Monday, December 30, 2013

Forgetting Who We Are

When we lose ourselves in what is going on around us, we give everything over to whoever wants to trample on us. We might as well have forgotten our own names. We become everyone around us and not a single bit of who we actually are. We forget ourselves as easily as we forget our dreams.

New Years celebration is about starting something new. I am new. I become new everyday. There is still old in me and some of the old rots in me like a corpse, but the new overcomes. My hope is that I can always be new. I want to progress. If I am the same next year as I was this year, I have failed and my faith is weak. I don't want to forget myself. The person I am is based in passion and zeal. I don't want to become one of "Them."

"Them" is a breed of people that have, over time, forgotten that everything around us is spoiling. They forgot that life is in Christ and not in whatever our culture pimps as happiness. American culture is the whore that threatens to rape us of our souls. Faith. Strength. Compassion. Sacrifice. Look at a soldier and tell him of the American way of life after he has spent three Christmases in Afghanistan dodging car bombs. We consume and worry about what doesn't matter. Life is more than what you can purchase. Life is lived in the moments of silence.

Today while trying to teach my kids what a harmony is in music, I played a song I used to teach Will harmonies several years ago. It was a bad time of year to be playing that song, but the harmonies are perfect in it. I had spent hours in the garage with Will teaching him how to sing a harmony using this song. I played it tonight and was back in that garage again. It was a sudden and unexpected flood of emotion. I held it back as always, but it made itself tonight for me.

That night when I was confident that Will had learned how to do a harmony as a bass player, we wrote a song called "Toilet Paper Rockets." The original lyrics are buried with him, but the concept was that you can travel back into time, but you can never get back who you were. Bad or good. We played this song only once and Will got scared and failed to do the harmonies. His heart was in the way he looked at me across the stage when he had failed.

Failure is about learning. When we fail, we learn how not to fail. We move on keeping who we are and are stronger. When we give up, we lose ourselves and wander into the abyss that has become humanity.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


And the tears broke through when there was no one there to sweep them up. Above the rafters a beam of light that made it's way 2000 light years from the hallway of Heaven, pinched it's way through the crack in the plywood and into every dark place that existed. What was hardened was smashed into tiny colorful shards of glass that reflected the light perfectly for anyone who would open their eyes to see. All of the sudden, the broken reached their feet again to find warmth more soothing than the sun. They lifted their faces to the heavens to see what was above. They found nothing but light so bright it burned their eyes to keep reaching. Some gave up and closed their eyes, refusing to see beyond the other side of it. Yet others closed their eyes, but could not stop themselves from trying to find the source of the warmth that lit up their entire lives. For those that kept searching, their anguish was overshadowed by the colors and beauty that seemed to reach them every time they were about to give up, seeming to remind them that this desperation was of God and hope was on the other side. For those who gave in and slept, hope kept knocking...and knocking.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, December 21, 2013

You Will Want to Stop...Don't

I've been running a lot for the past 6 months. I think I can't stay away from the feeling of balance and gratitude I get when I have to fight, and win.

Today it was raining freezing water onto the earth by my house. I got home from work dreading the feeling of ice cold water dripping down the middle of my back, paralyzing me with that awful bone chill. I put on my shoes and my gamer wife strapped on hers too, even when she was sick today. We set off for 5 miles in this mess. During my first quarter mile I stepped in my first huge puddle and filled my shoes with cold gelatinous fluid hell bent on wrapping it's tentacles around each individual toe and strangling it to death. I then repeated the puddle incident over and over for the next 48 minutes. When I got home, I got in the shower filled with endorphins from my victory over the elements and my own personal discomfort. As I was feeling the stabbing pain of my sensation coming back into my toes as the hot water thawed them, I had a thought. Very rare thought. It is when the conditions are uncomfortable that you really learn to fight. When you are wanting out and fight to the death you build perseverance. This is mental training. These are the times that you really get the good stuff. You may hate it at the time, but when it's over and you are still standing, you realize that there isn't much that can stop you. Philippians 4:13 becomes a real reality as you have just caught a glimpse of beating your body into submission.

The wise runner will lace them up in 6 inches of snow, icy sidewalks and trails, freezing rain, staggering wind, the dead of night, the mist of the morning, in anger and sadness, when ill, when exhausted from a horrendous day at work, when your legs hurt, and especially when you want to give up. These are the very moments that train you to push on both to the next mile and in your life.

Then I had another rare thought. This isn't just about running. Paul wrote about beating your body into submission as a runner does to train for a race, and uses it as a metaphor for pressing on in your faith. Life gets really hard. Many times, you are gonna want to give up, don't. Keep moving forward. In these hard times, make it a point to face the discomfort head on with tenacity. If you usually run 4, run five when it really hurts. When you sin, don't live in your guilt. Get up, realize your folly, confess it, put it away, and move forward. It's gonna be uncomfortable and the pain in your spine is parylizing, but remember that these moments are golden. This is where you build perseverance. This perseverance builds true wisdom.


Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Four years today since I last saw him; His birthday. He turned 32 on that day.

Happy birthday where you are now my big brother.

Sometimes you don't have anything nice to say, but you can't just NOT say anything at all. Sometimes things need to be recognized despite the sadness they bring. Sometimes when speech defeats us and we shiver out the inner most chambers of our memories, it is best to look up. There aren't many good feelings in me today. I've been pretty foul from the moment I awoke. It really gets frustrating trying to sort out the mixture of joy and grief during the holidays, and especially his birthday. So I'm not going to write anything sad or negative today. I'm not going to show you what's inside because what's in there isn't productive right now. What's inside will pass in a few days and I will resume the clown I have always been.

So instead of pouring out. I'll tell you a story about my brother, whom really isn't my brother.

We met in church. We would go every Wednesday, Monday, and Sunday. Wednesdays were the family classes, and for some reason the kids in the Starter jackets always stood out to each other. We would glance at each other in a moment of respect and do the "cool guy" nod. I had my Tarheels coat, Will had the Bulls coat, and Joe, always the outlandish one, had the Triple Fat Goose with a metal plated Raiders cap.  After a few weeks of "cool guy" nods, they told me to sit with them during church after Sunday School. I was down for that. My only other option was sitting up front with the youth group kids who had a leader that had this head that look like an actual penis. He used to always shush me. I don't do well with being shushed, especially by phallic heads.

I sat down between Joe and Will next to their parents, who would become another set of my parents. I talked through the entire service. I talk when I'm nervous. Will's mom was horrified at me I think as she kept having to tell me to be quiet. Joe pulled out an old Atari handheld game and that shut me up for a little while. After church, despite the frustration Will's mom must have felt with my loud and obnoxious tone during Jesus time, she invited me, my brother, and my mother out for Chinese food.

Did I mention that I was the pickiest eater as a boy? I ate McDonalds, cereal, PB&J, bologna with mayo, and pizza. That was all I would eat. What even is Chinese food? Cats? So I get to the restaurant and listened to all of the exotic entrees being ordered that sounded like noises my furnace makes in the night and tried to decide between eating cat or eating walrus. I chose a cheeseburger with fries (because none of my other options were on the menu). The whole group, including my own mother scowled at me and shook their heads. Who orders that there? We ate, I did a lot more talking, and I had a new place to sit on Sunday mornings. I eventually joined them at their high school and we became family. My heart melted into their home and I became a staple at dinner. I even learned to like Chinese. Will's mother treated me as her child, even yelled at me like them, which I think I appreciated most. Their father bailed me out of my folly as a real father would. No one questioned my presence or tried to push me out. Their home was the warm guts that people paint Christmas portraits of.

They saved my life. Will saved my life. Happy birthday. I will always look up to you.


Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The DNA of Snowflakes

Little crystals reflected the lights from the houses that lined the partially shoveled sidewalk that continued to add to it's girth. The moon is partially hidden behind the clouds, but bright enough to announce it's presence to anyone who asks. A drunk guy staggers and wades through the drifting snow across the street. He speaks to himself with unintelligible words, acknowledging your presence with the turn of his head, but continues in his solitary conversation about a woman and her dog. He misses them both, he says as he looks at me. It is really late, probably 3:30 AM, I can't tell anymore. I had been laying in the snow for so long staring into the night sky that I forgot to remember to check my watch. It wasn't cold outside really. It was just snowing. The snow was a welcomed occurrence to me and was the very attraction that lured me outside in the first place.

Snow is real. You can touch snow. It travels a long way to get to you, all along experiencing a complete transformation from the liquid to this beautiful crystal ornament that lands and rests on my cheek. It is in this moment that the beauty of God touches my face that I remember what life is about. I remember what Christmas is about.

A beautiful God came and fell onto my face in the cold. A completely unique and perfectly shaped crystal landed on my face...on your face, and gave the promise to fix everything. A messenger from the only One who knows our hearts and has the strength to give us something to hope for falls right on my face and melts into my flesh.

I had been in mourning for so long that I forgot what the morning sun looked like. It was dark all around and the moon lit only enough for me to see the pavement below me. Every Christmas I would walk forwards to my place of prayer and anguish, then walk backwards back home. This was grief. This was the mess that is left when death passes through your life. You forget even the most fundamental truths about strength, life, God, and your very own spirit and begin to wander. In grief there is no way to go but all over the place. It lasts however long God allows it to, to help you gain from it. For me, every Christmas was a reminder that I lost something I could never replace and I would never be the same. Then the snowflake; A perfect reminder that I am not alone under that moon. The finger of God touches my face and I remember what I had forgotten. Christmas is about the finger of God touching the world, giving hope to a wandering people.

This Christmas will be sad at times just like the rest of them, but the holiday will be about Jesus, not Will. Whoever you are mourning wants to be let go of. This holiday does not have to be about who isn't here with you now. It should about who is here with you now.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Here's to another birthday.

But it isn't just another birthday is it? It's the day we celebrate our Savior.

I used to sit in church and hear that and just think, "Ok, Jesus was, I was born before too." It never occurred to me that it would mean so much to me later. Church is church. People will sing and sermons will be preached and skits will be performed. The church will have fundraisers and outreach events and people will show up and experience the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus. It was always a ceremony to me until December 25th 2009 when my brother was put into a truck and driven away lifeless.

This was the day that all of that church stuff went away and stopped doing anything for me. I was suddenly lost, confused, and conflicted. My confusion quickly became anger, then rage, and became the very thing that carried me through each day. I was comforted by nothing. My nights were spent turning and my days spent in anxiety. I was hiding from everything. I would not pray, and I would not give this God a moment of my time. To be honest, I gave him the finger.

I was wrong and underprepared for what was going to become of my understanding of my faith. My faith would no longer be based on weekly meetings, spiritual awakenings, or random gatherings of other believers. My faith would become the only way to survive. I would spend a good amount of time going through various motions so everyone thought I was OK. But I wasn't OK at all. I was traveling at an unmanageable pace toward what would become the darkest place I have been since my head laid on a certain set of tracks.

This is the danger of unrealistic faith. I say this because I believe God can do anything, but I now believe He won't do everything. God does not always do what you want. God isn't always going to save your mother, or wife, or brother. God sometimes, is going to watch them die with you. He is going to weep with you without you noticing. He is going to silently agree with the pain and anguish you face with the rising of every sun.

This pissed me off for a long time. It kept me from Him until I realized my faith wasn't about religious milestones or feelings at all. It is about survival. God isn't this cheesy pie in the sky moment when you all of the sudden feel better about yourself and life. God is getting a phone call while your son is opening his Wii by your brother to tell you your other brother is dead by sadness. God is in the moments trying to figure out a single thing to say to this amazing mother, who is always concerned with how you are doing, when her son is gone from her. God is when you are denouncing everything you had believed and turning to the cold darkness of anger. He lives there with you sometimes. This is faith. You come out of it and realize that He was there too. You realized just how broken His heart is too.

Then you understand what it means to be a Christian. It means pain, poverty, anger, rage, sadness, rejection, heartache, and despair are the very things that make your faith real to you.


Thanks for reading...Z