Post-Apocalyptic Uni-Brow Musings

18 Jan

You will not regret reading this.

I have a natural uni-brow. Not a fun confession, but it is the truth.

I always thought to myself: What would happen to my eyebrows in a post-apocalyptic world? I always assumed that they would just return to their natural state. But duh, not all tweezers would be destroyed in the ensuing chaos and societal breakdown.

So you guys can scrounge for food and water, look for safety, and protect your family and such.

I will be holed up somewhere with a pair of tweezers, making sure my eyebrows look socially acceptable.

The end.

Dealing with the myth of myself

23 Feb

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”

– Jeremiah 17:9, NASB

Not sure where this started or when it is going to end.

Apparently, people think I am manly.

Maybe it is the beard. Maybe the fact that I am a giant, significantly tipping the scale over 250 lbs even at my skinniest. Maybe it is the fact that chased down a wounded deer and killed it with a knife. Maybe it is the fact that I can tan a deer hide and make clothing out of it.

You may think that the previous sentence or two was bragging. I submit that it is not. It is fact. What I do and what others do with that fact is where the problem comes in.

You see, since I have/have done these things, people think that I am awesomely manly. When I then receive that feedback, it is easy to think of myself in that light. I can think I am manly, a great guy, awesome, all that stuff. But what I am believing is not myself, it is the perception of myself filtered through the lens of others. That is a myth, a story we collaborated together to create.

All these thoughts came to the forefront of my mind recently when I was reading the book, “Manhood in America: A Cultural History” by Michael Kimmel. He wrote about the American Presidential election of 1840 between Harrison and Van Buren, one of the more controversial for it’s pitting the manhood of the candidates against each other. Here is what he says,

“Recall again the postscript to the vicious campaign of 1840. Taking the oath of office on one of the most bitterly cold days in the entire nineteenth century, William Henry Harrison refused to wear a topcoat lest he appear week and unmanly. He caught pneumonia, was immediately bedridden, and dies one month later – the shortest term in office of any president in our history. Believing your own hype may be dangerous for your health let alone the health of the nation”

Harrison killed himself believing his own hype, which was almost entirely false in the first place. It is not that we cannot be encouraged, or looked up to, or thought of as a good person. It is when that myth defines you and takes you from the reality of who you are that you fall prey to pride and destruction. Many of the things that define us do not take place for all to see. They take place in the moments where we show love and those are not to be displayed likes beards or hunting trophies.

Three months ago I married my love. She does love the “manly” things about me, my beard, my hunting exploits, my passion and love for the outdoors. But those do not define our relationship, and they do little good in showing her love. “See my manly beard, it grows with love for you!” or “Behold, woman, see the love in this deer slain by mine hand which I hast brought unto thee!” You would think such loving expressions would cause her heart to flutter, but nope. Instead, it is things like simple texts, elaborate plans for evenings out, thoughts of her, long hugs, gifts, making food, and yes, washing dishes. Not very manly by the mythical standards in my head, but good enough for love and that is enough. And not very easy to do because they are not selfishly promoting what I want to believe about my own myth.

Anyways, I hope and pray that you can begin to deal with this myth. I believe that begins with humility before God, who will then use any means possible as He continues the work. So hang in there, and give me some hints on how to make it through this as well.

Take care, and live well.

Manifesto 2013

8 Feb

For the second year in a row, I have written a Manifesto. I guess I am just trying to be original and not call it a new year’s resolution, but I like the name better. I like to post it for the accountability and so you know how awesome I am. Just kidding, I do not accomplish everything I set out to do, like most I suppose. But I want to become more intentional as a man of God and especially now as a husband. I do not want to drift through life, and with a firm hand on the tiller and my eyes set heavenward I continue on. Here it is:

I. God

  • Read more on theology and ministry. Make it through one book a month. Re-learn Greek.

  • Find and praise God through my choice of music.

  • Start prayer journal again. Find a disciplined prayer routine.

  • Fast regularly.

II. Family

  • Pursue relationship with my wife. Love, cherish and serve her daily. Find new ways to do this and keep doing the things that build romance.

  • Manage time with family and friends to make sure I am faithful in my duties towards them.

  • Start praying regularly for guidance in future plans.

III. Integrity

  • Write one post a week on my blog.

  • Write 4 to 5 days in my journal.

  • Renew creative pursuits.

  • Pursue solitude & simplicity in structured ways.

IV. Teaching

  • Write a new sermon/lesson every time I preach/teach.

  • Develop wilderness camp at NEICSC.

V. Health

  • Get below 300 lbs this year.

    • Walk/Bike/Hike/Run etc. with Michelle.

    • Work out at home or gym twice weekly.

    • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure by October.

    • Pursue a more natural diet, avoiding fast and processed foods.

    • Monitor progress on paper.

Doubting doubt

24 Jan

Isaiah 45:-10

“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
    those who are nothing but potsherds
    among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
    ‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
    ‘The potter has no hands’?
 Woe to the one who says to a father,
    ‘What have you begotten?’
or to a mother,
    ‘What have you brought to birth?’”

Doubt is in these days. “The opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty” speaks Annie Lamott, and she is pretty close to being right. Pretty close. Except that I am certain of a few things, and one is that God is God and I can rest steady in His grace. I am not saying that I have come up with a theodicy that can explain away the problem of evil. I am not saying that ignorance is bliss. I am not saying I never question, never doubt, never search out the truth or that you should stop doing any of those things to be a “good Christian.” I am just saying that it is good to rest our restless souls awhile. I doubt that my own doubt will be such a kind master. 

Psalm 131

My heart is not proud, Lord,
    my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
    or things too wonderful for me.
 But I have calmed and quieted myself,
    I am like a weaned child with its mother;
    like a weaned child I am content.

 Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    both now and forevermore.

Steward

18 Oct

I was thinking the other night about the parable of the stewards, the prodigal son, and my own life and failures.

The parable of the stewards, or the talents, is one that has never really stood out to me. For those of you unfamiliar, it is found in Matthew 25:14-30. Basically, three servants are given different sums of 5, 2, and 1 talents from their master when he leaves on a journey. Two of the slaves go out and earn an equal amount, while the third just buries it in the ground. When the master returns, he is pleased by the two servants who earned more and get ticked at the third one because his money got dirty and stuff. One of the most fascinating phrases come when the master says,

“Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him”

Why? Why give it to the one who has more? Why not give it to the middle one, the one who has four and still doubled his money? This is not very “fair” in the way I reckon fairness. And then there is that awful phrase, “Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” What is the application of this verse? That the poor will be even poorer? I never really understood this passage as a child. But when I was thinking about it the other day, I realized that I was still thinking about this wonderful parable with a materialistic mindset. That this parable was about a physical “more.” There are obvious and true applications for money and developing the gifts and skills you have been given. But the “more” is just not that simple. It contains this idea of time, of diligence, of discipline that changes your life and the lives of those around you. It is about getting off your laurels. You are not just a “Christian” who can sit around and protect the truth and Gospel by letting it molder in your heart. When you grow and manage those things in your life, then “more” happens.

Now to the prodigal son. An amazing story of grace, acceptance, welcome, partying, love. I love it. But quite honestly, I am more like the older brother in the story. Basically, the tale is simple. A young son asks his father for his inheritance early, squanders it all, heads home when it get too bad. The son expects to only serve as a slave, but the father welcomes him home and a party is thrown. But the saddest part of the story is in Luke 15:25-31,

 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.  So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

The older brother is a jerk. And I honestly am more like him. I live in an area and work with churches that tend to be conservative, both theologically and (sometimes more importantly it seems) politically. Although I do not think this is true of a vast majority of the people I work with, there is unquestionably a strain in many conservatives that is typified by the older brother. This rationalization that allows you to exempt yourself from loving those around you, even those closest to you. I hate it when I see that attitude, or when it rears it’s ugly head in my heart and actions.

Back to stewardship. Which of these sons better managed what had been given to them? NEITHER. The prodigal was wasteful, thoughtless, even insulting to his father in implication. The older brother was just as wasteful. He spent all his day managing a thankless, unkind, and bitter spirit. A mentality that was just as entitled as his little brother. He had work, a home, food on the table everyday. But what good did it do him? He may as well just have buried it in the ground. I am not suggesting that flagrant waste and hedonism is the better route, but I will always strive to lean towards humility and not pride. That is the kind of steward I want to be.

So I have been asking myself: what has God been giving me to manage? I am trying to categorize my own life to see the things that God has given me. For example, He has given me my body and health. I have seen world class athletes manage their bodies well, but I have also seen a man who was ridden with cancer going to his earthly grave with praises on his tongue. I am soon to have a wife, my beautiful Michelle. To “manage” her in some sort of business or cold, calculated way would destroy her. But to be a steward that nurtures and builds the love and trust she has placed in me is going to be a life-long-life-laying-down that I know will be a challenge at times and some of the greatest joy I will experience on earth. He has given me my love the outdoors that has often threatened to become a selfish and distracting pursuit, but it it’s place is one of the tools God has given me to spend time with the people I love. He has given me my income to provide for food, shelter, clothing and a few joys for myself and those who I give it away to.

Anyway, I had better stop rambling. I hope these thoughts made sense. I am not always the steward I want to be. I have the older brother attitude, the bury-it-in-the-ground mentality that is so destructive. But I am finding a desire to have “more.” Not more as the world reckons more. More love, more joy, more peace, more physical blessings to share with others. So I need to get to work now.

Live well.

Fall

21 Sep

This is my favorite time of year. All I want to do is be outside. I love Winter for the harshness of it. And for one season of the year, I sweat a little bit less. I like Spring because it is a time that is alive. I always feel restless, and planting gardens or hunting for mushrooms is never enough. I like Summer, but only because of camp and that I can immerse myself in water. Although this dry summer has been nice, no humidity. But I love fall. Fall is when I relish life. October is coming up, and that is my favorite month. for one word: camping. With the notable and sad exception f last year, for the past 4 years, I have gone out camping every single weekend. In Joplin, I would stay out at Indian Springs south of Diamond, or the chat piles north of Webb City before they dozed them ad planted these ugly houses, or Prairie State Park where the only sound is of distant trains, elk bugles, and coyote yells.

But my favorite place by far was the field that belonged to one of the cattle farmers who went to the Diamond Christian Church, Frank Vance. He was a cattle farmer, having been everything from a used car salesman to heavy equipment operator. My friend Dan and I would work for him some weekends, picking up brush and spraying thistles. We asked to camp, and he let us stay on his high field. He had the most beautiful property in the whole county, green and lush year round. He had a stream that ran above ground through his property, but under for much of the sections around him. He had two spring fed ponds, with big old fish that he let people catch but always asked that they put them back. Anyway, that creek cut through the middle of his property and left a 75 ft. or so bluff that divided the property pretty clearly. The only thing Dan and I built was a small stone fire ring, and we always left some wood piled in the gooseberry bushes. We spend a good number of nights there, and I retreated sometimes to that lonely spot. Our only visitors were the coyote hunters and their dogs, who always stayed just out of firelight to look wilder than what they were hunting.

We cooked. We ate bacon, potatoes, biscuits. We made stew, I still remember this much I made of potatoes, kohlrabi, corn, black beans, and some beef that was to die for. Frank would come up in the mornings and look over our feast in absolute astonishment, as if we were the Julia Child of camp chefs. Man, we ate good. We slept good. I don’t think I’ve slept like that anywhere else I have camped. One morning, we woke up to a big ol’ cow standing over the remains of our fire and warming here guts. We scared the friendly cows away since Frank fed many of them by hand. One night, we sat under an oak tree and called for owls. One flew in right over our heads, looked at us through the dark, and flew off. We heard trucks out mudding in the fields, hunts in action, cows, owls, squirrels, and trains. We woke up in the morning to the dew washing our feet, to the fresh sun on the field to the northeast that would make your chest swell. We also spent nights around the fire talking life, faith, guns, struggles, and whatever we wanted to. My last time there was in June 2011, just after the tornado. My friend and longstanding room mate, Drew, was getting married. We sat up waiting for Dan to come from Colorado. We ate, drank, lit stuff on fire, talked about conspiracy theories, and snapped june bugs off of blades of grass with our bandannas. We finally went to bed around 2 or 3, tired of waiting for Dan. We slept under the stars, on a tarp. I still remember waking up when I heard Dan driving his Subaru through the fields, bearing gifts of guns, beverages, and his generally cheery disposition. What a last time for that campsite.

Frank sold it, moved on like he does. He is a wheeler dealer, likes to try new things. That place was his dream, but a dream only lasts so long. Dan, Drew, Josh, and myself all live in every direction. I’ve been thinking about Dan lately, he has been going through a hard time. I wish I could just go out to Colorado, sit around a fire with him, and live a little. Hopefully I will see him soon, and if nothing else, he will be at my wedding in November. I hope we all go camping.

Because boy do I ever like fall. Good times. Live well my friends.

Day 20 – Perform Service

7 May

I don’t really want to write about this. Not because I do not want to serve, but because my insufficiencies feel so glaring. Many things over the past weeks, and especially today, have been pointing this out. For example, I was listening to a sermon a couple of weeks ago, and the speaker started out by stating, “Everyone who is selfish or alive raise your hands.” I am having one of those days where I definitely notice my selfishness.

I have also been thinking lately about the men and women who have served at the camp I work at. For over 35 years, Northeast Iowa Christian Service Camp was almost entirely run by volunteers. Much of the cooking, cleaning, preaching, building, and loving the students that came to this camp was done from the sacrificial hearts and bodies of the men and women of the area. A week ago, I was moving out of our chapel an old white podium since we recently had a new one donated. My plan was to throw it on the trash pile and burn it. My dad was with me, and as I put it on the back of the camp gator, he noticed some words on the bottom. It says, “G.W.B. 1964.”

Right away I wondered what that stood for. I know that 1964 was the first year our camp started. But I had no idea what G.W.B. stood for. The next day, one of the elders from my home church, Henry, was up at the camp. He used to live in the Bristow area and helped to start camp (although he would never tell you that), so I asked him what the letters stood for. He only took a minute and said, “That is the initials for George William Beadle.” I knew that name right away. George William Beadle, or “Bill” Beadle, was a minister and farmer in the area. He preached at a couple of the churches in the area, like Hampton and Bristow. Bill Beadle played a big part in the history I am now a part of. Bill led to Christ a man named Seth Wilson, who later went on to found Ozark Christian College. I first heard this story in a sermon I heard from the president at OCC. Bill also sold the camp the property, and helped greatly in the getting camp started. I still do not know the extent of his involvement in camp.

And that leads me to the point of what I have been thinking about all morning. Bill Beadle has nothing on the walls here to tell you what he did. There is no “Bill Beadle Boy Dorm” or a tree planted in his memory. That is not to say that hose things would be bad, as we need memorials and reminders to keep the stories from being forgotten. And we have a few of those around camp. But all I could find of the name of Bill Beadle was a few initials on the bottom of an old beat-up podium. And I have the nagging feeling that Bill would have wanted it that way. The men and women who served and sacrificed to found and run the camp I stand on today know something I have yet to learn.

That service is not about the show. They won’t talk about the years the served, or if they do, the stories are told so simply. Like, “I cooked at camp for 35 years” or “I remember being a kid and coming up with my dad to put the siding on the dining hall” or “I was the first to mow the grass out at camp when it was still just an old cow pasture” or “I leveled the cement on the chapel floor at 10:00 at night with one other guy who held the flashlight for me.”  They tell these stories as if they were small things! As if they had no part in helping to change the lives of kids for almost 50 years! As if they did not change my life! And the thing is, these people still walk alongside us and serve today. I saw them serve this weekend at camp for our spring work day. I told them what needed to be done, led them as we cleaned and worked around camp. Are you kidding me? I’m just some punk 25 year old who knows nothing about sacrifice, service, and the day-to-day work and toil that many of these women and men have demonstrated for 50 plus years.

So I feel a little bit humbled. A few weeks ago, a man by the name of Gerald Lund passed away. The first time I met Gerald, I had no idea who he was. He had been in a wheelchair for the past 20 years or so, and all he did was tell me these corny jokes. A few weeks later, I was talking to the minister at the church that Gerald attends (excuse me, helped to start). I was asking him something about a problem that needed to be fixed, and he pointed across the room at Gerald. “Ask that guy. He knows about everything about camp there is to know. He was the first to walk over that hill and survey the property.” I had no idea. And I still have no idea all that Gerald did. I know he had a hand in building almost every building at camp. I know he started a men’s quartet and traveled around to the churches to sing and raise funds to start the camp. I know he would come up on Saturdays to Bristow and make phone calls to raise support and find workers at one of the ladies homes who still goes to the church in Bristow today. And I know that I only know a part of his service and sacrifice to this camp, and that I will never know the extent of it.

Another little reminder of service happened this morning. In my daily reading, I read Matthew 6:1-4,

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

To the men and woman who hold me up, whose example I strive to follow: Thank you. Thank you for the service you have done in secret. Thank you for avoiding the show. I will never know until the day the veil is lifted and I stand before my Lord and Savior the work you have done for others and for me. In a great mystery that only God knows and understands, you have shown to me true service by humbling hiding in your hearts the work and labor you have done for the Lord. Thank you.