Election Hangover? Give Unto Caesar.

*Author’s note:  I almost didn’t post this today as I feared it might not be appropriate on Veterans’ Day.  However, after attending our town’s parade and ceremony this morning, hearing the bands play our patriotic songs, seeing representatives from every military branch, and paying our respects to the courageous men and women who have served our country with dignity and honor, I realized it was more than appropriate.  Thanks to the sacrifices of these men and women, we live in the greatest country in the world, where we continue to be free to disagree and wrestle our way through some hard discussions.

God Bless America!

parade

 


About a quarter-century ago, I was preparing my first student teaching lesson for a West Virginia history class.  I remember it well.

Often theatrical, I was rehearsing quotes from John Brown, the crazy-eyed, self-proclaimed instrument-of-God abolitionist whose band of ruffians stormed the armory at Harpers Ferry.  Though really not that big of a deal in and of itself, the raid was a spark that helped ignite the powder keg of division that became the American Civil War.

“I am now quite certain,” I quoted Brown in my best gruff, indignant, mountain man voice, “that the crimes of this evil land will never be purged away … [lengthy pause for dramatic effect] … but … with … BLOOOOOOD!”  I poured that final word all over the students who were half-amused, half-terrified. Continue reading

Do You See What I See? Episode 4: Proximity

I’ve lived most of my life with a longing gaze toward a distant horizon, believing in a mystical something-better out there.

joey-cliffThe constant challenge for most folks who grow up around here has always been geography.  In West Virginia, the same hills that protect you from the outside world also tend to cripple your chances of seeing beyond the ridge in front of you.  Most West Virginians remain semi-affectionately imprisoned in their own little hollers from cradle to grave (save the occasional big trip to Myrtle Beach, laughingly referred to as the Redneck Riviera).  A few—our best and brightest—get out as soon as they can, and why wouldn’t they?  If your ticket out of West Virginia gets punched, why would you spend one more second in a state that is ranked among the poorest, most depressed, least educated, most drug-addicted, least healthy, and most miserable places in the entire nation? Continue reading

Do You See What I See? Episode 3: A Hawk’s Perspective

(***Disclaimer:  This is a previously unpublished journal entry that I’ve tweaked after a recent discussion with a friend.  I told her I’d throw it out there.)

Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’ve been struggling.  Emotionally.  Psychologically.  Spiritually.  I know it’s not true, but—wow!—I feel alone in this place.  Regrettably, not enough of us are willing to drop our fig leaves and confess that we’re human, that we hurt, and that things are often far from ‘fine’.

I’ve been praying, but right now that’s like stumbling through a mist-shrouded forest.  Within the complex mess of salvaged parts in my soul, I’ve found myself at once yearning for two opposites:  the longing to escape for a while and set out alone, and a desperate aching for human connection, compassion, and soul-support.  Unfortunately, obligations and busyness have kept me from the former; and the latter?  To whom shall I turn?  Everyone I know is either mired in their own battles right now or conspicuously MIA. Continue reading

Slow. No Wake.

slow-no-wake

Feeling worn out and frustrated from daily struggles, I recently hauled my kayak to the lake for some fishing. Fishermen know, the exhilaration of a bass on the end of your line is life-giving in more ways than one. However, on this day it was not to be.

After several hours of paddling and nothing to show for it, I found myself complaining. “Really, God? Not even one fish? How is this good for my heart? This just feels like the rest of my life–lonely, pointless striving and empty frustration!”

With His impeccable timing and oft-misunderstood sense of humor, the reply came in the form of a buoy.

SLOW – NO WAKE

“I didn’t bring you here to fish,” He was saying. “I brought you here to slow down and spend some time with me.”

I’m so thankful I didn’t catch anything that morning. God knew what I needed, and it wasn’t one more thing to handle (even a fish).

Friends, look for the buoys: SLOW – NO WAKE. They are gifts to be treasured.

Do You See What I See? Episode 2: The Pretender

I want you to do something that will feel silly:  Get in front of a mirror, your phone, tablet—whatever—and look at yourself for thirty seconds.  Try it.  Stare into your own face and start counting.

One.  Two.  Three …

It’s harder than it should be, isn’t it?

If you even made it to ten, I now have a question for you:  What did you see?

ll1

Continue reading

Do You See What I See? Episode 1

Said the night wind to the little lamb, “Do you see what I see?  Way up in the sky, little lamb, do you see what I see?  A star …”

If you know the song, are you like me, left wondering if the little lamb actually does see the star?  I’m thinking he doesn’t, because he goes on to ask the shepherd boy about what he hears rather than what he sees.Laura NR47

On a recent hike along a ridge, I tried to point out something across the ravine to Laura (my near-sighted wife).  I stood behind her, positioned her head, and pointed my finger to give her a sight-line that Helen Keller could follow.  She still couldn’t see what I wanted to share with her.

How can she NOT see that?!
Continue reading

The Rule of Five (…or Why we left church)

(This piece has been featured on DrAndyRoark.com and associated social media networks.)

FBGcoverLeading a group of men through a study based on the book Fathered by God (John Eldredge), we’ve been prayerfully considering what God intends us to become as men.  As we wrestle with current struggles, we’ve journeyed back through our personal stories, asking God to reveal where, why, and how our masculine spirits have been assaulted, seduced, and surrendered.  For the men who are willing to engage in such an expedition, they discover a gut-wrenching sort of liberation through the process.  It’s been the same for me, and over the years I’ve done this sort of thing many times.  It just seems God’s not done with me, yet.  (I only mention this because I want you to understand why I’m going where I’m going in this piece.)

Having poured out my soul about my marriage (I was blown away by your numerous emails and private messages–Thank you for sharing your hearts, dear ones!), you’re aware that Laura and I struggle like everyone else.  However, I’m compelled to reveal something deeper about my wife and our relationship.  To do that, I must first tell you how I’ve failed as a man.

Here’s my confession:  Continue reading

Well, that escalated quickly.

As I get older, I’m discovering a crippling dilemma endured by most of the souls I encounter:  the desire to be known chained to the horror of being noticed.

It’s like sharing a kennel with a self-destructive pair of Siamese twins hell-bent on fratricide/sororicide/suicide.

Whatever.

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Meanwhile, the tired, near-geriatric golden retriever doses next to his brother in the early morning sunlight, thumping his joyous tail, dreaming of simpler times of chasing that stupid ball through the weeds.

Finding it.

Retrieving it.

And being celebrated for simply doing what he was designed to do.

Lucky dog.

Whose years multiply at a crippling pace.

Poor fellow.

Envy and pity hang out together sometimes, too.

Assault on the St. Charles Streetcar

I’m not sure what possessed us to take our kids to New Orleans for Spring Break.  It was a spur of the moment decision.  We were hanging out in the living room after our family time of devotion and prayer when the phone rang.  It was our friend, Steve.

“You got plans?”

“Nope.”

“Want to join us and spend a few days in the Big Easy?” Continue reading

Happy Easter, Fellow Outlaws

Quick thoughts as we get ready to pack up and head home from New Orleans.

A friend recently commented, “I just saw the new Prius commercial, and I have to wonder, who is the target audience?”

As we move toward Easter, I’m reminded that it’s me.  And you.

Easter confirms that we are all scofflaw rebels when we align our hearts with the ultimate outlaw who couldn’t be imprisoned by the rules of spiritual slavery.

Happy Easter, my friends.

Mobile post.  From the road.  On the run.

With the rebel, Jesus.