I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope - which is what I do. And that enables you to laugh at life's realities.
-Theodor Seuss Geisel
so i had an encounter the other day that i want to share. i feel like my life has been a series of crazyness since last march/april when i left california and returned to the east coast. i have often felt unsettled, rootless, sometimes friendless. in the last few months i have been SO fortunate to finally settle into what you could loosely call a "routine", and i am SUPER thankful for that. but often with routine comes a level of comfort, and of self-centeredness. those things aren't always necessarily bad/negative, but they can often form blinders to others/other things that are not in the bounds of our normal "routine". earlier this week , i had a reminder of a conviction of mine.
when i lived in san francisco, i was surrounded by homeless/low-income folks every day. it was an interesting transition to living in an area with such a wide diversity of incomes, rather than just "encountering" it from time to time in visits to various locales. i think this is important -- engaging situations on a regular basis, in order to integrate our responses into how we live. then they are less "individual acts" and more "actions" that make up who we are.
so i got a deep-fryer for christmas, largely in response to my desire to make my own buffalo wings. i could eat wings all day every day for the rest of my life. accompany them with Magic Hat #9 -- that's my vision of heaven. anyways. so i've got the deep fryer, but i hadn't gotten any oil for it yet, nor any chicken to try my hand at wing-making. so on my way home from work at rutgers the other day, i'm at a stop light in new brunswick, and there's this little grocery store called C-Town. they had some of their weekly ads up on their windows, and one of them was for gallons of corn oil -- so i pulled over to a meter.
now, i would describe new brunswick as a "small city". and in this small city, there is a wide variety of ethnicities as well as income levels. there are often various people standing around in front of businesses, on street corners, at all hours of the day. so i get out of my car, and as i'm walking toward the entrance of the store, i am approaching two men who are standing on the street corner. i make eye contact with one of them and we say hi, and he follows up with "hey man, can you spare a dollar?". now, as it's been a while since i've left san francisco where i encountered this daily, so i was taken off guard a bit and found myself about to give the (unfortunately) typical response of "sorry man". but i caught myself, and instead, offered to buy him something in the store (which was one of the practices i did in san fran). i then noticed that HE was then taken off guard a bit; he then paused, and said, "yea, i'd really like a pepsi". i said i'd be right back out. i wondered if he thought i'd actually be back or not. i come back out of the store bearing a 20oz. bottle of pepsi, hand it to him, and introduce myself. he says thank you, introduces himself as charles, and i head to my car.
so i am thankful for reminders -- reminders of what our convictions are, especially in times that we have grown "comfortable" with our routine. i hope that you are able to sometimes find these reminders as well -- reminders that it's not about self, but about spreading something that looks a little out of the ordinary.
so i’ve been meaning to put out a general life update for awhile now – but have neglected to do so. forgive me. it has been a long fall. one of the things i didn’t enjoy about california was the absent changing-of-seasons – because i think the changing of the natural seasons coincides with the cycles of life. it has been nice to be back in the northeast for this reason. and i have had an interesting cycling of this past summer—fall—winter. allow me to share (obviously, you are at least a tad bit interested if you’re still reading)...
i left my job in california last spring largely due to the fact that i felt a bit hopeless at the church where i was employed – i didn’t feel like my efforts were going toward a larger vision of kingdom-building within the context of this particular church. and i need a team alongside me where we are slugging it out together. and since the work environment there was challenging and (in my opinion) a bit unhealthy, i chose to be another youthworker-leaves-after-18-months statistic. and if you know me, you know how much i hate to be a part of the status quo – so this should tell you how much effort i poured into my decision to leave. then i roadtripped to my heart's content (you can find the details at the beginning of this blog), which was a SUPER-healthy decision that afforded me great decompression and processing time. i then landed in NJ to spend a little time with my brother, and to await another summer at LaVida. this was my spring.
summer commenced in the great adirondack mountains of NY state, beginning another stint with Gordon College’s LaVida outdoor ministry. i led rock climbs, the ropes course, tried to keep our buildings standing and the plumbing flowing, and attempted to remain healthy within an another intense community experience. if you’ve never lived any longterm challenge with others, then a) i don’t know what planet you’re living on, b) i suggest you find an opportunity to do so, and c) i think you will thank yourself, even if it is (it will be) the hardest thing you have ever done. and i've done 4. a summer at LaVida’s basecamp will push on EVERY emotion you could ever possibly imagine, will beat you into humble submission, and often drag you kicking and screaming toward an understanding of what it means to live out grace. phew – it gets my mind racing just thinking about. but i am thankful for the experience. i think my time as a whole-summer-LaVida-staff-member is done, but i hope to continue my involvement with LaVida for a long time to come. it is the most powerful ministry i have ever been a part of. this was my summer.
going into the fall, i had (sort of) intentionally made no plans, in order to allow God to talk me through what might be next. i realize now that this was not the most practical of considerations, especially as someone who has a couple hefty loan payments still being posted on monthly basis. i should have secured at least SOME sort of job. i ended up in vermont with my parents – and BEING there was perfect. i had lazy mornings with coffee, my dad, my thoughts, and good books. but with the economy taking a nosedive, places like rural vermont are the ones taking the brunt of it. i couldn’t even get crappy $8/hr. jobs. i truly feel for the people of new england – i experienced it. i would say i went through some of the most intense battles with self-loathing that i have ever suffered. 2 degrees, tons of great experience, a lot of (i think) potential, and i was sitting unemployed in my parents house looking for minimum wage jobs that i wasn't getting. talk about humility. i eventually made a spot-decision to head down to NJ, to at least place myself in a better position to find a gainful income. within A DAY i reconnected with my old boss at rutgers, and a day later i was down there talking with them about a job. the week after that, i reconnected with a good friend at my old home church, and we talked about a worship-support position. i started both jobs within two weeks. can we say thankfulness? i know i can. my boss at rutgers is probably the best boss i’ve ever had – and the position is C-U-S-H-Y cushy. i’m basically someone who sits around and waits for any calls about problems with classroom audio/video issues. and it’s kind of cool having more of a side-door/background church position. i’ve committed to both positions thru may, which gives me some present stability, while affording me a bit of a “deadline” to be discerning some next steps.
also this fall, i got to speak at a high school youth retreat at Johnsonburg the weekend before thanksgiving. i had previously done a couple during my final year at seminary. it was a really great weekend – a cool ministry opportunity. and i got some great encouragement from a couple of folks in attendance. and the best part? i met a girl. a phenomenal woman. she was a small-group leader at the retreat, and she pursued me from minute one. it was pretty amazing. she’s an incredibly gifted artist – check her out: Lauren Scott. this was my fall.
so here i stand – in NJ, living with my brother, beginning a new relationship, being an audio/video geek, thankful, hopeful, happy – pleased for this winter season to dream and pray about what is to come, while joyfully soaking up where i’m at. while this is a relatively impersonal update, i would love to hear a personal update from your end [presuming that i know you (: ]. blessings wherever you’re at...