Follow me down

What makes someone worth following?

This question was posed to me (and a group of other men) one night at an event we call “Bourbon and Cigars.” The meeting has become a ritual, something we can count on; a weekly rhythm for men to gather and discuss life over spirits and smokes.

Who do you follow?

This was another question that succeeded the first. The men around the fire were silent for a long time; looking off into the distance to the sun setting over the West Side of Cincinnati.

“My father,” one man said after quite some time. We spoke about parents; about the roles of fathers versus mothers, if we, as men, were looking more for male leadership in our lives over female leadership. We spoke about the difference between people we look up to and those who we believe are worth following.

I thought about my dad. How I followed him as a child. How he taught me what he knew. I thought about his patience, his level-headedness; how I felt safe when he was around.

When I became a man, the image of my dad was tainted. My parents divorced. Now they don’t even speak to one another. My dad can’t even say my mom’s name. This question of who I follow caused my stomach to turn a bit.

I didn’t give my answer right away. Instead, I thought about how I don’t particularly want to follow anyone at the moment. Being a follower has almost become a bad word in our culture. We should be self starters! We should be completely independent! We should be free from any power over us! I am my own man, I thought. An army of one.

After battling in my own head, I thought about my mentor. How I met him when I was in grade school and did in fact follow his lead throughout middle and high school. What made him worth following?

Well, he is committed to service:

My mentor has been involved in the ministry of Young Life for over 20 years. He made a commitment when he was in college to mentor high school kids and share life with them and tell them his truth; how he found peace in the Gospel of Jesus. He has devoted his life to helping others; his impact is undeniable. He has reached thousands of young men and women through his humble service.

The Bourbon and Cigar crew talked then about imperfection; how it’s hard to follow anyone because we are all so broken. I said that the people worth following will undoubtedly screw up, but what makes them worth following is how they respond after.

There are two men in particular I’ve seen in my life that are worth following; my mentor and my grandfather. I thought about both of them and came to a realization – I have never seen either of them screw up. I do admit, I have put them on somewhat of a pedestal, but truthfully, they have been uncommonly consistent in their pursuit to live uprightly.

My mentor is steadfast and reliable. His “yes” means yes and his “no” means no. I am also certain he loves me. My grandpa was positive and uplifting every single time I saw him. His words were seasoned with love. His actions were compassion (the noun felt better there for some reason). I knew he loved me. He also loved his wife well.

(Aside) I don’t see many men that love their wives well. I don’t see men who inspire me with how they serve their wives.

So these were the themes that surfaced through the conversation around the fire. In my opinion, the people worth following are the ones who serve others, serve their families, and as a result, serve whole communities.

Also, people worth following, love well. There should be no question in your mind, that the person you are following, loves you.

He shook his fist from the stage

Because it makes you feel good.
Because it’s tax deductible.
You’ll cross off a box on that long list –
and you’ll sleep better.

What do we have to spare?
Hope to receive it back.
Everyone in the office is –
You should too.

The biggest check,
Has your signature at the bottom –
I wonder if that wing of the church,
has a name already?

Gold plaques
with embossed letters.
Full page spreads
in every local newspaper.

Because it’s a competition.
Because it’s about you.
He shook his fist from the stage –
and said you won’t feel guilty.

You really hate to feel guilty
It’s like being exposed a fraud.
You hate to feel guilty,
More than you care to give.

The Cry

…And we continue from the genesis, where began the life and legacy of God’s people. We move to the sons of Israel who travel to Egypt after being invited by the Pharaoh. There, Joseph has died along with his brothers and all of that generation. Despite this, the Israelites are growing in numbers. They are fruitful and eventually, they fill the entire land.

But then a new Pharaoh arises.

One who does not know Joseph and his lineage. This new Pharaoh fears the Israelites from the very beginning. He says, “the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us.” He is afraid they will become a coursing river that swells and overtakes its banks. He is frightened for his empire that they will flood the land.

So, he decides to make them into slave laborers so, he can have power over them and oppress them. He is ruthless because he fears their foreign ways and worries they will join his enemies and fight against Egypt.

Families are then torn in two, separated and forced to live in cities the Pharaoh builds. This continues the massive oppression as Pharaoh seeks to regain the power he sees the Israelites gaining.

But the more the people are oppressed, the more they multiply and spread.

This angers the Pharaoh. So again he is ruthless. He makes their lives bitter. He breaks their backs with work in the city and in the fields. But he does not stop there.

He tells the Hebrew midwives to murder all the male children once the Israelite women give birth. He hopes to destroy their heritage. Because the midwives fear God, they disobey the King of Egypt’s commands.

The Pharaoh asks why they let the children live. The midwives are cunning and say, “Hebrew women were not like Egyptian women, they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

Now the Pharaoh is furious. Despite his tireless efforts, the people of Israel keep growing. But again, he does not stop there.

“Every son that is born to the Hebrews shall be thrown into the Nile,” Pharaoh decrees. He is inviting the people to join his sin. He is inviting them into the subjugation of an entire people group. He is inviting them to participate in genocide. In this, sin has moved from a personal level into an entire culture. The Pharaoh, with the help of the Egyptian people, will stop at nothing to thwart this ever expanding nation. He intends to rain ruin down upon them.

Made into slaves, ground into the fields they worked, separated from their families, their sons killed. All of this at the hands of a King who did not know their people’s history and saw them as nothing more than foreigners occupying his land. The people of Israel have nothing left to do, so they cry out to God hoping He hears them.

Bride Series Poem

So here we find ourselves.
In the middle of two great weddings.
First with Adam and Eve.
Finally with Christ and his Bride.
The story of scripture is laced
with a lover pursuing his beloved.
And we were once lovely.

We were devoted to the apostles teaching
To fellowship and eating together.
We prayed for our growing family
and we prayed for our forever.

We shared everything.
Our clothing our property our possessions.
The Lord added to our number
And we forgave great transgressions.
Simply put, we were lovely.

But now that beauty has been broken.
Our hearts imprisoned
Our minds stolen.

Battered, bloodied, bruised
We stand before a most holy God
Shaken and confused
How could we fall so far?

But he steps in for us redeems,
Red river brackish flows and teams
On a cross his body broke
In blood rivers our mouths to choke.

To sanctify Her
Oh what a cost.
That Jesus paid
On wooden cross.

Now he can present his bride holy and blameless
Spotless while we make him famous.
To what length would you go?
The reply echoes of I love you so.
And again echoes of welcome home.

How then should we move toward him?
Where in this do we begin?
Fight for not with
The poor and penniless

How he pursued then we shall too.
How he pursued then we shall too.
How he pursued then we shall too.

It cost Jesus everything
and we should expect no less.
It cost him everything.
Even His very flesh.

So here we find ourselves.
In the middle of two great weddings.
First with Adam and Eve,
Finally with Christ and his Bride.
Let’s bring the wine.

Neither

I am neither the demonic high priest that pulls at our sinful hearts nor the savior king sent to tear him apart. Not the wicked warrior who intends to bring the kingdom down or the prince of peace adorned by a thorny crown. I am somewhere in the midst, caught in between the fray of an other-worldly battle waging war every day.

I am both holy and sinful simultaneously. I am a triumphant malady whose oxymoronic tendencies give birth to reveries. And while I often get caught in daydreams of saving the world, I must adopt a different purpose because my savior worked his tragedy for my glory.

I am stained red from a lamb who caused the angel of death to Passover.
My God was maimed then bled from carrying the cross on his shoulders.

Why must I remind myself that I am neither perfect blameless Christ nor slippery sorrowful Satan? Because often I think too highly or lowly of my crooked sticks being straightened.

So for this I must be blatant. I am neither the snake in the grass with a forked tongue nor messiah that air did rejoice to be breath expelled from his lungs.

I am faithful yet sporadic
I am joyful yet depressed
I am sometimes automatic
Sometimes fail to pass the test

I am at times loving beyond all comprehension and others never ceasing to create tension.

They say the earth is a place where both Heaven and Hell dwell. For the non-believer it is the closest vision of the almighty streets paved with gold. Or so I’ve been told.

I can feel overwhelming, incomprehensible good washing over me and small lies breeding in my mind creating self-defeating poetry.

Hopelessly hopeful, deprecating and boastful.

Dreadful, and also headed to med school. Not as a doctor but a test patient come to test your patients. A virtuous miscreant that writes rhymes in the basement similar to Sage’s complacent inspirations.

And this is a cause for celebration.

God still loves me fully.
He refines me daily.
He wants peace for my heart
And I want it for yours.

I speak about peace because it lead me to His feet. A firm foundation in Christ is really all you need.