A year and a half ago I wrote this post, and this one subsequently ending “Stranger In Rebellion” (until last December when I rebooted it). They were about an opportunity we had in Denver and all the fallout that came therein. Recently, I have been troubled by having many dreams about living in Utah; moving people I knew there, living in houses I have a history with, planning meetings with people, walking or driving the streets. It seemed a constant barrage and I began to wonder if I was being told something.
The same group of discipleship friends, the ones who told me they’d do everything to make me stay if they believed God was telling them it was wrong, gathered last Sunday night – and there was a similarity of conversation. I told one of my dreams and hope of interpretation. He told me that biblical interpretation of dreams was done by a person of God to someone who did not know God, so perhaps I should know my own. Another thing he said was that God seems to communicate to me in the going. In the possible move to Denver, I had to go there in order to feel God stopping me. Maybe this will be the same?
I had suggested in the past that I would like to take an all day/night drive to Utah with these friends, and, show them around a bit. The places I lived, went to school, restaurants I enjoyed, people I knew, are all a part of who I am that not one of them will ever know or understand. Who am I but where I came from? And now, just last week, my friend confirmed that perhaps we ought to do that, and have a good conversation on the way back about what God may be telling me. I delighted in the idea and began thinking of places to go. And then I had a great idea… Write about the places I would go. I like writing and I really like writing about my history, so why not begin a series about the places I’d take my friends. Most of these probably won’t be places we’d actually have time for, but it is more of a record, for good and bad.
I am writing this on “Former Stranger In Rebellion” instead of “Undeniably Mayo” because it seems right. This is where it all started, and this is where it may ultimately finish.
Mount Calvary Cemetery
The first place I’d like to write about is about the end. The place where all come to rest: a cemetery. You’re told to be quiet in church, quiet in school, quiet in the library. But a cemetery is a strange place. We need to be respectful. We need to be reverent. We need to be quiet. My Grandpa’s grave was located near the eastern most point of the entirety that is the Salt Lake Cemetery and more specifically, Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery. As a child, my family would visit his plot every Memorial Day, washing the bird poop off the tombstone with small tupperware containers filled at the little nearby shed. We’d walk up and down the hill in the hot sun getting enough water in the bowl and walk carefully back up trying not to spill too much so as to limit our excursions. As we stood around, waiting for my parents to feel whatever they were supposed to feel, I got a wondrous tickle deep down in my tummy. I wanted to run. What a perfect place to practice the dodge and weave, through the tombstones over the little trees, up the hill and back down. But that was all forbidden here. We were to be reverent. We were to be quiet. “Don’t step on the graves,” we were told. “Don’t lean on the tombstones,” we were reminded. We knew how to act, it was just hard to in such a beautiful environment.
Later, we’d walk up to the trees that lined the many roads within, to look at the graves of… my possible sister and brother, or my dad’s sister and brother? I never really quite understood, nor did I try to clarify, and it seemed mythical to me that I might have had two older siblings, or, that I might never existed. There were four of us kids and I was the third. If my parents were shooting for four, and the first two survived, would I exist at all? Those trees along that road held great reverence and quiet for me. The small inlaid stones were shabby and broken up, barely any writing on them at all. The memorial within the Mount Calvary Cemetery for those who were killed by abortion is larger and more intricate than all those little stones that marked the memory of those children who died very young. These small little tombs made me quietly sad, and yet filled me with a philosophy about who I was, and that I existed and they didn’t. What kind of God did we claim to know that left me alive and allow those others to perish? And why was there some sort of life there where we had to not walk upon them? Would they feel pain in the afterlife if we trod on their grave or shifted the stone? Sure, it is all respect for the living in that all this is done, but as a child we wonder why, and the smaller ones always held such sway over me.
I never knew my Grandpa, but buried there now is my Uncle Mike, his parents who are my Nana and Papa, subjects in many of my dreams. My dad is buried there too. They are all in and around the same modern mausoleum. Families divided in life by divorce, now united in death. These people define me. The place they now rest defines me. Here is where we shared tears when my Papa succumbed to old age, and too long after, my Nana. All the people who gathered at their home many a Sunday, now so geographically and emotionally and spiritually divided, coming together to mourn the loss of why we came to be. We will soon be gathered there, united in death. For death defines and succumbs to us all.
And yet, with the life I now live for eternity, do I go back and share this life, live it in such a way that they must see Christ in me? Or do I stay here? It seems that in the going I must find out.
Strange Confessions: This opportunity in Denver and the subsequent reactions of my church family here in West Plains has affected me greater than I first thought.
I have been part of a discipleship group with three other men here for the past month, and have been discussing many things with them. The congregation that I am a part of now does not see discipleship as I always imagined it: sitting there with a book of doctrine in your lap or on the table and going over again what we have known but occasionally forget, forcefully trying to slam it into your brain for good. We take walks, and talk. We ask each other questions about what we would do in certain situations. There is discussion about how we are leading our family and ways we can do it better. We talk about long term relationships, careers, and ministries. We consider the immediate and grasp the consequences of the past. The Holy Spirit flows through our assembly as we do our best to honor Him in all our contemplations.
“Why do you call your blog ‘Stranger in Rebellion’?” I was asked the other night. I am quite proud that I came upon that name and all its connotations, stemming from the “Strange Confessions” and other strangeness that encompasses who I believe I am. Earlier that night I told them about my difficulty in writing over the past few weeks. I tried writing about the sermon regarding Friendship three different times. It seems as if I’m stuck in trying to convey the importance and value of what being a true friend in the full biblical sense really is. I get caught up in thinking about how I was so interested in getting out of West Plains, that I forgot about… relationship: family and friends that I’m not sure I’ve really had until these last couple of years. I don’t want to devalue our church family in Utah in any way, but this is so much different from what I knew back West. We also discussed the Youth Group that is starting up with me at the helm, and how I want to go beyond what is the other standard fare offered here in West Plains. I think about all the “wasted” time that has rushed by in the past and how now I see the world, God, and the gospel in such a brighter light, and I want to share that with these young adults so that they at least have the opportunity to understand all that before their life is in their sun’s declination phase. There is a passion inside me that wants to reveal the God that I now know, the gospel that is all about freedom, and glory that shines in us every day. I’ve missed the times when I taught Sunday School years ago, that is when I fully got into the Word. Yes, I struggle with giving my God the time He completely deserves, yet in teaching the desire comes fully alive.
The question posed to me lied more in the fact that I am no longer the “Stranger” I once was, and might be part of the reason I am struggling to write. They say people don’t change. We know, as Christians, that this is completely false. Others understand this in some superficial way. Sure we change our minds, our habits, our style, but fundamentally we are the same. I am new. In many ways I am the same. I stay quiet when I don’t feel what I say is important enough or smart enough or considered enough. I get very opinionated and loud when discussing our societal woes. I enjoy movies and pop-culture. I love my family and I miss the ones I am related by blood, who are far away. Yet, I am new. There has been a switch that went off inside me that I need to explore. This something is more… mature, you might say. It is more willing to Be where God has me. Resolve is changing to contentment.
I think my friend hears all this in me and, considers the Stranger to be no more. And to tell you the truth, I believe he is right. Change is inevitable. This considered move to Denver revealed how much I am attached here. Prior to these occurrences, I saw us moving and forgetting about all that we knew here, in West Plains, deleting contacts in our phone and on that one site. Now, as I ponder these possible actions, it almost brings me to tears. This place has become so much a part of what I am, who I am, that I can no longer consider forgetting it all once we are geographically gone, if that ever happens.
This change is not a new idea in my mind, for over the last few months I have thought things needed to change about the blog. Make it more about life and the gospel and our culture as it relates to us all and step a little bit away from it being about my experiences. Not stepping away entirely, because my experiences are about who I am, but in a more… generic(?) way. I don’t know, perhaps you’ll understand once I start going on the new name/site that I will develop… eventually, when I am ready. Writing is a desire in me that I can rarely contain when the spirit is upon me. So after 125 posts to this site, farewell. I will post a link here when all the newness comes about.
Thank you all for reading Stranger in Rebellion, I hope to see you all in my future endeavors.
Strange Confessions: When we left Utah, we told people we’d never come back. I regret ever saying that. Totally.
Our family has had the wonderful privilege of hosting our niece over her Thanksgiving break from college. She is going back to Mississippi tomorrow. I just put my youngest daughter to bed and she started to act like she usually does when we’ve had guests and they are about to leave. She gets very emotional, tells me she is sad about them leaving, but usually doesn’t cry until just after they leave. Then the next few days I expect one or another of my daughters to just start crying and say how they miss Utah, our family there, the friends we had. It makes me sad. Makes me regret ever coming here. I don’t want to put my family through this kind of regular heart-ache.
We have some truly wonderful friends living in Kansas City. We have been friends with them for about 19 years. They moved from Salt Lake City about 13 years ago. Lived in the San Francisco area for a while, then moved to KC. Being friends with them after such a long time of geographical challenges is a real testimony of their loyalty and patience with our family. We see them at least three times a year now, and I love every minute they are here or we are up there. We are travelling to KC soon, and the one thing I don’t look forward to is leaving. Having to deal with the kids’ state of mind, and even my own is very sad. I counsel the children that this is not the end of seeing them, it’ll happen again, we had fun here now, why ruin it with sad feelings? I’m really talking to myself. This happens when anyone who stays for more than a night comes for a visit. They especially miss my mom, as I do.
This Thanksgiving marks four years since we moved from Salt Lake City to West Plains. In a lot of ways it has gotten easier. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We knew that God wanted us to get out of our comfort zones and look to new challenges of trust and empathy. I accept His sovereign will in my/our lives in this matter. Our cousin posted this picture you see on that one site, and it has been very helpful in the last few days. All the things on this list are true. I usually dwell on the things I don’t have, which is, I believe not the way God would want me to look at things. There is one thing I would add: “I really miss my family who is miles away, because that means that I have family who still live in this country.” I have a friend, I’ve told you about him before, who has no family. Well, that is not entirely true, but his parents and only other sibling are gone. He does have an ex-wife and stepdaughter. I don’t know him intimately, we were friends only for a summer back in high school, but when I wrote him on that one site, we talked quite a bit and still maintain some contact, at least I haven’t driven him away for good… yet. In my lame little way I contacted him over Thanksgiving to see how he was doing. I know it can’t be easy for him, but how do I know? Maybe he can take it. I know I couldn’t. Anyway, I hope he’s good. I don’t want to feel like I’m sorry for him, just let him know I’m there, if it matters…
I am thankful for what my wife and I have found here: a deeper, more intimate and trusting relationship with the Lord, my beautiful, loving and smart wife, my wonderful children, a great fellowship group that meets at our home that is fiercely diverse, a good church family where His word is brought to my ears to challenge me, and all the other things that make it possible for me to have a job, home, and means to get from here to there.
There is some things that sometimes seem to be missing. I say sometimes, because I do have occasions that I am completely fulfilled by Him in His glory. I also want to point out that I am not complaining, or at least I am trying not to. I just know that there are things, of this world, that make difficulties a bit more… easy. Again, that is not to say that I shouldn’t look beyond God to fulfill me, but, you know… that it would… help. “He never said it would be easy,” is the occasional mantra of the Christian, and I know that. I just miss my family, my wife’s family, the best Awana club with the best group of kids ever, and to a lesser extent, the mountains, the roads and valleys, the buildings, and yes, the familiarity of it all. I do want to go back to Utah, or at the least 2-3 hours away from the Salt Lake valley, or even a maximum of 5 hours.
My mom will call me and say something like, “when are you going to come over and fix my faucet?” I tell my wife, after I am done talking, about what she said. I say that of course it is all in jest, but then my wife says in many ways it isn’t and I see the truth in her words. My mom would very much like me to be home, in Utah. I would very much like to be there for her. Perhaps, someday, God will see fit that we would go back there. Perhaps not. I really pray in these times of realization, that I want to be a teacher, that I want to be a full-on missionary, that I want to be closer to my mom, that God would do a miraculous work here to get me to face those situations head-on. If God wants me to stay here, until He comes back, so be it, and praise Him for it.
When I moved here I was astounded that so many people came here, and of their own free-will! “Why?!” I would ask them. Many of the answers that came back were, “family.” Sometimes that answer rips my heart out. I want to cry out, “I know, I know! Why do we move so far from those we love.” But then, I consider the full-time missionary. They sacrifice what they know, to be with those who they… love. See that? Because I just did. We need to love the people we are with. Does that mean we forget those we left behind that we love? May it never be! You must love them all the more. Hope that they know God has laid on your heart a people who need to see clearly the love of God and His sacrifice.
Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. ~1 Corinthians 7:24
One of the reasons I called this blog “Stranger in Rebellion” is, I like the connotation of the word “Stranger”. I am a stranger to you, but I am also a stranger here on this planet: this world is not my home. I call Salt Lake my home; I was born and I lived 40 years there, but it is not my True Home. That is heaven, where I will be with my true Father forever. The feelings I feel for the people and the place that is Salt Lake City, are just a dim shadow of what I will or should feel for my home in heaven. I long for SLC as I should long for heaven. People I’ve known and loved there for years are there, maybe they are not waiting for my return, but I am. I am also longing to be in heaven, so we shall never know the pain of ever having to say goodbye… ever… again.
Strange Confessions: My best friend from High School and I signed up at the Salt Lake Community College so we could take classes together, and when we took the English placement essay test, I was placed in the remedial, and he, the advanced.
Writing, or more specifically making up stories was one of the things I always enjoyed doing. I would tell my little sister bedtime stories that was stream of consciousness style, much like my singing and poetry is now, er… then, like… forever. There were lots of times that I thought I could have been a writer. But, like so many things I dreamed of in my life I never thought I could be good enough. What? Where did that come from? How did I always believe that? My parents weren’t necessarily discouraging, but I never really remember them encouraging me to do whatever I wanted to do. I see movies where the child is discouraged because he failed at something and the parent gives a little speech and tells them they can do anything they set their mind to. I never got that speech, and I failed… a lot. I don’t want to blame my parents for my lack of direction in my life, but there is something to it, perhaps. The time I remember wanting to be a veterinarian was the only time I remember getting some type of encouragement. We’d go to the zoo and some monkey would respond to my face and my mom would oooh and ahhh, and tell me how good I was with animals. I thought, “Yeah, I am good with animals.” I could be a veterinarian. But, somewhere along the way, I lost interest. As always. There is a saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That’s me, although more like, “Jack of much useless knowledge, master of none.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa! We’re getting way off subject here. This is a Strange Confession about me and my best high school buddie, let’s call him RT. Well, I was the reader of the both of us, and he was the music guy. I was the hiker, he was the dragged along. I was the eater, he sometimes ate food. Although it may seem like I’m pointing out the differences here, which I guess I am, we were very similar. We were both very sarcastic. We both enjoyed heavy metal. We both enjoyed sci-fi and horror films. I’m trying to think of more similarities, but I can’t really. In fact some of our similarities eventually became the things which may have started to divide us.
You can’t expect best friends to be exactly alike in all ways. But there is a point here. I wanted to create, in the form of stories, and he wanted to do music. He is still very much into music and he actually has a self published book out, in the style of H.P. Lovecraft. I am proud of being a friend of someone who has remained true to his beliefs, enjoyments, and talents. Although I completely disagree with his beliefs and enjoyments now. He is the friend that I have talked about in previous Strange Confessions that is openly hostile to anyone that has a religious belief, especially Christian. When I first became Christian, I asked him what he thought of it and he told me that he always thought I’d take a path like that. It makes me think now what he meant by that. We were both raised Catholic and we both were in various ways rebellious against the whole system. We would eat, much to the chagrin of his mother, pepperoni on Fridays during lent (gasp). If you didn’t know, you can’t eat meat on the Fridays leading up to lent. I think he might have seen it when we were forced to take religious classes together, for those Catholic children who weren’t going to a Catholic school. I think I remember his saying something about that.
Either way, we had grown very distant after I had met my future wife. The last, largest amount of time we spent together was a couple of years before I got married. We took a trip to Houston, Texas, where his brother lived. We drove up to Waco too, where my brother lived then. We also spent a few nights in a beach house on Galveston Island. During the drive to Waco, I drove him completely insane by playing the only They Might Be Giants tape I had. He was very patient with me, and he was one of the few people who I don’t enjoy teasing. So it wasn’t on purpose that I did this, it’s just that I couldn’t stand what he listened to. It made me depressed. He listened/listens to death metal and the like. To me it’s just noise and screaming, and just depressing. We just about killed each other in the beach house. Our only salvation was walking on the beach at night. The ocean was warm down there and I just enjoy walking beaches, as far as I can. We went to places he wanted to go; metal record shops and such. We went where I wanted; places where I could eat something. But this vacation was the bells ringing the eventual doom of our relationship. We were really growing apart. It was a dreary realization. I knew that friends grew apart when one finds the love of his life and the other takes the single path, not, perhaps, by choices of his own. But it was inevitable. I still like RT and wish that we could sit together and talk about old times………. Perhaps that is my problem. *Realization occurs* None of my best friends really want to dwell in the past. I find the discovery of who I became through the experiences I had to be the best remembrances of me. … Is that why I like writing this? Is that why it is so rare to have more than three friends like these writings? and rarely comment? Do I need to change? I feel an inexpressible hollowness. Do they just humor me?
Who cares?! I enjoy writing and remembering. Perhaps that is a quality desirable in me. I enjoy it. …. No, no, no. Here it is. It wasn’t the experiences, it was the relationships. I am so scared of people rejecting me that I touch and feel them out, or I just bear all to make possible the rejection they could have for me quicker. “If you want a relationship with me,” I say, “then by golly I’m going to show you who I am. So that if you reject me it can be quick.” I don’t bear this facebook thing easily, but I’m trying. If you aren’t ready for who I am just leave. I’d rather you go now then lead me on and say it’s too much later, or be fake and just accept and go right on by me day in and day out.
That’s me. I’m open. So what? Like it or lump it. What does that mean anyway? (Here’s the part where I turn the serious stuff back into comedy so I can blame you when you leave.) I mean: “lump it”? That’s so confoundingly disturbing I have to see a cat in pajamas right now.
There that’s better.
Bye, bye for now!
Strange Confessions: Late at night, while having a sleepover at my best friends house, we’d listen to a song that would make us think the communists were coming for us through the windows, and we’d fight back with imagined incendiary devices and machine guns.
This best friend was one of the longest friendships I had formed in my younger years. Let’s call him Garth. We became friends in first grade and it went on strong through sixth grade, and waned a bit in the last couple of years at St. Vincents, then disappeared in high school, (see previous Strange Confession). He was a really good friend, had a really good family, although I remember seeing a sticker on his sister’s mirror in her room that said, “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.” It was the first time I had seen that kind of scary stuff in print, and she made me a bit nervous although she was hardly ever around; she was much older than us. I actually heard that she has her own family now and lives in the very same house they grew up in.
We’d stay up late and play this Flinstone’s game, where we made our very own cards that were missing, and laughed our heads off at our own artwork. I’d see him off and on for years and I’d bring up these pleasantly remembered moments, and eventually he’d show his boredom in my recital of years gone by, and tell me I’d always mention this when we’d see each other. I felt ashamed for remembering the past fondly. By this time he had gotten very successful in fact even now I can google him and find he has a profile listed in Forbes. I can see his salary listed and everything.
Anyway, the other favored activity was listening to the Rocky soundtrack. This was back when every boy’s favorite movie was Rocky and the inspiring music made feel invincible. We’d run up and down the basement, arms in the air, like Rocky, punching the air, quick jump roping, and training, like he did. But then there was this spooky song that came on. It made us a little frightened and opened up our imagination to believe that communists were attacking the U.S. and more specifically coming through the high windows in Garth’s basement. We’d pretend to lob grenades through the windows and shoot anyone we saw with our machine guns.
I spoke before in previous Strange Confessions, (see my Facebook StrangerInRebellion page) about being influenced as a child of things that weren’t necessarily in our range of vision. I can’t imagine how we were educated to understand that the communists were after us at that age. Rocky came out in ’76, which meant I was around 7-9 years old when we play acted this scenario. I mean, Red Dawn, an extremely fear driven movie about a Russian attack on U.S. soil, didn’t come out until ’84. That show scared me in a certain understanding that only comes with being 14 years old.
Yet there we were, being scared by a song and translating that into a personal attack on our homes. Was it Garth who had this idea? Was it me? Strange to think, as I look at my own children’s play: ponies, dragons, drawing, and imagined worlds of fantasy. Sure, maybe they have some idea of the threats that are in this world, perhaps more my oldest than the one who is seven years old now. Or maybe that idea only comes in to boys minds. I’m sure that’s not true. Perhaps it is the way we are raising our children: to understand that there is evil in the world, but eventually God is the victor and there is nothing to fear now. Yes, yes, I was raised a Catholic. But that relationship was a Sunday only thing for us, and there wasn’t much discussion about God at the dinner table, save for the rarely remembered moment to pray before; “Bless O Lord and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive, from thy bounty of Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
I love remembering my childhood, love my family, the friendships, the good times, the bad. For that, what I’ve said before, is what makes me who I am today. I want my children to remember fondly their childhood for the same reasons. Not be bitter because they didn’t have their own room, or had to move from friends, or remember that they were very much different from other kids their age. It is difficult. Especially when I don’t know if I should answer a friend who states on his facebook page, that all religious people should be sent to a planet without oxygen, so they can discuss things there. Or another, that vaguely states that they are sick of religious people shoving their ideals down other people’s throats. I suppose the rights of a “religious” person, their desire to see a world of another vision, is not welcome anywhere. That is what we, my wife and I, need to train our children to know. That their ideas will be hated, that their morals will be mocked, that if they want to have a business they better be prepared to fight a battle they might not foresee; the right to refuse someone services because of their way of life.
These Strange Confessions, many times have a mind of their own. I did not expect this one to go this way. But I suppose it was inevitable sometime. This introspective inspection of my past will reveal the harsh conditions of my children’s possible future. And again it reminds me of my current favorite verse: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I have had to remind myself this, when I read some of my friends facebook posts, or when I see those friends who consider us “Persona non grata”, that these people are not against me per se, but what is coming against us is the forces of this dark world, and knowing that is what comforts me. That perhaps I’m doing something right, or that God is helping us to grow through tough things. Not that this compares with what other Christians face in the world, I can’t even compare my struggles with others who face death for claiming the name of Christ.
May I be strong in the face of these coming trials and train my children to know hope. The true hope that only comes through knowing that this world is not all. That all that this world can offer you may feel like it’s fulfilling you, and it does a very good job in this generation, but ultimately it has no eternal purpose. From the very beginning of my remembrances, I knew that there was more to this life than living and dying, and how can my God make my best friends not realize this. In that instance, I believe, it is all a choice. Thank you God for drawing me near you, for giving me an eternal perspective, a vulnerability that make me know whatever I do will never be enough in whatever enterprises I take on. Thank You!