38 Years–Keep Your Heart Young

State of the Brian Address

Another year. Another Birthday. A lot has changed. A lot has remained. Been a roller coaster!

My back-to-school-life-change has gone well.  Though my wife considers it a mid-life crisis. You really can’t be too young for mid-life crisis, because who really knows how long you will live. I don’t know if I am concerned about inching closer to a milestone like 40; but I am very aware that by the end of this calender year I will have lived longer than my biological mother. Not creepy. Not interesting. Just there…lingering.

I love school. I feel just as at peace and content with the decision to pursue this degree/career path as I did a year ago. I have enjoyed the teachers, books, concepts, people, etc.

Working and “working a real job” have been challenging. Very challenging. It’s not so much the work, I stayed busy as a minister with many emotionally draining weeks. But having zero flexibility and not seeing my family often enough has been hard. Waking at 4:30 most days and no longer using my snooze button has been………

I just started a new, less crazy job closer to the house and Marisa got a job for the Summer at Kohl’s so we are grateful.

Somewhere in the past year, I lost my filter. I have reverted a little to “Brian, circa 1995-1996” (my Freed friends might remember that well). My personality has shifted a little. I chat up waitresses and clerks, joke with strangers, and make a general fool of myself for laughs at work and school. I have more confidence and feel mostly comfortable in my own skin. Trying to be myself without being too much of an idiot. But on some days those two overlap.

After taking a break of a few months away from “head meds,” I felt the need to start up again. I “fell on black days” back in the Winter but am doing better now. I am glad I started again. Life has been stressful balancing work, family, school, church.

Life is good, though. School rocks. Work is work. We have a wonderful church family (Hermitage Church of Christ) that has blessed us in many ways. I am giving a devo tonight outdoors after some lemonade and cookies. Family is adjusting well to life in TN. School and scouts going well for the kids.

Trying to stay young at heart. I really think I want to work with kids and young people. Humans from elementary schoolers to college students will hopefully be the focus of my career as a therapist/counselor.

A great blessing in the past year has been my young friends at school (the older ones, too). They sometimes make me feel old. But mostly make me feel young. My cohort/classmates are an amazing and talented group. I am grateful for them. S/O to Lipscomb peeps!

For my birthday, I just want you to listen to this Brandi Carlile song. It’s cool.

“Don’t go growing old before your time has come…..”




Leaving and Purpose

Luke 4:42-43 hit hard recently.

And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (ESV)

You love people and want to serve them, but you feel a purpose that requires leaving them.

It’s hard to leave friends. It’s difficult to leave “need.”

Thinking of all my New Jersey friends at the church picnic today.

Love you and miss you.

90s Music: Nirvana (Guest Blogger)

(John Wilson is one of my favorite people.  We roomed together two years at FHU.  We met the first week, played  lot of tennis, hung out in cemeteries, watched a lot of sports and MST3K and Kids in the Hall.  He can quote every scene from “The Breakfast Club” verbatim.  Just one of many talents for a man with many degrees.  He is currently a librarian at FHU and lives near there with his crafty wife and two cute daughters.  He is the guest blogger today as we kick off a July series on music in the 1990s.  Thanks, Johnny.)

I remember when I first heard of Nirvana – I was riding home from school with a friend who had just bought Nevermind after she heard Smells Like Teen Spirit a couple times on the radio.  I remember thinking how tired I was of buying albums based on one radio song – albums that would always end up disappointing me, and songs that would not last for more than two weeks of radio play.  So I distinctly remember making a resolve right then and there that I would never buy a Nirvana album.  Just on principle.

I was stubborn for a pretty good while on this issue too, but somehow I heard enough of Nirvana to make me change my mind.  After all, it was a good principle, but it was just bad timing that I applied it to my [eventual] favorite band.  I was coming out of the eighties, where I was taught that music was about expression and youth, usually in the form of exuberance or some sort of energetic display.  Think Guns ‘n’ Roses or Van Halen.  Those bands are fine but they didn’t really speak to me.  My life didn’t always feel like the party that Van Halen described; and the rebellion that Guns and Roses embodied always fell flat with me.  To be honest, Guns ‘n’ Roses was another example of what I wanted to rebel against: people who told me what the teenage experience was supposed to be like.  They were like my parents, but in musical form and with probably much worse advice, and I didn’t relate.

Then Kurt Cobain came along and spoke for me – eventually, that is, after I let him.  Even when what he sang was close to indecipherable, the angst in his voice was enough.  That angst was everything, really.  Every other band danced and jumped around the stage in their attempt to convey something about youthful energy.  But for me, when Kurt stepped up to the microphone and just stood there, unmoving, while he poured his guts on the stage, he was describing the dissatisfaction, the struggling, and feeling of not belonging that I felt.

I was lucky enough to see Nirvana on tour just a few months before Kurt committed suicide.   Seeing them live on stage, I remember at the time feeling like my teenage experience was finally validated.  I guess lots of bands fill that role for other teenagers.  Maybe, once again, Nirvana was just an issue of timing in my life.  I imagine that another band might have done the same thing for me if I had lived in another period.   But this was how I felt, coming of age in the nineties.

What a Ride! Tulsa 2010

What a ride, indeed!  And I am not even referring to my travel experiences.

The Tulsa Workshop was great.  I needed it.  The speakers were maybe half of it.  The fellowship the other half.

While not growing up in a perfect family, there were three preachers and each one was a joke-teller and occasional cut-up.  My family liked to laugh.  Laughter helped us through hard times.  I feel so bad for the people (Christians or not) who have only met sober, stone-faced preachers who never crack a smile unless they are preaching on hell and damnation.

I am so glad that so many of the crazy preachers I have met online and got to visit with in Tulsa are also Christians who like to laugh and joke.  My  face physically hurt on numerous occasions after joking and telling stories around a table.  I believe years were added to my life.  That’s probably the strength that helped me get through another interesting day of travel on Sunday.

But these men aren’t just comics and jokesters.  We prayed together.  We prayed with total strangers.  We encouraged one another in our faith.  We worshipped together and learned together.  We talked about the great lessons we heard from other godly men we might not know as well.

Tulsa gives me a great picture of a great family that I wish all churches could emulate. Eating together often.  Sharing our lives.  Serving together.  Excited about worship and hearing God’s Word.

I don’t know if I will be back next year, but I will be back at some point.

God bless you all.  I can’t wait to see you again.  And if there is a rowdy and obnoxious table in Heaven, I can’t wait to see you there, too.

Stay tuned.  More Tulsa blogging to come all week.

How I Got Here: “When in Rome…”

In August of 1999, I moved from Florence, Italy, to Rome with a friend and coworker, Chris.  We shared a one bedroom apartment a few blocks from the church building.  It was near a McDonalds and a store that was kinda like a Sears/Wal-mart.  Right outside our door was a pizza by the slice place.

The Church of Christ on Viale Jonio (street name) was a store-front location.  It had a nice cafe/bar on one side, and a take-out chinese place on the other.  Just past the Chinese place was a another, cheaper pizza by the slice place.  I had more than one Italian tells us that Egyptians made the best pizza.

Forgive me for remembering so much about the food.

Friends from church took us to a Champions league game between our team, AS Roma and Leeds from England.  It was exciting.  We were almost killed by British soccer hooligans as we entered the stadium (who we think were actually enemies of Leeds and came all the way to Rome to start fights–people were stabbed in a bar later that night by British soccer hooligans).  But we lost 1-0, on an amazing goal by Kewel, an Australian.

I loved walking around the Forum/Colosseum area in daytime and Piazza Navona and the Spanish Steps at night.  One of the less known places but near the Vatican, Castel Sant’Angelo, a round fortress type structure was also a favorite.  There were some beautiful parks where I spent free time and also had church activities.

Some of my favorite sites were out of the city.  A beach town named Gaeta on the way to a day in Pompeii with friends.  Having a picnic on an old Roman road with tombs on each side practically deserted in the middle of nowhere. Castelli Romani, the summer home of popes in the mountains outside of Rome, which has the best porchetta, and cookies you dip in white wine.  Visiting the monasteries of St Benedict and St Scholastica and the roman countryside.


And I still never saw Tivoli, the baths of Caracalla, Assissi, and a multitude of other places in the region.

I am saving the important stuff about ministry and relationships for another post, but just got caught up reminiscing about Italy.

It was a great time and a great place!

More to come soon.