the walk … of resisting withdrawal

San Francisco is puzzling. It scares me at times. There is a lot of honking and yelling. Lots of drugs – I can smell them regularly. Fresh air is relative. Pine trees and palm trees grow along streets. Often excrement and broken glass on the sidewalk. This is not my place, so to speak. It’s my home now, and to be sure, I’ll miss it once we’re gone. But San Francisco, you’re not my love. Sometimes I want out.

Today I walked down Mission to 5th Street. I turned left and walked to Howard. Turned left again and returned to the office, making a big loop for 30 minutes or so. I grabbed some yogurt with loads of sweet toppings and off I went with my sunglasses for anonymity. I took no photos today, because I wanted to be inconspicuous. In lieu of that, here’s a photo of Market Street from last night.

I’ve driven down Mission plenty of times, but never traveled this area on foot. I was curious as to what I would find. Mission wasn’t terribly surprising, though as I neared 5th I noticed even more poverty and struggling individuals. Around then I realized I was walking past palm trees. There was also a Filipino restaurant and a shop that tailors, does alterations, and repairs shoes. On 5th, there is a center for empowering and helping people find jobs and resources. Next to that there’s a Subway and a convenience store. Quite a number of folks hanging out there.

On Howard I found myself walking behind three young people broadcasting some R&B/rap mix for all to hear. We passed a store with comforters and pillows, and I was tempted to stop in. Eventually I noticed a very huge and tall building that’s the Intercontinental hotel. When you’re on the street, you only see the tall buildings that are further away from you. When you’re in the car you don’t see anything.

I also noticed an enormous dental school – University of the Pacific. Then I passed the Moscone center, the Yerba Buena children’s area, and reached the office again. That’s when I noticed huge coniferous trees standing against our building. They are even huge against this massive building, which houses so many restaurants, 16 movie theaters, and Target. They remind me of where I’d probably rather be … i.e. somewhere surrounded by trees and no cigarette smoke and no poverty. That’s the reality of my heart, because I’m irked and harmed by smoke and broken by poverty.

 

That comforter and pillow store, that temptation – that’s a reality for me. Off the street, in the safety of that room, is softness and promise of sleep. Escape. But some have no option for escape. Or if they did, it’s not evident anymore. Even those of us who have this gift of eternal life, graced to us, we are not called in order to leave the jolting reality behind.

We are directed to engage it, to be the alterations and repair shop and the refuge of home linens and the resource center and the dental school and the trees. We’re to breathe life, to restore, to give rest, to teach, to provide. Because God is already doing this, and He made us to be with Him.

I’m trying to go be with God in San Francisco.

 

I will confess you among the peoples, O LORD;* I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens,* and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Psalm 108:3–4

 

to myself in pain

It’s amazing, what a headache can do to your brain.

It becomes nigh impossible to finish a thought to completion. Circles. Just circles of words and ideas, switching between them without noticing.

You stare without seeing. You’re not conscious of your consciousness. Then you remember you’re in the airport and you goad your arms into lifting the coffee to your lips again, every swallow bringing you a little closer to human.

There is enough brain to function on a very basic level, so walking can still happen. Picking up the feet enough not to stumble … maybe not. Walking in the right direction … don’t count on it. Basic math and critical thinking are out.

Closing your eyes is easier.

Sometimes you remember to remind God you’re miserable and pray for yourself. Sometimes the haze of pain lifts a little. Sometimes it bears down, heavy, and in those times you realize you depend on God for everything.

Those times show you that you take the most normal things for granted.

For now, you probably feel depressed. But this is an invitation to pray simply. To draw near to the Healer and just exist. No other thoughts or tasks can reach you now – only the grace of God that keeps you breathing.

That grace is a gift; it’s all you have to rest in. It’s there whether the brain clouds clear or not.

It’s what lets you say, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.”

Amen.

so it comes to this…

A year from today I’ll be celebrating my first anniversary of really doing this blogging thing. I have been writing blog posts for about 5 years, on 3 different blogs. But recently I came to terms with the fact that I’m supposed to write and to share it, all in, and so I found an option for blogging that will be more user-friendly and allow me to grow. Today, the new leg of the journey – the new chapter of the story – begins.

Journeys and stories are my two favourite metaphors, as you will come to know if you stay with me. By the way, thank you for being here. I am grateful for you and I hope that this intersection of you and me will leave you with something to carry in your heart. Let this introductory post give you a glimpse into my vision for this work. It’s longer than the rest will be, to afford us both a robust beginning.

I’m here to write about Home. I have been for years trying to find a way to unite my interests. Here are some things I care about: church, community, family, relationships, personal development, college – these realms and realities.

How are these related to Home?

  • you need a sense of belonging
  • you’re supposed to grow
  • it goes better if you are authentically yourself and can be known
  • you give and receive

See this Venn diagram as an example of what’s in my brain.

home

Home is where important things happen – habits and character are formed, we fight, we play, we sleep, we are fed and nourished. We make messes and we clean. We combat clutter. We can let our worst bits shine through, and we can be most intimate as well. We have to repair things – with tools and kind words.  It is something we have to attend to. And it’s never really “finished.”

I’ve realized that I care strongly about individuals knowing they belong and finding their Thing(s). I care that depth exists in relationships and in creeds, in purpose statements and minds. I care that we encounter hard things and come through humbler and wiser. I care that no one chooses isolation, either by default or intention, and that unilateralism isn’t considered a viable approach to life.

I care that we create and cultivate, as our Creator does and did and will do. I care that people get over themselves and turn to worship that Creator.

I know that Home isn’t a comfortable or even safe word for many. I know you have disappointing stories and frightening experiences. I will never try to convince you otherwise. I will only say that the way I’ve described Home is as it was meant to be – as I think it ought to be. That is my grand premise, and if you continue with me, it will help to remember that. If you disagree, I hope you still join me and allow me to be with you in your thoughts.

I also hope you don’t hear me positing that Home is only safe. There are rough times, and unpredictable times, and sometimes there’s an ant infestation and sometimes everyone yells and cries. Maybe there’s a fire.

We weren’t made to actually live entirely in a building. And we weren’t made for comfort and safety. And yet, at the same time that God calls us to danger and adventure, He comforts us and protects us. He lets us enjoy, and He lets us learn through suffering.

To me, Home isn’t boring, and it isn’t an excuse for staying in and being isolated. Rather, Home is itself an adventure. Adventure can itself be Home. Let us find greatness in the ordinary, for God calls us to all of it. And if we don’t follow Him, then who or what else will we choose? Where else will we go?

I will talk about going to Him and after Him and for Him and by way of Him. Because, Friend, He is the one real Home. He is our place of rest, our place of sending-out, our equipper and our protector. He is the One Who knows us fully, Who disciplines us and loves us and gives everything for us. It is in Him and in His Presence that you truly belong, whether or not you acknowledge Him.

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Would you come with me as I learn and write about Home, in all its facets and manifestations? I expect you will feel sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes at the greatest ease. Perhaps even at the same time. But I always desire that the words you see here remind you of your longing for a Home and your need for God, our only real rest.