This has been a season of Lament. I wrote what follows as a lament. It is not perfect, but it is what I have been processing through over the last couple of months. I see hope and beauty in the dark times even as I mourn for the losses we have all suffered. I am angry at the choas in our world, yet I know my God is a God who redeems. He will win and in his victory all that has been lost will be made new. All that has gone wrong will be made right. I know this is true, because I know what he has done for me. I look at my scars and I see the how deep the beauty cuts.
“For if he causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.” -Lamentations 3:32-33 (I do not believe God has caused Covid-19 nor the death of George Floyd, but I do know he will have compassion on us.)
I reap what I sow
So I plant seeds of love and kindness
But the seeds could not grow as expected
Instead in my four walls I’ve sheltered
My classroom is empty
Zoom calls are ignored
I’m still teaching, but is anyone listening
Who is to blame? My students cry out for their loss
Gone is time with friends
Gone are my sports season
Gone are the Graduations
Gone are the vacations
Gone are the high fives
Gone are the warm hugs
Gone are meals out
Gone our the jobs
Gone are Goodbyes
Gone are new hellos
Gone is our breath
Gone, gone, gone
Our world is masked for protection
But masked we fight on line and in line
Disconnected and discontent.
Full of grief we weep.
Yet, I know I’m not forgotten
God has remained by my side
My God turns gravestones to gardens
My scars declare beauty
Ashes to beauty, cuts to grace
His love is in the laughter
Beauty behind the blue sky
Beauty is always left, in nature, sunshine,
Freedom, in yourself; and in God’s love for you.
I can think of all the beauty around me
It makes me happy
And I know the best is yet to come.
Hope in beauty, not that of the sunrise or sunset
But of the love God grants me when all good seems gone.
Because grace is not gone
I cannot do enough good to sow a perfect world
Brokenness remains, but there is beauty in the healed scars.
What has made your heart come alive in 2019? My heart matters and this year has been an adventure in trying to find what makes it sing, what makes it come alive. As I have struggled with sleep, I have realized that grace and beauty speak into my heart and I need more.
November is a great month to focus on what this year has brought and set a focus on how the year could end so that the next year can start off right. To make it through the last of November and into December I need my heart to come alive. But life can’t be all adventures. Life is lived in the dailies and doesn’t have to always be fantastic.
2019 has had plenty of fantastic things take place in it, but it has also been a daily grind. If I want my heart to come alive I need to remember to search for beauty when I am stuck at work or when the unexpected comes my way.
I need grace when things don’t go my way. I need grace for when things do go my way.
This year plenty has gone my way. My heart came alive when April and I walked into the home we would buy. God’s hands were all over us being able to buy our home, but as many of you know, owning a home is not easy. Owning a home is a beautiful adventure, but a home needs much from its owner. We’ve already needed to replace all of the windows and gutters. God has provided April and me with a home and I know I cannot take care of it without him. When I feel anxious about all my home needs, He reminds me He is in control and gives me the grace to remember that He will provide, He will protect, and His presence will rule in my house even if I have to spend more money on my home. Right now the oven is hardly working and if April’s baking adventure is ever to take off, we need a better one.
In July we finally went on our honeymoon to Europe. As we boarded our plane, all of me was ready for a holiday.
My spring semester at school was stressful and then because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided to teach summer school. So, I needed to be refilled, but I was nervous about how my sleeping problems would mess with our trip. On the first night in London I was exhausted (I hadn’t slept on the flight over and then it took us five hours to travel from Heathrow Airport to our hotel over in the Docklands). This was an adventure, but even though my eyelids were weighed down I struggled to fall asleep.
I was terrified I would be too tired to do anything and ruin our honeymoon. Before we left for Europe, I didn’t take the time to work on my sleep problems. Now I was sure it was going to ruin the trip. And then in a quiet whispered moment, April reminded me to be gracious to myself. “Jet-lag is a very real,” she said and that I should just give my body grace when I couldn’t fall to sleep because it was just trying to figure out its new rhythm. This saved me and helped make for an incredible month in England, Scotland, Amsterdam, and Ireland. The sunset that night was God reminding me that he would take care of us.
And then we returned to Colorado, I started back up at work, and now we are at the end of November, and I’m thinking about how I need grace for my life. I’ve had quite a few beautiful moments this semester, but some hard ones too.
As November came I didn’t think we would need a new car, but her completely paid off Ford Focus died and we could no longer rely on it to transport her to work and back. We really needed a new car, but buying cars doesn’t make my heart come alive. We bought a Honda C-RV and I love it, but I had not planned on making another big purchase this year (The house, the trip to Europe, and a couple things for the house were all I wanted to buy, but not the car). Buying the car could have stressed me out, its drastically changing our budget, but I am remembering to give myself grace and I am choosing to remember that providing for my wife is truly an awesome adventure. God is in control and even in the daily grind he will provide fantastic elements to my day.
God providing for me is what makes my heart come alive and that is what I need. He knows my heart matters and he will take care of my finances, my house, and my job. With our new car I have the ability to go up into the mountains. With my house I can invite friends over for a movie. And with my job I can share my love of stories. These are all things that make my heart come alive and that is what I really need.
My goal for December 2019 and into 2020 is that I slow down and meet the needs of my heart so that I am able to live a life fully alive, but I know I will mess up and there will be bumps along the way. That’s why I am thankful for grace!
Maybe you are reading this because you haven’t mastered the tick to falling asleep. Maybe you are like me and sleep has started to evade you. Surrendering to sleep seems like a weird thing that we do every day. Sleep is vulnerable, we lie there, prone and oblivious to all that is going on in the world, and yet without it we will waste away. Worrying about what will happen to me while I sleep is not why I’ve had trouble slipping off into sleep. What I get anxious about is plain old sleep and work. My brain just won’t turn off sometimes because I am stuck in a cycle of anxiety and stress. As I have struggled to sleep God kept reminding me He wanted my heart no matter the situation. I couldn’t control my life. He was taking back the things that were his anyway. God wanted me to surrender and open up about my struggles.
Finally, a little over a year ago, I told my older sister that I was struggling with sleep. She said, “me too.” That moment of connection was what I needed. It was as if I had been heard. I started to sleep soundly again. Yet here we are deep into 2019 and I am taking a small amount of sleeping pills during the work week and I still occasionally wake up sweaty.
I am not sure why my sleep patterns haven’t fixed themselves and I am doing my best not to stress over the answer. The best thing to do while going through a difficult or painful situation is not to ask why or try to interpret what is going on. Struggling to figure out the meaning of my sleepless nights only led to more sleepless nights. Maybe part of why sleep has not come easy could be my silence; my refusal to surrender to God’s will and share what He has been doing in my life.
But this September I felt challenged to open up about my sleep problems. Every September I celebrate how God showed up when I was in the hospital due to Necrotizing Pneumonia. I realized if I can share about how God used that pain, I needed to open up about what God was doing in my life now. I was being selfish by holding back on talking about my sleep pain. I would rather have God use my pain than waste it. So I am opening up. Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation and maybe I can help.
I have learned that instead of asking God why I am awake in the middle of the night or unable to fall asleep, I want to ask God what are you doing in me? He wants my heart no matter the situation. So each night I am practicing letting go of my own desires. God has taken care of my finances, my wife, my health, and everything else I have surrendered to him. If I do not sleep well, he gives me what I need to make it through the next day.
I do not want to keep silent about my sleep or lack thereof because God has been too good to me and I want to praise him for that. At night when I can’t sleep, I have decided to sit with Him and pray. Some nights I leave my bed and go to the couch where I sit with my hands palm up on my knees. I breathe deeply and listen for God. I think of the beauty I have seen in His world and know that He is in control. I surrender to him and trust that if He can make a world where Aspens exist, He can love me even in my stress. He might never heal me of this sleep problem, but all the while He is making me into the man he created me to be. And isn’t that the ultimate adventure?
I turned the screen off in shock. My mind was spinning. I had just finished the final episode of the latest season of Game of Thrones. “Not his real name! He’s more than, but what! Oh my gosh!” -Immediately I felt the need to talk about my feelings, but no one wanted to talk to me. I’d finished the show a year after everyone else. That’s just how behind the times I am.
I don’t like being behind the times. I would rather be up on all the pop culture happenings. I go to comic cons. I am a pop culture nerd. But I don’t always get what I want. I would love to have the last say on what I watch, but well, I love my wife even more. So when April asks to watch something or she refuses to watch Game of Thrones with me, I let her pick. God is asking me to be a little behind on the times so I can love my wife better. Anyway, I didn’t get to watch the show on time and it turns out it was a good thing.
Yes, I know that if you watch the show and are more behind than I was, you could easily figure out who I am talking about and realize that it is a spoiler. That is why I won’t remind you that this is a shocking revelation about the identity of a lead character who has grown up thinking he’s a bastard but in truth he is the son of the true King.
But, here’s what I say to any worries about spoilers. I managed to stay spoiler free with a show that’s been out for a year and if a guy who has been teaching, coaching, and sneaking in episodes when his wife wasn’t around managed to finish season seven, you can manage it too. If you do take the time to finish the show, be prepared for some powerful truth.
This wasn’t the only truth I learned this past summer while I was catching up on the best that TV has to offer. At my wife’s request, I dove head first into This Is Us.
After watching most of season one in a week I was in tears. In the episode Jack, the selfless husband teaches his wife how to love football. Neither Jack, nor Rebecca wanted a marriage like their parents. They grew up in families where their parents weren’t on the same team. I didn’t expect the episode to hit me the way it did, but I guess the truth is I want my wife to love football too so she isn’t just a mistress to my team during football season, but a teammate in heartbreak and joy.
My tear-filled reaction was born out of the desire to have a wife who loves football, but it was more than that. I want to make sure my marriage is a healthy team. And sometimes I don’t know if we are a team because of her refusal to like football or to give Game of Thrones a try. That’s one reason why I picked up one of April’s shows so that we could share our time together and be on the same team.
I spent much of 2017 telling her I would not watch This Is Us. It just didn’t interest me as it seemed like it was too dramatic. But I am glad I did. Yes, I know I’m behind the times and am about two years late to the party. No, I have not cried during every episode (That’s April’s job), but yes I do think it is one of the best written shows on TV. And I started watching it right when I needed to. See, I am behind the times, but this is what happens when you’re a teacher, coach, uncle, friend, and most importantly a new husband.
It might seem a little lame that I used my first free summer in two years to catch up on TV, but sometimes watching a good TV show can be just as adventurous as going up to Rocky Mountain National Park and seeing Moose, which I did twice this past summer.
Last year, as I documented, I married April, which has been the best thing to happen to me, like ever, but I had to work all summer so we could pay for our wedding. I also coached basketball if you remember. While I worked my butt off during the school year and summer, I let my story consumption slip. I hardly read last year. I didn’t want that to happen again this year. This is me being back in control of how I spend my time.
Books, movies, and tv shows we consume are teachers if we let them. Recently I started asking God what he has for me in what I am watching or reading. Since I started this practice, it has helped me be okay with how I consume movies, tv, and books. But it has also made me weary. Not everything I consume is good for me. I can’t do horror and I hate stories that depict the world as hopeless, so when April has us watching The Handmaid’s Tale I have to chase it with episodes of Fuller House.
After teaching a summer school focused on the horror genre (why I can’t do horror right now), I started not sleeping well and started looking for something positive to fill my mind and Game of Thrones did not disappoint. I finished episode seven of Game of Thrones in early July and I felt God telling me, what lies are you living in? Am I like the character who has been living under a false identity his whole life thinking that he is less than he actually is?
So on a sleepless night after finishing Game of Thrones, God told me, Brendan you are my son. You are my child. A son of the King, just like John Snow. Do not worry, I have an amazing adventure planed for you.
A couple of weeks later April and I were watching season two of This Is Us. We were balling our eyes out as Jack loved his family perfectly. I heard God say, not in an audible voice, but it was still clear, “My love is perfect and it sets you free. I have given you a teammate who loves you and even if she doesn’t like football or she hasn’t agreed to watch the best show on television, she is with you in all your heartbreak and all your joys.”
I might have been behind the times on the TV shows, but I would say that I watched them right on time. The messages I learned from these shows are helping me live free and connect with the love God has for me.
So this year, 2018, I watched plenty of TV, and I am not ashamed I did. God used each well written show to speak his loving truth into my life. Here are five shows you might like and what I learned from them (Honorable Mention: Lost in Space and Longmire):
I woke up to the sound of my phone, church had been canceled. My parents are flying back from Tulsa today, and if their flight get’s canceled it will be due to an act of God. So, can you say God canceled Church?
After I made a couple phone calls to let the rest of the people at The Neighborhood Church know it was okay to stay at home and worship at home, I decided to figure out what to do with my snowy day.
I decided to attend Lifechurch.tv online and read a devotional, the same devotional I quoted when I wrote about my worst Valentine’s ever. Here is what Sarah Young has for us today,
“Be still in the Light of My Presence, while I communicate Love to you. There is no force in the universe as powerful as My Love. You are constantly aware of limitations: your own and others’. But there is no limit to My love; it fills all space, time and eternity.”
God’s love seems to be as big as the snow storm that is howling outside. His love, according to Craig Groeschel, is also big enough to forgive our sins. If I have been forgiven, then I need to forgive as well.
Snow days are a great reminder of forgiveness. When the snow covers the ground in a fresh white layer, it always reminds me that God can cover up my dirtiness and brokenness.
Today seems to be a great day to be still and know that God loves me and has forgiven me.
It’s also a great day to take a couple of pictures.
I tried to use the snow-blower, but it is still broken.
So I had to shovel.
I hope you all enjoyed the pictures, and if you are here in Denver, stay safe, and be still and know that God loves you and will forgive you.
I spent the last two weeks pounding away on my computer. It’s getting a little old and the delete key isn’t working all the time, but for now, it is helping me get through grad school. Funny enough, two weeks ago, when I was celebrating Hobbit Day, I did something very stupid.
Acting on little, to no sleep, I decided to go check out the new iPhone 5, it had just been released that day. As I had expected, the Apple store was packed with people trying to upgrade their phones. I didn’t really want a new phone, just wanted to look at it.
The iPhone 5 is sleek and remarkably light weight. It was very compelling, but what really caught my eye was the new Macbook Pro. My old Macbook only has 80 gigs and the battery has a life of about 30 minutes, though it still works.
Now, let me explain myself a little bit. On Friday September 21st, I was still feeling the after-effects of completing my first masters level class the day before. I’d been up since 5:30, already hard to work on the reading for my next class.
Still, NEVER go shopping when you are super tired. Or you might walk out with a 2,000 dollar computer that you can’t afford. That’s just what I did.
Fortunately Apple has a gracious return policy, which is what I took advantage of after I went to the gym and thought things over.
Now back to the present.
I spent all day yesterday typing away on my old computer, being very careful not to make any mistakes, as the delete key is being very tricky. Kind of funny that I was able to delete my big mistake when I bought a new computer, but my old computer wont let me delete the wrong words I type. Anyway, around 4:00 pm yesterday, I turned in my second big paper, which interestingly enough focused on the importance of sleep and how it correlates to learning.
I should have talked about sleep and how it can stop you from buying expensive Apple products. But that wouldn’t have been scholarly, just realistic.
If you can’t tell I’ve learned I need more sleep! So I decided to take this morning off, which was very nice. When I woke up around 9 am, I was surprised. A fresh coat of snow on the ground.
I love snow, especially the kind that only sticks on the grass. So in celebration of the first snow I am going to share the pictures of my yard with a fresh dusting on it.
I think it’s awesome that it snowed today. It reminded me that sometimes we make mistakes, but we can’t do anything bad enough that God will not take it back. He covers over our sin and makes our lives as white as the fresh snow on my lawn this morning.
I hope you enjoy the pictures of the first snow in Denver. And remember, it’s not bad to sleep in every once and a while.
I’ve been doing yard work again. I don’t have much of a green thumb, more like a brown thumb. I tend to pull more weeds than plant bushes. Despite my lack of talent in the field of botany something really cool happened this last week.
To explain what happened I need to back up my story a little bit.
For the last couple of years a nasty weed has been growing near the mailbox. Oh, you guys know what a mailbox is, you know the box at the end of your driveway that magically receives junk and the occasional birthday card from your grandma that always has the two dollar bill tucked inside.
Anyway, this “weed” never really looked like a weed. Last summer it bloomed a beautiful white flower, but it also took over wherever it grew. (It also made it hard to back out of our driveway) So I decided to transplant this “weed,” still thinking it was a normal plant, to a more advantageous location. But when I started to dig it up I realized the job wouldn’t be worth it. What I thought was one plant was five or six different weeds. This monster was growing crazy and choking out everything around it.
After talking to my dad, we decided to rip this weed out. We dug and dug, for about ten minutes, making no progress. Then my dad had a brilliant idea. “Why don’t we rip the roots out with my truck,” he said. “Heck yes!” I replied. Two hours later, after a lot of grunting and other man stuff, we’d pulled the monster out. The roots looked more like alien tentacles.
That’s the kind of weeding I like to do. Honestly I didn’t expect anything good to come from it. But then yesterday I went over to the mailbox for the first time in a couple weeks, really I only check my mail on my computer, and was shocked at what I saw. The bush, which had been growing resolutely between the monster weed, had always been deprived of its nutrients because of the weed. But now everything had changed. A perfect yellow rose had bloomed.
Because I took out the weed the rose bush is now blossoming amazingly!
It made me think about how God works in our lives. Sometimes he takes things away from us. Sometimes those things are bad like weeds. Sometimes those weeds even look good, but in fact they are choking out something that God wants to nurture in our lives.
So I have a question, what do you think God wants you to give up or get rid of so that you can experience an amazing blossom?
As we live spiritually we need to trust God. He has a plan for us, even if that means letting go of things we think we need. Let God help you produce roses, let him work in your life.
The journey to the top of Calvary must have been difficult. Jesus was exhausted as he carried the weapon of his demise all the way up Calvary. He’d been beaten. He’d been mocked. Yet he endured the pain of that brutal cross.
For me. For you. For the sins of the world.
Since the first good Friday, the cross has become more than a tool for execution. For me it is a reminder of forgiveness, how much I’m loved, and the tool used to redeem my brokenness. To others the cross is just art, something to look at. But as you can see from the pictures I took during my recent trip to Guatemala, even when the cross is represented artistically, it can still mean something.
Today, Good Friday, the day we celebrate Christ’s death on the cross, what does that cross mean to you?