Friday, January 26, 2018

Before You Take A Bite Of That Donkey...

One of the most brutal tactics of ancient warfare was the concept of the siege. 

Instead of breaking down the gates, firing burning arrows, or releasing a large mythical beast into the city, there were times when an enemy army would set up a siege against their helpless adversaries. A siege is a waiting game that requires blocking all the entrances and exits in a city and making sure nothing gets in or out. This is would be like an ancient version of being sent to your room except a good siege always made sure that access to water and food was also completely shut off. So in a siege all an enemy army had to do was set up camp nearby, place a few guards to watch for escapees, and wait for the city they were trying to conquer to starve to death. 

Given that you can technically go 30 days without food and the fact that the city would have had some food in reserve within its gates you can imagine that this would take awhile. 

The people of Samaria in 2 Kings chapter 6 and 7 found themselves in such a situation. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Thrill of Hope

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

I have been thinking a lot about the word "hope" lately and not just because it has been plastered on Christmas cards with enough glitter and Hallmark sappiness to choke a unicorn. I have been thinking about it because it seems to have been so allusive in my life right now. 

But in all honestly it doesn't sound like something a truly spiritual Christian is supposed to have. "Hope" sounds like a wishy-washy naivety that isn't grounded in reality and just keeps up a glass half full kind of lifestyle despite all evidence to the contrary. I want "faith"- that big audacious trait of super Christians that can throw mountains into the sea for fun. 

I have discovered over the last few years that faith can be hard to muster up when it is missing the key ingredient of "hope." Frankly I never really understood the difference between the two and I was surprised to find that difference best illustrated in that ever so pleasant and uplifting Bible story we call "The Fall of Man." 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why I Stopped Writing

When I was in third grade I started reading a series of books about a nerdy guy named Wally McDoogal who lived out these crazy adventures and misfortunes that no normal person ever has to endure. In the midst of each adventure he was always writing a story about some far-fetched super hero  who would inevitably learn the same moral Wally would learn by the end of the book. Often, Wally would discover what he needed for his own adventure by writing out the perils of his fictional protagonists. There was something about living a life of adventure while writing down on paper another more fantastic adventure that always resonated with me. Somehow I knew that I was born to do the same. I had to be a writer.

But I never really did anything about it until around High School when I discovered that as long as you knew how to write you could ace every single book report and paper you were assigned regardless of whether you actually read the book or not. Then I discovered that people were actually willing to read what I had written. It turned out I could actually write pretty well. 

And then ideas started coming to me that I could not keep to myself no matter how hard I tried so I started a blog to keep my brain from exploding. Much to my surprise, people started reading it and sharing it. People I didn't know were interested in my adventures and it was exhilarating. I finally started calling myself a writer.

And then the writing stopped. "I have to write" was what I said when I felt that ever-present inner compulsion to get ideas out of my head but it became what I said to express the inner drudgery of this now burdensome task. I flat out lied to myself and to those few who were interested in why the writing stopped by saying I just did not have time anymore. This sounded pretty legitimate because I was newly married, in school full time, and working an average of about 50 hours a week. Who has time to ponder the Universe?

It was a cowardly lie though and one that was so convincing that I have only recently, after years and years of blank unpublished pages, realized it's falsehood. I feel like now I owe you and myself an explanation for where I've been lately. Time was an issue, but it was not the real issue. In no particular order, here are the real reasons you haven't heard from me in a awhile:

I Stopped Running
You might expect me to apply some spiritual application of "running the race marked before me" here but I literally mean that I stopped running. I used to call myself a long distance runner because long distance running was a regular part of my daily routine. I trained hard and ran as many races as I could. Then sheer busyness coupled with injury began to look like great excuses I could give myself to mask the fact that I simply lacked the motivation to get up and hit a few miles before the sun came up. Aside from the fact that running has historically taught me so much about life and following Jesus I realized that letting one discipline in your life slip dramatically affects the other disciplines in your life. Because I continually said yes to avoiding the work of physical activity I could no longer say yes to the work of putting my thoughts on paper. Personal discipline and daily ritual are not the bad words we think them to be. They work together to help us become the person we really want to be.

I Started Writing for the Likes
A hundred years ago writers had to sit in isolation for months and years pounding out the words in their heads before they would ever be published, read, and rewarded. Now I can have a thought or idea and within seconds Tweet it out for the world to see and praise. I get instant satisfaction with every like and Retweet and I can go back and see how many people all over the world landed on my page. I never knew how a simple thumbs up could be so addicting. It turns out that for an insecure person such as myself that self-validation can easily be found in measurable social media stats and web analytics. I can know how much I matter as a human being by seeing how many people "like" what I said. 
Unless they don't like it.
Or they don't read it.
Then I can know for sure that I am a worthless human being. 
I found myself writing only things I knew would get a positive response. Instead of writing because God was speaking to me I was writing so that the Internet could speak to me and tell me how special I was. 
I then found that I could not live up to that kind of roller coaster of self evaluation and I backed down in fear. No one can ignore or criticize what you keep to yourself. 

I Stopped Asking Questions
When I started writing I called myself "A kid on a journey" and I saw my writing as the journal of an explorer or philosopher who looked for things in the world that everyone else was looking over so I could turn them over and discover the hidden secrets of the Universe. Curiosity was my driving ambition. 
Somewhere down the line I stopped seeing myself as a kid on a journey and started looking at the world from the eyes of "a man who has arrived." I told myself and others that I was just in a season of putting into practice all that I had learned in those years of curiosity so that is why I was not getting any fresh revelation. 
But I had not because I asked not and for no other reason than that. 
I stopped asking how I could be a better human being because I thought I had it all together. I stopped asking how I could experience God in the particular moment I found myself because I believed I had bigger things to get done. I stopped asking why things are the way they are because I had resolved that they were not going to get any better. I stopped asking questions so I stopped hearing answers. 
I stopped growing and I started dying. The lack of writing over the last few years has just been a side affect of a much more dramatic spiral made evident in virtually every area of my life.

I'm tired of it.
I need to start writing again because I need a reminder of my own fragility. I used to live by the ambition of wanting to write things that changed the world. Now I just want to write things that change me. I want to write things that remind me to be vulnerable and broken so I stop pretending I have my life together. I want to write things that open my eyes to the pettiness I call home so that when I see my life typed out on the white screen of my laptop I am reminded of the life that I really want to live. I have to write. 

Thank you, oh anonymous Internet soul, for bearing with me through all this. I appreciate you from the bottom of my heart but I'm not going to write for your approval anymore. The only way I know to be truly honest with myself is by forming words into paragraphs. I am very much a work in progress and the writings to follow will be nothing less than an expression of that work. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Get Your Junk Together

I am by no means a car guy, but I have become quite the car trouble guy.

I have had too many surprise mechanic bills in my life so checking stuff under the hood "just to make sure" is a regular part of my routine. I usually do not really know what I am looking for but at least I am trying.

A few weeks ago I noticed some gunk in my radiator and even I knew that probably wasn't good. Casey asked when the last time we had an engine flush was and I had no idea. We concluded that "gunk + not really knowing anything" was enough grounds to go get it checked out.

After a much longer wait than I anticipated, the mechanic came out into the lobby to talk to me which I have learned is never a good sign.

"You see you've got car stuff in your car stuff, which is a common problem for your kind of car stuff considering the car stuff, car stuff, and car stuff. So we are going to have to car stuff and car stuff it so that we can get to the car stuff to fully car stuff it right. All in all it will cost you a lot."

In hindsight, I am pretty sure that the mechanic used actual specific words and terms but for the sake of not embarrassing myself  I just wrote what I heard. I responded,

"Wow, that's a lot. I can't afford that right now, can you just do the engine flush now and I'll worry about fixing whatever that is when I get a second job and sell one of my kidneys?"

Then the mechanic leaned back and started speaking in smaller words so that I would actually understand what he was saying.

"Well, the problem is your junk is holding everything together and I am afraid that if I flush it then you will only have more problems."

And then I realized my mechanic had turned into a therapist. My junk was holding everything together?

The biggest surprise about all of this was that the car was running totally fine. There were no weird noises or smells or anything else that would be a cause of concern. I could have kept driving for several hundred miles before anything seemed wrong. This isn't the first time that a mechanic has told me something like this but it is the first time I really thought about what it means to be held together by junk.

People and vehicles naturally accumulate wear and tear just by doing their job day in and day out and until something goes terribly wrong we usually have no idea about what condition we are really in. Eventually the junk just becomes part of who we are and actually for a time keeps everything moving. In my own life, I have spent the last several years collecting anxiety, pride, fear and restlessness (to name a few) and I have come to realize that I actually depend on these things to "get the job done" and make it through each day.

Vices look like virtues when they are shown to have a sliver of functional utility. Anxiety and restlessness worked well to give the appearance of a strong work ethic and personal drive. Pride was pretty good at motivating confidence and strong willed determination. Fear was awesome at making me look conscientious and strategic. And the truth is that I could have gone on a lot further just carrying my junk around before anybody had any clue.

After the mechanic explained his diagnosis several more times and pulled out flash cards to get me to understand I asked him if this was a job that had to be done now or if it could wait awhile. I've learned that is a good question to ask when you don't have much money but also don't want your car to burst into flames at the next red light.

"Honestly, if you were planning on only keeping this car for a few more months then I'd say forget it and let whoever you sell it to have to worry about it. But if you want to get another 100,000 miles out of it then I suggest you take care of it before anything else goes wrong."

And there lies the difference between being a fully functional human being that happens to be carrying around a bunch of junk and being a fully functional human being that has taken the time to deal with some stuff: Longevity.

I think I could go pretty far at the pace of life I am at right now but not forever. Eventually my junk will catch up to me. I want a few more years out of my car. I want a few more years out of my life. I don't have time to drive around with junk anymore, even if that junk actually helps me sometimes.

There are two things I learned about dealing with junk from finally getting around to getting this thing fixed. It is both expensive and inconvenient.

Praying "create in me a clean heart Oh God" is signing your name to the bill of whatever it will cost you, which will always be more than what you expect. And taking the time to really deal with stuff will be hugely inconvenient. My fully functional vehicle had to temporarily sacrifice its function while it was being worked on. Dealing with the junk that keeps you going means you may not be able to do things that you used to as well or efficiently as you used to do them. People might actually notice that you don't have every detail of your life totally together (gasp!).

But the cost and inconvenience are worth the longevity you gain.

When I picked up my car after almost a week in the shop the mechanic handed me the keys and said "here's to another 100,000 miles."

I want that mechanic to be able to say that about my life because I have the long term in mind and have the strength and obedience to get the tough job done even though I know it will cost me.

Well not him per se, he is just my mechanic and that would be a little weird.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Sigh

The past few weeks have provided me with a wide variety of highly anticipated emotions.

I will be honest and say that about 97% of those emotions were somehow Star Wars related.

But there was one emotion, or state of being really, that really stuck out to me and honestly I did not realize how long I had been waiting for it until it arrived.

This emotional state could only be described as The Sigh. Not a sigh of exhaustion or being overwhelmed but an actual sigh of satisfaction. It is the rare feeling you get when the to-do list is actually done and you can finally just sit down and relax.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Christianity Hate Speech?

This is a question that has up until recently never even occurred to me as even a possibility. 

But then a few weeks ago the Facebook feed of the nation blew up with responses of literally everyone to a certain cover of a Vanity Fair magazine.

Being a lifelong Christian and in a pretty small Christian bubble I was immediately bombarded with the expected right wing conservative response of disgust. The only surprise I had was that it seemed like we had never heard of someone getting a sex change before- like Bruce Jenner was the first person to ever go through this procedure. And then I realized that the responses were so prevalent not because we were more offended than ever before but because for the first time in history we all had a megaphone and a soap box personally handed to us by the Internet. And boy did we sure use it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Hips Don't Lie

There are very few things that feel as manly as having and old war wound.

Get a bunch of guys together for any period of time and you will inevitably find us comparing scars, injuries, and stories from our past that people tell us we should be ashamed of for how stupid they were but we are actually still proud of. 

I love playing this game as much as the next guy because this is one I usually win. I was a pretty clumsy child who really liked the idea of being a daredevil. Well, I liked the idea of being known as a daredevil more than actually being a daredevil. 

But as cool as it sounded to tell people I was limping around because of "an old track and field injury" it lost it's appeal when it actually started hurting. A lot. All the time.

It was my sophomore year of high school and I was in the middle of my first season running track. I had only recently fallen in love with distance running a few months before so I knew almost nothing about injury prevention. So when I complained to my coach about a constant throbbing pain starting in my hip and shooting its way down to my knee I had no idea what to expect. 

"I'm pretty sure your issue is your IT band, or iliotibial band if you want to know the fancy name for it."
"That's terrible. How did I get an iliotibial band? Will icing it get rid of it?"
"You don't get rid of an ilitibial band, Kyle. It's that really long tendon that connects your hip bone to your knee and can sometimes get inflamed if you don't stretch it right or you put too much stress on it."
"I knew that, just making sure you are staying current the latest innovations in first aid" I said as I twitched the hair out of my face to look cool.
"Whatever. Go sit down and take an Advil."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Giraffe Syndrome

One of the most annoying things about my entire life is that I share so much in common with your average giraffe.

Yes, giraffe.

The safari animal with the long neck and spots. Also known as "G-Raff" on the streets. Well, my streets at least. Not that I have ever met an urbanized giraffe just chillin outside but if I ever do that is what I would call it. I know you may or may not think about these forgotten creatures of Africa very much throughout your day but they are always on my mind. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thank a Pagan

If you do not have any atheist or agnostic friends in your life I highly recommend getting some.

In fact, I am currently in the market for some new unsaved friends so if you know of any feel free to give me their info. It isn't healthy for people to have too many Christians friends.

Aside from challenging your faith and reminding you about God's call for evangelism and stuff atheist and agnostic friends are always great about reminding you about some really fun facts pastors usually fail to mention in their sermons.

Like the fact that pretty much every major Christian holiday has some secret pagan origin that at some point the Church brushed over and forgot about in attempt to gain a monopoly of Western holiday traditions. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Track 04

 I remember the exact day that I discovered music.

     I was in third grade and mentioned to a classmate that I didn't know what song she was singing because I only listened to Christian music (and by that I meant whatever was playing on Christian radio in 2001).
    She replied by telling me her older brother listened to that stuff and really liked the song "Jesus Freak" by a band called DCTalk.
     Like the smooth talking nine year old that I was I told her about how much I liked that song too and then asked Jesus to forgive me for the bold faced lie I just uttered. I had never heard of the song before but much to my surprise my parents had a copy of the album of the same name. I went into my room that day and fell in love.