When bad things happen to us or people close to us, the natural question is to ask God, “Why?”  Other times the answer is quite clear, we are victims of our own fallen nature.

In the fall of my sophomore year, I made a great friend.  We attended a small Bible college on the west coast. We met one afternoon when I was playing the 1812 Overture in my room.  When my soon to be friend walked in the door, he asked me if I liked classical music. I answered yes, but admitted I did not know much about it.  He was a music major and began telling me about the structure of what I was listening to. That was it. A shared interest led to a close friendship.

Later that fall, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with his family.  On the return trip to campus, he shared a deeply personal secret, he was gay.  I was honored that he felt safe sharing with me. I assured him that his secret was safe with me.  It was not a big deal to me our friendship continued.

But I betrayed that trust when in the spring of that year, I let the secret slip to a mutual friend, who I assumed knew.  He did not. And very quickly a malstom of unintended consequences was unleashed.

Our mutual friend went to the administration.  This was 1986 in a small very conservative Bible college.  They did not mess around. They expelled my friend. He was outed to his family and to his home church.  I never saw him again, but I did get one final phone call telling me in no uncertain terms that he hated me and that I was the worst person on earth.

He paid a steep price for my betrayal.  He was ostracized from his family and from his faith community.  To his other friends on campus, I became a pariah. I was crushed under a weight of guilt that still hurts to this day.  While I have assurance that Christ has forgiven me. I will never forgive myself.

I never read the story of Cain and Abel the same way again.  I had a brother. I betrayed him. And while my friend did not die, there is a social and familial equivalence.  

So my “Why,” is why did I open my big fat mouth.  Sin is no joke. Sometimes when we sin, we bear most if not all of the consequences.  But sometimes, our actions reverberate and spawn pain and suffering. While God forgives.  And God sustains. God does not prevent the fallout. Grace suchers our wounds, but the scars we carry with us.

By Ben Posted in Life

Into the Grey


Grasping a withered leg through the hole of the baby fish bowl, cathedrals made of sand are swept into the ocean by waves of tears.  Tried and true formulas of faith are the babblings of a madman.  God is revealed in new ways as it slowly dawns that we are strangers. Glaciers of black and white melt into pools of grey.  Graven images are smashed.  Master and servant are revealed.

By Ben Posted in Life

Personal Mission Statement

Be aware.  Be awake.  Be open.

Be aware of god in the world.  Take regular opportunities throughout the day to be still and admire god’s handiwork.  Find god in every situation that presents itself.

Be awake.  Don’t allow distractions rob you of the moment.  Be sensitive to your surroundings.  Limit the role of media in your life.  Don’t wallow in past failures or fear problems in the future.  Focus on what you have and not what you want.  Limit consumption.

Be open to the pain of others.  Seize every opportunity to ease the suffering of others.  Be the hands and feet of god.  Pray for others with no agenda, bring their names to god.

By Ben Posted in Life

Duct Tape, a Theology

Let me be very upfront.  I believe in evolution.  If not interfered with, only the fittest life forms will survive.  The weak are doomed to die.  But these are not permanent asignments, they are dynamic.  Sometimes we are the fittest. Eventually, we all become weak and die.  But within these somewhat rigid boundaries, there is a lot of flexibility.  Fighting against evolution is what makes us human.  It is the basis of faith and religion.  And I think it is what makes us somewhat unique.  We humans love to find brokenness and find value in the idy-bidy pieces.  We do our best to duct tape the parts and make it whole.  Take that Darwin!

Survival of the fittest is Darwin.  Survival of the broken is God.  It is a constant struggle:  is it about me or is it about us?.  God help me to overcome my instinct and pass the duct tape.

Sonic Boom

Here we go again.

When my son was a baby, VACTERL ruled our world.  It was all VACTERL all the time.  There was a seemingly endless cadence of surgeries every few months.  I lived on adrenaline.  It was a constant onslaught and it seemed like it will never end.  Then quite suddenly, it slows down.  My son still saw endless specialists, but not every appointment was a pre-surgical consult.  I took a deep breath and started focusing on the normal baby milestones.  “Normal” life ensued.

But the surgeries never completely go away.  The frequency definitely decreases.  But out there, lurking in the shadows, the boogie man is always waiting to catch you off guard.

Well the boogie man got me.  It has been a couple of years since my son has had to have surgery, but the clock ran out on our lucky streak.  He has to have major spinal surgery sometime next month.

I think most parents would freak out if their kid had to have major surgery.  I just sigh and brace myself.  I cannot worry about the actual procedure itself.  I has to happened.  There will be side effects and I have absolutely no control over the ultimate outcome.  I brace myself not for the actual event, but for the month or two that follows the actual surgery.  As I have said before, for me there is always an echo boom after a major event.  I push risk and worry out of my mind.  I ride the waves of suffering that my son will inevitably have.  But then…sometimes weeks or months later, I freak out.  For me the echo boom takes the form of depression and anxiety.  I am overwhelmed by sadness and the littlest road bump sends my adrenal system into overdrive.  This lasts for months.

Then slowly…over time…my system resets and life resembles some sort of normalcy.  The boogie man is gone, never to be seen again.

…Until I see him again.

By Ben Posted in Life

Signs and wonders

Six or Eight weeks ago, my son was at his urologist for a routine set of tests to check how his mitrofanoff was functioning.  For years his bladder never completely drained because of nerve damage.  To address the issue, he started cathing years ago.  But as my son put it, “my urethra is like a labyrinth.  So for many years, he cathed but it was still not draining because the catheter did not go all the way to his bladder.  So a year and a half ago, he got external port put in (mitrofanoff).  It worked like a charm!

This brings us to a couple of weeks ago.  They did a routine ultrasound to see how his bladder was doing.  For years it had been stretched out because it never fully drained.  This test was supposed to be no big deal…just checking the size.  But during the test, they saw “a spot.”  The urologist told us it was probably debris, but that he needed a cystoscopy and biopsy to check it out.

I know what you are thinking because I thought it too, the C word.  But I have become a master of pushing things out of my mind.  When you are waiting on test results, there is nothing you can do.  Worry is pointless.  It has taken a decade, but now I can shove that kind of stuff into a hidden chamber of my mind.

But every once in a while, it sneaks its head out and dumps a ton of adrenaline into my bloodstream.  I panic, take a deep breath and move on.  That happened on Sunday when my son asked me what I thought “it” was.  I didn’t lie, but I gave him the best case scenario I could think of: scar tissue.  But the boogie monster was yelling the C word.

So yesterday was the big day.  We went in and he had a minor surgery.  It went really quickly.  He was in and out of the OR in only an hour.  While he was still coming out of anesthesia, the doctor took us to a consulting room to tell us how it went.  The first words out of his mouth were, “It is not cancer.”

He used the word and suddenly it was powerless.  It turns out it was just “goo” (probably puss from a previous surgery).  By the time he got into the bladder, it was already gone.  He passed it sometime after the ultrasound.

We got home from the hospital about 1pm.  I zonked out, slept till 5, ate dinner, watch TV till 7 and then slept the whole night.  I may have tricked my mind into not obsessing about the procedure, but my body was not fooled.  The stress was whirling around in its little corner, whether I was conscious of it or not.  Today I am exhausted.  I am extremely short with people about the little details of work.  I just want to scream, “None of this matters!”

Personal growth is a tricky business.  I did not consciously worry myself sick…but my body was not fooled.  I just need to focus on the fact that the news this time was good.  In this moment, all is well.  In this moment, we are whole.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

My favorite quote from the Harry Potter series is spoken by Dumbledore shortly after Harry has been struck down by Voldemort.  Harry is experiencing the afterlife and he asks his former headmaster if any of this is real or if it is all just in his head.  Here is Dumbledore’s brilliant reply:

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I think the essence of this quote is what I need to successfully navigate step 3 in my 12 step recovery from compulsive overeating.

As far as I can go back in my childhood memory, I had faith in God, specifically Jesus.  I can recall with clarity talking to Jesus as an imaginary friend.  He was always looking out for me and I loved him.  I prayed to him at meals, in church and at bedtime, but only because my parents made me.  But we talked constantly.  Whenever there was no one else in the room, we would talk and talk and talk.  We sang.  I showed him my art.  We were pals.  Sadly, I continued to go to church and that simple faith got all bollixed.

I learned about the Old Testament.  I leaved about Revelations.  I learned about the Devil and I learned about hell.  At the point those seeds were planted, my faith was doomed.  As long as things went relatively well, I was able to cling to my faith.  I was a really rotten Christian, but a Christian none-the-less.

Then I doubled down by going to Bible College.  Ish!…make it stop.  I made the colossal mistake of learning theology.  I learned that the Christian Faith was cobbled together with some very outlandish claims.  I was compelled by peer pressure to tie my spirituality to my political views.  I accepted a very narrow world view and avoided anything that might lead me to a contrary point of view.

At a certain point, it all became too much and I had to moderate my views.  I changed denominations and embraced my liberal views.  But I still tried to keep my teetering world view intact.  This helped for a while.  I even began to think of going into the ministry.

But then I experienced true tragedy.  I felt real pain and I began to really empathize with the pain of others throughout the world.  My narrow world view could not explain what had happened to me; nor could it explain the suffering of others around the world.  In the span of a couple of years, my faith utterly collapsed.

I briefly tried to revive it with a program called Imagine.  But ultimately that turned out to be just another money making scheme ran by a corrupt minister.

So here is the big question:  How do I turn my will and my life over to someone or something I am not sure is real?

This is where I must turn to the great theologian Albus Dumbledore.  “Of course it is happening inside your head…but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I love the way step 3 is worded.  It does not say turn over your lives to the God of the Jews, or the Christians, or the Muslims or the Hindus or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.  It says God as we understand him.  That leaves space for even me.

I cannot, nor can anyone for that matter, empirically prove the existence of a god.  They cannot prove their point of view or their system of theology is right.  No one can even prove that god does not exist.  God in any way shape or form is not open to the scientific method.  You can debunk stories, dates, and miracles of all kinds.  But as to whether or not there is or is not a god is open to debate.

Here is what I do know.  That kid, the one who talked and sang to Jesus, he felt safe, loved and protected.  It may have all been in my head.  But it was right and good.

So that is who I will ask for help.  S/he may all be in my head, but that is also where all the food goes.  So if it works, I think I will give it a shot.

2c the shiny me

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Today’s entry is inspired by a bit of dialogue from, “Return of the Jedi.”

Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.

Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son…

Luke: Then my father is truly dead.

Countless times, every morning, people ask, “How is it going?”  Nine times out of ten, I reflexively grunt back the obligatory, “Good.”  Once in a while, I will briefly do a quick self-assessment of my state of mind, before grunting, “Good.”  Same answer, but at least I thought about it.

When I am by myself and I really think about how I am, more often than not, I define myself as an emotional state.  I am OK (or more truthfully meh).  I am angry.  I am mad.  I am depressed.  I am disappointed.  I am unworthy.

Hmmm…I think I am seeing a trend.

Emotions are like asteroids in a gravity field.  Stuff gets clumped together.  Peebles becomes stones.  Stones become boulders.  Boulders become mountains.  Mountains become asteroids and asteroids become planets.

At its very core, a planet might have started out as a diamond or a nugget of gold.  But the planet is not defined by the initial bit of matter that started it, but by what predominantly makes it up its surface.  If you are surrounded by granite slabs, you are granite.

That is where I find myself.  I have always had a dark side.  But for much of my life it did not define me.  I was happy, funny, silly and a good friend.  But life took me through some rough territory and I allowed my environment to start to shape me.  Over time, my surroundings began to change me until now I am so corroded by anger, depression and despair that it defines me.

Like the quote above, I cannot let go of my hate because I feel that it is too late (that sounds like a Jesse Jackson quote).  My solution has been to binge, medicate and watch TV.   I eat and eat and eat.  I take enough antidepressants to choke a horse.  And I immerse myself in a world of television make believe.  Then when I am exhausted, I go to sleep.

I wear my unhappiness around my waist.  If left to my own devices, it will kill me.

Somewhere deep in my core, is the person I once was.  Choking between layers of fat is the best version of me.  But I cannot free that person.  He is imprisoned.

I need a power greater than myself to show me the way back.  I do not know who or what is out there, but I am calling and begging for help.

Help me.