We Regret to Inform You

Long ago, I decided that my life verse was going to be 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I can’t read that verse, see its impact on my life, and not share the following.

Dear Adam, After conducting a thorough review of your application, we regret to inform…..

For the 23rd, and almost assuredly last, time, I have been rejected from medical school.
Before we go any further, a few answers to questions:

1) No Dad, I’m not quite sure what I am going to do next.

“I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up.” I’ve been saying that sentence for around 8 years.

I still haven’t been able to quite spit out that sentence with the word “not” put into it. It feels funny in my mouth, like a taste bud that decided every word was going to taste poisonous.
It’s weird, because deciding that I wanted to become a doctor meant pushing out virtually every other career possibility from my mind. When you have a mental option of not being a doctor, it is a lot harder to pull your third all-nighter in a row to study for organic chemistry.
But now, I am back to square one.
So, no, I don’t know what I am going to do next, but I will do something. I promise you that.

2) No Mom, Northwestern wasn’t a waste even though I didn’t get into medical school.

I have been incredibly blessed that most things in life have come easy to me. I have been able to accomplish virtually everything that I have set my mind to, including attending and graduating from what turned out to be my dream school. But that doesn’t mean that everything was a dream at Northwestern.
A constant question for myself when I was studying was, “Is this worth it?” Was it worth it to be slaving away for B’s, when maybe I could have gone to a less rigorous school and been able to maybe set the curve for once? For consolation, I turned to the stats. 78% of students with my GPA from Northwestern get into medical school. Over 95% of students with my MCAT score get into Medical school. Even if I wasn’t perfect, I would still be ok. Medical school was still out there for Northwestern students just like me.

Until it wasn’t.
So, your question is a logical one. Was attending Northwestern worth it?

Absolutely.

See I might not be matriculating into medical school like I dreamed, but I gained things from Northwestern that I could not have even dreamed.
Friends, both near and far, that I know would drop everything for me, friends who are quite literally changing the world as we speak, no matter their age.
An education that taught me how to open my own eyes, and see the world in a brand new light; an education that would inspire me and shift me into brand new places and thoughts.
Mentors, coaches, and friends that inspired me to tell stories and help others tell their stories, something that still warms my heart as the coach of a high school speech team.
Life.

I might have gotten better grades with less effort at a school that wasn’t Northwestern, but I know from the bottom of my heart that I wouldn’t be who I am without Northwestern.

Even if I’m not preparing to don a white coat, I think I am exactly who I want to be, and I am so incredibly blessed that I can say that.

3) Yes, Adam, you’ll be ok.

I think the most important part of this is the realization that I will be ok. No, I don’t know what my next step is, yes I am frustrated, but I’m going to be ok. It will take me a while, but I’ll be ok.
It might involve some tough choices, but I’ll be ok. I might think that a doctor is the only perfect profession for me, but I’ll be ok. Seeing friends in med school is going to hurt for a while, but I’ll be ok.

I’ll be ok.
I’ll be ok.
I’ll be ok.

That is the most important thing.

I always felt called to be a doctor because I loved pursuing health, solving problems, and relating to people through effective communication. Personally, I think those things done well make an incredible physician, and I was so excited to do them.

Hearing the news that I won’t get the chance to prove that hurts. It does. But I am called to rejoice in my hardships, my trials, my weaknesses, and so I will.

Rejoice!
There’s certainly one thing that warms my heart.

Each year, we receive thousands of applications from talented individuals just like you.

Every rejection letter that I received had some version of that sentence.  That means that we are going to have some absolutely incredible physicians coming through the pipeline as those applicants move towards their practices-physicians that care, physicians that want to improve health at every turn, and physicians who are going to start changing how our health care looks from person to person.  I want the best possible physician to greet every patient that walks through their door, and based on that sentence in every single rejection letter I received, we very well might have a future where that is the case.
I think I would have been an incredible physician. I’m hoping that the medical schools I applied to thought the same. I am so incredibly encouraged that they all found people who fit the bill better than me.
So, I get to find the next thing I will be incredible at. I’m hoping I can find what makes Christ’s power most perfect through me. It will be a journey, but I’m ready.

Let’s go.
adam

 

 

P.S. I better not hear anything about a physician shortage at any point in the next 50 years or so 🙂

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The Storyteller’s Tapestry

The Storyteller’s tapestry hangs the darkest corner of his study. Each day, at exactly 8:52 in the morning, the storyteller enters his study, and places his coffee on the rickety table that sits next to his favorite chair. For eight minutes, he sits in his chair and stares at his tapestry.  At exactly 9, he stands from his chair, and turns to his desk, pristine, precise, and pure. He lays his journal in the center of the desk, takes out a pen, and writes what he sees.

What stories he creates. Stories of heroes and heroines, monsters and magicians, lads and lasses, life and death, and of course, a few men just like himself.
All of these stories come from his eight minutes of inspection.

By this point, he knows the tapestry. He has looked at this tapestry every morning for eight minutes for his entire life. The tapestry hasn’t changed, except for the few fringes at the edges that indicate the passage of time, fading slowly into the darkness of the room.

Oh he knows the tapestry well.

Very well.

And that is perhaps what made the first Tuesday of August so memorable.

 

On this particular morning, the storyteller woke and brewed his coffee. A sip of his life-giving liquid warmed his heart and prepared him for his journey. A quick glance at the clock told him that he still had three minutes to reach the door of his study, ample time his body to accomplish its only task of the day. Slowly, he made his way up the stairs, clutching his lower back as it creaked and cracked like the stairs beneath him. The storyteller was not a young man anymore, and the climb to his study seemed more taxing every day. His breathing quickened, pulse raced, but finally, he reached the summit. Turning to the left, he reached for the door of his study. For 52 years, he had reached his hand out in the exact same way. His last step landed his left hand 19 inches from the doorknob, easily within reach of his lanky, gaunt frame.  This morning he reached out and felt only air.

Startled, the man’s head whirled to look at his left hand. A quick glance at his wrist showed him that it was currently 8:52, but the doorknob wasn’t in his hand. Slowly, he turned to face an open door. Small but steady alarms began to sound in his head, for each day, at exactly 4:57, he rose from his desk, and sauntered out of his door, arriving in his foyer precisely at 5. Each day, he ensured the door closed behind him, the cool touch of brass reminded him to keep his work and his life separate. He knew the door was closed yesterday. He was sure of it.

Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he was losing it. It had been a particularly long week. His mind was beginning to flutter about, the laser focus that had defined him for so many years was finally beginning to waver.

Slowly, he walked into the room.

His watched turned to 8:53.

The moment he entered his study, his eyes immediately flittered to the tapestry. Though it hung in the darkest corner of his study, he could see it immediately. Scarcely able to believe his eyes, his shuffled towards the tapestry and stood silently in front of it, the tapestry fluttering in breezy breath.
There- the stitch– 1741ST from the top and 689 from the left-was sticking ever so slightly out of the tapestry.

The man recoiled from the tapestry, pulse quickening, pressures rising, eyes dilating, looking to the source of this travesty. He took several long breaths in an attempt to center himself, and collapsed in his favorite chair. How could this have happened? He lived by himself, on purpose, of course, and his landlord employed an impressive line of doormen trained to subdue any intruder by whatever means necessary. Yet, clearly, the impossible had happened.

The storyteller took another long look at the tapestry. The stitch that had fallen out was in a very particular spot-right in the center of one of the two majestic eyes that called the tapestry their home.  For the past 52 years, the storyteller had been looking into those eyes. For the past 32 years, he had been taking the stories he saw in those eyes and woven them into stories.
For the past 52 years, he had been making those stories in those eyes come alive.
For the past 52 years, the tapestry has made him come alive.

But now, this morning, he started to feel a small piece of that life leave.
A quick glance at his watch showed him that it was now 9:00. Ready or not, it was time to work.

He sat at his desk, pulled on his pen, and willed his journal to become the genesis of new worlds. This morning, however, was different. Rather than the words that would normally spill out of his consciousness, he could only trace two words, over and over: “It’s Time.” Hours passed, his hands pressing further and further into the page until the words were scratching the immaculate desk underneath. Finally, with the last ounce of strength in his arm, he pushed himself up from the desk. He had to hold his shaking hand in order to read his watch face. It was 4:57. Oddly enough, this made his hand stop trembling.
He picked up his now cold cup of coffee and turned to the tapestry. With a heavy sigh, he placed his left hand on the cloth, and slowly traced his memories- the streaks of yellow that inspired the stories of heroines, the greens that created monsters, the reds that forged lads, the whites that formed life, and the black that spawned death. The memories rushed over him, filling his heart with the same warmth that the coffee gave him earlier. With a pause, he hovered over the stitch. 1741 from the top, 689 from the left.  He grasped the stitch with his aching fingers. It was so soft, the stitch, a softness that was only intensified by the knowledge that it was exactly where it was supposed to be.

 

In a well-made tapestry, each stitch perfectly blended with the next. On close inspection, each stitch has no idea what it’s purpose is, running along a track that it will never understand. Yet, to take a step back, the stiches create a beauty and understand that caused tears to well in his eyes. Blinking the water away, he took a deep breath. His watch clicked to the hour.  5 o clock had come.

He closed his eyes, and pulled the stitch. The last thing he heard was a coffee mug crashing into the floor, liberated from its last living connection to the earth.
 

With a start, he opened his eyes. It was dark in the room. Yet, with eyes wide open, he could see a man he didn’t recognize enter the room slowly. He was a young man, not older than 25. The young man sat in a brand new chair, holding a cup of tea. He stared directly into the eyes of the old man.
The young man announced, with words that sounded like honey to the old man, “Today I become a storyteller.” He sat and stared at the old man for a few minutes, and then opened his journal and began to write, hand flowing across the page.

The old man smiled, a single blue thread descending from his wide open eye.

 

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Medley

Christmas is here.
The trees are decorated.
The cookies are frosted.
The presents are opened.

Yet, in a few short days, it will all be gone.
Things returned, decorations disappearing, the jolliness becomes a faint memory.  Even the angels on top of the tree are returned to their boxes, not to see the light of day for 11 more months, gathering dust.
Sometimes, I dust off past Christmas memories. Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.  There were gifts, of course, but most are wasting away in a landfill somewhere. The cookies have long since become a couple extra pounds, old trees are firewood burned ages ago, and there are moments where even my memories seem to fade back into the dust. The Christmas of present seems to not live up to what I want it to be, just an echo of the glorious mornings of Christmas past.

Echoing their glorious strains.

Does this Christmas feel different to anyone else?
I long for the times of timelessness from the past, a break that never ended, a snow that always pristine, and a day that was filled with joy.
Don’t get me wrong, this has been a delightful day, but after a year of change, hurt, pain, anger, and so much for so many people, it seems like Christmas is just a gasp for air at the end of a sprint where you were behind the whole race.

There are days when I wonder why Christmas gets all the attention in our country. The entire month of December, and (part of November) is set up for one big moment, and then it’s done in a second.  The year turns, and we are back to where we at, usually busy, miserable, and waiting for the next big distraction. Is this what Christmas has come to?

 
Is this what my Christmas, our Christmas, has begun?
So this is Christmas.

And what have you done, another year over,
Another year over.

And a new one to
Come

they told me, pa rum bum bum bum
But
There is another part of this story that needs to be told.
there is this one thing that never gets old.
There is another thing to behold.
Come all ye faithful!

See, despite everything that I get told by commercials, by movies, by everything, there is something more.
Something that will not go away.
Something that is important each and every day.

Come and behold him!

Something about this season. Something about this time of year that means something more. Something that is wonderful.
something that makes us
Fall on your knees

 

That thing, that thing is the reason why Christmas is actually
a night divine

 

That thing, that thing is the reason we can have
Joy to the world
That thing is that

the Lord has come.

 

See, Christmas is not the presents, the candy, the cookies, the snow, the trees, the ornaments, the things, the things, the things,
That’s not what it is.

What it is is a revelation.
A mitigation
An expectation
An invocation
A declaration
A salutation,
An exclamation
Our abdication
Our confirmation
Our Transformation.
Our Salvation

Christmas is not a day, it’s a way

Christmas is not some gifts and a tree, it is the moment we were made free.
Christmas is not just a season, it is something to believe in.

Christmas is not a moment.
Christmas is every moment because Jesus is here.
Jesus is here.
Jesus is here.

So
Go tell it on the Mountain.

Go tell it that,
Christ the Savior is born!

Go tell it that tonight,
The little Lord Jesus’s asleep on the hay.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Yes. No. Maybe.

In ten days, I will be the luckiest man on earth.
I will be standing across from the beautiful, amazing, incredible, fantastic Melissa Jensen, and I will say, “I do.” With that sentence, I say the biggest “YES” I have ever said in my life, pledging myself to her and only to her until death do us part.
Yes.

 

April 1st was the deadline for medical schools to inform applicants of their decisions. April 1st came and went. This past June, I had sent out 9 applications to medical schools across the country, and by April 1, I had nine “NO’s” in my hands.

No.

A few days ago, I sat in a donation bed and donating stem cells through a program called “Be the Match.” This program determined that I had very similar bone marrow to a patient somewhere in the country that desperately needed my help to stay alive.  Several doctor’s visits, injections, and a long day of donating stem cells later, I have no idea if the patient I donated to is still alive. The best I know at the moment is, “Maybe.”

Maybe.

I have had so much going on in my life lately. I have moved twice in the last 6 months. I have been through the highs of employment and volunteering and new friendships and finding a home. I have been through the lows of disappointment and pain.

I am 23 years old.
Yes.

No.

Maybe.

********

If you didn’t know this about me, I struggle with control over my future. I fight and fight and fight to try to maintain the path that I think I should be on. Sometimes, that is the right path to be on: Yes. Sometimes that is clearly the wrong path to be on: no.

Sometimes, I have no idea: maybe.

And that is really hard for me. Really hard. I want to wrap up myself in my confidence and bravado and pride and purpose and just stroll out into a life that is waiting for me. Along the way, I am bombarded with choices, chances, and courses that I have to say Yes or No to.

Most times, I do pretty well. The choices come so naturally, and the words yes or no escape through my mouth without hesitation. Sometimes the words catch in my throat, and I have to squeeze them out, painfully one by one.

And then there are the times that I have to say, “Maybe.”

*********

I have decided that I hate the word maybe. It really means nothing. Nothing at all, just a placeholder for space that doesn’t deserve to be filled.  It is just there. Maybe is what comes to our minds when we need to stall, or provide a null answer, or just wait out a wave of passion so we don’t have to make a decision. Maybe is the scared shadow of our psyche that comes out when the bravado and boldness fails.

Maybe is the word we say when we have no words to say.

********

My life continues to amaze me. For those of you that know me well, I love telling a good story. In order to tell a good story, you have to first have a good story to tell.
One of my favorite stories to tell is the time where I was accidentally swept up in a pranking scheme with a bunch of students at a different university. After an unfortunate name mix up, I entered a world of pranks that would come to define an incredible year of my life, and provide some friendships that I would truly cherish.

The only reason I have that story to tell is because I said yes to helping with some tomfoolery.

During that time, I said no to many things, but perhaps none larger than an option to help lead an undergraduate study group as a TA.

Did that decision come back to bite me?

Maybe.

********

The problem is, as much as I want to focus on the yes’s and the no’s, it is the maybe’s that ricochet around my head at night. For every time I have used a maybe, or even entertained the thought of a maybe, I have a multitude of times that I have said yes or no. So many of them have led me down incredible paths.

But it is so much easier to dream about the maybes. Even when those dreams are nightmares.

******
Yes.

No.

Maybe.

********

I don’t even know what the questions are yet, but there are times coming very soon that I will need to answer yes or no to. I know for a fact that I will answer yes, yes, a million times yes to Melissa. I know that I will say no to many opportunities that cross my path in the pursuit of the path I believe I am created to be on. There will be many many more.

What scares me the most is that I thrive in the maybe’s of life. The options. The paths. The plans. The pursuit.

I don’t know how good I am at the Yes’s and the No’s yet.
But I will learn. I will have to learn.

 

The questions will come.

So will the answers.

Maybe.

********
There are some who will read this and think that I am scared of myself or the path that I am on. Mom, I am looking at you 🙂

That’s not it at all. I am happier and healthier than I have been in a long time. Slowly but surely, I am finding purpose, refining myself, and creating something incredible. It is a slow process, but it is an incredible one. In 10 days, I will get to share in that process with my best friend, who continues to inspire me even further. Each day that I wake, I am surrounded by those who love me, and who can find love in me. At least, I hope so!

The fact of the matter is that I have gotten pretty good at saying yes. I have even gotten better at saying no. I no longer want to say maybe as much.

But it is still there.

And I think it is there for you too.

***********

There is something in my mind that tells me when to write. I don’t do it very often, but it starts with a small word or phrase bouncing around in my head, which snowballs into this torrent of words cascading out through my head and heart and pulsing through my fingertips. For some reason, in these moments, the words cease to be planned, but rather move from a position of potential to existence with no transition.

There is no maybe in these words.

And I think I am finally figuring out why.

***********

When I was a freshman in high school, I was the king of the maybe. Living for the next moment, and completely forgetting about the moment that I was in as soon as it passed. That plan worked perfectly until life just continued to throw no’s at me until the moment where I wanted to say, “NO” to myself.
I did.

A lot.

No’s are the thing we don’t want to hear about ourselves, but they are so often the first things we say to ourselves.

Thank goodness I had people that continued to teach me how to say Yes to myself and to each and every moment in life.

But really, there is only one reason I started saying yes.

**********

I can’t be who I am without Jesus Christ.

That might be the point of this narrative that you stop reading.

It might be the moment where you decide to focus on everything I have said thus far.

It might be the moment where you get angry or frustrated or discontent with my words.

That’s ok.

That’s perfectly ok.

Because I can’t speak for you, I can only speak for me.

In Jesus, I have someone who said yes to me. To taking on my sin. My pain. My brokenness. My shame.
In Jesus, I have someone who said no to the devil, no to the world, no to a life of perfect intimacy with God to step down here and say no to an option of ending it all.

There was no maybe.

Not a single maybe.

*********

I don’t know the next set of questions, but I do know I am ready for them.

For the times of indecision, I have the answer.
For the times of excitement, I have the answer.
For the times of love, I have the answer.
For the times of adventure, and passion, and confusion, and chaos, and pain, and uncertainty, I have the answer.
When life hits me with everything that it has, even when I don’t know or understand what it is hitting me with, I have the answer.

As much as I want to say maybe, I don’t need to.

I have my answer.

*******

Yes:
I am happy, healthy, and fully in love. I am confused about my future, and I constantly doubt myself. I have found passions and purposes that continue to challenge me. I have found people that love me, and I have found new ways to love others.

No:

I don’t know what my next steps are. I am not exactly sure what it means to be a good husband. I don’t know for sure if I am going to be a doctor. I don’t know exactly how to convince others to become alive. I don’t know if the patient I donated stem cells to is going to survive. But most of all, I don’t know what it truly means to be Adam Logeman. Not yet anyways.Those just aren’t my questions to answer at the moment.

Maybe:

 

 

 

Maybe?

No.

 

I have the answer.

 

adam

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Pause

For the second time in my life, I moved to a new town.

First was Evanston, Illinois, population 75,570, a bustling suburban community adjacent to a world class city surround by nearly 2,000 other students at Northwestern University ready to have the best four years of our lives.

Second was Plainview, MN. Population 3000. No stop light. 3 gas stations, 4 churches, a liquor store, and some bars.

Pause.

If you are reading this, you probably know a little about me. I just graduated from Northwestern with a degree in Biology. I grew up in Saint Cloud, MN, a nice community of around 60.000 people, but just country enough where I still enjoy the smell of freshly planted fields. I am engaged to a woman who is beyond my wildest dreams, and thanks be to God, I have had my life paused at the moment.

I just sprinted through four years of college, I quickly ran through four years of high school, dashed through two years of junior high, scurried through 6 years of elementary school, and, I am sure, hustled through my child and toddler years. I am very very good at running the race. I know how to do it, and I have become quite adept at moving quickly for the next thing along my path.

But now?

Pause.

I have been in Plainview for almost a week now. Besides the wonderful couple whose basement I live in, I have met exactly zero people. So after doing nothing besides rewatching the first four seasons of Parks and Recreation (and what a beautiful show it is), sleeping, eating, and peeing, I have done absolutely nothing in Plainview.

So 2 days ago, sick of my cave dwelling experience, I burst into the sun, blinked furiously, tied up my shoes and started to run.

Pause:

I am not much of a runner. I played football, baseball, and I cross country skied in high school. After my knee surgery four years ago, I can’t run for very long without my knees interrupting my pace. If its not my knee, it is my lungs protesting after four years of inconsistent workouts.

But I go. Then I stop. And the process repeats.

But in these runs, I have found quite the little town: A town reminding me of what it means to pause.

plainview field

I don’t know the name of this field, nor do I know how recently it has been used. Judging by the weeds growing in the dugouts and the pitchers mound, it has been a while. But for me, it is truly frozen time. I can imagine kids running the bases, and their parents taking them to the DQ down the street after their victories. For all I know, this field has been here for 50 years. The ghostly memories swing around me as I jog along the fence.

But I pause.

It’s around this time where I usually make my first stop. My lungs burning slightly, my knee protesting, but most importantly, my head swirling.

See right now, I have 10 applications out to work at the Mayo Clinic, about 35 minutes south of this field. I have 11 medical school applications that are sitting on the desks of admissions committees around the country. I have a pile of things to do to prepare for my upcoming wedding.

These things mesh together into a conglomeration of urgency. Things to do, things to worry about, things that take away this moment of chasing ghosts around the baseball field. To shut up the voices, I run.

I run and run and run.

See this is truly God’s country out here. As much as I loved Chicago and its hustle and bustle, there is something about running through and between cornfields that stretch endlessly towards the horizon. I can hear no cars, no shouts, only the pounding of my own heart.

This place forces me to pause.

plainview graveyard

There is a graveyard on my run. Plainview has been along for a very long time, yet, even so, seeing that there are some gravestones from the pre-Civil War era is mind boggling to me. This graveyard is truly frozen in time, and with a town this small, I would hazard that a vast majority of the people that have lived in this town are buried in this cemetery. Walking around the yard forces an introspection of what life was each and every moment along the gravestones. Did those who died in the 1850’s know that I would be jogging by nearly 170 years later?

As these thoughts start multiplying in my head, I realize that a cemetery is the ultimate pause button. Nothing in this cemetery continues. It is frozen in each and every moment. Some individuals are added, but the cemetery lives on forever. Nothing will ever change that there are thousands of individuals resting in peace six feet under all the age speckled stones.

I can leave on my run, but the cemetery remains paused.

You know, pausing is really really hard. Pausing forces us to consider that life isn’t moving quite as quickly around us as we would have liked. Living through four years of fast, future orientated individuals at Northwestern makes me realize that I hate pausing. I hate stopping, because it forces me to realize that today, nearly 3 months after graduation, I don’t have a job. I want to continue sprinting along in life with my friends who post pictures on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and keep on running.

But then again, they too will have to pause. No one can run forever.

plainview sign

There isn’t a stop light in Plainville, but there are street signs. Thank goodness, because since I have only been here for a week, I don’t quite know where I am. The street signs are all blue. As strange as it is, I realize that my whole life growing up, I was surrounded by green signs. As strange as I am, simply seeing these signs makes me pang for the comforts of home.

Don’t get me wrong, every person I have passed in Plainview has been the epitome of nice. I had a 10 minute long chat with the town librarian who went out of her way to help me figure out how to use their (very old) scanner. I was stopped by two different employees in the tiny town grocery store who offered to bring me right to the aisle where my items were. Even the kids around town greet me with a smile, even though we will probably remain complete strangers.

In some ways, this town feels like it is paused. It is so hard to see the pain of faces on the street like I could in Chicago. It is never hard to find a friendly face, even though a sea of unfullfillment rages through me as I walk up and down the sidewalks. No matter what I do or think, Plainview continues to exist as the most picturesque small town. It itself embodies Minnesota Nice. It itself pushes the pause button on my life.

Plainview pool

Yesterday was the start of fall, and it is very clear to see that the town is putting itself on pause as well. The community pool is closed and padlocked. The kids run into the community school. Dust drifts on the bleachers of the baseball stadium. Construction workers relax in the shade of trees that are very clearly preparing to pause through the winter. Soon, as snow falls, everything will pause.

Everything, except for me.

See that is the hardest thing about pausing for me. No matter how wonderful it is to take a breath of fresh air and let my lungs relax, I know that there is still miles separating me from where I am and I where I need to go.

So it is for life. No matter what, Plainview will only be a temporary stop for me. I will move on, hopefully to medical school, maybe to something I haven’t even dreamed of yet. In the future, I will crave the ability to take runs like I did today, free of time constraints and worries.

I crave the pause when I am not paused.

And that is why i have to pause.
plainview gravestone

Today, one gravestone caught my eye. There was no legible engraving whatsoever. Even though I logically knew that there was still a coffin below it, the lack of any identifying material make it mighty difficult to understand why.

And then the realization hit me.

Pauses are so difficult because when we are paused, we are forced to admit to ourselves that we may have misidentified ourselves. No matter what, we are who we are. We can run as fast as we want, impressing as many people as we can as we spring along the path that we think that we should be running on. But that path will end.

Perhaps that path will end as we hit a wall and can continue no further. Perhaps that path will end when we see another path through the trees and decide to run on the other path. Perhaps our path ends when we fall and need to be carried home.

Perhaps, just perhaps, we are on the right path, but needed a pause to remind ourselves of where we are.

I hate pausing. But I have to pause. If I don’t pause, I keep running in circles.

plainview view

This is where I have run to the last few days. Plainview has a nice little hill on the backside of the cornfields before you enter the cemetery.

There is a bench there.

I have paused there, sat on the bench and smiled.

Sometimes, I have to pause to remember how far I have run already.
Maybe I start running again in a minute. It might be a day, a week, or a month. I know I have farther to run, but for this one glorious moment, I am on top of the world.

And I’m not moving at all.

adam

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A Comma, Not a Period

My senior year of high school, I tore the meniscus in my knee virtually in half. Much to my chagrin, it was not in a glorious football injury, but rather during the last rehearsal of the play that I was in, when I jumped over a six inch bench. The next moment, my knee exploded, and I had a knee surgery two weeks later (after I had hobbled through 8 performances while on a lot of pain killers). When I went into the surgery, I did not know whether I would just be getting parts of my meniscus cut out (which would involve a three to four week healing process, allowing me to get back to cross country skiing for my senior year), or whether my meniscus would be fully repaired (which would be an over 4 month healing process, including 10 weeks on crutches). I woke up from that surgery with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be walking, much less running, for quite a long time.

I do know one thing. I only cried once during that whole ordeal. It wasn’t when I tore my knee, nor was it when I found out that I wouldn’t get my senior year of cross country skiing, nor when the crutches were handed to me for the first time. It wasn’t even during the grueling and often painful rehab process. No, the only time I cried was when I was told that I could not play broomball and my church’s winter retreat, and that I would just have to sit and listen to the sounds of laughter and love emanating from the ice rink. I crutched back to the cabin and just sobbed.

See to me, that was the moment where it seemed like my life had a period. Logically, I knew that I would heal up, I would be able to have fun with my friends, and I would be able to live a better life with a fully repaired knee, but I couldn’t see past that brief moment of what I perceived to be an end. I was fully caught up in what I was missing that I forgot to look forward to the life I had ahead.

Little did I know that it was a comma, and not a period.

Today I want to center around that theme of living for commas, and not for periods. I think that is times of transition, most certainly like the one I am about to go through of leaving Northwestern, we want to look at these times as the cessation of something that we held dear. So often, I think that in order for me to move to the next big adventure, something has to stop. I look back at my past few weeks, and all of the things that are ending: classes, the speech team, living in the Foundry, leading YoungLife, my job in the admissions office, tour guiding, and so many more. But then I think about the more important things that I am leaving behind: my memories, and most importantly, my dear dear friendships. No matter any way that I slice it, my life as I know it is irrevocably changing, and that is absolutely terrifying because it is so so easy to think of it as an end.

But thinking of these things as an end destroys the value that they continually have. These things aren’t disappearing, they are merely transforming from present interactions to memories an parts of who you are. See when we get caught up in the constancy of endings, we forgot to move forward.

My football coach in high school, Mr. Benson had a saying. You can do anything on earth for seven seconds. His theory was that no matter what life presents to you, if you set your mind to it and you want it bad enough, you can do anything for seven seconds. But in the concept of football, those seven seconds never ended. You had to deliberately choose to approach the next set of seven seconds with the same ferocity that you approached the last set. If you can continually do that, not only will you win, but you will become alive. It is very easy to stop at the end of those seven seconds and say that you have completed your job. But we always have the chance to go one more time, changing the period at the end of those seven seconds into a comma that allows you to continue.

To me, that is the definition of what living for commas and not periods means.
I am going to take a moment right here to be very clear. I am going to be very very sad when I leave Northwestern. I can truly say that Northwestern has given me an incredible breadth of opportunities that has allowed me to shape myself into the man that I am today. I literally cannot imagine who I would be without Northwestern’s influence. And maybe today, that is not where you are at. Seniors, maybe you are thinking that you can’t wait to leave this place. Maybe this place has hurt you, or is hurting you, or never was right for you in the first place. That is perfectly ok. But this message is still for you. Whenever we approach the conclusion of a life event or period in life, we naturally want to progress from it in the best way possible; often times by cutting it off and attributing it to the past. I am not advocating that we need to continually live in the past or that we should not move towards the future. However, I need to communicate today that our culture of perceiving ends as periods and not commas does not allow us to pursue what it truly means to be alive.

One of my favorite bible stories to apply to my own life is at the beginning of Acts.. To set the scene, Jesus has just died and been resurrected. For 40 days, he wanders around with his disciples, and then, in the first 11 verses of Acts, he returns to heaven.Then, in one of my favorite moments to imagine from the Bible, the disciples sit and stare towards the heavens, seemingly waiting for Him to return. If I was sitting there, among the disciples, I would have just been staring up the sky and waiting for him to come back. And that is exactly what they did. In fact they just continued to stare at the sky, until some angels had to come down and tell them that Jesus wasn’t coming back (this time). And so the disciples sat and looked around at each other, seemingly at the end of their ministry.

Yet, it was in this moment that their ministry truly started. What could have very clearly been a period was once again a comma, as these men were about to embark on a journey that would affect the entire world through their testimony. Rather than accept Jesus leaving as a period, they started something anew with the inspiration of a conclusion.

However, today, I fear that we live in a time a periods rather than commas. It is so easy to approach times of transition with an “end” in mind, rather than the continuation of what has already been happening. When I leave Northwestern, it may be the conclusion of my time here, but it will not be the end of what it has taught me.When I leave all of my activities, they do not end, but rather continue along with the memories and work that I put into them to let them grow and thrive. When we move on to our next steps, no matter what they are, they are simply that: next steps on a path that draws through our entire lives.

See the more we look at the conclusion of events as periods and not as commas, the more we defeat our own purposes in pursuing those events in the first place. If college was just something to get through, why was I here in the first place? If you are struggling with the conclusion of something, I ask you to search into yourself, and ask why. Why does that conclusion mean an end?

And then the big topic. Death. I can feel the wheels turning in all of your heads. But Adam, you say, when we die, that is the ultimate period. Everything stops.

But thankfully, because of our faith in Christ Jesus, it doesn’t. See that is the crux of our faith. We are Christians because God promises us a comma and not a period. That is the life that we are called to live. A period stops. A comma continues. God has changed the ultimate period to just one more comma, creating the worlds longest run-on sentence.

So what does this all mean? Why is it so essential that we transition from periods to commas? Simple. A comma allows life through conclusion. Think back to your high school grammar classes. A comma exists to allow two related thoughts to be joined together to make one coherent thought. A period on the other hand forever separates one thought from the next. Thus, following this metaphor, if our lives are a story that we are writing, each and every time we feel like we have to put a period, we disconnect from that moment and our forced to transition to the next thought. This jarring transition can cause pain, loss, or simply confusion. Looking at conclusions like periods causes discord and separates us from what is truly important: what happened before the conclusion.

Meanwhile a comma allows us to continually add to ourselves, and move down the path that has been laid in front of us since our very first moments. Transitions add more life events to an already solid base that continues to move through our lives, rather than breaking off pieces of who we are in order to add the next piece of our lives. In my opinion, Commas create life, where periods separate it.

Maybe for you, this all makes sense, and you are already looking at life in terms of a series of commas. If that is the case, that’s fantastic. However, if I am being honest, the idea for “A comma, not a period” came to me because I default on a period rather than a comma. As I am entering into serious transitions at the moment, I am feeling an incredible sense of loss. I need this reminder as much as anyone. And so, if today you have the ability to add a comma and just take the next step, I ask you to lend a hand to me and so many others who are struggling in this moment. I want to be a comma, but I am comfortable in using periods.

When I look back at my knee surgery, I see a comma. Instead of doing cross country skiing, I threw myself into the speech team, dedicating my time to developing my skills of communication, which I used for the last four years on Northwestern’s speech team. By not playing broomball, I learned how much I crave communities of faith, encouragement, and fun, which lead to me signing on to lead Young Life despite never hearing about it before college. My knee surgery was one of the pivotal moments of my life to that point, and I never could have imagined how it could lead to so many more things. God made it a comma even when all I could think about was how it was a period.

I believe God is calling us to use commas.

The disciples stood on the hill where Jesus had ascended, took a breath, and took a period, Jesus leaving and changed it into a comma to transform the world.

I believe that we can do that as well.

adam

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I don’t think I know what surrender means.

Hey all,

It has been quite a long time since I have written anything here. In the craziness and chaos of senior year, taking time to do things like write blog posts is continually pushed to the background.

However, after a spirited discussion with my wonderful roommates at the Foundry, I came to a very stark conclusion. We, as 21st century, western civilization Christians, have no clue what it means to surrender.

Let me explain the background here. As I move towards the real world, applying for jobs and medical schools and transitioning into being an adult, the most common refrain I hear is something to the effect of Proverbs 3:6, which says,

“in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 

And you know what, that didn’t sit too well with me for some reason. No matter how I went about trying to surrender my dreams and desires to God, I was continually caught in the trap of forgetting how desperately the world around me needs the love that I have been so blessed to find. So I started processing and searching, and I have realized something very clear. I specifically have no clue what it means to surrender.

Let me explain. For much of my life, I feel like I have been taught a specific mode of surrender by the church. In graphic form:

Surrender Foundry

I think the way that the church has talked about surrender is a way to move from the world closer to Christ. As you leave the world behind and enter into the sphere of Christianity, you move closer and closer to God, and that is the absolute goal. The act of giving one’s life to Jesus is the first step in crossing the fence that exists between Christians and the World, and from there, you are constantly attempting to surrender even further to reach God closer and closer.

And that all looks fine from the outset. There is no problem in wanting to be closer to God. By no means am I advocating that you should not move into a more intimate relationship with God.

However, I do not believe that is what true surrender is.

The more I look and read, the more I realize how dangerous that concept of surrender is. In this view of surrender, you are attempting to separate yourself from the world, and by looking in at God, you are constantly only seeing the people who are close to God, or closer to God than you are. The steps that you take ask you to deny the world around you, and focus on God and God alone. This view of surrender asks you to surrender humanity for God.

And that really does not sit well with me. As I am looking to go into the medical field, (but more importantly, as a human),  I have noticed that I see God in the actions and words of all those around me. I see God in the smiles people give each other, the hugs that bring comfort, the selfless acts of kindness to those that need it, a sacrifice that is completely undeserved. I see God in the faces of those that bring mercy, love, peace and joy. I see God in the midst of a world that is forever tainted by sin.
So tonight, through conversations with my brothers at the Foundry, I realized that this view of surrender is wrong. See I think this view of surrender actually puts ourselves and our works at the center of our motivations by continually asking for more and more surrender to get closer to God. God does not exist separate from sin. God inherently exists in a world that has fallen. In fact, we can only survive in this world because of God’s willingness to step into a sinful world and look outwards towards those that are reaching towards Him.

God does not view surrender in the way that I think that the western Church teaches what it means to surrender. Surrender does not mean that driving towards God is what will make your paths what you want them to be, surrender means accepting the path that Jesus puts you on. Surrender does not mean denying the world, but rather relying on God’s love to reach out to a world that is as broken as you are. Surrender does not mean that the way to transform our minds is to separate ourselves from the patterns of this world, surrender means having our minds transformed before we enter our world.

Surrender means placing God at your center and letting all else go.

Thus,  I think surrender instead looks something like this.

Surrender Foundry 2

Our surrender is not moving closer to God and away from others. Our surrender is moving towards others with God at our center. Our surrender is moving into our broken, sinful world, with the expectation of God shining his light through us in whatever way he deems fit. Our surrender is a path towards a world of pain, bitterness, emptiness, hurt, and darkness, not of comfort as we get closer and closer to God.

Surrender is not easy. Surrender asks us to deny our inherent desire to stay away from pain, and to show and demonstrate God’s love who desperately need it. Our goal is not to surround ourselves with lots of people who will remind us of how Christian we are, but rather run headstrong into the world with a heart full of Christ.

So what does this look like?
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks us to live as the church of Acts, seeing needs and meeting them to the best of our abilities not because it will bring us closer to God, but because God is bleeding out of us.
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks us to continually take chances on loving the world around us, giving time, energy, and resources to our world not because it fulfills our tithing requirements or makes us feel good, but because God is overflowing in our lives.
Perhaps this new version of surrender asks me to love the world no matter where I end up, instead of sitting on my haunches and “surrendering” my future to the Lord (while still keeping my fingers crossed that he sends me to medical school).

Look, I am not saying that we should not seek to surrender our lives for the sake of the Gospel. I am saying that we need to revolutionize how we talk about surrendering so we can surrender our lives while being deeply rooted in Jesus instead of surrendering to move forward in the circle around Jesus.

The Gospel calls us to surrender. Matthew 16:24 says,
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Jesus walked into a sinful world with God purely at his heart, ready to love the world around Him in the greatest way possible.

To me, following that looks a lot like a brand new kind of surrender.

adam

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