And I'm tired. Worn out. Frustrated. Wondering how I could seem to have it all together and yet not have anything going for me.
I give up God.
I will listen.
I will obey.
Your better at this anyway.
With antipathy the hero landed his eyes on the harsh desert lands of Arizona. Cacti populated the otherwise sparse landscape, a landscape which had been dessicated at the dawn of time. Was he so audacious as to traverse this harsh terrain? No attempts on his part could ameliorate the situation at hand. While his nemesis made desparate, dilatory attempts, he decided the time had come as he stepped out into the great unknown.
Well at least the story wasn't bombastic per usual, although perhaps a bit banal in nature. Can anyone guess which words I chose? Also, three other words were used and bonus points will be given if you can get those right too.
I want a girl who stays up late, (stays up late!)
I want a girl with uninterupted prosperity,
Who uses a machete, to cut through red tape.
~Short Skirt, Long Jacket by Cake
I find this song by Cake quite humorous, even though I'm sure the majority of the innuendos elude me. I'm so naive I'm not even sure if the song contains innuendos, but I'm going to assume that it does to be safe.
But I think it's funny what Cake is looking for in a girl. In essence he's looking for the modern day woman who has "good dividends" and is "sharp as a tack". I think it funny, because this weekend I started realizing that Cake and I are not in competition for the same girl.
Two of my best friends were in town this weekend, and as has become our custom, we finished off with the obligatory pow-wow. We discussed AIDS in Africa, poverty, and how we can help with the situation. And of course, we discussed girls. It's hard to transition from AIDs in Africa to girls, but it is indeed possible.
One of my friends just started dating a girl, after briefly subdating (a whole other blog could cover that very definition!), and he was describing why he liked her. Every part of her, he said, flowed grace and encouragement. Everything she seemed to do was driven by deep love and compassion. While I'm sure she isn't perfect, she sounded incredibly angelic. It then occured to me those qualitys are what I'm looking for.
Many times I think I've gone after the wrong things. Someone who needs me and I can fix. Someone who is funny and enchanting. Someone who is beautiful or brilliant. Most of these things are good, but they aren't eternal. How great to think of someone who supports and encourages me in everything I do. Who is wanting me to reach Heaven and be with God as much as she wants to be there herself.
Not only is that what I want, but that's what I want to be for someone. I can only attract someone like that if I am like that myself. There may be some deep evangelical lesson in all of this too, because that is what draws people to understanding God more.
So I now know what to look for. It's taken awhile, and I've been a little more dense than I should have been. Of course, she probably needs to be brilliant and cute too. :)
What naivete! Where did these thoughts come from? For the past year I've been peering in to other churches via the Internet and have been shocked by the messages I've heard. They're good! In fact, they are typically better than anything I've ever heard in my life. They are more relevant to my life, to society, and do not seem like trite, tired messages.
So to give you a sampling of what I'm talking about here are some lessons I really like from three different churches:
Jacob's Well (Kansas City)
What is Forgiveness
Porn Sunday - LifeChurch.TV (local to Edmond, OKC)
Listing of Messages
You know, I think I may attend one of these churches here soon. Don't worry. I'll say a special prayer beforehand.
I like movies and books a lot too. I think I like them because they are brief snapshots of time that covers so much ground. We learn a lot about a character's past, how they handle a certain situation, and what that will mean for the rest of their life (if they are so lucky to survive the plot!).
Sometimes I like to view my life in these terms. I've often been vain enough to think that my life would make an interesting story. The characters that would weave in and out of my story would be interesting too. I could talk about my friend who is a poet, wants to be a monk, and doesn't mind being referred to as crazy. I could discuss my friend who is a great teacher, is full of life, and defines the modern day independent woman. I could discuss the occasional fling that comes in and out of my life, or the one girl who really inspires me to be a better man so that I might one day win her heart.
But I'd really love to hear my life narrated. I'd love to know how my past is definng me, and what the future holds. I think hearing our lives through a story would give it more purpose. The things that go on each day sometimes seem mundane. Another five miler. Another day at work. Another day going to church. But these are pages in my life, that somehow make up the larger story. Those pages are somehow giving you character clues into who I am, and how the story will end.
I wonder what that story would be. I wonder what that story is.
Our goal downtown was simply to feed the poor and homeless. But I didn't get very far. On my first lunch I met a lady named Lisa, who asked me to pray for her. I was of course glad to pray for her, and tried my best to pray for her needs. However, it wasn't until after the prayer that her whole story came out.
You see, Lisa looked extremely beat up. Her left eye was swollen shut. The rest of her face was scraped. She could barely walk. I didn't pry much, but gradually she began to tell me what happened. Three weeks ago she was put into the hospital because a man continually bashed her, and severely hurt her knees so much that she had to have surgery. After coming out of surgery she was placed into detox because of how frequently she drank. She repeatedly told me she drank to deal with the hurt of this world.
Last night she was finally released from detox. Upon being released, she was left out on the streets to fend for herself. There again she was beat so bad that her eye swelled shut. The police, she said, overlooked what was happening. The centers, after I asked her if she had sought help from them, weren't much help at all. And so she said she couldn't really eat the food I gave her because she was drinking her pain away and she might throw up.
I didn't know what to say. She would say things like, "Don't worry about me. At least I'm not six feet under. The Lord blesses me with that." And, "I'm so tired of being sick and tired." I've heard these things before, but not from someone I couldn't easily write off. Not from someone I couldn't feel self-righteous over and condemn them for making poor choices. No amount of Republican indignation and American independence protected me from feeling her plight.
I don't know her whole story. I probably never will. But I didn't know what to do to help. My measly meal did nothing for her. She didn't even take it. My prayer did have an effect, because God is powerful. But I got back in my van and left her there. Her? She has another night on the streets where she hopes to stay alive.
What can be done in a world this broken? How come I get to come back to my comfortable home and worry about my petty problems? Are we missing something here? Are the only things we can do is bring a sack lunch once a year to people?
"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their trouble,
and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."
James 1:27, NKJV
Sounds nice. What does it mean?
We had a retreat for our Singles group last weekend, and we studied parts of the Sermon on the Mount. When I came home Sunday night I decided it would be my goal to read through these passages again and again nightly for the next month. As I read Jesus' words I would then try to live them out. I'd pick a verse, pray on it, and then do it.
But it only took me till verse 3 to get disappointed. Matthew 5:3 says:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
The first words out of Jesus' mouth - his opening statement - is too tough for me. I can't hardly even go on to the next verse although its a bit more comforting:
"Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted."
In a country where things like laughter, ambition, and self-confidence are the esteemed values, it's hard to think that there is any room for humility, meekness, or mourning. In fact, the more I read the Sermon on the Mount, the more I think it goes counter to everything I've ever learned in life.
Yes, that's why it's a revolutionary lesson. But sometimes we leave it as that. Revolutionary. I don't want too. I want to live it.
So this fall when the opportunity came to join Chesapeake's rowing team, I seized it. And boy its been great. I've always had two romanticized dreams in my head that I've wanted to fulfill. One is to be on a campus, wearing a tweed coat during a cool fall day, on the way to teach a computer class that somehow transcends 1's and 0's and gets into the meaning of life. The other dream, much like my Harvard brothers at the crack of dawn, is to be on a rowing team as the sun rises or sets over the water.
One dream complete! Each Thursday night I get to go down to Chesapeake's boat house (yes, we're a crazy company) and get on the river with seven other teammates and row to my heart's content. Granted, I'm not very good, but it's fun.
Rowing is a very team-oriented sport which I didn't realize till I got out there. I'm a runner, which unless your on a cross-country team, is a fairly independent sport. I contend that it's better to run with someone, but most times I run on my own. However, the only way to propel the boat forward is for everyone to be in sync. The oars must hit the water at the same time and come out at the same time.
It's really a great example of unity. In fact, its a rare example of total unity. Many times we think of unity as separate entities making up a whole. And each of those entites can have their own goals, desires, or ideas. Not so with rowing. Everyone must be focused on the goal of rowing together.
So, before I muse too deeply let me just say I really think everyone should get out on the water and row if possible. My next hobby, I think, will be the GRE. Blah...
But I love fall, and so when we had a few brief days of respite from summer last week I was thrilled. The crispness of the air. The start of cross-country season. The beginning of the school year. I can't hardly get enough.
I really think it comes down to the feeling of the air. A runner is deeply in touch with the weather outside. During the summer it's miserable to run. If I don't run much before 8:00 AM, I can forget it. The winter can be fun to run in if there is snow, but the choice between staying underneath warm covers or running in 20 degree temperatures is an oft lost battle. And while the spring provides a great relief to cold winter runs, nothing beats the perfect temperatures of a good fall.
So whether you enjoy running or not, and whether you enjoy fall or not, get outside in the coming weeks. Enjoy the one week of fall in Oklahoma where the leaves actually change colors (so much better in Missouri!) And get ready for the lazy days of winter.
P.S. I might just add it's only about 45 days till you can break out your Christmas music!
Turns out nearly everyone is lying. They're lying about their fidelity; they're lying about their friendships; and the list goes on and on. However, it's not just one case like this. It's everybody. Nobody is immune to deceit. In fact, what helps House out is that he never believes in the good of people. He believes more in the evil.
This is opposite of my approach. I tend to believe in the good of all people. Almost to a fault. I don't see why anyone would every lie to me. Or withhold the truth. Or treat me wrongly. I'm not sure if that's because I honestly believe people wouldn't be like that to me, or because I want it to be that way.
But this can lead to disappointment, or disillusionment about what's really happening. In a lot of ways I think House may be a better judge of character than I am. I may be better at seeing the possibilities in people, but he is better at seeing people as they are. I'm not sure I should be so surprised about this. The book of Romans is filled with passages about how we all are sinful. Paul goes on and on about the fact that he can't do what he knows he should do, but does what he does not want to do because of his weak flesh. If Paul can't even get it right, how could we?
I'm not sure what I'm after. In the end, I want to see the good in people. I don't think that's a wrong desire to have. But perhaps I do have to realize that there are deeper desires that wage wars in all of us. Even in you.
So why did I deactivate my account? Lots of reasons. One big reason was that it seemed to consume my free time. Am I bored? Spend 15 minutes browsing people's pictures. Another reason was that it didn't seem healthy. I would infer things from Facebook. You can infer lots of things really, some which are probably true and others that are not. So if I could infer about others, certainly others could infer about me.
But besides wasting time and coming to conclusions without much basis, the real thing that bothered me is that it's not as good of a social tool as it's made up to be. I didn't bond to anyone while I was on Facebook. My relationships didn't grow deeper with any of the 108 people who listed me as their friend.
Oh I know, I know. I'm missing the point. And I am sure I am. But if I am your friend, truely your friend, then their should be more to our relationship than leaving two lines posted on your wall.
So I'm rebelling. I'm 26 going on 60. I'll be back on next week, I'm sure of it. Leave me a post!
In almost every chapter something sticks out to me that I need to work on. Tonight it was the idea of conditional love. I realized that I give love out based on only selfish reasons. If you talk to me and give me your time, I'll love you. If I have something to gain from having a friendship with you, I'll love you. If you are a good person, I'll love you. However, if none of these three conditions is true than I'll be nice to you. I'll placate you. But forget getting "true love" from me.
While this sounds awful and shallow, there is even something worse than that. I view God's love as conditional. If I'm a nice person who goes to church and helps out, God will love me. If I sin and mess up, God will hate me. Or at least that's what I think. Which explains why I don't feel like God loves me too often. Because I'm not that good of a person. I don't deserve His love.
And I don't. Yet He loves me anyway. So I must start to love others whether they have "earned" my love or not. If someone hurts me I need to love them anyway. If I'm disappointed I need to love them as well. If I seemingly have nothing to gain from someone, I will love them as well. To do that I'm going to have to learn true love. Perhaps removing the conditions on love is a good place to start.
You see, I realized over the past few weeks I've stretched myself too thin. I have lots of friends. I don't say that in some self-congratulatory way, or in a way that cries out from low self-esteem of a person wanting to be popular. I say that as a statement of fact. I also think it is ok to have lots of friends. The more people you know, the more people you can help in this world.
But at the same time I know very few people well. Of my close circle of thirty, very few know what I did this week or how I was doing each day. In fact, none probably do. That is no fault of their own; they are certainly great friends. It's not like I know what any of them have been up to either.
So I decided I need to get off the popularity kick. It's not really me. I like to meet new people. I like to make new friends. But thinking that I need to be friends with everyone is a little vain. Not everybody needs me quite like I think they do. But a few do. And I need them too.
Tonight I watched a great movie called "Stranger than Fiction." The main character works for the IRS and has his life figured down to the minute. He is freakishly good with numbers, and lives a fairly predictable, mundane life. I couldn't help but see some similarities between his life and my own. While I think I have a great deal more personality than Harold Crick, I know that like him I want things to be predictable and stable.
Naturally this plot all boils down to a girl. Because, at least in this point in life, that's where we take our chances. Or don't. And so I asked myself, would I ever show up at a girl's store with a box full of "flowers." And to be honest I'm not sure anymore...I would like to think so. But the mantra of late seems to be to not take risks, take it slow, and make sure nobody gets hurt. Is that what I've gained over 26 years? That taking risks ends in disappointment and it is better to play it safe?
If I ever go down with a blaze of glory I'll let you know. I think I will. Probably several more times. But, maybe like Harold I will learn the secret to life is not found in numbers, routine, or predictability.
But I think things are starting to fit back together. I foolishly thought that after my mother's death I could shut out the pain, and put life together back with a smile and a laugh. I didn't realize that my approach never allowed me to deal with the loss. But, finally, this year due to other things going on I felt like I started to have all the human emotions again. Joy, sorrow, frustration, elation, and anything else that falls in between.
And that is good. Pain can do strange things to an individual. If you allow it, you can become slightly sub-human. Too happy to be real, or too sad to be enjoyable. I think I chose the "too happy to be real" approach and eventually realized that I no longer was a normal person.
So, on this Mother's Day, I look back and can be thankful for all that my mom did. I was blessed to have a mom that loved me and who made me into a good man. I will miss her on days like today. I will miss her on holidays, and I will probably miss her even more on those big days in my life that are still on their way. I'll miss her wise counsel and her affirming approval that I am the person she always wanted me to be.
She's not gone, though. I represent her now. I carry her spirit on. And that is my gift to her.
Then I'm reminded I don't.
I'm reminded I'm selfish.
Caught up in my own world.
I went out with a friend recently. A friend I hadn't talked to in a couple of months. We had grown apart, and really I had started to take it personally. I'll just be up front and admit that I deal with self-doubt and confidence quite a lot.
But when I talked to this person, I realized it wasn't me. It wasn't that she was trying to avoid me but that she had withdrawn from all people that are close to her because she was struggling.
I should have known this. I should have not taken it personally and should have kept up with her better. After all we had been friends for years. I should have looked past my own issues and looked out for her.
That's the quality of friend I am.
I read a book about monks once. You know what I really liked about monks? They seemed to be in tune with people. In large part because of their celibacy they had no self-doubt, no petty jealousies. They could simply deal with people where they were at and know when people were struggling and needed a friend.
I wish I could be that way with my friends. I wish I could be that way with any person who needed someone. And maybe I could - if I could just get past myself.
You see, about two weeks ago I was evangelized to for the first time. It was right before my trip to Mexico, and so I had part of the day off from work. A couple of guys came by from a city-wide prayer breakfast that I had attended, and so I gladly let them into my home.
We small-talked for awhile, which was expected. Then the conversation abruptly switched tones, also slightly expected. They started asking me questions about my faith. They first asked me how my relationship was with God, and I told them it was pretty good. They then asked if I daily read His word and prayed, and I said "Yep, I've got a prayer journal and everything that I daily use." The next question they asked was, "If you died today, do you think you would go to heaven?" And I exclaimed with perhaps a bit too much gusto, "Heck yeah I would!" That's not an issue I struggle with, so why try to act all concerned that I'm not going? Then they said, "Well why do you think that?" By this point I'm starting to get a bit wary, and knew they were trying to figure out my angle on religion. Was it because I was baptized? Predestined? I was a good person? Knowing all the possible answers I tried to answer with one I thought worked pretty well and said, "Well I don't think its anything I've done really, and really its God's grace and mercy that He has given me."
Ok, till this point I'm having a perfectly uncomfortable conversation with two guys I don't know about God. I'm ok with this, although I do realize that this model is quirky and that if I ever do such a thing I think I'd slow things down a bit and not make everything awkard in only five minutes time.
But then they broke out the dreaded tract! You know the ones. They then preceded to show me some nice pictures how I'm on one plateau and God is on another, and there is this big abyss between us because of sin. And so, all in picture form, they then tell me we need a bridge to cross and...turn the page...there is the cross so I can walk over it and be with God. How nice.
Ok, my sarcasm may be seeping through but for good reason. By this point I felt insulted and had become extremely quiet. For one thing, I had told them I thought I had a strong faith, and even that I was going on a mission trip the next day. But rather than listening to what I had said, they instead insisted on listening to their version of the gospel story. But, to make matters worse, they then boil my intelligence down to a sixth grade level and show me lovely pictures about how I'm separated from God. Is this how we really want to reach programmers, lawyers, doctors, and anybody else with an education?
Don't get me wrong. I appreciate their efforts. But had I been an atheist or agnostic I would have been turned off. In fact, I probably wouldn't have had the patience to sit through it and would have really told them how I felt. So how do we evangelize? I'm not sure. I think part of the answer starts by believing that people are deep, real people who can't change everything in a matter of moments by us knocking on their doors. Perhaps by each of us reaching out to those we already have relationship with instead of sending people out creating uncomfortable situations. Perhaps by embracing people's intelligence, and realizing that we may have to deepen our faith to answer their tough questions.
"But, Lindelof says, 'the last five minutes of (this month's) finale are going to seal our fate.'" Amazing! That's all I have to say. I already yell at the TV enough as it is, and I'm only getting older so I may have to take an aspirin to ensure that I don't have a heart-attack that night.
To read about how there will be three more seasons click here.
I just got back from a mission trip to Piedras Negras, Mexico. It was probably the strangest mission trip I had ever been on because the first part of the week we worked on construction, while the latter part of the week we worked on cleanup from a tornado that wiped out nearly two years worth of mission construction work. Possibly more on that in another post.
This mission trip couldn't have come at a better time. I had spent the last three or four months working extremely hard at my job. It wasn't uncommon for me to work anywhere from 50-65 hours a week. So when the trip finally arrived, I left my BlackBerry at home and decided I was going to focus solely on the work at hand.
It's hard at times to know what this life is really about. Sometimes we totally invest ourselves in our work and think that working hard is the way to go. Other times we involve ourselves in numerous church activities thinking that life is somehow wrapped up in being involved in everything church-related. Still some of us get caught up in the idea that the intellect is what's it is about and fight theological wars on ways to be part of God's kingdom. None of that seems relevant though when you're truely serving God. It is no longer a matter of what is theologically correct, religously righteous, or morally valuable. Instead it boils down to loving your brothers and sisters, and handling the situation in the moment.
Perhaps that's what I like so much about the mission field, and probably more accurately, mission trips. Everytime I'm on a trip I am so busy that I haven't the time to worry about being religious. All I have time for is doing God's work.
I'm back home now, and tomorrow it's back to work. I don't know what that means. Will the haze return? Will I go back to being religious and attempting to be morally superior to others? Will I care more about wondering whether we should have instruments in the church or other similar squabbles than the lost? Let's hope not. Here's to a good fight!
I realized this tonight when talking to my dear friend Alayna. I enjoy talking to Alayna because usually I don't have to say much. She will discuss the erratic driving patterns of the person in front of her, or the fact that she is cooking chicken for dinner. This kind of conversation amazes me.
A few months ago one of my friends told me that she felt like every conversation with me had to be about something. That she always had to think when talking to me. This really bothered me, and I didn't exactly understand why she felt that way. I thought I was a relatively enjoyable person to talk to.
But lately I've been starting to understand. Random, light-hearted, dare I say frivilous conversation has real value. Discussing the minute, seemingly trivial details of life has purpose. Why it is important for someone to know that I had a frozen dinner tonight has been beyond me till this point. That is not something that furthers someone's understanding about me, or furthers our mutual understanding of the world. But...but...it is important!
Because good friendship is a running dialogue. A shared history of months, even years, of ongoing dialogue that builds upon itself. I had always realized this in terms of humour, and had often used it to my advantage by relying on people's memories of shared events. But I think I had forgotten, especially since college when my life became more autonomous, that regular conversation is good and valuable.
So here's to more "important" trivial conversations! Now I just got to come up with a reason to call you...
But, like I was saying, I like rock climbing because it requires a lot of grit and, of course, tenaciousness. In some regards its a lot like running in that you've got to push through the pain to get to your goal. But unlike running, there is a clear goal, and that is to get to the top. But the top is never easily attainable. And so you have to push your body to reach for holds that you didn't think possible.
I think what I really like about rock climbing is that it gets me out of my comfort zone. I live in Edmond. Life is full of pleasures like driving a nice car, eating at fancy restaurants, and continually amusing myself with TV shows like 24 and Lost. The challenge of survival is never something I worry about. Rock climbing, for those brief moments of imbalance, reminds me that I need to push myself. That not everything comes natural and that sometimes you have to work hard to arrive at your goal. That's why I like running. That's why I like rock climbing. It's good to remind myself of that, especially the older I get and the more set in my ways I become.
I would like to add that while I'm having deep thoughts 40 feet above the ground my roommate is thinking of different ways to disappear while belaying. I just thought you all should know this!
This weekend, two of my closest friends from college came into town. Stephen and Julie, two of the best people to come out of the '80s. On Saturday, we all got together with my roommate, also named Stephen, and Liz to do some intense rock-climbing, followed by intense pancake eating. It was great.
When I first got to OC, I didn't really want to be there. In fact, I pretty much begged my parents to take me home. I had no desire to go to a Christian school, and especially not OC. But one night during the first initiation week, I prayed that God would bless me with good friends. This was one prayer that God answered in abundance while I was in college. I was blessed with having friendships with some of the finest people OC has ever had attend. They were amazingly brilliant, incredibly passionate, and full of a love for God.
At the end of this month it will be four years since I've graduated, and most of my closest friends have moved off to start careers or further their education. Many days this makes me really sad. I've made new friends, and I am very thankful for those new relationships. But a weekend like this one reminds me of how blessed I was for those great college friendships.
In some ways I think this post is more for my friends and me, than my other readers. I realize as I've tried to write this that it's just impossible to explain. Perhaps meaningful friendship and love is impossible to sum up in a few words. Many insightful poets and authors have attempted to do so, but I just can't convey the good feeling I had this weekend. So thanks Julie, Stephen, Liz, Travis, and Joy.
Not knowing that we would have no luck getting on the first flight, we eventually resigned to silence as I typed away on my Blackberry and she called her mother. Eventually her friend showed up as well, and we bemoaned our fate as the flight to Oklahoma City left us without even a trace of hope that our futures might brighten. Apparently fifteen other people were on standby just like us.
That's when we decided it was time we teamed up. As we went to customer service, we started to realize we were in this together. After they told us our chances were not good, we eventually decided to go to the next gate to see if we could get out on the second flight. On the way though we decided that we'd just drive home (eleven hour drive) if it didn't work out. Thankfully we got a flight to DFW, and then drove back to OKC. Good conversation pursued on the way home, and the ice eventually broke to the point that I felt like I was hanging out with people I'd known for a long time.
A nice story I suppose. But that's not really the point. I realized something today that was very important. I realized it was my duty to take care of those girls to be sure they got home. Never mind that they were both of age to take care of themselves (21 and 25). They needed someone calm and in-control to relieve their uncertainty.
It was a strange realization at first when I realized what was going on. I think for too long I've diminshed the male role to provide this kind of support and that this is what a female is often looking for. I'm not trying to downplay equality or even feminism. What I am trying to say is that as males we need to realize our role is that of a protector and provider.
Agree or disagree, it was good for me to realize this today. Even more strange, I felt valuable and needed while being with them and ensuring they got home. Perhaps that's how God designed us, male and female.
You see, I've recently realized that God is listening. That God actually hears my prayers and answers them. To some of you this is a no-brainer. "Of course God answers our prayers Blake!" is what you are undoubtedly saying as you shake your head in dismay. And yes I know that. But I don't think I've always believed that.
Until, that is, I started keeping a prayer journal. Without my prayer journal I had no way of holding God accountable. That probably sounds sacreligious, but what I mean is that I had no way of holding God to what I was praying for. I would have some vague prayer before going to sleep and then forget what I prayed for the next day. So if God answered that prayer, I wouldn't necessarily attribute it to Him or even realize that it was an answer to my prayer. Now, though, I am armed with my trusty prayer journal and boy am I seeing God at work.
Which frightens me a little. Several times in the past month I've posed questions to God, and He's given me answers I didn't like. Other times He's challenged me in ways I asked for, but maybe didn't necessarily realize what I was getting into. So it's making me a bit wary. Do I really want to grow in these areas? Do I really want to know the answer to a certain question? If I throw it at God, I now know He will answer and that He is listening.
So I prayed to grow in kindness and love. They seem safe enough fruits to pray for. We'll see.
This week it was my turn to bring a few verses to share. I thought about discussing Heaven since it's been on my mind a lot lately (probably because for several weeks now I'd rather be there than here!). I thought about borrowing some verses from Isaih since it is really cool, and I've been enjoying it a lot lately. Then I decided that no - the Bible wasn't where it was at.
You see, I think we can hide behind the Bible. I think we can have really high-minded, theological discussions that really get us nowhere. If I'm not around my M.Div friends I can sound like I know a lot about the Bible, and like I really know what God is all about. It's easy to discuss a few verses and walk away feeling slightly assuaged with whatever plagues me because I found a Bible sound-bite that makes me feel good for an hour.
Today though, I didn't want to hide. I didn't want to discuss Heaven. Not because I don't want to go there, but because I knew that would just be a shield. I could make my buddies think that I was a deep, spiritual person but I wanted them to know that I had doubts. That I was struggling. And so I opened up. And they opened up. And for a few minutes, there was true discussion that was very spiritual. All without the Bible.
I don't think the Bible is a bad thing. I love God's word! I try to read it everyday. But sometimes I think I use it to hide behind a wall. Today it was refreshing to take off the theology hat for just awhile and talk. Maybe next Monday we'll do it again.
It's hard as a runner to know when you are crossing that line between being tough and having guts, or doing something insanely stupid. We are, by nature, a little crazy. We are trained to ignore pain and go beyond our limits on a fairly regular basis. So while I knew it wasn't a great idea that morning to run 14 miles, I went for it anyways because I needed to get my mileage in.
Problem is, decisions like that have consequences. After a few days rest I was back on my feet and running. But now that same achilles problem has reared its head and I've had to take another week off from training. Even two miles on Thursday was enough to make me hobble the remainder of the evening. So my training is on hold. That's part of it, I suppose, but maybe in the future I'll learn that sometimes working through pain is more insane than gutsy. Then again, maybe not.
One of my biggest personality flaws is that I'm extremely trusting and naive. I believe in the good of all people, especially Christians. I am ok with the fact that people who don't have a belief in God might hurt or deceive me, but I can't fathom someone that knows God would ever be hurtful.
So I started reading the book to see if my relationships were safe. Along the way though, as so often is the case, I realized that I was full of flaws myself. That I am not even close to being a consistently safe person. That it is time I work on myself to become a more safe and reliable friend then I've been recently.
Some things to look for in a safe person are that they help you to grow. They are constantly pushing you to extend yourself in new ways, and you are pushing them as well (no relationship should be one-sided). They also aren't critical (one of my flaws), yet can lovingly rebuke you when needed. They can be counted on, and trusted upon. If they've done something to hurt you, and you tell them, then they change instead of act defensive.
I'm glad I have friends like that.
P.S. This blog was supposed to be about spring and running in the winter! Ahhhh how a few pages in a book will change my mind.
Jacob's Well is probably my favorite church in the whole world. I've never been to it, mind you, but that has not stopped me from being in love with it. Next time I'm in Kansas City I fully intend to go and visit. So why am I so in love with a place I've never visited, much less seen? Well mainly it is because each Sunday night I listen to the latest sermon, and it is easily the most dynamic and meaningful message I will hear all week. And trust me, I hear several messages a week since I fall asleep to one of three preachers each night (Patrick Mead, Charles Swindall, and the Jacob's Well preacher of the week).
The last two lessons have been extremely meaningful for me. They have been about repentance and forgiveness. If you have time this week, I strongly urge you to listen to these two messages. They are by far the best messages I have ever heard on the subject, and have made me really think about how I view my relationships. It also helps me to realize more about repentance and forgiveness. Never did I realize the order that forgiveness actually occurs in as instructed by Jesus in Luke 17:3 . The verse reads, "So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." We must first point out sin, and if that person ceases from that sin, we are called to forgive. The hard part though is that we must "rebuke" that individual. We can't merely forgive them by never saying anything, we must actually confront the issue. Forgiveness is not just letting go, but actually dealing with the hurtful/sinful situation.
One of the things I realized is that over the last year or two I have become less willing to be vulnerable. I am more likely to not open up, more like to not place myself in uncomfortable situations, and hardly ever do I confront tough issues with people. As a result I think I've seen my friendships grow more and more shallow, and all new friendships have remained fairly superficial. So I want to work on that. Problem is, vulnerability is scary. But deeper, meaningful relationships are worth it.
If you have time – please listen. You'll be all the better for it.
But I really do love grammar! And apparently I love the Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is that little comma that separates the second-to-last item in a list from the last item. An example is as follows: I like cheese, cookies, and cake. However, as we all learned in high school we could rebel against those eccentric ivory-tower snobs and abolish this comma once and for all and state with pride that I like cheese, cookies and cake. What a liberating day that was.
Take whichever side you like, that's not the reason I'm writing this post. The reason is because I found this great book called Eats, Shoots and Leaves which is about one woman's struggle to fight the terrible grammar that is abundant in our present day society. Look at your last text message, IM, or even email and see if you're not guilty! (There I go again with that Oxford comma)
I think I am in love with this lady. Here is a woman who feels very passionately about the need for better punctuation and grammar. Here is the first page from the introduction:
Either this will ring bells for you, or it won't. A printed banner has appeared on the concourse of a petrol station near to where I live. "Come inside," it says, "for CD's, VIDEO's, DVD's, and BOOK's."
If this satanic sprinkling of redundant apostrophes causes no little gasp of horror or quickening of the pulse, you should probably put down this book at once. By all means congratulate yourself that you are not a pedant or even a stickler; that you are happily equipped to live in a world of plummeting punctuation standards; but just don't bother to go any further. For any true stickler, you see, the sight of the plural word "Book's" with an apostrophe in it will trigger a ghastly private emotional process similar to the stages of bereavement, though greatly accelerated. First there is shock. Within seconds, shock gives way to disbelief, disbelief to pain, and pain to anger. Finally (and this is where the analogy breaks down), anger gives way to a righteous urge to perpetrate an act of criminal damage with the aid of a permanent marker."
Isn't this lady great? I am just thankful that there are people that nerdy in this world. Now I, by no means, am near as passionate on the matter. Indeed, you will find several mistakes in this post if you look, I'm sure. But I do like her call for us to be more concerned with how we use words and language. I, for one, intend to start throwing more commas into my sentences. Perhaps even an Oxford comma!
So I called my friend Peter. Pete and I are the type who will one day sit in high-back chairs with suspenders and discuss the good old days in wistful, reminiscent tones. But tonight we talked about increasing responsibility. About becoming mature adults. Being leaders who have to act seriously. Enjoying life and being young. Realizing that youth culture is valued highly in our society, but wisdom is what we should cherish. What it feels like to be rejected by a girl, and how that increases our doubt and insecurity. On what love is and what love we have to give to a woman.
Our conversation ended and I felt better. I realized I wasn't as alone in the world as I thought. Someone else my age was struggling with these same issues and not merely dwelling on trivial acts of youthful frivolity.
Of course, after this post, I sound older than ever. But that's ok. I still am fun, nerdy, and goofy. Just a bit more restrained and mature about it. Read the Proverbs and Psalms. It's ok to value wisdom and restraint.
...Above all, one hideous figure grew as familiar as if it had been before the general gaze from the foundations of the world- the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine.
It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.
It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most polluted, were a rotten red. It was taken to pieces, like a toy-puzzle for a young Devil, and was put together again when the occasion wanted it. It hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful, abolished the beautiful and good. Twenty-two friends of high public mark, twenty-one living and one dead, it had lopped the heads off, in one morning, in as many minutes. The name of the strong man of Old Scripture had descended to the chief functionary who worked it; but, so armed, he was stronger than his namesake, and blinder, and tore away the gates of God's own Temple every day.
~Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, pg. 272.
What's your favorite colour?
Do you like to eat cheese?
If it was twenty-five degrees outside, what would you be thinking about?
These emails are always followed by, "Now quick! Send this off to ten of your best friends to see if they like you or are even really your friends!" And naturally every email begins by trying to prove you really are above such things by saying, "Well usually I don't do these things but question thirteen was just so insightful!"
Well tonight I'm caving. Only one person has the power to actually get me to cave on such a pivotal issue like this. Fully aware of this, she thought she'd try her powers over me and "tag" me on her blog. So here I am about to tell you five things you may or may not have known about me. This is going to be hard since pretty much all of you probably know my middle name, and really what more do you need to know? Here we go:
1. I was incredibly shy and didn't say much up until college. In 2nd grade my good friends consisted of farm animals who wrote words in webs, and eventually I'd change-out friends in high school by getting to know Jason Bourne and Jack Ryan. While I did have real-life friends, I was probably the shyest person you'd ever meet at a party. I'd even fake sleeping so I didn't have to talk!
2. I'm a registered independent! It's true. I agree too much with both sides to lean one way or another. Plus I really hope to get a phone call from pollsters this coming election since I'm "on the fence."
3. I almost always throw up after my last interval of a speed workout or after a hard race. Disgusting eh? Perhaps, but I tend to take it as a sign of how hard I ran. If I don't lose at least a bit of my lunch then I probably didn't try hard enough. I actually dry-heaved five or six times this morning actually!
4. If I had to choose between chocolate cake or ice cream, I'd choose both of course! Why can't you have your cake and your ice cream too? Unfortunately I'm on at least a month hiatus from sugar, or at least desserts. I've made it about nine days now but I'm so hungry!
5. My middle name is Byron.
Here are some of my favorite examples, and I'm going to use the NKJV because I like how it sounds the best:
"Help Lord, for the godly man ceases!
For the faithful disappear from the songs of men.
They speak idly everyone with his neighbor,
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak."
~Psalms 12: 1-2
"Like a madman who throw firebrands, arrows, and death,
Is the man who deceives his neighbor,
And says, 'I was only joking!'"
"A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back."
James 3 is often referred to when people discuss taming bad speech. But I like the above verses better because they are vivid examples of struggles I have everyday. Modern psychology tells us its good to get things off our chest, and I take that to an extreme. But this is not wise according to the Proverbs. Nor is being idle in our talk, or using joking (probably also sarcasm) in a way that does not build others up.
In hindsight, I can see the wisdom of these verses. No amount of venting has ever made me feel better. Idle talk has never truely strengthened a relationship. Sarcasm and joking? They often lead to shallow conversation and friendships that have no idea how to interact on a deep, personal level.
We need to watch what we say. And we need to help each other out in this area. Sometimes I have no idea how my words come across to others. The other night a good friend pointed out something I said that unintentionally offended her. I was reminded, once again, that we need to be ever mindful of what we say and how we say it. We must continuously be building each other up, not merely discussing trivial things and jesting all the time.
and leads a tired sermon.
He is burned out.
A sideways glance;
quickly look away.
They no longer talk.
An energetic attitude,
over-involvement and an easy smile.
He's lost many whom he loved.
A humble heart,
a willing attitude.
She has nowhere to serve.
Head of gray,
decades of experience.
No young man to listen.
Detective Goren is an amazing detective who has penetrating insight into the human psyche. He would give Dickens a run for his money if the two were to battle wits against each other. In episode after episode he exposes the insecurities of people and not only finds out what crime they committed, but the reason why they committed the act.
I am amazed that a lot of times the primary motivation is that of some insecurity the purp has. Whether it be appearance, intelligence, money, or a desire to be liked/needed the criminal motivation is to quell their irrepressible desires. Sometimes there seems to be frighteningly little between their insecurities and our own, except for the fact that they go to murderous extremes to stymie them.
I think the easy, Christian answer to this problem is that this is yet another reason we need God. And indeed it is. But I also think that often these people need others in their life to love them, care for them, and help them with wisdom they can't find in there current situation. It is so obvious that often all these people are longing for is love.
Or maybe people in New York are just crazy.
~Overheard at the 1991 San Antonio Marathon, The Quotable Runner
It's time. An hour and a half came and went. It fact, it went about seven minutes quicker than normal. And thus my fate was sealed. After a four-year retirement from craziness, I now am coming back more eccentric and nuts than ever. I have decided to run the Cleveland Marathon. After running the Dallas White Rock half-marathon in 1:23:46 (hh:mm:ss) I realized I stood a good shot at qualifying for the Bostom Marathon.
For those who don't know, the Boston Marathon is the dream of all runners. Everyone wants to run Boston who is even remotely serious about running. Its almost like the Olympics for those who will never be Olympians. There is one catch though. You must qualify. And for someone my age you have to run a marathon in three hours and ten minutes. That's about 7:10 per mile. That's moving.
The thing I love about the marathon, and I've only done one thus far, is that there is no faking it. Sure people have shown up out of shape to marathons and eeked their way through it. But those wanting to succeed at a higher level must put in the time. And we're talking lots of it. Between now and May I have around 800 miles scheduled to put on these legs. A marathon is much more than a few hours on a Sunday morning, it's about months of self-denial, dedication, and preparation. It's about pushing yourself beyond your normal limits and focusing on a task seemingly impossible.
I think that's why I'm writing this. Because its dangerous to say you want to break 3:10 in the marathon to others. I could easily keep this goal to myself and act like I never had it a month from now when training gets hard. But there is no hiding. There is no half-hearted attempts that may pass. It's either do or die. Ok, perhaps that was a bit too fatalistic! :)
If you don't think we runners are crazy, then just listen to this last quote, one of my favorites:
"Act like a horse. Be dumb. Just run."
Another week comes and goes at work.
Another thirty-plus miles of running.
Another page turned in a book.
Another week a-flurry of church activity but seemingly little growth in my life or others.
Lunch with an old high-school friend.
A movie with an old friend moving away soon.
"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless."
I'm not sure why I feel this way. Sometimes I think its the doldrums of life that hit from time to time. The monotony and predictability of it all. Other times I think its loneliness. Despite all the business of my life, and the many friends I'm blessed with, I still at times feel lonely. Often it's a lull in my faith and relationship with God. Or even a severance in a relationship with someone.
Tomorrow everything will be alright. I'll wake up and the world will be sunshine and rainbows again. But tonight I agree with Solomon.
I'll see you July 13th at 12:01 AM!
Editor's Note: For the record I've already watched the trailer over ten times. By July 13th it is fairly safe to say that I will have watched the trailer around five-hundred times. You may think I'm kidding, but ask anyone who knows me how many times I watched the Star Wars and LOTR trailers.