Friday, January 20, 2012

I Smell A Conundrum!

As a substitute teacher I’ve learned a lot about waiting. At times, I will be requested like honey at a bear convention (cause they have those). Other times, it’s as if I don’t exist. I try not to take it personal. I typically advertise myself as much as possible when I am at a school and I try to be awesome so people will request my services again. Yeah, me!

But no matter how hard I try and how much I flex my advertisement muscles, chance and fate ultimately hold the cards to whether or not I get a job on a particular day. I hate that.

It leaves me in an interesting position. As someone who believes in the power and utility of prayer I find myself perplexed in a moral dilemma. If I pray for more work, I am essentially praying for teachers to get sick or to have some sort of personal crisis. That’s awful. And so oftentimes I do not pray for more work even when I should.

To be fair, teachers need to miss school for thousands of reasons which aren’t always negative. Recently I subbed for four days for a teacher who became a grandmother. That was a great reason. In that instance, everybody won. Baby—good. Work—good. Win-win.

But in a larger way, I am in a season of waiting. Waiting for a more stable and permanent full time teaching position (can I has job?). Waiting for circumstances to change. Waiting for something to happen to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not just sitting on my hands (most times I’m sitting on my butt). I am working in the meantime to prepare for a more fruitful season. I am applying when I see things pop up. I am emailing, networking, making phone calls for favors, and begging my students to name drop me if they hear anything from their teachers. I honestly have no shame.

Even after all that, I still have to be still and let things sort themselves out on their own time. This is typically waaaaaayyyyyyyy slower than I would like. But if I am really honest, it’s probably better this way. If I achieved success in every context of my life and saw immediate results, I wouldn’t properly appreciate the end results.

The waiting and the struggling and the failures make the victories worth winning. A story isn’t a story without conflict. We want to live in an exciting story—but would rather do without that pesky conflict part.

And so, I will practice day to day efforts—no matter if the fruit of that labor isn’t seen for years. The work we do today creates our realities tomorrow—or at least shapes our attitudes to those future realities.

I have a theory. Not only are we waiting now, but we will be forever. Waiting for something (Godot). It is our natural state to wait and hope for change of some sort. Prove me wrong.

In our present cultural context of being the richest of the rich and over stimulated with all sorts of gadgetry, long-term labor with no immediate gratification is very difficult for us to handle. We want now, now, now! Instant results! Digital speed! This is not good for our souls.

My closest friends know that I have an odd relationship with technology. Part of me is very suspicious of it and never wants to use it and to just become Amish (The Matrix trilogy really affected me). Another part of me gets totally geeked-out on it and wants machines and robots to do everything (Wall-E much?). Cause that would a good thing…

In our increasing dependence on technology, in many real ways, our species has been damaged in our ability to be patient. We aren’t farmers anymore (they exist but most of us don’t know one, and a majority of the American ones use big robots to do a bulk of the work so they aren’t as “farmerish” as others are or have been).

We don’t know what it means to anxiously wait for the rain and the beautiful sound of thunder—the hope it brings. We don’t know what it means to work together with a beast to plow a stubborn field and ready it for the sowing of seed. We don’t know what it means to work sunrise to sunset and yet be patient in our hearts knowing that if the rain and sun don’t come, our labor will be lost.

The ability to be patient and live in the tension of work and waiting is a vital skill set which farmers embody the best. They are the hardest workers on the planet and the wisest as they know that it’s more up to weather than their own labor. And yet they still work hard—and would be screwed without their work!

I smell a conundrum!

They work like it all depends on them, but know that it all depends on the rain. Chance. Fate.

But we aren’t farmers. Do farmers read blogs? I digress.

The point is, we aren’t very good with waiting for things that take a great deal of work and preparation and depend highly on outside circumstances that are not in our control.

If you haven’t already figured out, I did not get a sub job today. So I am watching the news, taking care of the apartment and writing this blog. I am writing this not for immediate gratification in the form of approval from my readers and friends (but I also am). I am writing this to remind my soul (and yours) that the best things are worth waiting for and that there is plenty to do to get ready while you wait.

At the same time, I so easily incline to make things I am hopeful for my Ultimate Hope. I think that they are going to transform everything and set my circumstances the way I want and everything will be smooth sailing. Has this ever happened? I don’t believe so. And it won’t. Ever. Once we get that thing it’s on to the next thing. We look to something else to look forward to. To complete us. To save us.

But my identity is not in what I do. When I do get that job someday it will not make all my pain and struggles go away. If anything, it will complicate my life and add changes and more work. I am not what I do or what I will do. I am redeemed creature because of what Christ did on the Cross. Hoping in Him alone is where I need to rest. Be still and know that He is God. He has done it all. He is in control. He will provide. Be still, O my soul….Oh, and get to work too cause there is so much to do!

What are you waiting for? A job? Getting into that program or school? A friend? The woman or man of your dreams? The Chiefs to have a winning season (please, Lord?)?

Whatever it may be, just know that it can’t complete you. It’s not designed to. We were made only to be complete in a relationship with the God of the Universe. That is only possible through a relationship with Jesus.

I will leave you with some quotes for your consideration. Keep working. Keep waiting. Is that thunder in the distance I hear? Have fun storming the castle.

“Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become your habits. Watch your habits for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.” –unknown

Find out what you can control and don’t worry about anything else. –old man I met at a friend’s house

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings." –Shakespeare from Julius Caesar

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Asthma Induced Exercise

Warning: Brian gets a little controversial and spiritual in the following blog. Read at your own risk.

I went mountain biking the other day.

Look, I know I live in Kansas City and to my friends who live in Utah, Colorado, or Switzerland I apologize for the misnomer. I understand there are no real mountains in Missouri. It is a truth that pains me everyday of my existence here. Sigh.

The lack of actual mountains aside, I did ride my 2007 Gary Fisher, hard-tail Wahoo Racer (For reals, yo. Before Trek ate that line of Mountain Bikes—Sell outs.) I rode it on an actual trail. This was certainly not my first rodeo. I have ridden in several places (on actual mountains) and this particular trail quite frequently. The odd part here is that it was in January. I think mother nature forgot about winter this year. Oops.

The temperature around 4pm on this day was in the mid 50s. To be honest, I could have used a little warmer air, but it was more than comfortable. The hard thing about trail riding in Missouri is the trails are often overgrown with vegetation, poison ivy, and closed off by millions of crisscrossing spider webs. In mid July, if I had taken this same ride, I would have eaten thirteen spiders and been covered by itching, blistering poison ivy. Yuck! In fact, I believe it was July that I last attempted this trail (Stocksdale park in Liberty). I rode for a total of three minutes. It was awful. Charlotte’s web was on my face and I had poison ivy in my DNA.

However, my most recent expedition was perfect. The lighting, the lack of spiders and itchy plants,the dryness of the dirt, the bareness of the forest (thus increasing the visibility of my surroundings) was all perfect. The ride was smooth like butter. Like Morgan Freeman reading the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus in Mathew chapter one. Perfect.

Then there was asthma. Not so perfect.

Asthma ruins everything. I mean it really was a great little forty five minute ride except for the five year old child sitting on my chest the whole time. I really need to keep up with the running. After a couple weeks of regular exercise, it usually gets better. Last year I was doing that and actually feeling pretty great.

Then there was Thanksgiving and Christmas.Egg Nog much?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is right to blame a holiday season and its accompanying treats and sweets on my lack of discipline. But I also kind of am. I just stopped my routine and got a little lazy with my diet. Now I’m paying for it.

If I believed in New Years resolutions, I would make one. But I don’t.

So this is where I am at: I really want to enjoy those peaceful yet adrenaline pumped rides through deciduous forests. I want to be thrown from my seat over my handlebars and land in a tree or a creek or a puddle of mud. I want to ride to the top of a hill and charge down as fast as I can. But I can’t enjoy those things to their fullest until I invest in my health in a real way. My body will always fight me and prevent me from getting where I want to be if I don’t take care of it.

I ought to do what I need to do, so I can do what I want to do.

As a Christian, I have a real problem seeing bad health as an acceptable thing. If I really believed what I believe, then I would take care of my body as it is not my own. It’s out on loan and I ought to take care of it so I can be here for those I love. So I can continue the ministry given to me and build God’s Kingdom as much as possible (Mathew 28:19-20).

Now, pursuing rock hard abs, chiseled features, and being able to leap over buildings is not where I place my sights and ambitions. Building up my physical body is not the Gospel. It is not my Ultimate Hope. The Gospel is good news about a Person who Redeemed us to the Father. Speaking that Metanarrative into every aspect of my life and trusting in His Transformative Power and Grace to change the whole of humanity is my only ambition. Forever, Amen.

That is my identity: Who I am at the very core of my being. Not a writer. Not a husband. Not a man. Not an actor. I am a Redeemed creature because of what God did for me through Christ’s sacrifice. Nothing I can do can earn any favor with God. That is religion. I am fully accepted. I am adopted. Therefore, Christ ought to be my only vision. My only Hope. For apart from my relationship with Him, I am a walking dead man. Six pack abs or not.

That’s the rub. I can look to building up my body as a source of identity and worth. I can place my faith and hope in longevity and feeling good physically. I can worship a high endorphin flow and an adrenaline rush. But that’s not good enough to save me. That can’t keep me from the Grave. Anything I do to improve this sack of meat covering my bones is merely a temporary patching. It’s like painting a building scheduled to be demolished.

Then again, I should see investing in my health as Obedience. After all, I can serve others better if I am functioning in a healthy way. I might feel better about doing the dishes to serve my wife if I tear it up on the track for a little bit. I just can’t make that my Only Aim. Tricky business, this Christian walk.

Some Christian person once said that human beings are idol factories. I agree with whoever proposed this idea. We were made to worship. We place our Hope in such silly things. Approval. Power. Comfort. Control. Being a Christian doesn’t mean I am free from this. That’s the beauty of the Gospel. Even though I deserve death and constantly seek other gods before Him, I am still dealt with Graciously. It is by His Grace alone that I can even call myself out on my idol-junk. Look to the Cross and repent. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That is the Christian walk--The cyclical dance of repentance. Lather, rinse, repeat, knowing that Jesus has paid it all. Amen.

Dang, son! You just got preached at! When life gets crazy and anxiety fills your heart, where do you turn to medicate? We are made to turn to something. If it’s not God….then it’s probably not real. I have to tell myself that everyday.

I dare you to ask Jesus if He is worthy of your Hope. And I pray you find what you are looking for.

Until next time. I love you all.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Life Updates

Well hey there, friend. It’s Wednesday, January 4th, in the year of our Lord 2012. I haven’t written on this here blog in a wee little bit. If that matters to you, I am sorry. Oddly enough, the only reason I am updating you on my life is because a student I was subbing for encouraged me to write. Random. My wife, family and friends encourage me to write but sometimes it takes a random person’s off-hand comment to motivate you. And I’m okay with that.

I have been trying to write but nothing was “ever good enough.” That’s never a reason not to do something. We seem to pay more attention to the million and a half excuses to not do something while hardly ever listening to the few reasons we should. We are such bizarre little creatures.

The piece I was working on (which I don’t know if I will post) was my heart reflections on the Occupy movement. I was going to go all political and spiritual on you. Brian being spiritual and political with a touch of sarcastic, often ironic what-he-deems-wit type tone!? Never.

So this is me updating you on my life. I am married. I am substitute teaching. I am writing (literally and at other times too!). I am trying to awaken the runner in me again. I am seeking a job (can I has job?) I am trying to figure some stuff out, namely what it means to be an effective Christian in the 21st century, what it means to exist, what it means to be a man and what it means to be a husband. Tired yet? I am. It can be quite exhausting.

And it can be awfully boring. I don’t believe in being bored but it seems to find me anyway. Not sure how to deal with that. The boredom phenomenon comes from a few places. 1—The fact that I don’t have “a real job” (a big boy job). 2—The fact that I lack discipline at times when I have no sub job and no shift at Crepes (On the Square). 3—That part of me deep inside that is sort of struggling with waiting for things to happen to me rather than making them happen.

Quite frankly, it’s an awkward time. Not awkward in the sense that I am uncomfortable in my own skin, but awkward like watching a newborn gazelle try to figure out how to stand when the dangerous lioness is watching and waiting for lunch. We know the lion is there and we know that stupid baby gazelle better get up and start running before he becomes that lion’s snack.

Tangent. I think I might actually hate google. Almost as much as I hated my third grade teacher whom I blame for crippling my ability to spell. I can’t spell and as you know, I suck, at, knowing, when to, properly use commas. I must have missed comma day. Google makes us lazy. It enables my bad habit of sucking at spelling. All you have to do is type: define: the word you want to spell. And the internet does it for you! Then again, this is the same function as a dictionary, but the difference is, with a dictionary, you have to know how to freagin' spell it already. That’s the evil beauty of autofill. Google knows how bad you suck at spelling so it corrects you as you struggle to type it in. It’s as if it’s saying, “hey, I’m a robot and you’re a dumb human. Let me help you.”

Part of the reason why I haven’t blogged about my personal life in a while is the fact that so much has happened to me that it's honestly hard to keep up with. I just ended that sentence with a preposition. Thanks third grade teacher!

I am a husband. First of all, marriage isn’t easy. It’s the hardest thing I have done albeit attempt to file taxes without calling my dad. In all seriousness, God has blessed me with an amazing woman that believes the same things I do (this really helps). We are growing closer to oneness everyday. It’s beautifully painful.

One of my best friends (you know who you are. Your name rhymes with Frett Hach), has been encouraging me to write down all the amusing and un-amusing anecdotes I learn about marriage. He likes to listen to me talk about it. I don’t know why. Maybe in some way it’s preparing him for when he comes across that road. That burden is frightening. The idea that I (a fool) have a shred wisdom to share for others. If I do, it is by God’s grace and not my own understanding. A lot of it is borrowed wisdom. I have been blessed with a great Earth Dad who taught me by word and deed how to be a good husband. The rest I am figuring out through prayer and trial and error. I like to tease Katherine by telling her I make mistakes on purpose as an opportunity for her to show me grace. Christian jokes are so silly sometimes.

I realize I have stolen a few minutes of your time, and for that I am grateful. I hope we can meet again soon. If not, pray that God blesses me with a big boy job and that I keep seeking Him first to learn how to be a good husband.

Have a superb January. Bis spater und viel gluck!

P.S. I wrote this while “on the clock” as a substitute ( Shh! Don’t tell!). Does that technically make me a professional writer? Just kidding. But not really.