All I Can Offer

A parade of hate. The violent screams of twenty men washed out the fading threat of one. They chased him, kicked him to the ground and beat him to a pulp. Limp. Lost. Unconscious. The one man lay broken as the reviling horde fled the scene; there was nothing more to be done here. Directly in front of our house, I watched it all transpire. I didn’t see black vs white, I saw hate; the hate in men’s hearts that divides us over the petty differences that are made out to “define us.”

If only we could see each other for who we are and not what we are.

Remove what you are. Take away the skin, remove your social status, age, weight, gender, EVERYTHING and let me look at your soul. Let me see who you are.. Ah, I see now. I see the pain buried deep inside of you. I see the anger you’re holding on to, those emotional  shackles you’ve been carrying for all of these years. But.. don’t you realize this is a shell you have created? I’m looking at you now and all at once I see an innocent child once born in love and now hardened by fear. It’s okay to feel the pain. It’s okay to be afraid. Now, let’s remove this barrier you’ve created between your inner self and the world and go deeper. Hm.. I know you don’t want anyone else to know this, but you’re actually pretty sensitive. I see that your family’s opinion of you means everything. The thought of your parents is extremely delicate; you never want to disappoint them. I see that your love for your siblings goes beyond anything you have actually told them. Ha, I see that dancing alone in your room brings you joy! I see that soft spot for the kids in Uganda. I see your desire for equal opportunity. I see the perfect future you’re envisioning for yourself and your kids and your kids’ kids. Wow.. I see the way you want to love people. The legacy you want to leave when all of this comes to an end. If the world was the way you really want it to be, it would be an incredible place. I see who you are now.

I see that we are all the same.

Who we are should be reflected in what we are.

If there is one thing I want in life, it is for people to feel loved by me. My own gain is not a worthy enough goal, but the collective gain of the world is everything. If I can offer help, support, talent, wisdom etc. to the community around me, may I do those things! I don’t see colors or stereotypes, I see people just like me who have maybe been through more trials.. and if there is something I can offer them, may I offer it with a generous heart. I’m tired of the hate. Will we ever stop judging someone within the first moments of seeing their faces? Will we ever take time to look at who they are instead of what they may seem to be? We’re all the same people. We love, we cry, we laugh, we work, we dream.

All I can offer to the world is myself. I challenge you to do the same.

 

 

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A Greater Path

Running, much like writing, is therapeutic to me. Rather than focusing on where my feet land or in what rhythm I’m breathing, my thoughts wander to another place. While my body works, my mind does the same. I think about everything: why life exists, how culture will look in thousands of years, why my toe hurts.. Ultimately, it’s “me” time.

Back in August I moved out of an apartment on the outskirts of Springfield and into a tucked-away house near Downtown. I love the location here, but if I could have my spot back that would be great.

My spot.

9CC26F84-BBD5-41DF-90F6-1F2DC8919166.JPG

Every day I would run the trails of this beautiful, hidden gem. The seasons would change, the water would rise and fall, but my spot was always there. That cliff you see above knows more about me than pretty much any person in the world. Ah.. the serenity of that spot.

My eyes are closed. The wind is gentle on my face as the breeze rustles each leaf; the sound like a chorus of whispers. My hands rest on the mighty rock, cold with age as the contrast of the warm sun blankets my shoulders. My eyes open and look up to the cool blue sky; the moon greeting me with its reflective glow. A deep breathe in. A slow exhale. This is my spot.

That was my spot. Now I run on concrete. Sure, the path unravels through a little park and hey, there’s even a little stream that flows beside it. In fact, yesterday it flooded over and I had to run on the street, where the cars threaten my short getaway. Cars..

This is not my path. This is not my spot.

I’m getting at something bigger here.

Settling.

There are seasons in life in which we lose the high ground and as a result our vision is blurred. The “mountain top,” the “apex,” whatever you want to call it, falls out of sight. The day to day realities we must face distract us from the desires our hearts truly long for. That PASSION you once had for dancing! Why did you stop? That VISION you had for building a dream home! Why did you lose it? That FEELING you had when you kissed your spouse for the very first time! Where did that go?

We settled. We became distracted by bills and buildings and wrongs and rights and do’s and dont’s and.. I know, run-on sentence. That’s my point. Somewhere in life we lost the creative fervor and settled for the black and white version of the kaleidoscope colored world we were “supposed” to have.. and that’s the thing. We aren’t “supposed” to have anything.

YOU make YOU happen.

As always, I want to challenge you. Every time an obstacle appears, ask yourself:”Is this roadblock bigger than my dream?” If the answer is no: 1) You’re right. 2) What will you do to overcome it? If you seem to have lost your zest for life, ask “What daily actions led to this state of mind? What steps can I take to start loving my life?” Life isn’t going to stop pulling you down. You have to pull yourself up. No, it’s not going to be easy. Yes, you will face a lot of opposition. But I promise you “the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

A Greater Path

I look back at the different paths I have walked and now I can see which ones were right and which ones weren’t. Oh, and the great thing about those wrong paths? They can put us on the Greater Path. For each time I’ve stumbled I can now watch for that little stump. For each time I’ve slipped, I can now avoid that one spot. When we look back at how we arrived to the present, the future becomes abundantly clear.

Each day you will have the opportunity to settle or to run the Greater Path.

As for me.. I think I’ll go back to my spot.

When The Great “I AM” Bled

He-Carried-That-Cross-For-Us

Image of the Invisible God

Firstborn of All Creation

By Him, Through Him, For Him All Things Created

Before All Things and in which All Things hold together

The Beginning, Firstborn from the Dead, Preeminent in Everything

“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

The Creator: He is not bound by space, for it is His canvas. He is not bound by time, for it is His brush. Our sun is one of 300 billion in our galaxy; our galaxy, one of hundreds of billions of others. Earth is not even the briefest thought in sight of the ever-expanding universe. Yet, the Creator chose to make beings in His Image on this one isolated blue dot.

The I AM: He Is, He Was, He Always Will Be. After forming every ocean, mountain and forest, the I AM cared enough about this small creation to engage with His creatures. He made laws to follow in order that we understand His Holy nature. For thousands of years, He displayed His mighty power to those who chose to follow Him and to those who opposed Him, He displayed His mighty wrath. It is by His laws and displays of power, that mankind came to glimpse what “I AM” truly means.

The Prophecy: seven hundred years before the Creator became a man, it was prophesied by Isaiah when he said “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Three hundred years prior to this prophecy, King David wrote “For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet.”

The Word: He became flesh. This philosophical idea of “good” and “infinite” was manifested as a human being. Think about this: the Almighty God, who is from what we can only understand as “the beginning” chose to be restrained by the same flesh as His creation. The being of which none is greater than or equal to, who lives in an eternal dimension where time does not exist, where flesh does not exist, where pain does not exist, where evil does not exist; the being who dwells in the ultimate Holy of Holies, the realm of which we cannot touch or fathom, became a human. Being God, he did not sin, being man, he was subject to suffering.

 

When The Great I AM Bled

It was the culmination of all history. The established order between God and Man could no longer suffice; sacrificing animals and food only plugged a hole in the inescapable ocean of sin. After 30 years of life as the God-Man, the world could not accept the authority of who He truly was.

There are no words in any language that can describe the power of that transaction paid with the blood of God.

“The Blood of God.” Let that sink in. The LORD of all creation who was unattainable, beyond all thought or measure, lofty in all of His ways, of whom no mind could ever comprehend became vulnerable. When the Great I AM bled, power crossed every dimension and rewrote the established order between Heaven and Earth.

These short words cannot adequately express the depth of what has transpired over the course of history, especially on that dark day over two thousand years ago. My goal in this essay is to provoke thought; to help the reader ask the big questions:

Why did God become human?

Why did God die?

What does it mean for me?

A Prayer On “Good Friday”

Jesus, we recognize your sacrifice today. Although, we will never understand why you chose to live as a lowly man, we see your love for us displayed in every aspect of your life. Your blood is precious. Teach us to cherish who you are, show us who you continue to be and prepare us for when you return. We believe you are the risen Savior of the universe.

“But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.”  Acts 2:24

He is risen,                                                                                                                    William Dallas Maginn

6 Years without Mom: Reflections and Revelations

Growing up as the son of a pastor, I learned to filter my emotions; how to respond to things.. to people. It becomes second nature to create a persona that is likable and attractive to everyone. The following is pure and unfiltered “Dallas,” consisting of sensitive thoughts and material I have never told anyone before. I am letting you enter my world:

“NOOO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOO!”

The room was spinning. I clung to my uncle and Mema and everything around me, hopelessly looking around the living room for some kind of sign. Searching the faces of my brothers, my eyes asked theirs if this could be true. The deepest groanings and darkest places of the universe cannot communicate the grief.

After school on Wednesday December 10, 2008 we were picked up by our Mema, which usually meant that it must have been a bad day for Mom. “Your mom called me last night because she was sick. We put her in the hospital, so we are going to visit her and then I can take you to the church for service.” Mom always went to Moffitt in Tampa for chemo but never to the hospital in Port Charlotte. I had a lot of bad memories at that hospital as a kid, so I was already upset. Still unsure of what was happening, my brothers and I (with Mema) walked into the first floor of Peace River Hospital. Mom’s room was the first to the left. She had tubes in her nose and many other places. It didn’t seem normal.. not even for a cancer patient. “Hi guys!” Mom forced a smile out of her obvious discomfort. We circled her and talked just like any other day of the week. She sat up from her hospital bed to adjust and I briefly saw her back, which was covered in red. This wasn’t “normal.”

“It’s an infection” she said.

“You need to go to Moffitt… Moffitt, not here. They know you there. They can take care of you” I gently suggested. For some reason I did not understand at the time, that option was not possible. She was going to stay there for the night. Before leaving and going to church my Mema prayed for Mom and I held her arm. Warm, as always. Afterwards, Mom said the words she had echoed over and over throughout our entire lives, only this time it had the most culminating and desperate tone:

“My boys are my world. You are the reason I breathe. Connor, Dallas and Reagan.. listen to me.. always remember one thing: Never lose faith in God. Believe in Him and follow Him every day.”

We then headed to church and at that Wednesday night service I brought up Mom as a prayer request. The night went on as usual until it was time for bed. It was just me and my brothers at home and I didn’t know how to send my brothers to sleep. “Do I pray? Do I just let them go to bed?..” I got a text from my good friend, Ben. He told me to tell my brothers I love them and let them know we are in this together. I did just that, though unsure of what the morning would hold. I then went to my room and knelt down on my bed with my Bible. I flipped around reading some of Psalms and Isaiah and probably several others. It was quiet. I always liked the air still with no noise.. just me before God. “Please Lord, heal my Mom. Heal her HERE. Not in Heaven.. heal here HERE on EARTH. We need her.” My eyes shut.

“Dallas..” a delicate hand brushed my shoulder. It was about 6:30 am on December 11, 2008. I thought Mema was waking us up for school, but as I walked into the living I saw my uncle and aunt. I was nervous. Connor and Reagan completed our circle in the living room.

“NOOO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOO!”

The words spoken before my haunting screams are irrelevant. Our worst fears, fears I never even truly believed would happen, came true. No more Mom.

An hour of frantic wails and stumbling into Mom’s room to see if she was there. Two hours? Three?.. Time ceased to exist.

I stared out of the dining room window. Who knows how long or when. It was so dark outside. Rainy. The lake behind our house was like a black hole sucking the darkness of the sky into its grievous depths.

Knock on the door. It was our Pastor who Mom loved so much. He spent a good deal of time with us and took us to breakfast. Later a kind woman from church took us to a movie. “Four Christmases” with Reese Witherspoon.. I liked it. Then people started coming in waves to our house. So many people.. bringing food. Baskets, bowls, salads, ham, steaks, Olive Garden, cakes. I could not count the food.

Text after text. Phone call after phone call. So many people. Family came in from everywhere and they were so comforting to me. But one thing I could not stop doing: moving my eyes back to Mom’s bedroom door, just waiting for her to walk out; even as a ghost. “WHY ARE YOU GONE?” I thought over and over.

Four blurry days went by. All I remember is so many people invited me and my brothers to live with them. Even my Port Charlotte High School principle, who I am still so grateful for. Somewhere in those four days my family went to a funeral home. They had “prepared” my Mom’s body and we were going to look at her.

I let my Mema and uncle and aunt go first. Then Connor and Reagan. I couldn’t muster up whatever it was I needed to see her. Finally, I pulled myself inside that room. A pink casket sat at the front of a long chapel. I walked passed the pews slowly until I stood 10 feet from my Mom. Was she real? Would her eyes open? Could she in any way hear me? I sat there on my knees for what seemed to be a long time. My mind was in shock until the funeral.

December 15, 2008 – the day before my Mom would be 50 years old. Also, the day of her funeral. The viewing took place an hour before the funeral; people came pouring in like an avalanche. A multitude of grieving words and enough condolences to write an epic. Finally the time was coming to start service and shut my Mom’s pink coffin. It was just the family in that small entry room. We said our final goodbyes to the body of the woman that birthed and raised me and my two brothers. I could not let them close that coffin! Do not take me from my Mother! I hesitated to touch her skin one last time, out of fear that her ever-warm skin would finally feel cold. Instead, I brushed her familiar black hair with my two fingers. “It’s just a shell” my cousin said to me. Those are the only words that kept me calm enough to finally let them close that pink coffin.

The parade of tears into the sanctuary began. I held a brother in each arm as we slowly marched to the front row. It’s said it was a beautiful service: Connor spoke then I spoke. Like a zombie on the stage, I read great words but did not comprehend their meaning. Numbness. Staring into the crowd, the largest funeral crowd I have personally seen, I saw faces of those who were truly in pain over the loss of Miss Cindy. Mother, teacher, compassionate friend, fighter, lover, joyous singer. Her voice rang over the crowd “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.”

A long drive later we laid her body next to my Papa Alvin.                                  “Cindy L. Maginn – 1958-2008,” a rose and sparrow on her stone.

It was not until that moment that I realized I would never see her again. Not how I know her.

6 Years Later

If you would have told me at 16 years old that I would be living in Missouri right now, I probably would have said “what is Missouri?” In six years I have met so many people and been so many places. I’ve worked on farms in Indiana, counseled 12 year-olds in North Carolina, nailed tar paper in Missouri, mopped floors in Sarasota. I’ve climbed waterfalls, skied the Rocky’s, jumped on trains (oops), walked the Golden Gate bridge and many many more things.

I often wonder “if Mom had not died, would I have done all of those things? Would I have met the people I now call family and friends?” Then I wonder “of course, I could have. God is bigger than one circumstance.” I’ll probably never know the answer, but here I am.

Although I may be an exciting person around friends and family, I live quietly. I dream and I doubt, I think and I question.. and in those moments of solitude I realize something: my life is not what I dreamt as a child. This is no pity party, this is me understanding the implications of not having a mother for the rest of my life.

Every woman dreams of their wedding day; all of the fluff and emotions, having a family, etc. It is not commonly said, but men dream of the same thing. Maybe not the flowers and make up, but the relationships and adventures. About a year ago I asked myself what my “dream” is. It wasn’t being an actor, like it used to be. It wasn’t even a career path.. it was having a family of my own. Thinking more intently about this dream,  I realized: my family will never know my Mother. My wife will not know the woman who trained me and raised me to love her unconditionally. She will not know the woman who prayed for me through trouble. She will not know the woman who bore my burdens; whose blood I was given. My children will only hear stories of my Mother. They will only see pictures.

“Why was I given this lot?” I frequently ask God.

Perhaps it’s because God is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or think and somehow He has made me strong enough. Perhaps somehow when I am 100 years old, I will realize “this is what brought me closer to Christ and stronger in Spirit than I could ever imagine – the loss of my Mom has brought indestructible perseverance, unattainable resilience.. wisdom as deep as the oceans.”

There are times of weakness where I wish the world would end and I finally could see the Glory of Heaven. Words cannot describe how infinitely joyous that reunion will be. But as for now I walk the narrow road with its twists and turns, working for the Good and looking beyond this decaying world.

This is the song I sing and the Hope I have.. and this is how I continue to love my Mom, making her proud:

“These are they who have come
Out of great tribulation;
They have washed their robes
In the blood of the Lamb,
They have gone through much sorrow
Into great jubilation,
They’re redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.

Like a strong, mighty army
Their voices are ringing;
The great cloud of witnesses
Sings freedom’s song
As they enter the country
Built by their own Father,
The promised homeland
They’ve looked for so long.

And all the pilgrims and all the strangers
Will be no longer strangers;
All the tired and the weary wanderers,
They will wander no more;
The table is spread for the great celebration,
And the ‘Welcome Home’ banner
Flies over the door.”                                                                                                        These Are They – Gaither Vocal Band

Ovarian Cancer could not kill you. Sepsis could not eat your soul. You have defeated death. You have conquered our fears. You are more Alive than we.

Until we meet again, my Most Lovely Mother Cindy Laree

Dallas

“Epignosis”

“I have to know.” This belief is responsible for the current state of mankind. The desire for knowledge has existed since the beginning of the human race; it is what Adam and Eve yearned for when they partook of the fruit described in the story of Genesis. Knowledge is responsible for empires, war, religion, technology and everything around us.

From the moment we are born, we are designed to interpret the colors, sounds, and shapes that surround us. As we grow older, our measure of “success” is based on the knowledge we attain through education systems and tests. Go through twelve years of school. Finish at least four years of college. Want to be among the most “successful” in the world? There’s Master’s and Doctorate programs for that. High school or college drop-out? Hmm.. That may be a problem.

Why?

Why is knowledge a measure of our human worth?
– take a moment and answer for yourself

“Epignosis;” I chose this name for my blog specifically for the purpose of understanding its meaning, and once understanding its meaning, striving to live daily within the framework that it embodies. Epignosis is an Ancient Greek word used to describe a type of knowledge. Not the knowledge of memorizing or learning a subject, not the knowledge of how to do something, and not the knowledge of experiencing something.

Epignosis is a deep, complete comprehension. More specifically, it is the perfection of knowledge. This knowledge is constantly being pursued by the “knower” and as it is explored more intently, the “knower” reaches a deeper understanding of life, the universe, morality, purpose, etc. As this “knower” pursues deep knowledge, it creates even more desire for knowledge than before; therefore, instilling an ever-growing desire for truth and things of the universe. For further study, the word can be found twenty times in the New Testament if you personally want to discover its application in a Biblical context.

What do your thoughts consist of?

In this culture that is so obsessed with technology and efficiency, the majority of people limit themselves to simple thoughts. Staring at a screen for hours a day; that is the average American’s daily action. Staring at an iPhone. Staring a television. How active is your brain in performing that same action for hours at a time every day? Congratulations, you can successfully match the brain activity of a sloth. If the majority of your thoughts consist of things that are not intellectually stimulating, I would suggest that you broaden your mental horizons.

This brings us back to the question of “why?”

Why? There are several reasons. The knowledge in our brain is a resource to ourselves and to others. As a person understands more, the better he can make decisions and the more others are able to rely upon him. With unlimited knowledge, you are an infinite resource to the world. In Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential For Success, a book I recently read by Dr. Benjamin Carson, he states “Knowledge is the key that unlocks all the doors. You can be green-skinned with yellow polka dots and come from Mars, but if you have knowledge that people need instead of beating you, they’ll beat a path to your door.”

The knowledge you pursue is an indicator of how much you care about the human condition and the nature of the universe. If you don’t care about those things, then what is worth knowing? Those who choose to live in ignorance will one day discover what a waste their lives were and those who choose to pursue deep thoughts will constantly be rewarded, ultimately enjoying Creation to the utmost capacity.

Don’t limit your pursuit of knowledge.

Consider these words from Dr. Carson:
“First, we cannot overload the human brain. This divinely created brain has fourteen billion cells. If used to the maximum, this human computer inside our heads could contain all the knowledge of humanity from the beginning of the world to the present and still have room left over. Second, not only can we not overload our brain – we also know that our brain retains everything. I often use a saying that “The brain acquires everything that we encounter.” The difficulty does not come with the input of information, but getting it out. Sometimes we “file” information randomly of little importance, and it confuses us.”

Are your daily thoughts beneficial to your intellect? To your emotion? Spirituality? Do your thoughts encircle the same subjects everyday or are you diving into new areas and exploring new dimensions?

If you are not easily taken into the realm of thought or are simply not interested, perhaps there is a subject you enjoy that you can pursue more intently. This could be a stepping stone in your journey of epignosis. Personally, I find myself reveling in things from the grand scheme of space to the molecular detail of Creation to the infinite person of God.

My goal in this essay is to provoke thought. I hope that you will revel in deep things and pursue truth. If we have not thought, we have nothing to offer ourselves or society. Think for the benefit of your soul; for the sake of thinking in itself. The result may be greatly rewarding or greatly concerning. Regardless, epignosis is the gate to wisdom and the path to true bliss. With no limit on what we can put our minds to, the possibilities are endless.

Do you…?

Do you want to die? Truly answer the question. The majority of people answer a simple “of course not.” Regardless of the response, why answer the way you did? Is there more you need to do in life? Have you not accomplished what you thought you would? Do you simply enjoy breathing and interacting with other humans? What elicits the response to that simple, yet offensive question: “do you want to die?”

Answer: Opportunity.

Think. Those who “want to die” have a perspective that all opportunity has gone and all who “want to live” believe the allotted time ahead only bears opportunity. How did these two perspectives come to be? What could possibly pursuade one man to choose life and the other to choose death?

Answer: Interpretation

For instance, a man who loses his children while in a car accident may interpret the event in many ways. He may blame himself and ask how such a horrible thing could happen. He may become depressed, even to the point of wishing death on himself. OR he may acknowledge that there are things in life beyond our control and accept the fate of his children. He may use the event as a turning point in life to live each moment to its fullest. Do you see how important the way we interpret events is? The fact that the accident happened will not change; the response to the event will, however, change the father’s future course of life.

We have a choice.

Death has shaped my life. We are born into death. Surrounded by it. We belittle it in movies and television, but are appalled by it in real life. The difference is its tangibility. I’m not meaning to sound morbid or “downcast” in any way, I’m simply pointing out what is in front of us. My first real encounter with death was a man name Jerry. He was a Superman: the guy at church who made everyone laugh, passed out candy, even gave you a few dollars just as a blessing. Cancer is death’s grin; even a Superman loses to cancer. Not even a teenager yet, I looked at a shell that was once Jerry, the middle age wonder man. I was scared. “Even a man like him suffers from death.”

I could go on about many friends: car accidents, aneurysms, cancer strikes, even my Papa Alvin dying of Alzheimer’s. They all provoked my fear of death. But there was one death that changed my course: Mom.

Five days after my 17th birthday, Mom died. Ovarian cancer, stage 4. She fought for two years until the SEPSIS infection took over. The two months following that, accepting death was not an option. Even staring at my mothers face as she lay in the pink coffin, I expected her to open her eyes. I was too scared to touch her, out of fear of her always-warm skin finally being cold. I did however, skim the black hair on her head just to feel something familiar. Tangibility.

Death shaped my life. I’m not afraid of it anymore. It is something to embrace, to understand, to confront, to inspire, and to look forward to in the right time. Death inspired me to live a life I can be proud of and enjoy. Losing Mom also made death feel safe; if I die I will be where she is and walk a path she has walked.

Those who fear death, a vast majority, do so out of being unsure. Unsure of eternity, unsure of decisions, unsure of the “unknown.” What can you do to be “sure” of these things?

Ponder this:
Don’t live out of fear of death; live out of fear of dying unfulfilled.

It’s a healthy fear, not a scared/intimidated fear. It’s that feeling of “I should have” – not a thought that is enjoyable at the end of the day.

So these things I ask:
Do you dwell on missed opportunities of the past or recognize opportunities of the future?
Do you interpret life’s events as a victim or a fighter?
and
Do you want to die in fulfillment or regret?