridge.

Now in November, I’ve seen where this bridge led me to.

It’s better than I could have imagined.

I will give you all the credit, God –
you got me out of that mess,
you didn’t let my foes gloat.
God, my God, I yelled for help
and you put me together.
God, you pulled me out of the grave,
gave me another chance at life
when I was down-and-out…
You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God, 
I can’t thank you enough.

Psalms 30:1-3, 11-2 (The Message)

The bridge just lets me know where I am on the map. I know where the trail starts, but I don’t know where it goes.

I can’t wait to see where it goes.

God has, and is going to work and move in amazing ways. God, please keep going before me. May it be so.

This #PacificNorthWelch adventure has only just begun.

The Shattering

Humanity loves to celebrate sacrifice.

The world’s greatest sport, baseball, even rewards players who are willing to perform a sacrifice. You can have a player execute a sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly. In each case the team benefits, but the player sacrifices his individual achievement for the sake of helping his team win.

After a player sacrifices himself, the team surrounds him, encourages him, and celebrates his success.

Sacrifice leads to reward.
Sacrifice leads to something new.

Something new comes because we are willing to let go of the old.
We’re willing to sacrifice what once was.

Adios.
Bon voyage.
Na-na-na-na-na goodbye.

The letting go is what I have been thinking about a lot recently. Letting go is about shattering the old perception, the old way. It’s the understanding things are not as they were.

The shattering.

The moment you realize you’ve been holding on to a particular way or object and it’s time to sacrifice it, it’s time to hold it loosely and see what stays in your palm.

It could mean it comes back to you. Or, perhaps, you may never see it again. If you do se it again, it may come back to you as something completely different than you ever anticipated it becoming.

Either way, it’s the shattering.

Sacrifice shatters expectations.

Sacrifice shatters the hoped for reality.

There were dreams and expectations for what Fall was going to look like. Where I am in October today, is not at all where I thought it would be. It is radically different, but there is still hope what is to come will be even better than what was the hoped for reality. Fall took a 180 degree turn in the midst of the shattering.

My hoped for reality was shattered and I’ve been reflecting on this quite a bit.

My reflecting has taken me to the story of Jonah. The parallel is not exact, so the context doesn’t quite matter.  What strikes me is Jonah getting frustrated with God’s provision in the moment.

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.  When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’ But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.’ And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night.’

(Jonah 4:5-10)

This conversation is about Jonah’s shattered hope for reality.

It was Jonah’s shattering.

I feel it. I get it. I understand.

The shattering takes an adjustment. It takes rediscovering the purpose of the season. It takes pausing.

In the pause, in the slowdown, you sacrifice what you thought was going to be and learn to adjust to what reality is.

The shattering leads to reconstruction.

In reality, the shattering is actually a rebuilding.

The rebuilding has started, I don’t know yet what is getting constructed – unfortunately I don’t have the fancy, little drawings from Ikea to help me out.

What is this next season going to look like?
Where is it going to lead?
How is God going to move?

These are questions I don’t know the answer to yet but I can’t wait to explore, find out, and celebrate how God has moved.

Whisper :: Discerning the Doors

Thankfully I’ve been blessed to have many great people as voices of influence in my life that I’ve actually met. However, there are still some people from afar I would call “spiritual mentors” I have never met.

Mark Batterson is one of those. One day I’d love to grab a cup of coffee with him at Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse.

His new book, Whisper, came out at the perfect time for me, as I’m processing where God is moving and how God is moving in this season as I listen and discern God’s voice.

It’s literally a book about listening to God’s voice.

It has been perfect for this season of transition.

I’m thankful for his voice, faithfulness, and influence.

There was a five page stretch that absolutely wrecked me in all the right ways. Below are three quotes with some observations:

1) “The will of God is like a lock with two pins. The first pin is ‘called to.’ The second pin is ‘released from.’ When you’re ‘released from’ a current responsibility but not sure what you’re ‘called to,’ it can feel like a spiritual no-man’s-land. You’re not sure what to do next. Until God gives further instruction, I would suggest doing what you heard Him say last.” 102

This spiritual no-man’s-land is exactly what I’m experiencing. I’m so grateful for my friends at Bethany Community Church Ballard  allowing me to call this location home, and process this transitional season I find myself placed in.

It’s such a blessing to have a home base to process change and be encouraged to listen to how God is speaking.

2) “Just as we’ll thank God for unanswered prayers as much as answered prayers, someday we’ll thank God for closed doors as much as open doors. We don’t like closed doors when they slam in our faces, and we don’t understand them. But closed doors are expressions of God’s prevenient grace.

Sometimes closed doors come in form of failure. Sometimes closed doors are checks in the Spirit that keep us from walking through the door in the first place. Either way, God sometimes shows the way by getting in the way.” 105-106

But closed doors are expressions of God’s prevenient grace.

Closed doors are expressions of God’s prevenient grace.

Expressions of God’s grace.

God’s grace.

Grace.

Has that sunk in yet? It’s still working me over.

3) “A check in the spirit is difficult to define, difficult to discern. It’s feeling of uneasiness you can’t ignore. A sixth sense that something isn’t quite right. A lack of peace in your spirit. A check in the spirit is God’s red light, and if you don’t obey the sign, you might be headed for trouble.

God closes doors to protect us.
God closes doors to redirect us.
God closes doors to keep us from less that His best.” 107

In this season I’m praying for God to open doors and to shut doors.

What door will God lead me through?

As I think about this, I can’t not think about The Price is Right and the Showcase Showdown where the contestant gets to choose what prize package they want to bid on. They have to say yes to one and no to the other. Then they have to listen to the studio audience as they discern what exactly to bid on the Showcase Showdown.

If they discern right, they get an amazing prize package. If they discern wrong, they go home disappointed.

What Showcase Showdown is God going to place in front of me to discern?

I don’t know, but I’m confident He’ll either open it or shut it for me.