My Night Sky – A Devotional on Kanye’s Jesus is King Album

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I am alone in the woods in McGregor, MN. It’s late, maybe 11:00p, and I am yelling up at the star-filled sky, ‘Why won’t you talk to me? What is wrong with me?’ The glow from the worship hall at Covenant Pines Bible Camp visible up the path from the clearing where my 9 year old self is lamenting. Seemingly everyone except me is full of the Holy Spirit, singing God’s praises with arms upraised, and I can’t tell if they are faking it or if something is wrong with me. Hence, under the guise of using the restroom, I make my way to a quieter place in search of an answer from above.

25 years later I would first hear the lyrics;

‘Yeah, you’re lookin’ at the church in the night sky; Wonderin’ whether God’s gonna say hi,’

Kanye West, Saint Pablo

The chorus bringing me to tears as I reflected on all that had transpired since that fateful night in my youth. It was only a few years before Saint Pablo, at age 30, that I had all but given up the search for God, taking the position that if He wanted me He could reveal himself, but I was no longer going out of my way to look for Him. I was, by all intensive purposes, an atheist. And yet, at 34, Kanye brought a tear to my eye and stirred a longing long buried, but not yet at rest.

Now at 37, Kanye has released his first gospel album, Jesus is King, and this unlikely disciple is again rustling my spirit against my will.

Album cover image credit:

See, back in the woods at age 9, I decided it was me. I decided I wasn’t doing it right and that God would reveal himself in His time. I hiked back up the trail, rejoined my peers and counselors in the pews, and resumed worshiping, intent to walk in the light until I found the Way. But, as I journeyed in the years that followed, my light dimmed and, try as I did to remain faithful, time and time again I wandered astray. My valley of the shadow of death was full of struggle, loss, heartache, bitterness and pain.

Not sensing the presence of a higher power to guide me through, I learned to believe in my own strength as well to draw from others immersed in the struggle. I leaned on the philosophy of Stefan Molyneux, the savvy of Mike Cernovich, the stories of Ayn Rand, the industriousness of Elon Musk, and the fearlessness of Kanye West. None of them saints, they all share at least two things in common:

  • an unrelenting pursuit of greatness
  • an uncompromising search for truth

Like me, my role models refuse to take short cuts or water down their reality. In short, we find freedom in the fight.

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Back when I was still in the church, it was these same attributes which I admired in Jesus. I was drawn to the story of His battle with Satan in the desert and His persecution from the powers that be much more than His resurrection. I dismissed the miracles and mysticism as pure parable, knowing that life didn’t really work that way. I was more interested in the practical wisdom, in continual search for some sort of pragmatic balm to soothe my perpetually wounded soul.

Yet, in my encounters with the purveyors of Christianity, I found a strong tendency to fixate on the salvation story and the riches offered from a faithful life. It felt like the theology of some great cosmic transaction, where the journey could be skirted and the destination was the reward. What I kept hearing was something like, ‘Just hang in there and it’ll get better,’ or worse, ‘It’s you, get your shit together.’ I didn’t find either message useful and both came off as dismissive. I continued to attend service, but at an increasing distance.

While the pastors would proclaim the power of the pending glory and sing hymns of redemption, I would search out the stoics and the story of Job. When I read of the redemptive joy espoused by St. Francis, it was as the result of traveling the long hard path, not the reason for taking it in the first place. As I left the church at age 30, I took with me the spirituality of Dr. Gerald May and Father Richard Rohr, who understand the dark underbelly of humanity, openly explore it and, like my secular heroes above, refuse to whitewash it. Bound and determined to find my own path, I committed to journeying for journeying’s sake and not for promise of future reward.

Merch from Kanye West’s #SundayService at the Fox Theater in Detroit:

Fast forward to last Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 2:00p CST. Kanye dropped his first gospel album, Jesus is King, his 9th solo album in his illustrious career as a rapper, in which he has been awarded 21 Grammys to date. He began work on the album in true artistic form with a full spiritual immersion starting in early 2019, as displayed in his Sunday Service performances in Atlanta, Jamaica, Detroit, L.A., Chicago, New York and many others. I was intrigued, something special was happening. The Prodigal Son has returned home to the Father 15 years after dropping Jesus Walks, millions of listeners on his heels with millions others up in arms.

The spirit of the album summed up on track 8:

‘All my idols let em go,

All the demons let em know,

This a mission not a show,

This is my eternal soul’

God Is’, Jesus is King

And for Kanye it’s more than the album. He’s giving it all to Christ; his music, his fashion, his business, his life. He tells BigBoyTV at the 27:00 minute mark in this 10/25/19 interview, that he wants to be a, ‘Christian innovator.’ He goes on to describe the journey, completely raw and unfiltered as only Kanye can. Not perfect, not scripted, not linear; both the interview and the album metaphors for a life fully lived, full of passion and the constant renewal of purpose. For me it’s a sermon I can relate to.

And, as I sit here ready to push publish on an article I’ve written and rewritten over a dozen times, I can’t help but think that I might have finally found the answer I’ve been looking for in the night sky. The answer that has always been there for every honest pilgrim, still and silent like the cool moonlight: God Is.

So as I close my eyes tonight, I hope you join me in the Prayer of the Journey:

Credit Deacon Allan Barrow, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Tulsa, OK

How I Got to Wherever I Am – A Tribute to Anarae

I never know how I am going to get somewhere until I actually get there. For me, life’s an experiment and the fun is in the discovery. In order for the discovery to be worth sharing, the experiment must follow a consistent approach, this post is about mine.

But first a little background info.

In Enneagram language, I am a gut-centered person who instinctively feels his way through life – see Reformer below. Whether its in my personal or professional life, I rarely need more than a hunch that things are on the up and up before committing to at least try.

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At work these traits can be great assets, for example, when decisive action is needed to lead a group out of a slump. They can also pose challenges when, say, trying to sell a project to senior leadership on instinct and energy alone.

In romantic relations I have been told I am a passionate lover but impossible partner. Reference my failed marriage: I proposed at age 24, only five months into a long distance relationship. I was confident we could build the airplane on the fly and spent almost no time pondering what could go wrong. Problem being, not everyone is up for that kind of challenge, no matter how good the ‘turbulence’ feels 🔥.

Did I mention that Reformers can be a bit grandiose? n-e-wayze…

As I move into the second half of my life, I have curated a four step approach to channel my instinct and keep me moving in a positive, consistent direction. As you read more about my four step approach to personal development, notice how it can help you regardless of whether you’re erratically over-zealous, irrationally timid, or anywhere in between.

Aaaaaaand, here’s the cliff notes version, drum roll please 🥁:

  1. Bag a Big Idea (know where you are going)
  2. Ground Your Gut (connect your where to your deepest why)
  3. Get Going (do the next right thing, repeat indefinitely)
  4. Reflect Religiously (checkin, adapt to what is)

Now let’s go deeper, one step at a time.

1. Bag a Big Idea

know where you are going

I am referring to priority one, the mission that everything else in your life orients itself around. It should stretch you well out of your comfort zone without being complicated – simple enough to share in three seconds to a stranger. The idea of it might scare you at first. Your fight/flight/freeze impulses may be triggered. This is part of the process, keep going. You will know you’re there when you are oscillating between shortness of breath and a quiet, confident smile.

This exercise is an essential first step in avoiding the common traps of chasing inherited task lists, building the busybody resume, or being stretched thin by historical programming only to find yourself exhausted and empty at the end of the day. A famous quote from the 20th century comes to mind:

“stand for something or fall for everything”

read this interesting article to learn more about the origins of this quote

Here’s the big idea I bagged recently:

to live with my children in a home they can be proud of

chow time

Simple but not easy, this vision encompasses foundational changes in my lifestyle, finances, career, custody arrangement, relationships, and geography. Simply put, I can’t think of any aspect of my life that isn’t impacted, nor can I think of anything that would make me more happy.

Even so, the most essential quality of my big idea is that sets a direction but not a course, making failure only possible if I quit. This is an example of a system, not a goal. Scott Adams illuminates the difference in his 2014 book entitled, ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.’ Generally speaking, a goal would be to loose 20 lbs. where a system would be to live a healthy life. With a goal you are constantly failing until you achieve it and then, just like that, it’s over. A system allows continuous successes and limitless improvement as long as you keep moving.

Quick Summary: your big idea needs to be directional (not dictatorial), stretchy (not safe), and easily articulated (not easily achieved).

Now that your head is high in the clouds, it’s time to:

2. Ground Your Gut

– connect your where to your deepest why

Most of us have had a big idea, maybe a New Years resolution or new business venture, that never quite materialized. Perhaps an initial burst of energy and inspiration ran out, bad luck got the best of you, life took a new direction; a list of road blocks to a new path could circle the equator in 8 pt font. But obstacles are not unique to failed missions, success stories are rife with them as well. So, what separates achievement from failure?

It is the quality of your ‘why’.

Let me put it this way, if I had to bet my life savings on the success or failure of a big idea and had only one question to ask, it would be, “what is your why?” In my view, launching a big idea without a connected why is like taking off on a transatlantic flight with only one engine and no aileron.

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The two parts of a good ‘why’ are Passion and Principle.

Passion is your engine, the more you have, the further you’ll go and the more likely you’ll keep going. Principals are your aileron, keeping you from entering a full roll when the jet stream of life gusts unexpectedly. Let me color this by elaborating a bit on my ‘why.’

‘To live with my children in a home they can be proud of,’ probably sounds like an obvious aspiration of any single parent with every-other-weekend visitation; but my ‘why’ runs deeper than desire for biological proximity.

As you might remember from a previous post, my younger sister was murdered on this day in 2013 at age 20 near our childhood home in Burnsville, MN. Without replicating the post here, I’ll summarize by saying that Anarae and I left a lot on the table in terms of what our relationship could have been. I learned, in retrospect, how a stronger, more intimate bond could have insulated her from the human predator that took her life. Six years ago today, as my sister passed away, my passion and principles were born anew.

Anarae’s death hard wired my passion for seeing people for who they are over how they make me feel or what they can do for me. Her death also permanently ingrained the NAP (non-aggression principle). Simply stated, it’s immoral to initiate force, coercion or threats. Inclined in these directions since birth, but not fully enacted, I could no longer accept anything less than my best effort in these directions.

So now, when I get a big idea that requires extensive foundational change, I put it to the 2P test: does it fuel my passion for people and can I achieve it without violating the non–aggression principle? The second part of the 2P test leading into step three in my system.

3. Get Going

do the next right thing, repeat indefinitely –

Now that you’ve got a where and a why, it’s time to take off. Easier said than done. How many great ideas have you had that never got off the ground? If you can empathize, chances are you’ve experienced something like paralysis of analysis.

Breathe, the fact you’re nervous means you care and that you are invested in the outcome. This is healthy and natural, but not enough as inaction will lead to regret.

Call me an idealist but I think, deep down, we all know the next right thing to do. It’s just that, occasionally, we can get bogged down by the details and turn to consequentialism as a rationalization for not trying.

You ever met a consequentialist? Someone who, no matter how clear a decision, they find a way to interject doubt in the form of the insatiable, ‘yeah but, what if?’ Great chess players look several moves ahead, calculating dozens of possible outcomes, but they still make their move.

My Sister Anarae is a legend of the Metcalf Masters Chess Club, info:

Be the grandmaster of your life. Remember, even grandmasters miscalculate. Again, the key is to keep moving. Let me give you an example.

As I start out on my mission, I live 180 miles from my kids, have burned bridges with my company which would otherwise facilitate a transfer back home, have massive debt, no savings, average credit, and emotional baggage that, to date, over $15,000 in therapy has far from resolved. And guess what? Imma go forward anyways.

The secret is not what you do, but how you frame it. For me, cold showers are about mental toughness, something I’m gonna need to overcome inevitable hardships along the way. Diet and exercise are about stamina for the long road ahead. Meaningful relationships are about building a robust support system. New responsibilities at work and pursuing my MBA are about building my skill stack. Ongoing therapy is about getting out of my own way. This blog is about creating future financial possibilities. You get the idea, I frame everything I do, every small step, in terms of getting home to my kids.

I give myself permission to climb the mountain one step at a time and to misstep every so often, even to take a rest, but never to stop climbing all together. In fact, at this point, I don’t think it is even possible for me to quit.

The way I see it, each aspect of your life that you connect to your big idea and support with your core passion and principles, acts as a lifeline in tough times. Loose your job? Supportive friends and family step in. Relationship woes? Therapy to process and refocus. Work stress getting the best of you? Exercise to clear your mind. Etc, etc.

Healthy, connected outlets keep the course, but not without awareness, bringing us to the fourth and final step.

4. Reflect Religiously

– checkin, adapt to what is

In case I didn’t make it clear, step three is about automating the process of progress. But what happens when auto-pilot malfunctions and you find yourself unprepared and in unfamiliar territory? Or, perhaps, it’s all too familiar, but unwanted ground.

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Time to turn steps 1 – 3 into questions: ‘where am I going?’ ‘why am I going there?’ ‘what is the next right thing to do?’

Easy right? Not exactly. IRL, the stickiest traps are the ones we can’t see and, by definition, are unaware of. What I am going to say next is going to sound like circular logic, and it kind of is, but bear with me: automating progress is the best insurance against sleep walking into a dead end.

You’re probably thinking, ‘first he tells me to reflect my way out of an automated dead-end and then he tells me automation will prevent getting stuck in the first place, I can’t believe I read this far!’

Fair, but hang tight, I’m almost finished. Life tends to work in circular patterns, what I’m recommending is more of a helix. Let’s get back to my story to explain and wrap up.

Recently I put my heart out there in the dating game again (you can read about my first date here). Short story, my heart ran away with me, undermining my attempts to reflect while checking most boxes in my automated progress process. I was in deep.

Initially, when I reflected about where I was going, why, and what next, I could easily answer something like, ‘dating a girl close to home with great energy would help pull me towards my kids and further stabilize my base.’ When I checked in with my support structure, I noticed it easier to eat healthy, work hard at the office and on my blog, be more social, etc.

What I couldn’t see was that I was angling after someone who was ultimately unavailable, an old pattern of mine designed to keep me both hungry for love and far from it. This awareness came from a well timed therapy session, but not directly.

The wisdom was, in my words, the right person will appreciate things about you that surprise you, they will be fascinated by parts of your personality you don’t even notice. I had a new angle which helped me understand, and get first hand confirmation, that I was over extended without the possibility of reciprocation.

In this case therapy, part of my automated system, triggered a new reflection which, ultimately, illuminated the path out of a historical trap and allowed me to get back to business.

A misstep – even an incredibly enjoyable one – should not be lingered on nor provide an excuse to quit. But as far as this post goes, I am gonna quit.

Anarae – I love you, thank you for the clarity, rest in peace.

OSM in Living Color
Living the Journey


Despite the gloom I often blog about, my life is full of light. I document both because, from my perspective, the night is how we come to appreciate the dawn.

Last night was full of sunlight, but I’ll get to that later. First, some context.

My therapist Andre has often pointed out I tend to choose unavailable friends, coworkers, lovers, situations, etc. to rest my hopes on. White knight syndrome, I suppose. No matter the beginning, the outcome is the same – I get trapped in the Drama Triangle, taking turns playing both rescuer and perpetrator to my inner victim.

Image credit: Drama Triangle

For example, I married a rescuer and mostly played victim throughout the relationship. When, inevitably, she couldn’t save me, and often overcome with a toxic cocktail of resentment and despair, I might morph into perpetrator, giving her a chance at victim. Needless to say, that wasn’t a recipe for success.

Nonetheless, we have three beautiful children and a rich experience to draw from as we move forward. I’m grateful for all of it.

Don Miguel Ruiz, in his book The Four Agreements, says that it is the false idea we have of ourselves – the ‘smoke’ between us and the mirror of reality – which causes all the suffering in the world. In that sense, although the divorce was painful, in the aftermath, there is now much less smoke between me and my true self.

Now, as the smoke dissipates and who I really am becomes more visible to me, my gratitude for what I’m learning deepens and my relationship to the law of attraction grows healthier. Said differently, it’s something like, the more sunlight I let in, the longer the days.

Which brings me to last night.

At 6:10 I met a girl again for the first time. After an eventful Uber ride from a recently widowed senior citizen, we took to throwing hatchets at a large wooden dart board in North Tulsa.

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Hiding behind her brilliant smile was a stockpile of anxiety built up over an afternoon spent watching axe throwing fails which had convinced her that our date was going to end in her untimely demise. But the host – who we named Karli – soon settled us in, partly thru helpful instruction, but mostly thru necessity as she left us in charge of the sound system while attending to work duties in the back office.

Axe throwing ended in a bullseye, literally, when my date landed the winning shot squarely in the center of the board as our hour expired. Anxiety now washed away and replaced by a shared appetite, we headed over to Duet for some amazing mac-n-cheese, less amazing hummus, and lots more laughs.


Dinner was wonderful. While sharing stories over appetizers, I noticed a surprising mixture of calm and excitement that hasn’t left me since. Covering Canada, careers and even canibalism, the conversation was the only thing better than the food. Three hours passed effortlessly. It felt good to just be myself and, when I asked her, she admitted to enjoying herself too. This I believe because I witnessed what a terrible liar she is when she tried to convince the waitress she enjoyed the hummus.

Walking out of Duet around 10:00 we decided to continue the evening at R-bar for a night cap but not before discovering this lovely present from a downtown meter maid:

OVER THE LINE!! I’ll be scrubbing that one off for a while lol

I told her I would almost rather have the ticket as it’s going to cost me much more time to get the superglue-residue cleaned from the drivers-side window. I think she’s still chuckling over it, but at least it wasn’t on the windshield!

R-bar = bizarro-world

at least last night, or maybe in the past I was participating in it too much to notice.

Regardless, on the patio and to our right, we witnessed what must have been the cross-fit convention after party. At one point the alpha of the pack, in a display of dominance, shook hands so hard with another man in the group that he pulled him out of his chair and onto the table.

Not long after (or was it before?) a young lady neck deep in martini’s, with lips strangely swollen and unevenly covered in bright pink lipstick, joined our table. As she sat, she simultaneously slung her 50 lb. ‘puppy’ directly in my lap. Fifteen minutes of unsolicited drunken doggie diaries ensued while my date politely concealed her mounting allergic reaction to the fuzzy canine.

As that episode wrapped up – allergies averted – we noticed what appeared to be a refreshingly normal table of three chatting quietly in the corner to our left, 180 degrees from the cross-fit clan. The normalcy didn’t last but a moment as, just then, a middle-aged, English professor-type fired up his flat black Harley. One of the two women at the ‘normal’ table, the one who appeared to be third wheel to the other two, burst into an obscenity laced tirade like a wound up jack in the box. Shouting for several minutes about how big of a d*** the motorcyclist must have and how excited she was about it, much to the chagrin of the couple at her table, who all but melted in an effort to hide their embarrassment. I assume the biker was enjoying the spectacle or didn’t notice over his roaring engine, because he was in no hurry to leave. Pure comedic gold, you can’t make this stuff up.

Did I mention the possum scare? Seriously, when a possum on the patio is the least exciting thing that happens you know you’re doing it right.

But I’m older than I used to be and, as much fun as I was having, it was well past my bedtime and I thought it best to call it a night before the next panel of Jerry Springer guests arrived.

And that’s it, that was my night of light. Paid for by the long, steady journey through the dark and smokey unknowing towards the crystal clarity of personal truth.

truth in action = happiness

(because everyone loves math)

Here’s to many more and longer days to come. You know who you are.

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Cage Fight

It’s about to get dark y’all – click away if you’re looking for ‘chill vibes,’ the keystrokes that follow aren’t for you. For those who remain, I write to release. Buckle up, keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle, and let’s see if we can’t extract something helpful.

It’s the weekend and this is the story of how the pressure pummeling my sinuses since Monday transformed from physiological to spiritual and nearly suffocated my soul in the process.

Last chance to turn back, no apologies, you’ve been warned.

Monday: wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep, walk the dog, read two chapters of Great Expectations, 10 min workout, cold shower, coffee, work by 6. Open the lobby door with a smile, hit the floor with intent, lead meetings with purpose, rewrite strategy, engage, motivate, empathize, energy, email. Power thru a sinus infection. Leave when the work is done, not earlier. Puppy to the park. Cook dinner. Couple hours on my MBA. Can’t sleep. Read. Twitter. Wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep…

The descent started Friday night. Or was it last week? My therapist tells me the ascent – when we climb carelessly – is the beginning of the fall. Balance, he cautions, is the key. Easy to say, but harder to practice when you’re managing bipolar disorder without meds.

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From your side of the screen this routine might throw some flags, but I hardly notice, I feel good. On Tuesday I take a small risk and ask a girl to dinner. She accepts. On Thursday, over salmon specials, we chat for three hours, part ways with a hug and talks of round two. Excited. Can’t sleep. Journal. Wake up, no alarm, 5 hours sleep….

Friday feels fine, mostly. Take one extra energy supplement to be sure. I need to finish the work week with a bang, but I can’t shake a swirling undercurrent of fatigue and it starts to show.

I snap at my boss in the morning team meeting when I feel slighted. Moments later, I direct lingering frustration towards two co-workers when I learn I was left out of a problem solve.

Smile. Everything’s ok. Apologize and keep moving. Reflect on the week, plot the course ahead. Call it quits after only 10 hours. Hit the pool for some self-care.

Wiping a bead of 93 degree sun-screen infused sweat from my brow, I brush the corner of my eye. At the same time, a painful thought bubble bursts in my brain. The simultaneous sting strikes my conscious like a Mike Tyson uppercut. I don’t know if I’m crying from physical or emotional pain, or both. Toweling the sun screen from my left eye, I regain sight but can’t shake the thought – all this and I’m still alone.

Edge of the deep end

It escalates quickly; of course you’re alone you phony, who could ever be with you, you’re unloveable, you’re intolerable. That was 17:03 Friday afternoon.

I leave the pool for safer surroundings. I prop myself up on the bathroom sink but can’t raise my eyes to the mirror. I pace in my apartment, mind racing. Looking for an escape, I cycle through available options:

  • try to land a second date?
  • write it out over a beer at the bar across the street?
  • keep it lite, watch the World Cup
  • power thru some studies
  • light some candles, take a bath, slit my throat

Wait, what? Where’d that come from? It’s just a thought, it’ll pass. It doesn’t mean anything, I’m fine, get back to the list, find something to do.

Second date isn’t an option, football doesn’t interest me, I can’t focus on my studies, or anything for that matter, writing is off the table. WTF is wrong with me? Suicide hasn’t been in play for years now, I thought I beat it.

Need more options. Are there any strip clubs in Paris? Where’s the nearest cash machine? I need to slow down, open a beer. Need something stronger, stores are closed. Maybe I’ll drive to Tulsa, connect with old friends. Bad idea, too much temptation.

I’m afraid

I feel boxed in by frantic thoughts on the offense. I’m fighting them off, but then, suddenly, utter exhaustion smashes thru like the Kool-Aid Man. I collapse on the couch, it’s 20:00, everything stops. Self-loathing wears me like a body suit.

Thin black shell

This is why you’re alone, who could ever be with you like this? All the work you’ve done? Pathetic. You might as well spend your whole paycheck at the strip club, that’s the closest to love you’ll ever get. Do yourself a favor and take that forever bath, wash the stain that is you off the face of the earth.

Despite being twenty pounds lighter this year, my body presses into the sofa with all the weight of the universe’s Biggest Loser. Paralysis keeps me from taking action, consciousness fades in and out. Wake up, no alarm, uncertain sleep….

I breathe in, rise, feet on the ground. I’m still here, the fight continues. Rely on my routine. Walk the dog, read, 10 min workout, cold shower, coffee. It’s not enough, the assault continues. It’s only 06:30. Headphones on, Kanye at volume. Writers block, can’t study, it’s 08:00. Text kids I love you, check IG. Get some calories, start laundry. It’s 10:00, pool’s open, seek sunshine.

But the sun bakes me blacker, I can’t escape, I phone a friend. The message comes back from my therapist as a question; ‘can you love yourself, even now?’ I bury my face in my towel as a tear rolls from my left eye. My suffocating soul gasps for air, I catch my breath, I whisper, ‘I love you.’

My soul, sensing safe harbor, lends me strength to stand. I know what to do for the first time in 24 hours, it’s time to write.

And here we are, the pressure vessel that was my mind has mostly released and I feel calm. Clarity seeping back in.

Three things before I wrap up with a final thought:

  • Don’t try this at home. If you are suffering from bipolar, depression or similar disorder, seek professional help. I’ve been through several rounds of medication in the past and have a decade of therapy under my belt. I’m not playing at hero and you shouldn’t either.
  • When I say I’m ok, I mean it, this isn’t a cry for help. I write to document a reference point if I should ever go thru this again, and, hopefully, to encourage others in a similar struggle.
  • I understand that this level of authenticity is not only tough to stomach but also could be weaponized against me for a variety of unsavory reasons. The only thing worse would be my voluntary silence. My truth is my strength and I knowingly speak it into existence.

Final thought:

The demon is your defense, he warns of danger and will be heard. The cage is your real enemy and is entered by choice with closed ears

Let me know if you’d like to talk, I’m here.

Father Formation

The Gang, Red River Valley Veterans Memorial, Paris, TX

Everything in life is a lesson. We either learn what to do, or what not to do. Take the twin sons of an alcoholic as an illustration:

About two decades ago, long before I encountered the tale of twins, I had pledged to break the cycle of dysfunction in my family tree, to internalize what not to do, and do it. As a young man in the making, I felt mostly anger and resentment towards my father and set out to use these emotions as fuel – the span of experience between then and now could be surmised as follows:

Do not forget what you are for, lest you become what you are against

Lesson #1

Today, Father’s Day 2019, I invite you on a journey with me through the tunnels of time and back again in an excavation of my Father Formation.

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I didn’t have a Dad like the most Americans. Rather, I had a Pops or, until we moved to the ‘burbs, a Papa. Dad was too impersonal, he argued. As I grew older, the dichotomy between word and deed hardened my love for him like Hiawatha Falls in the deep of winter.

Intimate in title only, Pops held his affection at the precise distance of my next achievement; his yardstick moving proportional to my progress. Thus, my striving appeared to have the effect of increasing his disappointment and, in time, folded in on my sense of self-worth like one of Escher’s famous staircases.

To compound the issue, Pops harbored several demons of historical heartache who would sporadically erupt in fiery fits of rage. Cooling just as unpredictably, Pops would explain his volcanic behavior as short circuits, by which I took him to mean something like faulty brain wiring. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I worked to harness his meaning in an effort to prop up my then crumbling self esteem. But, try as I might, I was unsuccessful in warding off the belief that his tirades were anything other than my fault. A vicious cycle of striving and retreat ensued which materialized into a festering, subterranean bog of anger and resentment by the time I turned 18.

Then, with all the fortitude and grace of a piston firing, I graduated high school, moved away to college, launched my career, got married, started a family of my own, and rekindled my Christian faith. It was in community at St. Dunstan’s church where my spirit started to shift from anger to empathy. The new messaging I was hearing informed me that:

“If you do not transform your pain, you will transmit it”

Father Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation

This new spirit labored tenderly within to soften my heart, beckoning me to cross over the bog high upon a bridge of forgiveness. I was persuaded, and willed my heart upward on the promise that my soul would follow suit and we would, together, rise to new heights. I hadn’t yet learned that there is no such thing as a shortcut, but it didn’t matter, it was time for a different approach.

Gradually I learned to look past Pops’ anger – as well as my own – to pain, sorrow and regret. With new eyes, and my young family in tow, I set out to attempt the bridge with a dream of multi-generational reconciliation . Well intentioned to be sure, I had no idea what demons I would rile along the way.

The two things they don’t tell you about forgiveness are:

1. it can not be willed

2. it can only come from one who first loves himself

Lesson #2

Regardless, this new chapter started well enough. Pops and I began to speak frequently over the phone, willingly travelled 750 miles 2-3 times a year for various family gatherings, grieved together over the loss of Anarae, and even exchanged occasional I love you’s. Forgiveness was working like a facelift, yet as attractive as we appeared, the bog yet festered below.

I started to find myself choking on words I yearned to speak and spewing vapidly for no reason in particular. My wife would tell me I looked angry and that she was often afraid of me. I was frustrated at work, struggling with even the most menial of tasks. My spirit was rebelling and, like Gandalf in the first LOTR movie, it forbade me from further passage.

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Neither my faith nor my family withstood the rising tide, and subsequently those old familiar feelings of anger and resentment grew even stronger – I was back where I started, now with a vengeance. They got me off to a good start, I thought; anger is strength and strength will keep me safe, I thought. I was mad at everybody, especially Pops; this was all his fault I mouthed to the shadow in the mirror.

As you might well imagine, things got worse before they got better. I had forgot what I stood for. I was blinded, first by rage, then, in turn, shame and regret.

Finally, the transformation was complete, I had become everything I pledged not to – my personal ground zero.

But, as you know, my story wasn’t over, not by a long shot.

By then I was no stranger to adversity and the great thing about destruction is the opportunity it creates to rebuild, alive again with new knowledge. This, too, I’ll share with you:

when darkness swallows you whole and despair becomes your only companion, and when you perservere, how precious the daylight! how sweet an embrace! how hospitable the truth!

My next move was to apologize to my children. The words came effortlessly and without shame. They, ages 5, 7 & 10, gathered together, eyes wide, bodies still while I spoke, maybe two minutes, moving my eyes from one to another throughout but never looking down or away.

What happened next was true forgiveness. It started in their eyes, briefly scanning for authenticity, then moistening slightly in the corners when discovered. Their ears, initially taught and attentive, relaxed into the moment. This ease then slid down their jaws, tugging ever so slightly at the corners of their mouths as I finished speaking. And then, not a moment later, an embrace a thousand years in the making. My first taste of fatherhood.

Another new thought entered – if my children could forgive me, they who did not choose to be brought into this world, they who have not transgressed, they who are worthy of my love and yet not the recipients, then, surely, I could forgive both myself and my Pops.

This is not the point in the story to inquire about timelines or request more details. This is when only one thing matters:

Pops, I forgive you. I love you. I’ll see you soon.

your son, Ty-der-ly-tup-o-los

Happy Fathers Day.

Dreams of a Prodigal Spirit

My sister Anarae, Queen Spirit set free

On 9/22/2013 my spirt was set free. And, as any creature let loose after years in captivity, it had to re-learn the hunt before it could feast.

That Sunday morning over 5 & 1/2 years ago was the day my sister Anarae, age 20 at the time, was brutally murdered by Anthony Lee Nelson with the help of Ashley Conrade, both now serving time in the Minnesota prison system.

Short of an address to a group of grieving loved ones at a memorial service (see Part 1 from 12:19 to 23:18) and a 76 min 1:1 phone call with Stephan Molyneux, I haven’t spoken about Anarae’s murder. I haven’t know what to say.

Now, however, nearly 6 years on, my nights are again alive with dreams which have illuminated a truth worth telling yet otherwise lost deep inside my dark night of the soul.

My spirit, it appears, has discovered its way back home, well fed and looking to share in the bounty. He speaks in fragments, flashes & bursts, piercing sweaty sheets in the wee hours of the morning, leaving me to weave scant, small truths together in time, much like a fog inevitably lifted by the rising sun.

Continue below to discover tastes of what I have unearthed thus far, including backstory you haven’t heard before.


Anarae and I have a checkered past, not absent of fondness, but I wouldn’t describe our bond as close in the sense I now use the word. We were more like fellow competitors in a race for the respect and admiration of others, most notably our parents and peers.

I taught her to play chess at 6 – she taught my son at 3 and then went on to compete nationally. I was junior class officer, football captain and graduated high school with a 3.93 GPA – she went on mission trips, was first chair in band and graduated with a 3.98. I went to a top 3 engineering college and accumulated massive debt – she was accepted to NYU and opted to attend U of MN on scholarship. I taught basic computer skills to inner city Detroit youth – she tutored struggling Minneapolis teens in mathematics. I was a student of von Mises – she a disciple of Marx.

On and on like this – shooting stars, alone in the same sky.

To be fair, she was 10 & 1/2 years younger than I and, where age wasn’t enough of a barrier between us, geography filled in. At 18, I catapulted myself 750 miles from home and never really looked back; she was in 3rd grade. Even so, we had so much in common, so much to gain from a richer relationship – what really kept us apart? The haunting reality of the answer is small truth #1:

you can’t love in another what you hate in yourself

Anarae at a Twins game in 2012

In our case, we both hated how we looked in the mirror, although we coped differently. Undiagnosed, but akin to Body Dysmorphic Disorder, she fought against internal pressure to look differently where I submitted to vanity. Both approaches lacking, we couldn’t even make eye contact without facing unresolved trauma. Let me explain.

I remember crying repeatedly in elementary school after being labeled the fat kid and later wrestling with anorexia before discovering the weight room. Even after years of hard work and developing, by objective standards, a highly desirable physique, I’ve never been comfortable shirtless at the pool.

Similarly, Anarae struggled with her weight from a young age, which morphed into bouts with bulimia by her early teens. Where I escaped to the weight room she stared into the mirror – practicing positive self-talk by reciting affirming mantras to her naked reflection in the basement of our parents home. Her messy hair, minimalistic hygiene and less than inspiring levels of physical activity were, to her, acts of spiritual resilience designed to be a sort of exposure therapy. For me, there was something both inspiring and unsettling in her approach.

Looking back, our common insecurity might well have served as fodder to fuse us together, instead it detonated, forging a chasm much more disparate than geography and age.

Next question: why did it detonate? Digging on, I arrived at small truth #2:

healthy relationships are a cyclical process inclusive of self knowledge, open dialogue and shared experience

Excuse the crude graphic, I only have so much patience for detailed design

Had we rightly been able to identify the angst we saw in each other’s eyes as our own we would have stood a chance at diffusing the tension and healing historical wounds. Speaking for myself, I lacked sufficient self-knowledge; translation – I had secrets from myself and therefore struggled with open communication. Hence, we could be in the same space and feel isolated; reference the shooting star analogy.

For more on my struggles with healthy connection and how it ties back in to a childhood mostly devoid of the experience, read my previous post here.

As it pertains to Anarae, when she needed me most, I couldn’t be there for her, no matter how I hard I tried.

I don’t say that with regret – I know I employed every muscle I had available to me at the time – nor do I blame others for not picking up where her and I fell short. Rather, I offer up this perspective as a beacon for my readers, lest you avoid the rocky relational shores in your own lives.

After all, what happened to Anarae was no freak accident – it was entirely preventable. Predators like Nelson draw their victims into thick woods of deception towards a live trap with shame as the bait. Self-actualized, well connected individuals don’t enter the wood alone, or at all, and are repelled by those who degrade as a means of predation.

To bring it home, less than two months before her murder, Anarae re-engaged with Nelson possessing full knowledge that, concurrent to their first round of dating, he had concealed an ongoing marriage and pregnant girlfriend. Not to mention it ended with him going to jail for another parole violation despite self-proclaimed efforts to clean up his act. Throughout the earlier relationship, and more so afterwards, I pleaded with her, as did many others, to get away, to seek help, to never return. She couldn’t hear us, she was in the woods on a solo mission, ensnared.

The rest is in the papers but the horrific details and flowery obituaries obscure the learning. Those of us who remember Anarae, who loved her or tried, deserve more. I don’t proclaim to have the answer but I will share with you what my prodigal spirit has been recently whispering into my dreams:

honesty, like love, can hurt, but without both, we are truly alone

Anarae Schunk, Burnsville High School commencement speech June 10th, 2011

Victimized by Love?

I walked out of my therapists’ office this morning with a new mantra:

“Don’t be a victim of love”

Andre Campbell

But let’s start at the beginning.

I stride in, all black threads, fresh from a cold shower and focused by fast-induced hunger only slightly subdued by 16 ounces of nitro. Think, Dark Night vs. Bane right before Bruce wakes up in the Pit.

I was prepared; had rose early to review my journal, collect my thoughts, and was ready to offer up a condensed version of the last 6 weeks for evaluation. But that’s not quite how it works in this office.

Cooly perched in his plush arm chair, Andre patiently notates while I cover my material – my first month back at school, my new job, my writings, my text exchange with my long-estranged mom…wait, let’s pause there. ‘Tell me more,’ he says. Then the dreaded, ‘how do you feel as you’re telling this story?’

But after 5 years on the adjacent burgundy leather loveseat, I see this coming; ‘ambivalent,’ I say through my teeth.

He counters, ‘Are you being honest with yourself?’

Persistent, I think before launching into a heady regurgitation of the carefully balanced pros and cons of meeting up with my mother after 5 years apart.

‘I don’t think she’s ready and here’s why,’ I conclude, pointing to the text where she indicates she wants to give me a hug.

She hasn’t even offered an apology; this hug – in my mind – represents a covering up of historical wrong doing – a far cry from the atonement I feel I deserve. Not to mention, the last time I went through this, she bailed at the buzzer.

I’ve worked too hard and have come too far – I tell myself – to go back to that place.

But you’re still there, Andre says with a look, and then, ‘it’s as if you’ve built a beautiful house, carefully manicured the lawn, but can’t go inside.’

I’m reeling, struggling to regain composure; the words cut deep.

He continues, calmly inquiring, ‘why are you playing victim to love?’

‘I’m not playing’….I trail off, my tongue goes limp, my vocal cords dry and taught. I assume a listening position while he explains how I’ve been here before, circling but never facing my real need: self-love.

He goes on. One who loves themselves with abandon – think child running arms open wide – cannot be victimized.

I realize I have been longing for my mother to provide this love since I was a child. I am now avoiding the interaction because I am afraid she won’t live up to my expectations and I’ll be hurt, again, as a result. The ‘house’ I’ve been building has become an icy monument to perpetual victimhood.

He reminds me that only I can give myself the love I’ve been both seeking and avoiding from her.

Time’s up.

He repeats the mantra and we schedule our next session.

The theme of the mantra is simple:

internal strength built on a foundation of love and abundance can’t be compromised

– Me

To be continued…

NOT YET GROWN: 3 Things I wish I knew Earlier – A Birthday Reflection

me n chip

Despite turning 37 today, I am not yet grown. But it’s ok, I’m still looking optimistically towards my maturation horizon. Let me explain.

I live in a modest apartment, alone and in a small town in NE TX. Despite spending 50% of the last 15 years at work, my net worth is negative. Emotionally, I’m 12 years old, as my therapist often reminds me. I have an active tinder profile.

I could keep going but I’ll stop there; you get the point. Nonetheless, I believe in my trajectory; hence my optimism.

I’ll pause here and offer up item number one on my list of things I wish I knew earlier in life:

Where you are headed is more important than where you are

Short of an in depth analysis as to why this is true, I’ll simply ask you to reflect on your last hardship, mistake, misgiving – what got you through? I’m willing to bet it was something like the idea that it wouldn’t last forever and that things will get better. This idea is reflective of the fact that human beings are capable of, and highly motivated by, our own ability to shape our future outcomes for the better, regardless of the present predicament.

Take the last year for example – I launched a blog, made a couple positive moves at work, got a puppy, started an MBA program, took my kids on a vacation for the first time since my divorce, kicked a couple addictions and got out of a toxic relationship without sinking my own ship. This all on the heels of 4 prior years marked by divorce, depression, estrangement from my children, near joblessness and excessive legal and medical debt.

Still, one could argue that my recent accomplishments are trivial given I’m approaching 40, and I would be hard pressed to rebuke. Regardless, I have my story as to why (call it cognitive dissonance if you prefer) and I’ll share the high points with you here momentarily.

But first, learning number two:

Connection starts with me

Sure it’s cliche but it amazes me how much of my struggle can be attributed back to never really understanding this at a deep, something approaching a biological level, as well as an intellectual and emotional one. In fact I still often wrestle with healthy human connection in both personal and professional relationships. Let’s jump back into my story here for context.

I grew up in an emotionally volatile home with a family history of mental health issues, which might be best understood as bi-polar (although neither of my parents are yet to be clinically diagnosed as far as I know). As the oldest of three, I consumed the lions share of my parents focus and energy. On good days I felt like Superman, on bad days Lex Luther. On the balance I developed what’s know as an insecure attachment model.

The cliff note version of the clinical definition is that all children need to feel secure in their parental relationship. Children can handle some rejection, loss, injury, etc. but it needs to be consistently reinforced with a message of love and acceptance. If, however, the parental figure doles out love and acceptance one moment and rejection the next, without a consistent, clear pattern as to why – the child will become anxious and insecure, often manifesting these traits long into adulthood.

In summary the result was that, in my mind, other people became more important than me. My survival strategy was, ‘if I am perfect, I can make others happy.’ The reality, of course, is that we are not in control of others’ emotions any more than we are the weather. But as a young, developing child thirsty for secure attachment, I took every possible correlation as causation – when it worked, I felt like superman; when it didn’t…you get the idea.

Circling back, it now makes sense to me why I placed such a high value on relationships and intimacy even though they always felt so far away. The outcome of all this searching was that I never developed a relationship with, or even any real care for, myself. Going forward; connection starts with me. Or, if you prefer, in the sage words of an old friend –

“two things are most important and they must be done in order: first figure out where you are going and second, who’s coming with you”

-credit Alan B.

Sticking with cliche, I’ll wrap this up by leaving you with this final birthday nugget:

Emotions are temporary – don’t give your future to them

There is a difference between being informed by emotions and being swept away. Evolution didn’t accidentally devote 80% of prenatal development to your brain nor was the organ designed to be a single input / output device. Yes, feel your emotions, explore them, learn from them – and then choose your response based on what the best version of you would do.

Had I known this earlier, I mean really understood it, this post would have come out two decades ago and would be replete of much of the aforementioned heartache.

But, again, where I am headed is more important than where I am.

Let’s GO!

People ARE Policy

Image Credit:×682.jpg

Ann Coulter recently came out saying she’d support Bernie Sanders For President 2020 if he was strong on immigration.

Here’s my take:

First, let’s be clear: opposing open borders is a position of love.

First and foremost a love of the American Ideal which represents a unique and supreme recognition of both individual sovereignty as well as the sanctity of free dialogue between them. On a metaphysical as well as experiential level these values have manifested the biblical idea of logos into the civilization we know and love today. 

For more on logos and the relationship between the human pursuit of truth and language, see this excellent uncut interview between Dr. Jordan Peterson and Filmmaker Mike Cernovich.

But I digress, back to the topic at hand…

The last 50MM migrants to US overwhelmingly support a collective ideology rooted in pathos, elevating a more emotionally centric group identity over that of the individual.

A pictorial (below) and practical example of this divide is in the differential between migrant and native welfare usage.

The problem is that collective, pathos-centric belief systems pose an existential threat to human existence, as countless historical examples have repeatedly and without exception resulted in escalating power struggles, censorship, violence, totalitarian regimes and mass murder.

We see examples of these same dominos falling around us every day as any comments section will confirm within a moments scrolling.

What I understand – largely due to the influence of great thinkers like Ms. Coulter and others – is that People ARE Policy and, therefore, demographics trump politics.

Simply put, there is no America, no freedom, no future if we won’t protect our borders.

Image credit:×683.jpg

Trouble Parking

Dating in your 30’s?

Any single, 30-somethings out there struggling in the relationship game? Raise your hand if you’re having fun. If you’re like me, you might find yourself looking back from time to time thinking – WTF happened?

For me, it all started according to ‘the plan’ – college degree, salaried job, met a beautiful girl, got married, had kids and bought our first home. Hoyle was proud.

But as it turns out, following ‘the plan’ isn’t enough – you gotta own it too. Bottom line – living someone else’s life won’t work, at least not well or for long.

Going deeper into my story you’ll find a mixture of tragedy and self induced hardship ultimately leading to ‘the plan’ falling to pieces, just not all at once. It was more like that rich guy that went bankrupt – it happened very slow, and then very fast. That was 4 years ago.

Fast forward thru a couple years of Family Court, on-and-off battles with depression, nearly 3 years of social hibernation and $10,000 in therapy before even the desire for a relationship re-emerged. And now, after nearly a year of trying, the stark reality is, I’m out of practice and out of touch in the wake of a decade-long marriage which saw the advent of digital dating. Joining my local monastery has started to become an increasingly appealing option.

But here I am, at one of Tulsa’s trendy new restaurants – alone – after waiting an hour to finally get the confirmation text that it wasn’t going to happen tonight:

‘I’m stressed out about parking and just downtown in general and super nervous. I’m not going to come there 😕’

It appears I’m not the only one out there with dating hangups – anyone who has ever been downtown Tulsa knows that parking is not the problem – the text was a cover story. Neither uncommon nor pleasant to be stood up, but on a positive note the tenderloin was superb.

I could be going about it wrong and I’m aware I have my fair share of baggage – but aren’t most single, 30-somethings in a similar position? Maybe it’s just me, but even my most promising relationship since the divorce went south after only six weeks.

That said, I’m not playing victim here – I’m just struggling with the question: ‘where do I go from here?’ I have three kids, good health and a promising career – maybe that’s enough.

For those of you out there who can feel my pain, let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Perhaps we can help prevent one another from spending the rest of our lives like this guy: