Crash

I used to live in Oakley, recently moved to Pleasant Ridge.

When I lived in Oakley, I had a neighboring family that was your traditional mom and dad with a little boy and a little girl. The boy, I’ll call him Bart (because that’s his name), was maybe 5 and his sister was just a couple years older.

One mid afternoon day I’m working from home and I’m on the phone, talking business and all of a sudden notice flashing red lights outside. I say to my buddy, ‘looks like there’s an ambulance on my street’. As I go to the window, I notice it’s CLOSE, as in ‘one of my direct neighbors’ close. Then I notice the flashing lights are in front of my house…and then I realize that there are people in my yard. I hang up and go outside.

Outside there’s a chaos of events going on and a bunch of people have gathered to watch…and in the middle of it, are two EMTs that are trying to take a look at Bart, who’s crying and yelling, and limping around. The EMTs are befuddled and somewhat comical as they are trying to get him to sit down, let alone sit still, with the seeming inability to actually touch him. 10 feet away his mother is on the phone with her husband and in hysterics and crying and not knowing what to do or how to handle the situation. The only thing not making a sound is Bart’s bicycle laying in he grass with a bent tire and front end. Bart’s been hit by a car.

So Bart is limping around and crying and these paramedics are trying to get a look at him. BUT (big but) Bart’s hurting and scared and won’t let them. Every time they try to get him settled down and sit still they touch something that hurts and he jumps up and screams and tries to get away from them. And because no one is telling Bart what he should do and he’s exercising his free will, and keeps frantically moving away from the EMTs.

Bart’s hurting
He’s scared and confused
His bike is wrecked
He doesn’t want to be hurt or scared…he doesn’t want them to examine him because he doesn’t want to find out if he’s hurt
He doesn’t want there to be pain or understand if there’s consequences or what the future is…he just wants to pretend this didn’t happen, that he’s not hurt…and he sure as hell doesn’t want these men to check him out and tell him any different.

I’m watching this and realize that his mother can’t cope with what’s going on any more than Bart can. Because I know the family, I step in to help with Bart.

For a minute, I was an uncle, a dad, and I get Bart to settle down. He knows me but he’s scared…we finally settle him enough to let them check him out….but it’s not easy and he doesn’t want it…he doesn’t want to listen to me…but I get a little more stern and mentally he gets there. He screams and cries and wants this all to stop. He wants to be ok, to go on with his day, to pretend this didn’t happen and that he’s ok. He doesn’t want to be hurt.

But me and the EMTs get him to sit still. They assess the damage. They know what the next steps must be…and much to the dismay of the crying boy, he needs X-rays and professionals to evaluate him at the hospital.

He doesn’t want to go, but with a lot of crying protests, he gets put on a gurney, put into the ambulance, and taken to the hospital.

Within a few minutes, the ambulance and mom are gone and the bystanders filter back home as the surreal scene dissolves quickly.
The bike lays in my yard.

Later that day, he came home from the hospital…he had some bruises and a limp…but he was going to be ok. I told him his new nickname was ‘Crash’. He wasn’t sure he liked that nickname, but I was amused, which was all that was important at that point.

As it turns out, the car that hit him….was actually the car that GOT hit. Bart was on his bike and rode out onto the street without looking.
Bart had caused the accident. HE had hit the car, which then just about ran him over.

I hadn’t thought about that story in a while until this morning in my quiet time.

In the stillness, God brought the story back to me…remembering the moments of taking in, as a spectator, this child who’s world was crazy and hurting and confused…how there were professionals who wanted to help him, get him to sit still so they could assess the damage, address the hurt. I remember his confusion, his denial, his desire to have all this go away, go on as though nothing had happened.

God showed me something that I didn’t want to see: I (we) have been Bart so many times in life.

Life happens.
Sometimes it’s an accident
And sometimes it’s deliberate, cold, and barbarically brutal.
….And we are hit like child on a bicycle and our shiny world collapses for a moment.

Sometimes we shake it off and move on because it really wasn’t a big deal.
But sometimes…
sometimes
the carnage and destruction are wounds that really hurt us, crush our hearts, break our spirit…and we are hurt beyond our capacity to heal on our own.
And like the boy, we cannot deal with it, we burry, ignore, and cover up the pain, don’t get help…we go on as though nothing happened.
But it did.

When we get hurt, really hurt, like Bart, we want
go on with life and say it doesn’t matter
We tell ourselves “I’m good”
We tell ourselves “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” or “it is what it is”.
But, if we haven’t healed the wound properly, it festers deep within us…and privately, in our hidden rooms, we don’t get over it.

It comes out in anger towards a spouse or a slow driver in the fast lane.
It comes out as an addiction to alcohol, sex, or FB likes
It comes out in a lack of trust of men.. or women.. or dogs..or relationships
It comes out in panic attacks and anxiety and worry (which are all just words for fear)
It comes out in ways that separate us from God

If you’re reading this and something instantly comes to mind
…that one thing that happened a while ago…
…that persons face comes to mind…
…that terrible incident…
then maybe the medic (THE Medic) has tried to help you but you won’t allow Him.

God wants to address the hurt, wants to help you heal completely…not just cover over the wound.

I ask you to sit down…quiet your mind…take out all the cares and voices that are in your mind…and ask God, the Healer, into that place….back where THE INCIDENT happened, and let Him minister healing there.

You don’t need to carry this anymore
You don’t need to limp through life
You don’t need to ‘suck it up’ or ‘get over it’
You just need to heal

Bart ended up with a new bike, some physical boundaries, and a valuable lesson.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll get a new bike but maybe you’ll get a new cool nickname like ‘Crash’.

Sit still, let the Father take a look..this will only hurt for a moment…and then you can heal properly.

Advertisements

Running The Pigs (Pt 1)

We were immortal once.

We were young and reckless and full of mischief. It was before real life started…before jobs and careers, wives and kids, before broken hearts, and before any of us died. It was before we knew life could be hard…it was a time when we challenged all of our boundaries, all of the rules, all of the restrictions. We tasted freedom and wanted more…and we wouldn’t be denied.

Like I said, we were immortal once.

It was part of my coming of age time, from a sheltered Catholic school room of about 22 kids to the public high school where life was about to change drastically. I started playing soccer somewhere around 5th grade…I was a tall, lanky, and uncoordinated player on the field, but I had a couple coaches, Mike Bosch and Mr Wells that recognized that on the field I was less than capable…but as a goalie, where my long arms were an asset, there was hope. By the 8th grade, I had more guts than skill…but it carried me well in grade school and I was a halfway decent goalie. But I was about to learn that high school was different.

Lebanon high had just started their soccer program. The players were a bunch of hellions and partiers…we were a rowdy, rough looking lot. My freshman year, the shirts were left over from some other sport, old red and white striped long sleeve shirts with only a number on them. There were not enough for the whole team so guys being subbed in often had to trade off. The tattered candy striped shirts along with the rough looking group made us look more like a prison work gang than a soccer team. But I made the team…barely…on 3rd string. I was going to be sitting the bench a lot being 3 deep on the roster…but I made the team and felt good about it…I just needed a foot in the door.

So, unsure I would ever play, fate stepped in. One goalie quit, then one got hurt…then all of a sudden, I was freshman with the starting position. “Starting” goalie was technically accurate…but “only one left” or “no one else wanted to do it” goalie would also have been just as accurate.

I was still pretty green back then…but there I was…all thumbs and nervousness rolled into a goalie position, trying take recklessness and make it experience…trying to be the player the team needed.

But this isn’t a story about soccer…it’s a story about running the pigs…a ‘game’ we used to play.
SO
I’m this young naive kid who’s all of a sudden thrust into a starting goalie position and some of the older guys had to decide what to do with me to ‘toughen me up’ and help me get over the jitters. Tim, Mark, and Brian were those trainers that were going to bring me along, take me in.

Mark Wells, Tim Cole, and Brian Peters were like the three Musketeers. They were an inseparable, slap boxing-beer drinking-goofball buddies that were thick as thieves in all aspects of life…whether they were on the field playing with all their hearts, creating fun or mischief, or just figuring out how to have a laugh…and a buzz.

They were always tooling around in Brian’s old Maverick that had some kind of a race engine…and it often had to be push started. It was grey and blue and loud as hell with these ridiculous oversized Craiger Mags…they were always rolling around in that car.

But this isn’t a story about those guys…it’s about the game.

So..I’ve set the stage…I’m this young naive guy who wants to belong…and I live on Concord Drive. Tim Cole and his brothers live downtown Lebanon…and Mark and Brian are always spending the night with Tim. Why? Because the house that Tim’s family lives in is an old mansion of a house on Mulberry Street….and behind this house is a row of garages that Tim’s dad owns. There are probably 5 or 6 of these garages filled with God knows what, but one garage, one garage belongs to the boys. Let me rephrase that, one garage belonged to us.

So these guys started to invite me down to start hanging out at the garage. It’s the invite that is part initiation, part challenge. Looking back, I know it was a right of passage.

The ‘boys’ are Tim, Mark, Brian of course…along with Tim’s younger brothers Andy and Ben, and a few of their friends like Mark, Greg, Jerry, Dana, and Kent to name a few.

Now, most nights on the summer weekends, you could find any number of the boys, or their friends, in this garage putting their money together, chipping in change and dollar bills to go buy beer…and then with whatever you had left over, you would play cards until 2 or 3 in the morning.

Now, Kent and I didn’t live near them…it was about 2 miles or so…but what we would do is wait until our parents had gone to bed, sneak out our parent’s houses, meet up and then make our way down to the garage, drink and play cards, and then make our way home.

When it’s that late at night, it’s very rare that you would see anyone out. You might see a car or two in your 20 minute walk….but the one thing you were scouting out for was the unexpected run into Lebanon police cars.

Lebanon, as most towns did, used the infamous Ford Crown Victoria with the performance 350 V8 engine. It was the workhorse of most police forces in the early 80s and we became VERY familiar with this model.
We knew the sound of the engine.
We knew the pattern of the headlights.
We knew the outline of the car from blocks away.
We also got to the point that we made a game of identifying the car by it’s headlights. We could tell you what make and model of ANY car it was by the outline of the car and pattern of the headlights. BUT when it came to the Crown Vic? We knew one a mile away.

We were never wrong.

Why were we good at this? Because it was extremely important to never get stopped by the police. We were kids out after curfew without our parents knowledge. If you were caught you could be held by the police or taken home, written up…a number of things but ultimately our jailbreak freedom was contingent upon our parents never finding out. God’s honest truth, I would have rather gotten gotten shot by the police than get caught and face my dad. So when we were out, and a cop ran across us, we would SCATTER like cockroaches into the dark, running in all directions.

First time you run from the police, you think you’re going to die. You think they’re going to catch (or shoot) you, beat you up…that you would get shanked in jail…and if you survived that, your parents would literally kill you. Adrenaline rush like you’ve known.

So it happened ever now and then…and a funny thing happened. We didn’t get caught. Funny thing happened after that…we started doing it on purpose.

So every now and then we would play this game of informal cat and mouse with the police…to the point where we actually made it a game and called it “Running the Pigs”.

The game would go something like you would expect…Kent and I and anyone with us would start from our end of town and work towards the garage. If we had not had a thrill in a while, we would sit in the middle of the street just hanging out…and we would be laughing and carrying on just sitting in the street waiting for a car to come around the corner. These streets had different names like Broadway and Orchard…Deerfield and Mechanic….but the game was the same. We would sit and wait and carry on until a police car turned the corner or crossed our path. Then like banshees in the night, we would take into the night….across yards and alleys. Over fences and around houses and garages.

So me and a couple buddies (usually Kent) we lived south of downtown, south of a little creek that runs at the bottom of the hill on Broadway and Mechanic. On the south side of the creek, the yards are deep and wide, probably 1/4 to 1/3 acre lots, neighboring neighbors with the same size. Those lots didn’t usually have tall fences and some had alleys and walkways. All through these yards are trees and shrubs, so that flashlight/spotlight line of sight is limited. This is our ground, we knew the neighborhoods and layout. This is where we played the game.

So let’s say a cop spots you a half block away. You bolt across the front yard and through the backyard, and cut an oblique path across another backyard. Most often before the police get to where you had been 20 seconds ago, you’re already a good 30 yards into another backyard. EVEN if they would have gotten out of their car to chase you, which they never did, you were already way ahead of them. So instead of getting out and chasing, the cop would gun his Crown Vic cop 350 engine to go around the block to try to catch you when you come out on the other side. But you’re not dumb…you can hear him and see the lights (the Crown Vic ID skills I mentioned earlier) , double back or find a good hiding place and wait him out.

BUT the police had their game too. Those officers had names like Toller, Leak, and Bens. Whoever we came across always radioed for other officers to join in the hunt. It got trickier with multiple cars, they would circle and search for us with spot lights trying to smoke us out or sit with lights off waiting for us to cross a street down the way. I always wondered if secretly they thought it was fun too. Would they be excited to have something to chase, something to give their mundane nights a little excitement?
I still wonder.
(Come to think of it, if they had police dogs in those days we would have been toast! It would have been a game we would have probably played once…just once.)

So south of the creek, that was where we ‘Ran the Pigs’, where we played our game. BUT the garages we went to, they were downtown…the other side of the creek.

The downtown area was exactly what it is today. Large commercial buildings and parking lots, and lots and lots of light. There was not a lot of spaces to duck and hide…so on the north side of the creek, we usually were careful and didn’t mess around a whole lot.

So, one night, we’re out goofing off…it’s probably 12 or 1 or 2 in the morning…I think it had been a while since we had done anything and we’re just laughing and carrying on. It must’ve been really late because the town is dead, no cars, no cops anywhere, and, as far as we’re concerned, we own the night.

We decide to go up to the garage, wandering north of the creek into downtown area, thinking we would stop in and see if any of the older guys were at the garage that might buy us beer and, like I said, we’re just walking around downtown like we own the place. We’re laughing and taking jabs at each other, not a care in the world.

We’re about a block away from the garage… and a cop turns the corner about a 1/2 block in front of us, turning onto our street towards us. His headlights land on us like we’re on stage, (or in a line up?) blinding us like deer in headlights… and we’re sitting ducks, standing there open jawed caught.

For half a second the world stopped….I mean we literally froze in mid step, mid-conversation…felt like the whole world and heaven above skipped a beat…

everything

stopped.

…AND THEN THE WORLD EXPLODED as we scattered instantaneously and simultaneously in all directions, running into each other as we took flight. We were downtown and without the cover running and running like our lives depended on it. That car’s spotlight came on and lights and that just made us run faster. It seemed that Instantaneously there was another police car and spotlight circling the area searching bushes and dark building corners…we were the blood in the water and the sharks knew it.

As I remember, Ben and I fled in one direction for a second, then I lost him as we ducked behind buildings and cars and fled. One second I was running with someone, next I was alone. I knew that if I could make it to the Cole’s house, then I could get into the garage and hideout. I also knew instinctively that whoever did not get caught would rendezvous there.

It was one of those things where you would duck behind one car, then another moving in and out of the shadows of buildings and cars and fences and bushes. The cars must’ve spotted someone else because they moved away from me down the street. I waited for the right time and cross the street, down the alley into the Cole’s backyard and then crawled in the back window of one of the garages.

And then I waited.

A short time later a knock on the garage door brought the hair on my neck to stand up…my heart stopped and I didn’t know what to do… it turned out to be one of the guys.

Slowly, the boys came trickling in.
One by one, the handful of us found our way to the garage.
No one had been caught.

We may have celebrated our endeavor with beer and laughed it up all night…or we may have decided that tempting our fate once that night was enough, laying low just long enough that the police gave up and then we slunk home, I don’t really remember.

So…Why tell this story?

I look back on those years with rose colored glasses…we all were alive back then, not only alive, but filled with life and a sense of adventure that filled and overflowed from us….the world was open and inviting and you had this sense of awe and wonder of the possibilities that were before us. Our hearts were ignorant of any real pain and loss…in our worlds we were untouchable…we were immortal.

I think most of us have this time in life…the time when we were immortal…but something happens that changes that. I think, in my life, the death of Mark Wells, part of the Three Musketeers, was the end of that immortality. He wrecked a car my sophomore year, lost his life at 18 crashing into a tree on the way home one night.
…18…
So much of his life was in front of him…so much loss. His future and our world, our immortality,  it all came crashing down that night.

I look back and know that as young men, we needed an adventure, a journey to manhood. Society did not give us a path or a means of initiation to manhood, so we made up our own.

I have learned that even as a grown man, you need adventure, you need to be alive, you need to seek that out, in GOOD, healthy, LEGAL ways. (Besides, fleeing from the police is now a felony)

I have buried many friends…not so much from motorcycles or daredevil ways, but by heart attacks and vices and suicides.  I also know friends who have died in their chairs in front of the tv, or at the bar in a comatose neon light…their bodies living on, but their hearts long dead.
Are you there?
Are you alive?
…not just existing..nor just occupying space…not waiting for the next bad event…
Is this speaking to you?

Does life still hold a wonder for you, an adventure you still want to partake of?

Is there LIFE in your living?

GOD created you for more…are you seeking it out? Are you still learning and growing? Are you still reaching out giving a hand or asking for help? Are you contributing or consuming? Are you someone who’s known for giving life to your friends…or taking it?
Those are the questions right there…honest friends will give you honest answers. We need those kinds of friends.
”Rage, Rage against the dying of the light“, a line from the famous poem by Dylan Thomas reminds us to choose to live, to fight against the gravitational pull of death, against the constrictions of a broken world that is trying to suffocate your life. If you haven’t read this work in a while, maybe you should. I love what Dylan is implying and the fire for living…but let’s add a little divine into it because life is not always fighting against the dying of the light as much as it is protecting the light within you, guarding the wellspring of life, your heart.

There’s a saying that every man dies, but not every man truly lives. I choose to live fully, as much as I can.
Yes, I fight the demons assigned me
Yes, I wrestle with God
Yes, I wrestle deep within my heart and soul
I fail, I fall, I hurt, I bleed…and I am part of a fallen, broken world.
…..but…
I go forward because the Light that is within me will never be extinguished and the world needs to see this.

Those of us who have survived the days of “Running the Pigs” are older and wiser. We know that we are no longer immortal in this world.…but this I know:
I will not waste the kiss of life that God gave to me.
I will not cover the light that burns
I will not be overcome
I will not play it safe
I will struggle to fully live, to be fully alive

And when I leave this life, it will not be because death has triumphed, it will be because He called me home.

Rebuild

thumbnail_20170605_185611I had bought a house.

It is an old 3 bedroom, 1 bath, 2 story in a desirable part of town…but it needed a bit of work. It wasn’t even on the market, but I found it, put in a competitive offer against an investor, and came out with a house.

I was elated at first…the walls of the bathroom and kitchen were ‘white boxed’, a commercial term used for an interior space that was stripped of anything, painted white, and ready to have interior finishes and paint and put back together. You envision the cabinets that will go in, the tile you want, and how, in a couple weeks, or a month, you’ll be picking out countertops.

Or so I thought.

I tore out a small section of wall, wanting to evaluate opening up the wall a little so that the wall between the kitchen and dining room could be taken out and a counter bar installed. Once the wall was opened up, I noticed the plumbing and HVAC ducts were preventing this from happening…but it also revealed that some galvanized steel plumbing was still in use in the old house. This would have to be removed. So I took out more wall and part of the kitchen ceiling to get at the pipe.

After part of the kitchen ceiling was taken out, you could see some of the plumbing for the upstairs bathroom. Looking at it, I noticed some of the plumbing looked wonky, so I brought in a buddy who knew his stuff to evaluate what was there. Much to my displeasure and surprise, he pointed out some gross inadequacies and bad installation that would create bad problems in the future. All of the plumbing would need to be reworked.

So I had to tear out the finished kitchen ceiling, along with the fact that I had now cut out almost all of the plumbing.

Now in cutting the plumbing out, I noticed that once I did, I could clearly see that the platform that the upstairs toilet sat on was cracked in several places. So after evaluation, I took this out.

When I took this out, it was clear to see that the tops of the joists that sat under the toilet were ‘soft’ from years of neglected water leaking. I had to re-enforce several joists.

All this sounds simple as I explain it….but let me explain it with a little more of the building stress that was creeping in.

Each layer that I took out, each area of rework, each things I had to take out…created a new level of anxiety for me. I thought I had a white complete canvas that I could start to build on, but, as it turns out, it was a blank canvas that was built over an imperfect substructure. It looked ‘fine’ but underneath it all? It was faulty.

You could peel back a layer to examine what is beneath and see and that needed to be re-worked…to then peel back another layer to examine what was beneath, to see and THAT needed re-work…the get to the basic structure of the house….and see that time and neglect had created a structure and THAT would need to be rebuilt.

As the layers were pulled back one at a time, my anxiety grew, and I fretted the work that would need to be done and the money spent for each new fix…the anxiety grew to the point of mini panic attacks, and fear gripped me of the lost money and days of my life to get to a point of where some day in the distant future I would finish the project, although by that time I would be broke, old, and senile.

When faced with a situation like this, you’re tempted to NOT fix things, to patch over, or just cover up so that you can move on without having to do so much hard work. You think, “it’s lasted 100 years this way, should be ok”, but, to build on any of this, was to build on faulty structural support, faulty system that, even with the appearance that it was ok…was fundamentally, and possibly, dangerously flawed. In this type of situation, you can choose to build on the faulty, which might buy you some time…or you could strip things to the core and rebuild for a lifetime.

What would you do?

God speaks to me through things that happen in my life…this was no exception.
I often ask God for help in turning a corner, and He hears me, and answers. But, when God answers, He often takes up our offer in the most unexpected way.

To renovate a house, you often need to take out several layers of neglect to get to the root of the issue…often going back to the structure on which the house is built.

To renovate a mans life, sometimes the same thing needs to happen.

My life is much like the kitchen in the beginning. The kitchen was ‘white boxed’ where you think it’s ready to be built into, just add in cabinetry and countertops and you’ve got a kitchen…but it often takes tearing into the issue, pulling back a couple layers to find you’ve got a bigger problem that’s at the core of things.

In my case, I wanted to move ‘forward’ in life. We all have our ‘forward from here’ plans and thoughts don’t we…that next level that we believe will crest a hill, a giant problem that we feel has always stood in our way will open up a live we’ve always envisioned we should have? We work and work, and build our lives top of faulty thinking. I had this Field of Dreams type vision where I hope God’s telling me “build it and things will come”…but that’s not reality.

So, I bought this house thinking I could spend a couple months on it and it would be perfect and ready to go…no wonder I had moments where anxiety overcame me.

So the more I worked, the more I sweated (I lost 15 pounds…by the way I have a new gym idea!) the more my plan deteriorated in front of me. I tore out part of a wall to learn I had to tear out some plumbing, to tear out a ceiling in the kitchen to get at the plumbing, to realize the plumbing was ALL wrong and had to be torn out, to realize the toilet seating was cracked and tear that out to realize some of the joists needed to be repaired. This took place over about a month and a half.

And similar to the house, each level of repair was taking me to a new place of loss of control, farther away from my goal and further away from my ‘happiness’. Each level required more help, more money, more TIME…everything that I had hoped to build on was being stripped down…to the point where I was really wondering if I had made a terrible mistake.

One morning I read in the Bible “unless God builds a house, a man labors in vain” and I knew that verse was speaking to me.

I was wanting to continue to build upon the old life, to cover the problems and move ‘forward’.
I was building the house to have ‘wealth’.
I was building the house to have ‘financial freedom”
I was building the house thinking it would be easy
I was building the house to impress my friends
I was building without asking God how it should be done.
I was building the house like I was building my life…and it was time to renovate both

There are times in my life where I’ve asked for help, asked for His council in things..and things actually get worse.
Can you relate?

You ask for help in relationships, and things go from bad to worse
You ask God for a new job and the one your in gets worse and there’s no exit
You ask for help in discerning if a relationship is right or not…and the answer is ‘not’.
the answer is pain
the answer is frustration
the answer is confusion

I am absolutely NOT saying that every single situation is about God using pain to get our attention…but I am saying that we should examine every hard situation, every confrontation, every unchecked fear…because there’s often something underneath.

For where we need to peel back a few layers and really examine where we are covering things up…where we are in need of repairs and rebuilding, just like an old house.

The bad news is some times you have to strip things down, tear out everything down to the structure before you can rebuild. Every single character in the bible has a time of being stripped down…stripped of ego, stripped of wealth, stripped of family, land, freedoms…

If you have been torn down and stripped, if you’re going through a renovation, if you’re in the mist of what looks bad…then know that sometimes the foundations of your past cannot be what your future is built on.

The good news is that the builder, the original architect of your life will be there with you to guide and lead you through this.
God says:
… that he has numbered our days.
…knit us together in the womb
…we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made”
…He has plans to prosper us, and not to harm us
…plans to give us a hope and a future

As I was deconstructing a part of the house, I came across several boards that had a name written on them of “JW Jenkins”. Jenkins, my last name, was written in several places on that house.

You could choose to see that as a coincidence…
or
…you could choose to see that over 100 years ago that God knew, and could see, that I would be working on a house that would need a little boost and encouragement to finish the house the way the architect had built it.

I don’t believe in coincidences
I will finish the house right.

Endeavor

20170803_144845_001Do you ever see that dog hanging out of the car window? Maybe you do that now, where you let the dog sit in the front seat with the window open? Can you picture him, tongue hanging out, nose up in the wind taking all the smells and light and energy? Are you like me what when you see the dog YOU smile when you pass them because you see the dogs’ smile? Does the dog’s smile make you smile?
Of course it does, right?

When I see a dog doing that, I smile because I know he’s in dog heaven. He’s taking it all in, moving at the speed of light, slobbering on the the window…and to me, that’s a little of what it’s like to ride a motorcycle…minus the slobbering on the window.

As you ride on a good day, the light and sun comes down on you and the sun and shade hit your body creating warmth and coolness. The bike cuts the air and tires gripping the pavement, moving with you like a dance. The engine beckoning for the open throttle, a little passion. The dance is leaning out over corners and challenging the hold gravity and momentum have on a normal person…because you’re not normal and you’re not doing something normal, you’re defying gravity and normal constraints. A smile often stays on your lips. You’re that dog doing something he KNOWS is not normal for him, just as riding is not normal for you…both of us know we’re being given a moment that’s pure pleasure and we’re going to drink it in.

When you ride a motorcycle there are usually a few common responses. One response is “cool” and they ask what kind of bike you have, they tell you about what you have, you share a story, and you know they’re ‘in the club’.

Another response is the yearning look in their eye of how they want/had one but made choices in their lives (or had a choice made for them) and they yearn to be back out on the bike but costs are too high for themselves or their family. These two responses are almost always from men (USUALLY, but not always)

The next set of responses are a mixed bag, gender-wise, but these responses are all based on a fear of getting hurt, or getting killed. Of this second group, It seems that everyone wants to tell you how unsafe it is and about the wreck that happened to their brother’s uncle in-law mechanic’s sister’s boyfriend that they grew up with…I hear it all the time. I could take offense to it, tell them about odds and tell them how I’m pretty safe and not an idiot on the road and how I’m always aware of what’s going on around me….

….or I could let everyone just think that I’m ok with the risk, say how the odds don’t apply to me.
I like the second choice but the first is probably closer to the truth.

Side note: As a seasoned rider, I will tell you honestly that most of us have come to terms with our own mortality and the risk we are taking. I hate to tell all of you this, but we are all going to die.

Why am I saying all of this?
Let me ‘land the plane’ with my thoughts.

When I owned a bike as a kid, I rode and loved it. Rode it til it died one day in a corn field in Lebanon Ohio, God rest it’s 125cc heart. Going through college, I had a roommate named Scott Schroeder who had a motorcycle. In the last year of our time at Ohio State, he and I talked of riding across the country when we graduated. It was a wish more than a plan because I didn’t own a bike at the time, nor did I have the financial resources for the bike…let alone a cross country trip. But that didn’t stop us from talking about it.

Six months out of college, Scott was driving his car home one night and got killed by a drunk driver. He was 24. I lost a great friend and the trip we wanted to take? Never happened.

Responsibilities and jobs and careers and girlfriends and many years later, I was about to turn 40 and that ghosts of the woulda, coulda, and shoulda’s were haunting me. I had given thought to that cross country ride over the years but felt that ‘responsible’ thing to do was wait until I had a family, wait until the kids were out of college…THEN I would get the motorcycle. Then I would do a grand adventure.

Getting ready to turn 40 it dawned on me that I was waiting for things to happen in my life before I would do other things….and if those primary events did not happen, the secondary would also never happen. When it came to the bike and trips, I decided I would no longer wait. Within a week Rick S. decided he was selling his bike and asked if I wanted to buy it. I’m not saying that the heavens parted and I heard a voice, but I knew I didn’t need to wait for a full sign from God…a hint was sufficient.

The first couple times I took the bike out, I was sure that SOMEONE was going to kill me. I thought of all the ways I could get hurt or killed…but then a funny thing happened. I didn’t die.

People are SOOOOOOOoooo afraid of dying. Supposedly it’s the second highest fear behind public speaking…which is odd to me…but everyone is afraid of SOMETHING. We even have words we’ve made up for unusual fears. Seems you would be challenged to have a fear that’s not already recorded. Lots of those fears are well founded…they keep us out of trouble, keep us from doing dumb things. Some fears are hindering us and we need to conquer those fears. They tell us most fears are never realized…we just fear certain things that we never have to confront.

In looking at my fear of dying while riding my bike, I realized I was faced with a fear that was keeping me from living, pursuing dreams, doing something that made me feel alive.

I don’t want to say that I no longer fear death…that’s far from the truth, I have a healthy fear of death and the way that I go, so if you catch one thing, catch this please.

I don’t fear death as much as I fear missing out on living.

God gave MEN a sense of adventure, of danger, and the need to confront it…to challenge death, to do something that makes our hearts beat with adrenaline…it makes us come alive. The Bible says that man was created outside the garden…was we have a need for the wild, the wilderness…even if it’s just a feeling.

If you are dying inside, if you are bored out of your mind then maybe you need to get a shock to your system. There is a phrase in the bible that says ‘wake up sleeper and rise from the dead and let Christ’s light shine over you”.

Are you sleeping? Are you the walking dead? Has life lost it’s ups and downs where you’re flatlining through it?

“Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Is a quote attributed to William Wallace. I would challenge all who are reading this to figure out what gift you have, what special talent, what seed has God placed in you…and breath life into it again.

What is it you are not doing that you should be?
What fear of failure is choking out ‘life’?
Why is it we die with so many unused talents?
So many unwritten books?
So many great humanitarian ideas?
So many curvy crazy roads not ridden?

You don’t have to play roulette, ride a crotch rocket at 120, bungee jump, run the bulls in Pamplona, swim with Great Whites…
…but to be alive is sometimes to lean out over the edge, where the air is crisp, the adrenaline keeps you awake, and you live in the present, in the juicy moments of life.

Mark Twain said “Let us endeavor so to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker is sorry”

The definition of Endeavor:
“to exert oneself to do or effect something; make an effort; strive”

In looking at this definition, where are you?
Are you striving to live…or just trying not to die?

Endeavor…
…exert yourself
…affect something
…strive to live.

Endeavor to live friends.

Two Stories

An adventure had formed.

With my BMW R1200GSA sold, I was free to find the next motorcycle to put in the stable, the new iron horse that could further my travels in adventure biking.

My next machine? A KTM Adventure 990 Baja edition.
It’s location? Minneapolis.
The adventure? A one way ticket to get the bike, followed by a 12 hour multi day ride through stormy weather to get it home.

Shut my mouth and paint me KTM orange….now THIS was going to be an adventure!!!IMG_0129

I packed gear for 2 days, refining my single bag (dry bag of course with the rain (or snow?)) of my best gear. It was looking like the trip would start out in near freezing conditions with light snow (or freezing precipitation) that would change over to light rain the first few hours then change over to overcast with intermittent light rain (all the way home) as temperatures would slowly rise to the 60s over the first 6-7 hours of an 11+ hour trip.

How many thermal layers would I need? How many layers did I have if I got soaked through? How many gloves would be needed? I had packed just enough but also included a lot of little tiny treasures that could become essential like hot hands, phone charger, and iPod. I even went out and bought a new helmet.

The day of departure I actually went to the airport a couple hours early because I could no longer wait at home anymore…the excitement was overwhelming .

The flight was uneventful, I caught a cat nap, but upon landing in Minneapolis, the excitement ratcheted up and the guy picked me up at the airport. We chatted, (actually I chatted) most of the way to his house. We arrived in a nice suburban area in Minneapolis. His garage door opened, and sitting in the center of his garage was this beautiful Baja version of the bike with it’s white panels with orange crash bars. I walked around two times, amazed at its condition… I was amazed that the plastic panels were in new condition and the bike itself looked like it had barely been ridden.

I was smiling.

The owner explained every little thing to me on the bike and demonstrated how some of the parts worked and then started it up. The engine growled and jumped with the goose of the throttle.

I was in love…or as much as a man can be with a machine….I would take this beautiful bike out for a minor test drive I would come back and figure out how to start my journey. I went inside to put on all my gear.

Did I mention that I was smiling?

I came out, he pointed me in a couple directions, and with the bike warmed up, I adjusted mirrors and put it into gear. I rolled out of his garage and started down the road and went around the corner to where there was a highway. I shot down the on ramp and darted quickly into the traffic to get the bike up to speed and the engine reached operating temperature. There was a smile on my face as I was thinking of the next 12 hours of getting this baby home…

And then I noticed it.

My hands were trembling (not with the cold) from movement in the handlebars and the GPS that hung from the windshield was dancing with the vibration. I had been so preoccupied with the bike in listening to the sound of the engine for any misfire in the roar, running up and down the gears feeling the clutch and shift and the RPMs, that I initially miss it. Once the bike passed my initial checklist, I started paying attention to other things and picked up on it. The smile began to fade a little bit is I investigated…it wasn’t in the wheels or tires…so it was very probably in the engine or transmission. I pulled in the clutch and the vibrational went away. I let the clutch back out and the vibration came back.

My smile faded.

Long story shortened, I got back to the guys house is a rolled into the garage and he came out with a big smile on his face and I calmly stated something was wrong. He stopped smiling and went back inside. I spent the next 45 minutes calling buddies, KTM dealers, and the consensus was that something was amiss.

In the end…I did not buy the bike…I walked away.

That evening and the next morning, I spent time at my uncle Bob and Aunt Judy’s who were awesome in their hospitality.  I got to enjoy getting to know them a little bit better…laughing and talking about family and some little known history around my grandfather and great grandmother.   We shared our thoughts of faith and how maybe I should spend more time looking for a wife than a motorcycle.  LOL!   It was fun.  It was family.

Next morning, faced with the reality that I was not riding a motorcycle home, I weighed out the cost of a plane ticket versus renting a car. If I took a flight, it would be quick, but expensive. If I took a car, it would allow me to visit a cousin of mine, Lisa.

Lisa was 2nd of three born to Larry and Marianne, my uncle and aunt. When we were younger, our families would spend time together, take vacations together, spend time at their cabin. In my younger years, they were a big part of the fun things we used to do that I remember. Lisa and I were buddies in those years and I remembered our friendship as an awesome part of growing up.

In 3rd grade, my family moved to Ohio, and shortly after that, a family rift over my grandfather ended vacations with them. So, many years ago, a friendship took pause over family politics, family conflict, and taking sides. As kids, you don’t understand things like that…it was something bad that happened that you had no control over.

There’s a lot of story between then and now that is important, but hard to explain and few understand. Lisa and Pat had family problems with her parents, Larry and Marianne, to the point that boundaries were set..and those boundaries became walls…and 15 years slipped by.

And then Larry passed away without resolution to a conflict that most in the immediate family did not understand.

5 years ago, when Larry passed, I ran into Lisa and her family at the funeral. She didn’t recognize me…but she hadn’t changed. It was not the time nor place, but we caught up a little that day.

Now here it was years later and I’m passing through on my way home….on a botched motorcycle adventure…and I felt it really important to stop and spend an hour with Lisa.

That hour turned into 5 hours of talking, processing, laughing, and sometimes crying about family, loss, grief, conflict, and God. It was probably the most important 5 hours of this year.

It was a chance for Lisa to tell her story
It was a chance to bring peace and light to an unresolved conflict.
It was a chance to laugh and cry again with a dear old family member.
It was a chance to have incredible insight into my family
It was a chance to look into the emotional mirror of two lives so similar…and understand that there are always two sides to a story.

In listening to her and catching up, I saw that both of us could understand, both of us could empathize, both of us could offer healing to each other.

In this situation, in this story, God used someone who basically lied to me about a motorcycle to get me to go to Minnesota, so that He (God) could bring me to my cousin’s house so that the two of us could connect and share some of the lost parts of our lives with each other.

In my head, I am the center of this story and I had my plans and thoughts, I thought I was at the center of the world. But I forget that it is not my world, it is Gods…and I have bowed and submitted and asked Him to change my world, use my life, and this self centered man (yes me) has asked that my life be more full.

I thought a beautiful low mileage mint 2013 KTM 990 Adventure Baja Limited edition with its white panels, orange crash bars, orange anodized Renthal handlebars, Garmen GPS, roughly 115 HP, 6 speed transmission, TKC 80 tires on the black shiny 21 inch front rim, extended footrests, CJ Designs bash plate………and steering damper……….and TKC tires………(did I mention under 6000 miles?)…….
I thought this beautiful new bike would make my life more full. But what do I know…
He saw what my heart needed, and it wasn’t a new toy.

The trip to Minneapolis was a divine appointment…and not just for me.

In my story about a trip to Minnesota, you could choose to see a motorcycle deal gone wrong…or you could choose to see my story of friendship restored.

You could choose to see a lie that brought me to loose time and money…or see truth in the reason that brought me to Minnesota to reconnect with family.

In a story about lost time between friends, you could choose to see the years lost or the 5 hours gained.

In a story about a cousin long removed from a family, you can choose to see the family that raised her, or the family she raised.

You could choose sides in an old conflict and lose one person from your life….or you could see that there are two sides to every story….
…and with grace and mercy
…you can see that there’s room to love both.

Life is full of choices…
Beginnings or endings…
peace or war…
life or death…

…be careful how you choose…if you must choose at all.

A Dark Basement

I was dating someone recently and something happened that tells me that I either need medication, my mind is getting soft, or God’s work is beginning to take shape.

The first or last options are more favorable than the middle.
Then again, maybe they’re all happening to some degree.

So I was dating this woman and I got into an argument with her. It was our first one, and it was a good one. A day later I was still kinda stewing about things…and then it happened.

I saw myself.

I mean I REALLY saw myself.
What I mean is that we usually see ourselves as the ‘victim’ or some caped crusading seeker of justice with our “justified” thoughts and actions as WE THINK they are.
…but
Once the blinding light of my own pride, my own indignation faded…I saw there, outside of the light…a shadow…a darkness you don’t see unless you REALLY look.
I saw it.

I saw my motivations and selfishness.
I saw my anger.
I saw a hurt child lashing out in his confusion and pain…
That child was me…and it was not pretty.

As I was writing this, God reminded me of a story….so I’m going to switch gears for a second and then I’ll come back to the argument…

When I was 9 or 10, we lived in Lebanon in an old mansion that sat on the corner of Cook and Deerfield Roads. Across the street from a housing division that was being built from that corner towards the YMCA. There was dozens of houses all being built at the same time for several summers. Being the entrepreneur I was, I used to go collect the returnable pop bottles the workers would drink and discard every day. They were returnable glass bottles worth maybe 10 cents a piece and I could collect a couple bucks a day to spent the money on fish for my aquarium, orange Fago sodas, Star Wars cards, and candy.

One day a couple of us kids were playing in the houses…we must’ve been playing some kind of cops and robbers sort of game, when something I’ll never forget happened.

Someone was chasing me, think it was Kevin Revis (but could have been Mark Mason) and I was darting through a couple houses to get away. All the houses were just studs and plywood, many had no roof and I ran into this house thinking I had enough of a lead to safely hide, so I decided to duck into a basement. So, I ran through this house, jumped into the square hole cut into the first floor for the stairs, and ran down the steps.

It was summer and must’ve been mid-day on the weekend because the sun was bright and overhead, so as I got to the bottom of the steps, there was a square of bright light formed by the hole in the first floor where the stairs came down. Standing at the bottom of the steps, I stood for a second just looking into the darkness. Coming out of the mid-day sun, my eyes could not adjust, and darkness was all I could see. I could not see the walls, the floor, or ANYTHING just outside of the square of light.

I must’ve heard my pursuer enter the house, because I stepped into the darkness and put out my hands and walked blindly forward until I touched the cool damp surface of the wall. I felt around in the darkness for a place or way to hide myself but the basement was completely empty…I was trapped and turned back to the stairs and the square of light.

Whoever pursued me raced through the house and then bounded down the steps to the bottom, stopped and stood, in the square light, looking out into the darkness searching for me.

I remember seeing him as clear as if it had been yesterday…I could SEE his excited face as he scanned the dark where I stood. He took a step out of the square of light, then stopped. I could SEE and FEEL his fear of leaving the light as he tried to bring himself to challenge the darkness..and then shrank back. I could FEEL his triumphant victory slipping…slipping into fear.
…but I stood perfectly still and quiet.

He screamed out into the concrete basement claiming victory!!!!! He had found me!!!! He knew I was there!!!! His shrill child voice was amplified by the concrete walls. He had stopped at the base of the stairs, and standing in the light, he was maybe 15 feet from me and I was standing RIGHT in front of him as he faced my direction.

In those brief seconds…in that moment…I could see him PERFECTLY as he stood under the sun’s square spotlight
…but he, in his blindness…
he could not see me.

So, back to my story of needing medication or getting soft (…or both…)

Pulling these stories together….in my argument with the woman, I was the child at the base of the stairs in the spotlight of the sun. And at the base of the stairs, I was yelling in the darkness. In my self-righteousness, I was calling out my victory!!! MY win! I was demanding surrender!!!!
….but all the while, I was blind.

Now today, a day later, I am the person in the darkness. I stand in the shadow of the basement, in the shadow of time, and it’s like I am looking at myself, observing that child standing in that square spotlight and arguing with her as one in the same.

I’m looking at myself arguing with her and i can clearly see today what I did not then.

I can see my fear.
I can see my hollow victory.
I can see me searching in the darkness.
I can see myself afraid of what I cannot see.
…And it’s not a good thing to watch.

Relationships are not easy. There’s the good like comfort, love, support, companionship, affirmation, touch, camaraderie, friendship
But the good often comes with the bad like betrayal, abandonment, distrust, anger, hurt, confusion…all of these are based in fear…

In relationships, like the child in the spotlight calling into the darkness, a lot of times we have to press into our fears, our hurts….abandon our island of light and hollow victory and step into a place of discomfort and disorientation. Like a child bathed in our own blinding light, we have to step into the dark…
…that we might see the other person.

In relationships, like the child in the dark where I could clearly see my friend…God’s light often illuminates them (or ourselves) and we see clearly that they are scared and fearful. They cannot see us as they are blinded and unwilling to step into, and through their fears.

God continues to work on me and my life. It’s often hard and painful to work through dark places in my heart, places where I got hurt, where my pride has blinded me, places where someone was supposed to be safe, where someone was supposed to be our friend betrays us…but God loves us enough to take our burdens and help us lay them down.

Light is a funny thing…
Sometimes the light makes us blind.
Sometimes the dark helps us see.

I Corinthians 4.5. …”wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.”

The Story of Boaz

To most the book of Ruth is about, well, Ruth.
Not to me. Not at all…it’s a story of Boaz.
Boaz was one lucky guy.

An older man, seasoned, wise, and past his prime. Not bitter, not selfish.
He was Righteous, influential, and wealthy is what we’re told.
He took care of business.
He kept his affairs in order, and watched over his interests.
He learned to be faithful with what God had given him.
…but…
for whatever reason, he did not have a wife.

Maybe he squandered his early years with riotous living…maybe he HAD a wife, but she had left him or he left her…maybe she had passed from this world into the next in a shattering tragedy of losing a beloved.
Maybe his story is much like mine, where his anticipatory spring had ticked away into the ‘less than perfect” fall of his life.

Whatever the reason, the results were the same. He was alone living without a wife and we know that Boaz was not in the spring time of his life, but what we do know speaks volumes. He owned fields and had workers under him… so we do know that he took care of what God had given him. He probably had a good work ethic and good management that put him in a good financial standing. His example stands for all of us who are waiting sometimes oh-not-so patiently, to be good stewards of the “little things” that God has given you because money, wealth, and resources we are stewards of are oh-so-inconsequential compared to the being entrusted with the wealth of a human heart.

What else do we know about Boaz?

He took notice of a younger widow woman that showed up in his field one day. She was a widow taking care of another widow who was a foreigner, a Moabite, in Israel. Moabites were a detested race so she was an outcast and reject ..most would not want her in their field and some…some would have their way with her, because, after all, who would take up for her? Who would defend her?

But Boaz did.

In the story, he put word out that none was to touch her. We don’t know how powerful Boaz was nor do we know how much he had to impress upon his workers his “wishes”, but what we do know that no harm came to her. What he willed to happen was made to happen. What we also know is that he wanted her to be provided for as he told his workers to leave a little extra food in her path in the fields she was working. He made sure that not only was she taken care of but her mother-in-law’s well.

Now, Boaz did a good thing here, taking care of a couple widows, but did he go out telling everyone how good he was, patting himself on the back? Surely this was his golden opportunity to made himself look good, not including a chance to impress a girl maybe get a little something for it?

No, his order was simple leave some food for her to find, don’t harvest so completely and efficiently where she was. He did what was pleasing to God…the Bible says to camouflage your good deeds with humility, let no man praise your work so that God can lift you up. She was never to know the reason for her good fortune.

This may show a little something about his heart, something of his character. I personally believe that Boaz took notice of her, admired her from afar and deep down inside saw someone he really liked. Maybe he was in love with a beautiful young widow who worked hard in the fields to provide for a mother-in-law that would die if she left. Maybe Boaz saw a woman whose character and beauty captured his heart. I believe he saw something of beauty and I believe he wasn’t the only one who saw this. If this had not been so, why would he have had to put out word to keep her from harm right?

But I believe Boaz knew he was no young stud, and that woman like this were always meant for someone else, more blessed, less years, less wear, less tare.
So he did what he could do for her and left it at that…and then went about his business.

It could just like all the other stories of yesteryear, you know, the traditional boy meets girl, they fall in love and so on… but it wasn’t. This was a story of God’s love for a man who wished for a wife, the story of a young widow looking for a second chance and a kind man. God writes this story because He loves a redemption story…He loves to make his servants whole again, in the heart and soul.

There’s a lot of us who think that God has forgotten us and we ended up in the lost and found at the divine dating service…we’re kind of like Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer at the Island of Misfit Toys. Maybe our “one and only” has never come around, or has come and gone leaving us to mourn in the “would’ve”, “could’ve”, and “should’ve” of yesteryear… then this is OUR story, a story of lost love… and then found. Story of God and duty first, story of boy meets girl written God’s way.

In the story several things are out of place. The girl offers herself to him, puts herself at his mercy to offer the only thing she had, her body. Boaz resists, and, because he was honorable and just, and turns the situation over to God to place her into his hands, or to place her where she would be taken care of. You see we are often called to release something so that we can be given the right things in the right way. Boaz could have taken Ruth at any time but he chose the higher road, asked God into it, and reaped a wife.

Ruth saw a kind, gentle man who she entrusted her purity with.. and he adores her for choosing him. She SEES him and says “your people will be my people, your God will be my God”. They gave each other everything because I believe God knew their hearts were ready to love, ready to surrender, ready to give up the cheap counterfeit for the authentic….maybe because they were both ready to partner with His chosen.

Boaz was a lucky guy and Ruth was a lucky girl, but their story didn’t start that way…could be kind of like our story…only we’re in the middle…we’re Ruth or we’re Boaz and we’re doing what we’ve got to do to survive. This is a story from God, for us.

When Boaz and Ruth came together, I’m sure they were the talk of the town…brokenness made whole by the only One who could.

For many of us…this is our story.

…and I can’t wait to meet you Ruth

Man Camp: MASH-Fall 2016

img_0001
(Photo courtesy of David Slaughter)

Man Camp, for those who don’t know, is this thing around Crossroads we’ve been working on. It’s about 30+ hours of men getting out to be men with other men. In this case, it’s camping overnight with 1900 of your closest friends, it’s giving them manly tasks with other men, doing manly things, handling manly projects, with encouraging men and charging men to be MEN(!)
And drink a beer while doing it.

Now as part of Man Camp, there is a group of men who are in a separate tent called the MASH group. We work in pairs…listening to guys as they come in and work with them to pray over what they came in for…sometimes. But more often, guys come in and we dig a little deeper, dig into their wounds, their tears, their hearts….and we pull stuff out and pull chains off…and ask God into deep things in their hearts. I’ve never been part of something that digs so deliberately and surgically into men’s lives…it’s a pretty weighty honor.

Now, I mentioned beer. I know this causes a lot of deep hard questions from some people…I mean it’s a Christian based thing…(so maybe it should be wine?) but you charge men to be men and give them freedom in this…. and sure there’s a risk that it could get a little messy but then again, there’s risk in anything.

Now, the kegs are set up around the MASH tent.
Yes, you read that right, we set them up around the prayer tent.

(Stay with me people, don’t turn on me so early in the story)

We set two stations around the MASH tent pretty much ALL day long, men are coming over for beer. The lines crawl around the tent…and let me tell you people, the lines stretched for 30-50 people at times….and they are standing there, waiting for beer gabbing away, as we pray for people. There is a tension there…sometimes you can feel it. There are people trying to focus on having a good time, grabbing a beer….and they are 20 feet from teams of men in deep prayer for other men. There was more than a couple times I got really annoyed with people…but whatever.

As the day wore on, we got pretty used to the beer line stretching around the tent….as as the day wore on and activities and things ebbed and flowed, we had a few people that might wait a few minutes for prayer, but the lines for beer stayed pretty steady

At some point Saturday night, as men went back to their fires…the beer lines were not so long and MASH was slow I went out to look at stars and relax a little, had a beer, talk to some friends at different fires.

I came back in and someone said ‘hey we have a line out there’, and I was thinking out loud that it was a line for beer, but someone corrected me…it’s a line for prayer. I was thinking it was a few people, and I actually walked outside to discover that YES, in fact there was a line to get into the MASH tent…and it was actually pretty long…as a matter of fact, it stretched out into the darkness. I thought ‘wow’.

I looked at the kegs and thought, ‘well we must be out of beer’ and literally went over to the kegs and checked the tap. They were working properly with plenty of cold beer…and no one was there for beer. The line, that had gone around the tent all day for beer…
…..was now a line to get prayer that stretched into the night.

I’ll say it again if I that doesn’t register:

Men were standing in line over 40 people deep, in the chilly fall air, having left the side of a warm campfire surrounded by friends on a Saturday night… were now waiting for other men to pray with them.

I’m kind of sorry to say that I was shocked by it, I mean I shouldn’t be, right? I mean I was one of “the prayer guys”, I shouldn’t be shocked….but I was.

Men were there for forgiveness
Men were there to confess
Men were there to get grace
Men were there to have 20 years of chains loosened from them
Men were there for a kind word…an affirmation as a son
Men were there to know God loved them…no matter what they had done
Men were there for salvation

The picture at the top of this post is an actual picture of men waiting in line for prayer at Man Kamp taken by David Slaughter. Take a look at it again…

I don’t claim to have a deep prayer life or live as a saint…but God took the mustard seed of courage that I had to pray for strangers…and He grew it a little when I stepped out. You see, I have this little bit of faith in me that said “if they take me, I’ll do it, I’ll pray for these guys”. When I said yes, I had no idea if God would use me or if I would be any good at this…
But God took my little bit of faith and He worked with and through me to multiply my effort and results.

There’s an old saying that I love:
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

When it came to being on the MASH team, I didn’t think I was qualified…but I felt called. I stepped out and watched God’s work unfold in front of me.

God could very well be calling on you to step out to do something you’re not qualified to do.
Let me say that again,
GOD could very well be calling on YOU to do something you’re NOT QUALIFIED TO DO.

Why?

When you do something that is within your abilities, then the results are natural results. When you do something where God calls you beyond your abilities, HE steps in to fill the gap between your abilities and the need, the results can be supernatural.

If you want to SEE growth, change…experience something different, then you must DO something different. I had to step into a gap to see God work in a new way. It’s often necessary not for His sake, but for ours, for growth.

Step out into the uncomfortable place you are being called…there is a part for you to play in God’s story…and it’s where your growth will occur.

Kam Tarkington

2016-07-23 14.30.24

You know, I wish more of my posts were about me doing something smart, something intelligent, something brilliant…but this won’t be one of those posts. This post will be about me doing something stupid and it will be about the loss of one of my good friends. SO, I’m going to apologize and warn you early as I’m an idiot and this was hard emotionally to put this together…and if you knew Kam, this might strike your heart.

Keith has been a good friend of mine for over 20 years. He’s a man from the hills of Kentucky…and when I say the hills, I mean deep Appellation heritage with a Kentucky drawl, stories about his “kin”, and stories from the ‘coal’ country. He’s also the man that helped me turn my life over to Jesus. Our friendship runs deep. But let me get back to this story…

Keith calls me one day about a month ago with an idea. He’s got to be in Las Vegas in late July, why don’t he and I go into Vegas, spend the weekend riding motorcycles around Vegas.

This was a good idea but I had a better one.

..why don’t we ride to the California coast and ride part of the Pacific Coast Highway? The PCH was on my bucket list and was rated as one of the best drives in the world. Two days later I had a ticket, a general plan, and I had no clue of what was to come.

A couple days before departure, I had a rental Harley Davidson Street Glide on reserve in Vegas and I checked temperatures. Vegas was supposed to be over 100 and where we were staying the first night, Bakersfield, they were supposed to be 108.

On a motorcycle, over 100 is miserably hot…but I’m thinking about the dry air, the brief time I would spend in the desert, and thought, ok, I’ll plan a little bit and make sure to take some extra water. Sounds like a good plan, right? (Wrong)

I land early, get to the rental agency, pick up the Street Glide, and while still early in the morning, the temperature is approaching 100. After 20 minutes of riding in town, I realize that my plan needs to be modified a little because heat and hydration is already an issue. I stop at Target to buy a camel back hydration back pack and get it filled with water and Pedialite, an electrolyte powder for infants that helps with dehydration.  I get my gear settled and get started out on the bike to kill a couple hours.

In Vegas, at about 10am, it’s already 100, but riding out to Mt Charleston the temperature drops to a perfect 80-85 degrees. Ok I thought, meet up with Keith, get started and get the hot part of the trip over with because in my finite intelligence, Vegas should be the hot spot and once we climb out of the Vegas valley, it should be cooler.

So I’m on my bike and Keith has decided to drive a car because his body will not let him ride a motorcycle.

We start out in a straight line for Bakersfield California…which skirts Death Valley, but directly goes through the Mojave desert….which one might think would be good information to research ahead of time. But I’ve already told you I’m not smart in this post…so bear with me.

An hour out of Vegas, I’m hot, like seriously hot but the time on the bike is short on this quick leg and we stop for dinner…I get a breather and cool off and we start out again. The bike and chrome are hard to touch as I hop back on. At this point the temperature has climbed again and Keith tells me the temperature according to his car gauge is around 115. We climb out of a valley where we had dinner and the temperature drops slightly….I mentally take a deep breath thinking that the worst is behind me.

What I didn’t realize….

What I didn’t realize was that on the other side of this little range of hills/mountains was the Mojave desert…and when we crested the mountains I saw that the road drop again into the depths of the desert and my heart sank.

Have you ever been cooking something in the oven…and you lean over and open the oven door at the same time? You know that blast of awful heat the hits you right in the face? I rode into that hair dryer heat at 80 miles and hour for the next two hours….struggling mentally and physically.

As I road, I could feel the temperature rise not only of the desert, but also of my body. My jeans burned against my skin and the sun cooked my long sleeve shirt. I drank more and more from the camel back, trying to pull in the liquid and the coolness it brought to my body that was struggling with the heat. I got to the point that I kept sipping on the fluid continuously…yet it wasn’t enough.

I had a GPS on the bike and I had plugged our destination of Bakersfield and I could see numbers ticking down as I struggled for the next hour…trying to hold off stopping until the approaching turn off the highway. At a mere 20 miles left, I pulled over at a gas station unable to take anymore. I was shaking, nauseous, and severely overheating. I parked the bike and crawled into Keith’s car with the AC on. I sat in the car, straining to cool and relax…stating I couldn’t hold on for the last 20 miles, as we’re almost there. Keith looked at me and a look came over his face that looked like dread.

“We’ve got 2 more hours”.

I was in shock and denial. I realized that the GPS I was watching was telling me about where the next turn was….not where our destination was. It was an awful moment to realize that what lay ahead of me was another 2 hours of hell.

I stayed in the car for the next half hour as Keith and I made a plan to stop every 30 minutes if needed until we got to the other side….the temperature was 120 and I wasn’t sure I had the inner strength to step back into the heat and complete my journey through this hell.

But I didn’t have a choice…and I got going.

About an hour later, the road climbed a little and the extreme heat dissipated slightly. I stopped again at a rest stop to soak my shirt with water, put more sunscreen on, and stretch. It turns out it was 110 (I knew it had cooled off!) You know it’s bad when you are relieved that the temperature is a mere 110 instead of 120. That 10 degrees is huge though.

So…I almost died… which is becoming not unusual in my adventures with Keith.

(I am using poetic license in exaggerating my near death experience because I can now use it as blackmail against Keith…it’s what he and I do to each other)

The next morning in Bakersfield, CA we woke, got breakfast and headed out, we were a couple hours from the coast.

It was hot, but not brutal. As we approached a mountain chain, the sand and rocks turned to brown scrub… and scrub turned to a brown scrub with some green…then to a yellow grass, and then, out of nowhere, it turned to groves of almonds trees and tomatoes and fruit trees.

There was a moment when Keith’s red Camaro was ahead of me in a fruit grove and the moon was still visible just over the mountain range ahead of us….I pulled out the camera and took a shot from the bike. 2016-07-23 09.15.47

In that moment, I saw that I had a text. Paige had sent me a text to call her immediately…I knew that meant something bad.

I pulled to the edge of the road and called Paige. She had some shocking news that struck me to the core…one of my close buddies had passed away from a heart attack earlier that morning. Kam Tarkington, a good friend to me and so many others was gone…1 week before his 42 birthday.

I wept for a moment over the gas tank of my bike. It’s one of those moments that you know you will never forget….the moment a great friend ceases to be someone you know, to someone you knew. Something deep in your heart breaks at that moment and you know the world, and the world of your friends, will never be the same and a Kam shaped hole is punched in your heart forever.

I wept for a moment and Keith and I stopped for a while so I could get myself together so that we could continue. Kam’s journey had ended but mine had to continue.

As we left the groves, we headed into the mountains that turned and challenged us with dangerous curves and beauty that I have never seen before. A distance just north of LA, we emerged from the mountains to turn onto the Pacific Coast Highway. I’m not sure that I’ve ever experienced the beauty of the coast like this before. To engage with the environment, the sea, the sky, the crashing waves, the different blue colors, the butt pucker of riding along cliffs high above the ocean, and the cool merciful drop of the the temperature from 110 to 75 that takes place within a couple miles of the coast….words and pictures cannot express the beauty and breath of life to your soul that comes from such a ride that is heightened by the hell you just came through. It was soul filling and heart breaking at the same time as emotions crashed against my heart, soul, and spirit.

The parallel of what was happening to me struck me with the strong but gentle way as God overlaid His will and vision over a painful situation almost immediately.

As I was struggling to pass through the desert, as I was dying in the heat, the oppression, the exhaustion…fighting through pain and struggle…my friend had struggled through this life like we all do. As I had passed through my valley of death to the ocean of life…

….Kam passed through his.

In this emotional storm, there was also a peace about it.

The bible says that the mind has not seen, nor mind can comprehend what lies ahead for those who serve Christ. Similar to my journey, we go through the desert, not understanding how things will look, how our world will change once we come out of the valley. While we suffocate in the desert, we cannot comprehend the beauty and refreshment of standing on the shore of the ocean with the merciful coolness soothing our mind. The sun that we thought was unrelenting or unkind in the desert….is actually majestically beautiful and warming as it sets in the ocean.

I don’t know what happens when we cross over, but I caught a mental glimpse of it…and I know that he’s standing on the edge of the ocean far away from our desert, and I’m ok with that. Where he is standing there is no more heartache, no more pain…no more loneliness or depression. No more struggling with the brokenness of this world.

I am still in the desert…still in this world with it’s ‘heat’ and struggle and war…and I want my buddy to be here with me. He was a comfort, he was a brother, he lived beside me in the trenches of spiritual warfare, he encouraged me, he lifted me up, he rode with me, he broke bread with me, worked beside me, he constantly prayed for me, for my wife…he spent vacations and weekends and motorcycle trips and work details and Man Camps with me….and he will join me no more in any of this…he will not join us anymore, but we will go to where he is and join him.

In the desert here, we will miss him.

But Kam has stepped into eternity…his days in the desert are over.

 

I will be at peace with that.