Of course I know we are all broken. I wanted to say that at the outset so you understand. We are wound up inside a deeply broken reality. I could talk/write about that at length, but this is not the time. Like many of my posts, this one is on the introspective side. I read, this morning, another blog post by my good friend, Kevin Rains, where he describes some deep business that has been going on inside him lately. It doesn’t take much to move me toward the introspective state of self-examination. This certainly did it. Hell, I was there anyway, so it just pushed me deeper into the soup.
It seems like something happened in me a few years ago – something broke me. Now, on the melancholy/depression front, I’ve pretty much always been there. I really believe I was born tending toward that end of the life spectrum. Again – broken reality, remember? Some good can come out of something like this, but it isn’t God’s ideal. He didn’t, in other words, create me to be a down, dark, depressed individual. I don’t believe that. But I came out that way. Just for kicks, I’ll take this opportunity to say: not everything that is so, is so because God intended it to be so.
More particularly, though, than the general brokenness that we all share as members of the human family, I mean that something broke me even further, more deeply, and I’ve been dealing with that level of being broken ever since. My guess is that it was a number of things in succession – things that happened both “to me” and “in me” – which broke me like this, which left me as I am now, at least feeling like very much a shell of what I once was. It seems to be a combination of outward events and circumstances that happened to me and, of course (yes, I understand this as well), how I internally dealt with them. There’s plenty of fault to go around in this whole thing, and most of it, I feel, is mine.
Some of it was just human mess, and some, I really suspect, was enemy activity wreaking havoc on me, on my family, and among those I love. All those days of doing ministry, planting a church of a different sort, trying to teach people something about the spiritual life, the two friends Kevin mentioned dying young, working a “real job,” getting fired, then the church thing moving in a different direction, seeing what looked like my “vocation” go swirling down the toilet, my kids’ fading/almost disappearing interest in church/spiritual life (no offense to you guys if you read this – I see it as all my fault – just dealing with my own deal here) – all these things like unrelenting waves crashing down on me one after another, did a real number on my insides which I have yet to “get over.”
Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard all this before, or most of it. I find myself in a very odd place right now. Job front’s fine: fly fishing industry/retail + some freelance design – I like it; Liz and I are in a good place relationally – 24 years and going strong; Church/spiritual life – this is the stickiest wicket – At this point, I officially regret dragging my wife and kids into the Catholic Church, making them go through all that. I honestly believe it helped put some big blocks in the road for them. I have hesitated to say that publicly for some time because I don’t want to fight with anyone about it. I’m simply stating my experience. I did what I thought I was supposed to do 5 years ago, coming “back in” and pulling them in with me. Not sure, at this point, that it was the best thing. I really don’t.
I didn’t have the conviction then, nor do I now, that it is the “one, true Church” and all that. I was just following what I thought I felt God saying to me. It was a “charismatic” decision, in other words, not an intellectual or entirely theological one. But here I am, and it’s wearing me out. It has worn me out. I’m not sure I can handle it much longer. Write me off – whatever you need to do, some of you, but again, I’m not about to argue or debate it with you. There are too many things I love about the Catholic Church and Catholic spirituality to mention at the end of an already long post here. There is a time for everything, it is written, and this is the time for me to share my broken mess of an experience with it all.
I find myself on the edges at the moment. My prayer books are dusty – Bible even dustier. My Icons look at me, but I’m not looking back at them enough. Et cetera, et cetera. Just in the last few weeks, my inner eyes seem to have been re-opening somewhat. I have been trying (trying I said) to re-start a habit of prayer. Thanks to the monks of Glenstal Abbey in Ireland for putting together a very nice little prayer book, which they also have available as an app for the iPhone now. I’ve been attempting to use that. I know, I know – you can pray without a book, and I do – never stopped that. It’s helpful for me, though, to keep my head on track.
Hopefully, it won’t take me going on any pilgrimage to Ireland and Scotland to get the healing process going inside me. I would dearly love to go back, and to Scotland as well, but my pocketbook faints at the thought. God certainly uses places. He knows who He’s dealing with. But He is also most certainly everywhere, and so I pray…
Glory be to God, who has shown us the light!
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from sadness to joy.
Lead me from death to immortality.
Ah yes, I have a blog – still. And here I am writing something. Amazing.
Life for me lately has been pretty… normal. Seems like I’ve been saying that for a while now – too long. There are good things about normal, I suppose. Working, effectively, 3 jobs – working, working, working, being tired/bones hurting, eating, sleeping, repeat same – over and over and over and over again. You’re doing what you have to do – that’s good, right? We live in a world based on money and we don’t get electricity or water or anything for free. So we have to work, make money, and use that money to pay other people or companies for what we use. So you basically have to gear your entire life around what can get money in your bank account. Wait, I was talking about the good things, wasn’t I?
I hear people talk about taking these things called “vacations” – did I spell that correctly? I hear tell that folks go away for the weekend sometimes and pay money to people so they can sleep in rooms, pay more money to other people for food, admission to tours or museums and the like. Sometimes they just relax and don’t do anything… at places where they’ve paid money to do so. I’m not a participant.
Some human folks actually have regular sit-down dinners with their families on a nightly basis, or at least a weekly basis or something like that? What is THAT like? My children still all live at home. That’s fine with us. They are 22, 21, 18, and 16. I honestly don’t see them very often – none of them. No big heart-to-heart talks with wise old(er) Dad. No time for any of that. If that’s normal, I don’t like normal. I hate normal.
If this sounds like a sob story, it probably is. I’m not literally “sobbing,” but there is a kind of internal crying going on inside me nearly all the time. That’s about loss, or my perception of loss. Some of that is objectively accurate, some of it not entirely so, but based on reality. Loss, not only of things past and seemingly unrecoverable, but also of things in the future, seemingly now unattainable. It’s hard to describe what that feels like. Loss of hope is a horrible thing. Horrible. You have to use a word like “horrible” instead of just “bad” – bad doesn’t cut it.
Once I actually felt somewhat exceptional. I don’t mean in a prideful, I’m all that, sort of way. I just mean I felt I had a purpose, had been gifted by God in certain ways and that He was working in and through me toward certain ends. I don’t very often feel that way any more. I had great dreams and visions of things to come. I still have flashes, but mostly as if I’m a traveler in space who’s in a deep sleep chamber having flash dreams of something I once actually experienced or thought I would. I’m not really awake. I am lying here in this chamber. I am alive but my heart-beat is slowed to a bare minimum.
Sounds dramatic doesn’t it? Well, it feels dramatic too, believe me. And please don’t say to me anything akin to, “just snap out of it man, that’s just life.” I might snap alright. If you’ve never gone through a period like this or felt anything like this, I’m glad for you. God can work good out of anything, but in the middle of these kinds of things, you can hardly see any good reason for it other than to destroy you.
Lest you think I’m just lying in a pile of dust and ashes and weeping all the time – well, I’m not. Life is OK. I’m fishing more than I have in a long time – that’s huge. The jobs that I do have are good. I don’t dislike them, and I’m grateful that I have them. I love my wife and my children. There are lots of good, regular, normal things. I’m just saying, and maybe you understand this, that normal just doesn’t quite feel right. There’s always something nooooot quite there. Not quite there.
I was inspired by Kevin‘s recent announcement that he and Tracy and their family will soon be moving out of the Brownhouse in Cincinnati - inspired to share a very vivid and important memory/story of that place and of the connections made there for me and some others some years ago. I’ve shared this here before, but a while back. It’s definitely appropriate to do so again now.
If you haven’t shared in the life which has flowed in and through that house and the people living in it, I am sorry for you. God has used this place, these people, to enrich the lives of so many. I have been one of them, and my whole family. So, I share this memory with all of you. I wrote this in 2005 – the journal entries are from 2001, from my first trip to the Brownhouse – to a little weekend deal called the Young Leaders Roundtable. Kevin Rains, myself, Peter Matthews, Tawd Bell, Chad Canipe, Tom Planck, Mark Palmer – the photo is not of that event, but more than tells a story of memory and deep connection.
From a blog post – Feb. 27, 2005
I’ve been reading through an old journal lately and ran into an entry or two that I want to post here. It may only mean something to those involved in the original entry, and I want it to, but I suspect it may have meaning to others as well. A few years ago in the history of vbcc I was feeling pretty alone and isolated and at times, very discouraged. Then God… This little weekend I refer to in this post was very significant in my journey. Here you go – dedicated to our Lord, who brought us all together, and to my very good friends, whom I have been knit together with in this thing.
July 25, 2001
Here at Vineyard Central – arrived around 8pm – hot – no air cond. Pete and I are in a room together in the “Brown House.” Nice evening. We talked together – then sat on the front porch and talked with Kevin, Dave and Jody. We prayed Compline with them and talked some more. In our room now. We’ve been talking about church, Vine & Branches, vision – good stuff. My stomach was freaked out earlier but it’s better now – God is good. I’m hungry.
Good things will happen here. I can see that already. Fill tomorrow, Lord – make it fruitful and refreshing. Amen.
July 26, 2001
Good day. Said Morning Prayer with the Community House. I prayed the night office alone in my room. Introductions today – will all sort of told our stories. I talk too much. It was good to hear others’ struggles – the communion of suffering. It’s good to hear that it’s common – good group of guys. The worship & ministry time was very good. The worship time lead into a time of ministry to those of us at the conference – prophecies. I was told a couple of things: to leave old things, doctrines/teachings, behind and go on to totally new things – till new soil – teach prophetically (I have heard this inside myself before)… Also that I should not strive – it won’t accomplish the things that God wants to accomplish… It was very encouraging. I look forward to tomorrow as well – Venne Sancte Spiritus! Fill us tomorrow Holy Spirit. Amen.
July 28, 2001
On the porch at the Brown House – this morning ended the Roundtable. I am ready to go home but I have had a good time here. Getting to know these guys has been a very good thing. This is a very real bunch of people. It was very refreshing to be around people that you can be transparent with. Liz and the kids are coming up here to get me tonight – I look forward to seeing them. We’ll to the Allgroup thing and then go home.
We talked some about communal living yesterday. I think I know I will never do that. Not because I think it’s bad or weird – just not for me. Now, the living in “proximity” could work – a community of separate homes with a common meeting and dining area, people having their own jobs, etc. but sharing life in many ways – a common garden maybe, eating dinner together a few nights a week, daily prayer together in the common house – we’ll see if that ever happens.
Red glowing walls
Black, horn-rimmed glasses
Look over, not down
dead sadness and Rock songs
turn those neon signs off please
Look over at them
That’s a big time valuable memory right there. I deeply remember almost every part of that weekend. There I got to know Kevin much better. I love this man. I met the great Mark Palmer for the first time, and Chad Canipe. Tawd was also there and Tom Planck. It was the beginning of some deeper things – some very significant connections.
I wrote that poem after we had gone to a bar the last night of the roundtable. I still remember all this very clearly. I am so very grateful for what I experienced through and in that house, for all the connections I’ve made in that place. This moving on makes me a little sad, nostalgic I guess. But life moves on, and we must move on in it. I pray great and new blessings on the Rains family in this new stage of life. I love you guys, very deeply.