adventure, friendship, Life, Living, Thoughts

on the edge of the world

“Let’s go.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. Everywhere. Nowhere. It doesn’t matter. Let’s get lost.”

Love and the Sea and Everything in Between


Last night, I went on an adventure with my best friend. My best friend had just finished reading Love and the Sea and Everything in Between and we were talking about how we both were free spirits, both with a desire to live life. He told me about how, in his younger days (granted, he’s only 26) he would just do whatever he wanted to do, no responsibilities, not a care in the world – nothing but freedom. And I told him how I’ve always had a free spirit, but something always got in the way. Whether it was work, family, school, or just life in general.

And so, feeling the wanderlust, we made a decision. We would get lost together. We would just drive and drive and go wherever we wanted. Do whatever we wanted. Be whoever we wanted.

So I drove us to the beach. I’d never driven to the beach before so I really had no idea where I was going. Nonetheless I drove and we talked the whole way there, discovering things about each other that we never knew before. It felt so good to be able to sit beside each other without distraction and just talk, enjoying the presence of one another. To know that each of us was all there, in that moment. Nothing else mattered.

We arrived at the beach and made our way up to Bodega Head, a cliff that overlooked the whole of the ocean. It was pitch black and, according to Roman, “creepy.” (He wasn’t wrong; it was freakin’ creepy out there.)

I parked at the overlook and turned off my headlights and stared out the windows for a second before climbing out into the wind. We could hear the roar of the ocean and the sky from inside the car. After a moment’s pause, we embraced the elements.

And we both looked up. The sky was extraordinary. It was the first time in my life that I’d ever seen the stars as clear as they were that night. I could see the Milky Way and how the stars clustered together in what could only be described as a cloud of light.

Looking back out toward the ocean I saw the foaming waves crash into the rocks and the cliffside. It was incredibly exhilarating. (Though, that might have been the bite of the cold wind.)

Neither my phone, nor Roman’s had a camera that could capture this moment. We were slightly disappointed, but in the end I’m thankful that I could experience that moment not through the lens of an iPhone camera, but with my own eyes. And with my own soul, I could feel the vibration of eternity.

Flashlights in hand to ensure we didn’t walk right off the mountain and into the sea, we made our way to the edge of the cliff, walking as close as we dared to the the drop off. There are no words to describe the wondrous awe induced by the way the starry night sky kissed the swelling ocean. Or the way the fog silhouetted the distant mountains.

I felt as though I was standing on the edge of the world. And I was, as Roman reminded me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was filled with such utter wonder as could never be quenched as I stood between my best friend and the end of the world.

There’s something beautiful about sharing a moment like that with someone you care so deeply about. There’s something extraordinarily life-changing. I’ve tasted freedom and I’ve tasted wonder; and now I know that I need more.

I am starved for adventure.

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Roman and I
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//no homo (?): it’s kind of a rant

THIS.

Mirriam Neal

“You realize you’ll have readers thinking X character is gay, right?” “They’ll have to really stretch to keep thinking that after a while. Besides, I decided I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to sacrifice intimate non-amorous relationships for the sake of slash-happy shippers.” “YOU SHOULD PUT THAT ON YOUR BLOG.”

That was the summary of a conversation I had with Lauren, when we were discussing my novel The Dying of the Light, and its upcoming sequel. There are several main themes prevalent throughout the series, but one of the largest is brotherhood, pure and simple.

Or rather, it should be pure and simple. Unfortunately, Western culture is often too shallow, too hyper-sexualized, and – frankly – too under-educated to grasp the idea of an intimate, non-amorous relationship between two people. It’s the same culture where two guys don’t feel comfortable hugging each other (unless it’s a manly half-hug – you…

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For Men, friendship, Life, Love, Manhood, Ponderings, Thoughts

be brave with yourself

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with trying to figure myself out emotionally. As a man, I feel like I have a very unique and, sadly, widely stereotypically unacceptable personality type. I’m an emotionally expressive being. I get insecure, angry, hurt, heartbroken, joyful, excited, anxious, depressed, stressed, affectionate, and just about anything else you can imagine. And whatever emotion I’m feeling is expressed through my facial expressions, actions, and words.

I’m the type of person who loves to show the people I care about that I care about them. So, naturally, I do that in ways that I’m familiar with. For me, that’s straight up telling them or looking to spend time with them. (My love language is equal parts words of affirmation and quality time.)

But lately I’ve been feeling like I’m supposed to change myself. Like I’m too clingy or emotionally attached to the people I care about. So today I practiced being more withdrawn, distant, cold with my friends because I thought that’s what they wanted. You see, every morning I send my friends a message that reads exactly this: “good morning fam.” But yesterday morning I didn’t. Why? Because I was silencing myself. I thought, I’m too loud. I need to tone myself down a bit. 

I wanted to be more like the other guys, like my best (guy) friend, more even-keeled, laid back, someone who couldn’t care one way or the other if his friends loved him or not. I thought that’s who I was supposed to be, who everyone wanted me to be. So I tried. And I failed.

Because one of my friends noticed when I didn’t send that good morning text. They noticed when I silenced myself. And we had a long conversation about it and at the end I just asked them straight up, “Do you think I’m too clingy? Does it bother you? Or do you just think that my personality is more emotionally expressive than most guys’ and, because you love me, it doesn’t bother you?” And their response was the latter.

This week I learned an important lesson, I think. One that’s been a long time coming. And that is that, yes, I have an atypical personality type. Yes, I’m a more emotionally expressive being. Yes, I have no problem and actually thrive on showing and receiving affection. No, I’m not less of a man. I am completely, wonderfully, irrevocably myself.

Guys, we have got to learn to be brave with ourselves. We have got to stop trying to please everyone because, in the end, that will please no one. If the people around you really love you then they’re not going to care if you’re clingy or if you’re laid back. All they’re going to care about is if you are completely and utterly the rawest, truest version of yourself that you could ever be.

That’s the you they fell in love with.

You know, when I tried to distance myself (which was, honestly, a defense mechanism; I was feeling insecure so I thought forcibly detaching myself would spare me the pain that comes from loving another person) I felt like I was dying. I felt so out of it all day. I felt like a part of me was missing, like I was suffocating the truth inside my soul. All because I thought that’s what the people who loved me wanted, all because I thought that I could force the insecurities to go away if I just stopped caring.

But you know what? I’m proud of the fact that I am emotionally expressive. Because, in my eyes, that means that the people I care the most about will never have to go a day thinking that I don’t love them. Because they’ve seen how I show love and they’ve seen who I am in soul.

Is love terrifying? Yes. Is it painful? Heck, yeah. Love is vulnerability. Love is attachment. Love is expression. Love is learning what ways those you love best receive the expression of your affection. Love is choosing to give your friends and family what they need to feel love, even if it’s different than what you need.

Love is real, and it is raw, and it is torn, and it is agonizing, and it is true, and it is brave.

So be brave with yourself. Because the people who deserve you aren’t looking for a cheap replica. They’re here for you – all of you; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Christian Living, Church Life, spirituality

amend your ways

“Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.” – Jeremiah 7:3, 5-7

At my church’s midweek service last night, my pastor spoke really strongly on returning to a spirit of prayer. Not just a “pray every now and then” kinda prayer life, but an intentional, “pray without ceasing,” determined, prioritized prayer life. My pastor talked about how people don’t prepare themselves when they come to church, how they don’t really even think about church until they’re there.

And then this morning I read this passage in Jeremiah. Amend your ways. Why? So that you can dwell in this place. Looking at this passage in context, we see that the Lord was issuing a call to repentance to the Israelites during one of their seasons of rebellion, but if we apply this passage to ourselves we see how God is calling us also to amend our ways, to make position ourselves in a place to receive, so that then, having done that, we may dwell.

I think I want to start to spend more time preparing my heart and my spirit before church because I’m in a place right now where I don’t want to miss out on anything that God has for me. In fact, I’m in a place right now where I’m trying to rid my life of certain things – some of them harmless – just so I can make more room for God.

There is more.

So I’m striving to amend my ways that I may dwell where He dwells. If only we all had a heart like John, who was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day,” (Revelations 1:10) and subsequently gifted the Revelation. If only we all positioned ourselves in the Spirit even before the allotted Sunday gatherings began. Then, maybe, we would begin to see things we’ve never seen before.

Life, Love, Thoughts

i’m getting better

I realized today that the ups and downs of my mind aren’t as hard for me as they used to be. The insecurities aren’t as hard to overcome. The hurt and the wounds aren’t as hard to forget. The offense isn’t as hard to forgive. I’m getting better.

Yesterday, I was put off for a minute by a couple of my best friends. They, who happen to be the young adults group leaders in my church, were talking about how they had invited a couple of newcomers over to their dinner…. And they didn’t invite me. Now, at first I was confused because I didn’t understand why I wouldn’t be invited. And my mind, as it often will, immediately races to conclusions like: “they don’t want me around anymore” or “they’ve found new best friends now” or “this is it – this is the moment I fade away again, the moment I stop being important.” 

As the day wore on, I meditated on why this was so upsetting to me. My friends were only doing what they felt led to do as young adult leaders – connecting with new young adults and building that relationship. And I realized: these are my best friends, but I’m not supporting the position that God has placed them in. What kind of friend does that make me?

Once I realized this I realized how selfish I tend to be when I get insecure. So I immediately apologized to my friends and told them that I want to be a support to them in their ministry; not a burden.

But, you see, what’s awesome is that a month ago I would’ve been stubborn. I would have refused to acknowledge my own selfishness. I would’ve thrown myself a pity party. Me me me. 

But if I really, truly love my best friends – and I do – then I need to set myself aside and throw water on the seed that God has given them. Water and not fire. 

I’m getting better, I am. Because God is refining me. It hurts, but the conviction and the process makes me feel connected to Him. And I crave this connection. 

Even as I write this whilst feeling miserable and gross thanks to this unexpected cold… It’s good to be alive.

Because life is good and I’m getting better.

Christian Living, Life, Living, Ponderings, spirituality, Thoughts

the problem of evil

“Evil will continue to exist in spite of us, so it doesn’t matter what we do.”

Recently, I decided to watch The Purge with some friends. I wasn’t really sure what to expect except for the few reviews floating around the webosphere. What I got was a giant: “This pissed me the fuck off.”

I’m not even joking. Those were my words at the end of the movie. (Yes, I repented for my slip up in case you were worried.)

The reason why, though, is hard to explain. At the beginning of the movie one of my best friends said something to the effect of: “It would make sense for them to do this in real life.” Now, mind you this is one of my Christian friends. So I was confused because to me it sounded like they were condoning a heinous act such as “the purge” to occur. 

So I’m sitting there through the whole movie thinking – and saying – “you would honestly be okay with this happening?” Their response was merely: “Well, it basically already happens.”

While this is true, the dilemma arose within myself where I was forced to ask the question, “if evil exists in spite of our best efforts, do our efforts even matter?” I must say without doubt, “Yes. Yes, they absolutely matter.”

You see, God knew. He knew that evil would remain in the world even while His Redemption story unfolded. Even still, He sent His Son to continue that story. Two-thousand years later, evil still rages against the light, but that light does not die. Because the valiant struggle persists. Because there are still those who resist apathy and silence in the face of darkness. Because there are still those who know that the war is already won and there will only be one Victor in the end. Because there are still those who know that, in spite of the evil in our world (racism, murder, rape, all manner of violence), their efforts matter. Their efforts are the very means by which the light remains in this world.

The light is not yet gone. Until it is, our efforts matter. Our decisions, our allegiances, our opinions matter.

Yes, darkness is an enormous reality which we must face every day. But heaven is the greater reality. And, thank God, it is the reality in which I live.

friendship, Life, Love, Thoughts

you don’t see me

Have you ever been so afraid of something that you can actually feel that fear deep inside of you, clawing its way into a space in which it doesn’t belong? Well, I have. I am afraid that one day, I will become invisible. Again.

By now, I’m sure you know my story. You know the heartbreak and the betrayal, but you also know the healing and the redemption. What you don’t know is the things I still feel.

I’ve been very insecure lately. We can blame it on the fact that for some reason my mind felt it prudent to drudge up old memories I would prefer to erase entirely. Memories of former friends (J.J. and O.R.) that haunt me still. I would much rather forget, but apparently that is not an option for me. Instead, the memories get to do what they can to try to destroy any ability to have a healthy relationship with someone. Those memories mixed with other insecurities brought on by my past struggles with my sexual identity make me constantly feel insecure in my relationship with one of my newfound friends. I hate it. I wish it would go away, but as with must fears it chooses instead to cling to the back of my neck like a incorrigible chimp and gnaw at my cranium. Such is life.

There are moments, lapses in reality that occur inside of my head. They destroy me. One minute I’m sitting with my friends, enjoying their fellowship, their love, their acceptance, their familiarity and comfort, and the next… I’m inside my own head about something he said or did or didn’t say or do. And the fact that I’m insecure makes me insecure about this idea that my insecurities are going to chase him off and, once again, I will lose my last hope of maintaining a healthy relationship with another guy.

The biggest thing for me, I think, is that he’s so introverted and quiet and I’m a person whose love language is words of affirmation and quality time. And I get frustrated because I feel like I maintain 90% of any conversation I have with him, yet am denied a response or reaction of any significant kind. The part of me that is selfless and graceful reminds me that it’s merely his personality type, but the irrational part of me tells me that I am a nuisance and I am a bother and I’m not really wanted here and he may be my best friend, but he doesn’t really care about me. If somebody else comes along, he’ll forget about me. He won’t see me anymore. I will fade into the background yet again, rejected, forgotten, alone, unloved… worthless. I feel that I am waiting with baited breath for that moment when everything will fall apart again.

This is what goes on in my head. You have a front row seat to the freakshow of the broken spirit.

I feel that I will fade, that I will become nothing just as I once was. And I try so hard to “fake it until I make it,” but when does the process end?

There’s this automatic voice in my head that goes off every time I develop a relationship that says, “You don’t see me.” Is it true? Maybe not. But my spirit is broken and the memories tell me otherwise. I just want the voice to go away. I want to be able to enjoy my friends without this wondering, this expectation of inevitable doom that I feel will somehow be my fault. I want to stop questioning the things I say and do. I want to stop feeling like he’ll forget about me one day and I will be nothing more than a blip in his long life like I was for all those others.

I want the voices to stop. Healing is on its way, I know. Someday. But for today, I suppose I will keep faking it because I love my friends and I don’t want to lose them. But the pain is real and I still feel it and it won’t go away and I don’t know why or how to respond. All I know to do right now is exist and attempt to tune out that voice that says, “You don’t see me.” All I know is to keep my insecurities to myself because I don’t want them to destroy my friendships. All I know is how to exist.

And I don’t want to simply exist. I want to live.