Category Archives: on

Lord willing, we won’t keep growing

Our Jackson Home posted a piece I wrote reflecting on this year’s Remember Me Walk for survivor’s of homicide loss. This group is astounding to me, and I’ve copied some of the post below with a link to read it in its entirety. And if you have not yet checked out Our Jackson Home, you should probably get on the ball.

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The crowd was larger this year than any crowd the past seven. The Carl Grant Events Center at Union University was filled with tables surrounded by people of all kinds, ages, colors, and worlds held together by the sad reality that someone they loved has been murdered—some of them fifty years ago and some five months ago. The reality that no one truly understands this grief is echoed in the camaraderie across the room. “Lord-willing,” they say, “we won’t keep growing. We don’t want other people to know what this feels like.”

Grief is breathtaking. All have experienced it, and we know the deep-down grumbling in our guts that must be an echo of the deep-down grumbling in our souls.

A life is lost. A story ends. …

Click here to keep reading on Our Jackson Home

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carry on, warrior

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“People hurt the things they fear,” has become for me one of the most haunting lines of Glennon Doyle Melton’s not-so-new book.

And I’ve tried about ten times now to type out how Carry On Warrior has made me exhale so strongly and peacefully over the last week as I’ve been reading it. Her words have been a kind of subversive undertone to everything else I’m seeing and reading as the news unfolds.

Something in me is pushing hard against the rhetoric of hatefulness and fear, of greed and warmongering I hear predominantly from Christians as each day breaks across the globe. Something in me is pushing hard against this fear of neighbor, fear of other, fear of different. Since when did Jesus say kill for my sake, hate for my sake, marginalize for my sake? Something in me is pushing hard through the psuedo-christian noise for voices that speak to something altogether clear, and noble, and lovely, and gracious, and simple and beautiful. I don’t feel the need to kill the person who threatens to kill me; I feel the need for peace. I don’t feel the need to hurt the person who has hurt me; I feel the need to forgive. And I need to know other people feel that need too. And I need to know how to move into that need.

I don’t know how, though.

And Melton doesn’t claim to know how either, but somehow her words in Carry on Warrior actually begin to do it. Honoring a kind of David-like offense to face the giants of anxiety and fear and terrified christian culture, she manages to walk to the middle dropping one piece of heavy armor after the next knowing that it might be her end.

But also knowing that it might be her only chance in hell at an actual beginning.

I’m envious, really. But hopeful. I’m working to lean in to the call to be honest and hospitable when it means standing with those the church is screaming at and setting targets on. I’m working to lean in to the challenge to show up and do my best to return justice for injustice, generosity for stinginess, and even openness for rigidity and fear. It’s infuriating, and then again completely freeing. Something as if from another world altogether.

People harm the things they fear, she says. I’m doing my damnedest to stop being afraid.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

To follow her blog, visit momastery.com, and click here to find “Carry On, Warrior.”

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on Rachel Held Evans “Searching for Sunday”

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While finishing Rachel Held Evan’s new “Searching for Sunday” as she begins thanking different friends and people for their contributions to the work of the book, I immediately noticed that my skin was covered in goosebumps. Throughout the book, chapters begin with quotes from other authors, theologians or musicians. In passing each quote, I realized that they were authors who also had joined me on a journey from loving church, to leaving church, to finding church again. Madeleine L’Engle, Nora Gallagher, Frederick Buechner, Walter Brueggeman, Brian McLaren, Anne Lammott, Barbara Brown Taylor, Becca Stevens, and on and on and on. The way the book itself resonated with something in me apparently forgotten was registering more and more understandable as each name graced the pages. A sense of camaraderie was surfacing, like we had all been having these conversations together.

And then in hitting the acknowledgments, a section I’ve come to read in every book as to me it presents a kind of undercover autobiographical picture of the author, she thanked many of these people, referencing food, wine and tables as a common location for their work together on life and ultimately on the living behind this book.

My mind drifted to the last few months in my own life. High expectations met with a deep drop of disappointment and numbing hopelessness that permeated much of my community. It drifted to my travels across the ocean and to the coast, sitting and reading and eating and drinking with friends and family. These are the same friends and family who journeyed with me during a deep love of church. They were with me when I realized for the first of many times that church will be as out of touch and off track as any other group of normal people. They were with me when I couldn’t bare to look church in the face because it was unrecognizable as the body of healing and hope and restoration and justice that I had learned it was supposed to be. They were with me sitting on a living room floor every Sunday night managing crying babies and prayerful questions about what it means to be tiny christs in the world. They were with me when I snuck into the back row of big church for an Easter service because something in my blood wouldn’t let me stay home. And they were with me I said what I swore I would never say again as i committed to a group of people learning together what it means to live as Christ in a world clamoring for us to figure it out.

And were I to be writing a book about loving, leaving, and finding church, I would write in the acknowledgements about all of these people and their tables. Dinner on Greencastle and Harper Cove. Breakfast and mimosas on Mimosa Drive. Happy hour at Picasso’s and Flat Iron and the Fat Cactus. Cheese and whiskey on Smith Dr. and sundowners at Camps Bay. Coke zeros and weird cookies under the rustling thatch looking out toward the Nicaraguan volcanos. These meals and drinks have been peppered with the words of Buechner, L’Engle, Brueggeman, Stevenson, Alexander, Meyers, McLaren. They have been soundtracked with the music of Sara Groves and Josh Garrells and Bono and the Indigo Girls. They have been hemmed in by the wise words of good friends.

And if any of us look carefully enough, there are small stones somewhere in each these places, whether restaurants or rancheros or vineyards, that mark something important. They mark tiny moments of thin space where God was real for just a moment, whether in hopelessness or surprising hope. They mark signs of the kingdom with other people who have been both lost and found. Rachel Held Evans and her people. Me and my people. There are lots of us out there looking for each other in hopes that we can find ourselves. The book was a reminder to keep searching for Sunday.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

To find Searching for Sunday, click here. 

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a kind of rumbling

  
It wasn’t at all that there were a few other languages loud enough to notice, but English was still the loudest. There was no prevailing language; the rhythm of the words held the group of roughly thirty together as much, I suppose, as the gathering just after seven for Eucharist held us together. I’m glad the words are now, after all these years, buried somewhere deep inside me. Otherwise the thin layer of contact-floating tears would have made it impossible to read them. Still it was nearly impossible for me to speak them.

     Your kingdom come…

With my awareness of Pentecost still keyed up, whatever it means and whatever I’ve made it mean, I heard the phrase in multiple languages said together so that it spun into a kind of rumbling made familiar by rhythm. I got the phrase uttered, and then had to stop again only to listen. The language to my right was different from that to my left. Neither was the same as mine.

     … Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
     … Makwenziwe ukuthanda kwakho nasemhlabeni, njengokuba kusenziwa emazulwini
     … laat u wil geskied, soos in die hemel net so ook op die aarde

To lean into the rhythm, celebrate the diversity, and dare for the gritty risk of kingdom on earth outside the doors of the cathedral after final thanks and hallelujahs…we might, then, sense the same kind of rumbling being spun in the streets. 

djordan
Cape Town

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kingdom comes over hot chicken

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Several weeks ago it was at a greenhouse under the South African sun. It was with two friends, one from South Africa and one from England, both in Cape Town now chasing the kingdom hard and fast. One works to transform the way housing is addressed for those living in informal settlements by way of valuing inherent wisdom, skill and reality. The other is working to address issues of gang violence, trauma, and youth development not only in Cape Town but in the hearts and plans of those around the world.

A few weeks later, it was in Nashville, Tennessee. We were talking about whether hot chicken was hot enough or too hot as we prepared for a wedding a few hours later. Friends without the pretense of worry of doing it right or doing it fancy, it was a celebration of choosing to do it and do it together. Friends willing to push through the new uncertainty of what it means to be a community surrounding those who are choosing to do life together. Friends who will argue over the heat of Nashville’s hot chicken in the morning, pretend not to cry at a lifelong commitment in the afternoon, and dance like no one knows what dancing is supposed to look like in the evening.

And this week, like last week, and like the other weeks in between was at the altar rail at a little church on the north side of town. Hands out, breath held, eyes up, it all swelled together. I’ve heard my priest and favorite friend say before that when we kneel at the rail, we share in communion with those with us in that moment, those who are gather at Christ’s table around the globe, and those who have both joined the table in centuries past as well as those who will come after us with the same assurances and the same uncertainties as we knelt at the rail today.

This morning, hands out, I joined them. I joined my brothers and sisters in Cape Town. I joined my sisters and brothers over hot chicken in Nashville. I joined my own local church community, and all those who were at their own churches both in my own city and in cities around the globe and through the ages.

I’ll work toward justice tomorrow and push against institutional power and greed.
I’ll seek beauty and laughter and silliness tomorrow with adults who hate it and children who love it.
I’ll do paperwork and billing tomorrow and wonder what I’m doing and why I care.
I’ll push a few steps forward into and few steps back from the kingdom of God.

And I’ll only be able to do anything at all tomorrow by the mystery of
the power that somehow shakes the rail every time I kneel,
whether at a nursery in Cape Town
or over hot chicken in Nashville
or the altar at my little church.

His kingdom comes.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

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on psalm 35 | what I want; what I want to ask for; what I need

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What I want is to know you are for me,
which seems odd to ask;
that you over and in and of all things
might stand up for me and
fight for me and
stop attacks against me.

I know I need to hear from you,
though;
I need to hear that you are,
if not now then ultimately,
saving me and prepared to be saving me
from everything that fights against me
and inside me
and around me.

You see that I’ve been fighting for a while now?
You see that I’ve been asking for you for a while now?

I want to ask of you
I want a promise of you
that anyone
that any person
that any group
that any funder
that any fearer
who may be after me
who may be scared of me
anyone who gossips or finagles or whispers
in piety or privilege or petty or paranoia or peril or against me
would be put on the front page
under headlines of shame or confusion
under headlines of disaster or destruction.
I want to hope that whatever they hope happens to me
ultimately happens to them, but worse.
More public.
More noticed.
More shamed.

And I think<
were that to happen,
I might be happy, finally.
If those in other worlds of piety and paternalism,
if those in other worlds of arrogance and ambition,
might finally be put in their place,
I think I might,
then and then only,
sing a song of honest gratitude to you
giving thanks that things are well
and trusting finally that you are King
and trusting finally that I’m with those who win.
Trusting finally that I’m worth it;
that this is all worth it.
I would be such an incredible person
when they all get what they deserve.

I promise.

It feels granted, of course,
for me to wait for their demise.
Because when they struggled, I struggled.
Because when they defended, I defended.
Because when they were offended, I retreated.
Because when they were angry, I apologized.

And maybe I need to know
after all this time
that you are for me.

Because it feels like you
just watch.

Like you just do nothing.

I’m sorry for saying it, I guess,
that It feels, sometimes,
like I’m paying attention
and you just aren’t paying any attention.

How long do I have to ask for help?
How long do I have to wait for some kind of validation?

Do you refuse to help me?
Am I all wrong about all of this?
And I pushing away from what you are pushing toward?

I can’t believe it,
so if I’m all wrong,
fight me.

But if not,
will you stand up for me at least?
And if you won’t stand up for me at least,
will you let me know you’re for me?

I’ll give it back to you,
whatever that means.
whatever that costs.
I swear it.

I suppose, finally,
whether or not you decide to be for me,
I need to ask that you be for those,
no matter how big
no matter how small
no matter how wealthy
no matter how poor
no matter how crazyno matter how appropriate
no matter how irreverent
no matter how pious
no matter how marginalized
no matter how important
no matter how detested
no matter how esteemed
no matter how quiet
no matter how loud

I suppose, finally,
even though what I want to ask,
after all this nonsense and ridiculousness,
is that you be for me,
in a way that shows you are against them,

I need to ask less that you be for me
and more that you be for those
who seek
your peace
your shalom
your kingdom
your King.

And while I’m afraid to let you off the hook,
because I fear you might take advantage of it;
and while I’m losing some confidence in you,
because you aren’t doing what I’m hoping you will do

if I still tell myself the truth,
even then,
even if you don’t prove it to me,
or if I’m not convinced that you do ––
stand up for me that is ––
I have little choice
but to keep pushing forward
for your peace
for your shalom
for your kingdom
for our King.

I have seen and learned too much
to only stand with
the big
the wealthy
the appropriate
the pious
the esteemed
the loud.

I can’t stand with the men of standing.
They stand on those you are for.

So even if they win today,
kind of,
I’m working toward,
more than today:
all the days.
I’ll keep talking about
how you empower
peace, shalom, kingdom;
how you empower your King.
And for that,
no matter what I need to ask of you,
I’ll sing songs of hope and thanks about you.
And the crowds will,
finally,
sings songs of hope and thanks about you,
won’t they?

But seriously.

djordan
Pine Tree Dr.

image from The Ismar David Electronic Archive
Click here for Psalm 35 \ NRSV 
via BibleGateway

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the era at hand

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At about a hundred miles an hour it came crashing into my chest this morning, moving up quickly to my throat where it stole my breath and then my eyes which began to pour. In the wind, behind sunglasses and under one of my grandfather’s many straw fishing hats, I was skimming quickly to our next drop in spot with three buddies as the sun was coming up over the gulf where we’ve been staying these last few days. The boat’s captain letting us know how far in to drop and what was likely on our line before it ever came into site was scouting out our next most likely location.

The four-word refrain came to mind. I followed it just under my breath to see what song it was connected to, and then, the crashing. First chest. Then throat. Then eyes.

sad fruitful broken true
sad fruitful broken true

I didn’t realize until this morning out there on the dramamine-calmed water that this is the first trip to the beach I’ve been on since losing both grandparents who taught me to love traveling here, feeding the birds, chasing the fish, eating out, cooking in, and laughing hard. As time passed, so did their health, but the beach would still happen. Moves from porch to den to restaurant  became slower and slower, but each still an important move worth taking the time to make.

This morning, out there on the water, still burning by the sun under his straw fishing hat, I realized that it has been the years and years of family and storytelling and value-passing that makes me fight, over and beyond fighting for meaningful work and meaningful impact, for meaningful friendship and meaningful experiences. To see and to feel and to taste the holiness in clinking glasses in my own home or half a world away. To honor and to savor the time spent with and the time spent where.

And in the hurricane of memories that stormed perfectly over and into me this morning, I was at once overwhelmingly grateful and overwhelmingly heartbroken. To have the privilege of three decades filled with enough love and honor and legacy to miss so deeply all at once left me exceedingly grateful and sad. The era of those kinds of gifts has passed. Forever. It’s almost too much to take in.

There is, however, the era at hand. It is in these days, then, that reveal the ways in which I choose to remember all these good things that have in no way been withheld from me. It is in this era that I will either wake up before the sun and meet my buddies to fish deep in the ocean, or I will only mourn the loss of the days that have already passed. To truly mourn, to truly grieve and to truly honor all that is lost must, in the truest of ways, involve making deep and rich meaning of all that is ahead.

And must acknowledge the ripe and possible realities of the present moment. Crashing in and all.

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The words I found after chasing the refrain are from the Sara Groves’ song This House are listed below:

it took me by surprise
this old house and these old feelings
walked round and looked inside
familiar walls and halls and ceilings

where I’d dream and plan
every moment of sunshine
this was my whole world
it was all I knew
like the hull of a seed
this old house cracked wide open
as I grew

hadn’t given it much thought
hadn’t been back here for a while
everything looks so small
seen through the memories of a child

who would dream and stare
from that second story window
that was my whole world
it was all I knew
like the hull the of a seed
this old house cracked wide open
and I flew

sad fruitful broken true
sad fruitful broken true

memories for miles and miles
summers falls winters and springs
Ruby you take it in
see he’s withheld no good thing

+++

djordan
723 Whiskey Bravo
Seagrove Beach, FL

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crossing the street to find your way home | thoughts on “the hundred-foot journey”

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Our greatest fear, of course, is that we might be viewed as in some way similar to the “them” to our “us”. We’ve worked desperately for centuries now at defining clearly and bloodily who we are with and with whom we are not. Who we are like and who we are not like. And when the “us” and “them” becomes less theoretical and more the new next-door neighbor, less conversation and more colleague, less hypothetical and more here-and-now, we find our heart-pounding pulse and back-of-the-neck skin overrun with the fast-beating terror that there is no longer enough space between us and them.

In terror and anxiety, thus in our most not-yet moments, we move on anxieties and insist certain actions that involve thinking, moving and working in ways which keep the lines clear, humans separated, and enemies inhumane are needed. We have to keep the peace by keeping the road as clear barrier between our home and theirs, and the hundred-foot journey in between.  

But once in a while, perhaps because we have a kind of holy blood in us because we are human, we can’t help ourselves. We cross the street, take one-hundred steps, (counted in fury and scheming at one point and now counted in calm humility and prayerfulness), and appear at the front door of the other, the non-separate, the human beings across the street. The front door of his home, bearing witness to his family and their dreams, their hopes, their stories, their legacies, their fears, their burdens and their dirty spots. We appear at the front door, newly-terrified and deeply-anxious, but already too far across the street, already there, already one-hundred steps too many in to turn around.

So we meet our neighbors. We learn their names. We hear their stories. We sing their songs. We sit at their tables and we eat their meals. 

And absent-minded of our terror and anxiety, we realize that in traveling the distance we have found our neighbors, in making the journey we have found our place, and in crossing the street we have made our way home. 

We pray that our new neighbors would move in, and that we would cross the street to find ourselves. As we are bold to pray for terrifying things because we’ve been taught to do it, teach us what it means to come home in your kingdom. 

djordan
Pine Tree

Don’t miss The Hundred-Foot Journey on the big screen. If you miss it, you’ll regret it…and so will your neighborhood. 

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to travel alone

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To travel alone out of state for several days is a certain kind of luxury. Yes. There is training all day long in a stale training room that could be identical to the one in your own office basement, but then training ends a few minutes earlier than planned. You now find yourself anonymous in a new city with new people and a new zeitgeist you’ve never been wrapped up in before.

And to travel alone means you don’t feel guilty, finally, to have your headphones blaring music which you are probably humming or badly singing harmonies to just under your breath to make it even worse. So you are walking down streets and looking in windows and in people’s eyes with a soundtrack of your favorite music pretending as if, since they will not see you again, that they don’t see you staring at them now. While you hum or sing badly just under your breath.

And then to travel alone means you pull up a chair and sit at the bar top with a book and more time than you remembering having in the last several weeks with nothing planned or pushing in on it from every angle. So you pull out the book, order a drink and maybe an appetizer, and then you sit and watch the people lining the rest of the dimly lit bar top, the people scattered at low, round tables along the edges of the restaurant, the people walking hand in hand down the sidewalk who may or may not live there but you suspect they do.

And suddenly, you begin to see something very familiar in this out-of-state place at this out-of-state bar top as this anonymous observer. You begin to see couples and groups and buddies and girlfriends laughing or bitching or crying or pontificating, and you see yourself and your friends at your tables in your restaurants on your streets. You see people passing plates and tasting each other’s drinks and it seems as though you belong because that’s what you do when you sit in your place with your people.

To travel alone out of state for several days, followed by your own soundtrack and land suddenly in the world of other humans, you ultimately find your own humanness. You find your friends and your enemies and your struggles and your hopes as you watch them pass the plates and share their glasses, and something feels oddly familiar. In the presence of the humanity of others, we find our anonymous selves at home. And at home, we find ourselves.

djordan
Lantern Restaurant, Chapel Hill, NC

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st francis prays again

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It’s a feeble attempt, really. If I weren’t sure of the willingness of God himself to accept my feeble attempts, which sometimes I am not actually, I wouldn’t attempt this. But, nevertheless, herein is my attempt at praying the Prayer of St. Francis (or whoever it should be attributed to) for myself. Again. (This post is about five attempts later.)

First, my own version; followed by the Prayer of St. Francis.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg that you would help me make music toward your shalom.
Where people pour out ugliness and fury, help me be a gardener of acceptance and mutuality;
Where there is a history and presence of war and oppression, help me be a gardener of forgiveness and willing hospitality toward the other;
Where things are wrong and closed and tight, help me be a gardener of truth and honesty and humility;
Where there are darknesses and questions and fields of belieflessness, help me be a gardener of possibility and flowering questions;
Where there is hurt and damage and isolation, help me a gardener of healing and hope and communitas;
Where there is hopelessness and maps that speak only to the end of the road, help me be a  gardener of new roads and new paths and unseen forks in the road;
Where their is pain and illness and struggle, help me be a gardener of life and health and work;
God, where the things we feel in our darkest moments feel more real than anything we can touch, make the things of you touchable and bright and real enough for the moment.

Help me work less to feel more whole than to speak wholeness to others.
Help me work less to have the answers than to feel the questions of others.
Help me work less to know I am a part of the circle than to move the circle out so that all are included.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in becoming poor that we become rich.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in wiping the tears of others that our own tears are dried.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in letting go of all we hold on to that our shame is released.
In a kind of backwards kingdom-math, it is in giving up that we find we have given nothing to gain everything. Forever.

God help me, I am capable of making noise for many things
but I beg you guide me to make music toward your shalom.

Amen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis, or whomever it was.

djordan
Chapel Hill, NC

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