Afraid of the Dark

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I’m afraid of the dark.

I lust after the light.

I want more and more, so no darkness remains.

But despite my best efforts to avoid it, the light begins to fade. Darkness sets in.

I turn on my light, throwing my fist to the natural world and proclaiming, “I can be surrounded by light, even now!”

But then, maybe by accident, I find myself outside.

In the darkness with no light bulb in sight.

That’s when I see them.

The stars.

I suppose they’ve always been there, but the blinding light of the sun has kept my focus on my comparably small reality.

The stars are magnificent.

I wish I could see them in the light of day, but I know this is impossible.

They take my breath away.

The moon!

Where did that come from?

As I walk I notice something strange and disorienting, but also breath taking.

My shadow.

I thought it was pure darkness, but apparently, when my eyes adjust, I see that there is light within the darkness.

They are not enemies after all.

They are one.

What am I afraid of?

Am I afraid to see the stars?

Am I afraid to see my shadow thrown on the ground by the full moon?

Am I afraid of the light within the darkness?

The sound within the silence?

The movement within the stillness?

The communion within the solitude?

I am afraid of the dark.

But as it turns out, the light I so desperately long for today is that subtle one, seen only when my eyes adjust to the mysterious and unknown darkness.

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And Now For Something a Little Different: Seeing What Is…


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I heard them outside.
They sounded angry. They were out to get me.
I couldn’t quite see out the window.
But, I didn’t have to see.
I was in danger.
So, I boarded up the windows.
If they can’t see me then I’m safe.

A still soft voice spoke to me in my dream.
“Walk Outside” it said.
I would listen, but I am sure that they are still out there.
As long as they are out there I am only safe in here.
So, I put a layer of cloth behind the boards.
Now they surely won’t see me.

A moth ate a piece of my cloth.
I had no choice but to kill him.
This cloth. These boards. They are all that protects me from them.
I worked all day to repair the holes.

Again the voice spoke to me in my dream.
“Walk Outside” it said. But this time it said more.
“Ben, I love you too much to let this be it. Walk Outside!”
I wish I could listen, but I am not safe from them out there.

That was when it happened.
The fire came out of nowhere.
I had seconds to decide what to do.
I ripped the cloth and pulled down the board.
Before I knew it, I was outside.

Suddenly I remembered that they were outside.
Only, they were one man. He was angry about my door decorations. He spoke his mind and then left.
I admit, though, that I was hardly listening. The landscape behind him was so captivating.

Suddenly I remembered that I was outside.
For a moment I considered going back inside.
But then I realized that inside was a lie.
Instead I ran toward the horizon and never looked back.

Freedom was beckoning. I was finally seeing what is.

horizon

I am…

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I am the dance

You can’t control me

because I am movement itself

I am the dance

Those looking in can’t understand me

Those participating don’t need to understand me

I am the dance

Those trying to learn my steps get left behind

Those who surrender get swept away

I am the dance

Offending some

Transforming all

I am the dance

The only way to see me

Is to feel me

I am the dance

No name defines me

No dancer escapes me

I am the dance

I am unstoppable

Just ask the song

I am the song

May The Spirit of Punk Rock Be With You…

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I admit that I felt pretty strange as my friend and I waited for MxPx to take the stage. We were surrounded by “Punk Is Not Dead” believers sporting cut-off jackets with patches representing Anarchy, MxPx, and Jesus. Truly there is nothing like a Punk show, especially when the band is often considered the most popular Christian Punk Band of the nineties and early millennium.

My friend and I both went to the Bluebird in Denver after we got off work, I left my wife¬†at home, and reconnected with my 16 year old self. I can only imagine what the 16 year old version of myself would have said as he saw his future self sipping a pbr in the “non-mosh pit” standing area. I’m sure the word “sell-out” would have been used.

Ask anyone who drove in my car between the ages of 16 and 18 and you would probably get memories of intolerance toward anything that didn’t have that late nineties Punk rhythm. But what was it about this music genre that made it feel like so much more than a music genre?

I was 15 when two of my friends came to my house and said, “You used to play the Tuba. The Bass should come easy to you!” They wanted me in their band and I was sold on the idea before I even had a chance to freak out about the fact that I didn’t know how to play…or even own…a Bass Guitar.

While our band wasn’t exactly Punk, it didn’t take long before we decided we needed to be. The most popular teenage bands in Nebraska were Punk bands. We started to travel to nearby towns to see some of these bands live and I fell in love with everything about the Punk scene. The Fragile Andys–who had recently changed there name from General Star–were the most popular Punk band in the region and we followed them around along with nearly every Punk Rock fan in the Cornhusker State.

My band never made it anywhere beyond the one show we played in the local Teen Center. Still I was in love with Punk Rock. MxPx, and others like them, were always in my CD Player. I would often turn the volume up as loud as it would go and imagine myself getting lost in the music with my Bass while my fans went crazy.

That dream died hard, despite the fact that the most successful band I was ever in was a cover band in college, called Wholesale Ripoff. We played like 4 shows.

Years passed, I got married, had a daughter, and most of my Punk Rock music was collecting dust in the same cd case I had in Highschool that was stored away in my house. Then my friend asked me if I wanted to join him at the MxPx show. At first I thought of how it was silly to spend the money, but Nicole convinced me that it was worth it. I was excited after I bought the ticket. MxPx was the one band I loved in Highschool that I was never able to see live. In some ways, I immediately reverted back to that 16 year old self I mentioned earlier. I dusted off the old Punk cd’s, created an MxPx Pandora station, and counted the hours before the show.

Despite feeling so out of place…and old…I had so much fun at that show that I haven’t let up on my Punk Rock cd’s and Pandora station since.

There was something different about Punk Rock than any other genre I listened to as a kid. Maybe it was nothing more than the age I was when I was introduced to it, but it feels like there was something else there. This has got me thinking about what I would call the Spirit of Punk Rock. What was it about this genre that made it more of a movement for me? By the way, for you hard core Punk fans out there, I am under no illusion that I came into the Punk Rock scene at its purest time or that I listened to the most “Punk” bands ever. I know that I joined in at what some call the end of Punk Rock as we know it. Green Day went all “21 Guns” and Blink 182 gave way to Angels and Airwaves. Also, I was immersed in a subsect of Punk Rock that was inhabited by Christians. I fully realize that our experience was different than those of you who followed Pennywise on tour or played nothing but the Sex Pistols on the old record player.

Still there was something about Punk Rock in the early 2000’s that captured me and made me feel right at home.

It’s that ‘something’ that I am seeing again¬†within movements like the Black Lives Matter Movement. The true appeal to Punk Rock for me was that I was accepted despite the fact that my greater social context had decided I was slightly less than cool. In some ways it felt like the weirder and more pathetic you were to the “popular people” the more your presence was welcomed into the Punk Rock community. It was a community that found its strength in the desire to say “Forget You” to the popularity contest going on around us. In some ways we felt oppressed by that contest and so joining a community that spoke against it made perfect sense.

I suppose it also makes sense that the spirit that permeated the community I felt accepted by in High School wouldn’t attract those who were already enjoying popularity and acceptance–those who were benefiting from that system.

I wonder if the lingering pieces of the Spirit of Punk Rock that originally offered me a sense of acceptance as a stuttering, short, poor, un-popular kid are the very things that are inviting me into the fight for justice on behalf of my friends who have been left out of the broader popularity contest of our society.

I also wonder if the roadblock keeping many people out of those pursuits for justice is built with the same stones of the roadblock keeping the popular kids away from our awkward community. Perhaps when the system being fought against is one that has been kind to you, it is difficult to see the damage it can do.

So may the Spirit of Punk Rock be with you today. May you find acceptance when others tell you there is none. May you find the courage to speak against a system that forces some to the margins while lifting others up on thrones. May you tap into that rebellious part of humanity that refuses to conform if it means leaving others out. Even if MxPx isn’t your thing, may you feel the Spirit of Punk Rock offering you acceptance and giving you a voice.

Did I Stutter? No Seriously, Did I?

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Facebook is a crazy thing, isn’t it? I’m not sure you could convince me that it alone hasn’t utterly transformed our society. It seems that even the folks who used to say, “You’ll never find me on Facebook!” are toting several hundred “friends” and posting weekly statuses about their job, family, favorite sports teams, political ideals, etc. Books have been written dissecting the impact the social media giant has had on us, politicians have started to use it as a primary communications tool, and families have turned to it as the best way to stay in touch with distant relatives. It’s hard to remember exactly what life was like before selfies and hashtags.

I am not convinced of the good or evil of Facebook, though I have plenty of friends who argue passionately for both views. I am, however, extremely interested to see how the way we connect with each other has changed partly due to Facebook’s existence. I just started reading a book about vulnerability–an underrated and highly avoided thing in my own life. The author of the book I am reading makes it clear that without vulnerability we can’t have authentic human connection. That scares me.

Hide & Seek

The truth is that I am hiding. I am hiding pieces of myself that don’t support the “Ben” I want you to see. All it takes is one look at my Facebook page to see that I only let you see what I want you to see. In some ways that’s probably a good thing. You don’t need to see all my garbage. I’m not so sure that is what it means to be vulnerable. I do think, however, that being vulnerable means showing up in a way that doesn’t hide who I really am. Of course my hiding didn’t start with Facebook. It has been going on since I was a kid.

As early as Elementary School I can remember being ashamed of my stutter. It probably didn’t help that other kids ruthlessly pointed it out as something hilarious. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t fun to be made fun of. So, I started trying to “control” my stutter. Anyone reading this who has a stutter can probably relate to this shame inducing practice. Even as an adult I often rate my public speaking on how much or little I stuttered. If I say a sermon went great, it probably means I managed to hide all stuttering as ‘deep thinking’ or simply didn’t stutter at all. It often has little to do with the content of my message.

I share this with a lot of discomfort. It’s uncomfortable because as much as I hated getting made fun of in school, I equally hate the pitty that often comes with the attempt to comfort me by saying “I didn’t even notice your stutter.” and “It really isn’t that bad. You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Honestly it’s like nails on a chalk board, because it forces me to be vulnerable enough to admit that my stuttering bothers me. It feels uncomfortable because I put down my guard of being “wise”, “smart”, “Put Together” and I risk being made to feel quite small and deeply inferior to all the non-stuttering Good Samaritans trying to comfort me. This is just the tip of the iceberg which is why the previously mentioned need for vulnerability scares the hell out of me.

Being Seen

Perfectly assembling the “Ben” I want you to see often means that you are not seeing the real Ben. I assume this is why human connection is impossible without being willing to risk enough to be seen. Being seen means that you are opening yourself up to criticism, which is hard enough when it is applied to the “masks” we wear, but it is truly terrifying when we risk it happening within the depths of our being. It doesn’t really hurt that much (though it might hurt my feelings a little) to hear someone say that my blogs suck. But it still feels like a needle in the eye to have someone (even a kid) make fun of my stutter. It’s risky business allowing others to see all of you.

Of course, allowing all of ourselves to be seen is something we have pretty much sucked at since the Garden of Eden. Which brings me back to Facebook. I don’t think it’s evil, but I do recognize that it makes it easier than ever to hide.

I am feeling a strong push to stop hiding–to stop hiding in my job, my family, my friends, and even quite so much in my writing and “online personality”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but in some ways it feels like it starts with this blog.

Watch your mouth!

Words. Both inconceivably powerful and inescapably limited.

I have been thinking about words a lot lately. Specifically I have been thinking about how I hold the words I use. Too often I pay too little attention and offer too little criticism to them. This has often resulted in me–a gentle and usually loving guy–spitting words that carry undertones that are deeply offensive to folks of specific races, genders, sexual orientations, economic statuses, and probably a lot more.

When I bring this topic up among friends I usually get one of two responses.

1. It is not on me if they “choose” to be offended when they know I don’t “mean” it “that way”.

2. If someone says you have offended them, you should play it safe and stop using that word, phrase, etc.

All of my friends seem to be pretty convinced that if everyone else agreed with their take all would be made well. Of course we don’t all agree. So, where do we go from here?

When I think about this conversation I feel that there is one pretty crucial piece missing–conversation.

Instead what we usually end up with is posturing, a lot of pride, and a lot of adding to the tension that surrounds the words we choose to use.

So how can we move beyond the posturing and into conversation? In my limited understanding of that word, I see a dance between talking and listening with listening leading the way.

At Mile High Ministries we are currently neck deep in this conversation as it pertains to “What” we do and “Who” we do it…to…or with…or something. Honestly it’s pretty confusing and I sometimes feel tempted to throw up my hands and plant myself firmly with my friends who offer the first response previously mentioned. But I believe it’s worth the trouble to critically look at how our words impact those around us.

Our words are incredibly limited, especially in the context of spirituality–which is why poetry and art are often a better communicator of such things than essays and text books. But we would be foolish to deny that our words also carry great power. The proof of that can be seen in many examples of racism, sexism, abuse, counseling, poetry, and love letters.

What are we saying beneath what we are saying? Do we even know? Is there often a great distance between what I “mean” and what you “hear”? Are we willing to join a conversation with and about our words?

What would happen if…

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A question has been plaguing me recently. What would happen if all the finer points of what I believe were proven wrong beyond any reasonable doubt? Some of you read that question and said to yourself, “Already the case!” But seriously, what would happen if everything beyond “I believe in God” was suddenly proven to be a creation of my own mind that was undeniably proven wrong?

I think that, if we are honest, most of us would say that we would be completely undone. Many of us would begin to question everything about our understanding in much the same way that I did when my Mom finally broke the news that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I am convinced that it would be an utterly disorienting experience–and I’m also convinced that it just might be the best thing that could happen to us.

It’s not that the stuff we believe should be seen as trivial. On the contrary! What you believe should show itself in how you live your life–a point Jesus seemed to hammer into those who followed Him. But I feel that for many of us it isn’t so much about how the way we live our lives is impacted by what we believe. It seems to be much more about what we believe being proven correct so we can be seen as “those who were right!”. In some extreme cases this is so evident that I have literally heard people mockingly say things like “He’ll know he was wrong when he’s burning in hell.” Often the same person who would utter those words would find it difficult to know how his faith in Jesus informs how he relates to his neighbor, chooses to spend his money, or responds to examples of darkness in his community. To him (Not any particular person), God is competition rather than mystery.

Competition as a replacement to mystery. This might be the best way that I can describe what tends to happen when we hold so desperately to what we believe rather than simply trying to follow Jesus. It is my goal to let go just enough that if the finer points of what I believe are proven wrong, I can simply say “Ok”, because my goal will be to follow Jesus rather than collect the most right answers. Of course, you can probably guess that my answer today would most likely not be “Ok”. I would probably feel like a part of who I am died along with my belief. To defend what I believe against those of you who disagree feels significantly more important than it should. This might be because in many ways–if I am honest–I am defending my sense of identity more than I am defending God, God’s Word, or “Sound Doctrine”. I hope to some day be able to let go of that. I hope you will too.