Entry 87: Wonder

Before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m going to need you to reread that title. Because we aren’t talking about curiosity or a question that starts with “I wonder what…” We are talking about awe.

Have you ever met somebody that you found to be incredibly cool? The kind of person that just astonished you. From the moment you met them you couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing they were. Why aren’t you more like them. Maybe they had amazing stories or were ridiculously talented.

I’ve always been fascinated by this idea. What makes characteristics about somebody so intoxicating? Is it wrong to desire these attributes? I thought about writing about these questions, but I’m not going to, because at the end of the day, it’s not that important.

I’m reminded of a picture I’ve seen in several versions. All of them include Jesus surrounded by super heroes, famous people, or important historical figures. Each character, who is already fascinating in their own right, is staring up in awe at Jesus. And out of the mouth of Jesus is a little word bubble that says, “…And that’s how I saved the world/turned water into wine/created the universe.”

No matter what it is that makes us marvel, it pales in comparison to what He made possible. You can be caught up in fascination or being the Most Interesting Man in the World, that’s fine. But don’t forget about the truly wondrous things that have been done and who did them.

Entry 86: More than Fine

How many of us have the tendency to temper ourselves? Perhaps we do it naturally without even thinking. In order to explain, allow me to ask you a question. When you woke up this morning and prepared to do whatever it is that you do, what was your state of mind? Were you annoyed that you had to go to work? Were you excited? More likely you were just ‘meh.’ Today was another day.

I am equally guilty, but why do we do this? In all honesty, we have no idea what the day will hold and that in and of itself is kind of exciting. Nevertheless, many of us remain unmoved. How’s the day going to go? Probably fine…

Unfortunately, I’ve caught myself taking this one step further. In November of 2015, I prepared to realize an exciting dream with mellowed temperance. I made an actual effort to tell myself that this day would probably not be as exciting as I thought it could be. On this day, I was visiting Middle Earth, and more specifically, The Shire.

As a massive nerd for Lord of the Rings, this should have been a pretty big deal. For whatever reason, though, I felt a need to tell myself that today would be just fine, not great mind you, fine. After all, I wouldn’t want to get too excited and end up disappointed.

How often, on an average day, do we unconsciously tell ourselves the day will be… fine? Most likely, there are a few too many days when we don’t have to. We need to shake off this temperance, this muted version of our own personalities.

Fortunately, on this day in Middle Earth, my calmed emotions fell away from me as I ran through the rocky gates of The Shire screaming about having an adventure. My temperance unconsciously fell away as I accepted that this day was going to be absolutely stunning and that I was living the adventure.

What would it feel like to have just a sliver of that excitement about each day? What would it look like if we got excited about the day’s potential. How different would today have been if you started with the idea that something great (if even just maybe) occur? Screw temperance, today is going to be magnificent.

Entry 85: I Have (some) Idea...

Almost a year ago I wrote an entry called “I Have No Idea…” Needless to say, it has been a fascinating year with immense amounts of learning. Because of the various the various changes that have occurred since then, it only seems appropriate to update this entry. Allow me to update my mental state: I sort of have some idea...

Congratulations to me, I am an “adult!” I’m still figuring out what that means. In April of 2016 I was a dual degreed college graduate working at a coffee shop. Though I was having a lot of fun, I wasn’t exactly progressing how I wanted. Fast forward a year, I have moved back to my home state of Ohio. After 6 years of university interlaced with extended travel to various exotic locations, this is one place I never intended to return to. Nevertheless, as I drove back towards Ohio in August of 2016, I knew I was fortunate to return with the experiences and opportunities of past and future.

I think back to April, attempting to take my own advice: “The truth is that I have no idea where I will be in six months. Is it terrifying? A little. Is it exciting? Yes, extremely, because He does and I know that it will be exactly where I am supposed to be.” Perhaps I was being a bit idealistic at the time, but now I’ve found out that I was actually right. Most likely this was divine intervention and nothing to do with myself.

So here I am, though more than 6 months later. I’m (almost) confident that I’m where I need to be. And though Ohio used to seem like the antithesis of progress, it has actually been quite an adventure so far. Though I am constantly impatient for what comes next, I am also learning to enjoy the present. The fact that I am constantly thinking about things I want or want to happen not only motivates me, it reflects the fact that I have the fortune of spending time thinking about what I want, not what I need. The more I have thought on this, the more I realize that these thoughts and feelings of impatience are some of the greatest indicators to how lucky I am.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34.

Entry 84: Flight Plan

It seems to me that some things in life should be certain. When I go to sleep, I want wake up in the same place. If I turn on the faucet, clean water comes out. And if I’m on a plane, it lands at its destination without cause for concern. What’s funny (and often what’s not) is that these things I wish to be certain enjoy their uncertain state more frequently than I would prefer.

Last year I got on a plane in Los Angeles destined for Sydney, Australia. As is normal with any flight, I expected to arrive at the destination. This seems fair right? After all, if I found that I wouldn’t make it to my destination beforehand, my imagination would run wild mostly with negative outcomes. You know, death, destruction and a surprisingly gruff airhostess yelling brace for impact. Nevertheless, my flight did not and could not reach its destination. At least not at first.

I’d been on this flight at least half a dozen times before. Flying to Sydney from LA almost felt normal, but this flight hadn’t been quite as pleasant. Turbulence has a way of losing its ‘fun factor’ sometime after the first hour of inconsistent air density. Somewhere near the middle of the flight, our pilot came on over the loud speaker. Now I don’t want to paint this story as if there was any sort of mass panic or chaos, but no matter the delivery, it’s hard not to feel a bit helpless when your pilot says that you cant make it to Australia with the current fuel reserves.

It’s also hard not to question how well plane rafts actually work, how strong of a swimmer you truly are, or if you truly understand the contents of the safety handout despite not reading it since the first time you entered a plane. I mean I know it’s bumpy, but should I get up and start doing some stretches before we go in the pool?  Luckily, the situation was even less catastrophic than the pilot had calmly stated. In fact, this alternative sounded kind of fun.

“We will be landing in Fiji to refuel.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

Several hours a few gallons of jet fuel later, I was back in the air delighting in how disrupted my flight plan had become. This actually happens to me quite often. I’m sure other people think I’m a bit off, but I actually get really excited when something has gone wrong.

Sure, it can be nerve-racking, or down right scary, but it can also be fun. Out of nowhere you are thrust into a new experience in which you could not have possibly placed yourself. If you’re really lucky it’s an overly brief trip to a tarmac in Fiji. 

More often than not, it’s at least good story. All this for an off-chance upset to your routine.

It seems to me that without these little upsets we would miss out on a whole lot of life. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe that if everything went exactly as we thought it would, most of us would be so deeply stuck in a rut that we wouldn’t be able to see over the edges.

Take these little hiccups in stride. Be thankful for the flat tires and the road closures.  Praise the disruptions.

Entry 83: A Fool's Errand

Christmas 2012 was unique. For the first time ever, I would be out of the country for the holidays. Fortunately, the French believe in Christmas and actually do it quite well. Nevertheless, my dorm room in France was less than festive. My roommate Jonathan and I hadn’t gone out of our way to put up lights or even cut up some paper snowflakes. Within our room it was business as usual.

On a rainy December day, Jonathan and I took notice. This lack of decorations was unacceptable. We didn’t want to be those guys. As a matter of fact, we took pride in being overly extravagant when it came to room decorating, having spent the better part of a year living in an overly crowded Tibetan forest styled room in 2011.

Based on this precedent, we decided to take quick action. The heavy afternoon rain did not deter us as we carved a path up the mountain in search of a tree.

As we drew closer to a small outcropping of trees, the rain turned into lightening and heavy wind. Armed with only a pocket knife, we precariously crouched on the steep and soaked terrain chipping away at the base of our perfect tree. The slow progress was made ever more frustrating by the heavy storm, but determination and will kept us going.

By the time the small tree finally fell, we were soaked through and through and our return path was made even more difficult by the six-foot pine we now carried. With joy in our hearts, we snuck across campus until we had reached the back of our dormitory. Here we faced a new challenge; how to sneak a tree into a dormitory with one entrance.

As a matter of fact, we faced several new challenges. Mainly these consisted of: how to get the tree inside, where to put it in our small dorm room, where to get tree decorations, how to clean up sap off our floor, how to keep the tree from immediately dying, how to make it stand up straight, how not to get in trouble for cutting a tree down, how to remove the tree, and so on. Our plan, though powered by determination, had not been well thought out. In a last ditch effort, we chose to hide the tree beside the dorm until we returned with a better plan.

To make this long story a little shorter, we never returned.  We’d had what you can fairly call, a bad idea.

This is the point where I tell you that this isn’t exactly a Christmas story; it’s just a story about bad ideas. It is easy to tell somebody to stay determined or to defy adversity. However great these qualities are, they don’t much matter if you are on a fool’s errand. As the new year approaches I want to encourage you to stay determined and defy adversity, but also to make sure you know what you are pursuing and why you are doing it. Take a second to make a plan, preferably one that doesn’t rely on shear willpower and no brains. Don’t waste your determination and will on an errand made by a fool. 

Entry 82: A Tale Worth Telling

Photo taken in Hong Kong

Photo taken in Hong Kong

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway.”

 - J.R.R.Tolkien

I can admit that I am a bit of a Lord of the Rings nerd. (Secretly, I have several blogs stashed in the background that pertain to LOTR, but I want to space them out so I don’t seem too crazy.) Over the years, various points have been taken out of the movies to prove different points about God, the battle of good vs. evil, or the almost exclusive reason most people visit New Zealand.

All of the aforementioned goodness aside, I feel as if one of the most important messages of the story has been left in the background. This is likely due to the fact that it is only truly mentioned in one brief quote… one of many that didn’t make it into the films.

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway.”

I know that I am guilty of daydreaming of various adventures. The kind of adventures that take you to far away places and give you new experiences. I always find myself wondering why I don’t actually end up in those situations. This quote doesn’t make my excuses any more valid, but it helped me to understand. Getting into real, true adventures isn’t easy. Often it means leaving from a place of familiarity to a place that is sometimes uncomfortable or even gruesome. We romanticize adventure for its brief moments of glory, forgetting the arduous hours it took to achieve the moment.

So why don’t I find myself falling into escapades? Maybe it’s because I drive the same roads every day or because I don’t talk to strangers. Maybe I don’t want to take the time for a caper. Perhaps I simply don’t take enough advice from wizards…

It is easy to be comfortable. It is quite nice to settle for things that are good to have and days that are good to spend, but they are soon told about and forgotten.

Now how to end this? Most of the world will never step out to find that true, palpitating part of life and be good people all the same. But, will I? Will I place myself on the edge? Will live a story worth telling? Will I suffer the struggle in order to do something life changing?

Entry 81: I Will

Photo taken in Minnesota, USA

Photo taken in Minnesota, USA

Location: U.S.A.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

- Howard Thurman           

I will love.

I will not forget that this world is made of real people.

I will not complain about problems without trying to create a solution.

I will continue to learn.

I will work harder.

I will always be an American.

I will create.

I will remember our history.

I will be specific.

I will learn from past mistakes, other’s or my own.

I will not fear.

I will vote.

I will not leave just because people don’t agree with me.

I will do unto others as I would have done unto me.

I will share.

I will accept you.

I will open my door.

I will do better.

I will not sit back and wait for the world to change.

I will not usher in evil so Jesus can come back.

I will leave the world better than I found it.

I will daydream.

I will be ruthless with my kindness.

I will make it count.

I will endure.

I will be still.

I will take action.

I will be a peacemaker.

I will come alive.

Entry 80: El Picacho

Photo taken on El Picacho in Panama

Photo taken on El Picacho in Panama

Location: Sorá, Panama

“Whoa, how do we get up there?”

Our eyes immediately fell upon the highest peak we could find. El Picacho towered over the rest of the hilly terrain. It didn’t take but 2 minutes for us to decide that the summit was our goal for the week. None of us knew how to get there, how tall it was, or if it was dangerous or safe. Nevertheless, after those two minutes, it was decided.

Something that nags at me is the fact that if I was alone, I could have shrugged it off. El Picacho didn’t have to be a big deal to me. If it would have become a big hassle to get to the top then I probably would have dropped it. Fortunately, Aris and Emmanuel - my fellow travellers for the week, weren’t going to drop it so easily. To those guys, seeing was achieving. There was never a question of if we were going to make it.

Our plans were quickly spread amongst the neighbors in an attempt to find the surest route. Several discouraged the steep climb, but one suggested a guide. Early one morning, she took the liberty of calling a friend who could take us up. Peter, who we soon met, agreed to take us to the top if we could leave in fifteen minutes. The three of us weren’t close to ready to go, but it was now or never.

Fifteen minutes later, Peter pulled up in his car as we shoved water bottles into our packs and laced our shoes. The hike ended up being a scramble through the jungle over loose dirt and rocks. The humidity hit us instantly, but the sweat was well worth it at the breezy summit. From the top we looked out over the foggy hills.

In three days our idea became a reality. A mountain I’d never heard of four days ago in a country I had no plans of being in four weeks before. Often times we have no clear vision of which mountains we will be climbing or where we will face them. The challenge might be a welcome one or dreaded. The fact is when you see it you have to face it. Fortunately, I had a couple of guys with me who were driven to face the challenge and because of them, I’ve seen a new mountaintop with new rocks under my feet. El Picacho: seen and achieved. 

Entry 79: Purple

Photo taken in Paris, France

Photo taken in Paris, France

Location: Paris, France

“It only lasts a few days.”

I’m ashamed to say that I definitely believed that lie. Not that the end result was devastating, but I definitely got conned by choosing to believe a this statement.

Has a doctor ever told you that ‘this won’t hurt a bit’? Did you secretly know that he/she was lying, but chose to believe it anyways to make yourself feel better? Is it possible that sometimes we choose to believe lies because we want some form of justification, something that would make us feel better? In the case of the doctor, it’s a mental game that keeps us calm. Other times, it can be a little more damaging.

During a short trip to Paris in 2011, I believed the lie that “it” would only last a few days, no big deal. Maybe I really did believe it or maybe I just wanted to do something dumb and justify it by blaming somebody else. Either way, by the end of the night it didn’t matter, a short tuft of my hair had been dyed purple.

I no longer blame anybody for my punk rock purple tuft besides myself. Nevertheless, I believe there is a question within this story that I want an answer to. What else do I choose to believe that isn’t true?

I’m don’t plan on providing any other examples beyond my formerly purple hair, because I think everyone has a different answer. It’s an answer that we should all spend more time thinking about. Do we take the time to believe what is true and honest or do we believe the easy lie in search of justification? 

Choosing to be blinded by small and seemingly insignificant lies can shape our reality. Little by little these small justifications hinder our view of what is true and honest, creating a distilled version of our true world. Closing our eyes to the reality of how blessed we are, what we need versus want, what is truly right and wrong, who our friends are, or where true beauty lies are all little things that bend our reality and takes it further away from God’s intention for our lives.

My choice in Paris didn’t ruin any realities, but what else do we choose to believe that is more important than a couple months of purple hair? I suppose what I’m telling myself through all this is to be conscious of what I hear and accept as truth. I do this for a couple of reasons, one, I want to consciously look upon the world I live in and two, I like my hair the way it is. 

Entry 78: Waffles

Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium

Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium

Location: Brussels, Belgium & Ohio, USA

I Love Waffles. I’ve taken pictures of waffles (see above), made videos about waffles (check it here), and hosted waffle and pancake parties across the U.S., France, and New Zealand (I promise to invite you to the next one). Before you begin to question my sanity in writing a blog entirely about waffles, allow me to explain.

Some time ago I would have described myself as a waffle liker, not a lover. After a short trip to Belgium in 2011, I changed my mind. To avoid talking solely about breakfast food in this entry, I will refrain from a full description. Let’s just say there is a reason they call it the Belgian Waffle. This entry, however, doesn’t have as much to do with Belgium as it does with the aforementioned locations, most recently Ohio.

Near downtown Cincinnati, I gathered with several friends at a Belgian restaurant; I’ll let you guess what I ordered. After the meal I had a brief conversation about my blog with another member of the table. I joked about running out of ideas and stories, mentioning how my next blog would probably have to be about waffles. I had no true intention of actually writing that blog, but then I started to think.

One of the main reasons I am so fond of waffles, beyond their obvious taste appeal, has to do with the memories that I have attached to them. For me these Belgian delicacies have become as much of a community activity as they have a food.

I had a few reservations about moving back to Ohio. I only knew so many people and despite having moved much further away on other occasions, figuring out who my community or group will be is always a little unnerving. But as I sat at the table with several new and old friends at I wasn’t worried about any of that. We were having a wonderful time. The current emotions we were feeling didn’t have as much to do with the food as they did with the community. The waffles obviously helped, I’d go as far as to say that they were the main draw.

In truth, however, the only thing that waffles did was facilitate a time and space where a group of people could be a part of a community. To be fair, I love anything that helps me draw closer to people. It can be food, an activity, almost anything. Finding a strong community is what builds us up and provides us with support. It gives us somewhere to run to or somewhere to let our guard down and relax. If you seek community you will find a sanctuary; and if you’re lucky, that sanctuary will also provide waffles. 

Entry 77: Underrated

Photo taken in Pompeii, Italy

Photo taken in Pompeii, Italy

We talk a lot about Jesus in church. He’s probably on the top of your list of favorite Bible characters. But we always talk about the same stories. Jesus did a lot of amazing things, but we seem to forget about a few. Because of this I’ve decided to compile a short list of underrated Jesus moments.

Fashioning a Whip (John 2):

Everyone knows the story of Jesus growing angry with merchants in the temple. We usually go as far as to describe how he overturned tables and spilt money over the floors. The Bible even uses exclamation points (meaning was he yelling???). But when we tell the story in Sabbath school we often breeze over the fact that Jesus made a whip to hasten the evacuation of sheep and cattle from the temple. Personally, I’ve always assumed we did this for the benefit of the young boys who would love nothing more than to recreate this particular Bible charade, but I’ve often found that many adults have forgotten about this small but intriguing act of Jesus.

Feeding the 4,000 (Matthew 15):

No, that’s not a typo. Mankind loves big numbers, so it’s no wonder that we often forget that Jesus fed more than one large group of people. The feeding of the 5,000 takes place in Matthew 14, the following chapter we have the story of the 4,000. Perhaps we are also more interested in the story of the 5,000 because Jesus had even less bread (5 loaves instead of 7) to feed more people. The feeding of the 4,000 is interesting, however, because it also happened to take place in a non-Jewish region (the 5,000 were likely almost entirely Jewish). Though we often emphasize the story of the woman at the well, we glide on by the fact that Jesus likely fed 4,000+ Gentiles through this miracle.

Paying Taxes with a Fish (Matthew 17):

This might be my favorite underrated act of Jesus. I’ve written before about how I appreciate Jesus’ quick wit and ability to turn a phrase, but this might top all them all. In the story, collectors in Capernaum approach Peter. These collectors ask if Jesus pays taxes. Peter insists that Jesus does, but when he goes to his teacher, Jesus insinuates that perhaps he is not required to. Before Peter has time to respond, Jesus adds that though he may not feel required to do so, he would prefer to not stir up trouble. It is here that Jesus tells Peter to go fish in the lake and to pay the tax with the coin he finds in the soon to be caught fish’s mouth. Jesus essentially decides that paying the tax is unnecessary, but that he will pay it anyways because He’s Jesus and has an odd sense of divine humor that allows him to pull coins out of a fish.

So there you go. Perhaps a few things you didn’t remember about Jesus, or at least hadn’t thought about recently. Come to find out He was a pretty interesting guy and, no matter how much we talk about Him, definitely underrated.

Entry 76: Lemon

Photo taken in Nashville, TN

Photo taken in Nashville, TN

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

 - Art Linkletter

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

            We have all heard this saying a thousand times. Personally, I think there is a fundamental problem with this saying. It forces us to keep looking for the lemons, keeping us from committing to a failure. I don’t want to constantly look for lemons, seeking the problems in life and then working for a silver lining. I simply want to live my best life without wasting time examining if my present situation is a lemon or not.

            A lemon represents failure. As humans we are so ashamed of failure, we feel as if we must fix it. We invest into our current situations with such fervor that we refuse to cut ties. It is as if we work so hard towards a goal only to find out that we got lemons. Up until this point, we’ve done a great job. We tried something new and we failed. On the occasions that we can tinker with our method to create a better outcome, we make lemonade. However, we often are so ashamed of our failings that we try to force make lemonade. We add sugar, water, more sugar in the vain attempt to not have failed. Only later do we realize that we’ve been squeezing a rock that’s been painted yellow.

            Like many young men, I loved the idea of being a guitar player. At one point in my life, I decided it was time to learn. I bought a guitar, an amp, and lessons. Despite my enthusiasm early on, I quickly realized that playing the guitar wasn’t my thing. I didn’t enjoy practicing the guitar like I did other things. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to continue playing from time to time, but mostly letting my guitar gather dust in the corner only playing the one song I knew when there were people around. Even still, I kept the guitar. I had already invested time and money into lessons and to sell it would mean that I had failed. Eventually, I came to realize that this “failure” wasn’t negative; it was simply my choice to focus on other things. So I stopped trying to make lemonade out of my strongly lacking guitar skills. I sold the guitar and started focusing more on the things I actually wanted. Now, I can leave the music to the musicians. I can gladly say that I don’t play the guitar and I’m ok with that.

            It’s important to open your eyes to a silver lining, but there doesn’t always have to be one. Sometimes, making the best of your situation means cutting your losses and shifting your focus. Making the best of your situation often doesn’t involve lemonade and failure isn’t always a bad thing.

            There are several quotes that focus on failure. If you haven’t failed, then you haven’t tried anything new, anything hard, anything beyond your present self, etc. Failure isn’t a sign that you’ve lost; it’s a sign that you tried something new. I am glad that I tried to learn how to play the guitar. I’m also very happy that I sold it.  Don’t afraid to have failed. Time already lost is not a reason to invest more. Be big enough to admit that maybe, just maybe, you’re ok with throwing away your lemon and making the something entirely new. 

Entry 75: The Long Haul

Location: USA, Fiji, Australia, & New Zealand

“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

- Warren Buffett

            I’ve gone on a lot of long flights. A few of the trips that I’ve been on have taken more time in the air (or road) than they provided with actual time at the destination. I’m sure that many people think these trips are foolish or unnecessary, but I have always found them to be well worth the effort.

            The most recent example I can provide was my July trip to New Zealand. I was there just under 7 days but traveled over the course of 5 days to get there and back. My flights were long and not without various problems in no less than 4 different countries and 8 airports. Nevertheless, when I tell people where I recently was they still manage to give the “wow” response along with their dreams of going. Shortly after this I have to mention that in NZ I did not participate in any of the standard attractions that it provides. There was no bungee jumping, no epic hiking or Lord of The Rings exploration. These facts are often met with dismay. “Why would you go that far and not do anything?” Why would I willingly choose to deal with all the troubles of traveling without taking advantage of what many would describe as the most important things at the destination? At times, during the excessively long flights, I begged the same question.

            In truth, I had a fantastic time in New Zealand without any of the aforementioned activities. I spent much of my time socializing, eating with friends and, oh, I went to a wedding. My trip was entirely for the purpose of 2 people. All the hassle was for a few important hours with a couple of very important people in my life.

            Many of the things that we describe in life as hard aren’t overly difficult; they just take time. Other times, those problems aren’t overly hard, but the result will not arrive for years to come. Despite my best efforts, I often have a difficult time seeing this in my daily life. I can hardly ever decide if it is worth it to drive an extra half hour to go on a new hike or if I should plan ahead instead of just seeing what happens.

            Don’t get caught sitting at home when you could be doing something you will remember for the rest of your life. Forget the laziness that keeps you from driving the extra few miles. Resist the temptation to sleep in when you could be seeing a new sunrise. Many of the best things in life only require your time. 

Entry 74: Just Go...

On the hike to the Albert Premier Hut

On the hike to the Albert Premier Hut

Location: Chamonix, France

            The first time I entered Europe was the day I moved to France. Beyond a basic Wikipedia page description and a single year of elementary French, I had no knowledge of what was going on. The term “out of my element” begins to scratch the surface of how I should have felt. Nevertheless, on day one, I stood unfortunately confident in my ability to be a traveler.

            It was the beginning of September. I, along with my good friends Jonathan and Caroline, had just arrived to our new university in France. Over the course of the summer we made plans to arrive early in order to embark on our first adventure before the first day of school. With a vague plan and a rough idea of how to make it a reality, we set out to travel across France from Collonges-sous-Salève to Chamonix. We even managed to convince our friend of 12 hours, Karlie, to join us. And so, overly confident and with wonder in our eyes, we set off.

            Our first “hiccup” came within 20 minutes. Having only vaguely understood the French-spoken directions to the bus stop, we struggled to find the correct location. Even shortly after finding the correct bus stop, we remained unshaken as we struggled to purchase a bus pass from a machine that had similar human characteristics to a disgruntled old lady.

            With our combined French skills and partially completed college educations, we managed to beat the ticketing machine and find a train station. I could delve into equal detail at each transportation stop, but I’ll stop and allow your imagination to apply Murphey’s Law in order to guess at a scenario that will likely be close to the nature of our struggles. With what felt like a whole day later of travel under our belts we arrived in Chamonix, booked a hostel, and slept away the stress and frustration of our poorly planned adventure.

            The following morning we started the next leg of our journey: hiking to the Albert Premier Hut. The hike itself was inspiring. We slowly made our way up the mountain, frequently stopping to look over the Chamonix Valley. It was unlike anything I’d done before. The annoyances of yesterday melted away to the music of cowbells and the blowing of the wind. This bliss carried on for hours.

            Our cherry on top came in the form of the hut. Located overlooking a glacier and the Chamonix Valley, the Albert Premier Hut along with its glorious view, took away any regret that might have been left in my thoughts. From the moment it came into view I knew that I would be left with nothing but positive memories of our first, albeit short, journey in France.

            If I were to have taken the time to think before we set off on our first little adventure, I would have realized how ill prepared and unready we were. A little overconfidence can go a long way. Sometimes, it can be the only thing that causes you to do the thing you aren’t ready for. It also has a knack for putting you in a position to learn through experience.

            You might not be ready for the next challenge. Even if you think you are, there’s a chance you’ll get put in your place. Never let this stop you. Tackle the mountain and go see what’s on top. The challenge is always worth the view. 

Entry 73: Inspiration

Photo taken in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photo taken in Chattanooga, Tennessee

“To be inspired is great. To inspire is incredible.”

            Inspiration is beautiful. The feeling of muse, of being certain of where you want to go is beautiful. Inspiration can take an idea and make it a reality. What makes inspiration? Sometimes, it’s a cold shower or a long run, other times it’s a person. The best part about inspiration is that when you seek it, you accidentally inspire others to do the same.

            You may never know the affect you have on others. You may never see the outcome of their inspiration. You may never be told about how much you changed a life. Nevertheless, you are somebody’s inspiration. You have changed a life. Your passion has planted a seed of passion in someone else.

            There is no need to play at inspiration. Don’t shout quotes from the rooftop, you’ve already done most of the work with your actions. By being inspired you are inspiration. It, like so many other things in this world, is simple. To inspire you must be inspired. 

Entry 72: Handwriting

Photo taken at Norris Lake, Tennessee

Photo taken at Norris Lake, Tennessee

Location: Norris Lake, USA

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting…”  - Ralph Waldo Emerson

            “Do you want to go out and swim at sunrise before we leave?” The question presented by my friend Grace had an obvious answer. No. No, I don’t think that I want to wake up before sunrise just to jump into a cold lake. I would prefer to snuggle into my covers until the last possible minute before we wake up to leave this beautiful little cabin in the woods. I swam in that lake yesterday. Is there any reason that it would be drastically different tomorrow morning?

            Despite my reasonable and well thought out protestations, I still found myself awake before dawn walking to a cold lake while grumbling to myself about how seemingly unnecessary this whole endeavor was. As Grace and I made our way down to the dock I couldn’t help but to admit that the cool morning fog was refreshing. The motionless water was equally inviting as I disrupted its calm with a cautious toe. The water was brisk, but not unbearable.

            With an all or nothing attitude, we both jumped into the water causing waves to run across the lake’s formerly flat surface. As much as I didn’t enjoy being wrong, I had to admit that this was worth it.

            Some of the Earth’s most beautiful offerings are overlooked because of convenience. If there isn’t a road with a parking lot or, in this case, an afternoon alternative then most people fail to see the value of putting in the extra effort. As the kind of person who is attempting growing into the extra effort mindset, I can’t help but be troubled as well as thankful for this truth.

            Many of the special things in this world have held onto their beauty because they have remained untouched, closest to their original form. The stillness of a lake can only be experienced by a few before it no longer exists and the calm of a mountaintop loses its quiet as it is discovered by the outside world. Making the extra effort to see these things provides the opportunity to see God’s handwriting on the pages of this world. 

Entry 71: Going Home

Photo taken in Palmerston North, New Zealand

Photo taken in Palmerston North, New Zealand

Location: 30,000ft Above Sea Level

Few moments share the same exhilaration as stepping onto a plane that could take you anywhere.”

            With a single step from the jetway to the plane the next chapter is made certain. It has been almost exactly one year since I’ve been in New Zealand. This poetic timing doesn’t come close to slipping my mind as I walk to my seat during my last few minutes attached to American soil. It feels long overdue despite the fact that I only called New Zealand home for a single year. As I settle into my seat I can finally acknowledge the feeling as it sinks in. I’m going home.

            At this point, I am sure a few people are thinking that I am being somewhat dramatic and that I hardly have the right to claim NZ as home. You may be thinking that this Ohio boy is simply claiming a foreign land to give himself the assurance that he has done something of interest with his life. Let’s be honest, most of my belongings are still in Ohio and I don’t even live there. Perhaps you are beginning to theorize that I have no right to call NZ home. Please allow me to stop your theory dead in its tracks. This is not a theory. It’s a fact.

            Every year, thousands of wanderlusting young adults move abroad to study or volunteer. In return, everything at home stops and anticipates our return. Right? Or is it that the world keeps on turning and more likely than not our friends and family dread the fact that we are soon to return with tales of our foreign “homes” and “families” that we became so quickly accustomed to?

            I understand that we can be hard to deal with. We come back with romantic thoughts and stories that sound a lot more like the first paragraph of this entry than the reality of 30 hours of flying and oily airplane food. While I will not disagree with the fact that we could be a bit more tactful about our newfound love, I wish to investigate just how different you are.

            No matter how you cut the facts, you cannot argue against the truth that for a single year I lived in New Zealand. Returning to NZ takes me back to that time. It reminds me of something I once had. The fact that young travelers talk about how they weren’t meant for their small town homes may perturb you, but it doesn’t mean they are wrong. Please don’t think us hypocritical. If nothing else, I believe that our brief time in foreign lands has given us an insight into something else, even if we do not realize it.

            As Christians, we constantly talk about how we were not meant for the place where we were born. We were meant to call a different place home. Christians have a knack for romanticizing about how someday we will go to Heaven. A place we comfortably call home despite never having been there and no true concept of where “there” is. And yet, the desire burns inside of us to return.

            I’ve seen Ohio and called it home. I’ve seen Tennessee and called it home. I’ve seen New Zealand and France and I called them home. You’ve never seen Heaven, but you call it home. Well, I’ve never seen Heaven either, but I can’t help but to call it home too.

            We should have no right to call Heaven home, but Jesus declared that he was going to prepare a place for us. Where you were raised does not justify where you belong. The location that holds all your posessions does not own you. The only place you’ve ever been cannot even claim you as its own.

            We are allowed to be a little romantic about Heaven. It’s ok to get so excited that you can’t help but to talk about it. You might say too much or repeat yourself a few times to the same person, but what do you expect? There is nothing like the feeling of going home. 

Entry 70: Fear

Photo taken at Sunset Rock, Chattanooga, TN

Photo taken at Sunset Rock, Chattanooga, TN

“Fear is a state of nervousness only fit for children. Men should not fear. The only thing man should fear is God. To fear anything other than God is to offend God.”

 - Marcus Garvey

            What do you think? Is fear only for children? King David seemed to think so as he wrote the Psalms.

            “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they protect me.”

            How often are you afraid? Perhaps the word children is a metaphor. Those whose faith has not matured often fear in place of revering God’s capacity to be omnipotent. Personally, I find that my faith has the ability to grow to maturity but inevitably clings to its youth.

            This is a short entry. I haven’t figured this out yet, that’s a part of the reason that these are always called Thoughts, not Answers. God is not the only thing I fear and my faith has yet to reach maturity.

           What do you fear?

Entry 69: Opportunity

Photo taken on San Gorgornio Mtn, California, USA

Photo taken on San Gorgornio Mtn, California, USA

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

- John Burroughs

            In my life there is a lot of time wasted waiting for the perfect moment. I am an exceptional daydreamer with an unprecedented ability to conjure dreams of grandeur that will take place when the stars align. For this reason, I am often left waiting and with uncomfortable frequency I find myself begging questions that start with ‘how great would it be if…’ or ‘eventually I will…’ The realization that these things may never happen occurs to me just as frequently and yet I can’t help but to imagine.

            Dreams of grandeur and great intentions are not bad things; in fact I find them to be of the utmost importance. Still, dreams and intentions, however great, are worthless until they are realized. The problem lies in the fact that most of us wait until the opportune moment to do anything at all. It may be true that when you are wildly successful you will start your own charity or even do something as simple as picking up the tab for your friends, but that doesn’t give you the excuse to relinquish all responsibility in the present.

            Many of the kindest acts that I have been a victim of have been small. The people who committed these acts likely wished to do more. What made these people different was not letting this wish to do more stop them from doing what they could. To them the dream to do more wasn’t an excuse to do nothing. Grand intentions without action cannot compare to the value of small deeds that exist in the real world. Do not wait for the stars to align. Do not wait until you can conjure up the grandest gesture. The day may come when you are finally ready, but opportunities are often fleeting and are rarely patient enough to wait for you to be ready. 

Entry 68: Life Like Pablo

Photo taken in Zhangjiajie, China

Photo taken in Zhangjiajie, China

“No man is ever old enough to know better.”

– Holbrook Jackson

            I truly racked my brain to think of the perfect story for this entry. There are endless examples from my life where I did something despite my better judgment. These moments are always justified by asking what life is without a little risk. Whether or not the end result is favorable has never changed the reality. I still haven’t grown old enough to “know better.”

            Along with this knowledge I can’t help but to ask myself if I’m just immature. Perhaps I’m biased, but I don’t think so. Yes, I still like to climb trees, I still live with my best friends from school, and the amount of time since I threw mud at somebody isn’t nearly long enough for me to consider myself a full adult. But I do. Even though I have begun to learn the “rules” I still can’t help but break them.

            One person that set an interesting example for this life philosophy is Pablo Picasso. I’m sure that some people have looked upon Picasso’s work and considered them to be weird or perhaps even childish, some hardly consider his works masterpieces. Nevertheless, Picasso is considered to be an amazing artist because of his ability to change the way we think about art. You acquire a better understanding of the man himself when you listen to his perspective. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

            A theory like this goes right along with Holbrook Jackson’s philosophy. Picasso should have known better than to create in the way that he did; Picasso knew all the “rules” of art. Thankfully however, Picasso created his art to a different set of rules.

            “No man is ever old enough to know better.” Maybe this isn’t reality. Most people do eventually decide to “grow up” by making the choices they are supposed to. I won’t disagree that we should continue to learn and develop, maturing throughout our lives. However, I won’t let this be an argument that causes me to “know better” in every situation.

            Doing things differently than they should be done is the pathway to change. Perhaps you will often do something and think that you should have known better. Don’t. Take the opportunities to ask forgiveness or make amends for your mistakes, but do not be tricked into thinking that doing something in an unconventional way is a medium only reserved for the foolish. The only fools are those who never challenge the conventional.