Horizons

I am someone who lives my life preparing for what is just beyond where I am at now. If I am honest, and I want this space to be one of vulnerability and honesty, it is because I have always lived with a deep sense of dissatisfaction and even shame. I have had a need to move on. To seek what is just beyond the curve ahead.

Where I am at, has been forged as an unsafe and undesirable place. I don’t know if that comes from my being orphaned as a baby and living in foster care, or some other deficit. But it is the reality I have come to accept. Until today.

Today I look at the two points in my life as acceptable, beautiful and whole. The two points are where I am and where I want to go. Like how a line is made. Draw two points and there you have it.

For my whole life I have seen the two points this way: the point where I am at- and desperately need to claw my way out of and the point where I should be- you know the point where the other people are who are happy and have all they want and need.

Seriously. That is how I have lived my life. Exhausted and broken.

At 47, in the midst of a career change, new place to live and many of my systems of structure in flux, I am realizing that I actually love, not just love but adore with all of my heart the two points of my life.

Horizon point: the point I am looking out toward. I’m starting work this fall as a chaplain at middle and high school. I get to plan chapels- sacred space of sanctuary, healing, hope and flourishing for a student body and school community that is open to learn and grow. I get to encourage, walk alongside and help others make sense of the ups and downs of life. All in an environment of humble excellence. I am hopeful because I have confidence that I am really good at the things I think this community really needs. That is Buechner’s definition of vocation and I am happy to take this vocational step.

Point 2: where I am at. The point that starts the journey. This is usually the tension point in my life. It has been the painful place that motivated me to leave and strive, scratch and claw, and work so hard to eliminate the current reality that would be my future regret. But as I assess the point where I am at, I see beauty. I see strength. I see connection. I see wholeness. I have sensed this for a while and it has scared me. What if my motivation is gone? Have I fought the big fight of my life and now I am empty? Kind of like a ball player who doesn’t know what to do when they retire.

But that fear has left me. I now see my two daughters. Two amazing people who are so different from each other that it isn’t even funny. Yet with a vein of will and strength that screams warrior spirit. I imagine that they would be the ones who gave up last on some snowy battlefield. They would be the ones who stood tallest in the face of some 19th century colonizer. But they live in comfort and safety, so that will stands on the shoulders of other fighters history.

They are a legacy that is whole. Not fractured and broken. And in them I am become whole.

I got into a fight with my oldest last night. We yelled and screamed and argued our points. And in the end I realized that we were both fighting for connection and space in each other’s life. We cried and hugged and prayed. And I felt whole. And she felt whole.

This is what I fight for in my life now. Not for things I have fought for in the past-food or identity or value or meaning. I am fighting for connection and a hug and a space to pray.

The two points in my life that define the line of David are both beautiful. One is not greater or more worthy than the other. This is a cataclysmic and cosmic, existential shift for me. It has unnerved me for years. But today it leaves me with an ability to love deeply. And fight for something positive.

I am grateful for the wholeness I live with today. 2 years of BJJ. A lifetime of experience. Faith that sustains. Oss.

Travel with Your Gi

I have learned now to pack light and leave room for my Gi. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community can be an amazing place to make connections and meet some great people. I’m sure there is the chance to drop into a school or gym and have a terrible experience. But, I have found that it is a great addition to any trip to find some mats and train.

My affiliation has hundreds of schools across the world but I have also dropped in outside Gracie Barra and was accepted. There are great folks out there willing to share the BJJ experience.

Things to remember: check the schedule, call ahead, respect their school rules and don’t be a tool trying to prove yourself.

Pictures from: Gracie Barra San Clemente 2018 with Prof. Felipe Guedes; Gracie Barra Carlsbad 2019 with Prof. Aaron Collins; Back at Coach Doug’s lunch class at GB San Clemente in 2019; Ricardo Almeida BJJ In 2018 with my coach and teammates and Prof. Ricardo; Gracie Barra Athens Greece in 2018- amazing international hospitality!; Atos BJJ in 2018 with Prof. Andre Galvao.

The best people.

I am grateful for my life and the people I get to live with and around.

I am struck today that the greatest blessing I have is that I get to interact with people who have high character, creative vision and a willingness to sacrifice comfort to help create a better world.

I work with kind and generous people at my church. They donate hundreds and even thousands of hours to build community and share kindness and love every day. They fix buildings, stay up late with Middle School students, say yes when invited to lead or do mission work. I’m blown away by the generosity of spirit that I observe and am privileged to witness.

And I practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with some of the most amazing people in the world. Kind and generous. Dedicated and driven. They are also so vibrantly committed to excellence that it leaves no room for me to cut a corner. And I love and need that!

Thanks to the people who humbly serve. To the people who don’t settle for less than excellent. I love you. I am inspired by you and the world desperately needs examples like you!!

Sanctuary

I shared the story of Demi Lovato in my last sermon. www.pennpres.org

As she endured a difficult time of life battling mental illness and depression she attempted to take her own life. After emerging from that season her response to leaving treatment and retreat was to head to her “sanctuary”. This meant going to Unbreakable Performance in LA to train on the BJJ mats. Those mats were her sanctuary.

I understand her retreat to the mats. I often find sanctuary at Gracie Barra Princeton. In a sense it is my sanctuary. Which is funny because I literally work in a sanctuary.

I work at a Presbyterian church in central New Jersey. It is a great place with great people. And I spend Sunday’s welcoming people to a place to break away from their normal rhythm of life to consider deeper things. Things of life. Things of death. Faith, work, kingdom. Existential reality is negotiated among the sacred and ordinary.

But the room I work in is rarely sanctuary for me. It is my office and my factory floor. Worship services are times when I am thinking about facilitating meaningful things for others and hitting my mark. Trying to remember my sermon or prayer. So I retreat on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings usually. I put in a different robe and I commune with different people. I am not the one people take their lead from but simply a follower. I am mentored and guided by those who have much more skill than I do. It feels safe to me. Yet I am challenged beyond belief.

Sanctuary is rarely safe but it is set apart. It is the space where life finds meaning and I am moved from my comfort zone to a place of discomfort where growth and transformation can happen. I enter with anticipation, expectation and a little bit of fear.

I fear getting hurt. I fear looking stupid. I fear getting dominated. And I fear I’m falling behind. And yet. Sanctuary is the place where fear is transformed into hope and belief. Where fear is moved from the drivers seat to the back seat. When I cross the threshold and become a warrior on the mats I am no longer a victim, I am not a disease, I am not a minority. I am not anything but a partner and a learner. Uki or senior. I learn and I share. I take what I need and I offer what I have.

The result is community and growth. Maturity and connection. This sanctuary has a strange commonality to the one I work in. But it is different too.

It has less history. Less baggage. Less institution. Less ego. More hierarchy. More sweat. More blood. More humility.

I hope Demi Lovato finds what she so desperately needs in her sanctuary. I know I have. Both the one I work in and the one I practice in. I hope every reader does too. If you ever need a guide in BJJ head over to Gracie Barra Princeton or North Princeton. Coach Turtle or Coach Wojtek will show you the way. If you ever need sanctuary come visit me at Pennington Pres, I’ll walk with you and share what I have.

Faces of Gracie Barra Princeton

Hi All. I thought I would do an ongoing series highlighting folks I have come to know through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This journey has been about deep connections physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally. So telling the story of someone like my friend Kyle is a window into why this is a great experience.

Kyle with Prof. Almeida

When I asked Kyle why he started this was his response,

“Age-39. Why I started?- There are SEVERAL reasons why, but if I had to be honest and pick one, it would be for the adversity it brings. I learned something about myself during wrestling in high school, it was that I needed the physical and mental exertion it provided in order to release built up frustrations and aggression that I had deep down inside me. I was always happier and more easy going when I was wrestling. Knowing this about myself and dreaming about being a “jiu jitsu guy” for years led me to the day I met Coach Turtle. What have I benefited? Again, too many things to choose from. Besides the outlet it provides for me, the physical and mental conditioning, confidence in myself, patience and understanding with others, I would say the two biggest for me would be, the friendship and commradery I have now with like minded, goal oriented, quality positive people and the opportunity for my son and I to share this journey ”

Kyle is an original member who goes all the way back to the Schafer’s days. He was one of the first guys I met after signing up. I have always appreciated Kyle for his tenacity and all in mentality with BJJ. He and I have rolled frequently and I have shared stories of him in my blog before. He is tall and thin and wiry. He has a wrestling background and it shows! If I had to give him a style it would be focused strength and self aware. He reminds me of Joao Miyao with his long strength and kinetic fast twitch style. He is a hand full. And I admit that I will often go into my Panda Jitsu smash mode just to be in safe positions with him! Kyle is also the first training partner I had doing No-Gi training. He subbed me 6 times in my first 6 minute roll. Thanks for the lessons.

Kyle is also a dad to two amazing boys and married to a a great woman. I don’t know his wife too well, but she supports her boys doing BJJ, so I know she has to be great!! His son is a leader in class and I love it when he is there. He is insightful and looks to help others learn and keep the standards of the mats!

When asked how BJJ has changed or informed him in life, here is Kyle’s insight-

“I’m different now because I’m happy. I am learning how to be happy and content with who I am and what I have instead of wishing and wanting all the time. I guess I have gained perspective. I lose that easily and jiu jitsu helps keep me centered.”

If that doesn’t get you off the couch and sign up at GB Princeton or North Princeton, you need to read it again!!

Kyle is one of the guys who has made GB Princeton feel like home to me. He is humble and hard working. I think about the blessing that BJJ is because I am not sure how I would have ever met Kyle without the community that GB Princeton has become.

Come on out to Gracie Barra Princeton and get to know someone great! Work hard alongside of someone and you will find yourself trusting them and respecting them. See you on the mats.

I’m Going to be Sore Anyway- Health and Jiu Jitsu

I Choose Soreness!!!

My hands are sore everyday. I am trying hard to teach or train at least 4 days a week at Gracie Barra Princeton and the soreness used to limit my training. Basically every joint in my body is sore…everyday. I have inflammation and hives that make life uncomfortable. That is why the concept of being comfortable being uncomfortable has been so life changing for me. I have an autoimmune disease that has a crapload of daily side effects. This is my reality. Someone asked me how I felt about it and my only honest answer is that it sucks. It sucks. It is aggravating and painful and discouraging. And there are many ways to deal with this reality. I could drink. I could eat. I could complain. I could take too much Advil. I could feel sorry for myself. Well, I’ve done all of these and none of them made me feel any better. So, I tried Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And it is working for me.

Hives on the hand…

I am still sore every day and I still get a lot of the same emotions. But, I also have discovered a lot of what BJJ offers. Community, fitness, empowerment, humility and something that I will take the rest of my life to learn proficiently.

I used to choose not to go to class if I was sore. Now I go. Because guess what?!? I’m going to be sore anyway. I might as well get sore doing something I love!! I am going to be sore- so I’m doing it my way. I get to choose soreness. I don’t have soreness put upon me by the weakness of my body or by some stupid disease.

I choose soreness!!!! It’s mine. And I’ve earned it. Gratitude- the powerful gift God has given me. Thank you BJJ for empowering me to make this choice.