Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Hope has long been a friend of mine. As a depressed teenager, the thing that most kept my spirits up was the anticipation of the next youth group event, or date with a girlfriend. Whatever the reasons for my current sadness, the future was a question mark, and sometimes question marks are amazing.

As a young adult, my hope was smaller in scope. During long days at work, my hope was in an evening of video games, or the dinner I planned to make later. My life was a series of small hopes followed by small victories, and nearly all the days were good days.

My early thirties expanded my hopes to the distant world, and the supernatural. Maybe God could be found again. Maybe the latest social justice cause had a light at the end of the tunnel. Each day had the possibility of far-reaching improvement, and I looked forward to participating in it. When social justice asked me to shun people who thought differently than me, my hope in people led me to put my efforts elsewhere. For a long time, I thought my hope was well placed.

These days I struggle to find hope most of the time. Because humans are as weak as we are, we betray our better intentions. We'll abandon real people in our physical lives in favor of idolized people thousands of miles away. We'll repeat the mistakes of our ideological opponents, changing the labels, but keeping the logical errors. We'll allow ourselves to be emotionally affected by the sorrows of people we can't help, and will never meet, but we'll never learn that our neighbor has a lost a partner, or that our postal carrier got a promotion. It's as if our technological evolution has surpassed our mind's ability to cope with everything our eyes can see, and we're paying the price for it. I don't know how to process daily doses of disappointment. In myself. In others.

I want my hope back. I want to believe that events and people and organizations matter. I want to believe that light is real, and that I'm capable of finding it. It seems absurd to be hoping for hope. But maybe recognizing the circular motion of it all is the first step in making it real.  

Friday, December 9, 2016


The star takes center stage
the planet falls in orbit
circling the center of gravity
With this balance of power
there can be no trading places.

At the time of the great explosion
when atoms and gases and minerals rebelled
against their original form
who decided the pecking order?
Did planet say to star,
"i will follow you"?
Did star say to planet,
"you will do my bidding"?

The nature of the universe demands equality
Pushing and pulling, in search of equilibrium.
Between planet and star, no such parity
Action precedes equal reaction
But as the permanent rotation begins
The planet says goodbye to its freedom
And hello to its permanent, miserable assignment

One wonders, if foreknowledge abounded
would planet have orbited star
would star have drawn in planet
and when "I do" was spoken
did you want to be a
planet or a star?

Monday, November 7, 2016



the slow, simmering ache within
the round hole in a sea of triangles
like watching santa skip my chimney
I am permanently homeless
and constantly homesick

what is this?
do we all yearn for the unreachable peace?

I look for ways to make it useful
if I must hurt, can I soothe another?
if I must cry, will another feel needed if they see it?
is this how we heal?
by bearing it all to each other
until we close our wounds together?


the mind and the heart are at war
always at war
mind knows only I can own the emotions
emotions are furious, stabbed by naivety and deception

heart says forgive, intentions matter,
that the foolish don't know any better
mind says cut and run
that if who you are is destructive to who I am
both mind and heart are best focused elsewhere.

History says I will side with mind every time.

today is no different.
Mind will soothe the heart
Information will win out over zealous feeling
And perhaps tomorrow won't feel so homesick.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


All is quiet on 5th street tonight
too much, too soon, a bittersweet disaster
He lost his composure
she lost a friend
and I'm tired of talking third person.

I summoned emotion from the grave I left it in
but it came at a greater cost than it was worth
To feel an ocean of love
with nothing but deserts to spread it over
while those who are thirsty scarcely catch my eye
I threw a treasure down a well
And I want it back.

The thing about mirrors is
if you don't see a reflection
it's not really a mirror.
Sometimes withholding information is
an act of aggression.
And of all the things I deserve,
I didn't deserve this.

“You deserve better,” my center tells me.
And I do.
From that grave, my love abounds in new and different ways
Friends have talents I've never noticed before
Kids have songs to sing I hadn't heard
It's easier to speak love to those who deserve it
though I'm new at doing so

I turned older this week
and among those who remembered,
a favorite friend inscribed
“we are more than our ideas” on beachwood,
quoting me to myself,
words to live by all the more.

And I will be more than my ideas.
I will love in new and more vulnerable ways
I will share with those who will share in return
I will hope for brighter and more peaceful days.
Because I am more than my ideas
And it's time for my life to live up to my ideal way of being.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

First Word 10/9/2016

delivered to West Hills Friends on 10/9/2016

When I began attending West Hills four years ago, I was taught two things about open worship. First, to speak in open worship, a person should feel compelled to speak by a higher power. Second, the message should not only be something a person needs to say, but should also be words that are likely to be meaningful or useful to others who are present. Because I believe in rules and form, I've been faithfully silent in open worship. I'm hoping this will be the last time I feel like I have to share with you from up here.

What I want to talk about are feelings. Namely, that I don't like them. When I was in high school, I felt things strongly almost all the time. I wrote sappy poetry, made mix tapes, all variety of emotive things. Mid-college my personality changed quite a bit, and most of my life experience since then has been in my head, presenting as an interest in facts and things that can be quantified. Feelings didn't show up much anymore, and as a result, I lost my ability to deal with them on the rare occasions they do show up.

Earlier this year I finally listened to my intuitions, and left social media. Since that time, the world, and my place within it feel much smaller. I can't be invited to anything my group message, and I can't communicate to hundreds of people at once. All incoming and outgoing communications are direct and personal, and as a result, all my interactions have become more meaningful.

With the world being smaller and quieter, I've started to feel things a lot more often. I feel regular emotions like gratitude and embarrassment stronger than I have in awhile, but I'm also feeling bigger things like heartbreak and anxiety. These feelings present like a Kraken springing out of water, and I'm powerless over them.

One of the feelings that's new to me is what some might call the presence of God. In my youth, God was a series of answers and equations. God was a fact, a wrapped package of truth to be accepted and shared. What I feel isn't those things. It's not concrete enough for me to be sure what it is. But it's close enough to what I would want God to feel like that I've become willing to use the word.

Last week Peg spoke to us about hope, asking what our hopes are. This question produced a bit of a crisis for me, because I have an answer, and it scares me. I used to believe in a God who knew everything, could do anything, and who knew everything about me. And believing in those traits, I talked to God all the time. I haven't believed in, or talked to, that God in a long time. But as I've begun to feel a presence I can't explain, an experience that some might call God, I've realized that even if I become sure that God is what I'm feeling, I have no idea what to say to it. My hope is that it is God, and that someday I find the words to re-introduce myself.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Who says to the wind,
"I am weak, blow me over?"
Who says to the hangman,
"Take this rope, I tied it strong and true?"
Who says to the flames,
"Come closer, I'm barely warm?"
Who says to peace,
"I don't need you, you may go?"
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
is just to love, and to be loved in return."
In the mountains rests a door                                 
Retinal scans and 14 codes                                       
Buried 'neath miles of soil                                                                                          
The urns of things most true
Laid softly side by side
Known only to one,
Meant to always be so.
Toohey: "Mr. Roark, we're alone here.
Why don't you tell me what you think of me?"

Roark: "But I don't think of you."
Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
As treasures go in one by one,                                  
Roark's words ring within,                                        
a paragon of serenity                                                
Repeat it, repeat it, it might come true.                     
All of them, any of them                                                            
Like vapor through my frame                                     
To be invincible.
ahbe fights the whole way
the siren of ache and honesty
but surely he must be wrong
for what is love at the cost of peace
or being loved at the cost of...

if I lose my eyes
if I lose my codes
may they rot in the surrounding earth
may the way of peace and horizontal lines
win out over knots and bursts of abandon
this urn is meant to be mine
every fingerprint reminds me
to cling harder
to think harder
to say to the wind
I am not weak, you will not blow me over
and to the flames
the cold is where I belong

Monday, September 26, 2016


Set 'em down on these wood gallows
Fumble the fears of the end
smiling all the way
I'll smile right back and we'll
Say it's alright that our pains are so cold and so intimate

If two is good, then three is better
Life only moves one sip at a time
if we say it does
Futures scroll across lines
of a tree that once gave shade to lovers
who knew better
The clock on the wall says
this time is sacred, and for once
we treat it like it is

Wheats of variety, friend to the nervous
tease out the truth from my padlocked tongue
like digging my grave
i lay the cards down in a row
and hope they paint a coherent picture
We leave them there, sprawled in order
Unsolved but exposed, a nail plucked from
feet tired of running

So next week I'll set 'em down on those wood gallows
Fumbling my fears of the end
smiling all the way
You'll smile right back and we'll
Say it's alright that our pains are so cold and so intimate

Thursday, September 15, 2016

If You Build It

She doesn't have to be real
He doesn't have to be listening
It doesn't have to have Platonic form
If you call, speak, listen or scream
You can build your own God.

A neurological model
Formed of longing and optimism
Crafted by the prayers of the heartsick,
crying out to know that which cannot be greater
Form it in your mind
Focus on its love
Talk as if not alone
And there you will find your lost friend


He tells me these things in sound and print
Celebrating the return of his lost love
while I wait inside with the porch light on.
I've forgotten the voice I once knew so well.

It seems so easy
Allowing the mind to do what it does
Forming avatars of hope and surrender
Yet..I can't.


I saw my essence from above today
and grieve what I found
The whole being is on permanent defense
Losses of the past have formed speared walls of preservation
The body insisting, "you will not hurt him!"
while the mind wants to give up and accept companionship
Even if it isn't real.
It's not the fear that Love will show up
It's the fear that it won't

Losing my Jesus
that death by a thousand cuts -
this body won't let it happen again.
So while the mind longs to quit fighting,
to pray to whatever will absorb those prayers
and offer that sweet illusion of safety
The body is winning the fight.
God, whatever that might be
is losing to these walls of self-preservation.

inspired by Finding God in the Waves, by Mike McHargue

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Confession and Self-Improvement

The fog has lifted, the air is still, and on the inside, there is peace.

For most of the last year plus, I've been yearning to reach the place I am now. From this more peaceful place, I can see the road traveled more clearly, and reflect on what's been learned.

The end of 2014 brought a lot of pain.  Some of it, regrettably, I have written about here.  This regret is something I think is important for me to talk about now.  It has been my good fortune that most of life has been free of long-term, deeply emotional pain.  There have been patches, for sure.  My experience of the puberty years were confusing and mostly filled with depression and self-loathing.  The months following our miscarriage were acutely painful.  But mostly, my life has gone pretty well.

Because my life has gone so well, I hadn't learned how to go about my day to day life while in pain.  My enneagram personality type is type 5, which includes a tendency to run and hide in the face of conflict, and more importantly, the ability to repress emotional to the point that when I can recognize that I'm feeling an emotion, it can be a devastating experience.  Emotions simply aren't a regular part of my internal monologue.

So at the end of 2014, with all its pain, I panicked.  I behaved in ways that are not consistent with the person I want to be; The person I spend a lot of energy trying to show to others. In my pain, I wrote publicly about things that did not concern the public. I shared an email with the public that was not written for public consumption, and I painted a church community with broad strokes over actions that very few of them were involved in.

In my head, I think I justified what I was doing by comparing myself to what people do all the time: emote publicly over perceived injustice.  Liberal culture rewards people for calling out bad behavior, and in my head, I had been wronged, and being wronged warrants public shaming.  Perhaps sometimes it does.  In my case, it did not.

Looking back on it now, I can name a few ways I've harmed myself in the name of catharsis.  Firstly, by showing a willingness to speak publicly about things that did not concern the public, I showed myself to be a person who cannot be trusted to be disagreed with.  If I am willing to go public with my disagreement with you, you will learn to avoid any topics in which we might disagree.  If I show that I am a person who might put your email to me on my blog, you will learn not to send me emails.  Both of these things are violations of trust, and I want to be a person that can be trusted.

And it wasn't only me who was harmed.  Things didn't go the way I'd planned within my church community, that's for certain.  But entertaining the notion of having an atheist be a member is going out on a limb for any church, even a liberal one.  And by acting outside my own values as a civil person, I lessened the incentive for the church to go out on limbs.  If my behavior is the reward for such a risk, it would be reasonable to circle the wagons and give less leeway to people whose ideas fall well outside the accepted norms.  That's not to say that the community will react in that way, but if they did, it would be understandable.

I am taking my failures over the past year as a challenge.  It is a challenge for me to practice civility in times of pain.  It is a challenge to live up to my values even when it's easier to abandon them for a quick atta-boy or a cheap signal to my in-group.

I am the only person who will be there for all of my life events.  If free will exists, the person over whom I can exert the most control is myself.  Therefore, if I want to be the happiest I can, with enough emotional reserve left over to focus on others, I have to view myself as an ongoing project.

Friday, February 26, 2016

the most real illusion

...light filtered through the moving glass, and it all came back.


..like a three-legged race, in all i did, you were there.
you turned when i turned,
smiled when i smiled,
cried when i cried.
you were all i was given,
and all that i needed


..we turned the corner,
removing the leg strap,
and walked for awhile.
i told everyone about you;
more than they wanted to hear
but i loved you so much
i couldn't keep you to myself

...running now, we set off for bigger things
leaving home, then finding love after love
a seamless sequence of data and advertising
certainty about certainty
you didn't warn me of the road ahead

...i didn't notice when you left
turned my head one day
realized you'd been gone a long time
the mind can numb the heart
and it did.
oh, how it did.

...then i felt what i knew.
you weren't there; hadn't been there
all along.
i searched trees and rocks,
finding only me, my family,
my friends.
they are everything, but they will not live
a funeral without end
your death in me

and so i stopped running
went home and shut the door
leaving the porch light on
just in case you simply got lost

...when i cried for no reason
when i heard that old song
when the sky seemed to have a fourth dimension
when i can hardly contain my joy
when my boy holds my face
and my girl sings her songs
and it feels like all of existence is winking in my direction
i hear you

you are not what i named you
you are not nameable at all
but the echo of a voice is ringing everywhere
and the antenna i left on that old house
picks it up more and more
this beautiful illusion
the most real of illusions
is good enough for me.