There is a brand of ink for fountain pens called Noodler’s Ink that is my very favorite. It writes so smooth and dries quickly. It comes in every color you can imagine, but I always just choose black. And one of my favorite things about this company isn’t just the ink quality, but the fact that the bottle is filled all the way to the very top. Which might not seem like a big deal, but it is striking to me every time I open a new bottle. All the way to the brim! Who does that?Read More
This week we used one of our big trash pickups. We only get a couple of these per year, so it is always wise to make the most of them. We got rid of a couple old pieces of furniture, our worn-out mattress (Thanks Randy Lake for the new one!), and all those various odds and ends that just sort of collect over time. They pile up on the side of our house in all of out of sight corners. Things that we hold on to because we might, one day, need them. And in the meantime, they deteriorate rapidly. They rust and collect spiders. They get covered with a film of dust and disuse. And the clutter does more than just take up useful space. It becomes an eyesore.Read More
We're twenty days into Lent, but for surfers, we’ve been fasting for months. It has seriously been one of the worst winters for California surfers that I can remember. Not only are there no waves, but the anticipated forecast is dismal. It has been flat, and the outlook going forward isn’t getting any better. At least for the next few weeks to come.Read More
I’m a classic over thinker. It shows up any time I stick my neck out there. I worry. I over analyze. And I constantly second guess myself.
And any time I speak out, I regret it. Sometimes for hours afterwards. I feel over extended. Like I foolishly revealed more than I should have.Read More
To guard my heart leaves hers exposed. But hers is the heart I’ve vowed to protect. And when I pour all my strength into protecting her heart, my insecurities shrivel. It awakens in me something deeper and nobler. My heart grows more courageous.Read More
The deepest moments in life happen in heartfelt connection with others, that is almost beyond dispute. But to do so requires courage. Courage to be seen. Courage to lower our guard. To risk rejection. To face the reality of being overlooked.Read More
I’ve always been terrified of sharks. Ever since that fateful night when I was 10 and my friend and I stayed up late, after his parents went to bed, and watched Jaws on HBO. All of us have regrets in life. That night is one of mine. I’ve never totally recovered.Read More
Last Sunday night Patty and I saw U2 at the Rose Bowl. So much has been written in response to this tour, commemorating the 30-year anniversary of the Joshua Tree album. I’ve seen so many Instagram photos from friends at the show. So many fond memories relived. My social media feed has been saturated with this event. I’m sure yours has too.Read More
There’s a song I’ve been listening to by one of my favorite artists, Glen Phillips. It’s called “Nobody’s Gonna Get Hurt” and is about all the lies we tell ourselves. It’s starts with the obvious lie, “the earth is flat” (sorry if that is a spoiler for anyone) and proceeds to much more subtle fallacies, the central one being that we can somehow live life well and avoid getting our hearts broken.Read More
Wow, I can’t believe I made it all the way to 40! When I began this Lenten journey, I had no idea just how strenuous the climb would be. At day 20, I was creatively and emotionally exhausted. I found myself quoting that familiar line from Arrested Development… “I’ve made a huge mistake.”Read More
Today is Good Friday. Today we walk the Via Dolorosa. The way of grief or sorrow. It is the road Jesus walked, through Jerusalem, on his way to the crucifixion.
It is a painful story, filled with such mockery and hatred. It is filled with blood and dirt.
Jesus falls, several times. His burden is too great for him to bear.
But another picks it up…Simon the Cyrene.
He encounters women mourning for him, but all Jesus sees is their suffering. His heart breaks for them.
Jesus sees his mother. He tells John to care for her.
The thief next to him asks for a favor…remember me? Jesus’s response…I will.
As we walk this road, we pause at each of these stations. We reflect. We examine our hearts. Because Jesus is doing more than bearing his cross. He is helping us to carry ours. And as slight and as small as the sliver of cross we bear, it is somehow sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Paul tells us that as we share in his sufferings we share in his glory. Try to wrap your mind around that.
We pause, because otherwise we move too quickly through his pain. And too quickly through our own. We long for the grace of Easter morning. But first we must contemplate the enormity of the cost. Because when we stare into the heart of the crucifixion, we see into the very heart of the creator of the universe. What exists there is a purity of love so deep that it would give up everything for the ones He loves. For you.
There is a wonderful moment in John’s gospel before Jesus feeds the 5000. “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”
Jesus is always teaching. Always demonstrating. Not just walking on water Himself, but welcoming us outside of the boat.
In Mat. 16 Jesus tells his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
Tonight, we join Jesus on the road of suffering. And we realize that he is doing more than bearing our burden for us. He is teaching us how to carry our own. And as we do, He is speaking those words of encouragement we need so desperately. “You can do this.” “I’m with you.” “Just a little further.”
As we pause, we let the words sink deep into our hearts. They transform our burdens from unbearable weight to light and momentary affliction. And we fix our eyes ahead. To the joy set before us. And we carry on.
Today is our anniversary, babe! Can you believe it? We’re seventeen, which means our marriage is almost old enough to vote.
I look at that picture from our wedding day and can’t believe how young we were! We were just kids! Our whole lives were before us. Everything was just beginning. We were only just getting started.
I remember, in those days, we were both discovering so many new things about ourselves. So much of my life was centered around leadership and ministry. So much of yours around spirituality and new identity. In many ways, we fell in love with each other’s potential. How could we not? We were changing and growing every day. And together we just continued in that stream, redefining who we were, and shaping where we wanted to go.
Laguna Beach instead of L.A. Small church over large. The decision to have a family. You deciding to stay home and figuring out how to be a mom. Me juggling work and family and learning how to be a dad. So many changes have happened between now and then. And yet, somehow, things are still very much the same.
At middle age, we are both still discovering new things about ourselves. But one of the main ones is the discovery that we haven’t really changed as much as we thought. The minister’s wife/stay at home mom is still actually the cheerleader/athlete who loves to dance and perform, and is a phenomenal coach! And me, well, I’m still that nerdy kid that loved books and D&D. All the surfing, guitar playing, and good music in my life never seem to alter the fact that I’m still a geek at heart.
Which means our life is very much like a John Hugh’s movie, and I’m the awkward Michael Anthony Hall character who somehow, someway, ends up with the gorgeous Molly Ringwald. How in the world did I get so lucky?
When you first choose your spouse, it is for all the reasons they are the perfect fit. At least that is what we think. But that is just the small part of ourselves we’re consciously aware of. The things we find immediately attractive, as opposed to the deeper questions of what we really need. When you get to midlife, that top ten list is no longer front and center. In fact, it is probably buried away somewhere in a drawer.
What we have instead is so much reality. Who we truly are. All the ways we fit, yes, but also all the ways we don’t. But both of those lists have become practically irrelevant. Because what we have is seventeen years. Seventeen years of intimacy, vulnerability, struggles, frustrations, dreams, defeats, victories, losses, embarrassments, and moments of glory. And we have three little ones that aren’t so little anymore, who have added all their complexities to the mix.
Who I am and who you are has become inseparable. We really are one. And as you continue to grow, and flourish, and become more of who you are, then so do I. And I love who you are becoming and therefore, who we are becoming. It is so familiar, and yet so brand new. It includes more of who we were, and yet continues to expand into new territory.
I love you, not because you somehow complete me. I love you because you and I no longer come apart. I love us. As both of us step into new areas filled with new fears and insecurities, you are the one I want to go there with. I love you so much! Can’t wait for the next seventeen.
Are you familiar with the MBTI? The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator? For those of you that aren’t, this is referring to a test created around Carl Jung’s four principal psychological functions. For each letter there is actually a pair…I or E, N or S, T or F, and P or J. When you take the test, you’re scored somewhere on the spectrum between poles and then assigned the letter you’re strongest in. The four letter sequence places you within one of 16 different personality categories.
I’m an INXP.
Now, if you were paying attention, you’ll notice a little hiccup in my third category. The T or the F is replaced by an X. This refers to the spectrum between thinking and feeling. The X means I land right smack in the middle of the two. At least I did at first. It has changed a few times since then.
Some would say that an X means the test isn’t working. In other words, I’m emotionally confused. They might be right.
I’ve always struggled with the role of emotions in my life. My dad is an engineer, which means he’s almost entirely a T or thinker. In our discussions, it wasn’t that emotions weren’t validated. But when push came to shove, they were best checked at the door. Because emotions are messy. Feelings can change, sometimes dramatically. A decision based on feelings was risky. Potentially even dangerous.
So, I’ve done my best to act like a thinker. I pursued engineering for several years before reluctantly admitting I found most of it uninteresting. I then pursued analytic philosophy, because that fit with the part of me that loves to ask why. But I always felt as if I was playing a part. I could handle the conceptual physics or the philosophy of mind, but, in the end, I was driven more by the deeper questions of meaning and identity. I was drawn more to the mystics. The Kierkegaard’s and the Dostoevsky’s. The ones with angst.
Because there is an emotional side of me that has been dying to get out. It first started showing up as physical pain in my shoulders. It was as if my emotional sensors weren’t working. I lacked the emotional intelligence and language to even identify the feelings I was having. That is until they starting creating enough pain that I couldn’t ignore them any longer.
I started seeing a spiritual director, and it has saved me from a downward spiral that I couldn’t get out of myself. My early sessions were remedial. I don’t know if you’ve seen “feeling flashcards” or the page of different facial expressions that help you choose the emotion you’re experiencing? Those saved me. It is amazing the power of naming feelings. Jealousy. Resentment. Anger. Fear. I’m sure it was like coaching a first grader. But slowly I began to not only recognize my emotions, but to experience them. Not to stuff them or avoid them, but to remain in them.
Because, if you don’t recognize them, they have so much power and control. They possess you, not the other way around. But to see them, to notice them, and to name them, allows them to pass on by.
And as they do, I find I experience a depth of living that I was missing out on. Controlling emotions is certainly valuable at times, but avoiding the hard ones means you’re also missing out on the good ones. Ignoring the hurts means also losing out on the joys. Feeling others’ pain allows you to enjoy their pleasure.
And what I’ve found is that the parts of myself that have atrophied are getting stronger and stronger. It makes me a better husband and father. It makes me a better friend and pastor. It makes me a better Jeff. Because I’m actually an INFP. There, I said it. And while this means I’ll probably never be the best scientist or academic philosopher, it does make me a pretty good pastor and contemplative.
And with it, the pain has almost entirely left my shoulders. It comes back every once in a while. But when it does, I identify it. I name it. I allow it to pass through. And, as a result, I stand straighter. More confident. More my true self.