Red Like Tango

Amor mi mosse, che mi fa parlare.

Near Misses

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How It Should Have Gone

Me: One last thing.

Her: Yes?

Me: Do you love him?

Her: I… I don’t know.

Me: Well, listen: I’ve made my affections for you abundantly clear, you know I’d date you if you were available, but-

Her: *kisses me*

How It Went

Me: Alright, see ya later!

Written by Ian

17/11/2017 at 22:06

Posted in nanofiction

“Well, shit.”

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Window: *rolls down*

Breeze: *gently blows*

Crickets: *buzz*

Sun: *shines*

Hands: *grasp steering wheel at 10 and 2*

Officer: License and registration.

Written by Ian

08/11/2017 at 18:20

Posted in nanofiction

Coffee Shop

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I play the game where I look at her long enough for her to look at me and then I look away. Thirty minutes pass on wooden chairs. She sighs, gets up from her table, collects her accoutrement, and leaves. I leave, too, and walk out under the cold light of the sidewalk lamps.

Written by Ian

07/11/2017 at 20:55

Posted in nanofiction

The Pursuit of Happyness: Or, Why I’ve Been Getting It All Wrong (And You Probably Have, Too)

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I’ve been thinking for some time now – about fifteen years, maybe longer – about What To Do With My Life. Here is a partial list of the ideas I’ve entertained and actually spent some time pursuing: concert pianist, novelist, doctor (’cause my dad is my hero), lawyer, truck driver, sailor/captain of a sailboat (Bring Me That Horizon!), rock and roller, preacher, missionary (check), President of the United States (when I’m feeling down, I settle for foreign diplomat), Hollywood actor, Navy SEAL, English teacher, professional triathlete.

Now, I am convinced I could do any of the above to the glory of God and know people in almost each of these professions who does or has. The problem isn’t, therefore, that any one of these professions is holier than another. But this doesn’t help me toward making my decision.

I’m also convinced that God has a plan for my life. One of the things I do in trying to make this decision, then, is look back over my story – the story he’s been telling to me and through me – and try and look for clues as to what he’s doing. This kinda helps me to narrow down the list and kinda doesn’t. I’m just interested in too many things.

Well so in response to all this, I’ve done two things: 1) read, and 2) bore anyone who will listen (lookin’ at you, Ma) for hours on end and then ask for advice. The books and articles all say one or more of the following: 1) figure out what you wanna do and do it, 2) poor us (my generation talking to my generation), we have too many options, and 3) poor us (my generation again), we were told all our lives that we were special and unique flowers, that the sky was the limit, and we found out that’s not true, boohoo, &c.

Number one is great advice, and that’s what I try to do. (Numbers two and three are just complaints.) But there’s still something bugging me, and so we finally get to it:

I’ve been doing it all wrong.

The issue here isn’t the making of the decision. The issue is why I can’t. (Or more accurately, haven’t been able to.)

Why I Haven’t Been Able To Make The Decision

This is frustrating, because I’ve known this answer for ages.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

I haven’t been able to make the decision because I’ve been hoping to be satisfied by whatever I end up doing instead of being satisfied in Jesus, not as an act but as a state of being. And I will never be satisfied by anything I’m doing if I am not first satisfied in Jesus. Because he’s the only one who can satisfy. He’s got the Good Stuff. And if I will be delighted in the Lord, if I can get my soul to really want him above everything else, all the rest falls into place.

[Post Text: Still doesn’t answer the question about What To Do With My Life, but the answering of it becomes a whole lot more fun without all that excess weight.]

Written by Ian

23/03/2015 at 21:44

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For Friends of Bill W

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I’ll remember for the rest of my life the first time I said it. I wonder sometimes about starting my testimony that way, but I choose not to because it’s a little too obvious. I have quietly observed as people who have never attended a meeting laughingly role-play introducing themselves like they’ve seen it done in the movies.

It was a really powerful moment for me. I’d arrived at an outpatient clinic in Minneapolis and walked into the room I was supposed to be in and sat down in one of a large circle of chairs, glancing quickly around the room to see if my suspicions were correct – they’d all be people off the streets, surely, because that’s what drug addicts are and I’m still not sure I am one – and seeing C and A and J and M, and nervously looking down at the ground again.

The facilitator – I don’t remember her name now, but she was kind of harsh and older – the facilitator had us all introduce ourselves. I don’t remember who started, but they were using that same structure – inserting their names and addictions where necessary – and as each one of them spoke it out, a kind of warm, golden energy mounted up inside the words, barreling into the next person to speak, setting each of them free as they spoke truthfully about who they were in their innermost beings, and suddenly it was upon me and I said, “Hi. My name’s Ian, and I’m a heroin addict…”

And I stopped.

I think we were supposed to say something else about who we were but I forgot in this moment, and said instead-

“…and that’s the first time I’ve ever said that.”

And then I said something like, “And I’m really surprised to see that you are all normal people, nay, lawyers, doctors, college dropouts like me, because I thought you’d all be homeless and I would continue to feel totally alone because I’m not homeless, never have been, and yet I have this thing eating me up inside…”

I don’t remember what I said. That probably all happened in my head. It was a volatile time.

And that’s what was – is – so powerful about Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Suddenly, you’re a part of a community. In fact, you’re a part of a community of people who know they’re broken, which is way more powerful because we all know we’re broken but most of us don’t know how to admit it. Or don’t want to. But then you get into this community of people who knows, they really know, they’re messed up – nobody’s putting on airs, nobody’s self-righteous – and it’s powerful.

I remember the first time I heard the phrase “terminally unique” and how it just opened me right up. That’s what I thought about myself. It seems insane now (and I was, at the time), but I really thought I was living something that no one else had ever lived, and those two words summed up that whole feeling and suddenly I realized no one could have verbalized them without understanding the feeling behind it which means… I’m not alone. That’s it. I’m not alone.

I heard a story once – I think it came from the Big Book – about an alcoholic in an airport. She was in recovery, traveling alone, walked past a bar, and started having that craving. Somehow, she got a person on the intercom to ask for “friends of Bill W” (one of AA’s founders) to meet in such-and-such room, and a whole bunch of her fellow alcoholics and addicts showed up and they had themselves a meeting. That’s community. That’s what I live for. That kind of I’m-gonna-be-there-for-you-no-matter-what brother-and-sisterhood.

I thank God for C and A and J and M and D and S and B and all the rest who were in that room the first time and then took me to my first meeting afterwards. I miss you guys.

Written by Ian

22/03/2015 at 01:16

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Crooked Deep Down

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I’m really messed up. I forget, especially being in full-time ministry (whatever that means), but the reality is, I am really, radically, awfully messed up.

Even my honesty is crooked. I’m sharing all this in hopes that in the sharing I’ll be forgiven my shortcomings.

But what led me to write this at this moment is that I decided to do a fast yesterday. I decided I was fed up with my inability to make decisions. (The problem, you see, is that it’s never just about the decision itself, nor even about honoring God. It’s about money. It’s about finding a wife. It’s about nice clothes and leather shoes. What in the world am I doing in ministry!) So I decided that I wanted to hear from God about these things I’m facing, and the way in which I was going to hear from him was in fasting and in prayer. So off I went.

But I messed up. I don’t demand things of God, and I don’t, by my right actions, cause him to act. But it was with that attitude that I started a week-long fast, and with that attitude that I made it about 24 hours and fell flat on my face and ate some peanut-butter toast.

You laugh. I did, too. But that assessment – that I messed up – doesn’t address the real issue. I didn’t just mess up. I messed up because I AM messed up. Even in fasting, my motivations were all wrong.

No, no, no, you say. You’re too down on yourself! Self-esteem is the answer!

Well, it hasn’t worked for me. In fact, self-esteem has been perhaps the most dangerous path of all. Why? Because God has given me so much. I have much to self-esteem about. I’m a decent musician, a decent writer, I’m emotionally intelligent (when I manage to get outside myself), I know a good amount about the Bible, I can think deeply about things and grasp complicated concepts with relative ease. For what? How does any of this help me? I’ll tell you what self-esteeming about all that does: it destroys me when I encounter musicians who are better than I am. It destroys me when I think about how I’m only decent, how much better I could have been by now with a little discipline, which I can never seem to muster.

Ever waiting for the moment when there won’t be that inner sense of dread about being found out. When I’ll finally reach that next level of holiness in which I might actually feel capable of helping someone toward freedom.

No. Self-esteem and all the motives for which I could have it is just a heaping pile of poop. The only freedom I know doesn’t come from what I’m able to do nor what I’ve been able to accomplish. It comes from recognizing my devastating insufficiency and saying to God that HE is my sufficiency. For real. And this act, this turning over of my insufficient sufficiency, is made possible only by the recognition and acceptance of my faults. (So many good words for failure.)

That’s why self-esteem doesn’t work. Because of reality. You know it and I know it. Something’s not right, and it doesn’t become right because we tell ourselves it actually is right.

And it doesn’t end at self-acceptance, either. (Thank God. That would be depressing.) It ends with GOD making it right. Oh, how he loves to restore the broken-hearted! And then he changes our desires so that we want good things! Honestly, if I back up for a second, I am, in fact, far more disciplined than I was a few years ago, and that hasn’t come from me. How could it have, if my own efforts continue to fall flat on their faces at every turn and bump (or hunger pang).

Bad behavior is a symptom and correcting it is a bandaid without disinfectant. The real issue is that we are all crooked, deep down, and unimaginably needy.

(This will preclude judgment, by the way.)

“This is a song about me and you and Billy Graham and Mother Theresa and Charles Manson and everybody. Everybody.” -Derek Webb

(The end of the story about fasting, for those who want to know, is that I’m gonna go ahead and keep trying, because I’m still tired of not being able to make decisions/see clearly/whateveritis, and I think God sees and appreciates my heart.)

Written by Ian

23/01/2015 at 15:22

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Questions About “Relational Evangelism”

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I’m worried that all of my thinking about “relational evangelism” or “ministering to the post-modern man” is really just a cover up for not wanting to share the Gospel. I’m afraid that underneath it is a sneaky seed of wanting to be cool, wanting not to offend – basically being ashamed.

Yeah, I suppose there are cases in which it is necessary to build trust. But if we are trustworthy people, won’t those in our vicinity see it? If we aren’t seen to be gossips, if we are joyfully hard-working, if we are good bosses – isn’t that the stuff of trustworthiness?

Are you sure that you’re being guided by the Spirit in the putting off of the sharing of the Gospel – and I mean directly, like, “You’re a sinner and God’s angry about it, but good news! He showed up on Earth and took care of the consequences himself and now we can be saved from his wrath!” – or is it more that it just doesn’t feel “natural”?

Bad news: I’m a missionary and it still doesn’t feel natural. Perhaps this means I don’t have the gift of evangelism, but I’m still called to evangelise. You are, too, Christian. And don’t quote St. Francis of Assisi to me – you know, that share the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words quote – because St. Francis of Assisi did an awful lot of sharing of the Gospel with words. Have you?

Here’s the major danger I see: that this methodology of relationship-building-toward-the-end-of-evangelism turns into a Spirit-less (and thus self-righteous or human-powered) one. Are we walking in the Spirit? Asking for his guidance (please God! people are DYING!)?

Hey, and I’m a big fat hypocrite in all this, just so you know. We’re in this together. I’ve just been really affected recently by the sight of some of my friends here in Spain just outright sharing the Gospel. Take my friend Joel, for instance: He loves to talk, he’s very philosophical, but as soon as he reaches the point in a conversation with someone new in which he figures out they aren’t a Christian, he starts preachin’ to ’em. (Notice I didn’t say “at ’em.”) He starts giving them the Good News! It’s been so refreshing to watch.

Well, and I’m tired of watching. Who’s with me?

(NOTE: I’m willing to believe that not every “relational evangelist” is falling into the same trap that I did/do. I also don’t believe we leave it at “saving souls” – that is, the call is to “make disciples”, not leave ’em high and dry once they’ve prayed a prayer.)

Written by Ian

25/04/2014 at 12:47

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