Skin in the Game

I have been thinking about getting older recently, how I am ultimately more out of touch with the times. I am having a harder time speaking the language of current culture.

Paradoxically there is also a stronger longing to reach the next generation, but my ideas seem too traditional, to “deep” or intellectual for the times.

I have thought of late maybe I need to eschew this way of being to have more skin in the game.

Maybe it is like that moment when God decided to descend to earth to reach humanity, in an act of great humility and humiliation.

Paul explains the act of God descending to earth as Jesus in Philippians.

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

I think of the evangelical pastor who buys hipster jeans and fashionable clothing so the ancient message of Christ can be made known to a younger generation. Reaching the lost through whatever means.

Other things come to mind like a story about an Orthodox monastic that dispensed chocolate to young kids as a gift of love, it rotted their teeth, but it was the only way to get their attention.

Or a father who takes a job as an engineer at the refinery, really an artist at heart, he puts it aside his passions to keep his family afloat financially.

Tonight I will watch the Bachelor because it is one of the few opportunities I get to spend one on one with my wife.

What is this common idea here?

The culture of frivolousness, the vanity of vanities, used as a means to share time with one another.

Skin in the game.

Jesus could have easily presented ultimate truth in one final blow. But instead, he steeped himself in the essence of the culture, the simplistic forms of life on life’s terms.

He offered a cold glass of water to someone with a parched throat.

Broke bread and ate fish to commune with his best friend Peter.

It is like the time I offered a dirty Halls lozenge in my pocket to an elderly woman having a coughing fit at the airport.

Or when my friend who was a celebrity pastor got into a horrible car accident and was laid up in bed, unemployed and without purpose. He told me it was an agnostic heroin addict that came over consistently and played video games with him, that ultimately led to his emotional healing. His congregation flooded him with platitudes and theological propositions, but none knew how to simply pass the time with him.

It also happens to be the clearest indication of mastery for most of the great filmmakers. The aim of my greatest vocational aspirations. Concealing ultimate truth and subtext, the art of subversive communication through symbolism, metaphor and common storylines.

One could easily stand justified, separated and purified from such a lower existence, but then they might miss the connection with others.

How does one do this without becoming convoluted, trite, insincere? Corrupted by the corrosive secular materialism of our time.

Especially when the current postmodern agenda and everything 'of the moment' seems to be antithetical to God, almost apocalyptic.

Stand on the outside and throw stones? Surely as great prophets have done in the past...

But what about love, the love the meets people where they are in the mundanity of their everyday lives, the place they spend most of their time?

This is the realm of communion and connection.

People are not transformed by truth bombs, it is usually slow and nuanced, they experience healing inside of relational dynamics.

When they are being helped with simple things, frivolous things one might presume.

Today I was getting coffee at a hipster boutique intelligentsia spot. I felt like crawling out of my skin, the absurdity of it all, a whole community of people working, carrying on and dialoguing around an 8 dollar cup of caffeine. But again, it was a community of people, vibrant, connected, I was on the outside, partaking reclusively, casting stones.

This thought ultimately brings me to the connection with my own children. At the moment they are watching looney toons, Disney’s best, mindless simplistic distraction… one could argue it is their teacher in this season of life. It is essential as a father I find a way to experience what they are experiencing, to understand the stories they are absorbing. Otherwise, I will remain on the outside of their lives. I must learn the sports they love, the songs they sing and the things that keep their attention.

So I can love them fully.

So I can have skin in the game.

I still loath Disneyland but they love it.

The humility of God descending to earth as Jesus is striking.

I pray one day I might experience a peace with it.

For now I am struggling to find a way in.


I am disillusioned with the fleeting comfort nostalgia endlessly promises yet is unable to deliver.

In the hope to, yet again, escape my present, I flutter between past and future fantastical pasts I’ve yet to experience in the fullness of time. 

‘Will I feel as numb as I do now and have for a while in 5 years time?’ 

‘Is this all life has to offer?’

I think I’m coming to the end of childhood, and early adulthood saying, and thinking deeply  ‘humph... this is it? This is as good as it gets? If it is, why don’t I feel better?”

Why am I so scared to consider who I once was, terrified to find a me long lost in pages of past emphatic journal entries riddled with passionate zeal. 

I feel like I am blindly backing into or stumbling across fleeting memories of me that, as soon as I attempt to relish in their inherent nostalgia, a hiraethian wave takes the mental wisps from me, and with them the potential glimmer of hope that a deeper comfort was nearly tangible...

Christmas morning in the 90’s. My first sunrise at 30,000 feet. The gentleness of a childhood kiss. The bellicose trauma of searing loss. In the mass cacophony of deep emotions there remains a constant through them all: feeling. They remind you you’re here, you’re alive, you matter.

But when that is taken, or hidden from you for so long you’ve forgotten.... then what? Our prayers become kin to Wendy and Pan, for a reawakening, for the sobriety to show up to your own life, for the wherewithal to soak in fully the scent of sweetgrass, for the capacity to respect death, and mourn its takings... what then? 

Shame. Mountains of shame heap shame upon their shameful selves to push me further into....? Shame. I feel bad and ashamed that I don’t feel as deeply, widely, often and fully as I one did. And the fear-ladened prospect that I might never again is a thought that, if realized, will surely lead me to despair.... what then?

When a man cannot feel nor remember how to, holding onto a waining hope that makes his heart sicker day after endless day... what then? Is it wrong to crave death? To cry out ‘MEMENTO MORI’?! To want to just be home forever, where the lost comforts of bliss in childhood are no longer a fleeting nostalgia but are the realized beauty of the kingdom of God?

I, like I used to tell my mom in moments of childhood assimilation, ‘don’t feel like home. I just want to go home’.

I want heaven so badly. And I want to be there far more than I want to work for it to be here. I thirst for a day when my wife can run, when she is free of pain. When my sister knows love. Where my mom's abuse is healed. Where my dad’s homesickness is salved. Where my sister's unbelief is undone. Where my brother's fears are subsided.


I am in Exile, a Sojourner

I am in exile, a sojourner

A citizen of some other place

All I've seen is just a glimmer in a shadowy mirror

But I know one day I'll see face to face

I am a nomad, a wanderer

I have nowhere to lay my head down

There's no point in putting roots too deep when I'm moving on

Not settling for this unsettling town

My heart is filled with songs of forever

A city that endures, where all is made new

I know I don't belong here, I'll never

Call this place my home, I'm just passing through

I am a pilgrim, a voyager

I won't rest until my lips touch the shore

Of a land that I've been longing for as long as I've lived

Where there'll be no pain or tears anymore

My heart is filled with songs of forever

A city that endures, where all is made new

I know I don't belong here, I'll never

Call this place my home, I'm just passing through

(Poem - Dustin Kensrue of Thrice)

(Image - Christopher McCandless)