Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Hate your Mother and Father

Looking at this picture, I remember that day. It seemed so full of hope. Everything seemed... at least in the moment of that shutter snap... to just feel beautifully in place. Right now, my soul bleeds the spilled promise of that memory.

I wrestle daily with the knowledge that my relationship with my parents is shattered. I walk with the absent weight on my shoulders and my knees are weak. I miss them. It feels like they are dead. I gasp for air when I realize they are living... and I am missing their days. I am cognizant that they will not live forever. How will I feel at their passing? The hollow echoes of empty days when they are nothing but memory and I reflect on the days of potential I gave away.

I want to fish with my father. I want to sing with my mother. These things are gone from me. And it is my fault. I had a choice... and I walked away. Guilt is an adversary. I walked away. And yet... I have no time to bury my dead.

There are real sacrifices to this walk. To follow is to die. My father's words from July 1st, the last time I spoke with them, are engraved into the wall of my soul, "son, you've made it clear that your mother and I are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to your priorities." Oh... those words cut to the quick to read. I nearly threw up. The weight of those words from the man I respect more than any other, was simply revolting and unbearable. 

It is because they are true. Those who I love the most... can not be my priority. There is only one priority. The man who reached out His hand and invited me, "Chad, come and follow me," that man... He takes precedence. There simply is no time to live in the past. The man and woman who gave me life, who sacrificed to raise me... I simply can not live for them. My dear mother and my revered father... they no longer hold influence and sway over my life.

I know this to be true and to be just. I am keenly aware of the gaping whole in in my heart. And I have deep knowledge that it is correct for me to feel this pain, and it is equally correct for me to walk this path of obedience to the One who calls my name. I have come to learn that my walk is meant to carry a degree of pain. 

I think of what could be. I see other missionaries whose parents walk beside them in sacrifice. I see deep into their eyes and I know they'd rather have their children and grandchildren safe within arms reach... and yet I see recognition in their eyes that God's story eclipses our own.

We seek our own storyline sometimes as humans, and we miss the fact that we were created to worship God. That is our purpose. Creation is broken and God seeks to restore us. That is His mission. We are His children. It is our job to (1) worship Him, and (2) restore others to Him. This means that God is my priority. I am called to abandon my life. I answered in a way that overflows my soul with emotion every time I remember it... 

...a total and limitless yield to God... it's me. I'm here. Take me. Use me. All of me. I am nothing. I need you. I don't want to live unless you are real. Take me. There is room for nothing else. I want to follow you. I am willing to abandon everything. I'll give my house to the bank. I'll give away my dog. I'll throw out the toys of my childhood. I'll walk away from my career. Anything. Take it. Take it all. Just please let me follow you. Nothing else compares. 

Take my family. Take my kids. Take my wife. Take my parents. Take it. Take it all. I am nothing without you. Take my future. Take my ambition. Oh my God please take me. Make me. Take me and use me or please just end me.

I want to be shattered for you. I want to see your face when I am threatened by giants, by lions, by oceans, by rulers, by temptation... I just want to bleed for you. 

Yes. You are more than all of that my God. Take me. Take it all. Everything else is simply bottom of the barrel. God help me. I miss them. 

And yet... you are using me in this place. The days I seek to run back to them. The days I want to shake and cry and yield it all back to them, I know deep in my being that my allegiance is yours. It can be no other way. My mother and father are not the priority. Neither is my wife or my kids. The mission does not play second fiddle to any of it. 

My allegiance is yours. My heart belongs to God. Nothing else compares. All is vanity when compared to Him. I will not seek to save my life and neglect my God. I give it all to the One who has made me. The One who has saved me. And I wrestle in the night with the weight of the loss.

I give thanks to God and I rejoice that my soul feels the significance of this path. I am the Lord's I know.

I Love my mother and my father. They are deeper in my heart than any other. And yet... they can not be my priority. They are at the bottom of my barrel. They are the firm boards that hold up the entire shape and content. My character is from them.

After all... where else does our foundation lie? May God have mercy on my soul. This path is difficult. This path is beautiful. This path is my desperate attempt to follow my God.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple." -Luke 14:26

"Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." -Matthew 10:27

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Message from Heaven in a Dream

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” 
-Will Shakespeare

It was the type of dream that when I woke, I was convinced that I was still in a dream. The other world seemed more believable. Maybe I just liked it better?

I was walking through the family room on the lower level. It was mid-day. The back door was open like always and I could hear the neighbor's parrots talking in the sunlight. My mobile phone rang. It wasn't it's normal ring-tone. I don't typically answer calls that I don't recognize here... it's too risky. Extortion is a real fear.

But I couldn't resist the ring-tone. Somehow it felt familiar. I took the call, held the phone to my face and said, "hello?"

The voice stopped me. In fact, it stopped everything. I quit breathing... and then began gasping. 

"Buck, it's ole' Pop."

I couldn't speak. I just took in deep breaths as tears fell down my cheeks. I tried to say his name, but I couldn't form sounds. I finally managed to whisper out... "Pop."

By now the tears were a constant stream down my face and I was nearly hyperventilating. Kellie came into the room and I grabbed her arm as I put the phone on speaker. "It's Pop."

My grandfather (Pop) passed away this past May. He was my  spiritual mentor. He was my conscious. He was the one who loved me more than I deserved to be loved, and was also the one who was in my face when I needed corrected. From the time I was old enough to understand, he was telling me that God could use me to do great things.

I disappointed him some in life. I felt like I never was able to measure up to his expectations. So many days now I wish he could take part in what we're doing. Sometimes I just feel alone. I feel inadequate. I feel foolish. I still make dumb mistakes. 

Kellie looked at me with confusion and disbelief as Pop's voice came from the phone, loud and clear like he was in the room.

"Buck, it's me... ole' Pop. I love you and I'm so pleased with you. You're doing it. You keep on pushing forward. You're doing it. You don't give up. No matter what. No matter how hard it gets, you just keep kicking that old devil in the face. Keep at it Buck. Ole' Pop loves you."

I wanted to say so much! All I could get out of my mouth was, "Pop... how are you doing this? I miss you so much!" But his words overlapped mine. He said, "I gotta go... I love you." 

I heard the phone click off. The call was over.

I stood there looking at Kellie. I said... "It was Pop." She was nodding her head yes, both of our faces wet with tears. I kept saying over and over... "it was really him. It was really him. It was really him."

And that's when I woke up in bed, my face and pillow wet from the real tears that had been pouring from my face. 

I don't know what you believe, and I won't try to convince you. But I will tell you this. That ole' bird made it. My Pop made it to heaven. He always worried that he wouldn't, but God took my ole' Pop home.

And somehow... Pop found a way to let me know. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. Stay the course. Finish the race. You don't give up. No matter what. Ole' Pop loves you.

It was really him. I have no doubt. 

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions - Joel 2:28

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams - Act 2:17

“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 3, 2014

Accidental Pirate of Lost Souls

Children's Day in Guatemala
We decided to dress as Pirates for our students.

Confirmation comes to me like an unanticipated blow to the head. I've no doubt that if I were a biblical character, I'd be the one getting scolded by a donkey, swallowed by a whale, or climbing a tree and becoming the subject of a ridiculous song.

The story would continue in spite of me. I've heard it said that God uses the unlikeliest of people, and I suppose that explains why He chooses to use me.

I was dressed like a pirate when the family of a young mother who committed suicide was desperate to find a home for the orphaned infant.

I wore print blue bow-tie with a pink striped shirt when a desperate young life came spilling out secrets and searching for escape.

I walk around with ridiculous hair as I am sought out for hugs and reassurance by young lives in search to belong.

I sit at my desk with argyle socks and crocks and my hair askew as instant messages pop in desperate moments of life.

Welcome aboard my accidental intentional life. The broken cords in my hands become the lifelines of others. My unexpected wanderings are become the intentional provision of the One who created the winds and the depths.

The route to here was anything but direct, and yet I am in this place at this time, pilfering futures from the ghost-ships of the lost. I stand tied as a bewildered witness to the weathered mast of miracles.

I ride these waves for such a time as this.

"We're beggars and blighters and ne'er do-well cads...
Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me."