Death’s Dealings

(circa 2013)

I felt a tremor but my eyes grew heavy that night.

And a voice whispered words never heard,

the darkness overcoming.

 

I belonged no where for the briefest of moments.

It was like the light went out inside my skin,

I was there alone.

 

A grey haze enveloping the tranquil scene that was painted for me.

A force not identified but described by only the shaft of shadow it left.

A sudden loss of all.

 

Is this how you felt my love being left to hang in place?

Were you scared like I was that night looking for the faintest hint of light?

All darkness taking your life.

 

I caught a glimpse of who I must become in a split second.

I heard the sound of death and his glaring grin at my light.

I turned around with tears.

 

The light beams into the darkness, and the darkness is shattered

like death was the moment it felt the most secure in all its dealings.

I am never alone.

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I Come Apart…

Two years ago I wrote a song. Its a song that speaks to the perpetual violence the world creates. It speaks to the humanity in us all. And it speaks to the black hole that is violence. I felt it appropriate to share the lyrics.

 

“Its not that I seem to be out of my mind. Its the apathy that I see deep in your eyes. Put your guns away child. Youre never the same as the darkness that creeps in around you to play.

Theres a voice standing tall crying back to the way of our fathers who’s fires were burning the same as the lonliest evening brings chill and the rain. Where the lovers lost all of their bloody remains.

 

You sing, ‘I come apart. I come apart. I come apart when you fade into the dark…’

You’d love to find peace, and youd love to find more. But the end needs the means like a wind needs a storm. There were moments when life set sail with a course over all of the others that founded the shores. They sing…

I come apart. I come apart. I come apart when you fade into the dark…”

 

Election Season 

I want to take a moment and introduce Evan on this blog. He is a very close of mine and we’ve been talking for a while about having him start to blog here. Evan lives in Paraguay with his wife. He is currently a two time defending all county beard growing champion… Not really. I don’t there is such a thing… Yet. 

Anyway, here’s his post I hope you guys enjoy.  

Ah, election season is upon us once again in the good old United States of America, and I have the special opportunity for the second time in my life to be outside the U.S. for all of the campaigning and debates. I am thankful for these opportunities, as it gives me an opportunity to step back and see from afar the things that we get so wrapped up in during the election season. It’s also given me perspective on how other countries are run and the way they operate, either in good ways or bad. But also, the distance has allowed me to step back from the drama and really see things, and that has allowed Jesus to really tug at my heart during this new season of presidential campaigning. Jesus has showed me a few things, and I wanted to share them in regards to how we act, and what is important to us, as Christians, as we head in to this election season. 

Being outside the U.S. for a total of three and a half years now, I have a really unique perspective on being an immigrant, granted I am from the U.S., so I will have more opportunities than most other immigrants from around the world. But even so, I have seen a little of their perspective, and been able to relate to them in however a small scale it may be. I am very thankful for the generosity that I have received from the locals, even though I am an outsider. They have treated me with kindness and warmth, even though I don’t know their culture or language.

 

They have treated me with the kind of hospitality I think any immigrant or foreigner would like to be treated with. In fact, their warmth has felt very similar to how Jesus told us to treat foreigners:

 

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

 

“…I was a stranger and you welcomed me”

 

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

 

“‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the immigrant, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.”

 

And those most convicting part is that Jesus didn’t give us any modifiers for this. He didn’t say these things, and then say, “unless they came illegally, brought illegal drugs, or take our money from us.” No, he said these things without condition.

 

One of the most convicting passages that speak to issues that are coming up in debates are the beatitudes found in Matthew 5. There is says, “Blessed are the poor.” Now the interesting thing here is that the Greek verbs for the word “bless” means “to speak well of, to act well towards.” In other words, instead of the often times interpreted meaning of those blessings from heaven, its actually coming from us in an attempt to bring heaven to earth in that situation. And again, Jesus doesn’t give any qualifiers with this command. He doesn’t say, “Unless it means I pay more tax, or they don’t deserve it, or they are lazy.” No, Jesus tells us to do these things in a display of His Kingdom, and in return a way to share Jesus with others.

 

The other unique perspective I have gained from being outside the states is the overwhelming addiction to violence in the states. One of my first interactions with a Paraguayan, I asked him what he thought of the states and he said, “They are war loving, violence loving people who like to control the world.” Now, they said many good things about it, but this stuck out to me the most. You see, Paraguay has its share of violence like any other country, but they are heavily influenced here by the Mennonites who fled from Germany during the Second World War. The reason they fled is because they are pacifist, meaning they do not believe in violence of any sort, and oppositely, they are pro-life.

 

The interesting thing here though, is that they aren’t just pro-life in the womb, they are pro-life to the tomb as well, meaning not just protecting the unborn, but also the born. This has been eye opening to me, as well as Jesus showing me his value of life as well. I believe the Mennonites are correct in this view. We shouldn’t be fighting for just the unborn, but also people already born who need protecting. We need to protect the innocent ones who are being killed every day by gun violence. We need to protect the felons who are on death row. Why? Because Jesus teaches that there is no person in life who is without tremendous value, no person who is beyond redemption. There is always the chance of them seeing Jesus, and we need to take that chance.

 

I’m very thankful for this opportunity to live outside the states and allow Jesus to teach me things through it. It’s convicted me that if we are to call ourselves Christian’s, we need Him to influence every part of our lives, even our politics. I know it’s not fair, but no one ever said the world would be, so why do we expect it. It’s time we line Jesus’ teachings up with how we view the world around us, instead of letting our greed and self-preserving instincts control our world. As Christians, we are to be fighting for the immigrant, fighting for more strict gun laws to preserve life, fight for peace because Jesus calls them blessed, and fight for the preservation of all life, whether unborn or born, because right now it seems an awful lot like the majority of Christians support, “Human life only holds value until you take it out of the package, and then it’s worth nothing.”

 

 

 

 

God Was In Aylan Kurdi. Where Were We?

This post will not be well written. I’m really not writing that way this morning. I am struck. Yesterday the body of a small refugee boy washed up on the shores of Turkey. A family simply looking for a safe place to rest their heads. Which lead to the drowning of a mother and two little boys. The father was the only one to survive. The picture of this child has been circulated while more and more is coming out about this family. Where they came from, where they were going, and the places that sent them away.  This image is obviously shocking. I have two nieces that were these boys’ age. I have a nephew who’s five, (the age of the brother who also drown.) He just started kindergarten. This child was one of them.

I look at this child’s body. I see the clothes his mother or father dressed him in. I wonder what his favorite song was. I wonder if his mother sang to him before he went to sleep. Did he have a favorite story he liked to hear? Did he have a favorite stuffed animal he kept close? What did he want to do when he was grown? What kind of games did he like to play with his friends?

I am struck to my core by the image of this child and his family’s story. A family like yours and mine fleeing violence, looking for a place to rest their heads. Why did this happen? That is a loaded question. One I don’t feel like even starting to answer. Right now I just want to mourn. I want to weep. I want sing. I want to write. I want to hold my nieces and nephew close. I want the people who start fires over Planned Parenthood videos to start a fire over this. These are real children living with real consequences of western foreign policy and immigration laws. Why are we treating refugees with such distain and contempt? Where are the voices for the voiceless?

Jesus of Nazareth said, “when you refuse to help the least of these, you refuse to help me.” Where was god the day this little boy drown? He was this little boy. Take a moment and let that sink in. Of all the things we can do today, offering mercy and grace to those living in constant violence and seeking refuge might be the greatest. YHWH is near the broken and the oppressed. So don’t avert your eyes when you see this picture or this story. Look, and let it pierce you. That is where your god is. He is in the slums, he is in the migrant boats, he is child lying in bed at night listening to the sound of bombs, he is the mother and father moving their family to safer places, he is Aylan Kurdi the child who washed ashore in Turkey. Whatever we do or don’t do for these, we do and don’t do for Jesus.CN5VtdsUsAAr02T stream_img

All Death’s Dealings

I’ve been going through some of my old poems and a few stood out to me that I thought I’d share. This one speaks of the bitterness and cynicism that can fester in our world when we only see the darkness and despair. Realism is great and very necessary but if we aren’t careful we can become brutalists trapped in the spiral of never ending despair.

I felt a tremor but my eyes grew heavy that night.

And a voice whispered words never heard,

the darkness overcoming.

I belonged no where for the briefest of moments.

It was like the light went out inside my skin,

I was there alone.

A grey haze enveloping the tranquil scene that was painted for me.

A force not identified but described by only the shaft of shadow it left.

A sudden loss of all.

Is this how you felt my love being left to hang in place?

Were you scared like I was that night looking for the faintest hint of light?

All darkness taking your life.

I caught a glimpse of who I must become in a split second.

I heard the sound of death and his glaring grin at my light.

I turned around with tears.

The light beams into the darkness, and the darkness is shattered

like death was the moment it felt the most secure in all its dealings.

I am never alone.

Grá (love)

It’s Ok To Be Sad or Blessed Are The Ones Who Mourn…

One of my favorite records is from a band called Brand New. The album is called ‘The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.’ I remember when this album came out back in 2006 I saw Brand New play at UVA where they tried out a few new songs from the record. It blew us all away because it was such a different sound from their previous work. Devil and God is an album about as deep as anything I have ever listened to. It deals with death, the after life, questions of evil and good, questions of meaning in the face of senseless acts of violence, and the biggest question of all, is there redemption for humanity after we’ve done all we’ve done? In many ways it would be like Rust from season 1 of True Detective putting an album together of existential thought… ok maybe not that dark. Anyway, there’s a song on this album called “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” that tells the story of a little girl killed at the age of seven. I can’t recall her name but she was a flower girl in her aunt’s wedding on the day she was killed. The family was riding in a Limousine when a drunk driver started driving the wrong way down the highway. When the drunk driver hit the Limo the little girl was decapitated. She was only seven years old. This song starts out with the words,

“Get your petals out and lay them in the aisle
Pretend your garden grows and it’s your day to wed.
We found your man, he’s drinking up, he’s all-American…”

It’s a haunting opening and it breaks my heart to read the words. Toward the end of the song it builds into this massive wailing like I’ve never heard in a song before. He repeats this line from the perspective of the family while counting up to her age, seven. I would encourage you all to listen to this entire record but if you listen to one song listen to this one. I’ve linked the song in this post at the bottom. At least get to the 3:15 marker where it builds. This is a song thats worth your time.

” Well I love you so much, but do me a favor baby, don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
One’ll love you so much, but do me a favor baby, don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Two’ll love you so much, but do me a favor baby, don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Three’ll love you so much, but do me a favor, baby don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Four’ll love you so much, but do me a favor, baby don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Five’ll will love you so much, but do me a favor, baby don’t reply,
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Six’ll love you so much, but do me a favor, baby don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.
(never again)
Seven loves you so much, but do me a favor, baby don’t reply.
Because I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.”

We live in a society that doesn’t value the process of mourning. We don’t do ‘sad’ very well at all. When we do feel pain or empathy toward a person in pain we often has the instinct to move forward as quickly as possible without allowing the pain to seep into being, baring the pain of others. We want people to be happy and for our realities to go back to the status quo they were at before so-and-so got sick or before my friend’s daughter was killed. This is an understandable reaction.  Who wants to be sad or who wants to cry? Who wants to feel pain? No one. Which is what makes this next sentence so outrageous. “Blessings on the ones who mourn, they will be comforted.” Jesus actually pronounces a blessing on the people who are currently mourning and in pain. His entire life is spent among those very people. He actually breaks down over the death of one of his close friends to such an extent that hes actually angered at the injustice that is death. This is a man who is very familiar with pain and mourning. And he says you are blessed when you mourn. We should note how ancient Jewish culture would mourn. It was a very big deal. This is where the sackcloth and ashes thing comes from. Often a person would shave their head. It was an event. They wouldn’t just have a funeral and scatter ashes. In our society of ‘he’s in a better place’ we have no real category for the mourners of old. Death doesn’t need to be quietly ushered aside as though it were a natural occurrence. N.T. Wright speak of death as containing the very sorrow of god over the way his creation has split. The creator is very present in the moments of death and this creator mourns with his creation. The truth is that we need to allow ourselves to mourn better than we do especially when we follow a god who allows himself this mourning. This doesn’t mean we escape into a sense of delusional bleakness that coats our reality. We can mourn and allow pain to penetrate us while fully retaining the hope of Life itself. I’ll touch more on that hope later because I really want this to sink in, “blessed are those who mourn,” because this is what god is like.

Seriously watch this video… do it, do it now!

Introductions

By the time you get through setting up a blog I feel like you end up losing whatever you had originally intended to say. Maybe I’m just really impatient when I have an inspiring moment of thought. Maybe I just hate having to sit here for twenty minutes trying to figure out a cool name for a blog only to find out someone has already taken that name. Anyway, here I am again. A new blog. This is probably my tenth blog over the past ten years. Yikes, one every ten years…. And good lord ten years…

People are constantly telling me I should blog. Whether its people who are generally annoyed by my Facebook posts and want me to flesh out my thoughts more or people who enjoy my Facebook or twitter posts and want me to flesh my thoughts out more I think the point is I need to flesh my thoughts out more. Let me be honest, I do not do self promotion very well at all and I can’t stand bandwagons. Both of which are intricately attached to blogs today. They are both ‘cool’ and self promoting to an extent. I’ll try and get over this as much as I can. You know that line from Garden State where the character Sam says, “Do you know what I do when I feel completely unoriginal? I make a noise, or I do something that no one has ever done before. And then I can feel unique again, even if it’s only for a second.” (clip inserted into this post) That pretty much sums up how I feel when I realize I am jumping on a bandwagon or getting into a trend. Yeah yeah yeah insert line about millennials needing to feel unique… and I know its completely reactionary but its honestly just how I feel in those moments. Whether I act on it or not. Side note, I did jump on the beanie bandwagon a couple years ago when that was a thing… I don’t think I pulled it off all that well.

So this is it. This is my blog. Hopefully the last blog I’ll ever have or ever need. I like talking about social issues, comic books, religion, philosophy, and music and art. If this interests you, awesome. If not, its ok. Again I don’t self promote very well so you’ll likely not give this a second thought. I’m going to try and commit to writing at least once a week. If you have followed me on facebook and the ever rising tide of controversy that seems to follow my thoughts, please contact me and let me know if there’s anything you want to discuss. That’s the other thing, I’d like to dialogue more on this blog than simply talk.
Grá (love),

Dan