40 Years In…My Purpose & Pain

There is so much I could say, in the blank space, with cursor blinking, waiting to be filled. I’ve sat here many times before today, staring, with thoughts racing, too much to begin.img_5872I was honestly surprised…and not…to see the tab at the top of this page stating in all caps that I have 87 Drafts. Eighty-Seven works in progress. How silly. Knowing that each time I release my truth from the inside out, it unlocks a new aspect of freedom that I didn’t know was there. And yet, if I think about it too long, I won’t hit “Publish” on this one either.

jcp-2016-croppedSo…For today, let’s dive in before I convince myself to “Draft” it.

In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I’ve thought a lot, maybe too much, about the purpose and pain through my first 40 years on this earth. While I genuinely hope this helps someone reading, it is as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s.

My journey has not been one of ease, though it has been better than many, and more privileged than most.

The List…jcp-2016-5869

  1. Trust can take years to build and moments to destroy.
  2. Happiness can be bought (temporarily) and then lost, while true joy is internal and untouchable by outside forces.
  3. Grace is one of the most priceless and underserved gifts. Though freely given, we must receive and embrace it before it can manifest in our lives.
  4. Intuition is absolutely real and divinely instilled.
  5. The ability to forgive is key to authentic beautyNothing will age you faster than resentment.
  6. A steller hairstylist is a must. Once you find said stylist, tip well.
  7. Anger rots your inner being before ever showing up at surface level.
  8. Fear only leads to greater fear.
  9. Prayer works.
  10. When searching for an answer, love almost always fills the gap.
  11. It’s about “who” not “what” you know. (This applies to everything.)
  12. Baby wipes are essential for life. They remove crayon from a painted surface, that unidentified sticky residue just beneath a child’s car seat that’s been there for God only knows how long, mascara, lip stain, mud on wedges…etc., etc.
  13. Smiling more will inevitably lift one’s own spirit while providing warmth to the stranger passing by.
  14. It’s true, you cannot out-exercise your fork.
  15. We never see our true-self clearer, nor exert our need for a Savior more, than during times of trial.
  16. Failure is not optional, it’s necessary.
  17. Lessons will either shape you or break you.
  18. People do not control your destiny.
  19. God is not mad at you.
  20. Sunscreen actually is important.
  21. If you have one true friend you can trust with your weirdness, you are richly blessed.
  22. There is a deep human longing in us all to be fully known and accepted anyway.
  23. Death is not the end. It’s the transition.
  24. Grief is unpredictable.
  25. No matter the color of our skin, just below that thin layer, we all look the same.
  26. Generosity is key to contentment.
  27. Everything (really is) going to be okay (eventually).
  28. We don’t have to share the same DNA to be family.
  29. Miracles still happen.
  30. Everything we say and do begin with a thought.
  31. Being an adult can be really hard.
  32. We can decide, at any given moment, to change direction.
  33. There is no excuse to be unkind (to anyone) (ever).
  34. Gratitude changes things.
  35. We remember moments.
  36. God created each one of us with great intention and purpose.
  37. The most sacred space of witness is during birth and death.
  38. If we could truly grasp our worth, nothing would have the ability to intimidate or have a stronghold in our lives.
  39. Don’t put earthly limits on a heavenly God.
  40. Time goes by so quickly.

1. We don’t have to be afraid.
2. Everyone is important to someone.
3. Labels were never meant for people.
4. Sex doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
5. Right and wrong is relative.

So there ya go. With hundreds more to be added at another time. As I live out this first year in my 4th decade of life, what would you add?



Tattoos or Jesus, which one will it be?

JCP-4475I vividly remember a close family friend telling me that I was disobeying God by getting a tattoo and because of its permanence, I was in a state of constant defiance. He quoted scripture (from memory, of course) to back up his point from which the core of his unsolicited advice originated. (This was after the tattoo was already there. What was I to do about it, except put on the heavy cloak of guilt placed before me?)

I was 17 years old.

I have since added several more tattoos…and piercings to my body. This one is especially meaningful to me.Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 3.40.06 PM

For years I’ve been reading different views on this subject. It is interesting and at times crazy how defensive people can be with their written words. The ALL CAPS and number of exclamation points following the scripture references that, in their mind, confirm and validate their rightness. It leaves me wondering, “Why would I ever want what they have? How could I ever follow the God that they profess to emulate?”

As I’ve said before, “I can justify absolutely anything.” I am a Master Justifier. Maybe that is the case here. I am justifying the fact that I, a follower of Jesus, willingly marked my body.

This will cause debate. There are some of you reading now that are already irritated. That’s good. Whether you’re irritated over the thought of someone being able to love Jesus while tattooing their body, or you’re irritated over the people who are irritated…take this moment to ask yourself, “Why does this bother me so much?”

Here is what I have to remember, I am accountable to God. When I approach the throne of grace, it is not while locking arms in a group of others. It is alone. It is personal. It is intimate.

Let’s think outside of our comfort zones for a moment.

What if, every sin that you have ever committed or thought about committing was written on your body? Adultery, stealing, murder, gossip, abuse, pornography, envy, gluttony, betrayal, denial, blaspheme… Which one would you want across your face?

Things don’t have to be written in ink to leave a permanent mark. Try these labels on for size…shamed, guilty, jealous, abandoned, greedy, whore, liar, addict, alcoholic, convict, loser, hypocrite, enabler… Though not written in ink, individuals clearly wear these labels.

If God really does see past our flesh, into our hearts, what does he see? I envision Him seeing a heart covered in permanent markings.

And then Jesus came…and all of that changed. He is our Intercessor, Savior, Redeemer. He stands in the gap of all of our different perceptions and definitions of “right” and “wrong.”

God sees us through His son. His perfect son. So we no longer have to argue who is more right than wrong, or justify anything. Once we see Christ for who He is, we are given the invitation to lay down all of our judgements, isms, character defects, labels and prejudices at the foot of the cross.

No matter whether you think tattoos are “right” or “wrong,” the cross is enough. Whether you have thought about stealing from someone or have actually stolen, the cross is enough. Whether you have always seen yourself as damaged because of an image that was self inflicted or projected onto you by someone else, the cross is enough. It’s enough.

It’s about a personal relationship with the One who paid it all.

Let’s visualize ourselves removing the lenses through which we currently see everything while asking, “Father, please help me see everything, including myself, through your eyes and from your perspective. Transform my perception of others, crushing all misconceptions.”

As you think of the person whom you consider marked up, damaged and pierced, remember, they…I, have a place to bring all imperfections and lay them down. The foot of the cross. Right there beside all the prejudices and judgements. Once there, they are all the same.

In Christ, there is no condemnation.

I Believe…Now to Receive

IMG_5468I finally realized that even though I “believed” something, didn’t mean I “received” it. It took me releasing clenched fists and raising open palms to Heaven in admittance of my utter dependence on the one who created me and calls me by name. Savior of the world…MessiahJesus. Only then was I able to exchange my rags of ruin for his cloak of grace.

Being mere mortals

Clouds over tombsIt took me 35 years to come to terms with the inevitability of mortality.
After Elliot died, death became real…tangible.

Many things changed that morning in May.

It has been my experience that Christians are afraid to admit their fear of the unknown outside the walls of a counselor’s office and sometimes not even then can we come to terms with the truth that we have this one area of doubt in our lives where we aren’t 100% sure God will come through.

Sounds presumptuous doesn’t it?

It isn’t meant to be. It’s the way I lived my life for over 3 decades while claiming to be a “Christian.”

I am now a Christ follower, which for me, is different. It’s personal.

When I think of faith, I picture Jesus. I see Jesus instead of a steeple touching the sky. Instead of perfectly pressed black robes and intimidating marble columns. I think of Jesus…in sandals. Bearded face, dusty clothes, tousled hair. I think of Jesus.

When I think of him it’s impossible to be afraid. As soon as I take my eyes off of him, it’s impossible not to be.

Unlike the wrath of man, Jesus is the perfect balance of grace and truth.
Giving up his mortal descent to be born of a commoner, live with little and die a brutal death beside criminals. He experienced mortality to remove all of my excuses.

When the anxiety of the unknown creeps in, I must remember the Savior, who intentionally came and died as a man. He could have decided it was too difficult and called down the entire heavenly host to zap his adversaries and escort him back to paradise in a cloud of glory. But he didn’t.

Instead he chose to be misunderstood, ridiculed and put to death. He experienced the ultimate betrayal and physical pain beyond human comprehension. I can’t help but think part of the reason he walked the human path was in pursuit of me. Maybe it was to calm my heart when I don’t feel like an omnipotent God of the Universe can relate to my everyday struggle. It is then I am reminded that he too struggled with “life.” He wore human skin and felt all of the emotions I have questioned.

When I remember this truth, there is no argument. The answer is clear. Be not afraid. It adds not even a moment to my life. Be not afraid. The days, at times, seem long while the years grow ever shorter. Be not afraid. The road ahead, though wrought with uncertainty, leads to the everlasting. Be not afraid. Evil lurks, but love has won.

Live with intention
Love extravagantly
Be slow to speak
Quick to forgive
Eager to learn
Be not afraid.

Does this resonate with you? Talk to me? Why are we so afraid of what waits for us on the other side of this life?

School Massacre: 20 Children, 6 Adults killed

connecticut-school-shooting-elite-daily-31God help us. Please…help us.
There have been lives lost. Among them, innocent children.
Instead of celebrating birth this season, mothers and fathers will be mourning the loss of their child. Instead of visiting the manager, they will bury their son or daughter.
We don’t pretend to understand.
I know that vengeance is yours and still my anger burns bitterly.
God, I don’t seek answers as much as I would ask you to come quickly and save us from the atrocities of which we are capable.
We are not a people on our knees, but instead on our pedestal. It is such a long way to fall.
May you fill our hearts and our minds.
Clear away the wreckage we create.
Make us a people who love our neighbor as ourselves.
Give us faith in the midst of adversity.
Teach us how to pray, Lord.
The pain is too deep.
The wound too fresh. It gapes open, hemorrhaging.
Voices fall silent as words are not enough and at the same time, too much.
Father, for those who are mourning the loss of their loved one tonight, please comfort them. Envelope them in your peace that passes all understanding. Quiet their restless and broken heart. May your whispers of truth be a salve for their soul.
God, we need you.
Hear my cry for mercy.
Be present.
Be here.
Be stability when there is quicksand.
Jesus taught us to pray saying, “Our Father…”
We are your children and therefore come to you now, as a child to a parent, longing for reassurance and hope.
Be near to us.
Our hearts are broken for the innocence lost.
Tonight we hold our babies closer. We thank God for giving us another chance, another day, another moment with our children.

image taken from google

Related articles

“To know him is to love him”

The title of this post is taken from Caden Beggan’s community facebook page. Unlike I, you have probably been following his story. I just read about Caden today. It is always gut wrenching to read of a child and family enduring something like this, but what caught my eye was his name. Caden Riley Beggan. His first and middle name being the names and exact spelling of each of my sons. He is 6 years old, just as my Riley is.

This is a lengthy post. I have copied excerpts from posts written by his father on his community page. I am astounded by the faith of this man. The purpose of this precious ones struggle falls under one of those things that we spoke about several days ago that I just don’t understand and wouldn’t be able to change even if I did.

I am forever changed after reading this family’s journey.

November 9
“Dear friends,

Friday. Some 17 days after contracting a highly virulent infection (meningococcal septicaemia), Caden is alive.

Its malignancy, its utter loathing and disrespect for life knows no bounds. It is a mephitic organism whose stench will forever pervade my future; a poisonous and offensive bug whose sole purpose, it’s very reason for existing, seems to have been for the ruin of my son.

But, Caden . . . my champion, my hero, that tough little warrior fights on with the heart of a lion and continues to defy the odds. *His* existence will forever be a credit to him, a badge of honour, a praise to his Father in Heaven.

Let the Angels sing, Caden is alive!
Dance on your tears, Caden is alive!

I have not really seen the sun much these past two weeks, but a friend persuaded me to take a walk yesterday, and perhaps even consider a haircut (I’m assured that one was long overdue). So I did, and I did. A very kind hairdresser listened while I shared a little heartache and peppered it with a little hope. I even stopped by a clothes shop on the way back to the hospital and purchased something warm for the winter.

Daylight. Haircut. Shopping. Caden.

The streets were crowded, people everywhere busying themselves with their daily concerns, and then there was Caden. People talking, and Caden. People walking, and Caden. In every phone conversation as people raced to their destination, Caden. In every shop window, in every Christmas decoration, Caden. Then, the sun, in the last few minutes before retiring for the evening; so conspicuously absent from the dark shadows of the last 17 days, opened my eyes.

Caden was still alive; is still alive and lying in a hospital bed some five hundred yards from where I was standing. Right there, in that bustling sidewalk, I lifted my voice to the heavens, and declared that day a good day. How can I mourn the loss of a son who is still very much alive?…

I pray and I hope as one walking on thin ice, afraid to move this way or that for fear of plunging into a black abyss of despair. Last night, I fell asleep on my knees. I had few, if any words, but I held on to every ounce of faith I had and this morning I came to Caden’s bedside with a steely determination. My son lives. My son wants to live, of that there’s no doubt, and for as long as I am his father, I will fight with him and for him using everything I can. I cannot *make* him better, but I can pray. I cannot fix him, but I can share his remarkable story.

…I have begun work on a storybook that we hope will help Caden understand what has happened to him while he’s “been asleep.” It began with a dream that his Mum had. In the story, our intrepid hero (Caden) has to battle a very vicious and wicked monster. In the end, Caden defeats his foe, but with a heavy price. He then spends some time being transformed into a superhero who in turn helps others to fight their demons.


Caden’s Dad — with Angela Beggan and Rachel Catherine Pattison in Linthouse.”

November 10
Day 18.
“Caden is alive.

…More upsetting was having to break the news of Caden’s hand to his elder brother, Declan. Declan is strong though, and through tears, he spent time with his brother, talking to him and asking many questions about Caden’s future. Even Ethan was excited to we Caden today. “I want to get closer daddy,” he insisted. I am greatly encouraged by this, since I really believe healing is beginning in their hearts also.

Declan’s grief was a stark reminder of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. My heart once again echoed his sorrow, “It is NOT fair!”

In truth, it is nothing short of an atrocity for which no one will be held accountable. There will be no court of arbitration, no sentence passed, or day of recompense. A merciless pestilence has perpetrated its appalling crime and I am condemned to watch my son’s slow demise as piece by piece he is stripped of his dignity, and I feel powerless to affect the final outcome.

Where is the outcry? Where are the mourners? Why aren’t you wearing black when you show up with your platitudes? Let the laughter cease and the wailing commence, for my precious Caden lies bruised and battered, slain in effect; cut down and trampled underfoot.

My heart bleeds, “It is not fair!”

And yet . . . There is so much suffering in the world, suffering that until recently, has been kept at bay, and has kindly observed a safe distance from my front door. Everyday, on the way to see Caden, I pass numerous sick children whose parents’ faces are painted with desperate anguish; desperate to have their pleas heard by some Higher Power capable of doing what they wish they could do for their own child. All around us, children are dying. So with all this suffering, can I really yell, “Foul!”? Who am I that I should be exempt from these miseries? Who am I that I should be spared this horror? Who am I to question why it did not happen to a nameless other?

I am persuaded that no matter how horrific my affliction, there will always be someone worse off than I. Can I really compare my personal grief to that of another? Isn’t their suffering just as valid as my own? Even if, unlike my Caden, their offspring still looks like their child. Even with a valid claim to pain, such as the agony I feel right now, can any of us ever truly understand what it is like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes? The cry, “Unfair!” may very well itself be unfair.

However, I have observed something else alongside the suffering. In the midst of the worst, the very best has come to light. From all over the world, near and far, angels of mercy bear witness to grace and share their compassion. They come with love and with gifts, with consolation and comfort. And the grace that they attest to falls upon my brow to soothe my aching. What started as a trickle is becoming a flood, a wave of mercy bringing its relief.

In the shade of my Father’s covering, I will rest a short while and gather my strength. I will let him tell me of his great love. Let him convince me that he has not abandoned me. Let him show his loving-kindness greater than any other. Let it be so. Let it be so.”

Excerpt taken from post on November 11
“Another Sunday. Another day. Another hour. Another minute.

Every day an anniversary; a landmark celebration of Caden’s life, of Caden’s struggle, of Caden’s victories. Every day a memorial; a tearful reminder of the life Caden once had, of Caden’s losses. Every day is a thousand years. Every day is a fleeting instant. Every day an angry shout. Every day a tender whisper. Every day a mournful procession. Every day an adrenaline shot. Every day a troubadour’s song. Every day a dumbstruck tongue. Every day an isolation. Every day a crowd of comforters. Every day alone, but never alone.

Always whimpering, always smiling. Always down, always up. Cursing and blessing. Hating and loving. Agonising and hoping. Lying and promising. Fearing and trusting.

I crave the crags in the caves where the light does not disturb my lament or the saltwater waves irritate my wounds. I long for the mirth of pastoral country; simple and serene and seeded with brighter tomorrows. I am one day this, and one day that, but I am always these: Caden’s dad and my Father’s son.

I am not here to talk about me though I am deeply grateful for this space, for this community of compassion, where weary pilgrims, such as I, may share their story. I am here to talk to you about my dear six-year old son, Caden Riley Beggan.

He is my waking, my morning; my sleeping, my yawning. His smile shifts even the darkest clouds. His rantings and ramblings, his playing and his mischief are staple foods in my daily diet, and each aspect of his beautiful self is as nourishing as the next. I have placed, at times, such hopes in him; dreamt of futures and possibilities that every father would do for their own child. I suppose the truth is I see so much of myself in Caden. I have talked to God a thousand times in terms of my past, wishing my son(s) would repeat none of my mistakes, and do everything I wished that I could have, that I should have.

I’d think nothing of spending hours watching him as he etches with his pencil his fantastical worlds – a resplendent imagination. In spite of the fact that most of Christmas Days or Birthdays consisted of co-building Lego kits (though he needed no help), I wouldn’t trade one father-son play-date for any kind of treasure you’d care to mention.

As I sit and watch his fragile body, some foot and a half shorter than it should be, dressed in black scars and plastic, I still marvel at the beauty of this exceptional piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps, God’s finest moment.

It is as tragic as the rip of a saw through the Mona Lisa. No! Even more so, but I’m still compelled to laud his life; to lionise my son; to glorify my Father in my admiration of Caden’s true beauty.

The true beauty of the Mona Lisa is not in the painting itself, but in the mind of the one who created it. The true value of such a priceless work of art lies not in the single view of any critic, but the admiration of the many. And there is much to admire about my son, not least of all his courage.”

Excerpt taken from a post on November 18
“…We are not who we were, as Caden himself is not who he was. We are the first words in a new chapter, and writer’s block seeks to rob us of our imagination for the future. We are at the edge of an abyss, blindly groping our way around for a footbridge. We will not fall victim to despair. We will give no quarter to the sorrow that would inhabit our lives. We grieve, but with hope, and for many tomorrows, as many as God sees fit to grant us.

You may pity my misfortune and together we will mourn our losses, but if you cry with me, then you must also laugh with me on that glorious day when together we pen the words, “Caden is awake!”

November 20, 2012

“Dear friends,

Caden Riley Beggan
Born 29th September, 2006
Died 20th November, 2012
. . . in Mummy and Daddy’s arms.

Thank you for all your support.

Caden is alive forevermore . . .”

If you would like to send cards to the family, please feel free to send to the family home.
David and Angela
1 Wishaw Low Road

Where is God now?

How could I ever look at anything and ask, “Where’s God?!” All I have to do is look out my window. I can see God everywhere, in everything.
But I have been in that place. More than once. Spiritual desolation where God is nowhere to be found. That corner of hell with gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair.

That place where a young mother is diagnosed with cancer and dies less than a year later leaving a husband and two young children that she worked so hard to have.

The place where baby’s who are “incompatible with life” are carried full-term, the mother’s belly sliced open to give baby life and after a few short days out of the womb the mother is left with memories, photos and a wound far greater than the one from the blade of the scalpel.

The place where ends don’t meet.

There’s no happily ever after.

Where regret is a constant companion and depression is the norm.

Where one begins to doubt heaven and the existence of a God at all.

What kind of God would take the life of a 17-year-old girl with all the promise in the world, one beautiful day after a small town football game? Her mother recalls her saying, “It’s the most beautiful day! I don’t remember a day quite like it?” That was one of the last things she heard her daughter say.

Who wants to know a God that watches two small children lay flowers on their mother’s grave and ask their daddy night after night, “Where’s mommy?”

If God is so good wouldn’t he grant the wish of the young wife who has cried herself to sleep for the last 5 years when the pregnancy test is negative…again.

What about the children who are sold into a world of sex and abuse. Being promised to the dirtiest of men who use them up and throw them away when they’re finished. Surely God doesn’t see or hear their whimper for help. How could he and not do anything about it?!

I don’t know the answer. What I do know, without a doubt in my mind, is that God is good…all the time…even when it doesn’t feel like it. I have crouched, head in hands, digging nails into my scalp, hoping the pain would cure my numbness.

I have been in my corner of self-inflicted hell with seemingly no way out while making promise after promise to my Creator of what I would abstain from if only he would get me out of the current circumstances and save me from myself.I have committed heinous acts thought to push me far beyond forgiveness.

Here is what I know. The same God who calmed the sea when he told Peter to walk out on the water to him, calms my heart when I don’t understand his plan. Just like Peter, when I take my eyes off of him, I sink into the very thing I think capable of overtaking me.

I want to have faith. I do. I want to see every situation through the eyes of a just and loving God with a plan far greater than my own…but more times than not, I don’t. Half the time I shake my fist to the heavens while the other half I lay face down on the floor, arms out, palms open, “Thy will be done, Lord. Not my will, but thine.

I don’t understand his ways. Why should I? I was never promised full disclosure. If I were granted understanding, would there be a need for faith? What would it really change?

He is a God who gives and takes away.

His love endures forever and ever.

I believe.

The only other option is the opposite of hope. A life of uncertainty, waiting for the next “thing” to happen. Asking myself when atrocities occur what I could have done to prevent it, when none of it is within the realm of my control, nor would I want it to be.

God is God and I am not.
All knowing.
All seeing.
All wise.
The same yesterday, today and forever.

There is one thing I do have control over.
The choices I make.
In this moment,
I choose faith.
I choose not knowing the whole story, but trusting that it will play out as it should.
I choose joy.
I choose grace and mercy.
I choose to see people as God with skin on.
I choose life.
I choose Christ.
I choose freedom.
I choose trust.
I choose forgiveness.

I choose to go out on my back porch, take in beauty that is far too majestic to capture, inhale cleansing breaths through my nose and into every cell in my body, all that is good, all that is well, all that is pure and healing. While exhaling the “what if?” “Why me?” “Why them?” “Why now?” I choose the something far greater awaiting me, if I choose to believe.