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.

 

A Refreshing Truth

Sometimes I feel like the Christian life is not so much about learning things that are new, but rather remembering things that over time maybe we have accidentally taken for granted. Even basic truths can be neglected and pushed off to the side. For example, it is easy to say based off knowledge that God loves you, but how well do we actually live into that reality?

That was the revelation that I had today in a powerful way. Life has been stressful lately and I have, as I often am known to do, been hard on myself. I am the king of critics when it comes to myself; and that is no way to live!

For me it is easy to not spend any time in awe of the fact that God loves me. A lot of my spiritual journey over the past few years has been spent on pointing out the dysfunctions in the church. While I have really focused on trying to love others well I have not done a good job just sitting in the glorious truth that God loves me and it is through his love that I am able to love others. When I read the bible I am often searching for some deeper revelation when in reality it is better to allow oneself to be reminded of the glorious truth that God loves us; and that is enough, no extra thing is needed.

In the fast-paced consumer-driven, what have you done for me yesterday world in which we live, it is easy to not take time and pause and be renewed by the love that God has for us even though accepting the love of Christ is fundamental to our faith.

I know for me personally, it is way easier for me to focus on my own inadequacies, faults, and flaws as human nature tends to default to the negative. While it is important to recognize our sin, mistakes etc. we cannot lose sight of the fact that God loves us in a manner that is beyond our comprehension.

That is what has made today so great. As I was praying this reality just really overwhelmed me and gave me a sense of peace. My point in writing this today is simply to share this truth with others who may stumble across my blog in need of a little refreshment.

Romans 8:38-39 for I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A Theatre Review from Me?

You would not know this just by reading my blog, but I am a man with a variety of interests. I am passionate about sports, beer, women, music, funny movies, writing, and yes even the theatre. Hey, it’s good to be well-rounded.

Anyway on Wednesday nights I usually try and go play trivia with a bunch of lawyer friends up on the South Hill at Flamin’ Joe’s. Since I have moved however it is not always logistically feasible for me to get there.

A friend from church had scored some dress rehearsal tickets to a musical for July 3. So this past Wednesday I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Coeur d’Alene to watch the Coeur D’Alene Summer Theatre’s performance of Mary Poppins. Yeah I know Mary Poppins? I did not even remember the story from childhood beyond the fact that Mary was a nanny. Usually when I think of the name Mary as it relates to popular culture the movie Something About Mary comes to mind.

The great thing about dress rehearsals are that you never know what will happen. There were maybe 100 people in attendance which is probably the right size crowd for a dress rehearsal.

The performance started and the orchestra was really good, although the sound was a bit overbearing. I blame that on the acoustics of the auditorium though. After intermission we moved to the back of the auditorium and the sound was much improved.

The kid actress who was supposed to play the little girl was sick and her understudy had to step in. This 6-year old kid did an amazing job even though she had to be prompted a few times. You could tell the cast was very supportive of her during the first scene. The chimney sweep guy was fantastic and the actress who played Mary Poppins was really good.

There were a few malfunctions related to special effects but overall, from an uneducated perspective, the dress rehearsal seemed to go really well.

I asked a friend of mine if the actors seemed to be having fun up there. I agreed with her comment that they seemed to be getting in the way of one another during the second scene as the energy of the performance began to wayne. I imagine though if I were to go back and see the performance during its official run this would not be the case.

One thing that I did take away from Mary Poppins is that there are several adult themes to these children’s stories. This musical had commentary on family, work/life balance, the importance of integrity, family, and love. These things are not just for kids in case you thought otherwise.

One of the things that I have always wanted to do, although I am not qualified, is to start writing theatre and movie reviews from a blind person’s perspective. Who knows if I will ever get around to doing that; I usually move on to the next big game. Still, I enjoyed this performance of Mary Poppins and encourage those in the Inland Northwest to check it out while you can. And to everyone, consider supporting local theatre one night instead of going to your local movie-plex to watch the latest summer blockbuster. You can always stream that movie later on Netflix.

In Search of Direction

Things have generally gone well for me the past few months. There is not much really to complain about. As time has gone on though, I have realized that I am tired; in desperate need of a vacation. Even with the acknowledgement that a week’s get-away would be beneficial, a gnawing question has persisted in occupying my mind that has nothing to do with relaxation, fun, or visiting family and friends. Where is my life going exactly?

That is a large question that has many layers to it. I think this question has come about because I have attempted to determine future goals for myself. My mind has been flooded with a variety of thoughts over the past week like: have I been salt and light to anyone in Spokane? Where do I see myself professionally in a few years? What if my condo back in Indy does not sell? Is it feasible or even possible for me to hold a second job to keep it on the market?
Who, exactly, would hire a blind person for a part-time job? Here is another thought: it’s cool being blind and all but sometimes not being able to see makes life exhausting, except you often have to hide that fact from the world for a variety of reasons. There are plenty more questions and thoughts just like these that race through my mind daily. Weird thing is I am not sure what triggered these thoughts to all converge on my tired brain simultaneously. Maybe it is a midlife crisis???????

None of the thoughts or questions that I have been debating in my head are bad. In fact, they are normal. The problem is that I have no answers to give me direction. Essentially I am seeking after greater meaning and value in everyday life, along with being haunted by some life goals that have alluded me up to this point in my existence, specifically I am referring to marriage and having a family.

One thing is for sure though, no answers will be forthcoming today. In fact it appears that the best way to find direction is to continue doing what I have been doing up to this point: living day-by-day. All of the afore mentioned thoughts keep me focused on the future and the past; keeping me from living well in the present. Goals will change and opportunities will come and go but it is obvious that living in the here and now is the key to contentment. This brilliant instance of logic is not mine though, I just happened to be reminded that God calls us to live in the moment earlier today as I was reading a devotional from Inward/Outward:

I was regretting the past
and fearing the future.
Suddenly my Lord was speaking:
My name is I AM.
When you live in the past,
with its mistakes and regrets,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Was.
When you live in the future,
with its problems and fears,
it is hard. I am not there.
My name is not I Will Be.
When you live in this moment,
it is not hard. I am here.
My name is I AM.

Helen Mallicoat
Source: quoted in The Silence of Unknowing by Terence Grant