How Did I Get Here (Or There)?

I just wanted to let you all know what I will be doing over the next few weeks so that you all can be praying for me, and so you don’t scratch your head when you see posts that are coming from another country.

I will be leaving for South Africa next Wednesday to do mission work with Proclaim! International.  I am very excited as I will get a chance to do many of the things that I love: coaching, teaching, preaching, leadership development, maybe a little worship leading.  This happened pretty quickly and I was not sure whether or not it was going to work out, but I eager to go and see what God has in store for me there.  Please be in prayer for me if you could.

I have to confess that I am am not sure that I had anticipated having the opportunity to be able to do mission work on four different continents when I was younger.  I have to confess that I did not think that I would have visited four different continents when I was younger.  It has been a lesson for me in how to adapt to different cultures, climates, and governmental systems.  As someone that grew up in a very monolythic culture in Wyoming I can honestly say that the growing curve has been steep but enjoyable.

I will try to use this blog to post journal entries, photos, and videos so please bear with me as I attempt to learn how to make this page work for me.  I will also be posting on my Facebook page and Instagram if you are into that sort of thing.

Pray mostly for my wife as she will have to deal with my four wonderful children in the time I am gone.  I have never been away from home this long.  She is a very loving and capable person, but four wonderful kids are still four kids.

Fear and the Flying Leg

Some of the stories that I tell here on this blog page are stories that I have told and retold over the years.  The stories may be less true than they once were because as I get older the need to make myself into the hero seems more important to me.  The backlash effect of that of course is that I am falling into the “Glory Days Syndrome” also known as the “I Used to be Great Syndrome” or by the lesser known “If I Hadn’t Gotten Injured I Would’ve Gone Pro Syndrome”.  This story is not about my one time or enduring greatness, this is a story about experiencing someone’s weakness that ended up displaying my weakness.

I spent many of my summers during and after college working at Christian camps in Wyoming and New Mexico.  I served as an archery instructor, mountain bike instructor, rappelling instructor, and rifle range instructor (I would say riflery but my auto correct keeps telling me that is not a word).  My very last summer working at the camp in Wyoming saw me spending up to 6 hours a day above any sort of shade teaching people, children and youth specifically, how to rappel.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I taught people how to walk backwards off a 30 foot wooden cliff.

This particular day my associate and me had been up on the tower in the morning and had to go back up for an afternoon session.  Jeremy and I had moved past the point in the summer where we appreciated all the sunshine we were getting and were now to the point of trying to get people up and down as quickly as possible.  Into our lives came a boy that I will call “Mike”.  I would like to say that I changed the name to protect the innocent, but honestly I either forgot or blocked his name out of my memory because I might still be a little angry with him.

In order to go down the tower you have to go up the tower, which requires that each person climb a 30 foot cargo net.  Mike showed some apprehension at this point, but so do many of the kids that go up the tower.  In other words, Mike did not display any sort of abnormal apprehension at this point so we encouraged him that he was safe and he proceeded clumsily up the cargo net.

Jeremy and I then proceeded through our normal spiel which was a devotion about trusting the rope and not your brain that was telling you that this was not safe and how that was analogous to trusting in God and not leaning on your own understanding.  Following the devotion we would show people how to put their gear on and then how they were going to get down.  This is when things started to get interesting because I remember Mike slowly working his way to the back of the tower.  He was doing what most people do when they feel danger.  They distance themselves as much as they can from the thing that threatens them.

Mike had watched a few people go over when we asked him to get on rope.  I walked him through the various instructions, made sure his gear was safe and then I asked Mike to turn around and face me.  This was not something that Mike was prepared to do.  He did not want to turn his back to the thing that threatened him, the wooden ledge.  At this point things started to unravel rather quickly.

Wait, you might have taken that to mean that the rope unraveled quickly, it did not, it fact the rope did not go anywhere at this point because Mike was not going anywhere.

Mike had a panic attack, he told me that he was going to puke, then he told me he couldn’t do it, then he tried to run to the back of the tower to sit down (still on rope mind you), then he told me he was going to, well, defecate right there on the tower.  Mike was not ready to rappel that day.  So we move to phase two which is to have the other instructor walk backward with Mike to the ledge and start down with him.  Normally if we can get people over the edge, they go the rest of the way pretty well.  It is the first step, that transition from vertical to horizontal, that puts most people into some form of panic.

Phase two did not work and more promises of things coming out of Mike’s body were made.  So we moved on to phase three which is to ask Mike to go sit down while we get the rest of the kids down the tower.  Even during this phase Mike was freaking out, which did not help get the rest of the kids down.  Phase three is to scrap our desire to help Mike through his fears and get him down the tower.  So 2 hours after Mike came up the tower, we asked Mike to climb down the cargo net.  This was not amendable to Mike, so we tried to get him to rappel again, which was also not amendable to Mike.  Mike had one proposal to make, which was not amendable to anyone else, and that was to make the tower his permanent home.

Three hours into this stand off we were finally able to get Mike off the tower.  Jeremy and I were hot, both physically and emotionally.  Mike’s fears and what they had manifested had taken every bit of our patience and love.  We packed up our gear, walked away from the tower, and headed back for our bunk.  Halfway back I dropped my harness on accident and in my anger I kicked it with my fake leg.

My leg flew off and hit the bunk house.  All I could do after I had landed on my butt outside the door was to lay there and laugh, what else was left.  Fear can debilitate and exhaust every one of our resources and the resources of people around us.  I wish I had more patience with Mike that day to help him figure out how we could help him conquer his fear, that really was the point of why we did rappelling at that camp in the first place.  Faith to overcome fear.

Fear and the Mud Puddle

As many of you know I my family and I are now the proud farmers of 6 ducks.   We used to have 7 but I managed to kill one (well it died, but in order to protect the hearts of my children I will not divulge the rest of that story).  This has been an interesting addition to our lives as my kids learn about farming, about the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs (great way to start a birds and bees discussion), as well as dealing with death.  I told my children before we went and bought the ducks that we would not be taking extraordinary measures to heal the ducks.  I found out that my youngest talks very matter-of-factly about Hazel’s (yes she had a name) death while one of my sons takes the death deeply to heart.

Lately though I have found that free-ranging our ducks has taught me a great deal about human behavior.  This is a lesson that I think that all of us know but I need to be reminded of lately.  We got ducks for several reasons:

First, because everyone else had chickens and I wanted to be unique.  Second, because they are better egg producers than chickens and are supposed to be more hearty.  Third, and the reason that we looked at it in the first place is because our yard has a big pond.  The pond is a seasonal pond, but in the winter it is the size of a basketball court (or a hockey rink) and is very deep.  We thought that the ducks would love to have this huge, well protected pond to themselves and the few wild ducks that use it.

Here is the problem; they won’t go in it.  They have had multiple opportunities as they wander around our yard they have come within feet of the shoreline but they are more comfortable on the ground than in the water.  One day I tried to set two of them in the pond and they shot out of there so fast that you would have thought the water was boiling (it wasn’t).

So one might think that they don’t like water, as though ducks could ever not like water.  They LOVE water, they splash in their pools everyday, they make a mess out of their water trough, and they will go sit in any puddle they find.  In fact, they will walk around our house and sit in the puddles in the middle of our road before they would walk 20 feet to get into our huge pond.  For the ducks the answer to why this is would have to come down to two things.  The first would be how they were raised.  They are almost a year old and we did not take them out into the pond when they were ducklings.  This is partly due to the fact that the pond itself was only a mud puddle up until about 2 months ago.  This also is partly due to fear, a mud puddle is small, controllable, and friendly.  The pond is huge, deep, and full of unknowns.

How often have I avoided the amazing things that I was built for because it was unknown or because I felt scared.  There is no doubt that those ducks would love that pond, and I hope that I can get them to turn the corner.  Ducks were made for ponds not puddles.

I Am No Longer the Religious Zealot, They Are. Isn’t that Great?

So here is some historical context to set the stage for what I am about to say.  Over the last hundred years of so Christians (especially fundamentalist) have been making comments based on their zeal for their faith.  Not that they were wrong for the most part, but they did not use any sort of evidence or data, or science that the world would lend credibility to.  They would just say things like “the earth was created in six days because that is what the Bible says”  As an evangelical I like the phrase “because the Bible says so” but as someone that realizes that I live in the world I know how little weight that argument holds with, well, everyone else.  I personally like data and fact and evidence, I think that it brings great credibility to what people say.  I also know that data, facts, and evidence are tools that are brought to bear by bias people.  And there is the rub, many scientists today are operating with more religious zeal than a Bible thumping, hell fire and brimstone, turn or burn, screamin’ from the pulpit fundamentalist preacher.

Please understand that I am not going to address one single current event because I am positive that this will turn off people that have opinions one way or another.  What I want to address is science.  When I see the news I find that science is no longer being practiced by scientists, and data is being skewed or blown out of proportion so much that there is no actual way to get back to the facts.  Then they do something highly scientific, they get lots of other people to buy into what was bias from the beginning.  Consensus on bad science does not make good science.  Science today starts with a bias, goes about finding evidence to prove it, tries to convert followers, and then tries to dissuade anyone from arguing that it is not true.  Does this process sound familiar?

“Look at this boys and girls, this is how cults are made.”

This process is more of a religious process than a scientific one.  And here is the funny thing, I can use to process I learned in elementary school to do science.  Science says that I observe, develop a hypothesis, go about experimentation to see if the hypothesis is correct, and then something magical happens.  If the hypothesis is wrong I have to start over, not skew the data to prove my hypothesis.

I am just so happy right now because I can now look at scientists, politicians, and celebrities pushing the “science” of the day with the same arrogant contempt that they have looked at me with for so many years.  Not that I will, but I could.  They are now just as religious as me, maybe more so.  So go ahead those of you that believe in Jesus, feel free to loose the chains of oppression set upon you by those that have tried to prove Christianity a farce.  The very people that once made it their religion to try to disprove Christianity have now set their sights on starting a new religion.  Now that they have done that we can start treating them with disdain and they can set their sights on developing a music program.

Okay I Cried a Little, But in a Manly Way

cryingman

Two days ago my son asked if he could go mountain biking with me.  I have gone mountain biking before with my two sons, but this time it was obvious that he wanted to go without his brother.  I asked him if he wanted to take his brother and he hesitated.  When my wife and I told him that it was okay to ask to go without his brother he said that is exactly what he wanted.  Yesterday I felt like junk.  My leg hurt, I was fighting off a cold (in June, come on!), and I was tired because of that.  However, one of my children asked for time alone with me and they were going to get it.  Mostly because it doesn’t happen that often.

So yesterday I went riding with my son, and it was great.  We got lost, we got muddy, we got tired (well I got tired).  During the ride I asked him if he wanted to go uphill or downhill and he said “well if I go up hill it will make my legs stronger, so let’s go uphill”.  When I asked him if he wanted to go on a more difficult trail or just head back, he said he wanted to go on the more difficult trail.  Lately he has been big on manhood tests, I think that this had something to do with it.

At the end of the day we came back and I asked him if he had fun and he said:

“What I would give to have time alone with you.”

He was actually thinking about what he would sacrifice to get time alone with his dad.  This caught me off guard.  As I am writing this I am actually trying to figure out if there is a more that I could do to make that phrase jump out of the computer to show just how powerful that query was to me.  My son has an amazing way with words.  He says things that are so funny that every time I think about it I laugh anew.  Interestingly he never seems to understand how potent his words are.  He is always surprised at the fact that we find his comments to be so funny; he doesn’t try to be funny.

After I choked back a tear or two I said “we just had time alone together.”  Then he did it again!  He said:

“No, I mean everyday.” 

How can a father live up to that expectation, or that longing in a child’s heart to be with his father?  As I write this I am choking up.

I can’t remember the last time that I felt such a longing for time alone with God.  I get so wrapped up in myself, my wants, my perceived needs, my life that I sometimes view my relationship with God as a obligation or a contractual arrangement.  I know that I have great times with God, but I also know that they don’t normally started off with that longing that my son expressed yesterday morning.  Honestly, those times are usually precipitated by something that is bothering me, or something that I want.

However, God longs for time with me.  The interesting thing is that he doesn’t need it, but he longs for it anyway.

Twisted and Short-Sighted

OBLIQUES - FACET JOINT DISLOCATION RIGHT

So about 30 years ago when I lost my leg I also lost my right latisimus dorsi (lat) and my right abdominus rectus (think 3 pack instead of 6).  I also lost some skin off my thighs and a couple veins out of my left calf.  Most people only see the scar on the back side of my left leg.  Funny story:  my wife’s best friend knew about my leg before I met her so when she actually met me she said “your leg!”  to which I said “Yeah, I lost it in a motorcycle accident”.  To which she replied “I knew that, I was talking about your other leg; its huge”.

The point is, as I have stated before in regards to the title of my blog is that I am severely lopsided.  Which is why a few years ago I jumped at the opportunity for a friend of mine to give me some chiropractic adjustments.  Thankfully I have a very large bone structure (He’s just big boned) so a don’t have to worry about getting out-of-whack as much as some.  But since I know lots of people that have had back surgery that did not have as many pre-existing issues as me, I felt like I should take this issue seriously.

The cynical part of me always wondered if chiropractic care was just a matter of making sure that the person could get your body to “pop”.  Then you would feel as though they had done something, and they could insure that they accomplished a result and you would come back.  I gotta tell you though that it feels really good when my body crackles and then it feels even better when I start walking around and feel my body move a little easier.

Something tells me that I am going to be a pretty crippled up when I get older but I am not choosing to think about that much right now.  How many of you have ever though about the long term implications of the actions of your youth?  A couple years ago when I went flying about 20 feet over my handle bars of my mountain bike my only thought was…well it was not a  clean word.  I definitely did not see my life flash before my eyes. That sentiment is a lie, in my opinion unless you are falling far enough that you have run out of other choice words.  I am more cautious than I was when I was younger, but I think that is because I am fatter and my reaction time is slower.

Thinking about long-term implications, I think, is a learned trait rather than an inherent trait.  Usually it comes when there is something to lose, in this case I am supposed to come home to my wife and kids.  What is the horizon that you look over?  Is it just your next personal or professional goal?  Is it the legacy that you leave before you die?  Or is it the path that you will take into eternity?  Some don’t believe in thinking beyond what happens here on earth.  For me, that is the only long-range planning that I have really nailed down.  My body isn’t taking me much farther, every joint from my hips down to my toes pops before 9 am and I am only 41.