Hurry Up and Don’t Die: Life, Death and Lessons on Self Compassion & Forgiveness

MO 2005

MO 2005

I fell asleep at the wheel when I was 18 years old, shortly after graduating high school. Friends and I woke up at the wee hours of dawn to go to the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia. After an energetic 95 degree day focused on music and ending poverty, I drove friends home tired and dehydrated from the summer sun. After dropping off my last friend, I woke up at 12:15 AM with the caustic blast of an airbag flying into my face, quickly discovering that I ran into a telephone pole, splitting it in half, the upper portion now dangling from the telephone wire. I immediately called 911. Police came and asked if I had been drinking. “No. You can breathalyze me!” I called out, “I fell asleep!” “It’s just that this is a lot of damage for just having fallen asleep,” the officer retorted. As the ambulance came, I glanced heavenward in prayer, my soul in chaotic communion with God, and made a promise that I would live it right. Not take a breath for granted. I took my heart by the hand in firm grip. “You’re going to be passionate. Keep your complaints to a minimum. And above all, you’re going to take this life, love it, and love others,” I declared to myself, releasing my flexed, pointed finger and gritted teeth. I then proceed to cry, turning my fuming fingers into open palms, and slowly rested my tear-drenched face into them, learning a lesson on self-compassion and how absolutely compulsory it is.

MO 2005

MO 2005

I arrived at the hospital, where my dad met me bedside in an exam room. “I am so sooo sorry,” I apologized, leaning in for a hug. He reached back immediately. “I’m just glad you’re ok; I’m glad you’re ok.” The x-rays showed no broken bones, so with gauze and a pain prescription, I was sent on my way. “I’m sorry to wake you up, Dad. I’m really sorry for doing something so stupid.” “It’s ok; I’m glad you’re ok,” he persisted.
I fell asleep (in my bed this time) and woke up to a raw, scraped chin, fresh tender skin scattered among hardened scab. In the days to follow, I had loving support from friends and family. Two ten-year old girls that I coached came to my house with handmade cards that still hang in my room today. I remember telling them that I was afraid parents wouldn’t trust me driving their kids anymore as a babysitter. “Don’t worry, they’ll still trust you,” their little selves promised me. They gave me hugs and walked back to play at the neighborhood pool. A few days later, my name appeared in our local newspaper under police reports. Ashamed and embarrassed that the whole community could see my recklessness, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of love I received. Family gingerly encouraged me to slow down. To stop doing so much; to simply do what I’m doing, confident that it’s more than enough. I listened. For a little while at least. But over the past 10 years, this experience developed an impulse to “hurry up” and “do more” because I learned that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, tonight, or the next hour. I didn’t realize the promise I vowed to myself—to never to live out of step with my values, to always live with passion and bring life into the world—would be a tall order, an impossibly high standard that turned into “I need to do and experience everything as quickly as possible so that I don’t waste time.” 

I overextended myself in too many activities the next few years, developed an anxiety and depression disorder, and shamed myself for living in this anxious state when I “should” be living it joyfully to the full. Through therapy and medication, I got much better, but was still lusting after experiencing everything.

This turned into cutting corners trying to breeze through seasons of pain, confusion, and suffering because hey, we could all die tomorrow, right? And if I might die tomorrow, I certainly don’t want to waste today in sadness. So rather than allowing myself to fully experience difficult “wilderness” seasons, I tried to skip that part altogether. But that’s not how growth works, turns out, and no one is exempt from sadness, anger, and pain just because they might die tomorrow. 

Sometimes I rushed through conversations so that I could talk to that person, only to rush through that conversation to talk to this person, in hopes of developing rich, meaningful relationships as quickly as possible, wanting to meet everyone on this planet that I possibly could, forgetting that people aren’t penciled in items on a to-do list; we’re chock full of emotions, stories, things to learn and teach each other, and these deep connections take time. And time never seems to be on your side when you’re living like you might die tomorrow. Life never seems long enough when you act like it stops the same minute as your heart, forgetting about all I’ve been taught about life after death. I guess I’m a little scared of it turning out to be fallacy, but I know in my darkest moments that I need this hope of heaven. 

The “do more, quicker” mentality caused me to live erratically rather than learning something about patience, about seasons, about the beauty that comes from living the questions, the uncertainties. It caused me to search for answers now, which has some perks to it, but often has downfalls of arriving at wrong conclusions in a harried attempt to maximize time. We can’t know how things will turn out. We don’t need to, either. As Rainer Maria Rilke once said,

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I guess that’s it- that’s where I want to be right now. I want to live the questions, live the uncertainties, live the risks and searchings and yearnings. Live that now. The answers will come in their own timing. We have 24 hours a day and I can loathe that they aren’t enough or I can assert the fact that this is all we have, so enjoy them and be fully present.

The accident that I thought was supposed to teach me about “living life to the full,” I realize 10 years later was actually a lesson about grace, forgiveness, self compassion, to be gentle to myself and others. To learn that “living life to the full” is a fluid experience— sometimes it means pondering the Pleiades, tracing its outlines with your finger toward the sky, feeling the edges of each star from 50 million miles away. Other times it means identifying the thing you’re actually afraid of and conquering it. For me, that fear was wasting time. It meant reminding myself when I felt stuck as though getting nowhere, that I was indeed not wasting my life. It meant giving myself grace when I felt like a let-down, when I was working in a job I hated, stuck in a cycle of anxiety. And other times, living life to the full meant looking up at the sunset no matter the latitude or longitude, and finding it beautiful.

I’m also learning that although we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, there is such a thing as adulthood, and older adulthood, and retirement… so if my things aren’t crossed off my bucketlist by the time I’m 30, that’s ok; in fact that’s great-each of us might have a lifetime of adventures to look forward to, maybe, just maybe…

So may we live today like it could be our last and may we remember that we have a God who has a home for us even when that last day comes.

May we savor sweet conversation, taking our time through each word, hug, tender kiss.

May we realize that we will always want more time in the day, but even on our death bed, our time really hasn’t run out.

“I’ve told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation.” -Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross
One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident.

One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident. It still hangs in my room today. July 2005

The Panoramic Intersection of God, Family and the Open Road: Part I- 2014

The black and faded grey asphalt of I-95 southbound leads straight into the sunset. Trees on the interstate edges cascade from bare brown to hunter green with the passing of each new state. A free, soothing feeling comes back to me, … Continue reading

“Yes” in Every Season: Thoughts & Longings on the Last Night of Summer

MO 2014

MO 2014

Outside the last night of summer
Sweeps through my open window
A warm breeze
A slow, steady chirp of crickets
Whose bold summer sonnets
now play early autumn decrescendos.

 I close my eyes and lay by candlelight.
All I can see is still shot goodness of the day–
Looking up into my sister’s smile
With deep blue sky all around
A warming sun on our skin
A far out whisper in the wind
Reminding us that shifting change is coming all too soon.

Familiar drives through open spaces and new places
That leave you looking out the corners of your eyes as much as possible
While still keeping your head straight toward the road.
The beloved old
The uncharted new
All of this feels like home.

MO 2012

MO 2012

I’m at the end of a day that’s left me reignited as to how big and beautiful the world is.

And how all I want to do is learn from the stars
by exploring underneath them
or through high powered lens
Gaping mouths gasping soft “woah”s.
Aware of everything
The slow in and our of our breaths
My desire to touch hands in fully alive love

MO 2014

MO 2014

All I want is to throw a few things in a backpack
Drive out somewhere
And wander these trails with no destination
Just grateful for the world outside
And friends like you.

I want songs with sweet, dripping lyrics
and ambient melodies telling us a story
that wouldn’t be heard the same way
if it were dulled with words.

Give me poetry.
And chocolate.
And all those things our hearts beat for,
each syncopation relishing, “yesssss.”

I don’t like when summer wanes
but the longings of my heart
are happy to start this fall
With a new feel in my heart

Filled with wonder
Craving the world
Loving this Earth
And the incredibleness of community
Reminding each other

there is “yes” in every season.

Hurry Up and Don’t Die (Re-learning lessons from life/death experiences)

I fell asleep at the wheel when I was 18 years old, summer after graduating high school. I woke up at 12:15 AM with the caustic blast of an airbag flying into my face,2005 corolla crash phone pole quickly discovering that my car was halfway on the sidewalk, the other half still on the road. I ran into a telephone pole, splitting it in half, the upper portion now dangling from the telephone wire. I immediately called 911. Police came and asked if I had been drinking. “No. You can breathalyze me!” I called out, “I fell asleep!” 2005 corolla crash“It’s just that this is a lot of damage for just having fallen asleep,” the officer retorted. The arrival of the ambulance ended our back and forth. I was brought to our nearest hospital with tears in my eyes, shocked but relieved that I felt ok, and quite scared of what my parents would say. Someone had already notified them and my dad met me bedside in an exam room. “I am soo. soooo. sorry,” I tell him, leaning in for a hug. He reached back immediately. “I’m just glad you’re ok; I’m glad you’re ok.” After the x-rays came back showing no broken bones, I was handed some gauze and a prescription for pain and then sent on my way. “I’m sorry to wake you up, Dad. I’m really sorry for doing something so stupid.” “It’s ok; I’m glad you’re ok,” he persisted. I fell asleep (in my bed this time) and woke up to a raw, scraped chin, fresh tender skin scattered amongst hardened scab. In the days to follow, I had loving support from friends and family. Two ten-year old girls that I coached came to my house with handmade, colorful cards. I remember telling them that I was afraid parents wouldn’t trust me driving their kids anymore as a babysitter. “Don’t worry, they’ll still trust you,” their little selves promised me. They gave me some hugs and went back to play at the pool for the rest of the day. One of the moms on the swim team I coached gave me a hat. “You’ve got to keep that chin exposed to as little sunlight as possible,” she said, patting my shoulder. A few days later, I found my name in the police report section of our local newspaper, ashamed and embarrassed that the whole community could see my recklessness. All of that was countered, though, by the love I received. Family emailed me and gingerly encouraged me to slow down. To stop doing so much and to try just being me, doing what I’m doing, confident that it’s more than enough. I listened. For a little while at least. But I often think of that memory now and feel an impulse to “hurry up” and “do more” because I learned that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, tonight, or the next hour. And I’ve been driving myself crazy ever since.

I’ve cut corners trying to breeze through seasons of pain, doubt, confusion, and suffering because hey, we could all die tomorrow, right? And if I might die tomorrow, I certainly don’t want to waste today in pain and sadness. So rather than allowing myself to fully experience pain or difficult “wilderness” seasons, I’ve tried to skip that step altogether. But that’s not how growth works, turns out, and no one is exempt from sadness, anger, and pain just because they might die tomorrow. I wish I would let myself go through painful processes without white-knuckling my way through, trying to control my emotions, my circumstances, rather than let God do God’s thing God’s way. In the process, I end up seeing my dirty fingerprints all over my life when I could have seen even more of God’s tender fingerprints implanted on every scrapbook story page day of life.

I’ve rushed through conversations so that I can go talk to that person, only to rush through that conversation to talk to this person, in hopes of developing rich, meaningful relationships as quickly as possible, forgetting that people aren’t penciled in items on a to-do list; we’re chock full of emotions, stories, things to learn from others, things to teach others, and these deep connections, the ones that mean the most and are savored the deepest, take time. And time never seems to be on your side when you’re living like you might die tomorrow. Life never seems long enough when you act like it stops the same minute as your heart, forgetting about all I’ve been taught about life after death, the hope of Heaven, etc. I guess I’m a little scared of it turning out to be fallacy, but I know in my darkest moments that I need this hope of heaven; my soul would die without it. I can live as if life ends at the grave or I can dare to dream that there is something bigger, something larger, something longer, something that will never, truly ever end.

The “do more, quicker” mentality has caused me to be erratic rather than learning something about patience, about seasons, about the beauty that comes from living with the questions, the uncertainties. It’s caused me to search for the answers now, which has some perks to it, but often has downfalls of arriving at wrong conclusions in a harried attempt to maximize time. We can’t know how things will turn out. We don’t need to, either. As Rainer Maria Rilke once said,

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I guess that’s it- that’s where I want to be right now. I want to live the questions, live the uncertainties, live the risks and searchings and yearnings. Live that now. The answers will come in their own timing. We have 24 hours a day and I can loathe that they aren’t enough or I can assert the fact that this is all we have, so enjoy them and be present for them.

And I’m also learning that although we’re not guaranteed tomorrow, there is such a thing as adulthood, and older adulthood, and retirement… so if my things aren’t crossed off my bucketlist by the time on 30, that’s ok, in fact that’s great-each of us just might have a lifetime of adventures to look forward to, maybe, just maybe…

So may we live today like it could be our last and may we remember that we have a God who has a home for us even when that last day comes.

May we savor sweet conversation, taking our time through each word, hug, tender kiss.

May we realize that we will always want more time in the day, but even on our death bed, our time really hasn’t run out.

“I’ve told my children that when I die, to release balloons in the sky to  celebrate that I graduated. For me, death is a graduation.” -Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross

One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident.

One of the girls I coached, who gave me the angel figurine featured in this picture shortly after the accident. July 2005

The Juxtaposition of Death and Life. (Church on a Bike)

“What? What happened?” My co-worker asked, sensing the solemn look on my face.
“Another patient died,” I reported. Grief and thick silence hang in the air as I thought back to the last time I saw this person, hospitalized, unable to speak, but for a brief moment our hands met in an embrace, and although he couldn’t speak, his demeanor and soft touch of the hand said it all.

I brought myself back to the present moment. It was the end of the work day and I strapped on my helmet to bike home, a Lenten commitment I’ve found to be incredibly rejuvenating.
I pedal past the housing projects and turn the corner around the city jail. Activists holding bright colored placards protest peacefully against the death penalty. I smile at them. “Keep up the good work!” I enthuse, giving them a thumbs up from my navy blue mitten and pedal on my way.
A second later, it hits me. Tears rush to my eyes but refuse to come out. The taut muscles in my throat contract; that familiar lump in which no words can come out, just expressions of the heart. Yes, it hit me. The juxtaposition and irony of it all. Life and death. One man died today from four letters that no one should ever have to die from, but globally, some 1.8 million do every year. Another man protested for the life of another to not be cut short before the redemption and healing and forgiveness began.

It was a holy moment.
It was Church, on a bike.
I skipped church yesterday, but all of this just reminds me that God still speaks through every medium around us.

Life. Death.
A life that cannot yet speak is growing inside the womb of a woman I pass by.
Life.
Three dozen birds lined up shoulder to shoulder chirp on the overhead telephone wires like white colored lights hugging the perimeters of homes in December.
Life.
My heart pumps blood and oxygen to mobilize my legs as they go up-down, up-down.
All around us, death and life, life and death. Pitch black darkness, confusion, pain, redemption, hope, joy, life, and healing hover around us and within us each day and it’s rarely a smooth, seamless process. Situations feel impossible to traverse through. We enter into dark places of human trafficking, urban poverty, and violence. And yet, still, a thin glimmer of hope is somehow able to sneak through the cracks of our breaking hearts. The hearts of Lazarus’ sisters when he becomes sick, the sorrow they experience in his death, and the joy that unfolds as he miraculously rises from the dead. Jesus gets mocked, criticized, and experiences sharp pangs of a sword entering his side. They call it Good Friday, but in this moment, it feels anything but good. Doom. Defeat. Grief. The nadir. The zenith. Valley of the shadow of death. Suckiness. Whatever you want to call it. And what was he doing on this cross, anyway; is this all some sick joke, God? Ah, but, alas, Sunday comes and he rises from the dead, refusing to let hopelessness and death have the final say, as both coteries of Jesus’s followers and his biggest cynics realize that all of the things he stands for cannot be taken away.

And so the story of death, life, and rebirth continue to emerge out of thin pages composing scripture into our everyday experiences today.

So may we find the hand of God in the mysterious places between life and death.
May our eyes be opened while we pedal and climb around our cities and our towns, ready to find God in the faces we meet.
May we discover hope in hands held tightly in embrace.
May we choose to believe in redemption and healing and that joy can truly return again in the morning.
May we discover our Fridays, and let our Sundays, much like Jesus, have the final say.
And may we discover the peace that longs to be given to us this side of heaven.

Photo I took in New Orleans, 2007. Beauty in brokenness.

Photo I took in New Orleans, 2007. Beauty in brokenness.

The shallow cracks within my soul.

There’s a path I sometimes walk
That doesn’t create wonder and gratitude nor beauty or intimacy
But that walks in the “in-between.”

That’s too afraid of change or the possibility of things turning out worse
So I don’t take full steps to make it better.

The part of me that trades in originality and audacity and brightness
For dullness and sameness.
And makes me feel like a let down
To the 18 year old girl inside of me
Who once woke up with an airbag in her face
Car slammed in a telephone pole
Calling 911
Vowing to never ever take the preciousness of life for granted ever again.

Who pushes off booking a Southbound flight
To roll down hills with my cousin
Who feels like a little sister
All because I’m scared of what will happen
If I don’t make the next dollar
And have to live off savings for a while.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t say the words I want to say
Because I’m scared to be different
And so I choke behind the voices that tell me to be quiet
Just to “fit in.”

There’s a part of me that wants to run the opposite direction of anything religious
And get pissed off at God
Or rebel against every Christian teaching
To spite the dogma of heavy nooses I’ve experienced in Evangelicism.

And sometimes,
I’m glad I do this.

Because in the defiance
I find space to stop hearing the words that hurts me.
And get to ask every unadulterated question I’ve ever wanted to ask.

But most of the time, I know I go home
To my room
And my candlelight
And it’s just me
And God
And I get scared of death
Or need hope
Utterly.
Within my soul
Every part of me in tune with my need for God
And I’m ashamed that I would ever turn my back on him/her
When the last thing God would do
Is turn his/her back on me.

So the words of the most subversive person I know
Whispers in my ear,
“Come with me
And I will show you the unforced rhythms of grace…”

There’s a part of my soul that dies a little when I think about how much time I spend
Ruminating on how much I dislike my job
But don’t know how to make my dreams reality
So I become like many Americans
And get a temporary high on Friday nights
That crashes 48 hours later
With the Sunday evening blues.

There’s a part of me that’s too afraid to take a chance on my dreams
Because they aren’t “academic” enough
Or important enough
Or impressive enough.
And that’s when I remember
I’m feeding into the trap
That certain careers are more important than others
When all we really need to do
Is find that makes us come alive
And go do that
And let everyone else
Chase success and notoriety
In a job they hate but think “looks good.”

There’s a part of me
That wishes I were the opposite gender
Because I hate the fact that mine
Makes me less muscular, less tall
And is laiden with propriety
And tells me to change my last name
And have kids
That I don’t really want to have.
At least not biologically.

There’s a part of me
That’s hurt by every ignorant statement
Mouthed by Evangelicals
Or conservative white or black men
Spewing out their desire for pompous power
By telling women how they should live (the “sanctity” of life) and die (don’t you care go into combat, after all, you’d make the military have to change the way it does things to become more gender equitable and that’s really inconvenient).

I realize how much I want to become sarcastic
And yell in anger
And let men see
A women get angry
Instead of passive, taciturn, and “nice.”

And sometimes I’m glad I do this.

But most of the time,
I think about Jesus.
And how hard it is to love the way he talks about loving.
Especially when it comes to loving those crazy (insert the opposite political party with which you affiliate).
And so I make a fool of myself
Missing out on an opportunity to develop my character
By instead choosing anger and resentment
Instead of something more courageous
Like love.

I walk these icy paths of the cracks within my soul
And confess my wasted moments
And ask God to redeem them
To start afresh in the morning
And ask for just a little more time in solitude
Here in the light
In open spaces
Where the sound of stillness
And the beat of my heart
And the wind on my face
All remind me to come alive
And be contraire
And get out of my head, my self, my biases
And get lost in the dreams and stories of each beating heart around me.

And together we’ll solidify the cracks
Until they become steady ground
Connecting hearts
And minds
And dreamers.

We’ll glance up to the endless sky
And find ourselves and lose ourselves
In these cracks and crevices
Of darkness
And of light.
046

20 Songs That Are Shaping my Twenties


If your life were a movie, and you had to choose the soundtrack, what songs would you play?

Every meaningful movie has conflict, some beauty, some struggle, and, if you’ve persevered long enough, some climax. Here’s 20 that hit each of those, shaping my 20s with inspiration, motivation, encouragement, and peace.

What are your songs? What have they brought you through? What memories come to mind when you hear them play?

20. Chasing the Light -Mat Kearney
I remember playing this song right as I would leave work during the summer of 2011, ready to begin my bike ride home. Home at the time was a capricious neighborhood in inner city Baltimore that felt like anything but home at the time. I was in a season of feeling utterly confused about where I was going in life. I thought I moved there to be a part of community development… but was miserable. I wasn’t finding contentment in my career. I just felt lost but knew that there were still passions alive with in me, somewhere, waiting to come alive, if only I would give them permisson. This song helped me to take comfort in knowing that if I just kept trying to “chase the light,” I was bound to find my way, somehow.

“Every bridge that keep on burning
Every leaf that you keep on turning
Every road that you find uncertain
Pray for you now
Baby that you’ll figure it out
As you keep chasing the light…”

19. I and Love and You -The Avett Brothers
I came across this song after entering my first real world job and beginning my first serious relationship. This song reminds me of the process of growing up and maturing, with all of its vulnerability and beauty. I spent many a night driving home to this song, not minding if the light turned red, as to have one more moment to simmer in the beauty of life with the aid of such an alluring song.

18. Beautiful Things -Gungor
I first came across this song on Jennie Allen’s blog in which she posted about her family’s experience of adoption. The video deeply moved me, as international adoption has been on my heart ever since I was in high school. This video got me thinking about the beautiful things in this world, like family, and how within my own family, more and more beauty was arising out of brokenness. I played this song night after night finding renewed hope in that no matter how circuitous or confusing this life stage seems, God makes beautiful things out of chaos. I got teary-eyed the first time I sang it at the new church I attend, which makes an intentional effort to create a safe place for the LGBT community. I thought about all the Christian circles in which I didn’t feel this kind of openness and bridge-building and felt oh so thankful knowing that these places truly do exist, showing that God does redeem and create beauty in the midst of hurt and pain.

17. Can’t Let it Go -Goo Goo Dolls
“Some days I can’t believe
others I’m on my knees
Trying to be heard…”

I first heard this song on my iPod while on a run down a dirt road in Africa. I was trying to stay in shape for sophomore year of afrmy collegiate swim season. All of a sudden, a young boy, maybe 10 years old, came up and ran along side me. I turned around and there were another 10 kids slowly running towards us with much curiosity. I stopped running, realizing the immediacy of this moment that I would perhaps never ever again have. We stopped on the side of the road and played “Duck Duck Goose” for an hour. It was one of the best hours of my life. I think about that memory often, especially alongside of my spiritual journey. Some days, if I’m honest, these lyrics are a better description of the precarious position I find myself in as a person of faith than many “worship” songs.

16. Every Tear  Drop is a Waterfall -Coldplayny 12
This was New Year’s Day 2012. It had been a difficult, challenging year living in inner city Baltimore, but when I looked up at the dawn of a new year and saw this, I think I knew what Chris Martin meant when he sings, “And Heaven Is in Sight.”

15. City of Blinding Lights  -U2
Brain a bit fuzzy, I woke up on a window seat of a Boeing 747 to see the 6 AM July sunrise glistening off thousands of square homes in Dakar, Senegal in 2007. We had a brief layover, and right as we were about to take off, I hear Bono echo through my iPod, “And I’m getting ready to leave the ground…. (crash into feel-good choirs of “ooo-oooh–oooh–oooh—oooh–ooooh!”), whisking my heart into a sense of adventure and discovery about the world that I forever want to hold onto.

14. Study War No More -Moby
Sojourners created this video in September 2011 to call attention to the U.S.’ 10 year occupation in Afghanistan, at which point the U.S. spent $445 billion on the war. Conversely, this money could have been spent building 17,000 hospitals or 24,000 schools. Through advocacy and using your voice to contact congress to support the end of war, Sojourners has encouraged us to dream of a world in which “nation will no longer fight nation, neither will they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4). That’s been a big picture image of what I want my twenties to look like… actively taking steps to reflect Earth as it is in Heaven.

13. Cha Cha Slide -Mr. C The Slide Man
My 20s have been full of celebrating weddings. There’s something about this beat that will forever remind me of celebrating the joy of life with friends on the dance floor. I hope when I’m sixty I’ll remember my dear friend Katie Sutherland getting wild to “Apple Bottom Jeans” or how I knew the wedding would be ten times more fun if my friend Anastasia would be able to drive up from Virginia and catch a break from her grad program long enough to get funky on the dance floor to “O.M.G.”, showing me how to celebrate life and still have fun in the midst of overwhelming busyness. I’ll remember “Single ladies” playing at nearly every bouquet toss, and how, over the years, the friends I’d drag onto the dance floor with me for this song would slowly dwindle. But it didn’t matter. It was still fun every time. I’ll remember the time my friends and I drove nearly 6 hours to Virginia Beach for Lindsay’s wedding and piled into tiny stalls in a random Target bathroom to get into our dresses a half hour before the wedding ceremony began. I hope I’ll remember… and if I don’t, I’ll rely on some of these videos and pictures to help remind me… after all, we only capture the memories we love.

jt  red dr  j wed

12. Oh my God– Jars of Clay
Do you remember May 2, 2011? I listened to this song non-stop on this day; the day Osama Bin Laden was killed. I was crushed by the juxtaposition of death and peace and felt a sickness in my heart as I watched images of Americans gathering in the streets of D.C. celebrating the death of another human being. My heart hurt for the world and to see love overcome evil- all evil— all killing– and grew ever longing for the God of Heaven.

When we wake we hate our brother, we still move to hurt each other,
Sometimes I can close my eyes and all the fear the keeps me silent,
Falls below my heavy breathing, what makes me so badly bent?
We all have a chance to murder; we all have the need for wonder.
We still want to be reminded that the pain is worth the plunder.

Sometimes when I lose my grip, I wonder what to make of heaven,
All the times I thought to reach up, all the times I had to give up.
Babies underneath their beds, in hospitals that cannot treat them.
All the wounds that money causes, all the comforts of cathedrals,
All the cries of thirsty children,
this is our inheritance,
All the rage of watching mothers, this is our greatest offense.

11. Under African Skies -Paul Simon
My dad and I have long bonded to Paul Simon, from “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” where I enjoyed the song’s rhymes as a kid, to “Under African Skies.” Paul Simon will always remind me of my dad, forever. This song reminds me of the fabrics that weave us together as humans and the power of love.
This is the story of how we begin to remember
This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein…

For more on this song, check out Cathleen Falsani’s article: “Graceland, Apartheid, and the Truth That Artists Speak

10. Poison and Wine -The Civil Wars
This song gave me a more beautiful and realistic understanding of love:
“Poison & Wine is a musical snapshot about the dichotomy of love – that while it can be the thing that destroys you, it can also be the very same thing that beckons and builds you. This song was our attempt at being as brutally honest about the dangerous and beautiful process of knowing and being known.” (-Joy Williams, The Civil Wars)

9. Maybe There’s a Loving God -Sara Groves
Maybe this was made for me
For lying on my back in the middle of a field
Maybe that’s a selfish thought
Or maybe there’s a loving God
Maybe I was made this way
To think and to reason and to question and to pray
And I have never prayed a lot
But maybe there’s a loving God

This song helps me to rediscover the beauty and artistry of life and how God created us with an inquisition for wonder.

8. Hallowed -Jennifer Knapp
This song has helped me to wind down many a night to find inner peace.

7. Get on Your Boots -U2
For a couple months, until I broke my phone, this was my alarm ringtone. What would it look like if everyday we got on our boots ready to change the world?

6. Hush -Usher
Complains about the gas prices but still supports the war
He complains about his 6 figure salary tax to feed the poor
He doesn’t understand the homeless, doesn’t think its genocide
That millions die from three lethal letters
He does sh*t to make it better and I’m thinking
Everyone wants to touch the sky
Nobody wants to reach back
For the ones who are scared to fly
Everybody wants heaven
If you don’t want to sacrifice
Don’t say nothing

This song, released around the time of the 2008 election, encouraged young voters to get involved in social activism. According to Usher, “‘Hush’ is about my awakening over the past 10 years to the social issues in our country and realizing that I have a voice.” The striking lyrics got me thinking about the distribution of wealth in our country and wondering how we can make society more equitable and just.

5. What Matters More -Derek Webb
You say always treat people like you’d like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
About what you believe
Make you sound like a freak
‘Cause if you really believed
What you say you believe
You wouldn’t be so damned reckless
With the words you speak
You wouldn’t silently consent
When the liars speak
Tell me, brother what matters more to you?
Tell me, sister what matters more to you?

I love Derek’s audacious courage specifically asking Christians, what matters more— laws, rules, doctrine, telling people what you’re against—- or loving people well and showing them the love of God?

4. Words I Never Said -Lupe Fiasco and Skylar Grey
I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence
Fear is such a weak emotion that’s why I despise it
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth
So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you
It’s so loud inside my head
With words that I should have said

Bound to offend someone, Lupe sings about his honest feelings about the world, politics, injustice, oppression and inspired me to be less afraid to speak up with the words I haven’t yet said.
To learn more about Lupe’s Islamic faith and his album LASERS (backronym for Love Always Shines Everytime, Remember 2 Smile), check out Relevant’s article “The Incisive Lupe Fiasco.”

3. Breathing Air Again -Robbie Seay Band
I discovered this song sometime around 20. I spent spring break that year with friends driving to New Orleans for Katrina relief. We took our time driving home, getting our car stuck in the sand of Pensacola, doing cartwheels in the parks of Savannah, GA and sleeping at a rest stop in NC before heading home. This trip reminded me that while there is much depravity, as witnessed in the abandoned homes in New Orleans, there is also so much beauty in the world if we stop to admire it long enough.
miss  nq  ab

Take the time to be okay and laugh a bit along the way
You could take me for a ride; We could just drive all day…
And we could breathe again; Step outside our front door
And gaze upon the stars, And know we’re not alone
So run into the fields; Scream louder than you can
It’s good to be alive And breathing air again…
                                  
2. We Don’t Eat -James Vincent McMorrow
So if in the future I might need myself a savior
I’ll remember what was written on that wall
That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust
   
This song fills me up with hope.
                    
1. We Are United -Vintage Church

Every church on every street
Even when we disagree
Every part it’s all unique
God under you I pray we’ll be…

This song reminds me that at the end of the day, our diviciveness lies null, along with our arguing and disagreement, as we gather around the table as ONE.

All pictures copyright MO