About Me

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dissonance |ˈdisənəns|: a tension or clash resulting from the combination of two disharmonious or unsuitable elements.That's it really. It's what I do. I create it on purpose as a clinician--a counselor. It is what makes people wake to reality and see how they contribute to their own chaos. It becomes a cathartic and challenging experience well suited for change. I create it accidentally as a husband, friend, son, brother, and believer. I AM: 32 years old; a counselor; a husband to a beautiful woman; a believer in The Way; and most of the time clueless to my own dissonance that I create.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ambiguity

Choosing schools, for me, was more akin to drawing lottery numbers than a real and intentional search or decision. I was going to go to New Orleans Theological Seminary when Katrina changed my plans for me. Undergrad was just the same. I went to Samford merely because I went to Samford. It was the only school I applied to for some reason. I often feel like I am stumbling into whatever circumstances without any real plans. I have never understood those individuals who were waiting for God’s final say. They look for a neon sign hanging over every encounter they come across that depicts the direction they are to go. I guess I have just missed the boat. All I can think is that I am sorry for those individuals that whip themselves trying to manipulate God to answer their insecurities and fears.

I have come across two verses in my life that have changed me to the core. Only two have really bent and formed me so dramatically. One of these comes from Isaiah and speaks to this very issue. Israel has turned away from God; God is going to bring them back in the usual method; and God’s grace is reaffirmed. Then…there is this odd phrase:

“Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.”

Right or left? This ambiguity is a little uncomfortable for us isn’t it? We want the lighted path. We want to know the mind and will of God. Isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? We follow the path laid out for us—the lamp at our feet. The scriptures have all the answers, like when I need to pick between renting or buying a home here in Wilmore…right? Or maybe "God is not the micro manager” (Meeks, 2010) we are so desperate to make him. I don’t mean to imply that we should cease praying. No, no, no. I do mean that faith is stepping out first and trusting that even with an unfortunate choice God will mold us closer in his image. In the Isaiah passage, the voice is a metaphor borrowed from shepherds, who use to follow their sheep, and recall them when they go out of the way. It is a loving affirmation that the choices we make matter little in light of God’s loving intention for us.

Ambiguity should not be confused with insecurity. This ambiguity that I boast is the most secure I have ever lived. It finally resolves itself in the resignation that the voice affirming my every move is the culmination of my faith. The choices that I am faced with day-to-day serve to give me opportunities to stretch me upward. My rather peculiar and blind stumbling, though hard to watch for many of you, is a beautiful boast in the one calling out behind me. This leaping out can be difficult, but somehow, I find this to be the single most amazing grace in my life.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bread and Wine

I was attending a church in support of a friend. He performs by singing in a worship team in a local church whose campus more resembles a regional airport than a church community. Being drawn more to smaller churches nestled into the local community, I must admit approaching this experience with some preconceived notions of a consumer-minded people.

I was not disappointed. The mall-like parking lot was crowded and my wife and I followed the push of humanity through multiple concourses past a bistro-like coffee counter, massive fellowship hall/atrium, a child care facility that would put any other program to shame, and finally into a stadium seated theatre that was already filling to capacity. Popular music played in the background as we took our seats. What ensued was magical. Lights flashed, images paned across the screens as the worship team welcomed all with a Rob Thomas song, and our eyes turned toward the singular speaker who came center stage. The message was compelling—a challenge to us as a church body to live beyond our regrets and see our life through the eyes of God.

You may be able to tell what direction I am going here, but before you nod in agreement or shake with resignation at my lack of relevance let me set the record straight. This church does much to forward the kingdom of God. They embrace and challenge the norms of the church by loving those that have been rejected by most other church communities. Single teen mothers, those who are intelligently disabled, the sexually broken, and others marginalized by society have found a home and acceptance here where other church communities have turned their backs. But…

What followed will guide my discernment. Communion was passed to us in our seats, a medium for taking Eucharist I am familiar with because of my Baptist roots; however, what shocked me was the lack of celebrating it. While I was not expecting a formal liturgy, I was expecting a form of reverence, yet there was no guidance, no mutual sharing, no explanation, no acknowledgement—each to his own purpose. Why all this fuss? This simple form of blessing, bread and wine, carries with it a medium for God’s grace. Some celebrate communion to symbolize, some to memorialize, some to partake, and others to share in Christ’s suffering. No matter your position, this simple act was singled out by Christ to be shared with those who claim this grace. This celebration is what identifies Christ’s church. We are a people of the bread and the wine.

No matter the call to “become all things to all people,” this act is not precluded as our shared confession. Christ’s body has been broken; Christ’s blood has been spilled out on the altar. Our call to relevance, our call to social justice, our call to reach out to those who suffer does not rule out our call to be His people. We must not forsake our identity; we are to embrace this simple calling and blessing. The church must hold both of these pursuits in tension; or better yet, let us celebrate Eucharist as our call to die for others, to suffer with those who suffer, to take up the marginalized, and to further the kingdom of God. Let us do these acts of justice and mercy under the banner of our identity of Christ’s church; lets share this simple blessing of bread and wine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Identity

Fall is such an amazing season. There is a feeling of excitement as the sweltering of summer begins to recede, people come out of their homes to play outside, and from most living rooms on Saturdays the reverberating sounds of cheering crowds and obnoxious sports commentary are filling in all the gaps. While I love football season, something in me has changed since this strange obsession has taken over. Perhaps it is staleness in the disillusionment that Georgia will ever actually be a contender for a BCS title; or it’s the realization that what drives us, as a people, is an inherent lacking. To what end do we invest ourselves so intently on identifying with a sports team? Such passion is displayed that dogma is more associated with winning seasons than our freedom or God’s sovereignty. But why? Why would we be drawn so readily to this identity?

It is so easy. Our colors, slogans, fight songs, and ‘history’ are already outlined for us with little to no real commitment or suffering. A losing season simply means withdrawing from sport debates or avoiding wearing our team’s logo until it can be done with only minor scrutiny. There is little to no cost for us. However, this is only a short-term diversion. When the sounds of competition quiet, what we discover is that the lack we were trying so desperately to fill remains and has grown during our little distraction.

Who are we as a people? Christ has called us to a higher vision of community and belonging. First, he has called us into community with himself. We are caught up into Trinity—the very nature of belonging. From that relationship, we find our identity and hope. Yet, this identity costs us dearly. It is a wrestling with the character of God, which, like Jacob, causes us pain. This mutual suffering that we share gives us what we are so desperately trying to find. In this relationship, we are led to our deaths on the cross that has been revealed in Christ. Second, from this relationship we discover true community among ourselves. We do not all know the same slogans, share common colors, or even speak the same language; however, our voices are sonorously intermingled and rise in the same mournful yet hopeful song—“come, come, Emmanuel.” Finally, our identity is founded on our modeling the character of God to a world that has grown deaf to His voice. No longer should we squander in shame with what Christ has honored us—a cross.

Perhaps, we are innocent in our obsessive sports associations; however, I would venture to assert that it is a minor symptom to a more devastating truth. We are lost seeking identity in all but what we are created to be. We chant our mantras trying to drown out the sound of God calling us to be the church in community. I look forward to the day that the sleeper awakes and discovers her true beauty—the church whose identity is finally caught up in the love of God and each other. Though you should be warned! This identity is costly. This identity will cost you everything.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dichotomy

Last time I was at my parents, I spent some time picking through my old closet that is currently housing anything from wedding items to soft air guns I bought on a whim in college. While musing on some of the oddities, I happened across a painting I had made in my high school art class. It was really quite disturbing. Staring back at me was an attempt at a self-portrait. I guess I had thought myself quite the symbolist. I had drawn “me” divided into two halves—one side evil, with fire in the eye and all, and one side good, complete with kitschy scripture quoting. Bear in mind that at this time I was beginning my spiritual journey and early Christian walk; however, even then I had come to feel tension in the paradox of “Christian” living. While I no longer believe I can express that sentiment in water color, the reality is, I still feel that tension now in my life.

A desire to meet some need in my life and behavior that does not get me there—those pressures metaphorically pull me apart. Paul writes with authority on this polarity. “I do what I don’t want to do” Isn’t this just silly? Why am I such a fool? On thinking on it, it is an attempt to gain some measure of control. I desire and need intimacy, but in a lame attempt to secure it, I try and control my relationships. Control is the opposite of relational intimacy. At the heart of it must come trust and resignation to allow the other into our lives. In my relationship with God, this tension plays out like a tragedy. I have drunk the proverbial poison of my own attempts of “grace” and caused the very separation I was trying to avoid. It is the most devastating use of irony that we employ in our life’s narrative. Taking my own road, I quickly find myself lost. Instead of marital intimacy, I find mistrust; instead of supportive community, I find social isolation; instead of service in love, I find I am trying to be served through manipulation; instead of righteous living, I find myself defending sin by claiming entitlement to ‘happiness.’ What a crock!

As a counselor, my job is to promote my client’s welfare by ‘reality testing’ and promoting ‘rational living’; but the reality is that rationality only gets you part of the way down the right road. Resignation gets you all the way there. I do not mean to promote resignation by way of apathy, but rather, I am promoting a letting go of control. Ultimately, at heart, there is where our roads to contentment diverge to no real satisfactory end. I’m still being torn apart, but I hope to learn the lesson that when I forge my own path all I get is a tacky painting.