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Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Runaway Bunny

Sometimes I get downright terrified in my vulnerable moments that God is not really with me or that I don't deserve to have him care or that I haven't done anything good enough for him in a while and so he has given up. Sometimes I am scared that we're all alone. I wake up from muddled dreams that I knew were happening and yet I couldn't stop them, and I tried to pray through them but they just kept forming as I tossed in my restless sleep. Then I remember.

"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me." Psalm 139

We live in a big, scary world. The longer you are alive the more you realize all the pain that people live with, all the bad that exists.  You can't keep it out, no matter how hard you try.  Even when I was young I was never completely carefree - though I can kick back and let the good times roll with the best of them, I find in some of the most unexpected, quiet or weak moments I am overwhelmed with the tragedy around us, the lack of justice, the never ending stories on the news of people killing other people, or even my own badness. 

It is too much. I know too much that I can't unknow. 

In these moments what else can be done but to mumble, whisper, and cry out prayers. These are precious words that are heard by an Almighty Ear. That's all I know. Is that I can think prayers, I can voice prayers, I can sob prayers, and they are always being listened to. I don't know that I care about the answer so much as I just need to know, have to know, must know that God is with me, always, where ever I go, and he is listening. 

None of us can go so far that he can't reach us, and none of us can go so far that he doesn't want to reach us. He will always want to reach us, he will always want to hear us, he will always want to know us.

“If you become a bird and fly away from me,
said his mother, “I will be a tree that you come home to.” [The Runaway Bunny]

Whether you are tying to run, or if the world just came crashing down on you, or your dreams keep you awake at night, or you are just mad at what we as humans are all capable of doing to ourselves and each other, remember, dear God remember, that he is with us. Holding us. Healing us. 

I may not sleep peacefully tonight, but I will fall asleep talking to one who will endlessly listen and love. 






Tuesday, September 10, 2013

hungry

It took me about five tries to make the title of this not sound like I am a big jerk, and it still kind of sounds like it. I guess I just am then. (Think "I hate being hungry" then think "Privileged American")

When you're running 30-40 miles a week, guess what? You're always hungry. I have been consuming all of my roommate's running magazines like they are peanut butter and bananas themselves and it seems that runners are kind of obsessed about food. And, actually, they have to be. Either because they love food - which many do and that's why they clock the miles - and also because our bodies desperately need the right kind of fuel when putting them through the training.  Here's the problem.

I don't care. My preferred rate of metabolism is: snail-like slow. Before I started running so much this summer my eating habits were fairly minimal. I worked a desk job. I could drink OJ and have a sandwich and I was content. You really can be when you sit around all day. There isn't really a food on the planet I "crave" consistently with the exceptions of tacos and peanut butter. I could live on these two things, and these two things alone. Also, I like my drinks: coffee, juices, the occasional soda pop. That's it, in a nutshell.

Also, I do not hate to cook but I also don't like it very much and also, also, I am quite bad at it. I can follow directions (which makes me a decent baker) but when it comes to throwing things together and having them taste amazing, well, I am terrible. Somehow I add an ingredient that makes normal food taste like I mixed it with garbage. So coming home from work with a huge appetite is a problem, you see?

I don't need a personal chef, because I do not want one. Plus, I would request the same thing every night. Tacos. And they would get mad at me and quit in two weeks.

Not only do I have to eat all the time so my tummy doesn't rumble, I also have to care exceedingly what I am eating. This isn't so bad. I should learn to care. I'm trying. And I do like good things like vegetables and fruits and oatmeal and all that jazz. But really body, so much of it? All the time? Can't you ever stop being so needy? Oh, now you need some extra protein? Now iron? Now Vitamin C? I am to the point where eating a protein bar that tastes like chalk is actually a joy because I know it has all of these things in it, the label says so.

Sorry if this sounds really whiny. I guess it is. I just needed to let you know that while I love running, and this has been an amazing experience so far, I cannot wait to stop eating. so. much. The whole eating in excess because you can thing is, well, not my thing. For people that love to cook, for people that truly love food, for people that are really into health, I am downright positive that training for a marathon, or just running the miles because you want to, is a great way to merge all of your hobbies into one. But if you're like me, and have little interest in food... it's a terrible, terrible mistake.

Love,
The ever-hungry and hating it runner





Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chaf-tastic

Now I've been running for a few years, played soccer my whole life. Somehow I missed something, until I started training for the marathon and running long distances in the heat.

Chafing.

Why didn't anyone tell me about this? How could you all keep me in the dark?

I didn't even know it existed until a friend, a bit bigger of a guy informed me last winter of his nipple chafing during his half marathon training. Uh, what? That's a thing? Inner thigh "chub rub", sure, I knew that was an absolute possibility, but bleeding nipples? That sounds straight out of a horror movie.

Though I've been fortunate to avoid above mentioned catastrophe, after each long run I am pleasantly surprised by some new chafing, scaring and rubbing that appears. On my longest run yet, 18 miles in Omaha, Nebraska visiting family this past weekend, I scratched my lower back at some point towards the end of the run and yelped out in pain - realizing the tag on my shorts had been rubbing for two and a half hours against my skin. At this point I now know, that's going to hurt. It's also going to look like an ugly tramp stamp on my back for a week.

Chafing for me has been the surprising combination of 80-90 degree weather runs and long distances - no matter how good the sports bra or shorts. Sometimes your tag you didn't even realize was there has been attacking your back for a few hours and you didn't notice, and the result made for a pretty nasty mark. I tried out a new sports bra on a half marathon race in Milwaukee two weeks ago. My chest was lined with red, oozing scars. My inner things have essentially looked diseased for the second half of the summer. I know, beach babe.

Aquaphor is now my best friend.

Forget soreness, I was sort of prepared for the limping. Not the chafing (not the exhaustion either, I'll talk about that delightful topic next blog).

It's worth it though. It's worth it to be up at 7 AM in the dark, running a new trail, breathing in fresh air, with a few other crazy souls out there with you. It's worth it because the sun rises, your shadow shifts, the lake sparkles, the wildflowers and grasses change and alter colors each time you pass them, you dodge dog poop like it's a game.

We went to a free impressionist exhibit in Omaha the afternoon after my run, and though I was hobbling like an idiot and could barely keep my eyes open, I was happy to be there. Happy because these artists were painting the light, the colors, the sky, the landscape that I had just observed. I watched it all change before me that morning, and I wandered through Renoir, Monet and Chagall, smiling at our shared experiences. It was very beautiful.

There you have it, and now you know. Don't say I didn't warn you.




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sitting out here with Spiders

Our balcony has an impressive amount of spider activity. We're up on the fourth floor, balcony looking out on the lake. It's pretty out here. It's no country porch, we are surrounded by an ugly empty lot, parking lots, a busy street, an alley full of trash, high rises lining the lake. But it's our balcony, our outdoor escape, our place to sun, to eat early breakfasts or sit out late at night, laughing with friends. I can't survive in the city with out some outdoor spot to call my own. If one can't have a yard, at least a porch or balcony will do. Just some space to breathe.

The spiders out here make it kind of creepy. They started appearing once it got warm out, and once Erin started growing some tomatoes and peppers out here. We think they like the plants. I don't know, they seem to love it out here. If I were to sit and squint around and count, I'd say there are at least thirty. Little ones, really big ones. Spinning and weaving their webs.

Most of us grow up so scared of these little arachnids. Granted, they are certainly eery-looking, and they do hunt and catch their prey in webs and inject venom to kill them. Then they suck their blood, or something, right? Charlotte's Web really did a stand-up job at trying to make spiders less scary. It worked. Sort of. Not really, though. We've all squashed a spider or two even in light of the sweet, talented Charlotte and the Amazing pig.

It just got me thinking, these spiders, and how they look so bad. How that's just what they are. And really, they're not bad at all. These balcony spiders aren't scary either. I've never had one crawl on up, and take a big bite out of me. I've never had one wrap me up in a web or catch me and kill me. We're the big, scary ones walking around and moving chairs, breaking their webs and maybe even killing them. Don't worry, I'm not a spider activist... I just think we could learn a thing or two if we thought about this a minute.

We could learn a thing or two or a thousand if we thought about nature, about the animal kingdom. Anyone that reads this knows someone that has gotten bit by a dog. Maybe not hard, or terribly vicious. But a aggressive action nonetheless. When's the last time anyone in the Midwest heard about the great attack of the spiders? Dogs are man's best friend and I totally get why. Even the ugly ones are kind of cute. A lot of them have that whole loyalty, unconditional love thing going for them too. While spiders might not be doing anything to make us feel better about ourselves, we don't have to treat them so badly either. They are just different. They just are. Why does that make them so scary? Just because of how they look?

I don't know, that's all I wanted to say. Don't hate on something or someone that has the appearance of something our culture has decided is scary, or creepy, or just weird. Our culture doesn't get a lot of these things right, anyway. I guess its like that old saying goes, you may have heard it... "It's what's on the inside that counts."

And from what I have found in life so far, it takes a long, long time to know the insides of a person. We may not ever really know them. So you should still love them, even if you're not sure. Just in case. Especially if they look creepy, because they are the ones who need someone to stand up for them. Just fightin' your cause, spiders. I'll try not to squash you anymore. I'll try to see things differently, or, for what they really are.

PS Please don't crawl into my mouth while I'm sleeping. I don't want to accidentally eat you.




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Faith is Simple

(and complex and crazy and frustrating and beautiful and humbling and holy and scary and odd)

But most of all, to me, it is simple.

That's all I can think at night these days, the nights that I put my Bible down next to my bed and my brow is furrowed because after four years of Bible school, and a year of mission work, the Old Testament still doesn't make sense.

In the morning, when the sun rises and peaks and breezes through the trees - grace appears. Grace abounds. I remember simple truths, I remember love and forgiveness. The world and I smile in unison.

Life is such a puzzle that slowly, and painstakingly comes together. There is joy in connecting the pieces.   You have to try, though, try to put them together, and you'll get it wrong. I get it wrong. All the more pleasure when the picture starts to appear.

But most of all, to me, it is simple.

Keep trying, keep on working on the edges, or dive into a colorful section in the middle - if you're brave enough, if that's how you like to do your puzzles.

I think I know (some days) that God wants us to know ourselves, because it helps us figure out Him, know Him, and that's what we're all really after.

Knowing God really is a puzzle, a mysterious process. It's really not as easy as I once thought it was. And yet.

It is simple.

Because I am not good, and He is good.

Because I am not holy, and He is holy.

Because, I am not worthy, and He is worthy.

Because I am not fair, and He is fair.

Because I am not loving, and He is loving.

That's the simplest thing I know.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

grass isn't greener

Once upon a time there was a girl of twenty-two, and she knew exactly what she wanted in the world. Once upon a time there was a girl of sixteen, and she knew exactly what she wanted in the world. Once upon a time there was a girl of eight, and she knew exactly what she wanted in the world. Once upon a time there was a girl of four, and she knew exactly what she wanted in the world.

Once upon a time there was a girl of twenty-four, and she knew nothing of what she wanted in the world.

It's not so different. Nothing seems awfully close to exactly, anyway.

This train of thought reminds me of something, something Gene Wilder said once, "But Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted." What? "He lived happily ever after."

Willy Wonka, I do not think you are wrong, actually. Your statement, in theory, may be quite right. What we want might be the thing that is wrong. What we want might be twisted, and broken, and like putting the triangle block in the square hole, it just doesn't fit - and it shouldn't (slamming it in with your palm does not count, but I have done it, and it never turns out well). That's not the way it works.

If everything I ever wanted was a chocolate factory, and all I wanted was that, ever, period. Then bravo, yes, Charlie, my boy, I do agree that you will be the happiest man alive. You are a good boy, of good character, and you got what you wanted because you were so. Now, if that was how life worked, then wouldn't we all be dandy. Square in square-shaped hole. Except, wait...

Charlie was good because he had a good family, despite their poverty, their was genuine love among them (how else would you explain that endearing sleeping situation). Sacrifice. Patience. Empathy. Strong family ties. Blueberry girl? Cowboy Kid? We don't have to look twice to see that the kids are a product of where they came from and how they were raised. And, yet, goodness and badness were in each of them. As we all have inside of ourselves. And what we want, and what we get, aren't so simple. Not at all.

Perhaps one of the most painful ways to live is wanting what you cannot have, and never being happy with what you do. It is also equally painful to have what you want, and for it to be taken out of your grasp without reason or explanation. It is also equally painful to never get what so many others have, and have no understanding of why. Life sucks. I know. 

All the pinterest inspirational quotes in the world won't fix our wanting. But I get it. And I think they may help.

I know the grass looks greener, well-manicured, freshly sprinkled, practically glowing in its green hue from your side of the hill, seriously though, have you EVER found that to be true? I have not. Never, not once, have I gotten to the other side and thought "Ah, this is it. I have found it. I will never think any grass greener than this plot I stand upon today." Everything has two sides to it. Or eighteen, but, whatever.

This is not to say that we can't stand on our plot and declare it the greenest grass. Sure, we can. We should. Because that means we're OK with where we are at. And that is what matters. If we believe we are living our fairy-tale, then we are living it. 

... Did that sound like the perfect, cheesy ending to a high school graduation ceremony to anyone else? There is too much truth in that one-liner to take it out. I apologize. Go ahead and use it next time you're pep talking fifteen year-old's.

Some of us think our lives are better than most, and some of us think ours much, much worse. Honestly, I think we're all about the same. 

I'm not saying don't dream. I'm not. I'm not saying don't desire, fight, live your whole life given over to passion and purpose - it is the only way to live. Just want your purpose, just want yours. Not everyone else's, too. Don't let all you see be the the greener grass on the other side. I guess, the thing about life, is that both pain and joy meet us around every corner.  I have heard it said that we wouldn't know joy without sadness. At least for now, this is true. Someday, I believe, the sadness will leave us forever.

Charlie, did you grow up and have everything you ever wanted? I like to think you did. Me? I don't want a chocolate factory. It's all yours, buddy. I'll visit sometime.






Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bye bye church. Hello, church?

After having to part ways with a church I have loved so many people in (and been loved in return) for the past two years, I spent this Sunday morning sitting in Metropolis, the coffee shop next door to my apartment. There I sat, 9:32 AM, sipping an americano and with much failure attempting the Sunday crossword. After getting about four words, two of them undoubtedly wrong, I gave up and started to write.

What I said was Metropolis, where people gather every morning, afternoon and evening and order their coffees, muffins and pies, sitting alone or together, conversing or in thought, is essentially church.  People from the neighborhood gathering for a common purpose - good coffee, atmosphere and community.  OK, let me revise. Metropolis is like church, but with good coffee.

Everyone in that shop believes in something about something or Someone.  If I were to gather up everyone in the cafe and ask them their thoughts on faith, it probably wouldn't be so different than an average church service, if you were to do the same.  The spectrum, whatever creed is being chanted, song being sang, word being preached, tongue being prayed in, incense being burned, knees being bowed... on what people actually think, believe, and put their faith in is deep and it is wide.

I'm not saying there isn't something holy and beautiful about the body of Christ. There is.  And this does happen on Sunday morning.  But it also happens everywhere else, all the time. God is everywhere. Christ is in us.  It's happening in our living rooms, and on our balconies, and in our restaurants, and at the bar stools  and on the beach, in the woods, at the desk, in deserts, jungles, shacks, huts, mansions and caves.  Do people live in caves still? I think I have been watching too much LOST. God is in LOST too.

I know I have said this before. I think I have said it about Metropolis. Place must have some holy vibe or something.  I feel the same way about a dive bar named Ollie's in Uptown.  I love that place and want to get people together there, just to talk and drink.

This morning I wrote and prayed and told God that I was taking a little break from church, but, don't worry, I wouldn't be gone for long.  I am not strong enough, nor good enough, nor foolish enough to not.  Then I said, "Hey, God, (I was joking) I'm sure I'll end up going to the next church someone invites me to visit." I was joking because no one ever invites me to church. I would also have to tell them I am not going to church to be invited.  I would also have to talk to people.

My friend and I tried to go to a cafe on a beautiful little spot on the beach just steps from my house tonight. It was closed early, impending rain.  We walked instead to get ice cream at a local spot, and then I led us to McDonalds for french fries.  Not exactly the idyllic location we were hoping for, but you can never go wrong with a large fry.  Sitting and talking for an hour or so about boys, church, power, leadership, fear, false humility, blah, blah, blah, a young tattooed guy leaned over and handed us a bulletin folded in half.  It was from the church he had gone to in the neighborhood over this morning. It is a church I have been told I would like.

He didn't say anything, except that he went there this morning and he wanted to join, and slid back into the corner of his booth.  Then a few minutes later he slid back over and started telling us his story. It was long and it was crazy, to be sure.  If he liked that church so much, being who he was, I know I'd like it to, just because they let him in and liked him, too.

It only took a few hours for a church bulletin to be handed to me by a perfect stranger; a homeless, confused, wonderful stranger. Because we went to McDonalds. Because the Waterfront was closed. Because of rain that didn't fall.  Because we can never escape that God is everywhere. In McDonalds, in churches, in coffee shops.  He is with us, wherever we are. Always.