Bleeding Heart: A Love Story

Sometimes in quarantine, the most beautiful things are found.

A man searches the heavens and beholds the stars for two reasons, because they are luminous, and because they are unobtainable; all the while dwelling beside a sweeter radiance and a greater mystery—woman. When celestial meets divine, it precipitates across the sky, across a heart, across the life of an observer fortunate enough to witness such a miracle. When heaven kisses earth, benevolent rays transcend the void. I have sometimes thought that in such moments, hours detach themselves from the lives of angels and fall here below to traverse the destinies of men.

From time to time, eternity fills a flash, a look, a moment which pauses the rotation of our great star, yet retains the full violence of its ferocious power. For the first time in a long time, I was blessed to witness and experience that rare, sacred moment where flame falls from above and captivates the heart of the willing bystander. How did this come to pass? How does it come to pass that the rose unfolds, that snow melts, that the dawn grows? Destiny, with its mysterious and fatal patience, slowly drew together two beings, all charged and all languishing with stormy electricity. The abyss of Eden had yawned once more, releasing in a flash of light a wildfire with bohemian blood in her veins. As she danced her dance, a spark fell from her soul to mine, engulfing and inundating my bellowed heart. Oh, how I longed to live there forever, where the soul enters the palace of dreams, to bask in the courts of her perfect radiance, incessantly admiring and glowing with praise. To see, to be near, to experience two minds that understood each other, two hearts that exchanged with each other, two glances that penetrated each other. Taking her in my arms and pressing her close. To feel her force against my chest. Oh blessed and radiant days! One could think that God might be jealous of this adoration had he not made creation for the soul, and the soul for love. In such moments, there is nothing God can add to the bliss of love except to grant endless duration.

When love has fused and mingled two beings in such a sacred and angelic unity, they are no longer anything but the two boundaries of the same destiny…two wings of the same spirit. Love—the divine spark. It is a point of fire that exists within us, which is immortal and infinite, which nothing can extinguish, and which nothing can confine. Who is able to tell their heart what they can and cannot love? I loved that shooting star. But such flashes fade quickly in city lights. For such flames, such creatures, such souls are not meant to be captured and cannot be contained. Thus, a bleeding heart bleeds, and there are no more words.

When a magnificent light disappears, all things lose their brilliance. As the world turns grey, it is easy for the mind to rest in dark places, but the future belongs to hearts more than minds. Though the mind can postulate, hypothesize, and speculate, true knowledge resides in the heart, that great furnace of dreams, where the foundation of all intention is forged; that sacred cast which holds the residue of ancient purpose and eternal drive…eternal love. Thus, we press on with such songs, such cries, such wounds; wounds which long to share everything…their dreams, their intoxications, their ecstasies, their most secret and most mysterious thoughts, their weaknesses, their longings, their despair. How long Lord? What love commences, only God can complete.

When a heart has been kindled so, it seeks a multitude of mysterious ways to communicate with its compliment; the song of sparrows, the fragrance of flowers, the laughter of children, the light of the sun, the rays of stars, all of creation. And why not? All the works of God are made to serve love. Love is sufficiently potent to charge all nature with its message. Oh Spring! Could this be the year? My heart blooms with deep seraphic love. Good Shepherd have mercy. For, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done.


Reconciliation: A Journey Between Father & Son

The journey of reconciliation between father and son is long and arduous; fraught with frustration, tears, great sacrifice, driving hope, and a love that preservers.

(Dad and me circa 1988.)

From titles, substantial significance is drawn. Throughout my life, my father has held the title of Dad, Provider, Abusive Alcoholic, Monster, Encourager, Drinking Buddy, Friend, Roommate, and Dependent. As a child, I experienced horrors no kid should ever have to live through. Each night I earnestly prayed for my father to go to hell, while every day I longed for a meaningful relationship with the chimera I could not understand.

As I grew in understanding and stature, my father transformed as I transformed. With eyes to see the man beneath the monster, my heart and mind began to shift as I saw more and more of myself in him. For God had shown me the few short steps which separated his life from mine. While I’d like to say this insight instantly healed and propelled our relationship along the road of restoration, relational baggage accumulated over a lifetime is not easily discarded or relinquished. It’s as if there’s a part of us that longs to cling to the hurts which poison the soul.

One of the medicinal qualities of music is how it ministers to deep wounds. Growing up I always heard Cat’s In The Cradle on the radio, but I was either too young to understand it, or simply never took the time. To me, it was just a “feel good” song with a nice rolling melody. It wasn’t until a few years ago, in hearing it as an adult, when its dark profound truth pierced my marrow. If you do not know what the song is about, or if you have not listened to it in a while, I recommend you click here. In essence, it’s a song about a young boy who wants to spend time with his dad, but his dad never had time for him. As the son became a man and the dad an old man, the dad wanted to spend time with his son, but now it was the son who had no time for his father…and the cat’s in the cradle…

Why some moments are seared into the deepest recess of memory and others are lost in time, I will never know. However, around 9th grade, I remember asking my dad something I never asked before…if he wanted to play catch. He said no, and asked why I wanted to. To which I replied, “I don’t know. I’m just trying to bond with you like normal people.” “Normal”…whatever that means. I should have known our relationship was never destined to be normal.

Fast forward twenty years to today, where my father lives with me, is more or less house bound, and is primarily taken care of by me. In this environment, I see, feel, and experience the full story of Harry Chapin’s song. For as I go to work, I see a sadness in his eyes. When I return, said sadness is transmuted into resentment, jealousy, and animosity for the work I do at the prison, which manifest in vile verbal jeers, which is wonderful to come home to after a long, emotional day. In such moments of depletion, exhaustion, and attack, it can be easy to react in kind with hurtful visceral retorts which carry the spirit of “you weren’t there for me, why should I be here for you? I’m over this!” I would be lying if I said I hadn’t thought that a half dozen times over the years since his stroke.

However, unlike the song, I am determined to achieve a happy ending, and to relentlessly pursue the mission God has placed within my heart. For ever since he had the stroke, and even sometime before, I knew personally taking care of him was not only the right thing to do, but was what I needed to do.

Sometimes in life we find ourselves fighting against who we should be fighting for. My dad is not the enemy. The person you love is not the enemy. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, what does arguing with the man accomplish? It is counter-productive to everything I’ve worked for and everything I hope and pray for…that he’d find true joy, peace, and a greater fullness and zest for life. That he’d be proud of me and understand the work I do, and that God would bring to completion the good work He begun within him many years ago.

(Walking with Dad. Then and now.)

As days turn to months, and months to years, the blessings of this journey and choice have not been missed. For the tender, sacred moments of “thank you,” “I appreciate all you do,” “I love you,” “drive safe,” “sleep tight,” “God bless you too,” “tell the men I say hi,” in addition to all the nonverbal moments we have shared as I lovingly honor and serve him, have been a balm and a fount of healing for wounds known and unknown alike.

It has been said, “the greater the call, the greater the challenge.” I know everything I do for my father day in, day out, is a great, mighty, and noble call. Thus, I should not be surprised when I encounter challenges, frustrations, negative attitudes, and spirits which seek to rob me of my joy and peace, and seek to compromise my Christian character. Given this understanding, it is my prayer that when my father pushes my buttons (the buttons he installed), that I would not react out of my flesh to his hateful, ornery, cantankerous disposition, but rather respond from a posture of a broken heart. That my response would be saturated with an attitude of sacrificial love; not in a way that makes me a doormat, but in a way which reflects the patient love Jesus has for him. That instead of becoming angry from the accumulation of latent micro-aggressions, that I would have the awareness to identify them as they arise, and immediately surrender them to God in prayer. I acknowledge none of this is possible without the help and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As I seek to abide in the Lord, may the growth of my ability to love well in the midst of challenging circumstances amalgamate with your prayers, all for the glory of God. I’m eternally grateful that while our earthly father’s may continuously miss the mark, that we have a Heavenly Father who is good, and perfect in all of his ways.

For your viewing pleasure, and for having a face to pray for, I leave you with the following portrait of my father. Taken last week, I believe it’s an honest, vulnerable capture of the soul within.

(Terry Buttery, April, 2020)

Eyes of a Child

Earlier today I went for a run…holding strong to my new year’s resolution of getting back in shape! ; )  When halfway through, I encountered a family out for a walk, pushing a stroller in the beautiful SoCal sun. As I approached them I noticed an interesting phenomenon…the eyes of the child where curiously and joyfully locked onto mine, while the parents seemed to do everything within their power to avoid making eye contact. This instantly made me marvel at the joy and innocence of children, at the harsh callousness of adults, and of the words of Jesus, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I lost my innocence or describe where and how I developed my many callouses, but I know from time to time, there is a child inside that says, “Aaron, look up. Smile at that person. Acknowledge their presence. Acknowledge that they too are fearfully and wonderfully made. Say hi and be a friend.” I guess somewhere along the bumps and turns of life we silence and ignore that voice…muting it to near nonexistence. What would life look like…what would 2020 look like if we revived the child inside? To some degree, I believe that is what life is all about…regaining trust, wholeness, unabashed joy, spectacular wonder, wild imagination, and belief.

In closing, I share a poem my dear friend Neal Hook (95 years old!) shared with me. It’s called The Child Inside, by Calvin J. Edward. May it bless you, touch you, and set you free…


The child who lives inside of me

Can see the things I cannot see;

My eyes are blinded by their sight;

Unseen, his sees, by love’s pure light.

His hands, unseen, can grasp, it seems

The things that are to me but dreams;

With ears wide open he listens clear

To a still small voice mine cannot hear.

My heart, cold, hard, and sheltered kept

It seems a thousand years has slept;

A sign outside reads, “GO AWAY!”

But a little child knocking, says, “Come out and play.”

It seems love’s passions have long since died;

What’s left remaining? Hurt…Bitterness…Pride,

And a fear that chills me to the core,

For I dread the child outside my heart’s door.

In need of love, I stand and thirst;

The child inside hopes, but I fear the worst;

And when the anguish of the loneliness inside of me peeks,

Amazingly, it is the child’s tears that roll down my cheeks.

The child inside is rich, and I, though poor

Throw all my weight against my heart’s door;

For insanely I scream that I must shield

What has taken a lifetime for me to build.

But the harsh, unforgiving winter has taken its toll;

It has drained me of life; it has withered my soul;

The zest I once kept for life, grown cold,

And though still quite young, I feel so very old.

Weakened, I know that I cannot continue this fight,

For the winter rages on with no end in sight;

And outside my heart’s door I hear this faint cry,

“If I would live, then you must die.”

Alas, beaten down and broken, I, without a sound

Fall humbly surrendered to the ground;

And there as I lie, to myself having died,

The little child emerges from deep inside.

Joyously, the child laughs, saying, “At last I am FREE!

And surely I shall live eternally!”

And me? Oh, I no longer hide;

For you see, I have become “The Child Inside.”