Sunday, August 31, 2008

Help. I need somebody. Not just anybody.

Please pray for me.

I'm only half-joking.

We just started a lock-in, and there are about twenty teens here. (EDIT: there are thirty-two. God help me) Many of them I do not know yet and only came via word-of-mouth.

And I don't feel like talking to anybody in the world.

Well, anybody but one.

But I need to show them the Father's love.

I hope I do.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fun-O-Tron 9000

I cannot sleep and am feeling down so I drew the happiest thing I could think of, namely a robot that dispenses kitties and ice cream.

(Click here to share the experience)

Look at the happy children run. Who WOULDN'T want to report for joy transfer?

Oh, and the, um. . .SLEEPING child is lying in a pool of melted Rocky Road. Not blood and viscera.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


". . .was awful for a good several hours!" should read the rest of the entry title.

I woke up with plans to go climb a mountain! I do this on occasion, you know. This time I invited the youth group with the mention that if you plan to come, let me know! Otherwise, of course, I won't know that anyone is coming, will assume that I am the only one, and will go at my own glorious (read: slow) pace.

Well, I got some phone calls that intimated that no one was coming! People got sick, and teenagers are fickle anyhow. I wasn't surprised, geared up at my own pace (implied: a slow one), and got my bike ready for some crosstown action. Then another call telling me that another, unexpected teen was coming, and was in fact on his way to the trailhead. I have heretofore far neglected to mention that said teen was traveling in a CAR, my friends, and thus would have arrived much earlier than I would, as I had about ten miles to peddle. I was notified of this teen's intentions by a third party (a DIFFERENT teen, people) and so passed along the message to push back the hike-time by an hour.

I set out on my way and promptly got a flat inner-tube. In fact, it was a brand new one that I put in Thursday. So I stopped by my church to grab some tools (having only my camera and tripod on me) and replace the tube only to find Dick, the man who works the grounds watering the lawn. Now, he is about the sweetest man in the world, and a hard worker to boot, so he grabbed some wrenches and got to wrenchin' on my bike (without my asking), adding much time to the job. In the meantime, I called the teen myself (I didn't have his number on my cell phone, which was at home anyhow) to find that he decided to ditch the entire trip.

I collected my bike and resumed the journey, only to find that Dick had put the tire on horrendously off-kilter. The tire rubbed against a back post and the kickstand, the alignment was so off. I couldn't get over 10 mph on flat road in first gear. Yes, friends. It was that bad.

So I turned around and went home, taking occasional kicks to the tire to bring it slightly more in alignment (although this also frequently threw the chain off of my gears entirely) and to mete out my anger in small, manageable bits. Neither goal was much accomplished.

Happy ending: but then I got home to find a document from Little Rock that I needed to finally send in my visa application so that is finally happening.

Then I bought an icee.

The Underside of the Top Bunk.

Why can I never go to sleep on nights I need rest the most? Why do I run back to the same emails and thoughts and hurts? I coolly listen to each word with the care and precision of a forensic pathologist with something to prove, examining each piece of evidence surrounding a body cold and dead.

I am thinking and fretting and feeling my heart rate rise then fall like disturbed bathwater lapping over then dipping under every naked and thus keenly sensitive inch of my increasingly wrinkled skin. The sound of the dripping faucet as well as the generally uncomfortable feeling of accordion-folding myself into this bathtub recede as attention instead reroutes to replaying the same words I've run over before.

Surely somewhere in there resides a clue to why things went the way they did or how her gentle or resigned attempts at consolation became choreographed or rehearsed or simply grotesque parodies of the same phrases muttered sweetly months before.

Returning to her voice not only was a constant source of peace when she spoke of love and future but was also nearly all there is left to overanalyze after that lightheaded purge of love letters and notes and drawings prepared in lieu of listening to Bible lessons then passed with a bold subtlety that betrayed no wrongdoing. Those scraps of paper that once were worth days of glances from strangers passing by to offer only imaginative leaps of ego-stroking now are torn and discarded.

"Nearly" because my inbox is still littered with tiny missives in foreign languages and tender perfect repetitions with almost embarrassing candor. These emails are no more or less poignant than any love-drenched ink-stain but obviously offer nothing in the way of catharsis when to obliterate them means mere mouse clicks which now for the first time ever are not obnoxious, not loud enough, loud enough for the significance of freeing oneself of digital chains from a love cold and dead.

(I wrote this when very tired and deliriously lucid and after reading David Foster Wallace and wanted to try run-on sentences and many many conjunctions but I don't think footnotes are possible on a blog and even if they were they certainly aren't feasible. I think most would agree with that sentiment.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Retroactive Reviews! Book Edition!

In the spirit of Trying Something New, I am revisiting several albums, books, movies, and so on that I once dismissed as worthless or sinister in hopes of finding some value to allay the hate in my heart (haha, I said that WAY too melodramatically). One example was making myself listen to Coldplay's "X&Y" and admitting that it wasn't as wholly painful as I first thought. Still not good, but not irredeemably awful.

The other day, I read "The Prayer of Jabez" by Bruce Wilkinson. For years, I have seen posters with this tiny portion of Scripture (from 1 Chronicles 4) and felt a continual dislike for the materialistic and mechanistic gospel which posits "ask God for stuff - GET stuff." So I wanted to see for myself how exactly Wilkinson uses this passage. First the good.

  • I appreciate that Wilkinson re-imagines "enlarged territory" as enlarged and extended ministry opportunities rather than the big houses and big churches I expected.
  • Wilkinson writes that the asking shows a dependence on God, and that if you don't feel helpless but for God, then you're not doing it right.
But the bad:
  • A mechanistic view of prayer and God/deified vending machine.
  • Removed responsibility/guilt from man and exporting it in toto to the spiritual realm of angels and demons (this was implied, and prevalent elsewhere - like Frank Peretti).
  • "Success" = nothing short of high numbers of converts (e.g. his telling a youth group that they fail if they do not bring 100 kids a night to Bible study).
  • Self-centeredness of prayer (e.g. God answering his prayer and delaying his flight so he had longer to get to the airport, with no mention of the people that surely missed their next flights!)
  • Treating this prayer like "secret wisdom" that allows you to tap into God's blessings reservoir.
Overall, this wasn't as blatantly material as I had heard, but the God presented seems to exist only to give us stuff. There is a strong emphasis on ministry and bringing people to the Lord, but I don't see much Gospel or "why" we serve God.

So the message of this book was not what it is today, but it is easy to see how it has been watered down and mistranslated into putting forth a defective God that panders to a self-centered semi-religious type of consumers. The message is now a catechism of catering. In fact, Derek Webb once talked of Wilkinson (a few years after the book) coming to a convention of Christian retailers telling them that, once asked, God would bless their Christian sub-culture bookstores and bring them heaps of cash.

Because isn't that why Jesus died? To make us rich?

Summary: not worth the time (even though it was two hours), but not evil. Just misguided.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Something New

Staying here in Colorado has left me open to experiencing different things. Here at the office, for more than a few hours each day I am the only one here. Now kids don't stop by to see me on the way to the mall or wherever they're going to buy clothes or truck accessories. Now I have empty spots on my calendar, and free time! Now I feel a whole lot less useful.

The most striking new experience, though, is being left.

Both of the two previous years, I left before any of the teens went to their first years of college, before any of the college-age left either. I got to leave my little world here intact, confident that it would be exactly the same when I returned, except for being dusted and tidied up a bit every now and then.

But this summer I came back to everything being different. And now I am here watching my friends leave to experience a whole universe of New Things.

Mary left Saturday. Tawni left this morning. Tracey leaves tomorrow, but stopped over to say goodbye this morning. And since they've been some of the older kids in the Youth Group for as long as I've been here, they are the ones to whom I've gotten closest. I've depended on them. And now they leave.

Frankly, it is a lot easier to be the one doing the leaving.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

King of Lies, Lord of the Flies

Last night I guided my teens through a Bible study on Satan. It is the first time I have ever broached the subject with them, because it is simply not any concern of mine. Many Christians have this terrible fear of Satan and his power and being possessed by him, but the fact of the matter is that he is not God and he is not what we are told he is.

And the odd thing is that some believers cling to this theology of evil as if it were fundamental to our overall faith! People want this dualistic enemy that we war against, almost like we have no purpose otherwise! Here Henry Ansgar Kelly says that without Satan "the fight between good and evil isn't an authentic part of Christianity." Could anything be more ridiculous? How about the good and evil that are in my heart? How about the love that we try to show people in contrast to the evil that they have been shown? How about the natural chaos in Creation that God subjugates in his work of redemption?

I agree with many of the things that Kelly says about Satan in the interview (except there is a surprising silence on the import of apocalyptic literature and the evolution of angel theology), but I do not like
his presentation. Most importantly, Kelly is deluded into thinking that removing this Adversary neuters God himself, again betraying a severe reliance on dualistic thought.

Maybe I will write more later on the passages our group studied last night, but for now I will just share our point. Satan is not God's equal, and he (as well as anything else, for that matter) has absolutely no power over you that you do not give him.

So what is our response, then? My reaction is: forget him. Philippians 4:8 says to fill our thoughts (and thus our life) with whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. This is God. Be full of God and nothing else.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quickie Updates

1) After getting back on the horn today, I think that package is slowly making its way through Arkansas's state capitol and will find the proper office.

2) One of my former students just stopped by the office to talk about girl issues and he brought me ice cream.

3) I officially and inexplicably do miss Searcy.

4) I did not mean to end my last entry (feeling "cross" with God) as a double-entendre. If I had, it would have been the darkest and most disgusting joke I've ever made. Hope it wasn't taken that way.

5) I learned with certainty that relationships are nothing more than decisions. That and nothing more.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I am absolutely furious.

I overnighted some documents to Little Rock to get a seal that I need for visa applications. They arrived after business hours, so the online tracker said that they left a notice. I called to make sure someone was going to pick up the package to learn that the freaking State Police gave me the wrong address.

I made ten more phone calls and was directed and transferred about thirty when finally I was able to speak to a supervisor about possibly sending someone to the Post Office (one lady sounded scandalized that I would ask them to do that) to get the package, but the supervisor was out. When he called me back, my phone died.

When I called back, the lady had just left for the Post Office, and so I was unable to give her any details to find my stupid package.

The advice given to me:

"Call back tomorrow."

So maybe I'm not going to Europe. It seems that our bureaucratic clowns are almost as inept as Spain's, and apparently God doesn't want me to go over there.

I'm being facetious with that last sentence, but I am feeling very, very cross toward him right now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

It's Getting Better All the Ti-i-ime

In spite of my last entry, things are starting to look up.

I hiked Hanging Lake, which is something that every human should see (according to the internet).

The couple I live with invited me to sit down with them and have an actual meal for the first time this summer (even though it was on the couch. . .watching the Simpsons).

I am in the process of getting my visa so I can go to Spain.

My plane ticket over there may be as cheap as $400 (one-way).

And I read the Great Gatsby once again.

What a life.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Stormy Weather

So I haven't written in here lately because I haven't felt like it. It's been a tough several days. I'll leave it at that for now.

Please keep my friend Lena in your prayers; her father passed away this week.

And it's been raining like crazy.