I’m Moving…

to a new URL. (Did that get your attention?)

First, I want to say thanks for reading this blog on a regular basis. And especially to those of you who share, comment, and initiate follow-up conversations, thank you. It means a lot to me when you all reference my work. The weird thing about this kind of platform is that I’ll probably never get to look you all in the eye and say thanks in person, so I’m taking this opportunity to say thank you.

The main point of this post is that I’m moving to a new URL. Due to boring technical reasons (but nevertheless important ones), I’m moving to www.ckdean.com. I’ve been working the last couple of weeks to secure the domain and design the site, and I’m really happy with how it looks and feels.

For those of you who subscribe, you’ll need to resubscribe. One of the biggest reasons I moved is in order to get more functionality with MailChimp. You’ll be prompted to provide an email address when you visit for the first time, which you should do so you can be the first to know about new content.

If you notice any glitches or anything that doesn’t seem to be working, please let me know!

Grace, Peace & Love,

Keep Walking

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;    — J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

There was a time where your beliefs worked, where you toed the party line, where the answers to the existential questions – who am I?, where are we from? what is the arc of the universe? – made sense. You felt confident and comfortable because you had answers that worked.

Until they didn’t.

You didn’t choose this path. Like Frodo leaving the Shire, you didn’t go looking for an adventure. You were happy in your warm hobbit-hole. But the journey showed up on your doorstep and invited you out into the world; a world of trolls, dragons, dense forests, heroes, villains and great loves.

And now you can’t go back. (And, most of the time, you wouldn’t choose to even if you could.) You can’t unsee what you’ve seen, you can’t un-taste what you’ve tasted. You’ve awoken to a new way of understanding the world, and now the old answers don’t satisfy like they once did.

But now you may feel alone. The people who were once “your people” still live in the Shire. They don’t feel the dissonance you feel, they don’t long for something new, the journey hasn’t called to them (at least not yet). Or, maybe it has, but they’ve chosen to shut the door, because let’s face it, this isn’t a safe, predictable journey for the faint of heart.

There was a time where I was a good, Baptist boy, earning A’s in my Bible classes in a conservative Baptist college. And I remember the exact day when the journey first came knocking on my door. I was sitting in a theology class in my senior year, weeks from graduation, and someone asked our professor to explain dispensational theology to us. And while his answer to the question probably gave most people in the class a solid framework for their beliefs, it created a chasm in me. I remember thinking, “this feels so arbitrary, and artificial and just does NOT resonate with me.” It was the first tremor that indicated an earthquake was coming.

Fast forward a couple years. I’m sitting in my office in my first post-seminary job as a youth pastor. I had just finished Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian (which it seems like I read in one sitting), and I felt breathless, excited and not alone. It felt like confirmation that there are others who think like me. (I also remember thinking, “This book, these ideas will be perceived as dangerous to some.” But even that idea was exhilarating to me.)

Since then there have been more books, more conversations, more experiences that keep pushing me onward.

Today, I continue to grow, continue to expand, continue to ask questions of myself, about God and about the nature of the universe. I can’t stop asking these questions. I’m compelled to keep walking down the road. But the thing is, I didn’t choose this path. Rather, this feels like the path I have to walk. There are moments when I wish I wasn’t so contrarian, that the Baptist answers would have worked, that my theology didn’t scare people, that I was more predictable. But I’m not, and most of the time,  I wouldn’t change my journey.

You know this feeling too, don’t you? Your own journey of questioning, doubting, growing, waking up to new understandings of yourself and the universe – you didn’t choose these, but instead are just walking the path that’s in front of you.

What I want to say to you (and to myself) is simple:  just keep walking. Keep responding to the invitations that come your way. When ideas and answers don’t satisfy anymore, look for new ones, look for new “my people” to travel with, read new-to-you authors. Maybe that person or idea that used to scare you will become your spiritual guide for this stage of your journey.

Just keep walking.

To Learn and Love Again

I am a new day rising
I’m a brand new sky
To hang the stars upon tonight
I am a little divided
Do I stay or run away
And leave it all behind?

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again          

(Foo Fighters, “Times Like These”)

When you have four boys in three different schools, this is the season of back-to-school nights, meeting new teachers, putting school supplies in desks and piling boxes of tissues on low tables in elementary classrooms for future use in the coming cold months. Within the span of 2 weeks, Jennifer and/or I will have attended a freshman orientation and three back-to-school nights.

So, early this week I found myself sitting in an advanced math class where a teacher was explaining that this class was for students who have shown they excel at math and therefore will be moving through math concepts at a quicker pace. She explained that some student won’t be able to sustain the pace and will have to drop out. And then she said to us:

The kids in this room have always been at the top of their class in math. And this class will most likely be uncomfortable for them because they’ve never struggled before with math concepts. Up until now, it’s all come easy to them. But this experience will be good for them.

Do you catch that? Sometimes, it’s good to feel off-balanced and unsure of yourself. Sometimes we need to feel like we’re in over our heads, like we don’t know what to do next in order to move on. Sometimes we need the (over)confidence to diminish and we need to feel like we’re drowning in order to learn how to really swim.

I remember a couple of year ago, when I signed up for my first marathon, I felt like I was in way over my head. So, I did when I usually do when I feel off-balance:  I bought a book on running and I studied it and I talked to my brother (the real runner in the family) about running a lot. And I just took it one run at a time, and I trusted his advice and the training plan I was following. It was uncomfortable not to know what to do.  But these days, I don’t hesitate to sign up for long race, or engage in a long-term training plan, or coach a friend. It’s all kind of automatic now. I’ve gained a competence that started with disequilibrium.

Yeah, I know, the way life goes, we don’t always get to choose when we’re going to feel off-balanced; sometimes it just happens TO us, ya know? Occasionally we choose a new hobby, or set off on a new career path or start a new relationship and it’s discombobulating, but we knew it would be from the start (like taking an advanced math class.) But more often it seems, we get fired, dumped, lost or depressed and we didn’t ask for it, we didn’t see it coming.

But it’s in times like these where you learn to live, love and give again (thanks Foos). Really. It’s in times like these – where you feel lost – where you reassess big questions about your life, “who am I?,” “what is my life about?,” “who are ‘my people’?” Actually, it might be more accurate to say, it’s only in times like these that we’re OPEN to facing these kinds of questions. When life is all blue sky, we don’t tend to embrace this kind of existential dialogue – at least not with the same fervency and intensity.

And in time, you will find your way. I promise you that you will. And you will be stronger for it. But first, you have to steer into the darkness. You have to embrace it, question it, deal with it. You have to name it and befriend it. You have to talk about it, write about it, paint it, sing it, scream it and cry over it. Only then will you settle into it. Only then, will you learn the new math, learn the new training regimen, learn the new career, learn the new relationship. And you will thrive because you went through a season of feeling uncomfortable and you owned it and you grew.

So, here’s to the seasons where we don’t have it all figured out. Here’s to the times in our lives where we feel off-balance, unsure of our purpose, goals, careers, or friendships. Here’s to finding our way and to learning what it means to live and love again.