Listening to the Pain

The dilemma with trying to write something every day is that I get so busy and don’t feel like I have anything to offer on some days.  

Some days that I’ve skipped, I’m struggling with my own personal demons and don’t want to think or write about that.  Maybe I should.  I tend to learn better when externally processing what is happening inside of me.  

I read recently that in the future, we’ll be able to alter our thoughts.  If we don’t like a thought, we’ll be able to pluck it out so to speak.  I’m not sure that will be healthy for everyone, especially someone like me.  In general, we (speaking as a middle class westerner) tend to avoid pain and discomfort.  But discomfort and pain have been great motivators in my life. In one example, they propelled me to leave a childhood denomination that was suffocating and crushing at best.

Pain can be a source of wisdom and insight towards changes that need to be made.  But it requires listening and attentiveness, something that I’m not always good at.  

Recently, I’ve endured a few moments of pain.  Some of the incidents have been wake-up calls to hunches I’ve been sensing.  Call them course corrections.  A mentor said not to waste the pain.  I’ll never forget that phrase.  Trying not to waste pain in my current dark night.  

Discovering Mission and Call for our Lives

I’m reading a few books on discernment, specifically because I’m at a place in my life and ministry where I’m asking “God, what is your mission and call for my life.”

I’ve turned to two resources:

“Discernment:  Reading the Signs of Daily life” by Henri Nouwen

“Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus:  Christian Discernment as a Way of Life”, by Larry Warner

Henri Nouwen has reminded me again and again about leaning into the heart of God and his love.  These are the most important as we discern.  The questions can get heavy.  The fears or insecurities of searching for answers can wear on us like heavy towels after a spill.  Refreshment comes as we lay the questions at His feet and ask God to help us know His heart and love.

Nouwen says,

What I tell others who ask these questions, and remind myself with surprising conviction, is this: “God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and to let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.” New vocations are full of promise. Something very important is in store for us. There is a hidden treasure to discover.

Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 99).

It’s that middle line that got me:  “you will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.”  Can I trust that God will reveal it when I need to know it?  That’s my prayer today.

As I think about discernment, call, and knowing the heart of Jesus, two thoughts immediately came to mind.

  1. I’m not someone with all the answers that is present to equip and empower people.  But I hope my words, actions, and life do equip and empower others.
  2. I used to think I needed to have all the answers to people’s questions, mostly so they’d like and admire me.  Now I’m okay to say “I don’t know”.  I have a few answers, but not all.


chaplain roy

Narrative Theology: Understanding the Big Picture

The Bible has a big picture story that is tantamount when trying to understand the small tidbits.  I remember reading a rabbi who said that you could understand the whole of the Bible by reading the first 3 chapters of Genesis.  There’s creation, fall/sin, redemption, and a new thing (renewal, consummation).  These are really big themes and they help when we’re trying to understand the small things.

I’ve needed help trying to wrap my mind around who Jesus is and why He matters.  Some say to keep it simple and maybe it is.  But it doesn’t seem simple to me to ask the questions and seek answers.

I still struggle to understand why Jesus died for our sins; meaning why it took death.  I know all the scriptures and have heard all the statements regarding the topic.  But I still wrestle with why it had to be this way.

NT Wright, a historian and theologian from England, has helped me understand some of the big pictures themes.  I’m currently reading “Simply Jesus:  A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters”.

He’s asking questions like who did Jesus think He was when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey?  Or that in some ways, the current culture is asking, “Who do YOU say that you are, Jesus?”

I grew up in church and I’m still asking, “Are you who they (gospel writers) say you really you are?”  If He is, there are deep implications for this.  For one, the Bible says that sin and death are defeated.  This implies that is some sense, sin and death don’t have the last words in our life.  That implies that you and I are immortal!  Think about that one for a moment.  What this looks like, I’m not completely sure.  But NT Wright keeps saying to look at the resurrected life of Jesus for hints.  It seems Jesus’ body is glorified and He then must ascend to the Father.  I often tell people who are grieving that in my faith tradition, we say that death doesn’t have the final say; that while it hurts to lose our loved ones and that death seems to be winning, it doesn’t have the final say.

As I discern next steps in my calling and ministry work, I’m faced with the question of who Jesus really is.  My calling and ministry work are in some ways forcing me to ask.  If I’m going to continue to devote the rest of my life to following Jesus and helping others follow him (and in some instances, trying to persuade others to follow Jesus), I need to keep digging into this question of who Jesus thought he was.  My life, career, way of being is at stake.

These next few weeks, you’ll see some posts related to the book I’m reading and how it’s impacting my thinking and living.

Creating Through Bad Ideas

Play bad notes and rhythms.

Write bad blogs.

Publish poor podcasts.

Do all the creative stuff you wanna do so that you see what’s good and what isn’t.  Nothing is going to get better unless you’re working through the bad ideas as well.

Create through the bad ideas.  I’ve played drums on about 6 albums.  There are some really bad tracks and moments.  This year, I’m recording a live album.  I’m more confident recording BECAUSE of the previous bad performances.

I’ve posted over 300 blogs.  Many of them aren’t very good.  But they’re getting better and I’m weeding out bad ways of writing, bad themes to focus on, and better ways to frame ideas.

Safety and trust

Working on creating safety and trust primes us for deeper work and living.

We can’t confront others or work towards our goals without any collateral trust building.

We will accomplish more and get our ideas heard when there is trust building.

When meeting new people, I’d propose we listen and build trust first, THEN offer suggestions and observations.

People need to know that you’re for and with them before you inform them.

Longing for Greatness

We have a fire inside of us that longs for greatness.  We want to be special, make a mark in this world, be famous, and do great things.  This is the divine fire inside of us that God has implanted in our depths.

We also have to remember what we’re capable of:  hatred, envy, power mongering, abuse.

Giving expression to the deep longings in us and also recognizing our limitations is hard work.  At times, there is a growing awareness of being in the flow of divine fire, living out of our gifts/talents/passions.  And then without notice, the insipid darkness knocks at the door and reminds us that we less than divine.  A sharp tongue that cuts someone.  An act of impulse that leaves us feeling more lonely and ashamed.  It’s the constant holy tension in life.

We long to be great.  We are made for greatness.  We are also capable of foul play.

How do we reconcile this great and terrible fire?  God has made us and we are most at home with God.  It may not seem like an answer that pleases you and I.  But it might just be why Jesus keeps telling his band of followers to make their home (remain in me) with Him.

Go be great today.  Just remember that ultimately your greatness is rooted in the God who made you.

Forgiveness Friendships

The best thing to do when you realize you’ve made a mistake is say “I’m sorry” and work to make amends. Sometimes it takes a trusted friend to point out the error.

Make friends that will point out errors, and who are willing to sort it out with you as well.

Gentleness and humility create the space for deep living and transformation.

Late Blooming

Late blooming:  a misperception that I’m late to the game.  A thought that I’m learning late or producing late in life.

The point is to keep planting, pruning, tilling the ground, watering the seeds.

You can be a 40 year old drummer and be reaping the harvest of prior playing years, and  just now reaping the harvest.  Bloom!  (the new boom…or not!)

Inspired Effort and True Selves

We don’t ever stop discovering our true selves.  At least we shouldn’t stop the discovery process.  The premise is that as we keep working at life/work/goals, we are discovering new insights about ourselves that are helping us to be more at home with ourselves and in this world.

We don’t want to see a copycat you.  We want to see someone who has wrestled with life to discover their true hiddenness of goodness.

Much of life seems to be a mutual participation with inspired effort and gracious waiting.  We are not to be passive people who just “wait” for something to happen. We have an inner power of consent, to give ourselves over to the process and journey of discovering the true self.

We keep chipping away at the sculpture and discover more details about ourselves.  These insights help us to determine how we spend our time and resources, and what to focus on.  

We keep getting closer and closer to what our gifts and talents are, and how best to use them in the world.  We keep getting closer to insights about what we truly long for (I love music collaboration and creation with others…it’s a great feeling to create something with others).  

So what do you want?  What do you really want?  I bet you it’s not really a new car or house.  It might be nice to have those things. What we really want is buried deep within.  Get a shovel and start digging. The true self is waiting to be found.