Sadly, the post here is long. 7 pages single spaced, long. I hate that. Consider it a memoir. The world's shortest memoir. Now you won't hate it's length. Because of it's length, I have broken the piece up into chapters (1.5 pages per chapter). I have also included it as a downloadable file, click here. Print this if that would help. But anyways, I guess I am kind of asking you to read this one. It's written quite differently, and it way more autobiographical than any other post on here. I didn't like this. But I would explain that using myself in the text is just a tool. I am nothing more than a symbol in the text. Make use of the symbol however you want.
Lastly, to aid you in the journey of this blog, I am adding an optional piece of music that may play in the background. It's off my favorite artist, Sufjan Stevens' recent EP. It's called "All Delighted People" and is definitely a conversation with God song that is further described as, "a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s "Sounds of Silence." In short, I suppose you could say that subconsciously, this song was manifesting itself through this essay.
ALTERNATE TITLE of this post: A transparent rambling of sorts: This is what madness looks like (or “the pangs of disillusionment at the glimpse of a hope misplaced and the cynicism that is birthed as a result in him who is a creep, who is me. And is possibly you).
"...how hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, cut off from what one hopes for!... There can be no peace without hope."
In 2000, someone prophesied that I would be a preacher. Yes, that sounds right. Listen to me. I am great. I have a voice. Let me tell you how it is. Let your ears be moved by my brilliance.
In 2004, I went to college. I drank heavily. I lost religion. Watch me have fun. So many stories of me being awesome as a drunk. I am a circus director.
In 2006, I almost converted to Judaism. It’s in my blood you know? Yes, I am that special. So special. Embracing the heritage. Visited
with my Jewish brothers and sisters. Look at me at the Western Wall. On the Jerusalem . So Sacred. So Religious. So Rational. I have the answers. I am wearing a yarmulke. I am a rabbi. Temple Mount
In the spring of 2007, I read Romans. It’s so deep. I understand it. Why didn’t anyone tell me about it? I’m so smart. So kind. I am being led by the Spirit. Everyone look at me. I am starting a Bible study about Romans. Completely separate from any church sponsorship. And people are coming. 20 people (or was it 10?). They don’t have to come. They want to come. I am telling them about Romans. I am a bright shining star. I will be a preacher you know? Yes, a prophet said so. I am also liberal. So hip. So non-conformist. They didn’t tell you? We have all concluded that standards are a trivial matter. We would talk about the insignificance of standards for hours. For days. Listen to me! I am a sage. I have the answers. I will preach to you one day.
THE ENTIRETY OF THE POST IS AFTER THE BREAK. Click "read more." Or just click here.
North American Youth Congress 2009 (an ode to Dave Eggers)
In August of 2007 my friends and I ride into
. It’s Youth Congress. My friends are there and countless others who I don’t know are all showing up to take the party over. We are pioneers. We are Charlotte, NC king ground. You have come to bear witness to what will now be in our movement and what is to come. This is what God wants. This is Progress. brea
There are people in jeans on the platform. Singing. Worshipping. They are in jeans! This is so cool. Does this matter? I don’t know. But it’s there. And it’s us. This is ours. We are the new way. Eat it up conservatives.
And the sermons…In the past youth congresses there was that one dude who said he wanted one of us to be in the White House. Pick Me! I will do it.
Then there was that one dude. Mark Johnston who threw the Mountain Dew cans in the crowd when he preached at congress. He even opened some up on the stage and it sprayed everywhere. “Do the Dew!” Yes, I get it. Haha. That preacher, he’s crazy. That was neat. “Where is he now? Oh, he’s not invited back to preach anymore? Why’s that? Oh, because he has facial hair in his picture on his church website?” That’s not acceptable. That dude, he’s crazy. Don’t tell the kids about him. He will give them diseases.
Look at that stage at congress. I am called to preached on that same stage. I am going to be a preacher. Youth Congress, 2015. Yes, I will preach something crazy. You will remember it. Things will be thrown at you in the crowd. 2 liters! People will love me. “Sign your bible? No, no, I couldn’t. Really. Well, if you insist.” I will have a pretty wife too. You will be jealous.
But what about here at Youth Congress, 2007. There’s Danny Rivers. Preaching about helping the poor. Giving clear water to Africans. Starving people. Unbelievable. How come I have not heard this before. This is right. This is moving. I cried at the end of that sermon. No, seriously. I have emotions too. No one else cried at the end. Did they just listen to what they heard? No, they were talking. Must have been. It was an afternoon message. No need to get torn up over those, seriously though. I
h you listened. I wis h you were there. That message devoured my soul. It became a part of me. It still is. This was right because it wasn’t about me. I no longer want to be a preacher. I want to be in wis Africa. I am a terrible person.
“Where is Danny Rivers now? Oh, he’s not invited back anymore to preach? Because he said Angelina Jolie and Bono were being better witnesses than us by their giving?” God forbid.
Look, there is Wayne Francis. So unique. So much energy. He’s ours. He’s black too. See, we’re not racist. My favorite preacher is black!
And then there is Todd Gaddy. He is preaching. Except he is not really preaching, he is talking. He is speaking, calmly. Do you see this? This feels right. I am called to be a preacher if this is allowed. I hate screaming. But this, I can do this. “Where’s Todd Gaddy now? You don’t want to talk about it? But his website doesn’t even have pictures on it! You realize that man has changed my life. I saw him preach in Ohio many years ago and it was like the man was actually speaking to me and not at me. I will never forget it.
Okay, okay, we’ll skip it.”
And we left youth congress. Hope. Things changing. Barack Obama. We are coming. This is right. Jesus is really in on this too. I can show you the scriptures.
This sounds dumb, I know. It sounds pathetic. But I really believe in it. I am dancing on the inside. It’s not a real dance. Mostly awkward. But it’s my soul singing because we were witnessing something. Who cares about preaching? “Hello, my name is Joel and I am your best friend. I love you. I love the UPC. We are moving. Be encouraged.”
And we strolled gleefully into Youth Congress 2009 in
. I am a cute puppy. La la la la. Look at the sunset. The purple, the Nashville ge, and red. So beautiful. oran , here we come. No more blue jeans? Nashville Okay, fine. What does it matter. That wasn’t us anyways.
The best part about any youth congress is the socializing. In the hotel lobby. It’s the cool place to be. You aren’t invited. I am though. I am here in the lobby. With the cool people. Look over there. There is that one guy with a clothing line. And then there’s Wayne Francis. He has a photographer following him. There is that one girl from Praise. She is dating that other guy in a band that will be famous one day. I know them both. Not personally. I am a creep. I know them so well. Facebook stalking. Everyone’s doing it. Here we all are in a hotel lobby. We are so pretty. Bow ties. Big hair. Talking. Laughing. We are bright and shiny Christmas ornaments. Hugs. “How are you!??!? I haven’t seen you in soooooo loooooooong!” Annoying voices. This isn’t right. This is wrong. We should be doing something. Tearing things down. Lighting Things on Fire. Building New Buildings in the aftermath. Our names can be on these new buildings. People will know us. Come! We can change things. We can help people. Maybe stage a sit-in. A March of protest about a cause that we know about that others don’t. Martin Luther King Jr. Who cares if our suits get dirty? We can matter. We NEED to matter. We don’t matter if we stay here…..But we stay here. Sit and talk and laugh. Make eye contact. We are dressed like hideously shaped fruit that will rot in four days. And if I tell them that I think this party is not all it’s cracked up to be or how this rerun of a TV show has lost it’s luster, they will take me out back and flog me. Possibly lethal injection. I doubt lethal injection. That’s a bit extreme. But flogging, I would be flogged. It’s kind of romantic when you think about it.
Oh wait, scrap everything I wrote in the paragraph above. There is a pretty girl I have never seen sitting down in that chair in the lobby. I love what we are doing. We are
Apostolics. The girl is dressed like a Premiere. I want to marry her. Does she want to marry a preacher? Because I am called to be a preacher. She probably knows this. I tell her I like Jane Austen, the Notebook, Little Women. Because that’s what she wants to hear. If I tell enough girls that I like these things I may even start to believe it. The girl swoons. Such a gorgeous smile. And she is a minority. Always wanted to marry a minority (so risqué!). Hollywood
ks on my forehead in the middle of the conversation. I get nervous. I am terrible at these things. I am being fake. This is not me. I am not funny. They are going to fry me. She probably can tell that I am a communist agnostic emergent liberal. Does she have make-up on? No. Her dad will threaten me when I meet him at Thanksgiving. Because she lives in brea . And her dad is a California r. He will sniff me out. Broken legs probably. With a baseball bat. I deserve this. pasto
My game is deteriorating quickly. I need to get out of this conversation. I am making a fool of myself. I keep asking her stupid questions. She is bored of me. She wants to leave this conversation. “You are breaking up with me?” No I’m divorcing you. “But what’s your name again? How do you spell that? Okay I’ll see you on Facebook.” I will like one of her statuses about God. She will fall in love with me again. I will FB stalk her until she wants to talk on the phone. I will visit the pages of any guys who comment on her profile and develop animosity towards them. They will be added to the list of people I will frown at in person if I see them.
As for the services. Right before one of them, I am to interview Kenneth Haney in a secret room. He will know about me. No? Then I will tell him about me. I am to be a preacher. Yes, Youth Congress 2015.
Got it, thanks. God Bless.
Who is preaching? Wayne Huntley? I have heard about him. What’s he saying? He’s screaming. He’s angry. Why is he so serious? He is talking about being
Aposotlic. He is talking about us. Standards are good.
I am half-scared. Confused. That must have been a fluke.
I am sure Mooney will say something different. No, he’s angry too. Putting the fear of God in me. He is talking about evil emergents. He is talking about “them.” I am not emergent. No, they will think I am emergent. I did read Rob Bell. I did read Donald Miller. They know this. They are preaching at me. They want me gone. I don’t have Rob Bell glasses though. I am not a hip youth
r. I am called man. pasto led to preach. Youth Congress 2037! Cal
I am a deer in the headlights. I am so little. I am suddenly a bug. Watch me get boiled in the pot. Do it slowly. Where are my friends? The ones who were going to help me make things better? They are not here. They are missing. Back-slidden. Definitely not invited. I am alone. I am not a special snowflake.
And then there is an afternoon session called “Apostolics Identity.” It’s about us Again. It’s all about being you. Being like them. Be separate. Be proud about it.
I am being lanced. Prodded. Skewered. This is the sound of a man losing hope. Put a little garlic on me. I will taste better. 425 degrees. Yes that’s right. I am a parasite.
And then there is that one preacher everyone loves. Ah yes, great man. Goodbye
! Standing Ovation. Louder cheer than any other during the entire rest of congress. Wayne wil set them straight. He is one of us. Preach. Tell them about Jesus. About the Cross…. Wayne
Broken heart. Seriously, like “this is a nightmare, when do I wake up?” kind of broken heart. My lungs were filled with sharp, searing smoke. Out of every single sermon I heard that congress (6), not one mentioned the cross. 5 of them talked about us. Who we are. Jesus is alive in us. No need to mention the cross. We preached to ourselves about ourselves.
Are we missing something? No, I am missing something. I am wrong. Don’t look at me. I have missed it. I got on the wrong boat. I am stupid. I am ugly. I am rebellious. I am not a preacher. Not called. Forget it. Youth Congress, 2103: live from a life support accordion machine!.
Youth Congress 2009 left me so confused. A shovel right across my face. Spiritual frost bite. The dance was dead. The afterglow was done radiating. Nothing left but numbness. They had killed it. Such is life.
At the 2009 Youth Congress, the thing the UPC was and what I thought it would be were irreconcilable.
Like that time we all had, or may still be having, where we think we are different. We are special. We are not like the rest. We are the exception, not the rule. It’s usually in college that this happens. You tell yourself you will be the exception to the rule. You are optimistic. You will be
to everyone elses New York City . I thought this. Don’t feel bad. Kansas
But then you realize (or will soon realize) that you are not who you imagined you would be at this point in life. The band you were in didn’t work out. The preaching invites weren’t as numerous as you had anticipated. That church numbers decreased instead of increased. The book you wanted to write
er got finished. Not as many people as you had imagined showed up to your big youth extravaganza that you had planned nev hs for. mont
And you have a job. Maybe a family. And it’s great. But it’s kind of boring. And you realize, you are normal. Average. Like the rest of us. You realize you are who you once told yourself you would not be. The expectations were for the moon. You only got to the end of your street.
And somewhere, something is screaming, “NO! NO! NO!” This was not how it’s supposed to work out. But all the grown-ups are saying “Welcome aboard. This is the rest of your life. Be peaceful. Be Silent. Do you want to preach?”
And this is absolute torment. Dread. When you realize this. And you can choose to face the dread and it’s evil and try to strangle it. It will be embarrassing. But it means you’re alive. People will probably hate you because of it. Or you can take the horror of the mediocrity of your life and stuff it in the deep recesses of your brain. And try to forget about it. And say this life is better than what your dreams were made of. Now let’s go to church. “Honey, will you change the baby’s diapers? The game is on.”
This was Youth Congress 2009 to me. It was a wake-up call to reality. The dream world of everything being on the up and up within our movement. With progress as the currency of this delusion. A lie I thought was possible. And I would be at the center of it all. People would love me. Bouquets would be thrown at my feet. Wave to the crowd. Smile!
Youth Congress 2009 showed me the mirror of who I was. I was a demon. A Heretic. An emergent. I didn’t feel like any of them. But they told me I was one of each. They knew me better than I knew myself.
And the few of us who were there were all speechless. We now had choices. Because our hope was a joke. Things would never, at least for a good amount of time, “move.” The choices were...
1) You could just leave. Vacate the denomination. No one would blame you. Jump ship, “Bon voyage!” You weren’t getting what you paid for after all. Cash in ticket. Get refund. People would whisper. It means nothing when they do. You will be objectified in the role of a monster. But I won’t tell you about it. Just try not to be too bitter. You got guts, that's for sure.
2) You could also accept what Youth Congress 2009 was saying. Accept the mundane. The desire for stasis. Embrace the traditions. Make them the main point. Become a licensed minister. Tell everyone you were always this way, and marry a
r’s daughter. You will actually believe that you always felt this way. This will be a lie, but it is understandable. It’s easier this way. Everyone will be happy with you. GO YOU! You will consider yourself not too conservative. You will consider yourself not too liberal. You will eat at restaurants and laugh the rest of your life and shake peoples heads at the altar to make them think they feel God. Maybe you will make Facebook statuses against liberals. Against me. I won’t mind. I will like your status. You had to do this. The job was in the full truth. I will pray you preach at Youth Congress soon. pasto
3) And there is the last option. Believe what you think is true. Even if it’s not what Youth Congress 2009 said is true. Everyone will hate you for it. But you stick around anyways. They will want you to leave. But
er tell you. You will be insignificant. But they will talk for days about how much you don’t matter. You will be miserable at times. Your heart will be torn several times over until you kind of become numb to it all. You will maintain. You will not compromise. You will probably go insane too. But you will build what you can. They will preach against you. Malicious things will be said about you. But what does that matter? You will sigh heavily. Lose friends (I have lost many). You will be the enemy. But an enemy who hides out in the good guy’s base. Because they think you are too scared to leave. But it’s actually just because it’s all you have ever known. God is here. You know that. nev er forget that. You might even cry about all of this. You will forge a path. A new one. Maybe no one will follow. But it’s yours. It’s what you were called to do. No more false hope. No more Nev hful thinking about preaching at youth congress. There will be disappointments. Many of them. wis
And you will question yourself most of all. You will question your intentions and your motivations. You may even hate yourself at times. Not feel God for long periods of time. You will be lonely.
If you couldn’t tell by my slant, I chose the last option. I left Youth Congress as the Enemy. The Target. I didn’t want to be the enemy. It was what they wanted me to be. I accepted. I left
last year sick to my stomach. I was sick. So sick. When I got home I vomited. And didn't stop for some time. Nashville
Two weeks after Youth Congress, I started this blog. I needed a way to cope. Kings of
, Covering legs of females that are slain in the Spirit, the slippery slope. It’s all soo FUNNY! You see what I did there? LOL. It’s so funny because it’s true. Leon
I was called to be a preacher. A man of God said so once. I can get you his phone number if you don’t believe me.
I’m preaching. For the Danny Rivers, the Todd Gaddys, and all the rest who they’d rather us forget. The ghosts of youth congress’ past. They probably wouldn’t approve of this one bit, but I need to cope with their absence some how.
The enemy is preaching. Are you listening. Are you here with me? Maybe you hate me. That’s okay too.
And it’s because of Youth Congress 2009. I found my call to preach there. I owe you this. I owe them this.
Don’t you see it?
Now where is the wife that I’m owed…..