An Honest Survey

Last night I posted a new status update on my Facebook page and, after rereading it this morning, I’ve decided to post it here on my blog, too. I’m doing so because I’ve realized that there really is a big picture sense of truth underlying each step in my existence. Surely, others have experienced far worse than I have and I’m sure there are higher peaks yet to come on the other side of eternity, but, it is clear to me that God is faithful. As Jesus explained in the sermon on the mountain in the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew, we are all blessed in our brokenness. We are never alone. He is always there for us, waiting to take our hand, if only we will accept the offer.


For many of you who know me in the flesh, as well as those who’ve been my Facebook friend for any length of time, it isn’t news that The Hands & Feet Project has become a notable focus in my life over the past five years. I realize that I may even run the risk of turning people off from paying attention to my posts due to the sheer frequency of my Hands & Feet Project-related posts. But, it’s almost as if I can’t contain it inside of me! Some folks just don’t realize the magnitude of change that happened and is continuing to happen in my life! It is a transition that I firmly believe God has been orchestrating behind the scenes from well before the day my biological mother put me up for adoption.

While it is true that my biological mother nearly jumped off a bridge with me in her arms when I was an infant because she didn’t have the mental fortitude to face motherhood, it is also true that God used my soon-to-be aunt to help facilitate my nearly immediate adoption by two parents who provided a sound foundation to grow from.

While it is true that, as a young child, I was sexually abused repeatedly by somebody that, at one point, played a significant role in my life, it is also true that my parents were able to provide the right setting for me to be able to move on.

While it is true that neither of my parents were particularly spiritual, my mom provided me with a religious foundation and surrounded me with a church family that would be able to provide a positive spiritual influence in my life.

While it is true that my parents and I had very rough ride through the years that it took for their separation and divorce to become final, my relationships with both of them solidified shortly after. My Dad went on to become my best man in my wedding and was the best grandpa I could ever ask for for my kids. My relationship with my mom has recovered to a point that is greater than I ever thought possible and I love her dearly.

While it is true that my Dad and I lost everything in a house fire on a six-below-zero January night in 1996, I learned a priceless lesson about how unimportant our possessions really are.

While it is true that I engaged in all sorts of college-aged experimentation and boundary-breaking, a pineal gland brain tumor rupture in 1998 shook me up physically and mentally and, ultimately, helped me to settle down so that I could finish college with honors and start teaching.

While it is true that I was adopted and had never known, beyond infancy, anyone that was my own flesh and blood, I’ve been blessed, through my wonderful wife, with two kids of my own who, despite resembling me in many ways, consistently inspire me to be more than I am. They amaze me!

While it is true that the sixteen months of decline from brain cancer that my Dad went through, and the many months of mourning after his passing, encapsulated the darkest time of my life, they also proved to be the fertile soil out of which a brand new sense of hope and purpose was born — supporting and participating in the critical work of The Hands & Feet Project to care for orphans and keep families together in Haiti.

I’d never sought out or had any kind of prior inclination toward the nation of Haiti prior to the experiences that I was forced to walk through as my Dad’s primary caregiver when brain cancer robbed him of his ability to do anything for himself. I simply fell (because it was all that I could do at that point) forward through doors graciously opened by God, through others, to whom I will eternally be grateful.

I went to Haiti with The Hands & Feet Project for the first time in 2014 and again in 2015 with my wife (her first time). In just a couple of weeks my wife, my kids (for their first time), and I will be in Haiti with Hands & Feet again. We will be there to continue to build relationships, support the long-term missionaries of The Hands & Feet Project, deliver supplies, learn, and further experience the God-given beauty that exists in the land and people of Haiti.

If you’ve ever experienced the gutters of life only to, later, also experience the peaks, you might have an idea of how I feel. The opportunity that I’ve been given, to be able to play even a small role in serving the mission of The Hands & Feet Project has God’s fingerprints all over it. From the connections with people who’ve opened doors, to the opportunities, time, and ability to donate, sponsor, and fundraise, there has been one source: God’s grace.

Jesus never said that life in this broken world would be easy, but, He did say that we can come to Him and that He will take our burdens. If you knew the sheer contrast exposed in my life from the depths of where I’ve been to the blessings that my family and I now experience through our support of The Hands & Feet Project, you’d be supporting them, too.

“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:6

“I’m Not Afraid. No, I’m A Believer,” is an older post from my blog that explains more about the story of how I came to be involved with The Hands & Feet Project.

For more information on The Hands & Feet Project, visit http://www.handsandfeetproject.org

Providence (in spite of me)

I am a mountain that has seen the sun
Baking the escarpment broken open
By seismic shifts I had no defense for
Revealing light-less depths I’d never known

I’m a mountain that bore greenery from
Fertile hillside blessed by shaded rainfall
Balanced with ample sunlight to bring forth
Nature’s rich bounty spilling o’er the edge

From the west to the east and peak to ground
I rise up from valleys on every side
Equally akin to death’s deep shadow
As lush pastures of green by still waters

The breadth of my marked ascent is defined
Not by claiming to be a victim but
By recognizing the transparency
Through which He intended me to be

Identity revealed through my frailty
Humility through inability
Bore a mountain solid from within me
His blood covering every flaw you see

So let not my words cause you to stumble
Where I’ve been is not where I planned to be
But He who shaped each atom of the earth
Can mine precious gems from the abyss
To reflect His light for eternity

Only After

It is the landscape
In front and
Melting out
Into the periphery
Halfway along the journey
To the vanishing point
That startles you
The sunset far
More desolate
Than you once imagined
It to be years before
The grief in your throat
Rising simultaneously
As objects in the rearview
Shrink back behind and
Your eyes focus more
Than ever on
Jagged cracks
Pockmarks
And flaws in
The pavement below
Your head fighting
Gravity with vision
Transfixed not
On light reflecting off
The asphalt surface
But through to ghosts
That no one else can see
And the wake they left
When you turned
On your own heels
Setting out for
Your fair share
Which turned
Out to be laden
Indeed
With grace
A blessing
Certainly
For you still
Even to be
Here now
To behold
This revelation that
The promised land
Wasn’t grasped
Before forty years
In the desert
The life of Paul
Out of the
Killings of Saul
Resurrection only
After Christ
Staggered beneath
The weight of
The cross
Your salvation
Only once you have
Nothing else on
Which to hold
Leaving
Your hands empty
And free to
Seek first

Defined

The question

Cliché and worn

Like an out-of-style

What Would Jesus Do? bracelet

Dropped like a hat

Casually

In this equally-worn

Small southern town

Are you saved?

Yeah.

I got saved on…

The date so easily recalled

Like the day you earned

Your drivers license

Because

Like other rites of passage

That is what you do

When you grow up

Down here

Unlike what is brought by

The fire and brimstone

Ultimatum as written

On the inside cover of

A pocket-size Gideons’ Bible

Handed to you

On the way to recess

By suited men

Just beyond

Your public school door

I breath peace

Born by hope

A notion that

Like a loving parent

His grace is infinite

Even with the pain that I’ve caused

Lying out in full view

Before Him

He holds me close

Whispering good news

That these tears

Are not cried in vain

“A Myth About Conversion”

I read this this morning and it immediately resounded:

There is a myth flourishing in the church today that has caused incalculable harm – once converted, fully converted. In other words, once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons. Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness. Tell that to poor Peter who, after three times professing his love for Jesus on the beach, and after receiving the fullness of the Spirit at Pentacost, was still jealous of Paul’s apostolic success.

Often I have been asked, “Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?” It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure, because I got discouraged, uncertain, and guilt ridden and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.  -from Devotions For Ragamuffins, by Brennan Manning, Pp.165

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. –Romans 12:3

Grace Beyond Eggs & Peeps

I’ve claimed to be a devout Christian before. The height of my claim came in high school when, for a few months, at least, I was set on the decision to attend a Seventh-Day Adventist college and major in Theology to become a pastor. For the most part, my spiritual life has been hit and miss since then.

The past couple years, however, brought about a growing acceptance of the concept of God’s grace. Essentially, there is nothing that I could do, or have ever done, to earn God’s love and acceptance. This realization has brought me closer to him than I’ve ever been or ever could become by learning to quote from the many writings of Ellen G. White or by refraining from doing the wrong thing on the sabbath (two big emphases of the Adventist church). Both of my hands are empty and free to serve now that I set my score card down.

My realization of the profound consequences of Grace on my personal life, has developed a greater appreciation of the events that the Christian Easter season celebrates. I grew up, as many kids do, coming out to the living room on Easter Sunday to find an Easter basket full of candy, treats, and usually a toy. The Peeps were my favorite. This was before they became available for every other holiday. I’m talking about the marshmallow, sugar-coated, yellow, pink, and purple chicks and bunnies. I still love them!

Sure, I was familiar with something related to Jesus being resurrected (or something like that), but, that was all on the periphery. My main focus when I was a kid was the candy, the oversized rabbit that stands on two legs at the mall, and egg hunts. Even in my mid-twenties I didn’t grasp the significance of “Good Friday,” as many people called it.

Last night I participated in a Thursday evening communion service in which we focused on commemorating Christ’s last supper with his disciples in the upper room. I’ve been focusing on this event in my personal readings over the past week as well. To me, this is where the truest character of Jesus is revealed. From the revelation that John the disciple reclined at the table with his head resting on the chest of Jesus, to the fact that the Messiah disrobed, wrapped his clothing around his waist, and washed each of his followers’ feet.

Though he knew he was about to suffer the greatest pain known to man, Christ spent this evening breaking bread with his betrayer, and providing food, wisdom, and comfort to his disciples. On the eve of the day when He would experience the greatest mental, physical and spiritual struggle to touch mankind, Jesus provided rest to his disciples and served even those who would, later that night, betray and deny him.

The next day he was unjustly executed. Three days later, on resurrection Sunday, he served all mankind by tying the knot of grace that binds, to Him, those who accept his generous invitation to eat with Him in His kingdom.

The hope and peace of my life rests on these events.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” John 13:23

3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:3-5

Beneath The Surface

Like a single point on the earth
Turning away from the sun
It becomes colder and darker
Until it rotates back to face the light

The dark is not to be ignored
Daily waves of life remind me of the present death
From within the dank and musty smell of hopelessness
They are waiting for a hand to be lent

Temporary discomfort is a given
Temptation all too likely
Because the night distracts
Clarity quivers and weakens

Like a diver sunk too deep
Panic sets in amidst the poison of neon
Returning to the surface becomes critical
To face the light again