Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “love”

Goodbyes

It’s hard to say goodbye to people we love, even if we only see them on occasion. When they will be farther away, it means they will be farther away. The closeness that comes with proximity is severed.

I recently attended a party to say goodbye to some dear friends who plan to move out of state. I drove almost 60 miles to get there, because I practically live in another state myself. But this event was a big deal. We don’t see that group of friends very often because we live so far away, but not too far to get there for dinner. Their move though will take them too far away for that.

These people are the kind of friends that when you see them, it feels like you have never been apart. Conversations flow easily. We freely discuss the deeper places in our lives, things we might not share with others. Even though it may be years before we see them again, I trust that this dynamic will remain.

But then I wonder why years pass between seeing them. Why have I not made it to dinner with any of the other friends in that room I haven’t seen in years? Life happens. Sometimes schedules get in the way. And frankly sometimes it’s laziness. But these are people I love.

Some days, I want to book every possible moment to make sure I don’t miss my chance to see my friends. Some days, I want to travel to Michigan every weekend to try to connect with my brothers and sisters. Some days, I don’t want to go anywhere so I can just sit at home and enjoy my wife and my daughters. Love’s power builds us up and energizes us when we connect with those we love. But it also cuts deeply when we aren’t with them.

Life is too short not to spend with the people I love. Some days it feels too short to spend time with all the people I love. I know I am blessed to have so many awesome friends in my life. But loving people can be hard.

My Lord

I know many Christians that serve God because they know he is powerful and that he is going to win. They don’t seem to particularly like him. Their description of God makes it sound like he at best tolerates them. Love isn’t really part of the equation. They say he loves them but the practical application of their faith doesn’t demonstrate that. It seems like they are betting on what they think is the winning side with the expectation that things will go better for them if they do.

God gets portrayed as a taskmaster, or at least a mean boss. He will reward good work. Maybe. He definitely will punish shoddy work. It is almost as if the purpose of serving such a God is to avoid being fired. Or stuck by lightening. Fear is the driving force relationally, not love.

And if this truly is God, then perhaps there is logic in trying to be on the winning side. You’d hate to be punished by such a God. After all, the wrath incurred for failing to serve him well can’t be as bad as that for opposing him. Can it?

Obviously, I am exaggerating the extent to which people serve God like this, but when fear drives the relationship rather than love such an exaggeration is not that far away. It is the way a victim stays in an abusive relationship. As wrong as that is when it’s two humans, isn’t it worse when the abuser is supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving and divine?

The best picture I can think of to this approach to God comes from Harry Potter. This is the way Voldemort’s servants respond to him. They fear him. Often, they hate him but he is the most powerful being in their world. He is the one they expect to win. Best to side with him than oppose him. As vindictive as he is, the punishments he will one day dole out will be horrendous. When his evil reign ensues, his friends will be ill-treated but not as ill-treated as his enemies.

What a lousy platform for faith. I don’t want a Voldemort for my lord. Jesus speaks of God being a loving father. I sometimes struggle to understand what that metaphor means, but I much prefer it to the mean boss.

I have to think God would much prefer not to be treated as Voldemort as well. I wouldn’t want people to think that of me, no matter how much power I could derive from it. If God truly is the fullest manifestation of love, then this has to tick him off. Love wants to be freely received and freely returned. Fear driving a relationship can never get to this place. God wants us to know him as loving, to engage him as loving, to wallow in his love. That is the lord I desire.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 18

So a week after I write about how it sucks to only see people at funerals, I find myself on the way to funeral. I saw a bunch of family that I haven’t seen in years. Some of them are people that I’m not that close with but are good to see none-the-less. Some, however, are people quite dear to me, people that have had a big impact in my life.
And I’ve failed to stay in touch with them.
And it took a funeral to bring us together again.
I am trying to figure out a way to stay connected. They live several hours away, so I can’t just drop in on them. Yes, this is an age of technology so I can email them or even go old school and call them. Even that seems hard to squeeze into the schedule too. Not sure why. It just does.
At this point I realize some of this is being deliberate and actually doing something about it. I can actually pick up the damn phone and make the call rather than sit down to rest for a few minutes at the end of my work day. It’s not that exhausting to call them. Usually it’s invigorating. And work, isn’t that hard. So why is it a struggle?
Maybe because there are so many other people that I want to stay in contact regularly and fail at as well, so I feel guilty calling my mom because I owe a call to three other friends. But I could be more deliberate about contacting them too. I love these people, don’t I? They are important to me.
Somehow this ties into the discipline of exercising. Or writing. Or anything. I can find the time to call and connect. I can find the energy to express and feel love. But I want it to be because I love them not because I’m being disciplined. But can I use the task to help me connect which will grow the love that drives me to want to connect? I know, it sounds convoluted.
But it has to happen. This can’t be my cycle. I can’t be connected through funerals alone. Life has to be the reason to seek people out, not death.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 13

A recent musical discovery for me is the song “39” by The Cure. Sure, it’s been around for awhile, I have even had it in my library for a few years, but it just never made it into my rotation. I have a lot of music by The Cure and I listen to my favorites all the time, rarely digging into the wealth of all they have to offer me. Finally, I played my full arsenal of The Cure and I discovered “39”.
This song could have been my theme song for the last few years. I love the lyrics about how everything in life used to be fuel for the fire that burned within. Everything fed the flames. That is/was true of me. There was a time when everything, good bad or everything that fell in between served as fuel to keep a massive fire burning inside my spirit. But, like the song, I am now in the place where the fire is almost out and there is nothing left to burn. All that happens around me, even the good, even the exciting, seem feeble fuel for such a fire.
And that hurts.
Breaking a vow is a terrible thing and it crushes us. That is part of the power of vows. It is easy to disregard them as mere words, but vows lock into our spirit. They can be horribly heavy to carry at times, but breaking them steals something form our souls. We are somehow less.
I have become a man I vowed I would never be. When the fire was raging and everything fed it, it was easy to believe I could never become this man. It was easy to despise others who were where I am now. The vow was such a tiny, tiny burden then.
But it almost feels like there are forces out there that attack vows. Forces that want to destroy us and destroy our spirits and they know the power of vows, so they use them against us.
That is part of why it feels so hard to get the fire going again. I shouldn’t be here. My soul has been injured in landing as awkwardly as I have in a place with so little fuel for a few dying embers. But I don’t want to stay here. I want to have that raging fire in me again. So, I nurture the little fire I have left. I feed it what fuel I can find and breathe all the life into it that I can.
I think I need the breath of God to give some serious life to these embers, like when god breathed on Adam and Eve and gave them life. Like when he breathed into the all the carcasses in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel, bringing hem back to life. I think this might be the only way that the fire within me becomes a raging blaze again. I think that is the only way that everything in my life will become fuel for the fire again.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 6

Donald Miller decided that he needed to live a better story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I agreed with him when I read that book. I wanted, and still want, a better story. Most of the story since then has been quite depressing and I would much rather portray it as montage and then move on with the time of growth and renewal on the other side.
But that would be a pretty lousy story. Delving into the full depth of the depression wouldn’t be that fun either, but there is story there and glimmers of hope. Eventually the darkness thinned and I fund myself walking in brighter times again.
I recently pondered my desire to live a better story and realized that I should have expected that though. Or something like that. The downside that is, the depression, the unemployment, the hard times. After all, any story worth telling has something go wrong pretty early on. Typically other stuff will continue to go wrong to aggravate the situation. Deliberately pursuing story is to pursue things going wrong. Which doesn’t seem so wise.
Where I want to get to though is those places in life where I can deliberate choose risk, to find things that take a little risk, a little faith and carries a chance of failure. Or things not turning out perfect. Because sometimes simply taking a risk provides enough of a story to tell. It might not be as good as the story of rising from destitution or a scrape with death, but taking a chance at something is being more alive than avoiding those situations all together.
So I am seeking out some small challenges and risks to try, things to get me used to being alive again. Some things that give me enough of a thrill of risk that I can remember how living like that used to feel. I need something to build my faith a little and get me hungry for being alive again.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 5

On the way home form work, Old Man by Redlight King played on the radio. I love the Neil Young original but this remake connected with me.
The last time I wrote, I talked about how I observed my kids and learned about how to live my life better. This song warned me that they are doing the same. They look to me to figure out how to get through life. Sometimes by asking questions but more often by copying me.
How much fear and lifelessness am I passing along without intending to? The stuff I hate about my life, the things that are motivating me to write this blog are the very things that will be my legacy unless I am deliberate about changing them. I don’t want my kids to learn to fear the world, life, God. More, I don’t want them to learn it from me. They will grow up one day to be a lot like me, for better or for worse.
This change, this embracing change and choosing to live, that’s what I need to pass one. Hopefully I can give them enough that they can learn to do it better than me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 4

I recently heard a pastor make the case for fear being the greatest sin we can commit. His reasoning basically went this way. He felt that fear was the opposite of love, that it drives us away from others and from God, preventing us to take the risks of faith, hope and loving others. Therefore, since loving God and loving others are the two greatest commandments, then the thing that prevented that the most proved the worst sin.
I don’t know that I agree with him fully, but I agree with it enough to comment on it here and let it shape my quest to live. When I look at my kids, the thing that bothers me the most is when I see them act out of fear. I hate when they do that. I don’t want them to create a pattern of letting fear make the decisions in their lives. Sometimes they are scared by something that should scare them, something that is threatening or surprising. Those things are easy to recover from. A car racing by too close to the curb is a real threat and elicits real fear. But some comfort and reassurances that they are ok allows them to move on. But the moments when they pull back from trying something because they fear that they might fail or what others might think of them – that’s the stuff that drives me nuts.
I want them to know that can fail as freely and as frequently as they want and that I’ll still love them. I may get frustrated if they don’t learn how to adapt and overcome, but I’ll not stop loving them. And I’d rather have them try and fail than never try at all. I want them to know freedom. I want them to be capable of taking big risks.
I know, somewhere in my heart that God feels that way about me. He wants me to live and to love and to be free. He wants me to taste life and enjoy it. He wants me to be bold and not worry about what others think. He wants me to be myself as fully as I can. And every time that I let fear kick me in the balls and abdicate my freedom, God gets pissed. Not a hate me and will never talk to me again pissed, but I’m sure there is a deep growl in the back of his throat. I can here they thought of “don’t let fear do that to you.”
I’m pretty sure God wants us to turn the tables and kick fear in the balls.

What’s in a Name?

What’s up with the name Brad? It seems that a frequent characterization in TV and film is to name a jerk Brad. Somehow that name amplifies the jerkiness of the character. Why? What is it about my name that now has a cultural reference to being a jerk? Is there some dude that went to high school with a bunch of Hollywood writers and treated them like crap? Or are they lashing out against perception? Or is it jealousy? Raging against the talent, fame and all around sexiness of the Brad’s of the world?
I mean, Brad Garrett is quite funny. Brad Pitt does a fine job acting and lots of ladies still swoon over him. Brad Paisley also causes his share of swooning as well as plays a mean guitar and writes both touching and humorous lyrics. That’s a decent amount of reason for jealousy, but come on. There has to be a pile of Petes or Johns or some other name to cause the same reaction.
That must mean that it has, as all things do, something to do with me. Now, I can’t remember anything that I’ve personally done to piss off a bunch of screenwriters, so there has to be some other reason. I thin it’s merely a cumulative effect. That given all the jealousy inducing traits the other three Brads provide, I’m the bit that puts it over the top. You build your mountain of Brad Garrett, Brad Pitt and Brad Paisley and that’s daunting. But when you see that the summit is Brad Bellmore, well that’s the kind of intimidation to make grown men cry. Or screenwriters try to diminish the glory by berating the name.
They can spew all the bile they want in an attempt to taint America’s perception, even the world’s perception of us. It just won’t happen. This degree of awesomeness can’t be degraded. If were just the other three, possibly. But I give it that something extra that makes the name Brad impervious to the power of all the pens in Hollywood. Do your worst. You just can’t tarnish the awesomeness of Brad.

There’s Something in my Eye

“I started my day in the usual way, looking through a two by four.” That’s a line form a song by King’s X. It kept popping into mind as my pastor talked about Jesus’ teaching on judging others and how love is the antidote to that. It’s so easy not to see we are judging since it is so part of our “normal” life, our daily routine. In fact, it’s easy to let the two by four become who we are or part of who we are anyway.

Many, many years ago, a Christian comedy group called Isaac Airfreight did a fun bit with this where the kept bonking each others heads every time they turned or moved because of the boards sticking out of their faces. And the best part is that they each blamed the other person for knocking into their board. Again, as we let the judgments become part of who we are, it’s easy to blame others for “making” us judge them. We are so reticent to be wrong that we can’t see that it’s the judgment that is wrong. 

A friend of mine once told me, “My judgments of others are more about me than they are about them.” It’s like the people bonking into our boards. The issue is more about our board than them bumping into them.  We have to look at what’s happening with us when this happens.

Now, with that said, we have to remember that sometimes certain people trigger us more than others. My pastor frequently reminds us of the spiritual warfare against us, the enemy’s attempts to prevent us from growing closer to God. This enemy knows our weaknesses and our greatest hurts. He knows how to launch strategic attacks that trigger me and then offer me the opportunity to hurt you too.

This is why we need to call on Jesus to help us get the two by four out of our eye. Only as this happens can we separate the judgment from ourselves and find freedom. As this happens we can learn to love as Jesus wants us too. And we can gain the vision to discern when we are being hurt and how that can be healed rather than defensively lash back at those who hurt us because they bonk into our two by four. Again, this is another step toward loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Just like Jesus wants.

The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

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