Archive for the ‘Identity’ Category

“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

– Ecclesiastes

This week, a new chapter has begun for me as I started a new job.

Now in this economy, this is certainly good news for anyone. But it’s much more than this for me.

Eight years ago this month, I walked away from the stability of a job and way of life that while good in many ways, in other ways had also become tired and stale, and badly in need of some renovation. Now for some, such talk may sound the onset of a midlife crisis. But in this case, rather than running from something, I felt I was running to something—a chance to get my life back. And the previous year had made clear to me I was to do so by leaving behind all that I knew for a season of rest and soul recovery off the grid.

So selling all my furniture, I moved out of the nice home I owned then in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and embarked on what would be a one-year traveling sabbatical around the world.

The day I left November snows were blowing, the kind that were readying the high country for the beginning of ski season in just over a week. Two days later, I awoke in my hotel room to the sounds and smells of paradise, on an island deep in the heart of the South Pacific. And so a new journey had begun.

Just like the experience of my sabbatical was for me, we all have a need for rest. But I’m talking about more than mere vacation, or taking time to relax on the weekend. No; what I’m thinking of has more to do with the idea of a season or space in our lives that is spacious and abundant. Where everything seems to fit together in such a way that deep inside you know things are as they were meant to be. Everything is as it needs to be. And you hope that it never ends.

It finds its expression in the old Hebrew word shalom. Yet, as much as we were made for something like this, and need it, it seems to be the case that it is not something that we can easily arrange for, but rather something that we are brought into now and again—as life also has a way of doling out times and seasons that seem to care not whether a sense of shalom is part of the equation.

My year brought forth shalom in ways that have changed me forever. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe sometimes. Not just the things that I was doing and what I was experiencing during this year. But the way in which it came together, as there is story upon story of one door after another opening to make this thing happen, and much of it without trying very hard.

And then there have been the seven years since, which have largely been anything but this. Very difficult in many ways, where conversely to the time leading up to and during my sabbatical, there is a lot that did not come together as I would have hoped, even when making what I thought were the next right steps. By and large, it has been a season spent outside of shalom.

In saying this, I don’t want to say that these last few years have been without meaning or significance. Far from it. For one thing, during the sabbatical, I realized that I am an artist, and I have remained committed to living out of that ethos, even if not always so well, in the time since, putting my values into action.

And just as light and hope came to restore me during a golden season, periods of darkness in the time since have helped to refine what began in that journey. I bring two snapshots from this interim period which capture this.

From a blog entry, November 2006:

I tell myself often as I’m about to arise from my bed, when finally disrupting those few moments of waking pensiveness leading up to that choice, “Get back on your horse and ride, B.” I say this to myself in a spirit of compassion, because many days I feel that the cost to living in a way that seeks to connect my inner life to my outer life seems too much to bear. Lives lived as journeys are often cases of love in a dangerous time, or life on the run, much in the way that the fugitive David fled from the murderous Saul in the years that would eventually open to a triumphal entry into Jerusalem as king. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58, NIV).

The only thing that keeps me going some days is a defiant choice to be creative—even if in small ways—to honor my inner architecture… And when I do this, I get a temporary resuscitation of heart. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12, NIV). This is no mission for pew-sitters or preaching-to-the-choir types. It is the call to be a “living sacrifice,” not according “to the pattern of this world,” but in a true “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12: 1-2, NIV). The dangerous life of a pilgrim radical.

From a July 2009 journal entry:

I am different. Feel different. Changed. Defiant—but not some punk-ass sniveling cause. More like “furious indifference”—released unto my true strength—even if I soon slip back into some sort of amnesia. A strength that curiously enough—it seems I had to go to hell and back before I found it, knocking on death’s door, alone in a big cold city where I knew few people… But more curiously still, it is the place that God found me—and I found myself—through “the darkness that introduces a man to himself.” Alone but not lonely… And grateful.

* * *

I intentionally stepped away for a season. I followed this by a return to grad school, exiting right as this recession we’ve been weathering began. So much of what I’ve wanted to do has not been possible for more than short doses, if at all, due to the fact that like many, I have found my wings clipped. And my recession began well before this, because face it, almost everyone’s living tight when they’re in school.

So fast forward to the present. After a long, long period of undulating unemployment or underemployment, and then precious few promising opportunities coming my way, just over three weeks ago, I simultaneously had four promising job opportunities come my way, and all of them connected to core passions and long-term vision. And as I begin one of those positions this week, I’m a bit floored to see how things are beginning to come together again, not just for the needed provision of the job itself, but how I see it setting me up for success in other areas.

When God rains, He pours.

There’s just something sweet about a taste of redemption and freedom that is made all the more so in proportion to the struggle and suffering we experience on the road to get there.

Shalom, Y’all.

The Best Scene from One of the Greatest Films Ever


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I was having coffee at Starbucks today with my friend, Jack, when our conversation turned to the topic of real authenticity vs. fake authenticity. Or real transparency vs. fake transparency.

We had been discussing the need for a connecting of your words with your story at an emotional level in order for them to carry weight (not being emotional per se). The difference between being real and merely trying to be impressive, or detached.

How many people do you know who can be quite eloquent and charming, making you think they are so… well, authentic? And yet, they know how to work it, “turn it on” as needed, without really thinking or feeling.

I suppose this has something in common with many politicians and celebrities who love to be in front of people; though that’s not who I have in mind. I’m thinking of those who know how to sound real, maybe even have carved out a perception of themselves as being like this, as an identity that they prize. And maybe they have been like this at some point in their lives. But along the way, it becomes rather easy for them to put forth this persona—which, while maybe impressive to others—isn’t trying all that hard for them, and never gets to the core of where they experience life. It never allows others to really know them either, or themselves to be impacted and transformed by others. In truth, it can be BS, or some other general spinning of one’s wheels in matters of being human.

Authenticity is so in nowadays. Everybody talks about it. “He’s one of a kind.” Or, “She’s so real.” It can be very refreshing, even disruptive, when experienced.

But how often is what passes for “being authentic” truly so? I’m not against the term. I think there’s a reason it’s popular. Yet it seems it’s in danger of being hijacked as just another buzzword that loses its meaning and power over time, all those tangible and intangible things that make up what it means to be real.

… Maybe there’s a reason why the real deal seems so hard to come by.

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The Broken Truth

I’m no poet. But sometimes I will do something like this in response to a creative writing prompt for my Morning Pages…

“The Broken Truth”

Where do the broken places go,

When all hope seems removed?

Pushed beyond rightful limit,

To a life in exile,

Yet always hoping for return.

But stubbornly stealing through dark shadows

Of time and circumstance until someone says,

“Come out of there.”


Where do the broken places go,

When the world they knew no longer exists?

And a return represents a start over,

More frightening than hopeful.

When all’s not right with the world.

Where “new” means from the ground up,

Not just some cosmetic touch.


Fitting that the ground would be broken

For this new thing to take place.

I guess that’s how it naturally happens,

I just never knew it would hurt so much.


So I’m looking around and beginning to wonder

At the life taking shape—

How it looks different than the one I once imagined,

And how the “how” of change does, too.

But that’s not all bad.

It’s just a view from a far different place,

With a far different feel than the map I was given.

Like some “Greetings from the Grand Canyon” postcard

That—while inspiring—does little to tell the true story.


So where do the broken places go

(Because they do have to go somewhere)?

They can either stay stuck, imprisoning their holders

To years of chaos and woe,

Or… they can be found, looked at, and invited in,

Actions that are grounding—and make a soul.

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