One creative expression a day

One creative expression a day. That’s what I’m hoping for. Some folks put deadlines and disciplines between them and creating. If that’s what helps you, do you. I haven’t put deadlines on myself to create ever, but I’m not saying it won’t happen in the future. I’m pretty good at being consistent and I like to alleviate stress there.

I’ve been painting and drawing and writing songs and performing and recording music and writing poems and submitting articles. It’s been a good, hearty season for expression. I’m teetering on the edge; do I plummet, submerge myself and go ‘all in’ or do I find other work and keep creating as a hobby?

I’m gunna go all in.

Reminder

There’s a song called ‘Hazelnut Butter’ by Medium Troy. One line says, “I want everyone to call their mom right now and let her know that she’s the shit.” The first time I heard the song, I called my mom directly after. “So, you think I’m the shit?” she said laughing. My mom passed away last year. All I’m saying, is every chance you get to tell someone that you love them, do it. I’m glad I did that day.

Megaphone

It is not until I’m seated in a reclined position that I realize how heavy the mental burdens of the day have been. Then I can see how unwieldy they really are. 

I’m wondering out loud a lot to my fifth grade definition of God. “Why all this pain? Why all this broken and bent and tragic? What are we doing? What are You doing? Do you love us, still? Did you ever at all? 

Basically, it boils down to : this life is really hard. A real slog at times. 

God doesn’t like to be asked direct questions, it seems. He likes to whisper in the wind and speak in a mourning dove’s song. I’mma be honest, I get pretty tired of discerning meaning from the breeze on a blade of grass (that’s a joke). 

How about some megaphone responses? Maybe he does that too in the face of tragedy, but I’m talking some straightforward, not cryptic, unmistakable commentary. I mean all of this light-heartedly (for now), but it would be nice to see some road signs marked, “Tyler, go here.” 

I’m in a life-lull for the moment and a big, clear push is welcome. 

 

Fly Away – a meditation

“One bright morning, when this life is over, I’ll fly away.”


I want you to notice how soft that line is; how light and divine. It’s like the sentence is angled into a crescendo somehow; like the end of the sentence is taking flight above the clouds.

Sing it over and over in your head. Get lost in the idea of flying away. Pick up and leave every heavy thing behind. I don’t have to name the heavy things. We all know what they are. We recite them again and again until the area between our brow wrinkles.

But letting go of every heavy thing sounds nice, doesn’t it? All those recitations suddenly forgotten completely. And instead, that line above replaces them. The morning is bright, the race is run, I’ll let go of everything and just fly. 

No need to overcomplicate things; just flight and a new perspective from on high. 

 

Are you free?

Are you free?

My first answer is: “more than most of the world.” I can travel as I please and communicate easily and keep my contacts close. But on second thought, I don’t know if that’s entirely true. In America, we seem bound to our screens and our commercialisms and our need to be well thought of.

Do I feel like I am enslaved? You have to know there is a problem before you can solve it and maybe asking the question in reverse can force an answer. Personally, I do feel enslaved and as I look around, I see everyone else is also.

Even leaders who proclaim a message of freedom, they’re enslaved right along with the rest of us. Folks who preach Jesus still enter their cells at the end of the day. People who propose confidence secretly rely on internet message boards. Popular artists need followers in white-walled museums.

I am enslaved to lust (that’s one sin that will throw a hush over a crowded fellowship mall) and the idea of a stable relationship. I dwell on these ideas; ruminate and bargain with God that I might have a taste of the sweet dessert of marriage. I feel that I am not complete unless I have that kind of partnership and I cope with the void by filling my head with lust at times.

I am imprisoned by appearing successful. It is not even being successful it’s appearing successful. I want my community members (reaching all across the country via social media) to think I’m very busy; making money and contributing. This slavery is not as pernicious as some others in my life, but I wonder what freedom could do to alleviate my ‘keeping up appearances.’

I am held captive by depression and mental illness. There are times when I do not get to choose when I am deeply sad, instead that state of mind chooses me. Now, there are things within my control (what I eat, how much sun I get, how much quality time I spend) but there is also a great force working against me no matter how well I’m caring for myself.


All my peers, (and unfortunately my heroes as well) are enslaved. They turn minor inconveniences into unscalable mountains. They work relentlessly and lose their family. They compare and self medicate and rage and cheat and lie.

I have grown weary of those who propose quick solutions to the problem of these shackles; snake oil salesman who flash a remedy but act in hypocrisy. I see their quick temper with their children while they act pious on Sunday morning. I see their struggle with alcohol while they preach sobriety. I see their unconfidence masked as boisterous clamouring.

All this to say, I know that the people of this world are human; friend and stranger alike. I have no problem embracing their humanity, but it is when they masquerade as free and stable and confident that I take exception.


So in a world where I see slavery, what does it mean to try for freedom despite?

Do I need a:

  • Retreat to recenter myself and learn new coping techniques
  • Life coach to point me in an ambitious direction
  • Therapist to uncover childhood trauma that I could then overcome
  • New church small group filled with people in my same season of life
  • Deeper connection with my friends built on accountability
  • Social club to connect with like minded people and explore a hobby

The answer is probably yes, in part, to all of those things.


I have had deep struggles with God and before I talk about faith issues, I want to approach the topic with realness and rawness, because I do not want to sound cheesy.

An idea has been presented to me countless times as I have grown up in non-denominational churches: Don’t rely on anything in this world for freedom, rely on God.

I recently have been thinking a great deal about perfection and how Jesus is the only idea that has ever been presented to me in that way. To me, a perfect person seems like good inspiration in the quest for freedom.Even if I have to think of him as a metaphor at times.

What if I could take my messed up life – filled with depression and comparison and lust and shame, work on those things through therapy, ect. and take on God’s perfection and freedom for myself.

I don’t think freedom comes without work. We have to remember where our security and stability comes from when someone else degrades us or humiliates us. However, moments of pain are small matters compared to retaining personal freedom.

I also want to be prepared when it’s my own mind that’s doing the attacking; attempting to tear down and damage me.


Is my salvation secure? Can a person who struggles with lust lose their salvation? What does it mean that I’m not attending church regularly anymore?

These are all questions that swirl around my mind. The church at large has said a lot of things on similar issues, basically scaring congregations into believing it’s Jesus plus something else (like three devoted quiet times a day or consistent church attendance) that’s required for us to be saved.

But it’s just Jesus that paves the way for our salvation. Just his perfection that grants us freedom and what I’m trying to say in this piece is that we can partake in that perfection and in that freedom; not relying on our own work.

It’s not, “Is my faith good enough?” it’s “Jesus lived a perfect life and that’s what God sees when he looks at you.”

It’s not, “One too many fuck ups and you’re out of the club,” it’s “Jesus died for all past, present and future sin.”

It’s not, “I’m not a confident person so, I must not know God,” it’s “Rely on God solely for matters of worth because all other things are fleeting.”

What do you want to be free from?

And what has the power to set you free?

If Jesus is for the poor…

As I was about to take communion in a church in Findlay, Ohio earlier this year, I was struck when the pastor quoted Paul saying, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” Paul goes on to say we should “examine ourselves” before we partake.

I took a hard look at myself and wondered about my standing with God. I thought of all my doubt. I thought of my trials and when I shook my fists at the heavens in anger; beating my chest was not even a metaphor. Times when I’ve said ‘Fuck You’ to God and really, deeply meant it.

I wasn’t sure exactly where I stood.

There was an uneasiness during this part of the ritual that I had not experienced before. Was I unworthy? Was I going to ‘drink judgement’ on myself? I felt unsteady on shaky ground.

Then I thought about the person of Jesus, looking for things I knew for certain. There is no one else that has been presented to me as perfect. Not even fictional characters, that I can think of. Maybe more than that, there was no one who even came close. No one who is thought of as spotless and wholly righteous. Other religious figures claimed to be prophets. Claimed to be enlightened. But Jesus claimed to be God – and also claimed perfection with that lofty statement.

My mind seemed to ‘settled in,’ remembering all the teaching and studying that I have done; my footing seemed to manifest under my feet again. “If I am going to hitch my wagon to anything,” I thought, “It might as well be perfection.”

Then I also traveled down another road in my mind.

If Jesus is for the poor, then I am for Jesus.

That thought seemed to anchor me down to earth, because I do believe that Jesus is for the poor. There are these counter-cultural aspects to Jesus that I love – the idea of an ‘upside down Kingdom’ where the lowly and oppressed from this life are exalted on high in God’s Kingdom and placed on the same plane as the Almighty Throne.

If Jesus is for the weak, then I am for Jesus. If Jesus is for cancer patients and widowed mothers and suicidal addicts and paralyzed children and abuse survivors and the mentally ill and the hopelessly hungry and the war-torn refugees and teenaged girls contemplating abortion…

then I am for Jesus.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I have to think of God as a symbol because I can’t wrap my brain around the mystery of ‘existence.’ I get caught in my own head a lot; questioning everything at every turn.

My disorder is difficult; a very fickle thing. I run the gamut of emotions – all in a given day. I struggle with thoughts of suicide as I have mentioned before. I struggle – wrestle and writhe and twist and grapple – with knowing my worth; wondering if I am a contributing member to society.

Sometimes I need to simplify my spinning, swirling ideas and this thought seems to help: If Jesus is for the poor, then I am for Jesus.

After that I took communion and was glad it wasn’t a mindless act as it had been at times in the past.

The truest sentence

I feel alone more than a lot.
My friends love me and I’m lucky for that.
They don’t know how alone I am though, they can’t even comprehend it.
They walk around with all these connections and loved ones and spouses.
They wouldn’t know how to define the word.
Some people say ‘depression’ cause they want to be part of the club.
Some people can’t stop ruminating about killing themself.

Like, I have a bad day and I make plans to end my life.
But what surprises me, is that I make plans on the good days now too.
Like dying sounds kinda peaceful and nice and I sigh a contented sigh when I think about it.
I never asked for this life.
I didn’t go around begging for it.
But here it is.
This big, crazy mess of sad and tired and confused and alone.

There’s some good in there too.
And despite my most concentrated efforts and furrowed brows and clenched fists, I keep right on living.
Sometimes I wonder if the ones who really want to live, like have big gusto and whatnot, die young and their time gets added on to the end of my life.
Is that how God works?
Whatever you want real bad, he gives you the opposite to test you?
Kinda seems like it.

When I was 6 years old, I thought life was just about Jesus.
That was it.
No other things.
Just me and Jesus talking about how much we loved each other in our sunday school shoes.
I didn’t know there were any other things you could believe (my little kindergarten self shrugs his shoulders).
I told people I would die for Jesus.
I was very sure of myself back then.

Sometimes I think God really loves me.
Sometimes I think I’m growing from my suffering.
I like to look at the world through that lense, but sometimes I’m bad at it, ya know?

Randomly, I’ll think of God as one of us.
Ya know, a fallible human that’s just real big and powerful who’s trying all these different experiments and he keeps messing them up and he feels really bad that he’s messing up so he just gets stressed out and cries a lot.
This makes me have compassion on this human-God I’ve imagined.
But, if I’m honest, I don’t think God is really like that.

God is this real complex idea/being/creator/force/power/grace that we have boiled down to something really simple so faith doesn’t scare us so bad.
“I can’t believe in a God who would do that!,” we all say at one point.
But I bet he’s so much more than a figure head in the sky or an old man that our mom told us about when we got scared in elementary school.
I bet he’s the connecting tissue to every living thing.
I bet he whispers to us when we look at a big tree and say, “That is so beautiful.”

My friend said she knows God is real because “there are small bugs that light up hot summer nights with magic, and they’re slow enough to be held in our hands.”
She said that she knows God is real because, “The trees turn a soft pink and deep red twice a year with no other colorful purpose than to be enjoyed.”
She said that, “there are one million types of laughs and my friends bring out my heartiest.” And lastly she said because, “My friend went into the darkest depth of a mental hospital and knew in his core that his job was to love people there.”

That last line was about me.
The funny thing is, my friend who wrote those lines four years ago, doesn’t believe in God anymore.
I think she sometimes believes that there could be a God, but she definitely doesn’t believe that he is good.
And haven’t we all been where my friend is right now?
Haven’t we all said, “There’s no way that goodness is at the center of all of this chaos.”
I’ve been there, in her position, earlier today even and I bet I will be there again tomorrow any some point.

Maybe if you think of God as a metaphor for goodness, it’s like taking a step.
And hugging a stranger who’s crying is like taking another.
And sweeping a child up into your arms is like jogging a bit.
And talking a friend out of suicide is like quickening your pace.
And telling a friend your painful story is like running.
And then you’re hugging and sweeping and talking and telling and loving and kissing and helping and singing and hoping and praying
and then you start thinking.

I want to be about goodness.
I want it in my life.
I want to help and I want to grow and get better.
I want to be about goodness.
I don’t really care what you call it.

My family

I am somewhat of a deity.
Not in a mighty sense or as bright as God’s shining light.
But I am a deity in the form of understanding.
I can see where people come from.
I can see the pain of where they have been and I’m able to factor that into my view of them.
I’ve noticed that other people don’t seem to have my superpower.
They have been so blunted or splintered from fear or hurt, that they can no longer look at their fellow man (who might think differently than them) with the same sort of familial lense.
But I can.
I see my brothers and sisters.
I see every living thing too.
The mistakes and quick tempers.
The mountain tops and bitter valleys.
I take it all into account, which would make me a pretty good judge, but I don’t want to reign down decisions on my family.
I want them to see how closely related we all are.
How when we help with our right hand our left one benefits.
That we are God’s body – running and falling. Investing and squandering.
If I succeed, then we all succeed. If I fail, then we all fail.
I’m not passing on until all of you are coming with me.
I simply won’t lose a single, solitary one of my people.
This is my heart, for all living things.
I am somewhat of a deity.
I have been gifted a superpower.

On moving across town – 4/15/19

I haven’t written in a while.
My hands almost forgot what to do.
The busy things have gobbled up,
my time and strength again.

I have now settled
into a new home after five years dwelt
in a little room with white walls,
to a new room, grander.

I have stayed within the city limits,
though I changed my zip.
From one University’s lawn to another,
Don’t worry, I won’t lose my crosstown allegiances.

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure
how my mind would rest a few boroughs away.
I was a skeptic, muttering un-niceties
Under my breath while I moved

boxes twice my girth (a hard thing to imagine)
up and down, up and down staircase steps,
with no end in sight it seemed.
I swear when I get rich,

I’m going to sit in a beach chair
pointing to young, burly gentlemen
that my shit should go a little to the left.
Cocktail in my hand, cigarette in the other.

My body aches from packing my things
into cars and pickup trucks,
I wouldn’t (Well, I Would)
wish it on my seventh grade english teacher

(otherwise known as my worst enemies).
We’ll see what this move does to my psyche,
I’m still not where I’d like to be, but a change of place
could welcome some unforeseen magic.

Vulnerable

You can set someone free with your vulnerability. You can quiet a fellow human’s fears. You can spur them on. It’s not necessary to have your hurts mastered, before you share them, so please share them. The impact of uncovering moments you are ashamed of, will reach further than you could ever know. It will save lives.