Friday, February 26, 2010

Where, o death, is your sting? Where, o death, is your victory?

I have experienced quite a lot of death in the past year(ish). It is definitely something I would rather not have to deal with, but as people always say, death is a part of life. So in this post I am going to walk through some of the pain that I have concerning death and losing loved ones. Hopefully, it will help.

I lost two of my grandparents before I could really remember much-my mom's mom and my dad's dad. I never knew my maternal grandmother and all the memories I have of my paternal grandfather come from pictures. I recently found out this past Christmas that I was actually in England when my paternal grandfather died and I could have seen him before he died, but my aunts/uncles didn't want us to be there and get upset. I was really upset to hear that I could have been there in my grandfather's last moments, but I was kept away. I guess that is kind of the story of all of my family deaths.

My maternal grandfather died when I was still young-maybe ten, I'm not really sure. He died in England, while my family was in Florida. I was young and asked whether it was mom's dad or dad's dad-I couldn't remember. Well, this upset my mom and my older brother snapped at me-that is probably the most vivid part of my memory of my maternal grandfather's death. I didn't go to the funeral service or memorial or anything-I had school and things to take care of in the states, but my mom went. I guess I am kind of curious now as to how it went, I wasn't then.

Intermittent throughout the rest of my adolescence were deaths, but they were friends of my parents and it didn't really affect me. I was till under the impression that I was invincible and that death wasn't likely to happen to me.

Perhaps the hardest death I have experienced happened last January. Last year was my first year in the School of Divinity and my very first class in Graduate School was New Testament I with Dr. Goodman. I had heard a lot of horror stories from students about difficult the class was going to be and ho hard I would have to work just to get even a B. The limited experience I had in encounters with Dr. Goodman, he just seemed to have an unbelievable presence and it was clear that this man knew what he was talking about; I was more than a little intimidated. So when I first walked into class, I spent the first class worried to death that I was going to fail the class or else say something stupid and be made a fool in front of this genius of a man. Well as the year went on, I was not so stressed about this class and I actually fell in love with Dr. Goodman’s teaching style and his overflowing wealth of knowledge. I never dreaded getting up at 7 on Monday mornings and I was always eager to hear what new mind-shattering information Dr. Goodman had to tell us that day. It was easily my favorite class that semester. In fact, I was upset when I heard that Dr. Goodman would be taking a sabbatical and would not be teaching in the Spring-I wanted to take as many classes as I could with this man! Almost everyday before class started, Dr. Goodman would read a selection from a sermon or piece written by Frederick Buechner and I couldn’t get enough of what this man had to say; sometimes I felt that he was speaking directly to me. For my birthday, a friend of mine bought me a collection of Buechner’s work as a daily devotional-it was amazing! And I was so excited to tell Dr. Goodman about it; however, my birthday was during exams and I never found time between studying for and taking exams and dealing with my residents in my building to go and talk to Dr. Goodman about it. No problem, I would catch one day when he came in next semester.
The next semester started and life, as always was stressful at the beginning of the semester, so once again I did not have much free time. And then I received a phone call on January thirteenth from Meagan Allen asking if I had heard about Dr. Goodman. I said no and asked what happened. She told me that he had had a heart attack; I asked if he was ok. She said no, and that he had died. I just broke down.
Granted I had not known Dr. Goodman as much as some of the other students and faculty, but in the small amount of time in which I knew him, he had had a huge impact on my life and I couldn’t believe he had died. I would never get another opportunity to tell him how much I loved his class or the fact that I was reading Buechner. Death was a foreign concept to me; I had lost grandparents, but I was too young to really remember their deaths. I went to class that day numb, not sure what to expect from the faculty or the students. When I got there, there wasn’t the usual bustle, instead everyone sat silently-not sure what to do. Dr. Canoy came in and gave some detail about how it happened and told us about a memorial service at 1 in the chapel. Then he told us we could leave and left himself. I didn’t know what to do; I was too stunned to just get up and leave. So I just sat in my seat and started crying. Claire Torrence was sitting beside me and offered me a tissue and we just sat there crying for I don’t know how long. Eventually I gathered myself enough to get up and walk back to my room; however, I knew I couldn’t sit in my room by myself, so I went to lunch in the cafeteria. Probably not the best idea, as I said before people can usually tell when something is wrong and so I spent my time in the cafeteria crying to my friends when they asked what was up. After lunch I went over to the chapel and found a seat next to a friend and once again started crying as people began sharing their stories about Dr. Goodman. I don’t think I have ever cried more in my life than I did that day. Death is not something I like to deal with, especially when it is premature.
When I had gotten over the initial grief of Dr. Goodman’s death (which lasted a number of days), I shifted to anger. It is very difficult to find comfort in God when you are experiencing so much pain and hurt. I was angry at the fact that people didn’t care; that they lived their lives as if nothing had happened. I was angry that we were starting up classes again so quickly, without giving students and faculty time to collect themselves. I was angry with every Sunday School answer that people gave me about death and how Dr. Goodman was in a better place, or my favorite ‘God must have needed him more than we did’. But most of all I was angry at God; angry that he took someone who I really admired and sought to learn from, angry that he had taken him when he was still young leaving behind a wife and two growing boys. I was angry that God wouldn’t answer my questions that I continued to raise before Him. I was so angry that I stopped talking with God; if he wasn’t going to talk to me, why should I bother talking to Him? Not only that but if I did have a good day, I felt guilty because I felt like I should be constantly mourning the loss of Dr. Goodman. I felt like no one understood what I was going through and so I kept it all inside, showing outwardly that I was upset, but choosing not to reveal what was going on and my anger about Dr. Goodman’s death.
Somehow I made it day by day (don’t ask me how, for the most part I don’t remember the specifics of those days) and managed to go on with life. However, I never let go of that anger and almost hatred that I held for God. Each week dragged by with friends constantly asking me how I was and me shrugging it off and saying I was just having a bad day and that everything would be ok. It wasn’t until Dr. Qualls asked to sit down and have lunch together that I realized how impossible it was for me to come to terms with this event if I didn’t turn to God. The more I ignored Him and went out of my way to be angry at Him, the less I would be able to heal and find comfort. After lunch, I decided it was time to talk to God again. I went to Dover Chapel and went into the prayer room just to the left as you enter. I grabbed a Bible and just opened it; it was one of those devotional bibles that have sections devoted to various topics. The page I opened to spoke about God answering if we seek after Him, referencing the verses in Matthew about knocking, etc. Well, I do not believe in coincidence, so I knew there was some importance to this, so I got on my knees and just began pouring out to God, asking my questions and seeking some comfort. Well, a few hours passed (it didn’t feel like I had been there that long) and even though I didn’t have the answers to my questions, I did have an overwhelming feeling of comfort-something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

Even as I write this now, I find tears coming to my eyes, every time I think about it, I can't help but feel the pain and sorrow that surrounded me during that time.

Well, a few months down the road, my paternal grandmother was not doing well. She was dealing with broken bones that would never heal, as well as memory loss. She couldn't recognize her children or grandchildren. Once again, I was not able to visit her before she died in April. Not only that, but I was away from my family. I was torn apart. I broke down a lot during this time, especially to one particular friend (of whom I am greatly appreciative) and didn't want to be around people. However, I will say that if I had not experienced the death earlier in the year-I don't know how I would have handled it when my grandmother died. I did not get to go the funeral service, however, it was recorded on a tape and my family and I listened to it over the summer. It still hurts, but I refuse to fall into despair.

Death hurts. Period. It is never easy to lose someone you love and be expected to go about things normally. My advice is to take the time to grieve; find someone you can cry to, scream to, pray with, take comfort from. But most importantly, don't turn from God-it doesn't remove the hurt and only furthers the feelings of isolation. "It is in those moments, my son, when I carried you."

In memory of all the loved ones lost,


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When Peace like a river attendeth my way....

Hey there blogging world! So it has recently come to my attention that apparently people talk about my blog-that is very strange for me. Really this is a means of me working through some stuff in my life and occasionally providing inspiration or to encourage thought. So when I see that people are genuinely interested in what I say, it kind of baffles me. So thanks for reading and I hope you know you can talk to me in person if you have any questions, etc.

So I have found peace recently. If you have been reading my blog you know that I was going through some hurt here lately. Let me clear something up-there is no one particular person or incident which lead to that blog post. I was having a really bad night and needed to vent-and when those kinds of nights happen, I blog about it, get over it and find peace with God's help. So for those who were wondering, yes, I am doing much better and I am actually quite happy right now.

No matter how much stuff I've got going on in my life, whenever I get the opportunity to work with youth, my life just seems to fall into place and those stresses seem to disappear. I don't know, helping/mentoring people is kind of a means of recharging for me and so I really enjoy it.

Peace is not contingent on my surroundings or the people in my life, so there is no reason I should let them influence my own peace.

Later, gator


Saturday, February 20, 2010

With Kind of a Heavy Heart...

A while back, I wrote about encouragement and my desire to be an encouraging person. Well, while speaking with some people today, they referred to me as an encourager, saying that I have been encouraging them, etc. That was possibly the highlight of my day. Does that make me an egotistical person? Probably. But it meant so much to me to know that I am making an impact and affecting lives here on campus.

There again, we are not called to seek earthly rewards and so I shouldn't seek after those kinds of recognition. I don't know. I am fairly insecure and so I kind of desire those words of affirmation. So yeah it was nice to hear.

I am hurting. A lot. Like a lot, a lot. I am hurting from a change in my life; I am hurting for the problems that others are facing; I am hurting because I don't see people anymore. I am crying out in pain-to no one. The people who I wish would listen either don't understand or don't care. They are so focused on themselves that they can't hear what I am going through. They expect me to be able to listen to them (without fully addressing the real issue(s)) and give advice/guidance on a situation I don't fully comprehend-nor do I think they are willing to heed my advice (not that they necessarily should). I am hurt that people say that can come to me, yet when they need to talk about something-it seems they go to everyone but me. Even people they don't really know-seeking counsel there and completely blowing me off. I am hurt by the duplicity that I seen so rampant on this campus and on this Earth.

I am hurt by the changes I see taking place. I am full of hurt. That hurt is not going anywhere because the people who can help me, won't; and the people who want to help, can't. There is one other person I know I could rely on for support and help, but that person is so overloaded right now, there is no way (s)he would be able to help.

I was told today that I don't have a lot on my plate and can't understand why other people who do have a lot can't make time. Maybe they were right, but I know what it is like to be overloaded and yet I was still able to make time for those friends who needed me. So don't tell me you don't have time-if something/someone is important to you, you will make time.

Life sucks,


Thursday, February 18, 2010

I'll be there for you, when the rain starts to fall. I'll be there for you, like I been there before.

I came to a depressing realization the other day. I imagine you are probably curious what that realization was (well, even if you aren't I'm gonna expound on it anyway-feel free to stop reading if you don't care to know). I was walking along the quad and thinking about friendships and former students of GWU, yada yada. Well, as I thinking about this, I was like, "Man, I wish friendships were like they were on TV. The friends of 'Friends' were great friends for all those years," That's when the realization hit me-"but even after ten years those friends went their separate ways and started lives apart from one another."

Even the sparkling Hollywood version of friendship comes to an end, what hope is there for us average Americans? I don't know. As most of you know I am sort of a 'friendship junkie', I need my fix of people if I am to make it through. My absolute biggest fear is to be alone and have no friends.

"Don't worry, David, you're never alone if you have Jesus!" Well, thanks. That makes it all better. But seriously, I am so glad that Jesus is a part of my life and I know that in times of sadness and loneliness I can turn to Him, but I like to have other people here on Earth with whom I can talk.

But I guess the silver lining is, that just because friends leave, it doesn't mean they have to depart from your life. Case in point, my friend Spaz. I haven't seen her in like 4 years, but we still have conversations and talk (not nearly as much as we should, or I would like).

So I guess friendships don't have to end, as long as you are willing to put forth the effort to keep the friendship alive.

Later, gator


p.s. I didn't realize how many people on campus are fans of 'Kingdom Hearts'. Go figure

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Life in the Mushroom Kingdom

You must be Mario, cause you just got 1up'd. It is a cute phrase which refers back to the Super Mario Bros. video game franchise and the times in which you're character would get an extra life. But that's the ultimate goal of life, right? To assert your opinions/views/achievements as better than someone else's and to essentially one-up them.

Life is a competition-you either win or lose, there are no ties. How does one win this game, you ask? Why, by belittling others and positioning yourself at the forefront- "unless you're the lead dog, the view never changes." In order to validate ourselves, we need to push others underneath us(perhaps even 'under the bus') and use them as stepping stones to prominence.

Well, I wish it didn't have to be like that. I am kind of a polar opposite when it comes to competitive spirit-at some times, I am competitive beyond reason and at other points I couldn't care less whether I win or lose. "But competition is good, it helps us separate the wheat from the chaff."-Really? I guess that's true, especially if you view people as chaff. If you view certain people as less important, than it is only natural that you would want them to be tossed aside.

This is a prevalent factor in church. Different denominations who don't get along; churches of the same denomination who argue and bicker because one uses NIV while the other uses NASB. Congregations fighting over 'new recruits' in order to insure that there sanctuary is more full than the church next door.

It's also in our daily lives. Friends tearing down another in order to demonstrate their excellence in that particular facet of life. Classmates ragging on you because you scored lower than they did on a test. Parents constantly comparing their children to one another and to themselves. Coworkers flaunting their achievements in front of your boss and painstakingly detailing your own shortcomings.

Does any of this sound familiar? If not, count yourself blessed. If yes, count yourself blessed. Blessed that you have endured and come through that time with who you are still intact. If you are currently in that time and the darkness seems too great; please don't give up-I know it sucks and it hurts. I know that everyday you feel beaten and bruised-like your next step could be your last. It isn't fair. I know. I'm sorry. Really all I can say to you is to echo what Chris Rice wrote in one of his songs:
"Sometimes the way is lonely and steep and filled with pain; so if your sky is dark and pours the rain-then cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus and live."

You're right, I must be Mario. But, honestly, I'm ok with that. For now.

Psalm 43:5 -"Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

No Power of Hell, No Scheme of Man

I think the night was best summed up by my friend, Adam (Barnes), "It's interesting how many Freshmen there were." A little back story, you ask? Certainly:

Tonight, like most Tuesdays, played host to the Verge (for those who have followed my blog for a while (or go to G-Dubb) you know what this is, for newcomers: it is a student-led/driven/focused worship experience) and it was particularly student-led as Neal provided a time in which students could go up and share something in their lives that demonstrated God's working/provision. Well as can be expected there were quite of number of stories shared tonight and, as Adam said, a good deal of the stories came from Freshmen.

At first, I was really excited! Here are some amazing young men and women of God willing to stand up and share their faith/testimony/struggles/whatever. I'm telling you there is a revival stirring on campus and like each year there are two paths down which this revival can travel-genuine revival/renewal or driving the community further into the depths and weakening the body of Christ.

That second path is where my second reaction leads to-if it is only the underclassmen/freshmen/new students who are one fire and participatory, this revival will fail. It must be a campus wide event! It cannot be particular to one group or class-we must all join together and support each other; for if this is a revival, you better believe that satan will try to throw everything he can at us to distract and try to separate us and prevent this revival/renewal.

So why am I saying all of this? Basically, I am calling everyone to pray for the campus and the revival that is stirring. Tell people who you can count on to pray to be in prayer for this, come to prayer meetings before the Verge, take time to sit in the prayer room at 2 in the morning and offer a quick prayer. In addition, live your faith-don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in and to proclaim it from the rooftops! Don't let this fire that has begun inside of us to flicker out-let it burn wildly and fervently, engulfing your entire life and being.

But perhaps most important of all-find a group that you can rely on for support. I can attest to the positive impact that a good support group can have on your spiritual walk. We are called to communal life and while we can never fill the void in our lives with human relationships, they do allow us a means of surviving day to day life. As the author of Hebrews notes, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Heb 10:25)The devil is gonna try to attack us and we are much easier targets when we are alone and isolated.

All this to say, please don't let the fire that I feel on this campus be extinguished because of apathy or lethargy. I'll leave you with this quote:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others."
A Return to Love - Marianne Williamson


Life is what you make of it

Job is a pretty remarkable guy. Even when all has been taken from him and he has been inflicted with skin problems and tormented he still remains faithful to God. Even when his friends turn against him and tell him it is clear that he is at fault and living in sin, he does not lose sight. I can't say whether or not I would have that kind of strength. I would like to think that I do, but honestly, I think/feel deep down that I do not.

I am heavily dependent upon relationships, something I am perhaps trying to wean myself off of (maybe, maybe not). This dependence was made clear once again today at lunch-I won't go into detail because the details are not important to the story-just suffice to say that I need friends. However, there are some relationships that I have tried to make peace about and be ok with where it is. Yet, it seems every time I come close to finding peace about it, the wound is reopened and I am expected to be fine with it. I feel a little like Job (man, how self-pitying does that sound?) in this regard; no matter how much I want the wound to heal and for me to move on with my life, for some reason I am not meant to move on. There must be a reason why I am unable to just put it behind me. I don't know if any of that makes sense but that's how I feel right now.

Anyway, like Job I will do my best to maintain focus on God and His provision in my life. There are lots of things I would love to be different in my life-some things made to happen more expediently, others taken completely from my life. But hey, I figure God knows what I can handle and so these things are happening for a reason. Sometimes I just wish I could affect certain areas of my life more acutely and effectively. Oh well, c'est la vie.

I know I didn't say that much in this post, but I might post again later. Who knows? I just wanted to say something-so here it is.

I'm thankful that people don't hold their first impressions of me against me.

Later, gator


Monday, February 1, 2010

Friendship cheesecake

Hey guys! Tonight was an interesting night, one that would not have been possible had it not been for the snow that is still covering most of GWU's campus. So I guess the snow is ok. Anyway, I had dinner at my friend Heather's apt, along with Brittany, Brad and Krystal. It was a whole lot of fun-I really enjoyed the food and we had friendship cheesecake (which was AMAZING!).

My favorite part of the whole experience: I turn to Heather and ask, "Did you get the cheesecake mix from Wal-Mart?" The looks at me, points to her closet and says, "It came from in there." I couldn't help but laugh out loud. I thought she meant that it had been when she moved into the Apartment-last August-and so I was like, "How old is this?" Brittany says, "Too late now, you're eating it." Then Heather cleared it up and said that she had bought it, just not today with some of the other things she had bought.

It is those little misunderstandings that convince me each day that my life is amazing.

Later, gator