Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Lessons in Landscaping, or Miracles in Mud

I've been feeling a bit numb, and a bit down in general lately. I think it's mostly just travel-withdrawal, so I haven't let it bother me too much. There's been moments of really cool revelation, and moments of trudgery in being "home", but in general it's just been kind of a slow winding-down. I like to think I'm gradually decompressing in the context of good family-time and good Homeboy-time out in the field doing my landscaping.

The other day I was cleaning up some newly planted trees, ankle deep in mud soup in the rain. It was a pretty crummy day for work, but I really wanted to get this job done before leaving for Grandma's farm for Thanksgiving. I was complaining my butt off to Homeboy about the job, the place I'm in, the stagnancy, the finances, blah blah blah blah blah, and really just saying If you love me, prove it. I'm such a whiny baby sometimes. What do I do, God? What am I here for? Where are you taking me?

After a while, he was like Beau, you already know this one. Start singing my name and worshipping, man. That's why I made you. So I started off just organizing ideas for some arrangements as I went about my work. Not much else to do out there anyway. I started singing How He Loves by John Mark McMillan, which brought me back to this story. Please watch at least the first portion where John explains the origin of the song.

As I played this out in my head I just started CRYING and CRYING and CRYING, and singing through the verses, letting them hit me in light of where it came from, and in light of my OWN seasons of mourning, and God was totally just ripping off the hard crusty stuff that has caked on in the last few months -- the stuff that builds up over the life he puts in us.

I was clearing this muddy soupy dirt off of the grass around the trees, and I was like FLETCH NO, I will not let you cover over my RIGHTEOUSNESS. I will NOT let you bury this life born into me with your displacement, lies, and bull. It came at too great a cost, and in Jesus' name, GET OFF. I began to ask God for help to keep me RAW, to keep tilling and hoeing and keep me muddy and messy and just please please please don't let me get too far away.

I feel like I sort of lost consciousness in this place for a while and started seeing myself in the heavens, worshipping and singing and shouting to armies marching forward. He told me somewhere in there that I already know the next step. I know who I am and why I was made, and I don't need to worry about the details of the hows and whens and wheres. I just need to start living it. NOW. He said NOW, and I just kind of snapped back to real life. Surprised, I was almost done with the trees and it was some 3 hours later. I couldn't even feel my arthritic hand, and the job was very nearly done.

The next day I was listening to Thrice on my iPod while finishing another job at South Haven Baptist Church. I paused the music to take a call, and when I turned it back on, it was somehow, inexplicably on a Bill Johnson message called He Tore The Heavens Open that just totally affirmed everything - the whole message from the day before. Entirely. Specifically. This is perplexing, because I don't even have this message in my iTunes. I'm sure Phil snuck it onto my iPod during our travels a few months ago. I've said it before, but God is totally in my iPod.

As I was packing up to leave, I walked across the parking lot with a shovel in one hand, the other hand in the air. I guess I was kind of shouting and actually feeling Heaven open up and invade the neighborhood, even while the people were probably peaking out their windows looking at me like I'm some freako, screaming with my hands in the air. Then some dude in a Jeep Wrangler and offered me a red Slushee from QuickTrip. Of course I said yes. I don't think I've ever bought myself a red Slushee before in my life, but it was SOOO GOOD. He turned out to be the youth pastor of the church, just showing hospitality to the landscape guy. We got to talking and he's having me visit his youth group later this month to share stories. Goes to show - when I conscientiously rest in God's goodness, he's pretty quick to give me opportunities to share it with others.

So, that's all fine and good. But here's what I think it means practically for me over the next few months. I think I'm going to record some of the mashups I've concieved over the last year (i.e. Three Little Birds/I Have Decided and Shallow Grave/How He Loves). STOKED about this. These songs really breathed life into my walk and into my traveling community over the last 9 months. I also hope to flesh out some of the stuff I've written on the road. I've started doing research for a good School of Worship through YWAM sometime over the next year. I've been really resistant to the idea of returning to YWAM, but I now think it would be a great way to get over my baggage about not trusting people and not liking corporate settings, and to get over thinking I'm no good. I want to get over all my crap, because that's all it is, really. And you're supposed to leave your crap in the toilet, flush it and walk away. I don't want to carry my spiritual catheter around anymore.

When it comes down to it, there's certain things about worship that I need a lot of work on. Like being able to do it, and being able to lead it, and letting it be a celebration and a declaration of God's goodness instead of just a groaning in our human depravity. It can start there, but again, I can be such a whiny baby sometimes. So I'm just approaching the possibility of another school as a natural way to walk towards my identity as a worshipper. I've not entertained the idea until now because A) it just seemed too logical to be legit and B) It would require me to leave my catheter behind, and that will undoubtedly require some uncomfortable soul-work.

My buddy Mark Parker talked about communication from the Holy Spirit in an interesting manner. He kind of made this weird gesture where he kept placing the palm of one hand on his head. He'd push it off with his other hand, but it would come back and rest gently on his head again like some strange, heat-seeking alien octopus. His point was that ideas from God can keep returning to your consciousness. They rest gently and return every time you refuse them.

I guess that's kind of how I feel about this idea of getting back into the YWAM paradigm. The few struggles I've had within their ministry structure have mostly just resulted in clarifying and rehabbing my own insecurities. And frankly, I believe my buddies and former leaders when they say there's no better way to go deeper in Christ than to continue down the road of discipleship.

In a lot of ways, this step is similar to my decision to leave my home, belongings, and the life I knew and loved in Nashville a year ago. I'm in the early stages of setting off on a new and uncertain adventure. It will require logistical and financial support that I can't provide for myself. Essentially, I have no ability to do this without God's direct involvement. Last year I was an anxious, apprehensive, tightly-wound basket case. This year I feel pretty well resigned and confident. I think it's his will. Ask me if it's happened a year from now, and I'll be able to tell you for sure.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Lessons in Landscaping, or Coming Home

I've had discussions with several people lately on the peculiar pressures of coming "home," especially from a long and rather intense season of travel. I wound up compiling my thoughts in a letter to a friend going through a similar transition the other day. It's a pretty good depiction of my current headspace, so I thought I'd share. Here's an excerpt:

Here's what I decided on Friday. Every place you've ever spent a worthy chunk of time, you leave a "you-shaped hole." It is precisely the same size and shape as the perception you left on those closest to you at that time, and your own perception of your role in that particular environment (+/-, of course, a margin for exaggeration and forgetfulness). The thing with wandering types is, we change and grow much during our exploits on the road, often not even able to keep up with our own internal progress. Upon returning to places once familiar, a natural gravity tries to pull you directly back into the vacuum left at your departure. It's awkward, and at times a bit painful, because you just don't fit anymore.

This was causing me some anxiety until the revelation that this gravity isn't real. We're citizens of the Heavenlies, free to traipse above the grasp of perceptions, fears, limitations, societal and relational constructs, and our own dogma. We're free to dream the biggest dreams we can and set them into action, and God is on our side. He likes creators, because he is one. So I'm trying more and more to divorce myself from the mundane, even as life begins to take on forms that look more familiar. I'm making lists of things I know about myself, and other lists of things I want to know about myself and the world around me. I'm making lists of things that change and things that remain. And I'm trying to see this old, familiar world through eyes that I know are new, finding new ways to bless the world around me as I soak it in to new depths.

The other thing hampering me has been the horrible always-present question, "What's Next?" And nobody wants to know more than me. Especially seeing as I've been spending my time this last week picking up odd landscaping jobs, doing the exact same things I did at my first job when I was just 14. It's humbling, and generally I think humbling things are good things. It's given me plenty of time to think and then worry and eventually remember to pray and then still ample time left over to do nothing but wait on answers. And knee-deep in mud with an aching back is a pretty good place to get revelation.

A number of my favourite people point out the relationship between the natural/physical and the spiritual, so I try to tread lightly with open eyes. Yesterday, Todd (the guy paying me to plant trees) was telling me why he's not too crazy about the type of tree we were putting in the ground. Todd said, "They grow really fast. But, they tend to forget which is their main trunk and split off in other directions. They get really unruly and hard to maintain."

It's rare that I'm hit immediately by the weight of statements concerning the growth of trees, but this was one such occasion. I felt like God was saying "I don't want you to be an unruly Red Maple. I want you to be a freaking ginormous Redwood. But that takes TIME. I've torn you up a bit. CHILL OUT. Let this stuff sink in and settle. Then the growing can happen straight and strong and purposeful."

I'm left in a peculiar tension between chapters. And I guess that's good. The pull of what's to come may keep me from getting too settled, while the warmth of the familiar could keep me from rushing ahead. So, until further notice I will remain planless, phoneless, content, and available for hire.

See also: Galations 5:5 "But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope."

Friday, November 6, 2009


I had this on my heart the morning I left the States 8 1/2 months ago. I awoke early from a unlikely restful slumber on the love seat of my friend Lucy's Los Angeles apartment, and scribbled this like an exhale, as if I'd memorized it in a dreamscape conversation with God himself. It remains one of my favourite pieces.
Dear Church,
You do not own God.

Dear Islam,
You do not own God.

Dear Hinduism,
You do not own God.

Dear Judaism,
You do not own God.

Dear Science,
You do not own God.

Dear Philosophy,
You do not own God.

Dear Atheism,
You do not own God.

Dear Reason,
You do not own God.

Dear Law,
You do not own God.

Dear Learnedness,
You do not own God.

Dear Simplicity,
You do not own God.

Dear Commerce,
You do not own God.

Dear Service,
You do not own God.

Dear Vengeance,
You do not own God.

Dear Hate,
You do not own God.

Dear Love,
You do not own God.

Dear Existence,
You do not own God.

Dear Life & Death,
You do not own God.

Dear Heaven & Hell,
You do not own God.

Dear Truth,
You do not own God.

What thing for which man has a name
Could be vast enough to contain
The one who stood 'for everything
Who spake the sun to shine in flame
Who spake pure life from dust & rain
Spake dust & rain from stars he's slain
Who groans in planetary strain
Who whispers throughout everything
From whom all truth originates
Whose wisdom gifts, withholds, creates,
Whose divine nature permeates,
Whom minds of men his breath negates

This is the one I yearn for
This is the one I seek
This is the one who holds me up
When hope is lost and life is bleak

This is the one who wants me
This is the one who knows my bones
This is the one for whom I'd gladly
Scatter my ashes at his throne

This is the one for whom I wait
On bended knee in quiet place
And make a space for him to fill
For here he is and fill he will

He vibrates in my atoms
He trickles in my veins
He made the tongue that speaks
So let it say no other name
And if it should fall silent
Should it be still and rest today
Let ring throughout eternity
That he will have his way
It seems that through the adventures, lessons, and trials, I've only been drawn more into this frame of mind. I thought this an appropriate time to share.

Just got back to Kansas City tonight, and I'm stoked for this season. Homeboy's been saying for a while now that he's just waiting through the open door, and these first few steps seem drenched in his presence.

See also: John 15:16 - "You did not choose me but I chose you, and I appointed you to go and bear fruit."