Join Me For An Adventure!

On June 14th, I will embark on a grand adventure.  Now what I call an adventure is really nothing more than a typical day for many Americans.  You see I will be playing golf.  Not just 18 holes though, 100 holes of golf to be exact.  As a person who is blind, I rarely have taken an interest in golf.  I have occasionally gone to a miniature golf course on dates and once I ventured on to a driving range.  In my eyes then, 100 holes of golf in a single day is an adventure because who knows what will happen!

 

I started doing this 100 hole golf marathon last year to support work that is going on in Haiti. I was introduced to the work going on their through my church, The Porch.  They had joined others and created an organization called Piti Piti which means little by little.  This past year Piti Piti merged with Creole, Inc. the Porch partners with folks down in Haiti in some really fantastic ways.  Work has been going on to terrace the land for the growing of crops.  Jobs are being created for people who previously had no means of finding work.  Food is being grown which allows people to have a sustainable source of food.  Opportunities are currently expanding and new crops like peanuts and getting into the coffee business are being considered.

 

While jobs and sustainable crops are transforming the countryside of Haiti, pastors are also there sharing the gospel in an authentic way, not the stereotypical way we share the gospel in America with a quick prayer and good luck to you now that you have a God who will grant you all of the wishes of your heart (sorry I had to take a shot at the prosperity gospel).  

 

What I really love about the work Creole, Inc. is doing in Haiti is that it is not a cause specific to Christians. You do not have to follow Jesus and be passionate about jobs and crops for people in need.  You can be a bible believing Christian and be excited about the gospel being shared in a land that is in need of hope.  Or, you can be like me and be fired up about the creation of jobs, sustainable food, and the sharing of the gospel.  .  Perhaps one of the best things about supporting Creole, Inc. is that 95% of the money raised goes directly to the work that is taking place in Haiti; few charities can give you that return on your investment.

 

I generally do not like to use my blog to promote causes but I am passionate about what is going on in Haiti and I would like to ask you to join me by supporting me as I play 100 holes of golf. Please take a moment to click on my page, learn in grander detail about the work going on in Haiti and consider supporting me in this golf marathon.  Together we can bring hope and opportunity to a land that is often overlooked.  Thank you for your consideration!

 

Somewhere In-Between

I am empty. I am full. Today, Easter Sunday 2014, I realized that I have been searching for something; something that I cannot describe or put my finger on. It is a gnawing feeling inside of me that makes me feel completely empty and starved.

I went to the Easter celebration at The Porch. This service is always one of the highlights of my year, but today I felt that gnawing empty feeling as I sat unintentionally alone at a table. People were laughing and chatting all around me. In the awesome and quirky way of The Porch, The Lumineers played on Pandora as people drank coffee and waited for the service to begin. The service started with a reading, a couple of songs, another reading, there were baptisms, stories of resurrection, communion, and then a big feast that included a vast array of all different kinds of food.

My feeling of emptiness persisted to gnaw at me until the baptisms. I was overwhelmed with joy, yeah I know that isn’t a very guy-like phrase to use, overwhelmed with joy, but that is what I was. During the stories of resurrection I surprised myself and stood up essentially saying the following:

I have been in Spokane for almost two years. Throughout my time here I have discovered a sense of emptiness inside of me. I am not sure how long I have felt that way. Perhaps it has been there for a long time. Maybe it came about due to me being blind, or my parents passing away unacceptably at younger ages than they should have, or perhaps it has to do with being single. It could be all of the above I don’t know. What I do know is that I have tried coping with this sense of emptiness in a variety of ways. I have tried alcohol and getting into dating relationships that were not good for me. I have realized that sometimes I find that work can suppress my true identity and that that it can be difficult for me to let down my guard and let people in.

There I thought, I have fully expressed my emptiness. But I continued talking. Over the past few months though I have discovered that God is present and maybe I am not as empty as I think I am. Jeff and Jamie invited me to leave the table that I was sitting at and join their family for this Easter celebration. Aaron came over and helped me fix my complicated home theater system. Amy and Tim drive me places. (I could have kept going and talked about visiting an art gallery, training for a half marathon etc. but there was no need) The opportunity is there for me to be full; and I am in process.

My story is not a tale of total resurrection. Instead, it was a public acknowledgement that satisfaction for me will come through following Jesus. I can fill my days with work, errands, beers with friends, sports, surfing the interwebs, whatever, but the gnawing emptiness will persist unless I allow God into those empty places inside of me and people into my life in a real way. God is there; so are my family and friends in Spokane, Seattle, Indy, Canada and elsewhere.

The church service transitioned into the time for sharing a meal. I walked through the line to get food and realized that I was not empty or full, I was somewhere in-between; and right now that is good enough for me.

Happy Easter

With accessibility challenges using WordPress and frankly being busy with work and other things, I have not blogged for a very long time. WordPress seems to have regained my respect by making subtle changes to their site which means it will not be so difficult for me to post blogs more frequently.  Since I have not blogged much lately this is really my effort to get back into the swing of things.

 

 Besides preparing to begin training for a half marathon, planning an expansion grand opening at work, and running the usual errands, there are two other things that have captured my interest.  In March we had our usual Beer and Theology gathering at The Elk.  The topic was really about how perhaps we have the wrong or at least partially incorrect view of the cross.  Essentially we discussed that us Westerners have made the cross and Jesus sacrifice a transactional thing that includes us feeling guilty and ashamed.  Eastern Orthodox churches take a different view and the cross is more about acceptance and reconciliation.  I think we in the West can be arrogant and often feel like we have Christianity all figured out.  I think it is foolish to say that we have the absolute correct view of the cross and all that the death and the resurrection of Jesus stands for.  If anything, that March discussion over beers has enhanced my view of Easter, which is already my favorite holiday.

 

The other thing that I have done recently is read a book by Cheryl Strayed called Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Her story parallels my own in some ways, but I, unlike her, have never hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.  It is a great book and I encourage you to check it out.  I read the book though not just for the story itself, but for my own literary aspirations.  I hesitate to say any more about my aspirations right now, but reading that book was an important step for me.

 

Here is to my next blog being a bit more compelling! May you find joy this Easter in the hope, redemption, and reconciliation that we have through the resurrection of Jesus.  Happy Easter and go Pacers!

2014’s Big Adventure

Leavenworth Oktoberfest image

Leavenworth Oktoberfest image

It has been a long time since I have laced up my running shoes and intentionally trained for a race. Life tends to get in the way. A couple of years ago, for example, I ended up in physical therapy due to over stretching and also moved to Spokane, when I should have been training for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon.

This year though will be different. I am making running a half marathon a priority. While running is not my favorite thing, I love being in shape and the sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line is a truly awesome feeling. Not to mention, training requires a lot of discipline and focus; and I have been rather undisciplined since I moved to Spokane.

Right now I am slowly working myself into decent shape so that when training starts in late spring I will have a good foundation to build upon.

Living in the Inland Northwest means that there is a lot of beautiful scenery and residents here are also very passionate about beer. It only makes sense then that I run the Leavenworth Half Marathon, in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington.  Conveniently the race is part of Leavenworth’s Oktoberfest, which should make for a really fun atmosphere.

The two major keys to success for me will be to stay committed to training and improving my diet. If I can accomplish those things, I will have put myself in position to run a strong race. I also would like to thank my friend Amanda, who has graciously agreed to run with me, and I appreciate her willingness to serve as a guide. Stay tuned for updates including a new blog site!

Repentance and Advent

Beer & Theology, The Porch, at The elk

Beer & Theology, The Porch, at The Elk

It has been so cold here in Spokane that I have not really gone anywhere other than to work and to watch the Seahawks lose to the 49ers at a bar. [See, people of Washington, what happens when I cheer for one of your sports teams?] Anyway, all of this time at home has given me a lot of time to think; and that is not always a good thing!

Over the past week though, I have been considering the short text we used last week in our Beer and Theology group. Matthew 3:1-2 is where we find John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. John calls for everyone to “Repent; the kingdom of God is near. Repent means to turn away or have a change of heart. Dictionary.com says: “to feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life for the better; be penitent.”

I think repentance is essential for a believer, Christian, follower of Jesus, whatever wording you would like to use; but it can be tough to do. Not often can we suddenly stop sinning like flipping a switch. To change and do a 180 in one’s heart is no easy thing. Indeed, it can be overwhelming.

During our discussion we explored several different questions, but one idea of a friend who attended Beer and Theology at The Elk, stuck with me. What if we have one big repentant moment, and the rest of life was full of smaller instances of repentance as we are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit and by following Jesus?

I had never thought of repentance like that. It does not take away the difficulty of changing one’s life, but it seems to make it more manageable.

Just a thought to share as we celebrate Advent and anticipate Christmas, the birth of our Savior and Redeemer.

Self Discovery and Pearl Jam

It blows my mind that I have lived in Spokane for a year and a half. Time really does go by quickly. When I think about the past 18 months it is not my job that ultimately comes to mind, rather it is the things that I have discovered about myself and rediscovered about God.

When you move somewhere, even if you try and fill your off work time with random things, you spend a lot of time alone. Needless to say, my cat Farrah and I have had many conversations with her either purring or telling me to shut up by biting me. This alone time has been horribly difficult and even though I have made friends the loneliness persists.

The upside of this is that I have had time to learn things about myself. For example, I have discovered that deep down I am a bit resentful of being blind. No shock really, acceptance is a daily battle for all people with a disability whether they choose to recognize it or not.

The problem with this realization is that I thought that I had dealt with this issue in my Blog about Costa Rica. For what it is worth, I believe at that point the idea of being healed was for real. Circumstances change, like moving etc. and that has caused me to have to revisit the idea of being healed from blindness.

This is a great opportunity for me to truly seek God in helping me put to rest this resentment. Really the whole thing demonstrates a lack of faith on my part as God continues to provide for me in spite of my resenting my circumstance.

Another thing that I have really been thinking about over the past few months is that I have a hard time believing that God loves me to the degree that he does. This reality can be hard to reconcile when you think of how sinful we can be, I can be, and grace is not to be taken for granted.

Strangely I am excited about my discovery that I struggle with the fact that God loves me extravagantly. I am doing a nine month journey through The Porch called Forma. It involves daily readings, prayer, times of contemplation, and even an old-school hymn. The topics we read and pray about have resulted in some of the best conversations that I have had with God in a long time. Ultimately, not forma itself, but this time with God will hopefully help me develop some solid rhythms and I look forward to what God might reveal to me.

These are the big things that I have been focusing on outside of work since I last blogged. Look for more frequent blogs in the future, for better or worse, I promise to actually post more. Maybe I will blog about going to see Pearl Jam tomorrow night or my annual holiday rant against consumerism, or perhaps a random adventure that I embark on. As always thank you for taking time to read my blog and happy holidays!

Liquor and a Prayer

Last night after finishing up dinner I sat around and watched the Reds beat the Cardinals 1-0.  After the game I got up and decided to walk to the grocery store to get some over the counter medicine.  After leaving the store I went to a German Bar with horrible karaoke as I enjoyed the company of a few of the regulars.  None of the people that I knew were there, so I finished my beer and headed home.  It is at this point where the story really begins.

 

I made my way back down the strip mall periodically colliding with tables, chairs, and a renegade shopping cart.  I crossed the parking lot and began walking toward Francis Avenue. 

 

Hey there! Can I give you a hug?  There was a guy standing there waiting to cross the street midblock. 

 

Umm no thanks, I said.  (I am not a touchy feely person, and this is particularly the case with strangers, plus it seemed crazy).

 

Come on, the guy urged, watching you walk around like that moves me.

 

Oh hell, I muttered.

 

Before I could protest more the guy bear hugged me as I squirmed to pull away.

 

Take it easy, I said.

 

Sorry man, let’s go have a drink.

 

No, I am going home; I have a big week at work.  Plus I have no idea who you are!

 

Come on, just one drink at Tonix! 

 

Man I really—

 

We’re going!  And with that I was nudged out into the middle of the street.

 

We made it to the bar and he told me his name, for the sake of this blog I will call him Travis.

 

Travis told me that he was a bartender who had “really fucked up my life.”

 

Really, well I am sorry to hear that, but there is hope to fix things, I said.

 

Vodka and Red Bull, and whatever he wants, Travis yelled at the bartender.

 

By now I realized that Travis was beyond hammered. 

 

Amazingly he returned to address my previous comment.  No, I have screwed everything up; I am a fuck up, alcoholic, hopeless.  But you, you give me hope because you are worse off than me but you are doing just fine.  You even look like you are smart.

 

Thanks man.

 

No, really you do, cheers!

 

After we clinked glasses his drink went flying and shattered on the patio.

 

Travis began telling me how much he liked the bartender and how in the past she had kicked him out when he started getting crazy.  He tried offering her a large sum of money to make up for shattering a glass.  She handed him a broom and told him to keep his money and clean up the mess.

 

Dude, me and you are tight, Travis informed me.

 

Hey, I said with a hint of futility since he was too drunk to pay attention, your life is not hopeless and you are not a fuck up.  Whatever you have done there is the chance for redemption, and tight is so 2000.

 

I don’t believe in redemption man.  Let’s go to Quest.

 

I am not going to Quest, but redemption is possible.  You find redemption in literature, sports, and religion.  You are a valuable dude with talents and abilities; all this can change.  What do you want to do with your life?  What are your dreams?

 

I don’t dream, but we need more drinks.

 

At this point I was done with my effort to encourage him, there was no way he could have a real conversation.

 

I tried escaping to the bathroom but he followed me.  I felt sorry for this guy and really wished I could help him.

 

I walked back into the bar and Travis was ordering shots.  Other people were around and soon everyone was drinking multiple shots. 

 

Fireball! They all screamed enthusiastically.

 

Oh hell, I muttered again to myself.  One shot was put in front of me and then another.  I could feel people staring at me to see if I would drink them. 

 

Wow, he can drink shots, one guy said with amazement.

 

Really?  I sighed.

 

Travis suddenly fell off his barstool and I asked the bartender to help me leave.

 

We are going places dude, Travis yelled at me.

 

Give the blind guy another shot, said a fellow passenger on one of the busses I ride regularly.  Hang out, my fellow bus rider said, I will make sure you get home.

 

I got to get out of here, I told myself.  You got to help me leave, I told the bartender.

 

No problem, she said, and the bartender guided me out the door and pointed me in the direction of home.

 

I walked quickly although there was no need since everyone was too hammered to try and follow me. 

 

Hey! I heard from behind me.  You want a ride?

 

These people are crazy!

 

No, I am good.

 

I will give you a ride, I am a friend of Travis.

 

Are you going to drive him home? He’s in bad shape.

 

No, it’s not like that.  We’ve known each other since preschool; we don’t hang out.  He is a disaster.  A waste.  Want a ride.

 

No, thanks man, have a good one.

 

I walked home heavyhearted.  Everyone, including Travis, believes that he is a waste.  And, everyone seems ok with that, although I can see that Travis feels helpless to change.

 

Everyone is valuable and worthy of being loved.  I weighed the odds of Travis overcoming the situation in which he currently finds himself, and it depressed me further.  Seemingly he leads a life of nonstop destruction.

 

Damn, I said to myself, he needs help.  There is nothing I can do.

 

I finally reached home and chatted with my cat Farrah about the events of the evening.  Annoyed with my conversation, Farrah bit me and walked away.

 

Damn cat.

 

I went to bed and my prayer last night was short.  I asked for forgiveness of my own sins and asked God that Travis experience love, hope, and redemption. 

 

As people, we like things that are measurable so we know that we made an impact.  Sometimes though whether we have an impact or not is not something that can be measured.  I fell asleep feeling helpless, broken, but with hope that my prayer would be heard.