Whoever You Vote For, I’m Still With You

Election 2016

“Making America SMH Again, and again, and again…”

If it weren’t for the comedy created from the current presidential race, I’d be stuck with an incurable case of chronic knuckle-neck.

{Knuckle-neck /nək(ə)l/ /nek/ noun | the unpredictable and irreversible pain caused by any movement of the head, including but not limited to: sneezing, nodding, looking, falling asleep in a car, sports, or reaching for something.}

The Trump/Clinton debates feel like watching all the cages of zoo being unlocked, while being simulateously being locked in the zoo at the same time. We need the comedy to keep on sanity.

These videos almost make the debates worth it.

“Woo…OKAY!”

“Where are your feathers? Where are your feathers? Why can’t you fly?”

The Hillary Shimmy may be just what America needs. I can get behind a candidate with a little bad lip reading.

Unfortunately we’ll only see it on YouTube and SNL.

It really feels like our politics are tearing our nation at the seams. There are a handful of politicians trying their best to hold us together, but there are too many partisan hands pulling for an all red or all blue nation.

Pulling only leads to tearing, and tearing will leave our nation wounded and scarred. Possibly beyond repair. And we all know at the core of our being, that a President isn’t going to solve all our issues, meet all our needs, or fulfill all hopes.

I have no idea how I’m going to vote. I know I have a responsibility, but I believe it’s greater than casting my ballot. I have a responsibility to my fellow man.

No matter how you vote I will stand by you. Your vote doesn’t make you any less human. My votes doesn’t make me better than you. My vote and your vote make us human beings just trying to make a hard choice, for what’s best for the country we both love.

If you vote for Hillary, I’m still with you.

If you vote for Donald, I’m still with you.

If you don’t vote, I’m with you too.

If you’re Democrat or Republican, pro-life or pro-choice, for homosexual marriage or heterosexual marriage, for a wall or open borders, for Christians, Muslims, Jews, or Atheists, for immigrants or deportation, for birth control or the death penalty, for fair trade or no trade, for calling it extremism or being diplomatic, for more taxes or less taxes, for internal affairs or international affairs, for her or for him, for big government or small government, for liberty and justice for all; I’m with you.

We may not see eye to eye, but I choose to see commonality in our humanity rather than the views that make us disagree.

Despite our differences, we are better together.

We’re human and we need to be more loyal to people than we are to a political party.

Whatever you decide, I’m still with you.

We. Are. United. States.

Walking The Streets With Sanchez Fair – An Interview – Part 1

As we all know, tensions are high in the United States these days. If you’re like me I not quite sure how to respond or engage. I feel like I freeze more often than not. That’s why I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine.

Sanchez Fair and I know each other for almost five years and his passion for God and people inspires me and those around us to step out of our comfort zones and engage life in all its complexity and beauty head on.

And that’s what he did. When Charlotte was set into a social frenzy because a police officer shot and killed a black man, Sanchez hit the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina to gain a perspective and offer some hope.

I asked him to share his experience. Here’s what he had to say about walking the streets. Read it with your eyes and hear it with your soul. Grace and Peace.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Sanchez Fair. I’m from Greenville, SC. I was born in a Christian home where both parents were Pastors. My family was split at an early age. My mother left my dad because of verbal and physical abuse, as well as alcohol and substance abuse. Both parents would re-marry. My mother to my step-father, who would become more of a father figure to me. I was one of eight kids (some being half and step siblings). Music has always been my passion. Both of my parents were musicians and they started me out playing music at church on Sunday from a very young age. I would grow up and travel the world playing music and it’s a blessing to call it my vocation. My interests and passions are religion, people, music, and creativity of all kinds. I believe the four are beautiful and important to everyday life.

Neither of us are native to Charlotte but we share a love for the city. With all the racial tension going on locally and nationally, what is your objective perspective of all that’s going on?

My objective perspective about what all is going on locally and nationally has everything to do with the four things that interest me. My passion for religion, people, music, and creativity aren’t a coincidence. I believe we are all bent towards the four subconsciously, without even knowing it, and they’re expressed in every facet of our lives.

My heart breaks for everything going on. Being African American in general right now is tough because there are so many mixed emotions going on. There’s hurt, there’s fear, there’s frustration, there’s uncertainty on how to move forward, and it seems as if it’s harder to unify.

After Keith Lamont Scott was shot by a Charlotte police office just a few days ago, you made your way to center city Charlotte to wade into the thick of it. What motivated you to do that?

I was motivated by love. I have a deep desire to reconcile, bridge, and be in the trenches with people who are hurting and in pain. There was and is a lot of hurt and I don’t just mean the angry black people. I saw the hurt in the ordinary and in the eyes of our police. Looking at a cop, asking if I can pray for him, and he fearfully asking for me to pray for him and his family because they are scared, hurts on so many levels. It’s easy to pray in the church for our broken and fallen world, but it’s a different thing to walk in the middle of it.

I’ve lived in the suburbs over the last five years, and I found it to be almost unnatural for me. Key word, ALMOST! When I walked/walk these streets now, I come alive. I was made for this. I was created to love those different than me. I was created to love, and love casts out all fear and insecurity. There’s so much beauty in Charlotte, and Charlotte is singing a beautiful song. I deeply desire to be a part of the song of Charlotte.

What were your top take aways from walking the streets of downtown Charlotte and having conversations with protestors and bystanders?

I probably talked to over 500 people and the emotions were all over the place, but everyone, in their own unique way, wanted to peace.

Whether it looks like justice or for racism to end. I felt true, authentic love from the folks on the streets. I saw unity in different ways. I saw the media twisting the story and trying to cause emotions to flair, but I saw folks respond in love. I met angry protestors who threatened a guy because he was washing Black Lives Matter off walls, however, the white guy didn’t allow that to taint his deep desire and longing for peace. (I actually ended up walking the streets with him a good bit of the day).

It was great seeing some pastors drive from the surrounding areas, particularly white pastors, asking African Americans how they felt. They were committed to learning how to listen. It was incredible to have the opportunity to pray with a vast variety of people. The last thing was praying for two older black ladies. One worked for the police station and the other owned her on funeral business. They were hurting but they were extremely proud and encouraging. They thanked me for what I was doing and said that it was refreshing to see a young black man walking the street, bringing peace and healing to our city. There were so many take aways.

To be continued…

Closer than Close – An Interview with Dave Hickman – Part 2

 

This is Part 2 of a two part interview conversation with Dave Hickman, the author of the new book Closer than Close: Awakening to the Freedom of your Union with Christ.

Click here to read Part 1.

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Where did you get the idea for the title, Closer than Close?

As a child, I used to always say, “I want to be as close to Jesus as possible.” Yet, over the years, I could never get as “close” as I desired. This left me discouraged and wanting. So, the title of the book came from my lifelong desire to be “closer than close” to Jesus Christ.

How have the concepts of Closer than Close been a personal journey/experience for you, and how has it altered or expanded your understanding of God?

It changed my understanding of God, myself, as well as my motivation for praying, reading the bible, and going to church. Before, I viewed myself as an orphan—always disconnected from the full and complete love of the Father. Awakening to my union with Christ, I understood that united to Christ (as the one true Son) I am now fully accepted and loved IN the Beloved.

God went from being a disgruntled step-parent, to being my compassionate and ever-loving Father.

This changed my motivation for prayer, scripture reading, and the like. Previously, I did these things to try to draw “closer” to Jesus. Now, united to Christ, I see these as a grace allowing me to further awaken to, understand, and appreciate the union I ALREADY have with Christ. That subtle (yet seismic) shift in my thinking—from trying to maintain a close relationship with Jesus to awakening to my intimate union with Christ—changed every aspect of my life and faith.

God went from being a disgruntled step-parent, to being my compassionate and ever-loving Father.

My own understanding of union with Christ has been a gradual progression itself. Why do you think it takes time to accept and truly embrace?

All of our lives (including our conformity to Christ) is in God’s hands and on his specific timeline. In other words, our discipleship process is tailor made—perfectly measured to fit each one of us. While we may want to “get” or “grown up” these spiritual truths at 8 or 18 or 28, reality is that God reveals them to us at exactly the right time and precisely when we can receive them.

You cannot force spiritual growth. Nor should we try. Spiritual growth is much like a sunrise—gradual, soft, and steady. If the sun were to just all of a sudden pop out, shattering the darkness of night, it would be too much for us to take (much less comprehend). I’m sure it would even be detrimental to our health (much less our senses!) Therefore, God chooses to slowly reveal eternal truths to us so that we may comprehend and receive them. As the old saying goes, “time is nothing, but timing is everything.” God is not in a hurry.

Why is the message of this book so timely for today?

Many believers (particularly Millennials) are striving to abide.

Think about that. It’s counterintuitive and counterproductive. We long to experience the rest Jesus speaks of in the Gospels, but we find ourselves exhausted. We long to “be still” and know the he is God and that we are his beloved, but we have a tendency to try to “earn” his affection. For many Christians, we struggle to believe, in the words of Brennan Manning, that we are “God’s beloved without doing anything.”

It’s easy to believe that we are accepted by God when we are doing everything for him. It’s hard to believe that you and I are loved of the Father even when we doing nothing; that the Father’s love is not based on what I do, but who you and I are. This is the hard work of faith. The latter is the opposite of faith. The latter says, “We are loved because we are valuable.” In other words, we are loved because we bring something to the table (i.e. faithfulness, devotion, giftings, etc). But God’s love works the other way around; in many ways, it’s illogical. God values us because we are loved.

Yes, prayer and scripture reading are important (if not vital) to our conformity to Christ. But they are not necessary for our proximity to Jesus. We are already there! We are IN Christ and Christ is IN us! In Christ, we have been made perfectly one with the risen, flesh and blood person of Jesus Christ. You can’t get any closer! Now, we can abide in Christ’s ever-now presence in us and our never-ending union with him. We are one. I hope this truth will allow the reader to return to their first Love with joy and freedom.

Aside from everybody, who do you hope reads and internalizes this book?

Anyone who genuinely and honestly wants to be “close” or “closer” to Jesus, but can’t seem to get there.

Anyone who finds themselves tired, skeptical, or discouraged in their relationship with Jesus.

Anyone considering throwing in the towel on their relationship with him, but doesn’t want to lose Jesus.

Anyone convinced that they will live the rest of their lives as a joyless, exhausted, guilt-ridden believer.

Anyone desperate enough to “re-think” their present relationship with Jesus and open their imaginations to what their lives might look like united to Jesus Christ.

Where can our readers buy a copy?

www.davehickman.org or anywhere books are sold.

Give us a final thought or benediction to wrap it up.

If all this sounds overly academic or dense, may the gentle and inclusive words of Jean Vanier encourage you:

Union with Christ is not reserved for those who are well-known mystics or for those who do wonderful things for the poor. It is for all those who are poor enough to welcome Jesus. It is for people living ordinary lives and who feel lonely. It is for all those who are old, sick, hospitalized or out of work, who open their hearts in trust to Jesus and cry out for his healing love.

Closer than Close – An Interview with Dave Hickman – Part 1

 

This is a two part interview series with Dave Hickman the author of Closer than Closer: Awakening to the Freedom of your Union with Christ. I am super excited to share this conversation for two reasons:

  1. I am really excited for Dave. How awesome is it to be a published author! As a writer, I know the work and effort and drafts and edits that go into the final product. In the end you get to witness the birth of a beautiful baby book. I couldn’t be more thrilled for Dave. WTG, Dave, WTG!
  2. The topic of this book is a big deal. Dave’s going to get into it throughout the discussion, but union with Christ may be one, if not the, most overlooked and underemphasized aspect of the Christian faith. Leave the door to your mind unlocked and enjoy.

Tell us a little about yourself, Dave?

I was born and raised in the hills of East Tennessee. My parents were (and continue to be) strong believers in Jesus and they were faithful in incorporating our family in the life of the local church. In my formative years, we were members of Fellowship Free Will Baptist Church where I first learned of Jesus, salvation, sin, and God’s love and mercy. While a positive experience overall, it also was, at times, confusing. While I learned that God loved me, I was also told things like:

God does not hear the prayers of a sinner.

God hates sinners.

God only loves and accepts me because of Jesus.

Reading the Bible and praying draws me “closer” to Jesus.

To do otherwise, would create distance between me and God.

As a young man, these messages were frightening. I wrestled with sin. I viewed myself as “good-for-nothing.” I believed that God’s love and acceptance for me were contingent upon the faithfulness of my spiritual devotion. I was fearful that I could “fall out” of a relationship with Jesus if I became apathetic or overly sinful and rebellious. These thoughts (and others) dominated my inner life and thoughts for as long as I can remember. These voices caused me to doubt my salvation, question God’s love, and wrestle with my identity. In many ways, I still hear many of these distant voices and tremble.

We’ve crossed paths a couple times over the years, but the first time we met was through a ministry you started called CharlotteONE. What’s the backstory of CharlotteONE and what was the dream behind it?

As a new believer, I was told to read the Gospel of John; so I did. In doing so, I came upon Jesus’ prayer in John 17. There, Jesus prays that all believers might be “one” so that the world may know that he was sent of God and that God loves the world as much as his only Son. This struck a deep chord in me. I viewed this “plea with a promise” as a clarifying statement of the Great Commission. Naturally, I wanted others to experience God’s love and, according to Jesus’ prayer, the biggest apologetic to the love of Christ and the truth of the Incarnation was for believers to move together as “one” in love and mission.

During seminary, I and a few other young adult pastors banded together around Jesus’ prayer. We were desperate for young professionals of Charlotte to know the love of Christ. So, instead of having 10 “cheesy” young adult ministries in the city, we decided to have one good one—together. This led to the creation of CharlotteONE which, over the years, drew over 500 young professionals from all over the city (and from different denominations) to worship God together as an expression of Christian unity and witness. That was over 10 years ago, and CharlotteONE continues to this day.

What did CharlotteONE teach you about ministry in the city, millennials, and the place of church in our modern context?

Ministry is best (and more enjoyable) when done together. Often times, pastors can be so consumed with the needs of their own community (which is understandable), that the greater gospel narrative and felt needs of the city can go unnoticed and unmet. While being faithful to the “flock of God among us” is commendable, a “silo” mentality can quickly follow if we (as pastors) are not careful AND intentional in building relationships with one another. Being so inwardly focused on our own communities can lead to a disjointed move (and presence) of God’s people in a city.

I working with Millennials for the last decade, and I’ve discovered the two greatest needs in their lives are older adults and children. While initially sounding odd, Millennials can find themselves feeling a bit “lost” and “abandoned” in their faith journey (and life in general!). They are surrounded by others in the same life stage and wrestle with many of the same issues. While comforting to have such a community of friends, they are, in a sense, left to figure out (as a community) life, relationships, finances, and faith. Millennials long to have mentors—people who can serve as guides, mentors, and spiritual fathers and mothers. They yearn to have an older, more mature adult in their lives. If I had a dollar for every time a 20-something has asked me for a name of an older adult to mentor them, I’d be a rich man.

In the same way, Millenials desire to have children in their lives. In the words of a great pastors, “we learn our best theology from children”; and it’s true. The innocence, trust, and fragile nature of children reminds us of who we long to be, and in many ways, who we really are. Yet the pressures of career, relationships, and life in general causes us to put up walls, live suspiciously and guarded, and live lives independent of others. This hit home for me several years ago. While living in an apartment community in South End, my son Cole, who at the time was 5, stopped a young lady in the hall and began rambling about something (who knows). After a few minutes of conversation, the young lady stood up with tears in her eyes. She said, “I’ve been in Charlotte for four years, and it just hit me—this is the first time I’ve spoken with a child since I moved here.” I’ll never forget that moment. And where would she have spoken with a child if she is not a part of a local church? Stop a random mom at the mall? Hang out at Chuck-E-Cheese? Not in our culture. So this silent need goes unmet.

Both of these examples are why the local church is so important for welfare of Millennials. They need a multi-generational community to be a part of. Older adults and younger ones remind Millennials that they are not alone and that their lives are a part of a larger fabric of humanity.

Millennials need a multi-generational community to be a part of. Older adults and younger ones remind Millennials that they are not alone and that their lives are a part of a larger fabric of humanity.

Let’s talk about your book. You wrote a book! That’s no easy feat, congrats! Your book is called Closer Than Close, what’s the premise behind it?

United to Christ, you cannot get any closer to Jesus than you already are.

That’s it. If anyone has been raised with similar voices mentioned above, this claim sounds rather peculiar if not heretical. I was raised to believe that Jesus was “out there” and that the goal of the Christian life was to draw closer and closer over time by doing things I should, and not doing things I shouldn’t. When I was faithful in praying, reading the bible, and going to church, I considered myself “close” to Jesus. When I failed at these, I considered myself to be “far” from him.

This yo-yo understanding of my proximity to Jesus led to a life of fear, anxiety, doubt, and self-condemnation. It also led me into a works-based approach of earning God’s love and acceptance. I ran (more like sprinted) on this treadmill until I was 33 years old. Tired, exhausted, and discouraged, I reached out to some older men and women to help unravel who I had become and what I believed about God. During those conversations, I kept hearing the phrase, “union with Christ.” I had never heard those two words used in the same sentence! Yet, the phrase conjured up feelings of intimacy, acceptance, and rest.

I took two years to research the doctrine of union with Christ where I experienced a radical freedom from myself, my striving, and the condemning voices in my head (although they still come knocking on occasion). My life radically changed. Awakening to the freedom of my union with Christ I gradually became more loving, patience, and gentle (particularly with myself!). It was such a noticeable difference that even my wife was taken aback with how much I had changed.

Out of that season, I knew I needed to tell my story so others might experience the same freedom. In addition, many theologians consider the doctrine of union with Christ to be the “central aspect of the entire gospel.” Yet, I had never heard of it (even with two degrees in Theology!). Therefore, introducing others to this doctrine was a justice issue for me. I believed it was an injustice for average, everyday Christians like me to go about their whole lives without ever having the opportunity to interact and understand this doctrine. That’s what drove me to write the book. It was for freedom’s sake. Call me David “William” Wallace.

To be continued…

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Until Part 2, please click here to visit Dave Hickman Online.

 

The Girl In The Car With The Megaphone On The Roof

 

There was a girl who used to drive in an car all around town with a megaphone on the roof.

It was a unique sight. The vehicle wasn’t flashy, but somehow the make and model would change wherever she went. Maybe it was the light or time of day or location, but for whatever reason, sometimes it looked like it had been on the road for a while and sometimes it looked fresh off the lot. Aged and well worn one minute, with heavy doors, uncomfortable seats, and tinted windows, or it was state of the art the next, with LED lights, a sweet sound system, and even wifi! (within range, of course).

Depending on the hour it could be heard blaring a variety of music–classical, traditional, casual rock, and gospel. You could hear her coming from a mile away. That car was always jammin’.

Wherever she parked she’d turn down the music and get to work. Finding alleys without lighting and neighbors without bread. Taking clean water to the thirsty and bringing clean air to the city. With a physical touch for the ill and authentic interest in those often overlooked. Repairing bridges and removing fences. Carefully caring for people and planet.

Always a friend to whoever she met, ready to listen, respect, and accept. A star shining out in the full light of day.

It was good when she pulled into town and set her car into park. Most people liked having her around, and some even joined in with the good work. They didn’t know the whole story, but the actions spoke of something beyond themselves. No one paid much attention to the car or the megaphone on top of the roof, there was no need, her conversations were meaningful and inspiring, which was enough for them.

It wasn’t always a Sunday drive, there were others who were harsh, cruel, and obscene, making a scene wherever she’d go. It could be accusatory or downright violent, in the day or the night. The surprise was that it had a reverse affect, instead of draining her tank, it fueled the reach of the good work.

Her reputation had mixed reviews–an angel to the people, a demon to the powerful. Going to those who get in the way, an indirect revolution against those who threw them away. She lived a different way for a better world, no matter how the world felt about her.

Then they started to come. The town CEOs. They wanted to know what made her tick and why she didn’t submit, or at least roll over and play dead. They inspected her car from upholstery to locks, kicking tires and polishing mirrors.  After the examination the most unexpected plot twist occurred–they made her a queen, offering her parking up front and as much gas as she wanted.

Now she was popular, and we k ow that rarely ends well.

As the years went by things just weren’t the same. The flare of the hustle started losing its luster. Like a slow leak in the tires things started to change. Maybe it was the price of gas or the mileage, late nights, and sore back. There were less stops in some parts of town and more bumper stickers to see as she drove through. The music seemed to blare louder and louder–like a substitute teacher trying to calm the crowd down.

The car would still stop, now don’t get me wrong, but the need, the plight, the number of people was so strong. It just wasn’t as frequent, and if she did, it wasn’t for more than a few minutes. “This burden is heavy,” she said as she threw up her hands, “and too hard on the soul of my feet.” It felt unmanageable and too thankless a job. It didn’t take long until she turned the megaphone on.

First a crackle, then a little feedback, but she quickly got used to the gadget. And what do you know, it felt wonderful!

She could just drive around town and tell people good news, she barely had to slow down. And that’s what she did, from highway to byway, interstates and avenues too. She went everywhere with one hand on the wheel and the other on the receiver. She didn’t have to stop anymore to make a believer.

The megaphone made the work easy, and her back started feeling better too. The funny thing was, the more she spoke the more she heard voices. They were quiet at first and easy to dismiss, but eventually they started to challenge and contradict what she said about that and this.

Like who should drive the car and who should be let in.

What color the floor mats should be and where to buy gas.

Where people are going and what music to play.

Who was correct and who was wrong, who was good and who wasn’t good enough.

What to affirm and what to ban.

And something about having the right doctors and lawyers and dogs, oh my!

How to use the megaphone and what should be said.

The car could care less, but did she really care about all these things more than the neighborhoods she parked in?

The good news became great news to some and bad news to others. A feast or a hard pill to swallow.

She became a guardian and she lost her first love to marry a megaphone–her goddess.

Just like the music, the voices grew louder and louder. No matter how hard she tried, the megaphone volume wouldn’t go past 10. The voices went up into the hundreds.

She was becoming paranoid and schizophrenic. A multiple personality dilemma developed. Whatever it was, she started ripping the car apart wheel by wheel. An effort to keep the car but get as far away from the megaphone as possible, but the megaphone just grew right out of the hubcap. With each tear she’d fall apart little by little. Taking her tire to a separate part of town. Burning bridges and building fences.

If a house divided cannot stand, a car divided can only take people to one angle of town.

The damage was done and the influence disabled. The past nearly forgotten. Except on clear nights when she’d walk home from her tire, seeing stars that reminded her of what she wanted truly to be.

Always shining, no matter if she stood out or not.

On one silent night while on the way home she laid on the sidewalk to get some time with the stars. In what felt like an eternity within the palm of a minute she was awoken by a man who looked like a mechanic. Mostly a silhouette in the first like of day, he was gruff and unshaven with a toothpick in his mouth, and what looked like oil all over his hands.

“I checked out your tire, if that’s what it is,” he said with the toothpick dangling from the edge of his lip, “and it’s not the problem. The megaphone is. It is mainly a symbol of what you’re supposed to be. Your actions are the megaphone, for your actions speak louder than any megaphone can. Your words hang in the balance of your actions.

“Your car’s not the messenger, you are. Don’t sacrifice the neighborhood on wiper fluid and antifreeze.”

With that he flicked his toothpick and walked toward the sunrise.

She stood there in his shadow, literally set free to decide between using the megaphone on the hub of the tire or being the megaphone throughout the town.

She who has ears.

Todd. Is. Lame.

The first time I realized that my name is lame was in 1994. I was 12 years old and this commercial set the fate for my name:

From then on I’ve been keenly aware of how lame Todd usually is. Here are couple examples:

 

Southern Living’s version of Todd

 

Todd Flanders, the Simpson’s version of Todd

 

Todd from Scrubs

 

Mugatu is weird, but somehow Todd is weirder

 

The. Most. Painful. Todd. Moment.

I should have a major Todd-complex by now. Maybe I do and I just don’t know it. Sometimes I get the feeling that my name just isn’t working out for me.

I have a great life, but I can have these streaks of misfortune that my wife calls “Lesher Luck.” I think it has less to do with my last name and way more to do with monosyllabic first name. (Feel free to review the images above.) I literally just spilled my ice coffee all over the coffee table. Maybe that’s what it’s there for…

There is a precious gem at the center of Anthony Doerr’s novel, All The Light We Cannot See, that haunts the main character, Marie-Laure. The gem is called the sea of flames. Legend has it that whoever possesses the stone will have long life, but tragedy will befall everyone around them. My name feels like the anti-sea of flames. It seems I brush shoulders with bad luck all the time, while everyone else lives a normal, if not slightly luckier, life.

After the commercial in 1994 a principle started to grow deep inside my psyche. I was tired of being a loser on TV and in the movies, so I made a commitment to disprove the stereotype. Despite my bad luck, I wasn’t going to be lame, obnoxious, creepy, weird, or violently impulsive. I wasn’t going to be the Todd TV defined for me. I was going to figure out me despite TV.

The opposite of lame is cool, right? I used to tuck my sweatpants into my socks with turquoise Chuck-Ts for a little pop of color. I was disqualified from cool before the game even started. I’ve never really wanted to stand out, I take comfort flying under the social radar. It takes more effort for me to be cool than is humanly natural.

For a while I tried to be the know-it-all. First to speak up. First to give my opinion. First to put someone in their place. First to flex my knowledge. Having all the answers gives little room for mystery, discovery, and learning from anyone across the table or across the globe. It took a while, but I got sick of acting like I knew it all. Knowledge isn’t power, it’s a means to serve, if not, it’s unhealthy, and I still have a lot to learn.

It I couldn’t be cool and knowledge was a dead end, people’s approval sounded like a noble pursuit. So I shape-shifted and altered my personality, interests, attitude, outlook, ideas, and preferences to please everyone around. I was a pretty good dancer because I didn’t want to step on any toes. This interpersonal preference, this social captivity to how people feel about you is a pretty shallow way to live. I had a spine and backbone to grow.

My inner and outer life were pretty discombobulated. Dis-integrated to say the least. I’d be all bff with my inner life, and they stab it in the back everytime the outer life got a chance to shine. My spirituality, my faith was often for show. The externals were  throwing my inner life into a frenzy. Step right up! Step right up! I’ll show you what holy looks like. SMH.

One of the ways I understand my life is through seasonal themes. I have to look backwards to make some sense of who I am, how I’m living, and what I have to accept or embrace or recognize to move in an enlightened direction. Maturity is the process of taking responsibility for your life and personal growth without placing placing blame or playing the victim. Physical maturity is natural, social, emotional, personal, relational, and spiritual maturity takes a little more intentionality.

Our immaterial maturity is intertwined with our reputation–how we’re perceived by others. Public opinion (whether accurate or not). Our name is our reputation’s I.D. Just run through your rolodex of names, and each person will fall on a reputation spectrum.

Positive————————–Neutral—————————-Negative

Reputations, for the most part, are completely biased and regularly unfair. We can live constricted by our reputation or we can concentrate on our legacy–what we’ll leave, what we’ll pass, and what we’ll be known for. We hold barely any control over our reputation, but when it comes to legacy, the ball’s in our court.

My name has a reputation on TV, for which I can do nothing to change. No matter how often I petition my state representative or tweet at @prattprattpratt to play a tough or un-pathetic Todd character some time soon. I can only hope. Legacy, on the other hand, is mine to own.

Instead of being cool, I’d rather be comfortable in my own skin and authentic myself around everyone I meet.

Instead of an arrogant know-it-all, I’d rather be open to learning how to be a better human and ok with not having all the answers.

Instead of manicuring a shallow outer spirituality, I’d rather cultivate a vibrant inner life, a healthy faith.

Instead of kissing butts, I’d rather give my energy to a better legacy.

A legacy worthy of a future where I’m not around. A legacy my children would consider living and leaving. A legacy beyond and above TV personalities.

My name won’t last, but my legacy will. Reputation maintenance is shortsighted and exhausting. Legacy development is visionary. Legacy will trump and outlast reputation every time.

I don’t need your sympathy. This is my burden to shoulder. My journey to walk on my own. My todds to beat. My epic to write. My stereotype to disprove. My legacy to define.

Mark my words, if it’s the last thing I do, I swear to Todd I’ll do it.

My name legacy is on the line.

I won’t let my name hold me down…

Over The Surface Of Our Chaos

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light.”

The biblical account of creation is not the only creation account out there. 

In Greek mythology earth emerged from Chaos.

In Norse mythology fire and ice melt into a chasm which produces a giant and a cow. The giant eventually produce some sort of offspring from the sweat of it’s left armpit. Odin eventually appears on the scene, kills the giant, and creates the world. All without procreating one sweat baby.

The Chinese tradition maintains that heaven and earth were in a state of chaos or cosmic egg, that broke and formed heaven and earth out of its yolk.

In the Mesopotamian creation narrative Marduk killed Tiamut (a form of water) and divided her body in earth and heaven.

The Egyptian version of creation includes gods of darkness, water, obscurity, and chaos bringing the sun god in existence, who in turn contributed to the origin of the world.

The biblical version of creation contains a central similarity: chaos.

The word formless in the ancient Hebrew (tohu)  means primeval, wilderness, or chaos.

The word empty (bohu) means void, waste, or empty.

According to the Talmud, these were the primordial substances–darkness and water–through which God formed the radiance of creation.

The biblical version of creation also contains a unique distinction: beauty.

Instead of God emerging from chaos, God arranges chaos into creation. According to Genesis, chaos doesn’t produce creation, God subdues chaos with the beautiful arc of creation.

God is not just Lord over creation, he is Lord over chaos too.

God hovers over the chaos and says, “let there be…”

God Hovers, Jesus Enters

 

In Jesus, the Spirit of God didn’t just hover over our chaos, it literally entered into our chaos.

Jesus walks into Simon Peter’s house and enters the chaos of his mother’s sickness. He took her hand, help her up and the fever left her. Let there be…

Jesus encounters a leper and enters the chaos of a social outcast. He heard his cry, felt his pain, and touched his skin. Let there be…

Jesus approaches an unstable exile and enters the threatening and unpredictable chaos of a spiritual prisoner. He stood his ground he rebuked the darkness, and set the man free. Let there be…

Jesus carries a cross for humanity and enters the chaos of our sin and brokenness. He is bleeds, he dies, and he rises again. Let there be…

Jesus entered our chaos with the presence of God. The fullness of Deity indwelling human form, invading our holy mess with the light of the world.

New Evidence For God

 

There’s a couple scenes in Stranger Things where Joyce senses the presence of her missing son through the illumination of a cluster of Christmas lights. She knows Will is near.

The scenes are powerful images. A sign. A cue. A connection.

We live in a time of chaos where we could really use some sort of clue that God still hovers. Some Christmas lights to reveal the presence of the Divine.

There’s a blog I’ve been reading recently that has posted the “exit interviews” of the reasons people have left their church. One submission captivated me:

That mercy and grace are indispensable when building community…
That we have all sinned and fallen short….
That doubt can foster growth…
That it is not a zero-sum game…
That where ever one finds love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control, the Holy Spirit is there…
That I still want lovely things for them…

Wherever one finds love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, the Holy Spirit is there.

And the Christmas lights started going crazy in my head and my heart.

Wherever these expressions preside, the Spirit of God must be nearby.

This is new evidence of the Divine. A most surprising and the unexpected behavior. The stranger things of God, flowing through flawed and fractured humans. Wherever goodness and patience and love and peace show up, whether through Christian or Jew or Atheist or Muslim, or man or woman or child, or black or white or gay or straight, God is hovering. Every good work is an act of God. We are obliviously in tune. God moves in mysterious ways.

When grace or kindness or gentleness or faithfulness or self-control or joy enters the chaos of our world, God does too.

God may or may not prevent chaos, but he arrives every time compassionate people do. When justice is extended to another, God is the one reaching out. When people rush to the point of disaster, and calamity, and horrific devastation with aid and relief, God rushes with them.

God is in hospitals

and refuge camps

and marriage counseling

and AA meetings

and the actions toward racial and social equality

and clear water efforts

and human trafficking rescue missions

and food banks

and peace talks

and moments of forgiveness.

The Spirit hovers over the surface of our world’s chaos through the Christ-like presence of people all over the surface of the earth.

We can freely affirm the nearness of God through the loving, sacrificial, generous, and selfless words, actions, and gestures of everyone around us. Jesus even said our good works have the potential to bring attention to God, for, we too are the light of the world.

God is closer than we think.

God still hovers.

We are the nearness of God.

May the Spirit of God hover over our chaos. May the stranger things of God flow through our lives. The the presence of God be present to the world in us.

Let there be…LIGHT!