Fire Arms

In light of the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX this past weekend, as well as, the collective rise in mass shootings in our country, many have asked what my thoughts on gun control are. Others have also asked, given I pastor a church on the “rough” side of town in Long Beach, CA, what my opinion is on the possibility of ministers and/or church security “packing heat” to ensure the safety of its members.

Let me, first, express my heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones to horrific acts of gun violence, both, recently and in the past. Whether guns are controlled or not, the loss of a loved one to these devastating acts feels the same.

A loss is a loss.

I mourn with those who mourn and, maybe this incident is closer to home for me even more this time around, as one of the victims this past weekend was the daughter of the pastor of the church where the shooting took place. I offer up my prayers and my heart’s cry to those in Texas mourning this weekend. May God’s peace and presence minister to them and to all of us.

Having said that, for the sake of this post and to answer the questions that have been streaming my way as of late, I want to merely express my personal views on guns. This post is not to express one way or the other my thoughts on the larger debate of gun control. It simply is to address guns and how it relates to my personal life.

I grew up in a predominately gang infested neighborhood where violence of all sorts was a normal fabric of my life. Police sirens and “ghetto birds” were part of the daily soundtrack to my life’s music. Whether being “jumped” myself or fighting others and whether shots rang out through my block or guns being tossed in the alley near the back of my house, I knew violence all too well. I’ve had friends shot over the wrong colors worn and have had friends fired rounds because someone in gym class talked too much trash on the basketball courts. I became quite fast at running, as escaping whizzing bullets and fleeing from rivaling neighborhoods became the norm. And, because of the landscape of my childhood, sleeping on the floor, knowing the safe routes while walking home from school, and learning how to stare at others the right way became practices I mastered.

In addition to gang violence, I had a number of friends who took their own lives at the hands of guns.

All that to say…I am not against guns. I believe people should have the right to bare arms. I believe citizens in our country should be empowered to protect their families in the way they see fit. I know a range of people, from family members and friends, who own fire arms and are very responsible. However, because of the gun violence I experienced in my past, I personally wouldn’t bare arms. I wouldn’t have a gun in my home. And I wouldn’t even allow “church security” to bare arms at my church; especially in the context in which we minister in. I believe it would send the wrong message to the potentially “violent” people we’re trying to reach out to. Call it the trauma of my past, but the idea of me being near any kind of fire arm causes a lot of stress. Even as I write this post, I can’t help but revisit the images I’ve seen growing up. And, as many of you know who’ve been through traumatic situations, you can’t un-see the things you’ve already seen.

Guns are powerful forces and I believe they should be treated with the utmost respect.


One Great Day in a Sea of Crashing Waves

If I’m taking it one day at a time, I’d say Friday, September 29th was awesome. Without thinking too much about tomorrow or next week or next year, I’d even say the anniversary celebration event for The Definitive Soap Box was super fantastic.

In the midst of running around preparing for my boy’s birthday party with his friends, I was able to iron the draft of a poem that I eventually tried out and recited at The Soap Box. It was received well and many came up to me to commend my courage. With nearly 100 people in attendance, I owned the moment. I owned my depression. I owned…me.

Dear depression,

Shut the hell up!

Because I’m actually happy today.
Look at me.
I’m ecstatic.
I’m elated.
I’m ridiculously roused that I actually got out
of bed this morning.
And, yes, this is me being happy.

But if I’m being honest,
on days like this,
I still long to see the bottom of a shot glass.
Two shells,
cocked back,
sometimes aren’t even enough to lessen the blow
of your piercing criticism.

it’s your fermented fuse
that fuels the shrapnel
that I seem to flirt with every single day.
I’ve wishfully wanted to taste you,
but I’m always afraid of trying new things.
You intoxicatingly whisper sweet nothings
that I seem to always fall for.
And your cunning wit seems to be a lot more sharper these days.

Yesterday, you said goodbye with your silence.
And even though you never actually walked away
I hoped
I wished
I begged to never see you again.

It’s your silence that gets me.
Creepy like clowns,
but charming like chocolate.
Decedent and deranged
all at the same time.
Sickening like social media,
but comforting like the crackle of last night’s fireplace.

You can say nothing,
but it’s what you don’t say that bothers me.

And loneliness…
well, loneliness seems to have the exact same address
as her silent sister.
She’s always home when you need her to be.
I knock on her door when I need to escape,
but I’m also overwhelmed by her presence
when the doorbell rings
and life is waiting on the other side.

And even though I know
depression is a demented lie
drunk on our sour self esteem who
salivates on the first opportunity
of getting me alone,
I still flirt with his wily way of
convincing me that he’s all I’ll ever need.

And maybe he is.
Maybe he’s the only one
reminding me that I’m actually worth fighting for.
Maybe he’s the only one who cares enough
to keep me awake when I’m asleep.

just maybe he’s the only one
who thinks I truly matter.
Maybe I’m him.
And maybe I’m ok with that…

At least…for now.