Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 5

Not of first importance as far as the overall meaning of this blog but of first importance because it is in the forefront of my mind as I prepare to get this entry going, I must advise you that I did watch a lot of Jackass and related videos this week. As many of you may know, recently they suffered a major loss in their crew in Ryan Dunn. You can say what you will about the tactics and shenanigans that these guys have been up to the past decade but I feel I must show some respect to these guys since they spent a decade letting people into their weird little world of making each other laugh. This group of dudes had a huge impact on me and my friends as we entered high school and made our ways into college and so I felt some sort of respect for the loss of the Jackass crew and the people, including myself, who they’ve made laugh over the years. And I’m going to be honest about last week.

I needed a good laugh.

That isn’t to say that last week was horrible, per se. No, it was more like a slow grind and just refused to move any faster. Work was getting the best of me in some ways and a little stress started to creep in regarding the plans for A2’s Gretna Days parade plans. I haven’t really been stressed at all this summer which was a nice relief from the hell of a year that I had in school and life. So, when that old, cold feeling decided to seep it’s way into my gut I was surprised and a little unsettled, admittedly. So, having to adjust to that was something. Then it all snowballed into Thursday where I was given assurance that the things I’ve learned from this internship and school are actually sinking in.

Thursday rolled around.

If you didn’t read my previous post, I don’t know if I can recommend it for anything else except for maybe context. My grandpa died of complications from bone cancer December 31st of last year. HIs request was to be cremated and so that entailed scattering the ashes. The funeral we had for him a few days after he died wasn’t much of a comfort nor did it really give me a good sense of finality about the whole thing. So, it’s now almost 6 months after the whole ordeal and I get a call from my mom telling me that we’re going to scatter the ashes. This was Tuesday of last week. I was asked if I could go and I could so I did. But my grandma asked my mom if I’d be willing to say something and lead everyone there in the Lord’s prayer. I guess that was a big thing for my grandpa so that made it a big deal for me.

As I thought about the whole ordeal before it went down I reflected on what the Bible said about man’s time on earth and it all brought me back to Genesis 3. As we prepared to scatter the remains on the fairgrounds he spent so much time on, it seemed only appropriate to ask the small group of family there to reflect on the fact that by scattering his ashes we symbolize what God told Adam when he cast him and Eve out of Eden. He toiled all his life in the dirt of those fairgrounds among other places, and so we returned his body to the dirt in which he worked. I don’t think it was a mere accident that Adam was named for the ground from which he came from.

I don’t know that I have anything entirely insightful to say about this week other than that. It was another one of those times where the things I did outside of the hours of my internship that really had a bigger effect and tell a much bigger story than what I do while I’m in the building. I have to think that’s the point of all of it. I few pieces of news, I suppose. I have been asked to participate in a 30 day writing project by a friend and some of her other writing friends coming up in about a week. That’s pretty exciting. There have also been some rumblings of possibly preaching again soon. I hesitate to give any details right now, though.

If I could ask anything it would be to see God continue to move in my life and in others. As the weeks go on I continue to think of ways to creatively breaching the walls of the people of Gretna.

On a completely unrelated note: I had the unfortunate assignment of reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I won’t post a review on it or anything because it’s been out for a while. I’ll just say that he did a poor job of supporting his arguments and I couldn’t finish the book. I do not recommend it.

This song has ruled my world this week. I highly suggest you give it a listen:


City & Colour – “Little Hell”

Music
Grieves – “Together/Apart”
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
B. Dolan – “Fallen House, Sunken City”
30 Seconds to Mars – S/T
Scatter the Ashes – “Devout/The Modern Hymn”
Blaqk Audio – “CexCells”
AFI – “DECEMBERUNDERGROUND”
City & Colour – “Little Hell”

Movies
CKY: Landspeed
CKY2K
CKY3
CKY4
Jackass 3D
Jackass 3.5

Books
The Great Omission by Dallas Willard
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman

My broken, tired hands can’t build a thing.

 

Our careless feet leaving trails, never minding the fragile dirt we all end in.

The truth is, I had purposed myself to put something resembling a substantive post on this thing because I’m sure that all zero of the people who read this are getting really tired of my poetry.  I know I am.  You can only assemble words in strange structures so many times before your brain calls it quits and begs for some other form of relief.  Because I felt like writing and didn’t have anything near poetic in mind, I thought that I would do what most bloggers do with their blogs and post the everyday kind of stuff.  It will be a nice stretch for me to have to construct paragraphs with actual punctuation and make actual sentences with punctuation and everything and, this is vitally important, no enjambment!  That’s right, I will not be chopping what I write into sentence fragments and then hope you understand what it is I’m trying to say.

But then again, I don’t really care if you understand in a sense because I write most everything I do for my own purposes and no one else’s.  Why post it on here? It’s cathartic and this way I’m not forcing people to read it by shoving it under their noses.  You don’t get honest responses that way in my experience.

Anyways, let’s talk about the every day a bit, shall we?  For the last two weeks or so I have been on Christmas break from school.  I feel like a fool because everyone should like taking a break, shouldn’t they?  Not this bear.  I don’t know why, but my life seems so much less complicated when I’m operating on a schedule that keeps me running from when I get up until I need to go to bed.  I don’t mind the stress too much and I actually feel like I’m accomplishing something.  So, for me this is just a lot of time for my mind to wander into whatever topics it likes regardless of what I’m doing otherwise.

What does not assist me in this is what has been dubbed a Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Honestly, I’ve been pretty depressed these last few weeks for almost no reason at all.  I’m used to this though, so I’m able to work through it and function in spite of the fact that I feel like I’m not going anywhere at all.  It’s a sickness, to be sure and it has got the best of me a few times in the last month or so.  I can recall at least twice having absolutely no energy and laying on the floor, not wanting to get up.  Understand this, I’m not looking for pity so put that away if you brought it out.  I don’t want it nor do I need it.  I have accepted that this will happen to me and it will continue to do so until they find some sort of better treatment for me or I die after a long life.

But there have been some things that have been really kind of dragging me down and it all has to do with life.  For the past few months I have been dealing with the issue of my grandfather dying from cancer.  This is not a pleasant thought and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever hard to watch.  He went from being a man who would be on the golf course regardless of his physical condition, weather or whatever to a withered, frail shell of a man.  It was like time lapse. Every time I saw him he got a little bit worse until he finally passed away yesterday morning at about 4:45 AM.  Thankfully, his wife, daughter (my mom) and son were there when he finally did breath his last.

It was encouraging but also very sad because it was very obvious he was afraid at first.  He wasn’t sure what the end of his life had in store for him.  But thank God he had some very good talks with my mom and my pastor and other people who told him that he was going home when this was done, that Jesus would be there to take him into his Father’s house.  And the beautiful part of the story is that he understood and accepted it before he went.  And he went peacefully; an answer to everyone’s prayers.  It has just made me think how we all, in our own way, yearn for eternity.  If we know God and Jesus we have our answer, the uncertainty of the future is dissolved and our priorities become unbelievably clear.  For me, having now experienced the death of a close family member, am now faced with my thoughts on eternity and now I am asking myself if in my heart I yearn for eternity as I should.

Because, believe it or not, just as we were all built for worship I think we were all built to yearn for that eternity that we may not understand.  But at our very core we want to live past this life where sin and death reign over our mortal bodies and meet us at our every step on the path with designs to drag us away from what God has laid down for us.  Even for those who don’t believe in God or Jesus there is still that question of eternity.  I don’t think even the most hard-nosed, stiff-necked, staunch atheist has not struggled with their own mortality on a metaphysical level at one point or another.  They must have had to reason through the option of Theism and an eternal life as described by the Bible to come to their conclusions that, by reason alone, God cannot exist. The irony is that the answer to the question of God is staring them in the face everywhere they go.  But, perhaps, I digress.

So, as things stand right now I will be one of six pallbearers in the funeral.  I’ve got my suit ready to go and everything. That was one of the very odd parts about this whole ordeal.  The Doctors finally gave us a timeframe as to when we could expect Grandpa to pass and so we spent a lot of time getting things ready for it.  To me there was just something a tad bit strange about planning a funeral for someone who hadn’t died yet. It’s one of those things that I will trip over logically every time. But it was extremely helpful in the end, I suppose.  Everything was set up before he passed and so all that was left to do was prepare his body and notify everyone about the plans.

A funeral in itself is an interesting scene. It is a bunch of people gathering around a dead body in a box, understandably, mourning the person they’ve lost.  Since the person’s not there, I’ve never really understood the idea of an open casket or even the casket being there in general.  It’s kind of creepy in a sense because you’re looking at an empty  shell, essentially.  Can’t one mourn without the presence of the body? I’m pretty sure I can do that without a cadaver.  I mean, I’ve been thinking over this funeral business for a while because I’ve had to and I thought of a few things.

I made a video with some pictures for the visitation and I had to choose the music for it.  Now, my mom wanted to use some contemporary Christian songs that really did convey the message that needed to be conveyed.  However, my stance was that if we are going to use music we will not play on peoples’ emotions because there’s going to be a lot of sad people there already.  I have the same problem with worship music at youth events too but we won’t get into that at the present moment.  So, we decided on three songs that I think made the video perfect and that’s what we rolled with.  None of them are really sad, sorrowful songs, but ones that really convey the message of sadness, acceptance and rejoicing despite our loss. The following songs (in order) are what we landed on:

  1. Johnny Cash – “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
  2. Flogging Molly – “Grace of God Go I”
  3. Flogging Molly – “If I Ever Leave This World Alive”

Check those songs out if you get a chance.  They’re pretty amazing by themselves and I felt they really captured the feelings we, as a family, wanted to convey about the death of the patriarch of the clan, Arnold August John Gebers.

So, that turned out not to be so every day but more of an actual thought.  Don’t get too comfy with that.  I’m not usually this focused.

On an unrelated note, I ended up in the hospital again today.  I was going to Scribner and stopped for food with my brother when my heart started acting funny.  It started beating really irregular, like Josh Freese was playing the drum intro to “It’s a Fact” in my chest.  I’d felt this feeling before so I tried to ignore it and ordered my food.  It started to make me feel a little odd and so I sought advice from my dad as he is a licensed paramedic.  He thought that if I felt it necessary, then I should probably go to the ER and get it checked out.  So, I did.  They did some preliminary examinations and the doctor, with just a stethoscope, said that the heart rhythm was off.

So, they bled me and hooked me up to an EKG.  Turns out I had Atrial Fibrillation.  So, in case you were wondering, this is what the American Heart Association has to say about A-Fib (full article here):

Atrial fibrillation is a disorder found in about 2.2 million Americans. During atrial fibrillation, the heart’s two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn’t pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results. About 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.

This was really interesting to me and the cardiologist because she wasn’t really sure what was causing it.  So, I’ve been asked to take it easy on the caffeine which shouldn’t be difficult, quit smoking which I have been half-heartedly been trying to do for a while now, and take aspirin every day.  So, I’ve been tasked with improving my health yet again because of a health issue that has put me in the hospital. Let’s hope it doesn’t become a pattern.

So, that is the total amount of my insanity that I wish to share with you at this current point in time.  Leave your interesting comments, questions or responses in the comment section below.  Until next time.

Reflections, battles and bears

The weather here is fickle
almost capricious
like a bipolar bear
running roughshod through
the hallways and stairwells
of my house
caged
Oh wait.
That was me.
The manifold ways that
winter affects me
ought to be inscribed on
a plaque and hung from
my neck like a disclaimer:
“Warning: Do not feed,
do not poke with care,
do not thought provoke.
This animal’s mood is inevitably
in transit
in spans of seconds
sending spiraling down into
an immobile brand of misery
that should only be marketed
to boys who look like
girls and wear pants so
tight as to cut the circulation off
to their surely minuscule genitalia.”

Yeah, sometimes my disclaimers
they get rough with ya but
the truth…
the truth is my face
in a mirror
Where you can see the lines in my eyes
stretch for miles with the luggage
under my eyes.
And that luggage has travelled.
It seems like it stacks up
like rings on a tree,
you can almost see the age.

From the beginning ’til now
it’s been accumulating
but I won’t bore ya with the details
I’ll just give ya the
highlights.

4 years ago – Panic attacks
that left me numb to the
touch and over-oxygenating
breathless, deflated.

3 years ago – A relationship that
was supposed to reach into forever
lasted a grand total of 8 months
and fell flat and died on the spot
in my car a week before Christmas

A year go. Oh, a year ago.
Catch this:
I got entangled in the grips
of a red-haired dream brought
to life, breathed into and
tied across my back with
the strings of my heart,
her hands gripped in my hair,
and 4 vicious stabs
into the deepest part of
my guts.
(The stench was awful)
But that same knife,
she used to cut herself
free and run away with
apologies, tears and a vow of silence
that is still quiet today.
But she did not leave without
a parting shot, planting that knife
square between my shoulders.
I’ve since forgiven
but, trust, I haven’t forgotten.

Now, listen, this isn’t written
to elicit some pedantic, pathetic pity party
from ya because
I may not know you,
but I do know what I don’t need.
And that is exactly, perfectly
the complete definition of it.

It’s just that, to everything
there is a season (turnturnturn)
and this one has the same amount
of happiness of a bunch of kids
who discovered there’s no Santa
but before they were assured
they’d still get their presents.

Can you feel it?
Did you know your face has a memory?
That if you configure your features
into a visage of perfect sadness
your memory will evoke the appropriate emotion
that’s attached to it? To your face?
Memory is that detail-oriented,
that it remembers how you look when you feel.

And when winter comes to me,
face to face,
I mimic its expression and
I spiral down.
It remembers my sadness,
like the kind I feel when
I think of my grandpa
dying in a sun room
to a noonday nocturne
withering away like a flower hung
upside down for an extended period of time.
I’m just waiting for him to dry… die.

So, this bear lumbers through the
cold wind and the snow just to
tell you that
maybe I’m on a journey
where my memory is learning new faces
where the graves finally give up the ghosts
and maybe, just maybe I’ll learn to rest.
This is a test of my endurance.
In hoping for hope,
let me battle hard to find joy.

I’m still alive

I speak to a lot of people at my job and I usually forget them as quickly as I speak with them. I can’t even remember what I thought would be the most memorable and evil of callers now. I will probably forget this one too unless I take it down.

At first, I thought he was being pawned off on me because he was too difficult a customer. I saw that he was over 90 years old and knew right away there would be some hearing issues. And I couldn’t have been more correct.

Admittedly, I was very frustrated with this man until he realized we had already taken care of his issue but he heard the previous representative incorrectly. The whole time I was thinking about how I really am not looking forward to getting old if God lets me. But then he started talking as older people are wont to do if you let them, at least in the realm of customer service.

One of the first things I heard him say was, “I thank God for letting me live this long and still being able to take care of myself.” That rattled me for some reason and then I just listened. He told me about how he still drives his car and goes to the store and is able to basically live on his own. He told me, “It’s easy to die”. And I smiled. His greatest advice was simple, yet perfect. “If you want to be happy, do something that makes you happy.” It’s difficult to argue with 90+ years of life experience.