Posts by Michael

I am a husband, father, minister, and writer.

Host Your Dreams

I have been thinking about dreams, at least, since I listened to Dr. Sam Chand talk about himself as a dream releaser when he consulted with us at Sweet Holy Spirit almost twenty years ago.

I was very new and just as young while serving the church. Almost daily, I confirmed in my mind that I was not equipped to serve as an executive pastor. With my degrees, with my history growing up at the church, with my spiritual sonship threading through my life there, with occasional phone calls on random days from Grandfather Ellis to calm me down.

Sometimes, the work is more convincing than the dreams. Sometimes, the reality is that you cannot do what your dreams tell you that you can. Sometimes, we live in the real world so long that we believe the world of our dreams is not how God pulls us together, nightly, fixes our brain breaks, and inspires us to do what our ancestors and our communities need.

Even though I knew the church, it was my home, like the back of my head, I did not know all that it needed. As a part of the church staff, we needed a person to come and stoke the dreams of the church, of the pastor, of the staff.

Among the things Dr. Chand did was listen to the dreams of our leadership. He talked, listened, considered. Something about his ministry vitalized me. He was, among other things, hosting our dreams.

He did more than that, but in those first gestures, as an experienced leader, he was modeling for me how to host the dreams of others.

Everyone needs dreams. Everyone needs to pursue dreams. Everyone, in order to pursue dreams, needs people to host those dreams.

There is a place for challenging them and certainly a place for practically weighing the costs of pursuit, for considering the routes to their fulfillment. But it starts with locating the hosts of what’s so close.

You need a host for your dreams–and one that isn’t only you and that isn’t only God. You may not unroll all the dreams to one person, but the act of sharing even pieces of your dream is an act of becoming whole.

Ask God to send you hosts for what you’ve held, capable hosts for what’s deep within. You don’t have to carry your dreams alone, even during seasons of particular loneliness. You don’t have to go after or fulfill them alone either. May you have the company you need.

20 Things I’m Learning From Relationships

I began this list for another blog but in 2016. That feels like an entire life ago, but it was sometime around the birth of my second son. I aimed for 25 lessons but stopped at 20. I haven’t edited this “draft,” though I’ll post it and, likely, return with an updated, five-years-after-divorce version. Maybe after I’ve those other five lessons.

Sons, relationships are tricky things. I define relationships as those lovely interactions which turn into friendship, companionship, and the regular engagement of my life with someone else’s life. I have in mind as I work up this list my relationships from before, from now, and from the future. My early attachments, friendships, romantic relationships, working relationships, and basic acquaintances are all a part of the learning environment here. To follow is a brief reflection of what I’m learning about me, about people, and about the world. I’m included necessarily in all three.

I’m learning:

  1. I am complete. I am a whole person, with likes and dislikes, most of which I can explain, some of which I’m still learning, and I’m whole.
  2. I am different. I’m not the person most people think I am, and a large part of developing a relationship is in presenting who I am in the mirror or face of who someone thinks I am.
  3. I am needy. While I don’t think of myself in this way initially, I’m more convinced that at an essential level, I need others, and I’m committed to the recovering work of being in quality relationships, committed to being needy and being okay with that.
  4. There’s a “but.” I only need others insofar as they are participatory in the salvific, constructive, overarching redemptive work of me being my real self. I think there is a small number of people who are willing to be in this type of relationship with me.
  5. I’m not a morning person. I wake up slowly to the world, and this characterizes how I let people in, how I engage people, and how committed my significant others must be to be in relationship with me.
  6. I do what I like. I work a lot, and I’ve systematically chosen to enrich myself with power (and been blessed with such a gift) so that I can choose to do what I like, not what I’m told–mostly.
  7. I don’t like to be told what to do. Others can tell this story as good as I can, but I’m really good at doing what I think is right, at being self-directed, so being in any true relationship is, at first, a testing of my ability to be interdependent.
  8. I know how to quit. I don’t quite know how to lose, but I know how to quit; this is an ever-present switch in me that enables me to cut-off those who no longer matter and it’s a lifelong temptation, the notion that people don’t matter.
  9. People want to be loved. This is trite truth, and it’s just as challenging because loving is very hard when it has to be consistently offered in murky, uncomfortable, or otherwise difficult circumstances. Indeed, most of love has to be applied in such circumstances.
  10. People have a hard time choosing themselves. A lot of people put others before them–consciously or unconsciously–and that behavior repeats itself in choices against the self. The slow work of healing is about saying yes to yourself, your wholeness, your being saved, your being true. You cannot choose another if you haven’t chosen you.
  11. People want others to know them. I think this is a divine desire, wanting to create in order to express self-knowledge; wanting to be in order to be known. When a person ends a good relationship, there’s destruction in deep places. That’s normal and it’s normal to feel it.
  12. People want to be supported. The most beautiful testament to love is in showing up after a long drive or after a fight or after some ending in order to express that some things don’t change, that love endures, and that love is displayed by supportiveness.
  13. People want to be heard. When a person talks too much, whatever that is, it just may be because they haven’t been adequately heard.
  14. People grieve. As foundational as is the reflex in people to love is the reflex to lose those loves, and when we lose, we grieve–consciously or not.
  15. People are inconsistent. This is one of the most basic abilities in people: to change and, therefore, to be inconsistent. It colors the best of relationships.
  16. People disappoint. Because we have our stated and unstated expectations of each other, disappointment is inevitable, and unfortunately forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is a series of choices that is hard to come by.
  17. Most people in relationships seldom know what they really want, ask for what they really want, or show what they really feel. This is wisdom from David Richo in How to be an Adult (p 84).
  18. Love and respect go together. Claiming to love a person has to pair with regularly allowing that person to choose, in other words, respecting that person’s choice. This is wisdom from Grammie Joseph.
  19. Telling a person ‘I love you’ is completely restorative, redemptive, and settling. Most people don’t say ‘I love you’ enough. Wisdom from Jonathan Alvarado.
  20. The most helpful, honest relationship is the one that is both alluring and scary. I have in mind a relationship with God but it’s true about the other real ones too. Healthy relationships carry a quality of the known and a quality of the unknown. When you’re in it with a person, you should humbly accept that there are so many potentially lovely unknowns to be discovered, and that’s nerve-rattling!

Celebrate, Grieve, Celebrate

These are three motions, three commitments, three postures – all worth living into. If you’re into making commitments in the first month of the year, consider them.

Celebrate what was. One of my plans in the first weeks of this year is to a write list or create a word cloud of all the things I got to do last year. So far, I’ve been writing the list in my head but I’m aiming for paper. It’ll include all the things I got to be and all the gifts I received. It’ll be my way of celebrating what was. The celebration is inherently an act of remembering.

Grieve what’s gone. We don’t grieve enough. I don’t grieve enough. I’m convinced that we’re taught how to end grief not welcome it. So, a lot of my work is around nurturing this soul gesture, building this emotional skill, and opening myself up to doing what the world often has little room for. We need to say goodbye and to grieve those goodbyes.

Celebrate what remains. Seeing what’s still present is another beautiful and clarifying gift. When a role or a job or a relationship or an ability ends, the ending needs to be felt. That’s the grief. But there are things which remain and those still-present things require their own celebration. What’s current needs to be enjoyed. The more we refrain from appreciating what’s present, the more we fix our focus upon the past or the future, and we miss what’s right now. This second celebration powers life and thriving.

There’s more to say but the more falls within those three postures.

All You Have

When I had covid, I didn’t know it.

It was June. I was finishing an accreditation review of a program I was launching. Staff meetings, interviews for students, supervision of students. I was home with my oldest son who had covid and I was waiting for it. But I was good.

My oldest has always been generous with sickness, and I’ve gotten every sickness, with one exception, that he’s had in his life. Including allergies somehow.

So, when it came to covid, I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I was testing with 24 hours in between after the appropriate number of days two and three times. My at-home tests coded negative.

I had been vaccinated and boosted as had my boys. The oldest had been to a birthday party of a friend who also had made it through much of the strange days without contracting. The party was a celebration.

I drove him knowing he had it after a couple days. Since it was a week the youngest was at his mother’s, we stayed home as soon as his test confirmed it. So, his quarantine became mine. I had no symptoms.

Then, I ate something that I love, a four-chocolates bread pudding from a spot in town. I knew how it smelled in the microwave, knew the notes on my tongue from all four of those chocolates. I looked forward to it. It was the household favorite and I’m unashamed how much I support that business.

It was after bedtime. It was my time. I was settling in for my treat. I thought nothing of the fact that I hadn’t smelled it. I was moving from the front room to the kitchen. I was in motion. You miss things when you move.

Then, I ate the pudding. I felt everything. Every texture. As I chewed, it was so physical that I felt the dessert like I had never felt it before. I chewed slowly, my colleague would say mindfully. All the bits on my tongue and along the path next to my teeth where I need the dentist to clean, all the grooves where I’d floss and rinse sweet brown before bed. And I couldn’t taste a thing.

I felt what I couldn’t taste. I remembered the taste. I knew what it was to be. I searched my tongue for what I remembered in my mind. And as I chewed, I felt sad and I knew that I had covid. The next morning, I went to immediate care where they confirmed what I knew.

I’ve thought about that many different ways. The point I’ll lift here is how necessary it was for me to remember what I couldn’t taste, to recall to mind what I couldn’t detect on my taste buds, to enjoy the memory of my treat when I couldn’t fully enjoy it as accustomed. I enjoyed as much as I could.

Sometimes, all you have is what you have. Enjoy it. Enjoy yourself. Your tastes will be satisfied soon enough again.