Saturday, November 22, 2008

We're Golden

Isn't it nice to know? That the silver. Isn't it nice to know? That...we're golden.

These questions were asked by Matt Thiessen who writes brilliantly cliche'd songs for Relient K. I was sure hoping to hear this song live in Kansas City tonight (as well as "For the Moments I Feel Faint", but instead I slept in (because I was over-scrabbled last night), handed out groceries at noon, and went for a mad 2-hour bike trek along the river this afternoon (and if you haven't ridden that 4 mile single track loop, chock full of small climbs and descents, your missing out on a hidden Manhattan secret).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cappuccino on Crack

I probably spent upwards of $60 every month on Cappuccino and other fine espresso products. What does that mean? That means the farmers in Kenya, Ecuador, and Sumatra who harvest my coveted coffee beans probably don’t even earn $60 per month. (Editor's correction: it's more like $80-90 a month, so be honest with people) Well, that’s not the meaning. That’s more of a correlation. Well, statistically, it is not a correlation at all. But those two facts are tied to each other in an extremely negative way. So much so that the very thought is creeping into my comfort zone. I’d rather not think about it actually; especially the suffering and poverty aspect, because then I will begin to feel convicted about my habit. Which, in essence, leads to another actual correlation. Or set of correlations that just came to mind: The poppy farmer in Southern Afghanistan (Abdul Hakim is one of them) and the young women with track marks in her arms in Kansas City. Her name might be Heather Allen. Or what about the coca farmer in Bolivia and the crack addict (he only uses it socially) in Charlotte. The calcium phosphate miner in north Africa and the Crystal Meth “transformed” individual in Seattle or Wasilla (by the way did you know Red phosphorus, which is often used to cook ingredients like sudaphedrine into meth, does not catch fire in air at temperatures below 240°C, whereas white phosphorus ignites at about 30°C. Now I have no personal experience with Red Phosphorous, but I know all about the White kind. Whiskey Pete or Willy Pete as we like to call it will burn under water. Not something you want to handle after ignition).

In any case, am I an addict? Am I contributing to poverty in Kenya or fighting against it? What am I doing to help the other “addicts” in my own broken world? And will the elasticity of supply and demand in this uncertain economic downtown stretch me enough to cease and desist my intake of this fabulous hot beverage of choice? Those are questions that will need to be answered through some deep soul searching, serious counseling, or perhaps a pleasant conversation over a nice cup of java. Anyone want to join me at The Blue Stem?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Captivating Girls

The only things that stands in the way of your beauty are your fears and your doubts.

I read that the other day in Staci Eldredge's book: Captivating
You are beautiful. I observe so many young women who battle with this issue.

Your Hollister wardrobe, maybelline lined eyes, Aussie scrunched hair, and well-practiced laugh can do nothing to change the beauty that God has already created inside of you…

..and what is inside of you will shine, and glimmer, and shimmer, and glow from the radiance of God's love...if you accept it...and live in it.

You are beautiful. Yes, You.

Mr. T and the New Living Translation

In the car the other day I listened to a preacher talk about “taking risks” to obey the Lord.

Dr. Stanley scoffed a little at how we silly humans think it is a “risk” to trust God. Meaning, to live with complete and utter abandon.

Like, how is that a “risk”, if we really believe what we believe is real? And God’s promises are true.

I needed that word, and I wouldn’t have heard it if I wasn’t driving to the meeting that I later found out was cancelled that night.

And that reminded of how powerful God is in communicating. He has like mega-bandwidth to broadcast and disseminate when he wants to. We just need to ensure our receivers are tuned.

And the message was so timely because earlier that day, on a whim, I applied for a job with a particular agency. The job was right up my alley, although based in Charlotte, NC. My resume fit, and it had to do with what I have been doing for many years, and pays a lot more. Here’s the thing…I’ve been talking for months about how I’m ready to hang up my uniform in less than 9 months and live with complete abandon, in some community environment, serving the needy, here or overseas…or whatever.

But as I started contemplating post-military life (I’ve been doing this since I was 17), I started to get “scared”. And feared that my new found passion was becoming a big “risk”.

So, when I got the job announcement in my in-box today, and spent hours submitting the application and resume, I breathed a sigh of relief, and went home to open my bible to Isaiah 22 (New Living Translation), where God asked me: Why are you making all of these feverish plans and not trusting me you fool?! (Yeah, he said it in a Mister T sort of way).

Common Grounds?

So. At Common Grounds the other night, I overheard a young college student, I’ll call her Brandie, and her overtly liberal and soft-accented friend, I’ll call him Alistair, discussing Brandie’s break-up with her boyfriend, Joe. She was so frustrated with Joe, because he was drunk when they got home after dinner the other day, and she wanted to see the photos on his camera and he reused to show them to her. And then it turned into an argument because she wanted to know what he was hiding. And he denied he was hiding anything, he just didn’t want her to look at the photos. And then went round and round for hours.

So here is what I heard:

“I’ve dated every kind of guy there is, and the problem is I seem to only like the bad ones. Dating is to meet people and get to know them, not to fall in love. Marriage is the thing that is forever. But, half of all marriages end in divorce”. What a sad truth. What a very sad truth.

She also said she is breaking up with Joe. Then, in 2011 when she graduates from college she and Alistair will travel to Tibet and live there for a year and really live. She also discussed with Alistair how her mom visited a Tarot card reader and the reader said that her daughter’s new relationship would be wonderful. Brandie laughed at that. She thinks Tarot card readers are scammers, but, responding to a query from Alistair, does put stock in some Eastern medicine and philosophies. Alistair spent last semester in China where he learned to embrace the balanced eastern philosophy of how life should be lived.

Ground Control to Major Tom.

So I ask myself. Why are guys such jerks? Why is it that a woman feels attracted to “the bad ones”? Why are people searching for truth in Eastern philosophy?

I think its because we are all seeking something better than our current situation. Something out of the norm. Something we cannot see. Something extreme. Or, perhaps something balanced. We aren’t satisfied or content with where we are or who we are. We want other people to change us and we want to change other people. And in many cases this can be good. We shouldn’t settle for the status quo if is unhealthy or ineffective to our purpose.

So where am I going with all of this?

I don't know. Do you?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jason. A hero. Sacrificed.

From the Associated Press today:

Friday, October 10, 2008

US military deaths in Afghanistan region at 540

Of those, the military reports 389 were killed by hostile action.

Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 66 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, three were the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Jordan; Kenya; Kyrgyzstan; Philippines; Seychelles; Sudan; Tajikistan; Turkey; and Yemen.

There were also four CIA officer deaths and one military civilian death.


The latest deaths reported by the military:

— No deaths reported.


The latest identifications reported by the military:

— Marine Cpl. Jason A. Karella, 20, Anchorage, Alaska; died Thursday while supporting combat operations in Farah province, Afghanistan; assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, Calif.


It is just a little overwhelming and surreal to read that OF THOSE, the latest identification was that of my young cousin Jason.

I'm grieving. I thank God for Jason. My heart hurts for his Dad and Mom and brothers. I don't know what else to do.

Pray for his family, please.

Monday, August 18, 2008


( I had all these cool photos I was going to post with this, but couldn't figure out how to make it work)

Live Journal Discoveries From the Past Week:

I thought I caught the bubonic plague today, but it was just a sunburn and an overwhelming sense of being lost in reality.

I found some copies of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency at the used bookstore. I might send them to Andrea. I like to read about Africa, and these books, if you haven’t had the opportunity to read them are so amusing and sad and revealing. We Americans should be more in touch what goes on around the world. We are egocentric and that’s usually what gets us in trouble. I also found some Nicholas Sparks books I might send to Mariah, because the Notebook and Walk to Remember made both of us cry. Wait did I just say that? You didn’t hear me say that.

I’m drinking a medium Grasshopper Mocha, just because my frequent coffee addict punch card was full and needed to be used on something more expensive than usual.

Sometimes I feel loved. Like the other day, I was driving my car…on a road…and I looked up to realize I was following some secret admirers. Well they weren’t so secret about it, since they were advertising their great love me on their rear windshield.

I helped cut some very tall grass and pull some overgrown weeds at this older man’s house today. His neighbors complained to the city that he was creating a haven for west nile virus infected mosquitoes. So a group of us from my church hauled tractors, mowers, and weed eaters over to his “field”, and spent a few hours eradicating.

Right now, on my ipod, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is singing these lines: “a pebble in the water makes a ripple effect,
every action in this world will bear a consequence, if you wade around forever you will surely drown…I see what's going down…Face down in the dirt she says, this doesn't hurt she says I finally had enough.” I’m passionate about the words in this song. I watched an independent Swedish/Russian film the other day. I didn’t understand the language very well…wel
l not at all, but the film was so powerful, it exposed the horrors and tragedy of the modern slave industry, and showed how girls from poverty stricken place in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Asia, are lured into finding work in well-to do western society. Once they arrive in the new country, they are immediately enslaved and used for prostitution and the sex industry. It made me so angry. Angry at the abuse they endure. Angry at the parents and families that let them leave. Angry at the patrons of these businesses or pimps. I know plenty of Soldiers or Sailors who, while on leave overseas, will ignorantly contribute to the abuse of these poor women and girls. Everything in my wants to fight to protect hurting people. Why don’t I do it then? I have a friend who doesn’t know what to do with her life, so she is heading to South East Asia in September to teach English. But her heart’s desire is to help rescue and protect girls who are caught up in this debauchery. I pray the Lord will bless her and provide for her and fuel her zeal for good.

Last weekend I spent some time with God. I mean I try to spend time with God all day long, but I sometimes get distracted. So I visited the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, and asked God to speak to me change me more. When I arrived at the IHOP mission base, I immediately felt this burden lifting from my shoulders and something I can only describe as the presence of God.

Many amazing and timely things happened during those days. In fact, I didn’t understand why I went at first. I was actually mad at God, because all of my weekend plans had failed and I felt stuck in Kansas for another lonely weekend. But the Lord told me to be quiet and be still. SHUT UP ROB! Then he said, GO TO KANSAS CITY. And then I realized his Purpose. I found myself consumed in worshiping God with a hundred other people from all around the world at 3 AM on Saturday, and I was not tired. Here are some thoughts I wrote down in my journal during that period of time:

- I am a whore. Derek Webb sings about this in his Wedding Dress song. “I am a whore, I must confess. I put you on like a wedding dress.” I identify with that song completely. God calls us not to lift our souls to another. We make all these promises and commitments to God, and then fail. And feel bad about it. And ask God to forgive us. And he welcomes us back. These are the times when with think that Grace is cheap. But, though it was free for us, it wasn’t cheap for God, because as Bonhoeffer writes, it cost God his Son. I read through HOSEA, and the prophet Hosea married a prostitute, who was married to many men and kept leaving him. He kept taking her back. That’s why I feel like a whore.

- Be SALT, I am commanded. Sometimes I feel like my salt has lost its saltiness. So what is it then?

- Have mercy Lord, according to your unfailing love.

- Yaweh is my KING, ruling and reigning over me.

- Lord thank you for beautiful voices.

- We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. That’s from Colossians 1:9. I’ve been praying that over my daughters for a while now.

- God will bring about JUSTICE for his chosen who cry out to him day and night (Luke 18:7-8)

- I think most people don’t realize what they are really longing for, and therefore, search the world for things to try to fill the empty holes in their souls. Eventually when we fail to find satisfaction, we enter a place of brokenness, and then have a choice, to let God fill us and heal us, or to live in bitterness and despair.

- Lord, I want to love as you love.

- I think I’ve gotten to the point in my life where SHOCK doesn’t surprise me anymore. Isn’t that some kind of oxymoron?

- You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being (Revelation 2:4)

- Jealousy is a husband’s FURY!!

- I’m grasping how wide, how deep, how long, and how high the love of God really is.

- Lord, change my occasional flirtations glance to a steady and longing gaze!

Here is a first look at a song I started to write in KC. I have developed a melody already, but like all my songs, will collect dust until I am partnered with someone more musically inclined than me. I play it in the key of Em.

What would it be, Lord

That you have for me?

I’m just broken man (who is)

Lost at sea

I have nothing to offer you

On my own

I have no power

To change the road I’m walking on

I can’t seem to figure out

What I’m doing here

Look, I’m only a child

And full of anguish and fear

But you call me

Call me

Back to you…

And now you send me

Where you want me to go

You are the Spirit

Holy Fire

Release this anointing over me (3x).

Last night my friend, Dan, counseled me on the phone while I was parked at a Shell gas station. It was timely and good to hear a friendly voice in the wilderness. I have been mulling over things, and don’t quite no where to go. My thoughts, emotions, heart, longings, and passions are all jumbled and tangled together. They are not neat and orderly.

Yesterday in my alone time I drove the Outback through the unpaved county roads of the Kansas flinthills kicking up dust and testing the limits of the All-Wheel Drive. I happened upon this hidden swimming hole, Pillsbury Crossing, that literally blocked the road way. The road crossed this creek where the depth was about 18 inches. People had parked their trucks in the creek, and were drinking beer and swimming in the deeper parts near a waterfall. I never thought I would see this in Kansas.

You are only my friend if I can pinch you

Its great that all my friends are on the internet now. When I was in Germany, after I destroyed my marriage, and then got back up on my feet, I had a huge circle of friends and we would get together 5-6 days a week! Crazy lifestyle. But now I spend all my free time down at the Blue Stem drinking coffee and talking to all my friends: On Line! What a loser.

Actually some of the Baristas and Baristos have gotten to know me, and I'm just starting to connect with some folks from the church community I've been worshiping with. Sometimes its hard for military folks to connect when they move so much. They often just stay on base and drink and that’s their community; even the families that live on base. I've never been one to do that, but when I came to Kansas it was only supposed to be for 60 days, and nowadays I have so much emotional baggage, that I never know what or how to share with people if it bubbles out of me.

But anyway, NO I'm not going to stay in the barracks. I refuse! Last night, I went to a Bible Study (Ray Vanderlaan, history stuff), and then those guys took me out to dinner! Ye-ah! Then I talked on the phone with a friend from El Paso who is going through a rough time. Then I went back to the barracks and set up a NETFLIX account, so that I could watch feature films on-line, which will only last until I deploy, because I won't have high-speed internet in Afghanistan or wherever I go. I watched a really great Israeli movie about Bedouins and their interaction with modern Arab and Jewish society. I like foreign films.

Then I slept in until 0930, and YES it was peacefully quiet with NO fluorescent lights flicking on at 0500!

I washed clothes, read ACTS, ate brunch at the chow hall, and then drove downtown to find gummi bears and authentic German Haribo candy for Andrea. I was unsuccessful. I found regular gummi bears, but not the cool stuff from Europe. Go figure, I'm in Kansas. So, I asked a friend in Germany to buy some from the Kaufmarkt and have his little girls write a card to my daughter Andrea and mail the stuff to her. That will be fun.

I did buy some other knickknacks like a Hannah Montana back to school stationery set, a purple K-State T-shirt for my cheerleading daughter, some chocolate, and a few other things, and now I sit at the Blue Stem drinking an IRISH COFFEE (it’s a long weekend) and packaging all this stuff up. I'm also sending a package of chocolate to a chocoholic friend in Iraq. Usually when the chocolate arrives, it has to be refrigerated for 24 hours to regain shape. So I've turned the Blue Stem into my office. I hope they don't mind.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Some old crumpled song sheets...I found. Just click on the title link or head to this URL:

Be sure to check out Rhythmless II as well.

Some of Last Year's Thoughts on Coffee

I don't have a caffeine addiction, but for some strange reason I do get headaches after a few days without the java infusion

September 12, 2007.

In the past several months I have had the joy of sipping on espresso in both Austria and Switzerland with a great group of friends. It was the friendship that made the moment, but the coffee beans simply infused that friendship with great memories.

Today I submitted an application for a managerial or executive position with Caribou coffee. I don't know if any of this will come to fruition, but it would be just as fun to work behind the counter and serve up some great lattes.


July16 2007.

I have consumed a lot of the espresso drug in recent weeks while exploring Alaska's oil fields, Mount McKinley, and my Mom's house. Fairbanks, AK claims the worlds greatest number of drive-thru espresso stands per capita in the world. For a population of about 75, 000 souls (and a few moose), there is an espresso stand on nearly every main street or thoroughfare, and their prices are competitive with Starbucks (which by the way, has not made inroads in this interior city, except for brands sold at the supermarket and bookstore). But what does all of this have to do with the price of tea in China? Nothing. All of this coffee has not really helped me reflect on the status of my life and the chaos that surrounds it. I have been working pretty hard and staying very busy, and have not had much time for true reflection and resting in God's shadow. A 36 hour round-trip drive on dirt roads to Prudhoe Bay on the Artic Ocean should have given me time for thought, but the unimproved roads jostled my brain and body so much that I developed ADHD (and the coffee didn't help).

June 2, 2007.

Well, its June already. Four days until the anniversary of D-Day. Drove through the Normandy coast recently. Walked the beaches where countless thousands of patriots and volunteers sacrificed their lives, for the freedom of a people and a continent that hardly remembers, it seems.

What would the world be like if we all learn to sacrifice for others at that level. Expecting nothing in return.

May 20th-


Its good to have a concept for your future. You realize your options, you think about them, and you walk through them. But its best to give them to God. We have much more "control" over our future than our past. That is a truth.

I know that it is important that we surrender our lives to God. But I don't think he just wants us to sit back for the ride. As Christians we are to be proactive. I just reread II Chronicles, just to examine the life of David (sinful choices and consequences) and then see how his era passed into the era of Solomon. None of those guys just sat back. They made decisions, sometime really poor decisions, but they made them.

I have enjoyed reading a book called Soul Cravings by Erwin McManus recently. McManus is part of a real life church group that meets in a bar in Los Angeles. He has interesting perspectives on life. But in the book he talks abouts our future. He talks about our dreams. The worst part about dreams is waking up! He doesn't buy into "if you dream, it will happen", but he subscribes to Godly ambition. God places in us a drive to accomplish something. We all have a need to progress. To lack ambition is to become complacent. To lose our passion is to become apathetic. The future doesn't happen by accident; it happens through engagement.

I am fully committed to being engaged during the rest of my life. I have some hangups now. I can't see around a lot of my roadblocks, but I am not sitting back anymore.

I used to be caught up in this "glamorous" and mysterious career. But I have let go of that. I told one friend I would be happy being a Barrista at Starbucks, as long as I could really live (but she told me you had to be a woman or gay to be a Barrista).

May 12, 2007.

So, today is my youngest daughter's 11th Birthday. That amazes me. This miracle of life. I am an absentee Dad, I pondered over my Saturday morning cup of coffee.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Over My Shoulder

There is no fear in Love. Perfect love drives out all fear. 1John4:18

(extract notes from various emails I have sent…)

Funniest line I heard in a FDNY (Fire Department of New York) themed Hollywood blockbuster I recently watched. Two of the firefighters were flirting with some young ladies at the grocery store.

So you guys usually pick up girls in the supermarket for fun?

No, I usually just throw them over my shoulder and carry them down the stairs!!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

!No Puedo Salvarme!

This morning, I didn't have any duties at work, so, after running and breakfast, I returned to the bay (where I live with about 40 guys), and did some work-related reading in the lawn chair beside my bunk. I was feeling exhausted and my thoughts started drifting toward my life, a history of mistakes, where I'm at today, where I'm going, etc…thoughts that were leading to the exact opposite way of thinking that I blogged about earlier this week (What's Choking You?). So, against my better professional judgment, I climbed into my rack to take a nap (at 1000 in the morning) and drifted off to sleep. Have you ever been awake and asleep at the same time? I woke up feeling this major oppression. I can only describe it as a heavy feeling. My eyes were open and I was staring at the bunk above mine. I willed to get up, but I couldn't. I sensed this very obvious spiritual warfare taking place in my presence and against me. I suddenly noticed my legs were bound together and I physically could not move. I tried to sit up, but my body refused to react. My lips were sealed as I tried to speak, and then yell. I was unable to utter even a sound. Alone in the bay, I started yelling the name of Jesus, but I was still trapped. It was quite a fearful experience. I think it lasted about ten minutes. I just kept repeating the name of Jesus over and over again, until finally I felt released, and was able to sit up. The heaviness of this oppression probably lasted another 30 minutes or so. I cannot explain any of this, except that it has happened at least three other times in my life. The most memorable occasion took place on the night before my wedding in 1993. At that time, I felt like I was being choked. There was this feeling that the enemy did not want me to marry Kelli. In today's battle, I can't name a particular sin or behavior that would have initiated this apparent attack. Life has been "normal" lately, for lack of a better description. I know that God is moving in my life, and that His victory will be won. No puedo Salvarme! I can't save myself.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Whats choking you?

What's choking you??

Do you remember when Jesus was telling his disciples about the farmer dude who planted a whole bunch of seeds in different types of soils during planting season? Those seeds all reacted quite differently according to the type of soil in which they were planted. I believe the soil you really want to stay away from is the soil that contains a lot of weeds. Those weeds will choke your seeds, or the resulting plant, to death. It seems Jesus often communicated to his disciples and us through these crazy little stories called parables. He rarely laid down the law. He simply suggested that people ought to do what they know they should do. He usually ended his parables with a statement like: "He who has ears, let him hear." One of my pastors at The Well, Matt, once spoke about how complex our relationship with God is. When you think about it, along with everything else in the universe it really is mind-bogglingly complex and unfathomable…yet, if we truly know God, our relationship with Him can really be quite simple. When we don't trust God, then that is often when we end up in those weed-choking predicaments of life. Partly, I guess, it's because we choose not to listen. Even though we have ears. I have had ears my entire life, at least as far as I know. I've seen the baby pictures. Whether it was excess ear wax or the foreign language that was spoken, there were many times in my life when I chose not to listen. I allowed the weeds to grow up in my life and choke me out. I was down for the count, and oxygen deprived, and failed to recover, until Jesus did some major landscaping in my life. I think when most of us get choked, like full throttle choked, it's because of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what's going to happen…to us. Fear is like lack of faith. Somewhere else Jesus asks us if, by worrying, we can add a single hour to our lives. I believe Jesus knew what he was talking about. Today, at The Well, Matt defined worry as failure to…be here. That is not really a complex statement at all. But, to me, it's quite profound. When we live in the past or when we begin to contemplate the future with little knowledge of how things will actually turn out, we stop trusting in God's sovereign plan. I don't necessarily subscribe to my Muslim friends' "in'sahalla" answer to every one of life's challenges. They often live quite fatalistically and resort to inaction when faced with a problem. What I mean is, in reality there are consequences for every one of our actions or inactions. That is a law of physics I learned in high school. I got a "B" in that class. We have to live life in the here and now and make decisions and be proactive while simultaneously Do you know what epinephrine is? If I had scored higher than a "B" in chemistry class I could probably tell you what the chemical compound breakdown consisted of, but I didn't so I won't. Epinephrine is really the same thing as adrenaline. One reason we worry so much, Matt suggests, is that we never observe "Shabbat", the day of rest that the old testament of the Bible talks about. I learned recently that God doesn't require us to observe the Sabbath for HIM, but rather he wants us to observe the Sabbath for US. Do you know we need a day of rest, because during a typical week we tend to be so shot up and high on epinephrine that we can't rest. Americans can be so production driven, and every time we start producing or thinking about producing our adrenaline starts flowing. And that sure causes a heck of a lot of worry. Apparently almost anything we "do" will instigate the flow of epinephrine through our bodies. This could simply be driving our cars, working through a project at the office, being involved in an argument, receiving a smile from a pretty woman, or even logging on to your computer to check emails or read someone's blog! And once epinephrine is releases, it might take hours to dissipate. All of that just to say that we need to rest. If we take one day of the week and do almost nothing, or at least change our routine, I think we will notice a huge difference. Can you imagine a day when you don't drive anywhere, don't check any email, or even watch TV? It would probably take some getting used to. You might go through epinephrine withdrawal. But it would drastically change your life. We need to stop worrying so much. The wise writer, Solomon, in Ecclesiastes realized this. He boiled it down to there being a season for every thing, so quit getting so stressed out about what happened or what might happen. So, what is choking you? Live for the future by choosing to be well and weed-free today. trusting in God's will.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Conflict Resolution

The last day of June, at least for this year.
Conflict resolution (a short one this time!)

Donald Miller writes in his book Searching for God Knows What
"The very scary thing about religion, to me, is that people actually believe God is who they think He is."
Pretty profound if you ask me. Examine the cause for every social or political conflict that affects this planet. It can really boil down to people putting the identity of the Creator in their own little comfortable or confusing box, so that they can have it their way, as if life is some fast-food joint.
My latest conflict? I bought a new pair of Oakley's today. How will I avoid losing or misplacing them? I seem to always lose my sunglasses before the break-in period has expired. And, as I type this, I just swallowed an ice cube from my medium Iced Mocha. Brainfreeze sets in rapidly. I guess I can't resolve this one on my own and I can't blame it on God.

Feasts Whispers and Apologies

29 June 2008

Now it is Sunday. I enjoyed our eclectic worship gathering at the Well this morning. We focused on worshiping God through fellowship, and specifically in sharing meals…Matt showed us though scripture how often God related to people through feasting and breaking bread, as they used to say. These events bring us together and they help us remember. In the old days people were given specific commands to remember by celebrating through big dinners like the feast of tens, the feast of unleavened bread, etc. Jesus frequently met with people over a meal, and of course is pretty well known for his last supper. We really do connect with people a lot more deeply when we are sharing a meal. Ya know? Right now, I want to share a cup of coffee with someone, and since I'm at the Blue Stem (AGAIN!), I guess I'm sharing coffee with a lot of people. I'm not really talking to many of them though, except Beth the barrista, who was also at the Well this morning, and my friend Siul, who drove here with me.

I looked at my journal notes from last week, and I wrote this status update (now expired):

"…having been given much, still wanting to do something more exciting with this life, but not necessarily with a uniform and body armor, for I'm reluctant to be blown to smithereens…"

I think I'm still in that place. But, as I, look beyond the frustrations, I realize it has been a really good week of examining and seeing truth in the day to day, and moving forward. We often don't see our role or purpose when we are staring at the floor, on looking where our feet take us along the journey, I think. But when we get outside of ourselves, take a look at the aerial view, we can see the progress a little clearer. I reconnected with a really old friend this week (she's not really old, and neither am I), and we discussed some of the deepest, most painful things that have affected our lives. It is eerily uncanny how much these tragedies we have both experienced in life parallel. And God has begun to move mountains before and through our lives.

I don't make it a habit to study Greek like some of my crazy friends, but I always find it fascinating to see who significant the choice of words, can, through translation, affect the intended outcome of a statement. For example, in Greek, I think, there are several words that describe hearing or understanding. The word "Ous", is like detecting a faint whisper. But "Akuom" is like really understanding what that whisper is conveying. I really like that. You Greek scholars can correct me if you want. Do you ever feel like, when you are trying to make a decision, or are confused about something, you suddenly begin to detect a faint whisper? Usually you won't hear that whisper at all, until you quiet yourself and stop all the stressing, complaining, and fear. I think that tugging on our hearts and that whisper is the Holy Spirit telling us, "its going to be alright". Sometimes all we need to hear is "I Love You" faintly whispered in our ear. The warm breath of those three words whispered by a lover, can be more comforting than anything else in this world. And yet, when we reach Akuom, and begin to really discern what that sweet whisper is saying we KNOW that it will be alright.

Here is an apology that someone important once wrote to me. I rediscovered it this afternoon while leafing through my old Bible. It was written on a crumpled piece of paper obscurely hidden in the back leaf of the cover. As I read through the note, I was tearfully taken aback at the reality of the fact that it should have been me apologizing to her. In her letter, she said that she learned that if she wanted something she should seek it by honest means, rather than through lies and deceit. Lies just catch up with you, she wrote. But more importantly, she goes on, lying destroys relationship and trust. There is such simple truth in that statement; Truth that we often learn through so much incredible pain sometimes. In concluding her apology, she quotes the band, Pillar: "If I could, I'd take back all the lies and all of those times I hurt you. I don't know if I'll ever know exactly how much I hurt you; and knowing that hurts me everyday."

If I could, I would take back all the lies.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

In the Storm

This is how I felt last night…driving through that very same storm in Salina, Kansas, and then finally seeking shelter at an eerie closed gas station off a barren stretch of 1-70 (flash scenes from some Alfred Hitchcock thriller). I departed for ColoradoKansas corridor, but for some reason I felt compelled to face the challenge. I'm tired of not standing up to things that are much bigger than me. After all, in facing my giants of yesteryear and today, I have given myself the moniker of Stoneslinger. I want to live up to that name. So I departed on what was supposed to have been a seven hour cruise. I had traveled no more than an hour when every radio station started broadcasting alert tones, and they didn't end with that "this is a test of the public emergency broadcast system" line. I was close to Salina, so I pulled off the highway, looking for a motel or restaurant for protection, but then the stormchasers announced that the tornado had already crossed I-70 and was heading north. They advised it should be clear for Westward travelers. That's me, I thought, so I jumped back on the interstate to continue my journey. Not more than seven minutes after I reached cruising speed, the broadcasters announced two more shelf clouds had formed southwest of my location proceeding at 60 MPH towards me! The spotters were reporting baseball size hail impacting the ground in various locations. It was dark and I couldn't see much, except for this huge shelf cloud that was beginning to descend to the ground encompassing the full view of my passenger side window. I was cruising at about 80 MPH myself, trying to "outrun the storm", but then radio announcers reported that several more tornados had already touched down. I was starting to perspire a little, and my AC was still refrigerating the Subaru quite well. By this time I was in the barren amber waves of grain part of Kansas, and I was starting to mentally designate various ditches and low areas as rallypoints to return to if one of these Giants brandished its vortex of violent swirling air in my general direction, and then…I found exit 225. And, I saw a light. Aha, a gas station, the only sign of humanity or safety for miles around. I pulled in and was relieved to see its lights were on and a few other people had sought shelter there. I pulled my car under the gaspump awning, and dashed inside. The three other travelers were already watching the close captioned storm reports traversing the screen below an extremely stupid gameshow. The first storm passed to our south, and was relative harmless. The gas station attendant said it was past his beer time, and needed to lock up, so we proceeded to our two cars, but before departing, the other travelers told me new storms had been reported and they were moving directly toward our location. We had lost access to the apparent shelter of the gas station, so we parked our cars really close together and huddled inside. And those storms were violent. I remember experiencing a few minutes of real fear, or maybe I should say respect, as the rain and hail began to swirl in a circular direction outside my windshield. I had been more comfortable when it was flying sideways! And then, I noticed these grenade like explosions in the pavement in front of my covered car: Hailstones were impacting with force. My car was rocking back and forth, and I just begin to pray, and thanked God for revealing to me his power and might in a very real way. The radio station DJs had now moved to their basement shelters, as tornados touched down and plowed through the city of Salina, and then ironically moved on to Manhattan (Kansas State) where I normally spend my evenings. last night with full knowledge that a severe storm was moving toward me along the 1-70 central

After another 45 minutes, my fellow safetyseekers and I decided to head West before something else blew in. Except for one fuel stop, I kept the pedal to the medal all the way to the Colorado Border, where, at about 0230 AM, with drooping eyes, and a post adrenaline attack crash, finally found a truck stop. I managed to brush my teeth before falling into a dead sleep in the reclined passenger seat of my faithful Subaru. I woke up about four hours later with a mild case of frost-bite beginning to grow on my toes.

Colorado is a little cooler than Kansas, I learned. And they operate in a different timezone. After thawing my feet out and consuming an unappetizing greasy breakfast at Denny's I kicked my spurs into the Subaru and zoomed West on Colorado 24, and promptly ran into a tumbleweed and a llama. Welcome back to the West, Rob, they said. The tumbleweed disappeared under the car and the llama, spitting at me with his eyes, remained corralled behind a fence. The tumbleweed brought back memories from El Paso days, but I wasn't quite prepared for the llama attack, and all I could think about was Samantha reciting lines from the Emperor's New Groove: "Not your Llama!".

I arrived in the Springs about an hour or so later, and reacquainted myself with that sprawling little city nestled in the foothills of Pike's Peak. It wasn't even 9 AM yet, and I didn't have an appointment to meet my friends until after 5PM, so I decided to drive up to the magnificent Garden of the Gods, where I changed into shorts, grabbed my camelback, and ranhiked (I just invented that word) for about two hours. And, glancing at Pikes Peak, I am in awe at the greatness and majesty of God. I experienced Him in the fiercest part of the storm, and in the calm sunrise illuminating the mountain before me.

And now, my cup of coffee is dry, and I need to remount the Subaru and head for the hills. Mercy covers all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Naked Thoughts From My Journal Today

Naked thoughts.

Many events and feelings have occurred since I last wrote. I have been quite lazy in keeping up with my writing. And now I don’t remember much…it’s all jumbled together.

Tornados, firing many powerful weapons, experiencing the heat and discomfort of wearing body armor for hours at a time, knowing that perhaps, one day it will save my life; all the while still wondering what my role is in all this madness of countering an evil insurgency.

Losing contact with my daughters even more, missing them until it hurts, and then fighting the desire to miss them so it doesn’t hurt so much; realizing tonight that they now have a baby sister as Kelli has given birth to some other man’s daughter: the ultimate betrayal, with which I have no basis to judge or hold grudge.

Traveling though Kansas to visit my dear friend who wallows behind bars for 9 more months, yet remains at peace with where God has him at the moment.

Forgetting to cancel reservations at an extremely expensive Hilton Hotel in Kansas City and being charged for the room I did not occupy.

Enjoying the unique friendships with all the Navy doctors I live with.

Struggling with sharing my faith.

Preparing for the ultimate and most challenging mission of my life, one month away.

Not knowing the future.

Not reading much.

Not reading much in God’s word; excusing it for the violence of my schedule, lack of personal space; but realizing the damage that is inflicted by lack of consistent truth in my life.

Missing my friends in Europe, and desiring deeper friendships here.

Lonely for the heart of a woman, someone to care for and to give away my everything in the deepest way.

Tears don’t fall much anymore. These eyes are dry and weary.

Ashamed of all my somethings.

Searching for God knows what.

Thankful for moments of peace.

Looking forward to resting in the freshness of Colorado this weekend.

Wanting to see the Lees and Williams next month.

Desiring to be less selfish and more of a servant.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

One Saturday Evening in Aggieville, or The Problem with People

I sit in the corner by a window. In my peripheral vision I count a hundred legs passing by on the sidewalk outside, their owner's identities and features concealed by the half-closed blinds that also shelter me from the setting sun's last burning rays of this warm Saturday evening in late May. Sitting there I ponder the valleys and summits of my life, presently feeling abandoned, perhaps having lost my grip and anchor on the climb, but knowing I can only continue to ascend this mountain, even without my belay. Jazz music disturbs the still, quiet air in Radina's Roastery. The normally packed and lively coffee house is quite empty, most likely because of the Kansas State University commencement ceremony that has just finished about a block away. A group of Chinese students exchange stories and giggle in a high-pitched mandarin. I want to sit at the table next to them and ask them "Nee How Mah?", How are you doing?, and then ask them if their families in China are safe after the terrible earthquakes that rocked their country last week. But then I would probably find out that they are from Taiwan, and would have to apologize profusely. An attractive 20-something blonde types ferociously on her laptop next to me. The Barrista at the counter blends an iced mocha for another customer and tells me she hopes business remains this slow tonight, adding that it would be better if all the students bypass Radina's and head straight to the bars that cover Aggieville, the night life district in this university town. I like this place. It has been my escape from the weeks of combat training and cultural immersion that have been preparing me for impending introduction to the hell of war. I like the fresh roasted and ground coffee. I like the diverse atmosphere, although I'm not entirely thrilled about the bulletin board poster that boasts of an upcoming meeting of the local Gay, Bi, and Lesbians club. But even in escape, I find myself in a state of loneliness. The blonde woman sitting next to me is joined by an old friend, another 20-something of possible Indian descent, named Ashley. Apparently they have not seen each other for a while, because she comments on the length of Ashley's hair. They sit down and begin to discuss work and relationships. Let me catch you up on the latest. Ashley loves her job because everyone considers her the fashion expert. My blonde neighbor enjoys the projects she is working on, but is frustrated about her boss and her relationship with guys who did not know how to be real. Ashley is in love with her boyfriend, but frustrated that he hasn't asked her to marry him yet. He is going to grad school in Ohio, and she doesn't want to move to Ohio and wait for him. She is a city girl, and couldn't possibly sit around in the emptiness of Ohio. She understands he, being a Grad student, doesn't have the money for a ring, but she knows his heart is to marry her. They have looked at rings. She only wants a ring from Tiffany's, because Tiffany's knows how to do diamonds, apparently. She is interested in a round diamond, that in the light, reveals some sort of cross shape in the center or something like that. She would like to contribute and work so he can focus on school, but also realizes they should probably wait to marry until school is out of the way. I want to join in their conversation. I want to share with them some of the few lessons I have learned about relationships. I am an expert on destroying relationships. I want to share with them some passages from "Searching for God Knows What", the book by Donald Miller that I am pretending to read at my table by the window right now. Especially the passage about the problem with people. Miller tells us the problem with people is that they don't always do what you want them to do. I've personally realized in recent weeks that, as much as we spend our energy and entire lives trying to change those around us, because either we hate what they are doing or not doing (to or for us), ultimately, the only thing we can really change might be ourselves. And even that is quite impossible on our own. We can't make people like us. We can't make people forgive us. We can't make people respect themselves. I think, though, that if we allow ourselves to be transformed, we might be able to look at other people in, perhaps, a less offensive, selfish sort of way. Another good Book I have read, often reminds me of that need for transformation.

Though I haven't had an intimately emotional relationship with a woman in over two years, this band of gold that is engraved on my left hand keeps my heart focused on what is most important, and not distracted by the bombardment of opportunities that seek to fruitlessly occupy that missing void in my life. I don't feel bombarded right now. But I do desire friendship. That is part of my humanity that sometimes bubbles up to the surface of who I am, I guess. I feel like I'm living in a foreign land these days, a prairieland of faces and voices I do not recognize or understand. The day to day life I am becoming accustomed to in my new environment is full of the lost and profane. As much as I want to connect with my co-workers and the people I live with, as much as I want to share the truth and peace and hope and joy with them, I am constricted. I thank God for some of the opportunities I have had, and I am thankful for a new brother I have recently met, but its certainly not the same as the brotherhood and sisterhood of friends I recently left in Europe, and the wonderful families who took me in during my pilgrimage across this continent in recent months.

Since I won't connect with anyone at Radina's tonight, I take my last sip of now cold Cappuccino, wish the Barrista good night, and exit onto the now dark sidewalk. The vampires have emerged, and I'm not one of them. Scores of students, and the occasional Soldier or Sailor, move up and down the streets of Aggieville in clusters, some already intoxicated, through alcohol, or perhaps the spirit of friendship or desire, but most heading for the countless themed bars and hangouts that pump gyrating or rocking music into the night.

Later as I drive back to base I pass by fraternity and sorority houses, overflowing onto the lawns with young people, drinks in hand, laughing, and enjoying the warm Spring night. Their final exams have ended, many have graduated, and all have turned a new chapter in their lives. What will they be doing in a year? Some will be back in school. Some will be employed. Some will take pride in wearing the uniform I now wear. I can't help but wonder, though, are they wasting their lives, like I did for so much of mine?