The Song You Sing

Over the past week or two, I’ve written, rewritten, and ultimately discarded a post that’s been sticking in my craw like county fair taffy. In the end, I think I only need a few syllables. 17, to be exact:

All lives are the same
Created in His beauty
All matter to God

I think about life, and then Thoreau speaks quiet words into my ear:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

I don’t want to listen to him, because I got a “B” on my Civil Disobedience paper, and his sideburns are ridiculous.

Am I quietly desperate? I don’t know. I don’t want to be.

That doesn’t make his words any less true.

Do you really want to live the rest of your life with the song still in you? Ain’t nobody got time for that.


At my best, my voice is…not good. But in my own way, I carry a tune (even if it is in a bucket).

I just decided that it’s OK if people don’t like my melody—or don’t think I’m musical.

Maybe my music consists of letters instead of notes; bouquets of words, and sentences, and imagery.

I’m good with that.

All I want to say to you, whoever you are, is find your music.

It’s different for everyone.

It’s probably something else for you. Your music will sound different than anyone else’s.

It should–you weren’t designed the same as they were. You don’t have the same purpose, but be assured, you have one.

For my wife, it’s singing and pouring out her amazing heart for children.

Find your own song, and belt that thing like Andrea Bocelli.

Let me finish with these words from Psalm 51–about the most appropriate I can think of, given what I’m talking about:

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise

Certainly not my words, but they fit.

Listen, or How a Trip to Mexico Changed My Life

There’s a lot I can take credit for in my life.

My mistakes.

My screw ups.

Things like that.

The turn my life has taken over the past few years is not one of them.

More than ten years ago I was a believer, but I was a just-inside-the-gate-of heaven type of guy. I did as little as I could so that I felt “saved,” but had not really done much of anything with the Gospel, or myself.

I was neither financially, spiritually, or romantically viable. And probably some other viables, too.

I believe the saying now is a “hot mess.”

A former relationship had rendered me skittish about sticking out my neck in any real way, so I didn’t. I just sat back and waited for the next thing to happen.

It didn’t, even though there were a couple of opportunities with some really nice, really great women who probably would have made me happy.

Never tried.

My discipleship and spiritual life were mediocre, at best. I was part of a ministry that changed my life over around a five-year period, but that was due to God being glorious, and me at least being smart enough to stand out of the way and let God use me a few times. I almost feel like I had nothing to do with it. Maybe I didn’t.

Financially, I had a decent job that payed well enough, but I was utterly stupid about money and it amounted to naught. Plus, it was in the cellular industry and there was always a measure of uncertainty attached to it.

I made so many bad choices it makes me shudder to think of it now (not that all my choices now are perfect, but they are at least considered first).

I needed to get away, to think about things, and where my life was going. I needed to pray. I had what turned out to be a misguided feeling that if I could just meet someone, my life would be better.

Well, actually, that was true. Just not in the way I thought.

There were a couple of lame attempts at online dating that I really never expected to succeed. So they didn’t.

I considered what was wrong in my life, and why all that stuff was so hard.

I’d had a few relationships here and there, but they always went in the toilet after various periods of time.


I could not blame the women, not really. I had chosen to pursue them in most of the cases. And eventually I always just…face-planted.

I’d always had more female friends than male ones. I guess that was because of my childhood and adolescence, which I’ve written about several times. Not inclined to repeat any of that here. Anyway, it seemed to make things easier, but not really.

There was the feeling of being with someone in a “safe” way, but it also gave me the opportunity to take things in the wrong direction emotionally, which did end up happening once. Also, once physically, which was the biggest mistake of my life.

Also, it removed the risk of me meeting anyone else, because it seemed like girls weren’t all that interested in guys who hung out with girls most of the time.

Most importantly, though, it was not appropriate. I don’t believe now that God made us that way—at least not me. I copped out for a very large part of my life.

And then it came to pass that God allowed me a moment of clarity about my life, and the conclusion I came to was this one: I was never going to right my ship and my life if I kept doing the same things over and over again. It was clear I didn’t really know how to handle things—I’d never learned.

So that meant the “why” was because I had never asked what God thought about my relationships, or if I should even have one.

A day or two after that conclusion, I was fooling around online—watching YouTube clips and skimming around a couple of dating sites. I signed into MySpace to play some online game and saw I’d gotten an email from a young woman in AZ. I didn’t know her, but she was pretty so I didn’t delete it. I read it, though. I didn’t get any voice from on high telling me what to do.

So I kept skimming, and watching concert clips.

A short while later, I went to Mexico for a short vacation with two good friends (yes, they were female. No, there wasn’t any tension that way). We had a condo a few short steps from the Akumal beach.

(sorry for the gratuitous backfat shot–it’s the only pic I have that shows the view from the patio where I would sit and write)

I sat out there the first morning, and I read a little scripture and scribbled in a notebook. It became my habit over the next few days, between snorkeling, sightseeing, and drinking margaritas.

I think it was the second to last day when I wrote this:

“God, if you’re ever going to make something happen for me with someone, you have to make it really clear what you want (yes, I gave an order to the creator of all things). Because I don’t know what I want, but I know I don’t want this—this life—anymore. I don’t want to die, I just want it to be different.”

There were a few more things, but that’s the part that matters most for my purposes today.

Shortly after returning, I pulled up MySpace at work and wrote a reply to the Arizona woman who’d written me.

Her name was Jenny.

Everything flowed from that. From the beginning, our conversations were easy and authentic. Transparent.

It went quickly, but felt right from the very beginning. It felt like that clarity I’d asked God for.


I listened.

Jenny and I were married on May 16, 2009.

Today, we have two crazy boys, and we own a home. Things are looking up, and get better all the time. We worship and serve at First Christian Church–Yuma. We are leaders in the Prayer Ministry there.

The pastor is a Godly man named Jeff Elzey who is also a great guy. We are able to worship every week with our best friends and family, and that is wonderful.

Yes, there were quite a few bumps and a pretty significant breakdown along the way, but it feels like those things needed to happen now as part of my personal refining. And some pain was involved, but so was healing.

My life is full now, and fulfilled. Listening to God brought all of that about. Asking him to take control of that part of my life and my heart helped. Otherwise I would have discarded all the little clues he set in my path—never been great at grasping subtleties.

I love the life God has set before me.

I love my family, and all the friends I’ve made since becoming part of things at my church and in my community.

My job is better than it’s ever been.

I take no credit for any of it. I just think there are so many blessings in being faithful. Not perfect—just faithful.

Listen to God. Listen FOR God.

It will change your life.

Dysfunction, with a W

Today I read an article online about the TV show Six Feet Under. It was pretty much just a quick oral history of how the show came to be, but there was a small part of it where the actor Peter Krause, I think, was talking about how the Fisher family was dysfunctional on the show, but that cast as a family was very functional.

It got me thinking about my own family growing up. Not that we were terribly dysfunctional, really. I think we were like lots of families during that time period. My brother and sisters grew up in the 60’s and 70’s (I came along in 1968), and it was just a different time then.

My siblings dealt with the same things lots of people did during that time period—Viet Nam, drug issues (not necessarily their own), probably some politics, meeting (or not meeting) societal and parental expectation, and simply finding their own way.

And they had this baby brother come along, and they were really more like parents to me than anything else.

My mom dealt with health and alcoholism issues as long as I can remember. Then it was cancer issues, and it took her a really long and painful decade to succumb to them.

I got along with my sisters much better than my brother. They showed me the love and support my parents couldn’t, for whatever their reasons. My brother, not so much. If I had to name an individual responsible for most of my woundings and scars, it would be him. Both literally, and figuratively.

He single-handedly formed the self-image that almost completely undid me.

I didn’t get it before—not for years—but I think I understand why things played out like that a little better now.

He was a little different as a kid, from what I have been made to understand. Perhaps there could have been some mental or chemical issues, I don’t know. He wasn’t always easy to love. Still, the girls did what they could.

Then I come along, and for whatever the reason, I was treated and loved well by my sisters and was a total mama’s boy. I don’t think there was anything special about me, but the love I was shown shaped my personality as much as my brother’s hate did, I think. And I get that it upset him and probably caused a lot of his issues with me.

Plainly put, this new brother did not help his issues at all, and certainly stole a lot of the time that he used to get. It felt like he hated me for being more loved than he was. I don’t know if that’s true.

I suppose that is a dysfunction.

Yet there were also moments of kindness. He would give me things of his I wanted that he didn’t use or play with anymore. He would take me for rides on his motorcycle. One time I got sick in the middle of the night and puked all over the place. He cleaned me up and put me back to bed, and then cleaned up the mess all by himself without waking anyone else up.

Lots of things like that.

My dad seemed a little aloof, but I think that was a generational thing. Men of his time (the greatest generation) were not always the touchy-feely uber-dads you see so often these days (I try to be that kind of dad myself).

I think he did the best he could considering what he had to deal with himself. There were periods of unemployment, my mom’s alcoholism and cancer. Probably hopes and dreams he had of his own that never happened. I don’t ever remember him striking me or anything like that. But I also don’t remember encouragement coming from his direction. I don’t remember much in the way of physical affection, though I suppose he did love me after his own fashion.

He died when I was 16.

Still, I had my friends, and I had my mom and sisters. My brother was thankfully not home much that I remember, and that was good. He only seemed to come around when something bad happened, and he wanted me to feel like it was my fault.

Like when my friend shot himself about ½ mile from my house.

Like when my high school girlfriend broke up with me shortly after graduation.

Like when my mom died in 1987.

That was when my downward spiral started, and didn’t end for a really long time. There weren’t really drugs, unless you count binge-drinking. There was lots of that. There were also several empty relationships, the last of which ended in the early 2000’s. There was a short foray into occultism. Pornography. Despair.

More dysfunction, I guess. During most of those years, I was not a good brother, or probably friend. I preferred shadows, and I would walk in them.

Then God started to introduce people of faith into my life—slowly, so I didn’t notice it was happening.

And for the first time I can remember, I also had accountability.

I met a guy in college who introduced me to a Jesus I hadn’t heard much about, and he called me on it when I was doing dumb stuff. My self-image began to change. Slowly, and I didn’t notice it was happening. The Jesus he told me about loved people as they were—even in their imperfection and sin. He forgave. He changed them from the inside out.

He changed me, in the fullness of time, with many missteps along the way.

I think about all the dysfunction, and I think about the many valleys I’ve been through in my life. Lots of pain. Lots of bad things.

I would not change any of it, and I know how that sounds.

But had I not experienced that stuff, I would not be here today, literally.

There’s a line in the Pat Conroy (one of my very favorite authors) book, The Prince of Tides where the narrator says something like “There are lots of families who go their whole lives with nothing of interest happening to them—not a single thing. I’ve always envied those families.”

I like the book a lot, and used to feel that way myself.

Not anymore.

My family is interesting, and has overcome a lot. Everything I have and more.

I love them.

We are weird, and we have phobias, and predilections, and strange habits.

But strange and dysfunctional as we are, we are a family.

Wilkins in various forms, ideologies, shapes, and colors.

I have been shaped by my life experiences, and by the love I have been shown over my life. Not by the hate. Nothing good is.

I am not the person some of those experiences led me to think for so many years.

God showed me that.

So here I am today.


I work for the Army (indirectly), doing a job I like very much.

I have my own family, and though we might not be Wilkins-level dysfunctional, we try our best. We are loud, and crazy, and we fight, but not as much as we love.

My wife is literally the most extraordinary woman I have ever known, and I will love her until I look like this:


All that dysfunction was for a reason. It got me here, by the Grace of Jesus, my abba.

The Wilkins family is here to stay. We’ve got branches all over the country, though my main concern is the San Diego Chapter.

I am grateful beyond measure.

I love show tunes, and I love metal, the language of my people.

My wife has introduced me to country, and I like that, too.

I like mince pie, even though I seem to be the only person in Arizona who does.

I love books, and my kids, and carne asada tacos.

Life is pretty good.

You’re Making Me Hate You

It’s election time, and that means I have…what, another 6 months to watch my mind slowly spiral into madness from all the commercials, sound bytes, and all that.

I hate political rhetoric.

I hate that I am this, or that, or the other because I don’t agree with you.

Look between these parentheses (                                 ). See that? That’s how many craps I give about who you vote for.

Please extend me the same courtesy without branding me a racist, ageist, sexist, meat-loving (Meat has a FACE!), right-wing elitist.

And also, I eat meat. I don’t intend to take pictures of it and show it to you. Look here (                                  ). That’s right. That’s how many craps I give about how many garbanzo beans and kale chips you stuff in your cake-hole. I don’t need photographic evidence.

You know what vegans love more than being vegan? Telling people they’re vegan.

And you! Person who drives 50 on I-95 and then speeds up to 85 when you get to the passing lane. And then slows back to 50 on the other side. Why? What’s the matter with you?

Or you! You know who you are. You spend more time in the opposing traffic lane passing people than you do in your own darn lane. What’s that movie called? Oh, right. Death Race. You’re gonna win it someday.

Don’t think I forgot about you–person who doesn’t know how to use a debit card. Write a check, Mrs. Robinson. Or take some ones out of your cookie jar. It’s a card reader, not a robot.

And young lady, the stall door was open behind you in your bathroom selfie. Someone was taking their morning constitutional. Good thing your cell phone was IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE, or someone might recognize you.

Yes, your kids are cute. Mine are, too. We can leave that alone.

You. Bird. Poop on my windshield while I’m driving again. See what happens.

Meme abuser. Just stop it.

I don’t want to play that game. I’m not going to send you a life.

Lastly, for now, STAY OFF MY LAWN.



I have spent a large majority of my life looking at paintings

Moments of time and segments of the universe captured on different shapes and sizes

of canvas

I become mesmerized by the subtle stroke of the brush

The way the artist so delicately depicts areas and aspects to scale

To the point that my heart feels a sudden rush

As if I could reach my hand out and touch every last detail

As if this was a dream

Caught up in the scene

I find my heart slipping further and further into…love


This is a story of my bent

I prefer shadows


This is not a conscious decision that I resolved to make

To be honest, images are just easier for me to take

Easily digested, I could chew all day

And eventually be able to wrap my mind around what the picture is trying to say


So I stare

I stare deeply into the deepest point of the portrait

Thinking that the pain of this world around me will somehow let go

Hoping that somehow this paradigm will satisfy my soul


But I end up empty

I end up thirsty

Longing for a drink

And once again I return, crawling to Your feet

Broken, ashamed, desperate for relief

I have chased creation to its end and wound up on my knees

Begging for forgiveness while hoping You can’t see me

Because I know the truth about me


I know that You have delivered for my every need

But I also know that as soon as You give me manna, I start demanding meat

I know that You have been my Protector through pain and suffering

But I also know how quickly my heart asks where You are as soon as I can’t see the

path beneath my feet


So don’t look at me

I can’t stand the sight of me

So how can You, in Your infinite glory, allow me to be in Your presence?

Yet You

With a voice that calms the sea of anxiety in my soul

Tell me to look up

And Your eyes

That see right through me

Tell me that You knew me

And I behold You in all Your beauty

And I’m…satisfied

A heart that has constantly tried to find its purpose in everything else in life finally

resides at rest


Because Your beauty is much more than infatuation

Your beauty provides my soul with satiation

Beauty that transcends to give Your children definition

For in Your presence I can clearly see that I’m not defined by my sins

My life is not marked by my bents

Because when I look into Your face the world grows strangely dim

And I fall in


You’re all that I see

All that I know

A son returning to his Father and a Father meeting him on the road

Welcoming me home

And before I can utter the words “I’m sorry”

You tell me that You already know


You know me

The real me

The me that I’ve been both chasing and running away from my entire life

So scared that if you were to cut me open with a knife

That disgust and darkness would be the color I would bleed

And that You would be embarrassed that You chose to ransom me


Yet that’s the me You know

That’s the me You love


So I give up

I give in

And I extend my broken, desperate, calloused skin to touch the edge of Your robe

And even just the fringes brings healing to my soul

For what seems like the first time in my life I see You as beautiful

Wholly, completely enough

No longer am I staring at empty promises painted on pointless portraits

But instead I’m peering into pure love


You are better than the things that I’ve been chasing

You are beautiful

You are my joy in the trials that I am facing

You are beautiful

Peace to my storm, stronger than my addiction

Help in my time of need, comfort in my affliction

You are beautiful

And You will forever be


So fix my eyes to consistently see

Cause my mind to constantly think

Give my heart a new song to sing

Fill my lungs so that they always breathe


For You are beautiful


–Issac Wimberly