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The sojourner pulls himself along by his arms, dragging his dessicated body behind him. He leaves a trail in the parched Earth as he inches painfully along. Everything is dry and dying, even his heart is shrivelling inside his chest.

He reaches a spigot in the middle of the desert. The bones of those who came before lie scattered on the ground. The spigot, you see, has no handle.

But the Man. The Man knows.

He drags himself to the spigot, to the place where his head is just under the opening. He lies there, barely breathing. There is nothing left.

Holy, he wispers in the faintest voice. Holy. The breath is barely audible.

A single drop of water falls from the spigot and onto the Man’s cracked lips.

Holy, holy, holy. Water trickles from the spigot and enters the Man’s body as he swallows. It enters his heart and his heartbeat quickens.

Holy, holy, holy! In a loud voice he cries out and the water streams out and into the Man!

He cries louder and louder and the water spills into the Man and onto the ground and the world sees Him. Not the Man, but Him.


I am away from God. I’ve been prodigal with His riches and blessings in my life.  I am in that place, perhaps familiar to some believers, in which one wakes up one day and asks of the atmosphere “Where am I? How did I get this far away?” I’m on the far side of grace.

It starts innocently, doesn’t it? I go off to pursue some dream or idea or decision, never consulting God about them or sacrificing them to Him. But it’s a great idea or a grand dream. “Of course He would want me to pursue them. They are good dreams and good ideas.” Of course, even good things might not be okay or right for a person.

So, it begins. Something small here, something bigger there. Then I start to feel like I can run my life on my own. I stop looking to Him for my everything. In reality this lack of submission is tantamount to rejecting God and His very best for my life. It doesn’t feel that way at first. It’s a tiny but insidious decision. A mini rebellion. Motion in the wrong direction.

What I’m really saying with this mini rebellion is that I don’t trust God. I believe he’s holding something back from me. I doubt His goodness and love. It’s an age-old condition. Eve listens to the serpent who plants seeds of doubt about God in her mind. The simple act of taking a bite of fruit sends shockwaves through all of human history. Shame enters the scene…”Who told you you were naked?”

Over time a small drip of water can erode huge amounts of rocks and minerals. Over time I make less and less time for my relationship with Him. Prayers become random mutterings. Attending church and Bible studies becomes optional. Time spent in relationship becomes time wasted on petty things. I need a miracle and complete overhaul but what I ask for is cosmic duct tape instead.

The narrow road opens to a wide one and it’s easy to follow. Innocence gives way to a kind of drunkenness of the soul. Lust, envy, pride, and self-serving become my code and my way. Despite all this:”Behold I stand at the door and knock.” But the lust and envy and pride and self-serving…they are alluring. I choose them. I want them. They are my nature.

And so I lie on the floor of a cell with a door that love opened long ago. Lie in my own stink and filth here, on the far side of grace, where a loving Father still holds out His hands and opens His arms. The choice is mine, but what choice will it be…


My bag is packed. Dishes are put away. I have a small stash of healthy-ish treats ready to go and my big, floppy hat is perched on the chair so I won’t forget it.

I have been waiting for this vacation for months.I NEED this vacation.

Monterey calls with it’s beauty, intrigue, and even a little kitsch and I am SO ready to answer that call. Some of my most favorite things to do and see are waiting for me there: The Bay with it’s sea otters and pelicans, Asilomar, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, the Stanton Center Maritime and History Museum, the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium, and even the slightly  creepy Steinbeck’s Spirit of Monterey  Wax Museum.

These amazing things are on the horizon, and I’m excited about them, but there’s this little tingle in the back of my mind that is apprehensive about the trip. Am I lonely? Not really. Afraid to travel on my own? Nah. Waiting for something bad to happen? Nope.

I’ve traveled alone plenty of times, including solo ramblings around developing countries. So, what gives? The answer is that I’ll be vacationing with a stranger…me. I’m still a kind of foreigner to myself and I don’t really know what to do with myself when I’m alone. I’ve scheduled some time in this trip to deal with that and that makes me apprehensive.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin. It’s the time alone in my hotel room that worries me. The ADHD and my mind would normally go wild, trying to find some distractor so I won’t have to talk with the stranger that is me. Not this time though. No addiction,no “others” to distract me from myself. Just me and Monterey and a fire and and pages of blank journal paper. Sure, I’ll be out and about a lot, but I’ve also reserved some one-on-one time with myself so that I can get acquainted with the person I’ve become. Let’s hope I learn to like her…

I love the crunching sound my footsteps make as my psychedelic trail shoes hit the decomposed granite of a nice trail. Sometimes the sound is deafened by leaf litter or pine litter–the deep, rich humus on a forest floor. Outcroppings of small rocks and “ankle-breakers” (gnarled roots sticking out of the trail) ensure my eyes continuously sweep back and forth between what lies ahead and what is directly in front of me. Sometimes soil fills in along one side of a would be “ankle breaker” and forms a nice, natural step.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s days like this, when the sound of my footsteps mingles with birdsong and the whisper of wind through the trees or the trickle of a nearby stream, that bring healing to a place deep within my soul. It’s a medicine found nowhere else but in nature.

Sometimes I want to shout like a mad woman (and I am) about the wonders of nature and being in it. On those occasions I want everyone in the world to experience the bliss I feel when I’m hiking. I want to show and tell and help make it visceral for people. Then there are those days when I want to hide in nature, away from people and the manufactured world. Those are the days I need nature most. Those are the days I need to tell my secrets to the trees and birds and water and wild grasses. I need to feel the wind dry the tears running down my cheeks and let my large body come to terms with the exertion the mountain demands–the “good hurt.”

Thwap! On one occasion wet bunches of grass whipped against my legs while the rain pelted my jacket. My face was red and cold and my fingertips were numb and icy. I pressed on along the mushy trail at a good clip as large raindrops continued to fall. It was a perfect day for hiking, not because of the weather but because of the pain and fear that had crippled me since days before.

I needed it. My soul demanded it. So, I walked on and on until I felt the fear and loneliness well up inside me. It made my chest hurt and each breath became shorter and faster.I stopped, panting. A harbor seal was bobbing in the water while watching me, sandpipers scuttled  along the muddy shoreline on the opposite bank and egrets soared above me.The fear and loneliness lifted and I could breathe again.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time… I knew then that I would get up the next morning and try again. A deep breath filled my lungs and I was off again…amen.

Funny puff of sea foam rolling in from the Sea.

Big puffs, small puffs, rolling all around me.

Rush, rush, run as the waves set you free.

Turning ’round the beach, fluttering with glee.

Racing down the shoreline “Come and catch me!”

Fleeing from mother Sea as fast as can be.

Now the Wind will take you shuffling down the beach.

Getting smaller as you go, your existence dwindling.

“Oh, no! Mother Wave, come take us back to thee!”

But only the Sand answers,

“Now you belong to me.”

Listening to a combination of new country radio and Superchic[k] tonight has done fascinating things in my mind. It’s time for some more (hopefully) enlightening discourse from the Jessss-ter. Onvarts!

I’ll cut to the chase. Ladies, don’t let a man put or attempt to put his penis inside of you unless you ask yourself this question first: “Is this the kind of man and situation that I would want my own little girl to encounter someday?” You might even try “Would he want his daughter to encounter him–someone with the same sexual values–in the future?” If the answer is no, say “No” and move on. In the mean time, be the kind of woman you would want your son to be involved with someday.

Men, don’t put it into a woman’s vagina unless you ask yourself “Would I want my son to be involved with someone like this woman in the future?” If the answer is no, say “No” and move on. More importantly, if the answer is “Yes” then protect that woman and that relationship. Be the kind of man you want your daughter to be involved with some day.

If you cannot say the words “penis” and “vagina” without shame, guilt, or lust or you don’t use them in appropriate contexts (like having a mature and real conversation with friends versus screaming these words for kicks at a grocery store) then you may not be mature enough for sex. These words are not vulgar, they are biology and part of what was ultimately and originally created to be a good thing that God made. God is pleased when you have sex in appropriate contexts that He created it for. If the the thought of God being happy with you having sex just made you spasm, rock in place, or place your hands over your ears and sputter “La la la!” then you may need counseling. I am not jesting with that one.

Of course there are other parameters, like marriage and making sure this is someone you can respect and whom you love and a million other things. Those things have all been said before. I am not trying to make light of the topic or not take these things seriously, I am just trying to make a very real point. The rest will probably fall into place if you think about it. For example, looking at a man mid lust-cuddle and thinking “This dude would never want his own daughter to be in this situation or be with anyone like him” just does something to the moment. Still, it needs to be said: Be intentional about sex and when, where, with whom and in what context you have it. Sort that out now and make the decisions now. It definitely isn’t foolproof but at least you’ll have some goals in place and that makes it a lot harder to stray off the path you want for your life.

For those of us who have made mistakes, it’s time to move on. More importantly, it is never to late to start asking those questions about people we are in romantic relationship with. It’s also never too late to start being the kind of man or woman you would want your son or daughter to be with. You cannot, I repeat, cannot, do this alone. Get connected to a good accountability network, formal or not. Wherever you’re at, it’s a good starting place.

Hope, by definition, lies in the future. It is a future-oriented phenomenon. I don’t mean hope the way I hear it commonly used–the “I wish this would happen” kind of connotation. No, I mean the kind of hope that requires straining at the muscles of faith and surrender because we reach for it all day every day. The kind of hope that requires superorganic perseverance. That hope.

Some of us often feel as if that hope eludes us. Perhaps not constantly, it just isn’t present as much as we want it to be. It’s like the flitting bioluminescence of fireflies, twinkling on a moonless night. I have met so many people for whom it seems that just doesn’t happen–sturdy souls whose light of hope shines like an eternal beacon, often lighting the way for others by inspiration. Then there are those of us whose struggle in life is maintaining hope, but maybe we aren’t supposed to. Maybe, for those of us who are prone to losing sight of hope, our job is simply to surrender to One who is the author of hope. That fluttering emotional nature is our thorn and our battle.

Unlike hope, which looks to the future, the impulsive cannot see beyond the present. The pain or joy or excitement or despair of the moment overrides good logic and reason. Impulsivity is the bedfellow of a dangerous kind of amnesia. This amnesia buries the good and bad of the past, the lessons learned and the “stones from the Jordan” in a sticky, black mud.  I wonder if that is what it was like for him in those last days or moments. I wonder if hope was obscured in that black mud. If the pain of those moments right before he made the decision was so blinding that he forgot the evening surrounded by joy and fun with his family and couldn’t see ahead to the hope of a new day with new mercy and promise. Was there was no looking forward to another day surrounded by the laughter and love of family or friends?

Perhaps the exhaustion of one more moment and the pain and torment inside his mind was overwhelming. My guess is that it was. In any case his impulse, an impulse he acted on, was to make the pain stop in the only way he could see available to him at the time. His faith, built on so many battles won in the past, and the light of hope for the future was literally pulverized by a compulsive decision to strategically place a lead projectile into his own body. Pain, overwhelming pain perhaps stoked by some dangerously selective negative memories, was what I imagine he felt in those last moments. Then it was over. For him.

By his words I think his father believes Matthew is with Jesus, and I do too. Doubtless he will be judged by humanity, and likely most harshly by those of us who are specifically admonished not to as part of our Faith. Some will call him coward and some will call him evidence of no god. In the end it doesn’t really matter how we judge him because there is only One who has that right.

He was my brother. I never met him, but he was my brother in Christ and in this great struggle, our struggle, and I am sad to hear of his passing. I trust, though, that the Author of Hope will use even this to cultivate the promise of hope in the lives of others. Redemption is, after all, a reworking of the wasted, broken, used-up and awry into something new. Hope in this tragedy is waiting expectantly to see how the Great Redeemer will use even Matthew Warren’s pain to heal others.

I look forward…

There are times in my life when I feel very brave and big. Today is not one of those days, though I have in actually made some very adult decisions and acted in very adult ways recently. It’s hard being an adult sometimes…okay right now I feel like it’s hard most of the time.

The last few months have been a kind of roller coaster. I have provision for my basic financial and living needs, a job I love and wonderful, amazing people in my life. I am blessed beyond belief! But the road is uphill and narrow. I have made hard decisions and choices not to do things that I wanted to do because I knew they were poor choices and would hurt myself and others. My life is SO not where I wanted it to be by the time I was 32. I struggle with worrying about the future–how things will “pan out” for me financially once my schools loans are out of deferment and what am I going to do about benefits and rebuilding my savings and…oh the list goes on.

Then there are my core pathologies:

I hate making mistakes, I am afraid of failure and I want everyone to be happy with me and like me. But here’s the thing: The reality of life is that everyone makes mistakes, one of the best indicators of success is how well a person handles failure and no one can “make” everyone happy (we simply don’t have that kind of power–no one can really control what others think and do, at least not without the other person’s permission). So, now what?

I have to make hard decisions: A decision to keep going after I make a mistake and not feel like it’s the end of the world and that I am completely incompetent. Decisions that may not please others or that they might choose to take offense over, but that are the right decisions for me and the situations. Oh, and then there is the ever-looming decision to get over the failures of my past and even some more recent ones. I’ve often said I need hiking boots to get to the top of my failures and broken dreams. That might be true, I don’t really know, but what I do know is that I have the wisdom of those experience beneath me–the mountain holding me up–and the view is fantastic from up here.

So, “vorwarts?”

The amazing thing is that, though I feel very small and weak, I have an enormous amount of drive to move forward and that is in large part due to God’s encouragement and the cheerleaders urging me on. I have a slough of people involved in my life who want to see me succeed and are standing with me. I can actually feel their love and support–they are part of that drive and the the next handhold I reach for.

There is one other thing that moves me along and is helping me not shatter into a million little pieces. It’s best summarized in this prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace. Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that You will make all thing right if I surrender to your will. So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with you forever in the next. Amen” Even now a friend is encouraging me in this, and it’s just what I need–perfect for today and this moment. So, yes, I am small, but that is okay when you’re the daughter of a very big king. Onward…

The delusions from lack of sleep this week have set in: I cannot sleep and a recurring creative seed is now bouncing around my head again and won’t go away. I need to do a better job of paying attention–giving attention–to these things in my regular day. They force their way into my sleepy time just like this latest one has (actually it has been brewing for a few years, so maybe its time has come). So, now I’m back online. I need an astrophysicist, an illustrator (someone patient), and someone skilled in taking ideas (stories, specifically) and turning them into…I dunno what…two or more dimensional “reality” (and by reality I mean some place other than the confines of my head). Later, I’ll need a composer and possibly a theological editor. I’ll do the writing…