Sunday, December 31, 2006

the wonderful unknotter


My daughter came in this morning and threw one of her barbies onto darla’s lap and said, “please get the knot out of my Barbie's dress, you are the best unknotter!” I thought to myself that is absolutely true for me too. After reading darla’s post today, it is obvious that both of us have been grappling with the same issues. I wrote in my journal yesterday to God that I was mad at him for dropping us in this spot: this spot where we are not pleased with our current position even though this is the spot we have been placed for a reason beyond our understanding. Honesty, I think that is the thing God wants from his children. I think he is big enough to take my blaming and complaining. I don’t want to stay that way for long. I think that is why he has placed the wonderful un-knot-her in my life. You see yesterday I was twisted up in knots after two days of wringing my thoughts over how lonely it seems to be in this place we currently find ourselves in. Last night in a moment of sheer exhaustion and desperation, knowing I could not undo the knot I had twisted myself into, I threw myself onto darla’s lap and without words asked to be unknotted.

This morning I awoke and realized that the knot has been undone and I am not as anxious. Yesterday, darla tried to ask what was wrong, but I was so twisted inside I couldn’t even verbalize it. I made the most foolish statement. I told her I didn’t want to tell her because I didn’t want to bum her out and besides she couldn’t do anything about it anyway. What a load of crap that is, today I realize that she is the one I can tell and share my pain, fears, and doubts with. In trying to protect her from the pain that I am going through, I am hindering the thing that the Spirit of God would use to knit us closer together.

I am forever grateful that the One Who knitted me together in my mothers womb has given to me my wonderful un-knot-her.

Monday, December 25, 2006

dawn comes everyday

it is not a question of if or when was Jesus was born, rather it is that he was born. does anyone know exactly when the sunrises? or is it that we know that everyday the sun does rise.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

get it out in the open

“Prayer is elemental, not advanced, in language. It is the means by which our language becomes honest, true, and personal in response to God. It is the means by which we get everything out in the open before God.” Eugene Peterson (intro to Psalms)

My thoughts:
If prayer is me being honest before God, in response to God, it is assumed that God has spoken first. I think I have approached prayer first as me speaking to God upon my terms, but in light of Eugene’s concept of prayer maybe when I come to the point of thinking of speaking to God, it is actually my inner being responding to a divine prompting that I wasn’t even aware of. So maybe a new understanding of prayer might be to first listen, or maybe before I open my mouth, I should open my ears.

Listening to my life:
Today I found myself all wound up, meaning I was in a really foul mood. Sometimes when I get in moods like that I start cleaning the house like a madman. As I clean, I grapple with the issue. Sometimes the cleaning makes me more frustrated than I was before I started. Nonetheless, today I was mad. Here were the series of triggers:
I learn of friends who have found themselves wanting to serve God, yet don't have a clear sense of what that looks like. They are in limbo. (It reminds me of the struggle I too find myself in in our current position.)
Another friend has purchased a building and is looking to start a church. (This frustrates me, because I can’t come to terms with the fact that I –me- can’t just conjure up this thing called church. It is too sacred, it is such a precious gift, how can I be so pompous to think I can just start “label x church.”) I haven’t been together with fellow travelers of faith in some time. I miss that.
Things are just out of order in my inner life. I turn and look and the house is in somewhat of disarray. Then it all comes crashing in; uncertainty leads to frustration, frustration leads to bitterness, bitterness leads to burning anger.
All of this happens in the span of about 2 minutes.

I am so thankful that my wife gives me space to go off on my little stinky tantrums. She asks, are you ok? NO! I AM MAD! What are you mad at, she asks. Now, I could respond, no one helps clean around the house! That would be BLAME. That is not what has got me worked up. No, it’s really me. I respond, “I am mad at myself!” She replies, “Why are you mad at yourself?" Stinky under my breath I respond, “I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet!” I think to myself- leave me alone, I am just stewing.

If I am really honest, I am mad because I have chosen other things over spending time journaling with God, which I really love to do. But this week things have just come up. I am mad at the fact that I have gotten so mad so quickly over something I don’t have any control over. I stop cleaning and sit down on the couch with Darla and explain the triggers that have led me to this point. In doing so, we communicate openly and honestly. I can sense that she isn’t mad at me being mad and wants to walk through this thing with me wherever it leads. I love my wife. She reminds me of God’s latitude of grace towards me. We are moving closer to living our complete life out in the open with each other, and if that is the picture of our marriage, then how much more are we open before the One who knitted us together once in the womb, and then again in relationship to one another.

I am not mad anymore, in fact, I am actually filled with awe, wonder, and love.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

a full life in the emptiest places

"If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down--and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places--firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden,a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again."

God speaks through Isaiah (58)
to the people who follow "the Name."

Monday, December 11, 2006

nativity of the Jews

"From the story of the nativity of the Jews, we learn that life is inherently arduous but also sacred; our task is to repair and perfect God's creation. What challenges do Christians undertake from the Gospels' Nativity stories? Perhaps Christian faith in Jesus will be understood as the faith of Jesus, so the Jewish values of education and social responsibility that his parents inculcated in him will be renewed for Christians in their celebration of his birth." Read More Great article from MSN.com hosted by newsweek.com
This is timely as I am reading Brian McLaren's book a Generous Orthodoxy subtitled Why I am A -Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN.
I skimmed this book at the book store when it came out last year. I wasn't ready to read it then, but now seems like a good time. I checked it out from my local library, In the first chapter he discusses how his idea of Jesus has been shaped as he has moved through the various denominations of the Christian faith. It is a kind of brief overview of church history from a personal experience. He is very hard on conservative evangelicals, but that is because he was raised in that environment and found it lacking. His ideas are not to persuade one to accept one particular viewpoint but to ignite discussion and dialogue about the way things have been presented related to the "Gospel" or good news by the various denominational doctrines.
I read McLaren's the Secret Message of Jesus this summer and I really enjoyed it. It is one of those I hope to read again.

Friday, December 08, 2006

could i get a map, i seem to have misplaced myself

During the time that Rabbi Schneur Zalman was imprisoned in Petersburg, one of the czar's miniters asked him to explain the verse (Genesis 3:9) "And G-d called out to the man and said to him: Where are you?" Did G-d not know where Adam was? Rabbi Schneur Zalman asked the minister: Do you believe that the Torah is eternal, that its every word applies to every individual, under all conditions, at all times? The minister replied that he did. Rabbi Schneur Zalman was very gratified to hear this, for this was a basic principle of the "subversive" teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, the propagation of which was at the heart of the accusations leveled against him.

"Where are you?" said Rabbi Schneur Zalman to the minister, "is G-d's perpetual call to every man. Where are you in the world? You have been allotted a certain number of days, hours, and minutes in which to fulfill your mission in life. You have lived so many years and so many days -- Where are you? What have you accomplished?"

i love my brothers from the Jewish faith, they have such a way of capturing the basic questions of life and forming them into a querry that stirs one to action. for me asking the question, "where am i?" is more about not being so focused on where i am going, who i am in this place now. it is a shift from destination thinking, to a current location mode of being. the question is not where am i going, but who am i in the place where i am today.

Monday, December 04, 2006

ask the question


“the tree the tempest with a crash of wood
throws down in front of us is not to bar
our passage to our journey’s end for good
but just to ask us who we think we are.”

Robert Frost –
the poem “On a Tree Fallen Across the road”
in the book Learning to Fall.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

shopping for God knows what...

Consumer Reports advise:
Look through the ads, shop for the best, find the one you like… then, BUY IT!

Maybe we have settled for a sort of false advertising. Maybe in our consumer mindset we have thought of the current model of the church as a product of the primary expression of the kingdom. We have purchased this way of thinking and now we are experiencing a sort of buyer’s remorse because our perception is that the product has failed to deliver.

The reality is, the church hasn’t failed; it is our expectations and preconceived ideas about it that were incomplete. Our disillusionment has led us to return our purchase and we are now seeking a new product; a product that we are finding is not available in any one particular store. In fact, it is not even a product or a service. It is simply a way of living.

The gospels tell us:
Look first, look with intensity, look as though the fate of your life depends upon it, look for the kingdom first.

I have noticed that the gospels do not tell us to look for a church first and then the kingdom. The kingdom of Heaven is to be first. The kingdom takes place in and around your ordinary everyday life. Your everyday life is the optimal realm where the ruling and reigning of God is made known. It is the place where God wants to inhabit.

When seeking the kingdom expressed in everyday life, it becomes the central approach to thinking about the God-big-picture. That thinking will help relocate what the church can look like on your God-life map. Kingdom living is living in the God-life rhythm of everyday life, working, eating, etc…

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." Written to the people in Rome by Paul. (Romans 12:1, the Message)

A great example of searching for the divine in the ordinary is Reap What You Sew Generosity Project. This article was orginally printed in the San Francisco Chronicle December 2, 2005.

Once you begin to live searching for the kingdom first, then secondary will be a desire to gather together with others who are living from that the same understanding that kingdom (everyday life in relationship with God) is best understood in relationships with others. Just as love is best expressed when it is shared between two people, not towards an object, so is kingdom living expressed between two people. A gathering of people who are genuinely seeking to center their life on this understanding will naturally become an expression of what Paul thought of when he said, “When you gather...”

This will be a huge shift in thinking for many people, because we have thought of the kingdom expressed in terms of the gatherings of Christians as the essential expression of the kingdom. Although it is one part of the kingdom, it is not the central way. The number of hearts who are in such gatherings are just a token representation of the hearts that God is moving through in the world. To think that gatherings are “the ends” of what God thinks about his kingdom, is limited in scope. Gatherings are just one of the expressions of “the means” by which kingdom can be viewed.

This shift may explain the long return lines in the religious goods and services department stores across the country, or as seen in the mass exodus of people from the current church model in the West.

So what do we do next? Search, search everywhere. Search for what? Search for expressions of the kingdom at work in all the nooks and crannies of the marginalized, the forgotten, and the ignored. That is where He came and walked before. I don’t think he has changed his route. Jesus told us in plain language the way is narrow and few find it. I realize that I have been looking for something else. I was looking for a product or a service that would satisfy my need for what only the kingdom (the God-life expressed in relationships with others) can fulfill.

After listening to and contemplating on a series of talks by Euguene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and Todd Hunter entitled Spiritual Formation hosted on Alleleon.org, I am forming a daily question that is helping me put this into perspective: What does my life relationships with my spouse, kids, co-worker, friend, or the guy at the coffee shop look like now that I understand these relationships are the space where the kingdom emerges?

Is there an answer? Is there a solution? Yes and no. There is no quick fix or simple formula to follow. There is only a mode of living to be explored and shared. It is a life that is constantly searching for the divine in the ordinary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

soil of character


Silence and solitude
Silence and solitude

The sound of breathing
The flicker of the candle
The warmth of the fire
The scent of incense
All the reminders that you are near

Take us into you
Take us into the real
Take us into the center
Take to the place
Where we end
And you begin
Let us tremble
With knees wobbling
And stumble into grace

Your light shines in the gray
Your light shines bright in the day
Your light shines bright in the night
Your light shines bright in my plight

Bring us out into the open
Where faith and sight
Join hands and fight
The good fight

No one has ever seen the love
That grows from the One
Who is the beginning of everlasting


If I were to hope again
What would my heart hope in
I would hope in you alone
I would that you find me
Find me longing for thee

Can I know the ways of the One
Can I know the face of hope
Can I know the touch of grace
Can I know joy
Can I know the peace of life

Who can know these things
Who can know the hearts of men

Can the flower that falls
Still find hope in beauty

Can the leaf that turns
Find the hope of green again

Can the ones who have turned away
Find their hopes again

Can the pieces of the broken
Be put back together again

Can the One who makes the hard
Become soft move in and start again

I wish that these things would be
I wish that these things would be
I wish they would grow on the trees
Like fruit ready to be
Ready to be ripe to eat

Can you the great gardener
Bring the fruit of life
Bring it out of hiding
Bring it out of hiding

The roots of the tree
Go down and down to thee
Deep within the toil of the soil
Roots reaching deep
Roots reaching deep
Deep into the life source
Tap the root
Fill the branch
So that the tree would be
Once again into the orchard of me

Thursday, November 30, 2006

crossing the finish line



Wow, I can not begin to tell you what an incredible day today is! Being a creative type person as I am, one thing I sometimes struggle with is completing a project. Today is a winning day! I have completed a monster project; while sitting in my local library, I have crossed the finish line of writing my 50,000 words.

The last 30 days have been some of the most incredible soul searching moments that I have endured. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me to write. Thank you to my wife who gave me space to say the things I wanted to say from the secret closets of my soul. I don't have any expectations of what will come of this writing but I will never forget it.

Next Monday night, December 4 at 6pm, there will be a celebration party for the National Novel Writers of Tallahassee at the Grand Opening of The Coffee Pub, a non-profit coffee house on the corner of Thomasville and 5th st. I can't wait to meet up with my fellow writers and share in the celebration. I look forward to listening with my whole heart to the excerpts that will be shared that night.

Writers Rock! I join a long list of ancient travelers who have recorded many Adventures Along the Great Trail. Hmmm, that would be a good title for a book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

missionary vs. living missional


Excerpt from 50,000 words

Thoughts from a visit to Mission San Luis

Walking about the Mission grounds we visited the tanner, the blacksmith, and the friar, a seamstress, and the wood carpenter. As we sat down and listened to each of the costumed interpreters tell their story, I began to hear a pattern taking shape. The man working with wood was making a broom handle for one of the women in the mission. The woman sewing was making an apron for the blacksmith from a hide that the tanner had given to her. The black smith was making hinges for a breadbox for the Friar. Each individual was developing their birthright gifts and were giving them in service to benefit the collective needs of the mission. Mission life in the 17oo’s might have meant sharing one’s time, resources, and abilities to help meet the needs of your neighbor. I see the Mission as a village-of-one-another-ness. This spoke in such contrasting language to the self-centered life that has built itself around this beautiful time capsule in the middle of a growing metropolis.

In our metropolis the motto might be, take what you got and hoard it all for yourself. Mission life today for some people might be, a mission in the sense, to divide and conquer taking all the spoils of war for oneself. Now, not to say that there might be little pockets of people scattered all through out the city who with their everyday eating, sleeping, and going to work/school life look to help meet the needs of others before they decide to have two of something, but they are the few.

Seeing the people of Mission San Luis has been stirring in me for sometime. Recently, I have had the opportunity to interact with a friend who is living in one of those little pockets of people here in Tallahassee. Because our city has sprawled out across miles and miles this pocket is and isn’t in one location, it is comprised of little circles of friendships that over lap one another. Here is a real example of how this pocket of people seem to live out the definition of mission as seen 300 years ago.

One guy has a house with a garage that is not being used except to store stuff, so he decides to renovate the space into a music studio because he has some other friends who love music but don’t have a place to play or record. Now there is another guy in another pocket who has some equipment but has no place to put them up. Then there is another guy who has little or no equipment but he knows how to run the equipment because of his time playing in bands and running sound for bands. So all of these music lovers are searching for ways to get together so that they can play. Now that is a picture of desire to form community. They are a community of musicians living missionally to help meet the needs of one another.

That is just an example of one of the little of pockets of people who are naturally gathering around something and using their birthright gifts to have fun and help out their fellow traveler on the road of life expressed by music.

This begins to redefine for me some terms, coming from the institution of church, like missionary. I have thought of a missionary as one who leaves the country in order to become a messenger of particular set of doctrinal beliefs. I have heard of people who thought they wanted to be a missionary, go to some training where they were taught how to get on a plane, go overseas, and take a message to the people. I think our American culture has been so completely altered that it is no longer necessary to board a plane to be in a completely foreign place. I am beginning to see my life as a missional life. Missional meaning to developing one’s individual life for the sake of giving or to benefit the larger community to which I have regular unplanned contact with as well as those I meet with intentionally that we might all grow in the same endeavor.

So mission is not one model that is meant to be reproduced like a factory, rather it is a mode of living that is cultivated and shared with others who are curious about living in a more connected way with their fellow man. It is spiritual. It is physical. Those terms are not separate. Missional is a life lived completely integrated spiritual and physical.

Mission San Luis has reminded me...
I need to relearn how to live;
real life is missional.

Monday, November 20, 2006

reading is a journey



"wounds don't heal until you feel them"

Donald Miller

I can so relate to that statement. The last few months have been one of the most difficult seasons in my life. I can say that I have felt the depths of many wounds. Some doctors may say Zoloft is the way to go, but this is so real. I'll take the pain; at least that's real. Thank you to those who have stood by me during this intense time of intropsection.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

wrestling with the man in the middle

Excerpt from the 50,000 words...

This weekend the girls went to Panama City. Just before they left Andie was playing with a new Barbie and she was very excited. She came to me and asked if she could take the bad man. I didn’t know what she was talking about. After a few minutes I realized that she was talking about the Aragorn figure I have from the Lord of the Rings that I keep in my closet. I wonder why did she call him the bad man?

Compared to her fair-haired beautiful princess, Aragorn does seem dirty, nasty, and just plain old bad. But the reality is that Aragorn doesn’t have any issues with the way he looks on the outside. He is on a different road. He is on a road to find out what his place is in the world of men. He is guided by the ache in his belly that something is not right. Part of his ache comes from the wrongs that his father has done. His father was once a king of the race of men and held the power of the ring to bring harmony back to the people of middle earth but he was captured by the grip of evil pride and wanted the ring for himself. The shame that came from this family curse drove Aragorn underground in many ways. He hid his true identity from the world because of the shame of his father. He no longer went by his name Aragorn, but was known as Stryder. He was, in fact, the rightful heir to the throne, but he was not acting like it. He was not being who he was created to be.

I too have had my share of hiding from my own identity. When I was about the age where most boys come into puberty, I had come into the world of naked people. I had no idea why the magazines were so open about the nakedness. I knew something was not right, but nonetheless I found myself aroused by the women in them. During this time I began to chase girls. Chasing was chasing for the sake of capturing and claiming; claiming as one who claims a prize at the end of a great battle. Looking back I really didn’t care much about them as a person, I just wanted to see them naked. I wanted to touch in the real world what I had only dreamed about in my magazine fantasy world. Because of this driven desire to feel the breast of a girl, I quickly was named pervert in middle school. At first it didn’t bother me, because on one level it was like being called a name that was normally associated with grownups. As a preteen boy, I liked being named a manly nickname even if it was nasty and twisted. But with the nickname came an identity that I did not know. I didn’t realize the identity of this nickname was so damaging.

A year later, I remember turning a corner and not being so driven by the desire, but rather became more interested in having someone who really liked me for who I was. Well, this was rather difficult because in the world of girls I already had an identity; I was a bad boy. I began to understand and to resent my foolish actions as a boy. I wanted to get away from that part of me.

I wasn’t ashamed so much as I was mad at the fact that now that I wanted to change, but the perception of the pervert was still there. I was stuck in a real dilemma. I did the only thing I knew to do; I had to recreate myself. It came at a perfect time. I was leaving middle school and entering the ninth grade, so I changed my name from David to Michael. I had associated the name David with all the accusations of a dirty little perverted boy. I wanted to escape that part of me, so I abandoned my middle name and began to go by my first name.

For my family, changing my name was a huge thing. David was a family name. My uncle, my grandfather, his father, and my own father all had the name David. So switching from that name meant a real sign of rebellion in the family. I was stepping outside of the family name in a way. I would later in life come to find out that the twisted view of sex was handed down from generation to generation just like the name was. No wonder I wanted to escape the heavy burden of the name. It was a generational curse.

With this new identity, I was free to explore the new me. It was great to have people call me Michael. It was so cool and so freeing. I had associated this mental picture that Michael was a person that people looked up to, a person of good social standing. With the name Michael, in my mind, there was no “bad boy” association. Life was good.

Looking back now I think it is interesting that I was stepping away from the “center” of my name. David was the name that was in the middle of my full name. Maybe going to my first name was like moving from the center and taking the elevator to the surface. Maybe Michael was just the surface part of my identity.

Dang this is some crazy stuff. Lord please help me to walk through this and not give up; grant me the courage to keep going.

Now it is not that Michael is not who I am, because it is a part of who I am. It is just not the full person of who I am. Since high school I have continued to be known as Michael. I really hate it when people call me Mike: One, because it is the name that my dad goes by, and I am not my dad; second, it is a shortened version of Michael, which on some level says to me you really don’t know me at all. If you did know me, you would not call me Mike.

My full name.

So Andie wants to take Aragorn with her on her trip with the girls to Panama City to visit with grandma. Grandma has also had a change of names. Last year the girls decided to change Grandma to Memaw. This was kind of weird for me because I called my dad’s mom Memaw. It was Memaw that knew me as “little David.” So I really had an awkward time calling Darla’s mom Memaw. I did love my Memaw with all of my being. She would always send me birthday cards with money, but even more she would write these incredible words of encouragement on the inside of the card. She would write of how every day she would pray that I would grow up to be the man that God had created me to be and how proud she was of me. I would be so encouraged by the cards, and some years I would be incredibly ashamed by how much I was not being the man that God had created me to be. Remembering her is remembering the internal battle of identity that would rage inside my being. May my Memaw rest in peace and may her prayers be answered some day soon.

So Andie, who is my last born child, carries with her the figure of Aragorn, a man struggling to find out who he really is. I can’t help but to wonder what significance that has. You see, Andie has this funny way about telling people her name. For some reason as she has grown up I have called her not by her first name only, but by her first and last name, Andie Winn. It is not that I have neglected that middle name. In fact, that middle name has a very special role in my family too. Her middle name is Renee. Renee is my aunt. I first met her on a trip to Panama City where my grandparent’s had moved when I was going into the eight grade or so. She saw me with innocent eyes. She too called me “little David.” This wasn’t a putdown like I was small in nature. It was more of a term of endearment because she was dating and would soon marry my uncle who was "her David." I looked up to my Uncle. He was the coolest man I had ever known. He was and is very creative. He was so outgoing. Everyone liked him. He and I would always hang out late at night when I went over to my grandparent’s house. I remember he made these beautiful stained glass pictures. Ahh, he was just magic. So to be called “little David” by Renee was for me to be named by someone who is being who they were created and called to be and to follow in the footsteps of someone you admire.

Again, Andie is carrying with her to Panama City, the place where my family is deeply connected, a man figure who she sees as dirty, but nonetheless wants to take him along with her. I can’t help but to draw on the idea that she, as one who goes by her full name and has no associations with that name, is carrying with her in a symbolic way a token of me. For I am a man, who is struggling with and coming to grips with who I am, and who I am to be in the world of men. Maybe there is hope in the innocence of youth.

Throughout the sacred stories of scripture men have wrestled with their identity, so I am not alone. Jacob, Isaac’s son, grandson of Abraham, was the one to first tell the story of his wrestling match with his true self. For years as a young man, he wanted something his brother had. He deceived his father to give him the birthright and later the blessing of the family that was rightfully his brother's. At one point, he has told his name as Esau for so long he has forgotten who he really is. But one night he comes face to face with the One who created him. He faces the One who knows what his shape is to be in the world of men. The One knows the real Jacob. Two times the Angel of the Lord asks Jacob, what is your name. Jacob returns the question, who is asking, and both times he is reminded of the times that he has not been Jacob. The third time Jacob responds by telling the truth; he is Jacob. It is at that time that the One who created him to be responds and tells him the fullness of his name will be realized in a nation of men. His full name is inside; his name is Israel, the people of God. Now that is finding out one’s true identity.

So I am David, the boy who was taken advantage of and who took advantage of others. I am also “little David” who is a creative and caring person to those who need a mentor. I am Michael, the one who goes out and seeks new ways to reach the desired location. And I am Michael, the one who faced the darkness in order that I might see the light. In the Hebrew language, Michael is one who is like unto God. And David is the beloved one. I am in the fullest sense, in the acknowledgement of the past wrongs of my family, reconciled to the One who restores all things, I am made in the image of the First and the Last, I am son to the Father of all men, I am Michael David Winn.

Today Lord I have come before You in the awesome power of your grace and I have confessed my life before You. May You now take me and restore my soul that I might be Your signet ring in the world of man where your Kingdom reigns and rules. May you write the rest of this story. Thank you for your incredible forgiveness. I have forgiven myself and those who have hurt me. May you release them from the bondage that I have kept them in; my father, my friend, and those who knew me as the boy. May my family know first the real me. May I be a blessing to the ones I hold dear. For what might have destroyed my family You have given to me as a redeemed story of grace to bind together in love the strongest cords of hope. Bless your Name. I cannot say enough. My heart is full of Your presence. I sense that you are here with me in this quiet space and have spoken to my heart as I have typed out these words. These are the truest words from my soul. You are the One who holds my soul in Life. You have given me true life. May I no longer strive to please men or to be held by the need for their words. For You have said that I am good and You have picked me up when I have fallen and You have brought me to the mirror of myself and have given me eyes to see the full image of me. You have given me the restored identity of Michael David Winn. You are completeness. You are real soul seeking. You are the place of brokenness made whole. Keep me centered here in You. Help me to speak from my full name, the name that You gave to me. This name is not my own but was given to me by my Lord. May I give back in service of gratitude to the One who gave me breath. Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me. Bless Your holy Name.

I cannot express how incredible this time has been writing down this stuff. It really doesn’t matter if this piece of work becomes something. For I have already profited by this work in ways that I cannot express. I will look to see how I might give back to the Lord what He has produced through me. I will seek to give back a portion, a symbolic token of this restoration story. Lord grant me Your powerful creative words to tell the story to the ones who think they know who You are but have no idea because they have not been willing to look at themselves acknowledging the dark so that the light may come in. You take these words, Your words, and You bring them to life. For You are the One who is the Word, the Word made flesh that came and dwelt in the full presence in the world of men. Amen.

Friday, November 17, 2006

am I project or a person?


Before you invite me to one of your "service" times, can I come over for dinner and tell you my life story?

I can't believe how many times in the past during the holiday season I have invited someone at work or someone at the coffee shop to the "holiday service" at the church building I was attending.

Today I was sitting in a local coffee shop working on my 50,000 words and I noticed the guy in front of me. He had Philip Yancey's book on prayer and a Bible on his table. He never really looked at me. Finally I asked him if he liked Yancy's work. We began talking and within 30 seconds he told me that he was preaching next week and invited me to the service. His invitation seemed so cold. It was like I wasn't even a person but just another object to collect in the project. I looked at him and I saw myself just a few years ago, so confident in my church role. I know the guy has the best intentions and he is a brother in the faith, but I was so surprised by how impersonal his initial interaction was with me. Again, I think the thing that disturbed me the most was how easily I could hear the same words that I have said to others and how now the words seem so fake, even though they are not intended to be.

We continued to talk for 20 minutes or so, the conversation was good once we got past that part. Of course he asked where I went to church, and I replied with, I guess you might say I am going through the exile story in my journey of faith. He was ok with that answer.

At one point we discovered that we both had made the jump from corporate Amercia and were both pursuing what it meant for each of us to fulfill our "calling." Finding common ground is a good place for conversations to naturally go.

Interesting enough, just before I struck up the conversation with him, I was working on my 50k words. He asked what I was writing about, and I said it is beginning to take shape as a story of making the jump from the expected life to the life that is crying out inside each of us to be lived. I mentioned the scene in The Matrix, where Neo is going through the "jump simulation" of which he fails. I was writing about when things on the outside appear to be a failed attempt at making the jump.

He ended the converation to go pick up his youngest from pre-K, which is exactly where I was headed. We wished each other the best on our respective journey. It ended up as a pleasant dialogue overall.

I am very excited as today I broke the 20,000 word mark. I can't believe it; this thing gives me so much hope that something is still at work. Like Neo, I too find myself in the "jump simulation." I have just jumped and have fallen....no, I have crashed into the concrete of despair because things did not go as I thought they would. Lying there on the ground broken and bleeding, I am hearing the voice that says "get up, get up, Neo." I am thinking to myself, that is the same vocie that led me to make the jump in the first place. I'm not sure if I want to listen anymore. But here I am picking myself up off the floor,wondering what is next.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

whats the problem here?


"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."
Richard Foster - Celebration of Discipline (1978)

How far have we progressed in 30 years Richard?

Monday, November 13, 2006

being true to the real me


“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements, and lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
C.S. Lewis – The Four Loves / Chapter 6

There it is. One of the most influential writers and champions of truth claims it from the rooftops – to love is to be real! At this time in culture, the cry for authenticity is the banner of a whole mass of people. Things are not as they seem because everyone is pretending to be someone that they are not. The have become these personas because everyone else is wearing a mask. Wearing the mask helps us as a people to avoid the risk of being mocked, ridiculed, or jabbed for being the ugly duckling. The longer we put on the masks the further we push down the real us. Our identity is buried so deep, we have no idea who we really are. The scary thing is that the personas work so well in the fa├žade of this charade of life, that we don’t even consider looking beneath the mask. The mask has become our view of ourselves. We have accepted our own deception as the truth.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

writing like crazy

A friend of mine told me that November is the National Novel Writers Month. The challange among writers is to take the month of November and commit to writing 50,000 words. That was all I needed to take the challange to get on paper some of the amazing things happening around me. Since November 1st I have tried to write at least 1500 words a day. As a result of this crazy mad writing, my blog entries have been somewhat limited. I am a little off track, but the thing is, I'm currently at 13,500 words. Here is an exerpt from my writing today:

"Over and over I have this continuing conversation with myself of what does it mean to center on something. People meet for all kinds of reasons. They meet to plan for the next session of Congress, or the next budget meeting. But what if you met for the sake of speaking the truth? I don’t mean speaking the truth as if it is something that you can argue, is it true or not. I am talking about speaking the deepest truth that you know that is from your heart of hearts.

Maybe this truth could be called soul speak, or maybe it is just being real about your faith and fears, your dreams and nightmares, your successes and failures. Some people might be afraid to hear their own voice speak. Afraid for what they might hear. I think for me, the reason why I have continued to blog beyond the point of it being a fad is because it has become an outlet for me to write the thoughts and words that are wrestling around deep within me. When writing a blog, there are no blockers, there are no walls; I can simply write or express what is beneath the surface. Having comments are fine, but when I am writing the thoughts that are playing ring-around-the-rosy in my soul, I need to be able to turn the editor off. As I write, I am not considering whether or not anyone will comment, but more importantly saying what I need to say is preeminent.

This is an important understanding. I must come to a place where I can speak/write what is on the inside regardless of whether or not I will be complimented or criticized for the words I write. Writing with this purpose in mind is the starting block for me to explore the question of who am I? Exploring this person through writing is vital. Can someone be who he or she is on the inside without being shaped by the external forces of the accolades of men? What things or experiences occur that shape or deform one’s being? That is the journey that I am on. I find myself on this journey and it is a journey that is a lonely one. It must be a lone walk, for it is only I that can walk down this path. Sure there are others that come in and out along the way, but ultimately some roads I must walk alone. It is this solitude that causes me to look deep into the mirror of the soul.

Once a person has spent time in solitude wrestling with their own angels and demons, I think they might be better equipped to cross over into the world of others. A silent retreat is the marinating place where someone can journey to the center of life. More and more I am thinking that this is the place of peace that transcends all things. I am beginning to understand the benefit of solitude.

Many times when I talk with others, what happens is I am looking for other people to either validate or contest my thoughts that are expressed in the conversation. I have never realized that in that context I am more interested in what people are thinking about my thoughts and ideas rather than me actually listening to my own voice. It is really kind of sad that I take the comments of others to determine whether or not what I am thinking or saying is right or wrong, rather than listening to my words to determine whether or not it is real or just something that I am reacting to because of the circumstance or situation at hand.

Jesus addressed this external focus when addressing a group of people who were supposedly experts in the way things are supposed be. He said, "All you think about is the outside of the bowl, when all you are on the inside is dry bones." Well, of course they were dry bones on the inside; they were trying to live an external performance rather than an internal cleansing life. One of the apprentices of Jesus gives a very practical illustration of what it looks like to live an internal cleansing life in this world. My understanding of what James writes in his letter is this: Make this your common practice: Speak your inside brokenness to each other and take new cleansing thoughts and speak (pray) to (Yahweh) the center of Complete Wholeness; in doing this you can live together whole and healed.

Could this be a picture of what Jesus spoke of when he said that the people of God are to be the salt of the earth? Salt by its character brings out the flavor of all kinds of food. In steak it brings out more steak; in corn it brings out more corn. Salt does not try to get the steak to smell or taste like corn. I have been guilty of thinking my salt-ness has been just that, trying to make every thing smell and taste like salt. My Christianity has been the same thing; I have tried to make my views the views of others. And that position comes from the thing which I said earlier, that I want someone to validate what I am saying so that I don’t have to question my views.

If there is to be any litmus test to real life, it could be to put them against the stories of others who have lived their lives in pursuit of real life. These stories are not just stories that happened to some people thousands of years ago in some faraway place. What would make these stories powerful and life-defining would be their ability to speak to lives in generations of people who walked this earth many years after they are gone. So the evidence of whether or not these stories were real is not that they happened, but that they continue to happen today, and that they will happen tomorrow. The only way to know whether or not you were living this story is to know your story, as well as to be familiar with their story going back as far as the stories had been told. The best collection of these thoughts and lives lived is recorded in the journey of the people of the Bible."

Well, that is what I have to say about that today... I don't know if this is actually a novel that I am working on. I am excited that I am getting these thoughts and ideas down on paper. I am on my way to 50,000 words.

Monday, November 06, 2006

taking deep swings at old walls


I have this weird idea that everything we do in the physical world does have some translation in the spiritual realm. I say that because we are made from dirt given breath from the Creator of Life who is the Spirit of all things in Heaven and on earth. So we are in fact fully human and fully spiritual. Fully integrated. I guess some people might then classify me as a mystic. I don’t really care for the labels but I am very interested in how things are connected on the various levels.

Yesterday I was working on a little home renovation project with a friend. It is rather interesting that this house is not just some house that we are flipping for the sake of making a profit. This house is his old house.

Swinging a large sledgehammer during the deconstruction, I realized one must have above average strength or inner determination to make a mighty swing with the heavy duty tool. We joked with each other about tapping into some repressed anger to give energy to swing the hammer. It's funny that when we make jokes like that we don’t even realize how we have just connected the spiritual with the physical.


“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense, what on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity, Book IV Chapter 9

Friday, November 03, 2006

walking barefoot


"The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo: lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road.

The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company; finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can happen only in dialogue.

The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone; we need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us."

Quoted from Palmer Parker “A hidden wholeness”

So there it is, said by a professional, or better yet, a seasoned veteran of the journey of the soul. It is a journey that is best taken with others and not alone. I think this is really profound. It is not just a whimsical dream to want to be on the road of life with fellow travelers. The daunting question is where are the real travelers? Where are the ones who want to explore life, faith, doubts, success and failures, with a few close friends?

I continue to pray that the Great Conversationalist will bring forth into our lives the real ones who want to walk along the Great Path that leads to restoration.

Can we walk together?

I have never been one to go barefoot. I have always preferred the feeling of a pair of warm socks even on a hot summer day. Maybe it comes from a couple of bad experiences I had as a child. I remember when I was very young, maybe 4 or 5, I was playing barefoot in the back yard of a friend's house and I stepped on a bee. It was the most painful thing I had ever felt in my life. My parents freaking out over the incident didn’t help things either. Maybe it was because I was their first child. As a parent myself, I know that with your first child everything that happens is on a heightened level whether it is their first words, first tooth, or first fall. I must have sensed in my parents that there was something serious about the stinger. I remember them making up some baking soda paste trying to get the stinger to rise to the surface of the skin so it could be removed. I guess they thought it was a killer bee or something. Really what was all the fuss about? Needless to say, that was the last time I played outside without socks and shoes on. I was not going to leave myself exposed at the foot.

The second lesson that helped me develop the need to wear socks was an event that occurred inside the house. I must have been around 7 or 8 and we lived in an older house that had the air and heater vents on the floor of the house. I remember it was a cold winter month and the heater was turned up to keep us warm. It was late at night and I was walking across the hardwood floors and all of the sudden I stepped on what felt like what can only be described as a row of a dozen red-hot butter knives sticking straight up. I must have screamed bloody murder. That was it, I would never go barefoot inside or outside with out socks or shoes on.

I can’t help but to wonder if for some people when they have experienced pain that is somehow associated with trying to be open and vulnerable it causes them to, as I did, put on a layer that protects their bareness? Seems like a very natural reaction when traced back to the original source. But at what cost does this covering up come?

For me this foot issue has taken away things I know that others have said are really beautiful moments of being connected with the ground that our feet are connected with. To this day it is a real stretch to walk in my front lawn barefoot even though I love the inviting appearance of a nurtured lawn. I can watch my children run and play in the grass, but to me the blades of grass are like small prickly leaves that make me want to go put my sandals on.

Another sad result of this condition is missing the cool sensation of sand and surf when walking on the beach. For years I would wear those mesh like wet-socks when playing at the beach. I think this summer I went to the beach for the first time and was completely barefoot and I was ok. In fact I had an amazing time.

Little by little, I have tried to walk out this fear or discomfort with leaving my feet exposed to the environment. I guess I am going through life therapy like Bob in “What about Bob?” I am taking baby steps to being ok with my feet.

I wonder if there is any connection to becoming bare and vulnerable in order to really engage life in the fullest sense. I wonder if Moses had a foot sensitivity issue? I wonder if he really had to think long and hard when the Voice of Truth said, remove your sandals, the ground you are standing is hallowed ground?

Can we walk barefoot together?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

what to do with this sadness?



What does one do when they realize the pain in their heart comes from a sadness that is beyond their control? My sadness comes from the condition of so many people like myself who are wondering like exiles in this land. My sadness is for the broken hearts that long for the people of God to be who they were created to be. How long will we wait for our hearts to melt like wax before we like the first people of God turn around and come home. But we ask ourselves how can we return home when everything has been trampled and burned to the ground? How can we return to what doesn’t exist anymore?

The dwelling place of God left buildings built by the hands of man and has been searching two centuries for a new dwelling place – the hearts of mankind.

This feeling of sadness might be named as depression to some of the medical profession. Depression might be the oldest plague of the heart. When the plague of darkness fell upon the Egyptians because of Pharaoh’s hard heart, the world might have experienced the first massive regional outbreak of depression. And what brought this on? God was trying to lead his people into freedom and liberty. Liberty to be the people of God. Liberty to love all the people of the world. Liberty to proclaim the good news to the captives of the hopelessness. Liberty to live in harmony with one another and with YWHY.

I look to heaven wondering how long God must I wrestle with my thoughts and everyday have sorrow in my heart? How long? How long? How long?

Was this the agony in the hearts of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, and Nehemiah? Were their hearts broken over the state of the people of God? How did they not just want to give up? How did they remain faithful to the One who brought his people out of the jail of oppression when it seemed like there was no hope for rescue?

Something about this song touches the heart of what I am lamenting.

"Did I disappoint you or let you down?
Should I be feeling guilty or let the judges frown?
'Cause I saw the end before we'd begun,
Yes I saw you were blinded and I knew I had won.
So I took what's mine by eternal right.
Took your soul out into the night.
It may be over but it won't stop there,
I am here for you if you'd only care.

You touched my heart you touched my soul.
You changed my life and all my goals.
And love is blind and that I knew when,
My heart was blinded by you.
I've kissed your lips and held your head.
Shared your dreams and shared your bed.
I know you well, I know your smell.
I've been addicted to you.

Goodbye my lover. Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me.
I am a dreamer but when I wake,
You can't break my spirit -
it's my dreams you take.
And as you move on, remember me,
Remember us and all we used to be.

I've seen you cry, I've seen you smile.
I've watched you sleeping for a while.
I'd be the father of your child.
I'd spend a lifetime with you.
I know your fears and you know mine.
We've had our doubts but now we're fine,
And I love you, I swear that's true.
I cannot live without you.

Goodbye my lover. Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.
You have been the one for me.
And I still hold your hand in mine.
In mine when I'm asleep.
And I will bear my soul in time,
When I'm kneeling at your feet.

Goodbye my lover.Goodbye my friend.
You have been the one.You have been the one for me.
I'm so hollow, baby, I'm so hollow.

I'm so, I'm so, I'm so hollow."

Here is my response:

I long to be in love
long to share my life

with the real ones
with the ones who live the Name
to live my life with no shame

I’m still holding on.
I’m still holding on.

I’m walking in tears of hope
one day I will hear, I will hear
the horns blowing,
blowing in the distance
calling the wonderers home.

I’m still holding on.
I’m still holding on.

I have fallen
Fallen on my hands and knees
crying will we once again
know the warm embrace
of thee.

May the One who calls out to the lonely hear your cries. And may his Face shine upon you. Peace to you. May the Exiles find their way home.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

dreaming?


Maybe the dreams that we have are nothing but illusions of the mind performed to pass the night away. Maybe some dreams really are messages from the divine One. How does one know the difference? Can we know the message? Can we know the meaning? What people, places, or things in the natural cause the dreams to come alive and find their place? What do we do with passages in the Bible like Daniel who was given the ability to know the mysteries of the king’s dream? What is the purpose of the mystery? Is it to know the dream or the Dream Giver?

Have you ever had a weird dream that came true?

Monday, October 30, 2006

the deep roots


How long does it take to see the shape in the thing that is right in front of my face? When will I be able to see the outline of the truest form of who I am? Wrestling with the roots of my own life, I want get down to the core of me.

Live generously. Ask yourself what do you want people to do for you; then take the iniative and do it for them.

May you as you struggle to look deep into your roots see the wounds and pains that have shaped you and find that just beyond the scars there is the One who is wholeness. May you find the One mending and repairing the truest shape of you. May you recognize yourself for the first time being made whole. This is the sound of Life coming from the deep. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 15, 2006

the rhythm of everyday liturgy



today i went to service with a very close friend of mine. i haven't been to a liturgical service in many years. there are some beautiful elements of this expression of faith.

today we read responsively psalm 90. i think i was more engaged in this portion of the service than anything else, besides communion. i loved reading in response with others the desperate cry of Moses as he laments for himself and the people of God. the practical expression of faith displayed in the congregation engaging the sacred text with one another is so beautiful.

i left service and made my way home. as i drove i thought, as beautiful as the service was, if that is it, just one hour of one day once a week, no wonder so many people have walked away from church buildings and church services. if church is only about going to a place, or attending a service, or listening to someone speak, how does that really intersect our daily life?

i have been thinking more and more about the people in whom i have unplanned routine contact with, and yet i have no meaningful conversation with them. i have also been thinking about the many people who are wandering around this city asking themsleves, where are the "real ones"; the real ones who want to serve and love God and naturally display that devotion in service to others.

therefore i must pray the words that have been prayed for generations by those who hope that the divine is best seen in the ordinary events of the average day:

"Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!Keep me from stupid sins,from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed,scrubbed clean of the grime of sin." psalm 19:13 the message

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. " psalms 19:14 NIV

And so the service continues today as i move onto the next expression of faith in my everyday liturgy: kickball in the yard with the neighborhood kids!

peace to you

Saturday, September 30, 2006

in the beginning...again

Here we are at the beginning, again. My brothers in the Jewish faith maybe onto something in celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. It has been said that life is a series of cycles. Those who live well are the ones who can recognize the cycles and learn to live them more skilled than they did the last time. Finding it a challange, they look forward to the trials and difficulties hoping that this time around they might choose "mitzvoh" the good deed. Each good deed is in some way bringing about a more complete circle of the way it is in Heaven.

For some life is a divine service, for others life is a race to buy and consume all that can be had.

I think over the last decade I have unfortunately been in the later camp. But maybe this time around I will choose a life of divine service. Darla and I began our journey together almost 17 years ago in small town called Panama City. It was from that town that we struck out to make a life for ourselves. Today we find oursleves back in Panama City ready to embark on a new journey. Over these last few months we have introspectively looked at where we have come from, it is from this vantage point that we move forward. The past has served as a road map to the choices we have made with our time, resource, and thoughts. As a result of some of those choices, we have found ourselves in a trap of commitments wieghing us down. The weight of these commitments are such a heavey burden, we can barely take more than two steps at a time. So as we go back to the beginning again, we hope to make different choices with what the One who gives neither proverty nor riches but only our daily provision.

Living in the daily, we no longer must carry the weight of tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself. Realizing that our daily needs will be met, we can then be looking for who might be in need and become a hand of the Divine to meet those needs. Maybe it is the beginning of living the giving away of our lives for others, not in obligation, but in joy to be in harmony with the Great Song of Restoration playing in our ordinary every day living.

So here is my prayer today, let the shackles of the exiles fall off, and let the horn of freedom sound, and may we step out into the new day!

Friday, September 29, 2006

searching for Life


What if I had the words to say what I was feeling on the inside? What if I could articulate the journey that is taking place beneath my skin? It is as if I am caught under the ice and am grasping for breath hoping to find a break in the surface that I might burst through. In the beginning of this journey, the One who is Truth seemed to lead me to this phrase…I came that you might have Life.

I have searched high and low and have only grasped a glimpse at this Life. It seems like most of the time it eludes me and at other times I ignore that it is possible. It seems that the Life looks nothing like I thought it would. No fame, no riches, no accolades of men, so what is this Life. The Rabbi once said, “One must lose his life in order to find it.” I think I have found the first part of that verse to be true. I have most definitely lost my life. Meaning the life I have lived over the last decade has completely vanished into thin air over the last few months. No wonder few people intentionally set out to lose their life because is it down right terrifying. When one comes to the end of themselves, it is absolutely unnerving. So where am I? Where is the real me? Can my Rabbi find me and lead me through the valley of this unknown land? Can the One who gave me my first breath cause my heart to beat once again for the purpose of bringing hope and healing into the land my feet daily traverse? And so I wait…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

the rhythm of laying bricks

Another project I worked on this weekend was laying a brick border around the mulch garden beds along the side and back of our house. Once again this is a project that I have neglected to do while we lived in the house, and now that we are selling the house it seems odd that I would put hours of work into something that will be enjoyed by someone else. Nevertheless, I picked up 60 bricks to start. According to the real garden pros I did it completely backwards. I laid the mulch and planted the ferns and then came along with the brick border. As I laid each brick I found it very interesting that the edge of where the mulch ended and where the dirt was the obvious place the brick would lay. It was like the bricks had a certain place to lie, I just had to get down on my hands and knees to touch feel and see where the place was. I remember thinking, God are you helping me with this project today? Do you already know where each brick goes? Why do you allow me to lay the bricks? What if I put them in the wrong place?

Somehow in the humble position bending down, I seemed to enter into the rhythm of the way the bricks were going to go. If I saw some weeds in the path, I pulled them out. If I saw the mulch was too clumped together, I would spread it out or shape it to the path of the brick. Again the rhythm of laying the brick seemed to guide me on its own. Near the end I realized I was going to run out of bricks, so I went and got 40 more bricks. I was really exhausted, but I knew I was in this really awesome brick border grove. I couldn’t stop. My shirt was soaking in sweat. My face was getting sun burned. My legs, thighs, and lower back were just throbbing, but I had to complete the work.

I laid the bricks, brick by brick. With a short pause, I reached into the wheel barrow to select a brick to lie down. So there must have been some connection not only to the path but to which brick would go in what place. Everything seemed to be connected, yet I was unaware that there was a connection. I was just busy with the work.

As I looked up at the end of my toil, I enjoyed the work of my hands. I enjoyed that what was once debris, weeds, and shapeless void had know become a path of growing beauty full of potential. Somehow I found real joy in knowing that one day someone else was going to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Here is the plain truth. Our house the inside, the outside, the roof and everything in-between, has been completely cleaned or repaired bringing it to a condition better than it was before we bought it some 10 years ago. I can not help but to have this deep sense that now not only is the house ready for its new owner, but we have completed the preparation for the new owners. It is finished.

Who will the new owners be?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Finally getting around to it…


What happens when a decade of little worries pile on year after year? Like leaves falling from the huge oak trees of difficulty in our lives, the unsaid words or emotional wounds left to decay the roof of our souls. How risky is it to climb up on the roof and began the cleaning process? Can it be done alone? Or is there someone there to hold the ladder of hope while one climbs onto the severe pitch of the roof?

Pushing the debris off the roof is only the beginning. Some of the leaves will make good mulch, some will need to be thrown away. Once all the debris is down off the roof, and is in plain site, it is really quite overwhelming. This is not a quick job. Keeping one’s roof clean is not a one time event either.

This weekend I spent two days working on this very project with a very close friend. He will never know how much help he was to me. For almost 10 years my family and I have lived in this house and not once have I ever cleaned the roof. Not only did my friend help, but he did most of the work. He was on the roof; I was on the ground. He dealt with the slippery slope of the roof, and I dealt with what was pushed off. I remember looking up at him on the roof and saying this is what real discipleship looks like. It is one person helping another person work through the difficult issues of life. It is the most basic form of real community. It is taking your ordinary everyday life, your eating, sleeping, and cleaning out your junk, then offering it completely to the One who gives the very breath of Life in hopes for a longer and healthier life.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The gospel according to Spiderman


Yesterday in our local paper there was a free issue of a Spiderman comic book. Pete Parker’s life is very interesting. During the day he works an average job, but is it really an average job. Somehow his relationships and contacts in his day job are the inroads to find the marginalized, oppressed, and the victims of society. It is very interesting that Peter Parker goes into disguise when he fulfills the role of hero. He doesn’t seem very interested in receiving recognition for his good deeds in the community.

I wonder if Pete Parker thinks his life is dualistic. Does it seem like his life is compartmentalized into a day job that just pays the bills and another life where he does the work that really matters?

In a time of transition of my own, I find this perspective of the Spiderman story intriguing. I realize that I am a messenger of hope no matter what occupation I find myself, because each relationship and every situation I find myself in is connected to a larger life picture.

It really makes Paul’s letter to the people of the Great Hero meeting in the city of Rome come home:

“So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

looking with new eyes


"First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for him in disguise."
Mother Teresa

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

decentralized yet still connected


“In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.”
– James writing to fellow gardeners

I love the picture that James paints with these words. I really enjoy landscaping. I’m not much of a gardener when it comes to flowers and such, but give me an overgrown lawn or a hedge that needs to be trimmed and I am all in. While staying with Darla’s parents, I have had the chance to help out with the yard work. Darla’s father has put a lot of time into cultivating a beautiful yard in the front and the back. Looking from my perspective, I can see the landscaping of the flowers and elephant ear plants in the front that are carefully carved out with a nice edge to allow for good rain water to soak and drain properly. I can also see the beautiful green shrubs that line the walkway in the backyard around the pool. Even though these plants are thriving in there own respective environment, they are unaware of their connectedness in the overall beauty of the property. Nevertheless, each flower, shrub, tree, and blade of grass make up this carefully nurtured parcel of land.

What if this were a picture of a group of people who had this deep sense that there must be something more to life than just doing my own thing? What if they some how felt connected to something larger than just the patch of dirt where they were planted?

Over the years Darla’s dad has given us plants from his yard for us to take back to our home and plant in our garden. And from time to time he has transplanted flowers from his backyard to the front yard and vice versa. Each time the plant is given a new environment to grow is adapts to a new location yet it doesn’t become a different kind of plant altogether. The shrub is still a shrub. The flower is still a flower. It doesn’t change the fact that the plant will be impacted by its new environment, but it never loses sight of the fact that is a one part of a larger garden that has been cultivated by a loving gardener.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

what do we learn in home school?


What do we learn at home?

After making the decision to home school their three children Mike and Dee, set out to give it their best effort to become parent-teachers. Two days into the adventure, it becomes quite clear that unless Mike and Dee work together this home school is going to take them to school. As a result of the challenge of this new home school environment, Mike realizes in humility that he has been very distant from the everyday learning experiences of his children, while he was in pursuit of the dream career life for himself. Mike begins to appreciate through personal experience the incredible patience it requires to be a teacher of two students, much less a classroom of eighteen. Continuing to nibble on his own piece of humble pie, he realizes just how deeply he has completely missed out on the real life, in the process of trying to get everything for himself in order to fill his hunger for meaning and purpose. What is it that drives a man to run the opposite direction of the true life he was created to live?

How amazing is it that in just a few short days the demeanor and attitude of his children had changed? What is the home school? Maybe it was simply the total engagement of Mike and Dee in the everyday lives of their children down to the smallest detail that was beginning to heal the apathetic and broken spirit of their family. Mike and Dee had unknowingly entered the world in which the children lived. Mike and Dee quickly learned that it took their complete devotion and commitment together to make this home school project run smoothly.

During this project Mike remembered times when in the past he had gone to pick up the kids from school. At the time he felt so good about himself, but the reality was he really thought it was an interruption in his very important day or rather it was a really good excuse to get out of work for the afternoon. He wasn’t genuinely interested in their day because he was completely emerged in his self-absorbed life. Grace to be forgiven for such a shallow attempt at fatherhood is hard to accept. Nonetheless, that was exactly the place Mike sensed he was being led. Can a simple act of changing one’s idea from selfishness towards an ideal of family wholeness cause the course of life to change?

In the middle of all of this, Mike and Dee received a call from a very close friend who informed them that there was a great need at one of the local elementary schools. Mike and Dee sat down with the kids and explained the situation and asked how they should respond as a family. The kids decided they wanted to help by enrolling in the school. For the first time, Mike and Dee were making a decision with the whole family and it was for a greater good beyond themselves. Maybe this time when Mike picks them up from school and asks about their day, he will mean it. Maybe when he looks at the papers they have brought home from school, he won’t be just concerned with the grade as much as thinking of what it must have been like, felt like, tasted like to complete that project.

This leads Mike down further down the road of reflection where he sees just how big a load Dee has been carrying when it comes to the education and overall care of the family. He can’t imagine what kept her from just giving up and walking out the door. At that moment he sees Dee as the most beautiful and nurturing mother under what must have been the most overwhelming circumstances. How can he begin to tell her how much he loves her and will stand with her hand in hand as they walk out the rest of their life together. Together they will live the deeply soul connected story of the-two-became-one marriage life. In this life partnership of commitment and promise they must remember the sacred space of the family circle. They vow to strive towards true life together. Keeping at the forefront of their minds eye, how they think about, prepare for, and lovingly discipline their kids, will set in motion an environment of hope and inspiration.

Looking at the man in the mirror, Mike sees himself, as the outline of a changed man, husband, and father. No longer is it an idealistic way to view the family relationship, but it is becoming a reality, that together with Dee, they will meet the challenge to teach their children about life in the midst of the everyday ordinary eating, sleeping, and going to whatever and not just every three weeks or so when they are feeling guilty about the lack of connection with the kids.

And so the journey continues…

Sunday, August 13, 2006

While driving in the rain

One day Mike and Dee’s father were riding in the car. Mike began talking about how he was raised as a child in a passive disciplinary home environment, not that it was the ideal home, but no family is perfect. Now in his own family, Mike and Dee are working out the best they can, learning how to be a parent and a spouse with all the pressures of the world crashing in all around. The new changes in the family are so upside down. Mike has become the man-mommy, staying at home cleaning and keeping things mostly in disorder; while Dee has found great income potential as a legal consultant. In this topsy-turvy family dynamic, everyone is under tremendous pressure. Can this be right? Is this the American way?

Speaking to Dee’s father is very difficult for Mike. Having lost the chance to have any kind of relationship with his own father some twenty years ago, it often takes a little nudging, and prodding from Dee to encourage Mike to speak openly about life issues with her Dad. Maybe Mike is realizing that this healing time is for everyone not just those around him. Early one Sunday morning Dee and Mike, find themselves in a raw but honest conversation about how things are really going. It is a beautiful and difficult moment of discovery. Mike and Dee are realizing that there are little cracks in their souls, and for what ever reason this intense period of waiting is bringing to the surface every splinter. They both admit to each other, if they had it their way they would walk away from this crazy story, but yet somehow they sense there is no turning back.

Later that day they come across a confession of another tormented life traveler, an ancient poet and king, who penned these words:

The opening:
Long enough, GOD-
you've ignored me long enough.
I've looked at the back of your head long enough.
Long enough, I've carried this ton of trouble,
lived with a stomach full of pain.

The closing:
I've thrown myself
headlong into your arms--
I'm celebrating your rescue.
I'm singing at the top of my lungs,

I'm so full of answered prayers.

Reading it together, they both wonder out loud; how does the poet king make it from the opening to the closing. As the air suddenly becomes heavy, Mike can sense deep down inside a cry that has been trapped for several days. No longer able to hold it back, wondering if hope is truly lost or if any rescue is on the way, the tears of his soul break the silence. Streaming down his face blurring his vision, he can barely see to drive. How can he even operate under these conditions? Is there any one out there? Does any one know the pain he knows deep down inside?

In this sacred pause of time and space, Mike touches the wound that he shares with his soul mate. How long has Dee carried this wound alone? Joined by the tears of pride released, maybe today was the day that the two became one, waiting for the rescue while driving in the rain.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Warning! Do not try this at home!

The story you are about to read is a true story. The names and places of the actual individuals have been changed to protect their identity. Any reproduction or transmission of this story in whole or in part is strictly forbidden and protected by copyright laws.

In our story today, we peek in at the lives of what was an ordinary middle class suburban family living in the south. Mike and Dee are the typical married couple with three children. Trying to make ends meet in an ever increasing credit card world, and living beyond their means for nearly ten years, they found themselves nearly $30,000 in debt. The debt story is the same story for thousands of Americans who because of the low home refinancing rates and constant bombardment of materialistic seduction find themselves sucked into a never ending buying vacuum. As hard as Mike and Dee try, they can’t seem to shake the habit. This is a habit of buying what they want when they want because they have the credit by which to purchase anything they want. They rationalize to themselves that Mike’s next bonus or Dee’s income from the next home business project will bring a chunk of cash of which they will put toward the debt. The fool proof plan fails because something inevitably comes up in which the money is needed and the debt grows with compounding interest.

Mike and Dee’s story takes an interesting turn for the worst when Mike decides to quit his job in search of a more fulfilling life purpose. Selling all their possessions, they decide to move in with Dee’s parents while they wait for the sale of the house. Once again their hope is in one big chunk of cash to set them free to live life as they desire. Mike and Dee have fallen into the trap of the money escape hatch. What they don’t realize is that they have already escaped.

For them it is very difficult to know that they have escaped because they are so close to the situation. The escape is not the difficult part all though it takes incredible fortitude to make the jump from one lifestyle to another, but the real challenge comes when because of the jump you see how messed up and out of order your life had become. Re-prioritizing comes with a great deal of pain, like a drug addict going through detox. It feels like the pain is too much to handle. It would just be better to go back to the old way of living. The problem is when you make the “life jump” there is no going back because you have already seen the truth.

When the desire to spend is gone it is a natural response of the human body to need a stimulus to replace that empty feeling. Worry becomes the new stimuli for the life jumpers. How will the bills get paid? How are we going to take care of next month’s food and gas needs? Once again it is difficult to see when you are in the moment, but worry is really vain superstition. This is a time of raw emotions and self-doubt. It is the condition which requires the warning, “Do not attempt this at home!” For Mike and Dee this internal motive examination feels like the life of a bug under the magnifying glass feeling the heat of the sunlight intensified to the point that external combustion is almost certain. If you have made it to this point in the story, Mike and Dee would like to seriously warn you to keep your ordinary comfortable lives. This is too difficult. If anyone tells you it will be fine you’ll make it through, turn and run for your life. It is impossible to make this journey alone.

Mike and Dee are fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who want to help them through this difficult transformational process. But there is another force at work in this story. To admit you have a problem, is to admit that you are weak, therefore the internal mechanism of pride rises to the top and paralyzes the individual to reach out for help. In a social climate that recognizes and promotes self resolution, humility and meekness is considered useless and ineffective.

Extended family can be a powerful aid in this difficult as well, however the addictions of the family can be traced from generation to generation. Mike and Dee while staying at her parent’s house find this to be true. It is like a double edge sword; in this concentrated environment near the source of contention, it has the potential to completely heal the ailment or to bring about certain death of the life jumper’s spirit. Just one incident that comes close to the original wound can bring you to the edge of the knife of destruction that kills the spirit of hope or it can set you free to live life like never before. Many times in this concentrated environment there are repeated “close calls.”

Once again please, Do not attempt this at home! We must break for station identification and messages from our supporters. What will happen to Mike and Dee? Stay tuned.

To be continued…

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

this restoration life

when I was four
I lived life outloud
with toys and more.

the mach5 and star wars
no guilt no shame
for freedom was my game.

what will tomorrow bring?
a day of play or a day of pain?

digging in the dirt
trying to make a way through
what darkness lay around the corner?

the innocense stolen from a boy
when those who are so close
are the ones who have the power
to wound so deeply.

how deep the wounds run
when time runs like sand
how deep, how long, will brokeness remain?
forgotten is the path of pain.

so easy to forget
for to remember is to be afflicted once again
as age grows on, the road to heal fades in the distance
how far away, how closer still, is the splintered soul?

a deeper magic still there is
for there is One who restores better than before
gathering shattered glimmers of light
until all is made whole again.

is this the marvelous light that shines through the darkness
can it be so? Can hope return to free despair?

now the boy become a man
begins to hope again
stepping forth with trembling fear
it is time to look into despair?

for through the darkness light prevails
the buried wound now laid bare
feels the balm of the healing pool of life.

what is the pool of light that heals my wounds?
emerging from the stream of Life
only an outline of the wound remains
for I have been freed to live again.

to live outloud
everyday I am being re-made
better than before.

this is restoration
this is the life
I live today.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

the first day of a new month


Today is the first day of August and it seems as though a new chapter has begun. Our friends Brian and Candace arrived in Honolulu yesterday to begin the process of finding the essentials, living quarters, job opportunities, and schooling for the kids.

We are still waiting for the sale of our house before we can begin planning our departure to the islands. After evaluating what our basic needs are, we have are lowering the asking price of our home from $195k to $188k. Hopefully, the price reduction will bring in a wider range of buyers. We are traveling back to Tallahassee this weekend to check on the house and to turn off some of the utilities. We are looking forwarded to having dinner with some close friends while we are there and to have a few days of solitude to listen to the One who illuminates the path.

We are preparing to home school the oldest girls through an online virtual classroom from K12.com. What an amazing idea, public school online! We will have outlines, text books, computers, and a designated teacher to have available for questions and monthly assessments for the kids, all for free! And the great thing is K12.com is in about 15 states now including Hawaii.

This morning I met with Rob (realsoulsurfer). We sat in his living room and just talked about life and how things were going. It was amazing to me that he would sacrifice his time to talk with me when I have nothing to offer him or his ministry. His genuine care for me and my family is an inspiration. One thing I shared with him was concerning my newly developing awareness about what it means to be the provider of the family. For so long provider meant a material provider, but now I am being exposed to a fuller understanding of the father/provider role. In the past, I gave 95% of my creative energies to my work and only 5% to my family. I am so ready to find a healthier balance for creative energies. I want to love my kids with all my being, not out of obligation but out of a desire to build a creative and loving environment for them to grow. While talking with Rob about that Darla called to say she may have the opportunity to make sufficient income through court reporting and that I should consider staying at home with the kids. Wow, what a chance of a lifetime! It will be such a change from the life I have known for the last ten years.

Over the last seven days I haven’t written one page of the new book project. I have been just talking with people about the concept of the book and listening to what kind of feed back I get. Thank you to everyone who commented on the blog with kinds words of affirmation. The next seven days I am brainstorming the synopsis. A daily devotion of creative wordsmithing, I guess you could say. Tonight I bought a green spiral notebook (at the Dollar Tree- living on a budget you know) to begin the process.

Well that is a pretty good update one what is happening to the Winn people along this journey. Who knows what the next 40 days will hold. I am looking forward with great anticipation!

May you find the One who holds all things together busy at work in the most unlikely places, capturing your heart once again!