Sunday, December 31, 2017

"Good Old Days"

It was about month ago that I was driving home from work one day. It’s about a thirty-minute drive and I decided to have the radio on. Typically, I listen to the country music station, but this day, I decided to listen to an alternative rock station. The song that came on was “Good Old Days” by Macklemore and featuring Kesha. Full disclaimer, I’m not a hip hop or rap fan. It’s two of my least favorite musical genres. But for some reason, I decided to listen to the song all the way through and it became one of my favorite songs.

The morals of the song are that don’t let the good days pass you by and that no matter where we are in life, we are always going to miss a part of our past. There is one line in the chorus that particularly struck me, as it affects where I am in my life right now: “Someday soon your whole life is going to change, you’ll miss the magic of these good old days”.

2017 was a good year. I would even put it under the “Good old days” category later in life, along with my time at Barton College, working with the RCYW, ancient family holiday traditions, and growing up at Wake Forest Christian Church. And I know that come next year, my life will change.

2018 will be full of changes. I’ll graduate with my Masters. I’ll be ordained as a minister. I will be working full time and no longer be a student. And these are only the changes I am aware of.

As I wonder how much my life will change just around the corner, it makes me reflect on the “good old days” of just this past year.

I took ten different classes at Brite Divinity this year including: Pastoral care within the congregation, pastoral care as a response to aging, interpreting the Hebrew bible, history of Christian ethics, Christian worship, narrative pastoral counseling, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Supervised ministry I, exegesis on the book of Job, and Christian theology of religions.

In the Spring and the Fall, I continued my work as the ministry intern at Ridglea Christian Church. At Ridglea, I lead several Sunday schools, youth groups, and even a few adult classes. I assisted with three funerals. I preached four times, including a Stewardship and Advent type sermon. I visited people in the hospital and nursing homes. I assisted people who were struggling with homelessness. And I even had the opportunity to lead an entire worship service as the acting ministerial figure in April.

I counseled my first JYF retreat in January, the first annual autism retreat in October, and the Chi-Rho fall retreat in November all at Disciples Crossing camp.

I took on a part time job at a private organization called Valet Waste, in which my position required that I collect trash from people’s apartments to local trash dumpsters.

I moved from my apartment in Fort Worth and into a new apartment in Arlington with my good friend Stephen.

I watched my best friend, Mary, walk across the Barton College stage and achieve her Bachelors in Religious Studies (with the Greek language) and Math.

I had one of the most interesting summer experience as I worked for the first time at UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC as an Intern Chaplain. My time as a Chaplain required to me to think critically about not only my theory but my practice of providing care for patients, family, and staff who are entering some of the hardest moments in their life. Not only that, but my time as a Chaplain required that I learn more about who I am and my identity as a future minister.

I entered into a relationship with my boyfriend, Charlie, and the times we have shared together have been some of the best moments of my life thus far.

I had my third meeting with the Commission on Ministry in North Carolina, in which I am now one more meeting away from being approved for Ordination.

I enjoyed many memorable moments with my friends in seminary, including but not limited to: Halloween party, Friendsgiving, Squadmas, and game nights.

And I ended the year by watching my good friend Josh marry his husband Andrew.

The approaching new year tends to make us think about all that’s happened this past year. And sometimes, we often regret that those memories are now gone. That’s why we call them “good old days”.

While the moments we experienced this year are now past, that doesn’t mean our “good old days” are now gone. I affirm that many good old days are ahead of us. And it’s when we spend too much time thinking about our past, that we can easily miss what we have right in front of us.

I will admit, though there were plenty of moments this year that I loved, there are just as many moments I missed. I don’t want to enter the 2018 year missing more moments and spending time regretting that I missed them later.

So as we enter the 2018 year, may you embrace all the new good old day moments that appear in front of you. Take the time to be with friends, enjoy the flowers so to speak, and make each day a new memorable moment in your life.

May your being be filled with Peace, Love, and your entire Ruah. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I'm a Survivor

I was driving down the road one day and had the radio on. I typically listen to a local country station, one that played both new hits and older hits as well. I was surprised to hear a song that I had not heard in a very long time, but a song that I love dearly.

Reba McEntire’s, “I’m a Survivor”.

For those who have not heard this song, I highly recommend that you take a moment to listen to it.
The song describes a woman’s struggle throughout her life and despite the struggles she had since childbirth and raising children, she describes herself as a survivor.

Whenever I think of this song, I think of my mother. The woman in the song and my mother led two different narratives, two different lives, but I can say without a doubt, that my mother is a survivor.

My mother was the youngest of five children, one of whom did not survive childbirth. She was a rebellious teenager, but had compassion for the world. She struggled with her own form of depression, which almost claimed her life through suicide. But through Divine intervention, she survived her suicide and depression. She married an abusive man and helped raise his children before having her first child (my sister). A few years after their divorce, my mother discovered that her daughter was being sexually abused by her ex-husband, which haunted her for many years. My mother lost her second child through miscarriage and was forced to give up her third child because of her father’s racist attitudes. She then bore her fourth and last child (me) who was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum and needed additional support and attention throughout childhood.

During all this, she worked several hard-working jobs, many at the same time. She finished college with high honors, and would eventually become the first person in her family to earn her Masters in Special Education. She worked years working with the mentally differently-abled and those with cerebral palsy. She counseled distraught families and teenagers and cared for the elderly in a care home. She then taught children on the Autism Spectrum and was perceived as a saint at Forest Pines Elementary in Raleigh, North Carolina.

She was stubborn, but had a heart full of love. She cared for the opposed, especially the young, who needed a voice in this world. She wanted nothing but the best for all her children and the children who were not her own. When she re-joined the church, she became a leader in our local congregation of Wake Forest Christian, especially in her efforts of outreach and children’s ministry.

Along with her emotional baggage’s, she also damaged her back that lasted the rest of her life and suffered from lupus for many years. Near the end of her life, she suffered from Gastro-cancer, which would take her life.

The world truly lost a Saint on November 3rd, 2011.  

Despite my mother’s death….My mother is still a survivor.

Often, the word survivor implies a person who has overcome death or an event that threatens life.
I don’t agree with this implicit definition.

For me, a survivor is someone who has overcome one, if not more, obstacles in life, and has not relinquished their humanity.

The song describes a woman’s struggle to work two jobs, raise kids, and deal with a recent divorce. The author of the song knows about the obstacles of life. But despite these obstacles, the author says the woman has “gentle hands and the heart of a fighter”.

Too often, it seems like a better choice to go through life’s obstacles with bitterness, instead of gentleness. Now, I can’t judge anyone’s bitterness. I have not lived their life and I have not faced their struggles.

But I would like to ask: Is it hard to carry that burden of bitterness? It almost seems like bitterness becomes just another obstacle to overcome in life while trying to overcome all the other obstacles we face.

However, being bitter is very different from having anger during your struggles.

Anger is a necessary emotion. It is the emotion in the body that informs us that something is wrong and needs some form of correction. This includes the need for resolution, expression of hurt or grief, and even justice seeking.

While anger is necessary, it is not without caution. Anger can lead us to causing harm toward other people and even ourselves. But it is not the emotion of anger that causes harm, but the choices we make in the midst of our anger.

My mother was not without anger. She had every right to be angry. Her first husband abused her daughter. She lost both her second and third child through death and separation. She lost her oldest sister and father to death. She suffered from lupus. These are only a few out of many reasons for my mother’s anger.

And I don’t blame my mother for being angry.

But I don’t believe that my mother was a bitter woman. My mother, while stubborn and stern at times, was also gentle and kind as well. She knew how to fight, but was not embittered from her struggles. Even during the last months of my mother’s life, as she laid in the hospital bed with a lot of pain, she made sure everyone else was being taken care of, even the nurses who were there to take care of her.

My mother is a survivor.

And because of my mother, I am a survivor as well.

My mother’s life, my mother’s struggles and how she overcame her struggles not only gave me the support to overcome my own struggles, but taught me how to overcome future struggles as well.

That is what survivors do. They teach us how to survive, with love and compassion and not with bitterness.

So I invite you to take a moment to recognize the survivors who are in your life. And how they are teaching you to be a survivor as well.

And once you recognize your survivors, take a moment to thank them. Not only for their survival, but for teaching you how to survive as well.

And perhaps, once we recognize and express gratitude, we can begin to teach those who are struggling in their own obstacles.

This is my hope for you and for me as well.

May you walk with your truth, your story, and your Ruah always.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is Jesus Really Coming?

One day, after a long morning and afternoon session at the hospital, I am driving down the highway when I notice a large white truck…with a large cross in the truck bed. And on the cross, the message, “Jesus is Coming” was written in large bold print. As I got closer, the rest of the truck also had the same message all over it. As I passed the cross and the truck, I left feeling…uneasy.

Sure, it sounds like a nice message. “Jesus is coming”. But what does that mean? And more importantly, who is this message for?

“Jesus is coming”…why is Jesus coming? Well, several New Testament scriptures state that Jesus said himself that he would return one day to restore everything again. But I still want to know what does it mean for Jesus to come back again?

Does that mean no more suffering for the marginalized? Does that mean no more pain for the sick? Does that mean no more oppression or violence or injustice?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then I can get behind the message that “Jesus is coming”.

So then, why do I still feel uneasy?

I feel uneasy because when I hear that message, I often see the implicit messages included with the statement, “Jesus is Coming” which can include: “Don’t Worry about Your Troubles Now, for one Day Jesus will Take Care of All of it”.

Again, a nice message; however, it’s easy for the person who is not in the midst of oppression, injustice, and marginalization to say that they can wait for Jesus to take care of everything.

And the irony is that when Jesus was on Earth, all he did was sit with the oppressed, stand up for the marginalize, and teach about Love and Justice to all he spoke to.

And now Jesus’s message of his return is being used implicitly to say, “Don’t worry, someone [Jesus] will take care of your problems on day”.

I am uneasy with this message, because it puts all the responsibility on Jesus and takes all of the responsibility off us.

I want to say that one day Jesus will return again, but I don’t interpret it that Jesus will take care of all our problems for our problems are here and very much real.

Instead, I think we should be more like Jesus: Putting all our actions into loving our neighbors and standing up for injustice when we see it.

Perhaps that is how Jesus is coming back to give us hope. Perhaps Jesus needs to act through us in order to bring back love and peace into the world.

Can you imagine how much the world might change if we all acted like Jesus by loving and caring for all the people we come into contact with every day? That is a future that I can “wait” for, not a future where we wait ideally by for a Savior to take care of everything that we can be working for right now.

So as you reflect on my words, may you look at the life of Jesus and learn how to love and stand up for the oppressed now like Jesus would when he was on earth. And may you Love all your Neighbors as much as you would Love your Entire Ruah!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Camp Communities Change Lives

Summer 2009. Seems like an eternity ago since that summer and yet it was the summer that would make a huge difference in my life. That summer was the first time I experienced church camp.

I just finished my Sophomore year in High School and my mom and a good friend of ours from church were wanting me and two youth from church to go to a church camp called Camp Caroline. I resisted going, but the decision was made for me.

It was such a long drive. While the two other youth rode with the Hillyer van, another disciples church in downtown Raleigh, I rode with my parents. That comforted me, but the entire time I kept wondering how I was going to make it an entire week alone. I assumed I would be alone because I assumed that no one would hang out with me or be my friend. It was the nature at school so I assumed the same for all social situations I encountered.

We eventually arrived and got registered. My parents left and the adults led us in some weird dance activity. I hide in the background, hoping no one would notice I wasn’t dancing. Then the directors of the camp spoke to us and said we would be split into small groups. They announced who was in which small group, but I didn’t hear my name, so I just joined the last group to be formed, who thankfully I knew the leader (she was my minister’s wife). I stuck with their group for about 20 minutes, until someone came by and asked, “Is there a Kevin over here?”

My first thought was, “Did I do something wrong?” The director explained that they had been looking for me because I was in the wrong small group. So, I guess I did do something wrong, or that was my assumption anyway. I felt so embarrassed, but no one was upset. He walked with me through the dark camp ground to my right small group, who were really happy that I wasn’t lost and got there to meet everyone. It was the first of many moments that week that made me feel loved.

The week continued and throughout each day, I discovered the nature of what camp is all about. Camp is about community. Through the camp community, we created a sanctuary from the stresses and pain of the outside world. Through the camp community, we reminded ourselves of the power of God through the love we provided for our neighbors and ourselves. Through the camp community, we welcome new people to experience how camp communities change lives.

I used to believe that the camp grounds were magical and that whenever people came to camp, community was already established.

However, while my experience can lead to this assumption, the reality is that camp is not magical simply because of the location or program or God being present there (those these certainly do help!)

The real magic of community comes from the actions that we teach and lead while at camp.

When you see a person sitting alone or not feeling included, speak to them, invite them, listen to the stories that they bring into the community!

We all want to feel welcomed, to have a sense of belonging, and to know we are loved for being who God made us to be. When we welcome all people into the community, then we implicitly say to the person you are welcomed, you belong, and you are loved for being You!

To anyone who needs these reminders in life and needs a community that gives them a place to belong, camp can lead to a major change in a person’s life!

However, when this welcoming atmosphere is not present, camp can lead to not so good changes in our lives.

I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of people, either as adults or children, who attend camp and were ignored, discriminated against, or rejected by the community for one reason or another. These reasons can include, but are not limited to: one’s identity, one’s actions in which the community deemed were “sinful”, or simply for being different.

If this has been your experience, I am truly sorry. This is not what camp communities should be about.

Camp communities should invite differences of all people. Camp communities should not be concerned with “sinful actions” but recognize that people’s actions do not define the whole person. Camp communities should be a place where people experience the love of God through the love of others.

It is my hope, for all people who will be at camp this summer, that you create a loving space that will help change people’s lives in meaningful ways!

I have been blessed that my experience my first summer was a life changing experience. And after my first camp in 2009, I continued to have life changing experience at various weekend retreats and summer camps for the next few years. Even after I graduated High School, I volunteered as a counselor and worked as a camp staffer for several summers. Last summer, I was even honored to serve as a Camp Staff Director at Christmount. It now seems strange that this will be my first summer in eight years that I will not be participating in any camp program. Instead I will be participating in a different kind of ministry through the Hospital system. I am truly going to miss the camping season this summer.

For all the campers who are planning to attend camp this summer, I wish you many wonderful memories and lifelong friends that you will create and experience!

For all the counselors and camp staffers, I wish you a chance to share your gifts and joy with all the campers you come to enjoy your week (or weeks) with!

For all the Directors and Keynoters, I wish you peace in the midst of camp chaos and the chance to share your guidance with all the campers and counselors/camp staffers you get to lead!

For all camp communities, I invite you the chance to create a life changing experience, for ALL people, so that they realize they belong now into your community for life.

May your camp experience change your life and may your Ruah always be with you,


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Different, Not Dis

A few weeks ago, the church that I work at took our youth to a roller-skating rink to start off the new year for youth group. Along with our youth, we had several parents, the associate minister, myself, and another congregant who for the purpose of this story I will address him as Max. Max is an older congregant and he had never gone roller-skating before. It was something he had on his bucket list to do and we were determined that he was going to be able to do it.

Like all new roller-skaters, Max had difficulty in maintaining his balance on roller skates. There is a certain ability in maintaining one’s balance on skates. Some people naturally acquire that skill while others need time to practice acquiring that skill. Max falls into the latter category. To be sure, he was very scared to go out onto the rink. I helped him, and stood next to him, holding on to him so that he didn’t fall and hurt himself as he slowly skated along the wall of the rink. While I was holding on to him, several people passed us and stared at us. Their stares were noticed by Max and he could tell he was being judged for not being able to naturally skate.

The people staring did not say anything; however, I can make an educated guess into what they may be thinking or what labels they were casting down on Max. It’s a label I hear too often:


I don’t like this label. In fact, I would even argue this is an oppressive label. It’s similar to other oppressive systems. There is a “norm” group that is set up as higher on a hierarchical system and those who don’t fit that “norm” group are treated more harshly.

To say someone is “disabled” is to infer that this person is lesser than a person who, I suppose, would be defined as…what able? I certainly don’t go around defining people as “abled” so why the hell would I want to define a person as “disabled”?

This label is a subtle form of ableism, but unfortunately is not usually seen as ableism. Disabled has been used for so many years as a “PC” term that so many people don’t even realize the danger of using it.

When you say someone is disabled, you place them separate from other people based on abilities, be they physical or mental, that you deem as needed or normal. If you speak a different way; if you walk a different pattern; if you see the world in a different view; if you interact with others and yourself different…

Notice how in each of those situations, I used the word “different”.

That’s because they are different abilities. For this reason, I prefer the term “Differently Abled”.

The term “Differently Abled” is much more inclusive and gets rid of this false hierarchy of abilities that we have created in our society.

However, when I was talking to someone about this term, they made an important observation. Even if we change the label of “Disabled” to “Differently Abled”, doesn’t that still create a label that separates people with different abilities to people with “normal” abilities?

I thought about this for a while and my response is yes and no.

The distinction is how we use the term “Differently abled”.

For five summers, I worked and volunteered for a camp called Camp Sunshine. Unlike other camps, this camp was for adults. The adults come from different places, both group homes and individual homes. To all the adult campers, this is their favorite time of the year. Many of them even use this week as their vacation time from work to come to this camp.

All of the adults have a variety of different abilities, so they could be labeled as “differently abled”. However, recognizing their different abilities is one thing, but if I was to put the label “differently abled” on the campers, then that is a different thing all together.

Saying they are “differently abled” does honor the fact that their abilities are not lesser or superior to mine. But there is a sense that “different” is still lesser.

Thus, when I use the term differently abled, I am not speaking to just people who do not fall into the “norm” abilities. In fact, I’m challenging that there is such as a thing as “normal” abilities.

In other words, we are all differently abled.

There are no normal abilities or abilities that make people better or lesser from one another.

When I volunteer at Camp Sunshine, I may be a counselor, but my abilities are not better than any of the campers. Just different.
Max’s abilities may not include coordinated balance, but anyone who receives a letter from Max feels like the most special person on the entire earth.
My abilities as a Non-Neurotypical person may make social situations scary and a bit awkward, but I have developed my listening abilities because of my more timid and quiet nature.

Some people may talk differently. Some people may walk differently. Some people may interact with the world differently. Not only is that okay. But it is sacred.

If you walk away learning anything from this post, please take away this important lesson: Don’t label, judge, or make people conform based on one’s abilities.

Recognize the person you interact with wholeness and love and as a sacred being.

Honor your different abilities, honor the different abilities of others, and remember you are loved with your entire Ruah!