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Life

Words for Casey

On January 4th, 2022, My friend Casey Miller left this earth after a long battle with covid pneumonia. I was asked to say a few words. These are the words I wrote down and attempted to share.

I met Casey as teenagers in the mid 90s, right between my most goody two-shoes phase of life and Casey entering a very wild phase. And so, we went down separate paths. Other than a few chance meetings at a Walmart, it wasn’t until a Bible study here at Crossings where we both visited for the first time where we reconnected. Casey and I had both changed quite a bit, but the instant a smile came to his face, I knew exactly who he was. We reconnected that night and for the past few years had developed a meaningful bond.

Casey was a man of many friends, making new ones everywhere he went. I on the other hand have always been a man of few friends, but I was honored to have Casey as one of my closest. 

I would say that Casey was my iron sharpening buddy. We would talk for hours on end. Especially on Wednesday nights after Bible study. One time we got locked in the church parking lot, because Wednesday turned into Thursday before we had taken notice, and I am pretty sure, we made both of our wives worry about us.

Casey ministered to me attempting to stir my heart and challenge my view of the world. And I in turn would minister to him, seeking to calm his heart and remind him that whatever was going on in the world around us, that our choice is simple. Seek God and follow Him, with all that we are. On this we agreed.

I would like to think that our conversations impacted him as much as they impacted me. But one thing can not be denied, and that is that Casey impacted me. Affecting my views of history, my Christian Faith and what it means to be a friend and brother in Christ. 

Like a large stone tossed into the water, Casey has made an impact that continues to ripple through our lives. 

Casey pursued life with passion and purpose. He was full of joy and laughter. I know to some people, including himself at times, he was perfect and was never wrong. But what I admired about him most was that he never let being imperfect or flawed stop him or hold him back. He embraced who he was, all that made him who he was. He was unashamed and courageous. He turned hardship into strength, and fears into motivation. Oppression into empowerment.

Because every new day was an opportunity to do it right and Casey was dedicated to figuring out what was right and living by it.

If Casey could ask anything of us, I believe he would want us to think, to ponder, to question… on what is ultimately true and right.

I am reminded of the words Paul wrote to his friends far away, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Casey enthusiastically pursued truth and when he found something true, he wanted to share it with everyone he talked to. It is now on us to keep that torch lit in our own lives. To seek for ourselves and hopefully to find what Casey found. 

The joy of salvation. 

The purpose in brotherhood. 

The passion in what it means to really truly love. Not the hallmark movie love, but the real gritty and honest love. Dedicated, sacrificial love. Love that stirs a wide range of emotions, because we allow it to penetrate our hearts and guide us.

Many of us today may feel sorrow, sadness, maybe even anger. That is merely a reflection of the love that is there. The emotions may fade with time, but love like that does not fade. Because love is magic.

Not everyone is comfortable calling it magic, but it’s a fine word. Casey believed that too. Because it means there are things we don’t yet understand fully but we know to be very real. Love is indeed magical. It is one of the few elements of this existence that we know transcends this world. 

Casey was charismatic, he was deep, he was magical.

I am thankful for having a true friend like Casey. I hold it as an honor to allow his words and deeds to be held in my memory, close to my heart. I will miss him, for a short season, and I know I will see him again. But until that time, we all have a work to continue. And I only hope to continue that work with a fraction of the passion of my friend Casey Miller.

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Life

Joyous Music Season

I love Christmas music. Every year in Oklahoma some station becomes a Christmas music only station beginning right before Thanksgiving all the way through the new year, and that is what my truck stereo gets set to and stays on for the entire season. It really got me to wondering why I am so completely in love with this music. It’s not just because I love the Christmas season. It’s not just the lyrics or the idea of the birth of Christ, which are all things I love, but there is something about Christmas music that sets it apart from all other styles of music. And as I pondered on it, the thing that popped up in my mind was that Christmas music, whatever the style, is joyful and happy. So much of the music we hear today is chronically depressing. Every song seems to be about breakups or heartache or actual suicidal thoughts. I am very glad that these artists are able to express their emotions and that others can connect with them, but when the top 40 radio stations are playing depresso espresso 24 hours a day, it can really wear on your spirit. But then once a year we get a grand excuse to shut off the hyper emotionally manipulative tunes and only listen to melodies that are joyful and bring cheer. I kind of think that is a good thing. I want to go on a hunt now for non-Christmas or seasonal related music that feels joyful. One song comes to mind but I want to seek out a playlist and then see what would happen if I gave it a listen every singe day.

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Life

Two Wrongs, Too Writes

It’s often said that two wrongs don’t make a right but why is it that we all assume that two rights can not be so. And I’m not talking about a world where there is no truth. I’m referring to the complexity of information and perspective. Maybe the transcendentalists were right. But also, maybe the theists and traditional religious folk were right too. Maybe there is a great deal of “truth” in the world and although no one single perspective or worldview encapsulates it perfectly, maybe there is truth in all of them. Maybe there is no perfect path to perfect understanding. I think I know that to be true for myself. My deepest learned truths came from my profound ability to do and think wrong. Much like the law was given to mankind not as a guideline of perfection, but as a wayfinder to draw light to our wrong. Our mistakes teach us much more than our righteousness. I feel God knew this when he presented the law to Moses and his people. It was not a way for people to attain righteousness, but to identify and draw light onto their wrongdoing so that they could learn to be better. Because perfection was not achievable. That wasn’t the truth they needed to learn, but we can all “do better”, and that is a truth that meets us where we are and grows with us. It is different for everyone, yet it is the same truth. And this comes into this complexity of multiple truths can still be true and still provide for a unifying truth but in the same breath be perceived very differently. This thinking has caused me to form a new belief in response to this possibility. Someone asked me which scripture was most important to follow and I responded, “all of it”. Everything is important. We tend to create hierarchies in our minds to triage information. We do this to make things easier on us, to know what to focus on or to prioritize what we are able to retain. But our inability to be omniscient doesn’t determine the value of some ideas over others. We can’t always hierarchy truth or put a value to spiritual thinking. So if we approach truth seeking with the idea that,

  1. Truth is found everywhere.
  2. All truth is important and valuable

Then the question becomes what truth do we pursue? The answer, to me, is the one in front of you. In every moment of the day, in every situation, if you seek the truth, you will find it. If you immensely value truth, you will gain a return from pursuing it. Any time we close our eyes and ears to something because we have labeled it false or we believe we had to hold one truth over another, we have limited our ability to be exposed to and transformed by truth.

So two wrongs definitely don’t make anything right. But maybe, and I do say maybe because this is a value and idea that is very new to me… but maybe two truths that appear in conflict to us are only in conflict because of our perspective or the corruption in our hearts that prevents us from seeing how many truths entangle together into a beautiful grand truth. What the transcendentalists called zen or nirvana, and what the religious and fervent refer to as the knowledge of God. Now hear me out, this does not mean that “all faiths lead to God”, but more that all faiths pursue truth and those deep truths of reality and existence reflect God. All deep thoughts worthy of meditation, but I would be neglecting my calling to not point to Jesus, who claimed to be the fulfillment of truth and the one and only way to a relationship with God. Many faiths and truths may reveal aspects of grand truth and God, but if you want a relationship with God and don’t want to call Jesus a liar, then I highly recommend looking to Jesus and His teachings.

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Life

A Night With Casey in the ICU

It’s weird to see you there with the machines breathing for you. Your nutritional ooze is being fed to you at the rate of 30 ml per hour. You are eating like a rabbit, just a little food throughout the day. This is gonna be a great opportunity for you to shed some pounds. It’s the Hollywood style intense diet that probably is billing at ten thousand dollars a day, but we won’t worry about that now. Now, you just rest while I sit here and write my thoughts. We had been listening to some classic Walden from Henry David Thoreau, but the nurses kept interrupting to make sure you have this constant rate of tubes providing your every need. It was Walden that encouraged me to open up my laptop and begin to write. Without you responding, our conversations as of late have been very one sided. Not complaining as I have been free to tell you anything I wish without having to endure your continued objection or chasing wild rabbit tangents, but it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation with you in this state. So I will just speak encouragement from time to time and then for me deeper thoughts, I shall write.

I have become enthralled with the drips from the vials that sustain you. I think that is the traumatic thing to witness as a friend, to see someone lying there, completely surrendered to the control of external forces. Although I don’t know where it is, I’m sure there is a switch here somewhere that if thrown could cause your body to fall into chaos and collapse downward towards death. That is a terrifying thought to come face to face with. At the same time, it makes me think. Maybe the reality of our existence is much closer to this than we know. A phrase I have come to appreciate in life, “there but by the grace of God go I”… I don’t even know where this phrase comes from, but having worked with the homeless and personally been through moments of life where I lost everything and had to rebuild myself from scratch, I know all to well that if it wasn’t for just a small number of choices and the faith to know and hold true to them, I would easily be as lost as the least of these. If it wasn’t for God’s grace in my life, I would be dead today. I know that beyond a shadow of all doubt. So maybe that sustaining drip is there for all of us at all times. It’s just the acknowledgement of it that becomes traumatic to our sensitive psyche. Secular survival requires that we venture out, ignoring our frail and dependent state, for our psyche needs a blindfold in order to best function. There is yet another way to get by though, which the theists of old have known for generations. We can know how frail life is but trust the will of God to protect us. This does two things. It strengthens a sense of purpose and relationship with the nature we find ourselves in. We feel closer to God through our faith expressed by the life we live and the risks we take trusting our God to provide. Secondly, it builds our gratitude, both for our creator but also for every minute of survival. Where the blind folded become entitled. They do not see the tightrope below their feet, so they complain about the frivolous amenities of life. Where those who approach life with their eyes open pause at every juncture to celebrate. They are experiencing gratitude at every moment because they see life for what it is; traumatic.

This is what I ponder on while you lay there. How frail we all are and how every moment matters. We just don’t know how much it matters at that moment, because we woke up that day and chose the blindfold. I don’t want the blindfold any more. I wish to burn them all and as you would say, to wake them up. To wake people up to the reality of life. To understand their place and purpose in it all and to see, nay, embrace, how temporary this state of life is. Once we have shed that covering we can see ever more clearly the need for a savior. This is why people who come close to death often become more spiritual. Not because they are coping with the trauma, but because for a brief moment, they shed the scales from their eyes and they saw the reality of existence. And if you see it any other way, it is due to your comfort with the avoidance of this harsh reality.

I write these words because I see it now very clearly, and I never want to unsee it. I pray you get better. I pray you come out of this and we get to do silly adventurous things together again. But I also never want to go back to before. I don’t want to sink back into comfortable blindness. I want to face the trauma of life head on and trust God to get me through, just as now I trust him to guide you back to us. Take care brother. Whatever happens, I will see you soon.