Lenten Reflections: The Frailty of Life – Remembering Beau

beau

This Lenten season started off yesterday with Ash Wednesday, and for me with some very saddening news about a friend of mine.  It was confirmed to me last night, as I was driving to work, that my good friend from Nickelsville, Aaron “Beau” Beaucage, had died earlier in February.   Beau had left Nickelsville just after New Years Day in the hopes of pursuing a job opportunity in California.  He left unexpectedly, and there was not much information on exactly where he went or specifically what for.  While in CA, the work opportunity did not pan out and Beau continued to struggle with depression daily, as he hoped to be with his daughter and his girlfriend in Indonesia, but could not afford to get there.  He apparantly died in his sleep somewhere around the first of February.  The actual cause of his death is unknown at this time.  I can’t help but wonder, had he been here, around friends, would his death had even happened; had he had friends to walk through his depression and come along side of him through that hard time.  I am deeply saddened by this loss as I had developed a great relationship with Beau over the four months that I knew him.  We had numerous conversations about many different things and I believe we connected on many levels, especially in the ways we viewed people and the world around us.

Beau also was an incredible poet, writing numerous poems about life and the struggles it contains, and I had the privilege of experiencing many of them.  We had lots of conversations about the art of poetry and lyrics.  He challenged me to write songs from his poetry and so I did.  I quickly took two of his poems and wrote songs from them, which I still play frequently at Nickelsville, and they have become anthems.  We talked often about our ideas of the poetry book that Beau wanted to publish and the (quasi-fictional) story of Onus Lumins, (which was Beau’s pen name) who was a truck driver who would place his poetry books in the restrooms at truckstops to counter all the negative graffiti on the walls with positive, creative and inspiringly artistic poetry.  He wanted to write a book about that story and we even discussed a movie, where some traveling musicians find the poetry book and start writing music to the poems and the two combined cause the musicians to become highly successful, while all the while searching to find the artist that created such amazing lyrics.  

Beau was an amazing guy, who ended up homeless after the trucking industry became too expensive to survive because of rising gas prices and while trying to go out on a fishing boat, missed the opportunity because of a slowdown in the industry.  He had only been homeless for about 6 months when he ended up at Nickelsville and I met him.  We made an instant connection and he was on my heart often.  Maybe it was the convergence of two artists that drew us together, or maybe the deep conversations we had that intrigued us both, or maybe it was just God’s leading… for whatever reason, he had a huge affect on my life and I know I had an affect on his.  He was a huge catalyst in changing the way I viewed ‘the homeless’.  He was the one that challenged me to come and live in Nickelsville, and when I stayed there before New Years, I spent most of my time with him.  He introduced me to “Flight of the Conchords” (look it up :), and when I was staying there, each night we hung out in his tent until 3am, talking and watching episodes on the laptop, that he was given so that he could write and post and print all of his poetry.  

I remember sitting in Trabant coffee shop in U District, with Beau and Dustin and some others from the camp, having conversations about many things.  I remember him telling me ‘it’s never to late to do anything you want to… there is always a way to do what you really want to do and make things happen, regardless of how old you get… it’s never too late!”  That was one of the last conversations we had together.  His words were inspiring… our conversations were intriguing.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have known him and shared in his life, if even for a short time.  

His words will live on through his poetry, of which I have a small collection of.  I wish that I had access to his whole collection… I would make sure that they would be published somewhere for all to experience… that is exactly what he would have wanted to happen with his poetry.  It would be beautiful to be able to use his poetry to raise money to help support places like Nickelsville and efforts to advocate for the ‘homeless’.  I will pursue writing and completing a full album of his words with my songs and record it for everyone to hear.  His story and his advocacy for the homeless problem will continue to fuel me in my efforts to change ‘homelessness’ and change the way people think about my friends that live outside.

So as I reflect on the memories of Beau, I am reminded of the frailty of life… and how important it is to make the best of every opportunity… to love others as you love yourself and let others do the same for you.  This is the stuff that changes lives in this fragile world we live in.  I will miss Beau terribly, but his memory will live on… I know I will do my part to make that happen.  I will probably post more about Beau in the weeks to come, but for now I will close with this clip of the video he made of himself reciting one of my favorite poems of his “Nothing is Meaningless”, which is also one of the poems I put to music.  

Beau, you will be greatly missed!!

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Lenten Reflections: Ash Wednesday

ash wednesday

I am joining in the reflection this Lenten season with Mustard Seed Associates and their Lenten synchroblog.  You can join in reflecting as well by going and downloading their “A Journey into Wholeness: A Lenten Reflection Guide

As i reflect this day, Ash Wednesday on my own brokenness and sin, i realize how it is always, ever before me… screaming in my face, making sure i know that it is there.  Even on a day that is meant for repentance, for turning away, i have given in to my own selfish desires, and so it will be for the rest or our lives in these fragile and broken bodies of clay.  But, in the midst, there is a beauty… a beauty often hidden or oppressed, yet it is there, and was there from the foundations of our creation.  It comes from the hand of the one who created us; wove us together in the womb of our mother.  The creator’s fingerprint is upon us, even as we are born into and walk within a broken, fragmented world, shattered by the self-seeking sinfulness of humankind.  But, yet, that beauty still exists, in the midst of all the darkness and broken pieces of our lives.  It rises from the ashes of humanities frailty and fractured soul, like a fiery phoenix in all it’s glory, shining like a beacon.  Many times that beauty goes unnoticed, and many times the brokenness is ignored.  it just seems easier to ignore the realities and create a facade that everything is ok, but even in the midst of that is a guilt that lies and says that ‘there is no hope you wretched creature’.  so it is easier to ignore, distract, occupy the mind with other things… busyness, work, material possessions, our selfish needs and desires, while the darkness cries out for us to recognize and acknowledge and the beauty cries out for us to renew, restore and turn towards hope.  

This is the tension we live in, and today, i reflect on this tension; that i am broken, fragmented, pieces… but in the midst, there is a beauty that puts me all back together, makes me new again and again and again… but I must acknowledge one and notice the other; confess the one and embrace the other; turn from the one and run to the other.  This tension is, as my friend Eugene Cho puts it, Beauty and Depravity;  the beautiful mess.  Both exist in us:  we could not be totally beautiful, or the world would be completely different and there would be no need for our Saviour; but we could not be totally depraved either, or there would be no use for us, no hope for us at all.  

So today I acknowledge that I am broken, depraved, sinful.  I recognize my intense need to be restored, renewed, and made whole.  I also take notice of the beauty that has been placed in me from creation and the beauty of the Creator that breathes into me and brings to life the beauty that was originally intended to be.  I turn my eyes, my mind, my heart and my energy back to you O Lord… create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me O God. 

As I close, wanted to post the lyrics to a beautiful song that touches on our brokenness.  It is on the most recent album from Church of the Beloved in Edmonds, WA, called Hope for a Tree Cut Down.  You can download the album and listen on their website here. 

Broken

You are broken, I am broken, everyone is broken
You are broken, I am broken, intimately broken

Stay, there is peace beyond anguish
life beyond death, love beyond fear
and we all have to suffer to enter our glory.

Bless, bless and do not curse.
Pull brokenness far from the shadow of curse
put it under the light of the blessing.

Praise, praise to you Lord
for I never realized
broken glass could shine so brightly.

Quote of the Day

“If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.” 

– Saint Basil,
fourth century theologian and monastic

comfort and control

i have been spending a lot of time with my friends who live in a homeless tent community called Nickelsville. I know many of them, have heard their stories, and shared some of mine. In a most recent conversation I had with one friend, something he said stood out to me. It grabbed a hold of my heart and mind and has not let go. We were discussing the many people who come by the camp to bring donations and such, and he mentioned to me, being very honest, how it sometimes he gets a sick feeling about it. He began to elaborate a bit, informing me that he wasn’t ungrateful, but expressed his concern for the giver. He had observed that many of the people want to give for reasons that may not necessarily be the ‘right’ reasons to give… that many are giving to ‘do their duty’ or to feel good about themselves, as if they pat themselves on their generous backs as they leave, proud of their act of kindness that helped the poor guy.

My mind was racing. Many thoughts filled my head and my heart as I pondered our discussion. I know this person, so I know that they were not being mean-spirited or ungrateful for people’s generosity, but he is one that often time sees through the fog and/or between the lines and finds something that others may not necessarily see. I tend to relate to this, as I find myself seeing things often in the same way.

So, when leaving that day, driving away in my car I began to elaborate with my thoughts on the subject, out loud in my car by myself. I began to think about giving and generosity, then on to the idea of ‘charity’. I thought of how I was determined to be very clear that the people of Nickelsville are NOT my charity… but they are my friends. I have gotten to know them, and I consider them friends. I began to think of how the majority of the time when people do charitable things, such as donate clothes and such to the homeless, or bring them food, they do it out of their own excess and there is not much of a sacrifice involved in that giving. They are the ones with the power and continue in keeping that power in their own hands.

Two words stuck out to me in my private rambling that summed it all up for me: comfort and control. I began to see that when we give to others, we tend to do it while maintaining our comfort and our control and rarely do we ever give of ourselves in any way that may threaten either one of those things. We have created a bar… a level of sorts, that determines our state of comfort and control and we will do anything, as long as it does not embark on that level, thus affecting our comfort and sense of control. What we often don’t realize is that when those levels are affected, moved and even changed, simultaneously our lives are often changed in astounding ways that would never happen otherwise.

I continued my thinking out loud and began to wonder why we have set these certain standards for ourselves, as some sort of protection of becoming too vulnerable…. just how vulnerable are you really as long as you still are comfortable and have control over the situation? For example, I want to help the homeless… I don’t want my friends sleeping on the streets in the cold, so I give them my extra blankets to stay warm… but why don’t I invite them to come and live in my home, (or enter my world for that matter)? Because that would then mean that I no longer have control over my generosity and the bar that i have set for my comfort level, would then be threatened… so I don’t even consider it. It always seems to be on MY terms that I reach out to others. I am the one with privilege and power and I have no intention of giving that up for anything or anyone. I have set a standard for what I will allow, and the two things that govern that standard are my comfort and my control… and as long as I don’t have to lose either of those things I will be OK.

The challenging thing is that I began to realize that those are the two things that keep me from doing what God wants me to do… that he is calling me to lose myself… give up my control, give up my comfort, so that I can really have life and live the way I should be living. People have always said those words and believed them, but rarely do they ever live them out, especially in America where we can have anything we want and it’s OK. Controlling our lives and keeping ourselves comfortable is the big selling feature for the “American Dream”. This is why so much of us find it hard to break beyond the cycle that we find ourselves in of ‘giving to charity’, because it is ingrained into our culture. “Work hard, buy a home, get a car, live the good life, and give away some extra to help the little people” As long as my comfort and control are intact, I am free to give to help those in need and in turn I do my duty as a citizen and feel real good about myself and sit back happy and comfortable and still in control of ‘my little world’.

I think there is another level, beyond the level that most of us operate within, and that level requires us to give up our control, get a little uncomfortable, and think outside of the framework that our culture is founded on. Charity is glorified, but sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. Give your money to charity and your a saint, give your life to get to know those who are marginalized and not as many people get it, especially if you happen to stand in the way of others keeping control and being comfortable. You will know when you cross that line from charity to sacrifice, it will make others uncomfortable, and it will make you uncomfortable. But it is our calling, and our destiny… by ‘losing’ our lives we actually gain true life, and we can’t see it, taste it, know it, or have it until we do.

So there is another realm that is waiting for us to venture into it, to cross that line into its unknown regions, beckoning us to move into a place of freedom that cannot be explained, but only experienced. It will require us to leave behind our former sense of comfort… to drop the bar of our level of control… to give up our true selves and live differently. It beckons to me and I hear its call, and I am leaning in its direction, but it is a difficult tension and is a challenging call for sure. It will be interesting to see how this kind of thinking will affect the way I live in the future. I will continue pondering the way in which to live it out. (Of course, now that I have posted this… I’m kind of obligated myself to live this way too… which makes it even harder! 🙂