This Next New Now
I sauntered around the corner of the counter, unfamiliar with this new coffee shop, looking for the menu. Who was I kidding? I was going to get an americano. But still. Settling in a new hometown lends itself to an uncomfortable amount of hesitation in each new situation. I used to just walk into every place, drive into every parking lot, and confidently take side streets back in California. Arkansas is making me question all of the little things that have become normal over the last 15 years of living in the same town.
My new friend Justin slides up beside me and asks if I’ve been to this coffee shop. I let him know that I’ve been there for lunch, just across the way, but this is the first time getting coffee. I’m working as hard as adults do to make friends, asking people I meet to go get coffee and swap stories. Simple enough, but reorientation can sometimes feel like quick, dizzying cycles of disorientation before anything comes into focus.
Justin asks me how I am.
I stuttered. I stammered. I think I said that I’m ok enough. I don’t really remember. I just know that doing the work of pausing for a moment to feel how I feel doesn’t come naturally. So I reeled for a second, trying to find the words. Thinking about feeling seems inauthentic and I fight the urge to be inauthentic. I fight the critic in my head to find the feeling behind the thoughts rather than the clever words that will paint my feelings as normal.
I guess I live here now. That’s what I told him.
A few months ago, there was this impending sense of adventure. It has certainly been unlike anything that I can note in my memories. The adventure is here. But it also feels a lot like Thursday. The regular irregularities send us down streets we’ve never been down to meet people we never thought we’d know. This world is impossibly enormous, and we’re out here finding a footing and building a life out beyond the west coast, left coast, best coast life we’ve always loved.
This little corner of Arkansas is known as NWA (northwest Arkansas). I’m still not sure if the explicit rappers out of Compton were first or if this unlikely pocket of diversity trapped somewhere between the mid-west and the south claimed the name first.
Here we are, though. It seems as though the midwest is certain that NWA is part of the south. The south, however, has declared that NWA is much more midwest than southern. We’ve experienced a potent mix of southern hospitality and midwestern nice. It’s new, and it’s different. Different in a good way. Figuring out what’s going on with people is much harder here, but I guess that’s part of the adventure.
I guess I live here now.
They told me it was the Bible belt. Sure, I’d think to myself, there are more people that read the Bible there. This isn’t necessarily true. There are churches everywhere. It is unbelievable how many churches there are. I thought I found church row where I could see half a dozen churches from one intersection. But that’s just the way that intersections are here. 4 ways to go and six churches in sight.
After a little less than a few months on the ground here, I’m not sure if the way of Jesus actually pervades as I was led to believe. There is plenty of darkness for the hope of heaven to invade. There is ache. There is pain. There is lonely. There is hate. There is wandering. There is bored. There is hurt. There is confusion. There is death.
There is resurrection too.
And it is this truth that has me leaning into this next new now.
Almost a full year since I knew that I was no longer held by place, but released to roam. It was November 22 of last fall that I wrote in my journal:
“Tent making. Kurt the tentmaker. This is something that has been revealed in my heart through chiseling. It is not in the adding but in the subtraction that I have found a path forward. The truth that I believe about being an ambassador, a citizen of heaven, a carrier of the way–it is not the presence of the church organization that matters, it is the presence of the faith filled service of the kingdom. This burgeoning call to create new spaces, new opportunities, new supports, new touch points, it’s much more freeing to step out of the rigidity that exists in permission based ministry. There is a preservation of authority that is completely contrived. There is no control of resources. There is no permission needed. There is real access, real freedom and one loyalty. It’s Jesus.”
I guess I live here now.
There is this tee-shirt that has given me some ground as I’ve found my footing in this new vocation called Woven by Ugmonk. My whole life seems like it’s been a series of projects/jobs/careers/education/etc with a whole host of side projects. For the first time in forever, I’m doing two completely different things and neither of them are side projects. Living the big, big dream is devoting myself exclusively to preaching and working in the marketplace. Both things are the thing. It’s not even bi-vocational. It’s not two vocations. It’s one thing. Sure, it’s got its parts, but they are parts of the same whole. It may seem silly, but the peace of heaven that I’ve found in this space is unlike any ambitious thing I’ve ever gone after.
For years I have been holding on and waiting for what comes next, that new thing that is just around the corner. As crazy as it is, that next new is now.
This weekend is the first step for me in this new tentmaker life. My next book is launching as a digital release, How To Read Scripture With Your Imagination Intact. I’ve been excited and frustrated and elated and terrified and second-guessing and fist-pumping and I can’t wait for it to land in your inbox.
I sent it to a bunch of people to review it before it comes out, and one of those people was my pastor in college, Louie Locke. Somewhere way back there in the early 2000’s, Louie saw something in me that I couldn’t see. He signed me up for a class to learn how to read scripture. I learned about hermeneutics and exegesis. I learned about historicity and inspiration and apologetics and I had no idea that God would use my voice as a channel for grace and hope and comfort and uncomfortable truth telling. When Louie wrote me back, he shared a blurb that will show up in the marketing materials.
But what’s more is that he told me it made him a little excited this week when he got around to his Bible reading.
I have this hope for us, too.
And I have hope for us.
Sometimes I don’t have hope. Sometimes you don’t have it either. There’s just things that happen in life that erode our hope. It happens. And we need others to hope for us. And they do. And there is resurrection in these unexpected places where we thought that death had arrived. Maybe it had. But death is not the final word.
I have hope for us.
I have hope for us in this next new now.
I guess I live here now.