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 66: WWRD

            Take a minute to describe the character of Jesus. My guess is that you came up with a list of words similar to this:

·      Loving

·      Compassionate

·      Approachable

·      Forgiving

·      Gentle

·      Etc.

            If you have read the Gospels then this is a likely, albeit vague, sense of Jesus’ character. As Christians, one of our constant goals is to adopt these characteristics. To be like Jesus is the Christian emotional equivalent of finding El Dorado. Unlike the forgotten city, we know exactly how to find it. There is a virtual map written in the Bible. Nevertheless, we are terrible at it.

            Apparently, one map (no matter how clearly defined) isn’t enough for us. Perhaps we need more reminders, something a little more tangible than a wristband that shouts WWJD each time you accidentally catch your wrist on a door handle.

            Where can you find an example like that? Who is that loving and forgiving? To be honest, I can think of a substantial list of names who are better at it than I am, but at a Jesus-level of love… not many. As a matter of fact, in seeking out a being that is exceedingly loving, approachable, and gentle, I can think of only one. His name is Rowdy and he’s my golden retriever.

            Before you get too upset, let me be clear that I’m not calling Jesus a dog. I’ve simply come to the recent conclusion that my dog might be better at being like Jesus than I am. Here is my thought process:

Approachable:

            Jesus was the epitome of love on this earth. Though you may not personally know Rowdy, I can assume that you’ve been met a dog of a similar caliber. I can also assume that you have seen children flock to a new dog, showering it with hugs and kisses as it mildly stands accepting all that love and returning it in kind.

            Jesus had a constant following. People loved him because he could be approached. Think about the last time you went up to a stranger on the street. Can you even think of one? Now think about the last time you pet a dog you didn’t know. I rest my case.

Forgiving:

            No matter how long we separate ourselves from Jesus, we can always go back. His forgiveness is continuous. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates this level of forgiveness that is rarely seen or experienced. When I forgive somebody, it has never been with tears of joy. Rather, it is more likely to be with bitterness and even contempt. Rowdy, however, is different.

            I do not get to visit Rowdy very often any more. Usually there are months between my visits. But he doesn’t forget about me, much less does he treat me with contempt upon my return. In fact, he is usually so excited that he cries out with joy. It doesn’t matter that I left him.

Gentle:

            Imagine you encountered a wolf in the woods. Fear would be an acceptable reaction. Now imagine you encountered a dog in the street. Most likely, you wouldn’t have the same reaction. Why? Dogs have the same teeth and claws, but the fact of the matter is, most dogs are quite gentle. I know with full confidence that I could hold my hand in Rowdy’s mouth and never get bitten. Even if I were to try to force him to bite me I would be met with resistance.

            Our God is capable of great and terrible things, yet Jesus was gentle. You could make the point that in the Gospels Jesus went out of his way to form a whip and shouted angrily at the vendors in the temple and you would be justified. But, does a dog not defend his home as well?

            Jesus was not a dog. Equally, my dog is not Jesus. Even if you aren’t seeking to be like Jesus, most people still have the goal to be a better person. That is why WWJD wristbands were such a hit. We want to be better. We want somebody to show us how. I fully believe that as we seek these things we are becoming more accountable to one another.

            But I make mistakes. I do things that are unkind. I do not love. I continue fail. And as I continue to fail and seek new guidance so that I might become a better person, I can’t help but to beg the question. Is my dog more like Jesus than I am?

Entry 62: Lessons from the AT

 Photo by:  Ryan Haas

Photo by: Ryan Haas

Location: The Appalachian Trail, North Georgia

We all have that dream somewhere in our subconscious of quitting the daily grind to disappear. Most of us will never act upon that thought. I’ve always tried to suppress it by making the evenings and weekends my playground. My brother however, gave in to the subconscious a few weeks ago by quitting his job and taking a month away from the world to hike the Appalachian Trail.

I visited him to hike for a few days not long after he started. As always, I took more away from my trip than I brought. The AT gave me an opportunity to reflect while acting as my mentor for a weekend.

Lesson 1: Pack Smart

My personal tendency is to have more than I need, more to eat, more to wear, etc. Yet, these “needs” always take greater consideration when there is 18 miles between you and setting them back down again. When I found Ryan he had already been hiking for 5 days. His first act after greeting me was to empty his backpack of the superfluous. Items such as spare notebooks, bandanas, and headphones clearly did not make the cut. Each choice made sense to me, but I did not truly grasp the reason until I started to carry my own pack. Because I was only hiking for a weekend my pack was much lighter than Ryan’s. Nevertheless, the things that could be labeled as unnecessary only continued to grow as the miles passed by.

There seems to be a grey area, between needs and wants in life. Everything that falls into the grey is immediately categorized as a need. These needs act as added weight that hold us back, weight that sometimes only becomes evident after years of gathering dust. By continuously focusing on what we carry it is easier to distinguish what our needs are.  

Lesson 2: On Going Alone

You can, in fact, you should at times.

Going alone will give you a lot of one thing, silence. Silence is a scarce commodity in our world. Though it sometimes makes me uncomfortable, I also envy the time that Ryan has to reflect. Silence has a way of wrapping itself around you, saturating your mind with thoughts and memories.

There is an Arabic Proverb I love. It says, “Only speak if what you have to say is more beautiful than silence.” This applies to both the silence and the noise. Noise can be beautiful. When friends come to invade your silence, enjoy the beauty. Let friends fill your mind with stories and frivolity. In return you can share your own noise or you can choose to give them some of your silence. The AT offered both to me as I wandered down the 2,181-miles ahead of me.

Lesson 3: The Up and Down

The AT follows the ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia all the way to Maine. While hiking, you will constantly go up and down. Such is the nature of mountains. I learned not to be sad about going uphill because it meant I would soon be going down. In the same way, I realized that the longer I enjoyed the ease of a downhill path the more likely I would soon face the alternate and equal challenge of an uphill battle.

Life offers the same battles. There will be times of hardship and times of ease. When the hard times come, anticipate the downhill and how it can be used to fight the next battle.

The Verdict

I cannot claim expertise on long distance hiking; I only claim these small lessons that the Appalachian Trail will quickly offer to anybody who comes to learn. The great gift of nature is insight. The more time you give to nature the more it will give back.

 

If you wish to keep up with Ryan’s hike you can visit him on his Instagram and on his personal website, both of which will soon be filled with greater insights than I have to offer from my brief time on the AT. 

Entry 56: Conditional Copout

Location: Sydney, Australia

“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

- Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

            Good ideas aren’t that hard to come by, it’s finding the effort that’s difficult. How many times have you been with a friend(s) and they said, “wouldn’t it be awesome if we ___________?” The idea is often then met with instant support. That would be a great idea after all. Support, however, is short lived. It will soon be followed up with “but.” But that costs money. But that would take practice. But that would require effort. Being conditional only opens the door for laziness.

            Take a second to think about how many good ideas you’ve watched pass by. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I started practicing guitar every day? Wouldn’t it be fun to plan a camping trip for this weekend? Wouldn’t it be nice to stop eating junk and get in good shape this year? They are all the same. You thought about it, realized it was a great idea, and proceeded, for whatever reason, to not do it. 

            I’m going to make a proposition. Be accountable to your ideas and stop being conditional. Instead of asking wouldn’t it be awesome if, ask a different question: Won’t it be awesome when? Won’t it be awesome when we take that trip? Won’t it be great to run a marathon? And the list goes on.

            In 2013, my friend Jeremy and I started talking. We were sitting in class dreaming of traveling. “Won’t it be awesome when we go to Australia?” we asked. The question had an obvious answer. “It will be.” Each time we talked about our trip to Australia, the conversation always ended with one of us saying, “this is happening.” We may not have even believed that it would, but we were going to fake it until we made it real.

            Fast-forward two years. Jeremy and I are putting on suits and checking our tickets. We had plenty of time before the show started at the Sydney Opera House. Walking through the streets of Sydney, Australia, we would occasionally start to laugh in disbelief. We’d made it. And to answer our own question, yes, it was awesome. It had taken two years to get to Australia. Two years of collecting pennies, midnight phone calls, and convenient visa expirations to get us to Australia. Nevertheless we had arrived and a long term goal had been conquered. 

            Often, the amount of time it takes to accomplish something is what defines the task as difficult. Going to Australia was not overly difficult, but it did take time. Whatever your goal is, don’t let the amount of time it will take stop you from making that dream a reality. We couldn’t have known that it would take two years to get to Australia. It would have been easy to sit back and wait for an opportune moment, but if we had, we would probably still be waiting. Opportune moments rarely come knocking on your front door. More than likely you will have to, as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson puts it, “kick that b*tch in, smile and introduce yourself.” Time will pass either way, but you get to decide what you do with the time as it passes

            Realizing what your dreams are is sometimes so simple. Paul Coelho wrote, “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Don’t let a fear of failure make you a daydreamer and don’t make it any harder on yourself by adding the idea of impossibility. And when you’ve achieved your goals, you’ll get to answer your question: Won’t it be awesome when…? No, it will be even better. 

 

Entry 51: Beef Jerky with Jesus

 Photo by  Gore Dulume

Photo by Gore Dulume

Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

“The crest and crowning of all good, Life’s final star, is brotherhood.”

– Edwin Markham

            It was a serious learning experience living in a dormitory with 30ish young guys. Some of them loved one another, others hated each other, but they were all brothers. They came from several countries, spoke multiple languages, and had varying backgrounds. All of this was an established dynamic. But then I showed up, the new guy. I had no established credit, I didn’t know anybody, I was “old,” and I was from farther away than anybody else.

            That was a year ago. Now I’m writing this as I take a break from packing my bags. It’s time to leave my kids, my little brothers. What was it that bonded us? What is it that really ties us together as people? I’m still not entirely sure I have an answer to that question, but I think I’ve come close to the mark.

            I didn’t have a gauge to tell how I was doing as a dean. I thought things were going fine, but it was hard to know if I was actually bonding with my guys. I felt like I was shooting blind until I read some comments in the yearbook about five months after I had started. One of my boys in the dorm quoted his most memorable experience from all of high school as making beef jerky with Sir Derek (AKA me). I don’t remember where the idea came to try to make jerky. In all honesty, we didn’t even do a good job. Our valiant effort, which took days, had resulted in overly chewy sticks of teriyaki-flavored beef, a large portion of which was burnt beyond the point of acceptable consumption. Yet, this poor attempt had been one of his best experiences.

            Over the next several months there were many more experiences like this. The boys and I had wars with toy guns, foolish rap battles, and pancakes galore. As we went through our favorite memories of the year, these experiences all topped the charts. They were simple, cheap, and dumb, but they were about us experiencing life together.

            What was it that bonded us? It was the experiences, the memories, the stories we could tell together. The things we best remembered weren’t the parties, the elaborate banquet, or the trips we took. It was the simple things that brought us together, the spontaneous fun that made us close. Experiences made the “you and I” mentality become an “us” mentality.

            The same things bond us to God. Church is great, and so are the elaborately planned services, but what really bonds us is the day to day, the experiences, and the memories of being and acting together as a single unit. In Matthew 28 Jesus says, “… I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He is ready to make memories. He is there to bond, to be spontaneous. Maybe we can’t exactly make beef jerky with Jesus, but the invitation to be together stands and the greater the acceptance, the stronger the ties. 

Entry 44: Patience for Rocky

Location: Utah, USA

            When my brother and I were just kids, my parents took us out to a family reunion in Utah. For us as kids, these reunions weren’t that fun. We liked our cousins and grandparents, but we also had to deal with the dozens of other extended family members we didn’t know pinching our cheeks and telling us how much we’d grown. Neither Ryan nor I was a big fan of this part of the trip and because of it, we made all efforts to stay away and play in the pool or just mess around the hotel. Exploring was good fun and we enjoyed the pool, that is until we found the El Dorado of all child’s play things, an alpine slide.

            This twisting, turning mesh of metal tubes down the mountain was pure joy. I feel bad saying it now, but this part was definitely the best part of our family get together. As we rode up the chair lift, we could see two tracks. This mean that a race between my brother and I was now in the works, the laws of brotherhood basically demanded it. Being the younger brother I had a lot to prove, and being the older brother Ryan had his pride to hold on to, there was a lot at stake for both of us in this race. The bragging rights of winning this race would last at least the whole summer.

            When we got to the top of the mountain we grabbed our karts and made sure to set ourselves up in line so that we would be able to go down the opposing tracks at the same time. Ryan and I positioned our karts at the top of the slides and waited for the signal. As soon as the signal came, we were off, racing down the mountain as fast as we could. I was so focused on my own track that I had no idea whether Ryan was ahead or behind. I hit the banking corners with peak precision (probably not actually). My little brother instincts were kicking in and the desire to beat Ryan at something was much greater than my concern for safety. As I rounded the last turn I couldn’t see Ryan anywhere and I started to get excited. I jumped off my kart and looked back up the track to a glorious sight. Ryan was stuck behind some random guy and his little daughter riding doubles.

            Ryan hopped off his kart and immediately made the argument that it hadn’t been a fair race. I knew he was right, but I had still won and there was no way I was going to let him take that from me. He was furious as he turned back around to the father/daughter couple that had slowed him down. Immediately he softened up and started to stare. I looked as well to see what he was on about and noticed just as quickly. The slow guy that caused Ryan to lose was Sylvester Stallone.

            When we see somebody else pulling ahead of us, it’s so easy to get mad at whatever we feel is slowing us down. But not being in first place doesn’t immediately make you a loser. Who really won on that day? Sure, I won the race, but what did that earn me? I’d like to say bragging rights for the day, but honestly, when we went back to our dad, whose story was better? I won first place on an alpine slide because of a technicality and my brother got second place and angry with Rambo.

            Don’t get so upset at what you feel like is holding you back, take a second to understand your surroundings and realize that some of those things might be adding to the spice of life or at the very least, not worth getting angry over. If you’re patient, you might just find that second place is the perfect place to be.

Entry 38: Expectations

            I recently finished reading the Bible – all of it. I even read Leviticus, so you know I’m serious. After all that reading, I’ve begun to understand why I like the Bible. Sure, I enjoy the proverbs and the prophecies, but what I can really bite into are the stories. I love stories, storytellers, and telling stories. There is something about stories that makes them an effective form of communication; they give me something to relate to.

            The stories in the Bible that I find particularly entertaining always have a main character who has an exceptional lack of understanding about where they are going next. With the exception of Noah, almost none of the major characters in the Bible have a clue what God’s plan is. Take James and John for example. If I were to ask what their life plan was (before they met Jesus), they would probably have said fishing. Fishing was their plan for tomorrow, next week, and the foreseeable future.

            The same idea applies to David, the shepherd, not David the king. At any given point before he was anointed, David would have told me his life plan was to, more or less, watch sheep. David had a plan; God’s plan however was for David to leave the sheep fields, kill a giant, and become a king, all this obviously with a few events scattered in between. There was nothing particularly wrong with David’s plan, but it wasn’t God’s plan. So often, when we tell God that we have a plan, I think that He chuckles. Our plans must be pretty funny to an omniscient God.

            In 2013, I had a plan that I told God all about it. I told God that I was going to

move abroad and become a missionary. However, I had four stipulations.1. I would leave in January 2014 (to best suit my schedule for university).2. I would go to a non-English speaking country, so I could learn a new language. 3. I would need a partner to make things more fun and interesting.4. I would not work with kids or teenagers.

            I set out to look for a dream position that matched my set of four. But I kept coming up with about 25% success. One out of four wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for. Finally, my friend, Courtney, mentioned she was hoping to travel. She had already found a position and was hoping to start in January 2014. This was my best option yet. She was going to New Zealand to work as a boarding dean at a high school. I was still uninterested in working with kids... teenagers seemed too much like wild cards. All the same, two out of four stipulations were met, which was better than any previous openings.

            Eventually, I agreed to go. Courtney and I started to work on getting visas and other applications. We were soon hired and ready to go. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, our January 2014 departure date fell through and our plan moved forward to July. At this point though, I wanted to finalize something. I had been uncertain for over a year, so I bought the plane ticket, having met only one out of four stipulations, or so I thought.

            One day in April, about 3 months before I would leave, my brother Ryan, who was also dating Courtney at the time, walked into our living room and told me that Courtney had just received a job offer. It was a perfect opportunity; the thing was that this job would start in May. Naively, I brushed it off as unfortunate. She couldn’t accept the job since we were both about to move to New Zealand. This is where the conversation became somewhat awkward and Ryan simply said, “Yeah... she’s not going anymore.”

            I flew to New Zealand in July. I had moved about as far away from home as was physically possible, to a place where I did not know a single person. It was July, I had moved from a beautiful American summer to a dreary New Zealand winter. Fortunately, my formerly glorious plan was an epic failure and life did not lead me where I had expected.

            In Jeremiah, Hananiah tells the captive Israelites that he has a plan. God was going to release them from Babylonian captivity in just two years. Everyone was probably rather excited because two years wasn’t that bad when it comes to the average biblical interpretations captivity. Everything is great until Jeremiah steps in and asks Hananiah where he got this plan. Jeremiah goes to the Israelites and tells them Hananiah is wrong and then delivers his famous verse, Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” To the Israelites, this might sound like good news, until Jeremiah couples it with a new, more realistic, timeline. The Israelites hearing this verse we so often quote, had to also come to an understanding that God’s plan to prosper and not to harm, would not take place for 70 years. That meant the people who heard this verse had to come to an understanding that they and their children would likely die as captives. God’s plan sounded a whole lot less fun than Hananiah’s.

            When I moved to New Zealand I wouldn’t say that I was upset to be there, but I wasn’t excited either. My plan had failed, epically. Fortunately, it didn’t take me 70 years to see why I was sent. In 2013, when I was making my epic plan, I had no idea that I would end up moving to New Zealand, alone, in July, to work with kids. At that time, there was no way I would have accepted that position. Courtney’s plans for New Zealand also failed, but she ended up way better off with a real job and a marriage proposal from my brother, both of which were much smarter and more responsible than traveling to New Zealand with me.

            So often, when we tell God that we have a plan, I think that He chuckles, but if He told us His plan, I think that we would laugh in His face. Reflecting on all of this made me think back on the Bible stories that I enjoyed so much. Sure, the characters almost never know what is going to happen next, but how they would react if they were told ahead of time.

            What would Peter say if I told him that he was going to walk on water? How would Hosea react if I told him that part of God’s great and awesome plan was for him to marry a prostitute? Sarah was actually bold enough to laugh at God when He told her that she was going to have a child. God’s plan doesn’t always make sense to us. Sometimes it’s laughable, and at other times it’s just confusing.

            Let’s imagine Joseph at the bottom of a pit, listening to his brothers debate whether to kill or sell him into slavery. As he sits there, bloodied and naked because he was stripped of his coat of many colors, I say “Hey Joseph, you know how God has a plan? Well, from here it’s going to get a lot worse. First, you are going to be sold into slavery. Just as that starts to get good there is going to be this whole sexual harassment thing that doesn’t really go in your favor. After all that, you are going to go to prison for a while, but here is where it gets good. You are going to interpret a couple of dreams about cattle and wheat and then you will get placed as the second in command of Egypt and essentially save the world from famine.”

Imagine the evil glare that Joseph would send my way if I told him that story while he sits in the bottom of the pit! At this point in his life, God’s plan sounds so ridiculous, so laughable, that it’s incomprehensible. Life, however, rarely leads us where we expect. Amazingly, with His plan, God can make all these bad things work for good.

            Here are three more names: Amon, Josiah, and Jeconiah. If you recognize these names, congratulations because I had to look them up. My guess is even if you do recognize them, you don’t actually know much or anything about them. In this group there are kings, exiles, and captives. Some of them listened to the bitter words, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” These guys probably had a difficult time understanding God’s plan. Living in captivity wasn’t a part of their plan, but God made it work. You see, these guys are three of many listed in Matthew’s genealogy that leads from Abraham, to King David and subsequently to Jesus. Amon, Josiah, and Jeconiah didn’t get to see God’s big picture. God’s timeline was so much bigger than any one of them.

            To any one observer, God’s plan can seem absolutely ridiculous, but fortunately, life rarely leads us where we expect. 

Entry 29: Still, Small

Location: Between Paris France and Bruges, Belgium

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-13

            Let’s revisit 2012. Allow me to set the scene. In September 2012, I moved to France to attend university. Before this I had only traveled outside of the USA briefly and only under the ever-watchful eyes of my parents. Now, for the first time ever, I was out on my own and my first break had arrived and I had found a group of friends and we were looking for an adventure.

            The first leg of our journey would take place in Paris, France - along with the rest of our class. But after leaving Paris, we were on our own. The first stop on our amazing adventure was Belgium. Now, for most people, Belgium does not strike a chord in the realm of exciting adventure, but we loved every minute we spent there. However, for some reason or another all of my past attempts to go to Belgium, have been troublesome ordeals. This trend was set on my first visit. Allow me to explain.

            My story begins in Fontainebleau, a town just outside Paris. My friends and I went the train station to buy our tickets to Bruges. Our first mistake was buying tickets on the day of departure, but we got lucky. Sadly, that’s where our luck ran out. Because we had no idea what we were doing, we missed our first train to Paris. Since this was the first of three trains, it meant that we had missed all other trains as well -- not a quality start to our 12-day vacation.

            We quipped about our own ignorance, paid the penalty fee to rebook our tickets and then waited for the next train to Paris. This time we made an additional effort to be on time. The first train ride was a success, as was our transfer and second train to Brussels. We were feeling good. Travel isn’t that hard, right? The answer to that question is more of a shoulder shrug rather than words. Travel may not be all that difficult, but unforeseen circumstances can flip your plans with amazing speed.

            My travel buddies and I were now on our way from Brussels to Bruges. It was about 7 pm and we were finally getting close. After our train stopped, we just had to find our hostel and call it a night. These were our expectations; after all we had no reason to think any differently. But we were wrong. About fifteen miles outside of Brussels our train stopped in the middle of a dark field. I looked out the window and I knew this was not Bruges. Something was wrong.

            Fortunately, several informative announcements were made over the train’s speaker. Unfortunately, the announcements were all in Flemish. The the only thing we managed to understand was the newly disgruntled attitude of every other passenger in the train. We sat, bewildered, looking for an explanation. Eventually, somebody in our group noticed an old man waving at us; we ignored him at first, but finally went over. He evidently spoke very little English but felt inclined to explain

the situation to us. He strained his eyes, in search of the right words, and then said, “The train burns.” I couldn’t help thinking that this was going to be a more interesting train ride than we had bargained for.

            Upon seeing the look of terror in our eyes, the old man rethought his statement. Again, he spoke with a thick accent, “The train station burns.” He smiled and nodded his head, perhaps in approval of his success. We later discovered that there had been an electrical fire at the next station. This fire had fried the whole system, making it impossible to stop there. Hearing that the train station was burning was only slightly better news. Yes, we were no longer sitting in a burning metal tube; we were just sitting in a regular metal tube, unable to move forwards or backwards.

            We sat with the old man and a woman who I presumed to be his wife, joking around as well as people can when they don’t understand a word each other is saying.

            After several hours the Belgian fire brigade came and picked us up. In traditional Belgian fashion, they replenished our spirits with free Belgian waffles. It was enough to make us laugh after what had been a rather discouraging day. The firemen dropped us off in Aalst, the closest town. As we walked off the train we found the old man and, in the best way we could, thanked him for all he had done. He may not have thought that he did much, but the fact that he was present had helped. My group stopped at the first hotel we found and called it a night.

            Looking back, I was glad we took the time to talk to the man. Although he didn’t do much to improve our situation, he helped us to understand it. Four little words, “The train station burns,” gave us enough understanding to wait it out. Like that man, God doesn’t always give us a complete presentation on how to improve our situation. Sometimes our cries for help don’t get answered with God telling us how to get out of trouble. Many times, God answers by giving us little hint so we can begin to understand what’s going on.

            Although this isn’t a story about God manifesting himself to me, it reminds me of 1 Kings 19:11-13. Of all the big things that happened that day, none of them were about how we gained an understanding of where we were at any given time. The only indication came through four simple words spoken in broken English. Four simple words in a still, small voice made the difference between complete confusion and relative understanding. What a difference it can make when we listen to the little voice. 

Entry 21: The Art of Manliness

Location: Jerusalem

You’ll have to excuse me ladies, but this one is more for the guys.

            What defines us as men? Or rather, what is our definition of manliness? The ideals that make somebody manly can change over time, but there are also those that stay consistent. For example, manliness is usually defined through strength or toughness, how capable you are, willingness to get your hands dirty, being well-known, conduct with women (this being both good and bad), education or being well-spoken, and yes, arguments can be made for other characteristics as well. The point is, we have a strong definition of manliness and what can make a man “manly.”  Who, though, are our examples for manliness? We see lots of manly men in movies but most of them have a skewed moral code that generally allows for a pretty sizeable grey area. Our fathers can teach us to be men and that’s a good start, but does that coincide with all those forms of manliness? Perhaps not. 

            Now then, let’s get Biblical. We often quite literally paint Jesus as a fair skinned, clean, and rather thin man. To be honest the only “manly” thing about Jesus that we usually envision is the fact that he has a beard and the fact that he has several manly nicknames (Examples include: Son of MAN and EmMANuel). And that’s how we leave it; Jesus was a softhearted, gentle, and tender person, right? Well, yes, but entirely? No.

            We often skip who Jesus was for the first 30 years of his life because the Bible skips most of it. This, however, doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about it.  Primarily, for 20 some years, Jesus was a carpenter. Today carpentry is a work field that boasts some pretty rough and rugged men but back then, without the modern technology we have today, let’s just say our carpenters probably pale in comparison.  For years Jesus probably passed his time hauling lumber and spending lots of quality time with hammers. Doing this for as long as he did will reward one with a handful things; calluses, muscles, and more than a handful of cuts, bruises, as well as a few accidental hammer to finger collisions for good measure. By the time Jesus was 30 he was likely scarred, a few of his fingers were probably bent the wrong way, and, without a doubt, he was strong.

            We also know that during his later years of ministry, we know that Jesus walked from town to town. Even today if you spend the whole day walking in a place like Jerusalem you are going to get dirty, but in that time, when the only other modes of transportation are donkeys, camels, and the like, walking could be a messy business. Jesus did this in sandals. There was a reason the rich had servants to wash the feet of their guests and if you haven’t caught on by now it’s because their feet were covered in poo. Chances are that Jesus’ clean white robe wasn’t quite as pretty as we would like to imagine.

            So Jesus was probably a tougher guy than we would usually give him credit for and definitely wasn’t clean all the time, but that doesn’t encompass all that it means to be a man. Being a man can also include how one’s mind works. This again was no problem for the Son of Man. Jesus is recorded several times verbally annihilating the supposedly most well spoken men of his time, the Pharisees. His ability to turn a phrase was incredible because he knew what he was talking about and he would never get tricked into a quick or poorly thought out response. 

            Therefore Jesus is tough, he is quick-witted and because of this he is followed. We know Jesus had 12 disciples who left their lives at a moment’s notice to follow him, but we frequently ignore that there were way more than 12 people following Jesus around consistently. In Luke Jesus sends out 72 people to prepare the way in cities he planned to visit. Even more significant than this is when Jesus feeds the 5000 (men) that have followed him without as much as second thought.   The lack of a second thought being why nobody had brought food. They were too preoccupied with the idea of following to think about even the necessities. When Jesus entered the room, everyone in the room knew it. He couldn’t go somewhere without being followed by a crowd. Even when he specifically forbid somebody from mentioning what he had done, the same person quickly ran off and shouted his name through the streets. Jesus had a presence that was uncontainable and undeniable. 

            Jesus also shows us how to deal with one of life’s greatest mysteries, women.  The fact that the Bible takes time to mention women in the story of Jesus means that they must have held a great significance. There are several stories of Jesus going out of his way to be kind to women and treat them as equals, a notion not commonly expressed at that time. Most men when coming into contact with prostitutes either totally avoid them or do the complete opposite. Jesus took the time to not only acknowledge them, but to talk to them and encourage them. 

            So Jesus was tough and dirty, he was well spoken, a leader, he knew how to treat women, and perhaps most importantly, he shows men how to exhibit their emotions. A lot of men have difficulty showing emotion. Not Jesus. When he was distressed, he showed it. When he was sad, he cried. When he was happy, everybody around him knew. Even when Jesus was angry he shows it. We all know the story of Jesus flipping over tables and physically hand making a whip to chase people out of the temple with (John 2:15), but let’s not forget that he also called out the Pharisees many other times calling them things such as hypocrites (Luke 11:44), vipers (Matt. 23:33), and fools (Matt. 23:17). Jesus knew how to express his anger with emphasis.  Yet, his greatest expression of emotion didn’t involve flipping tables it involved a much more phenomenon called hematidrosis, also known as sweating blood.  Sweating blood is extremely rare and is only related to high stress levels such as facing one’s own death.

            Jesus was not only the Son of Man, he was The Man. The history of Jesus’ life shows us so much more than a kind-hearted savior, it shows us what the essence of manhood is. Some people’s lives are so beautiful they are considered an art in and of themselves. The life of Jesus was one of these, the art of manliness.  

Entry 16: Coffee, Black

Location: New Zealand

            While living in New Zealand I received several care packages (thank you so much to those of you who sent them). One thing about care packages is that I have started to realize what people think I love based on the random items they choose to stuff into the box. Over the year, I marveled over the assorted items I was sent. Rubber ducks, games, and post cards were all sent and I enjoyed all of them, but the most consistent thing I find in that box is coffee. Over the course of the year about half of the care packages I received contained either a mug, coffee paraphernalia or actual coffee. For me this was a marvelous thing.

            I remember when I was younger I always wanted to like coffee. Coffee was something that made you mature, sophisticated. Coffee was what the cool kids did. I also remember when I told my Dad that I wanted to drink coffee that he kindly obliged and gave me a cup. To speak honestly, it was atrocious. I couldn’t understand what was wrong, I had tried coffee before and it was sweet, delicious and creamy. I looked down into the black abyss that was my hot drink and questioned why it wasn’t, I don’t know, whiter? Where was all the sugar? My Dad told me that if I was going to drink coffee that was fine, but I was going to drink it as coffee, not sugar milk. If I was going to drink I had to commit. Needless to say, I stopped drinking coffee, for a time. It was not a taste I had yet acquired. 

            There is a big debate today if coffee is bad for us. The truth is that when we drink coffee the thing that is really bad for us is the extra stuff we put in it to try to make it sweet. What makes coffee bad is our attempt to add something that makes it go down easier. 

            Just like coffee, the only thing bad about Christianity is when we try to add things that make it go down easier. Just like coffee, Christianity doesn’t taste good lukewarm. Just like coffee, it comes in many forms; sometimes you need a shot, other times, a gallon would better do the trick.

            Christianity is an acquired taste. It doesn’t go down easy because it is so different from everything else. It takes time to appreciate all that Christianity has to offer. At first committing doesn’t necessarily taste good or, at the very least, it’s a shock to the system. It’s a shock because we are used to something that seems sweeter but is actually harming us. The sugar, sin if you will, might add something to the cup, but it only makes the coffee bad for our health. 

             Psalms says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” All by himself, no syrup, no sugar, no milk.  It may take a few cups, but soon you realize that by Himself, the Lord is as sweet as they come. Oh, and one more thing, just like coffee, it’s the best way to start your day. 

 

*Side Note – This is not a condemnation for those who enjoy their coffee with cream and sugar. It’s just a metaphor so settle down.  

Entry 7: Second to One

Which is greater 5 or 1? For the sake of this short thought I’m going to assume that you said five. Five dollars are more than one dollar, five miles are longer than one mile, and five years are longer than one year. I’m also going to make the assumption that first place is where you consider to be the best place and to be above the rest. It’s a natural thing for all humans. Who do you put first? I bet it’s yourself, I know I do. It’s an easy thing to do most of the time. But if five is so much greater than one, why do we put so much emphasis on being in first place? The answer is an obvious one but I’m assuming that you didn’t think about it when I first asked the question ‘which is greater?’. 

            If you got in a fight and had to defend yourself, which would you rather have as your weapon of choice an open hand (five fingers) or a single fist? I’m assuming that you would choose the fist because one punch will serve you greater than a slap in the face. In the same way one 100-dollar bill is greater than five 5-dollar bills and one mile is greater than 5 feet. You may think that this isn’t a fair comparison. To be truthful, you’re right, it really isn’t. 

            There is a reason we worship the one true God. Five is not always greater than one and when it comes down to a competition, you can’t really compare God to anything else because it’s just not fair. If the devil represents 5 pennies then God is one 100 dollar bill.  If the devil represents 5 feet then God is 1 mile. If the devil represents 5 spiders then God is 1 lion. 

            One who is with God is better than 5 on their own. It’s not a fair comparison and it’s not a fair fight. First place was determined thousands of years ago and to be entirely honest it wasn’t a fair fight even before that. Which will you choose? The devil can offer you 5+ years of earthly happiness, but God offers 1 eternity of joy. Five fingers or one fist? Who will you put first? I choose one and I am second to One.

Entry 6: Eye Contact

 Photo by  Julia Passero

Photo by Julia Passero

Location: Marrakech, Morocco

            In 2012 I was traveling with one of my best friends, Jonathan. We had spent the past several months studying in France and we decided to get away for a week and go to one of the countries at the top of our list, Morocco. 

            We were both in awe when we arrived in Marrakech, stepping into the city was like stepping into a new world compared to our home in France. During one of the days of our trip we wandered into the souks. The souks are a chain of streets covered with a canopy extending through alleys and leading you through a crammed web of shops. You can buy just about everything in these shops, knives, clothes, spices, drugs and a whole manner of things that I won’t take the time to list.  Shop owners are loud, persistent, and don’t take no for an answer. They will drag you into their shop and if you look or touch anything they assume that you are ready to enter the bartering process. 

            We soon figured out that the best way to “shop” was to quickly and quietly walk through the streets quickly glancing at different items that interested us.  As soon as you make eye contact with the shopkeeper, they will do everything in their power to sell you something unless you get away quickly. Our method worked rather well, we still had the occasional run in with a shopkeeper, but we were much better off than when we arrived as long as we kept our eyes down and didn’t stop moving. 

            The problem is that we all have our temptations; we all have something that catches our eye and gets us off the path we should be on. That day Jonathan and I both had the same temptation. We were making our way quickly through the souks stopping only if we saw something we were sure we wanted. We avoided the calls for “spices, clothes, swords, goats,” etc., but then we heard it that one thing that made us both forget the rules of the souks. 

            “Falcon! You want to buy falcon?” I looked up and made immediate eye contact with a scraggly Moroccan holding a caged falcon. In my mind I immediately searched through every passage and sequence that involved me owning a falcon and bringing it back to France, where I could sit in class with it perched on my arm or have it fly out my dorm window to soar in front of the mountains. Snap back to reality, there is no way I’m getting a falcon through customs, but I’d made eye contact. Worse yet, I was smiling at the man with the thought of owning a falcon. I looked at Jonathan and knew we’d both just had the same daydream. We both knew what had to be done to get away from this before we got dragged into a lengthy ordeal in this man’s shop.

            As the now ecstatic Moroccan man ran towards us, falcon in hand, Jonathan and I made a telepathic plan. I wanted to stay, I wanted to at least see how much it was, but there was only one option that was the right option. Run. We turned and ran as quickly as we could because the temptation was too strong and it was only growing stronger as we stood there. 

            Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 says “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone and though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not easily broken.”

            We all have our temptations and the devil knows exactly what it is that will tempt us more than anything else; what it is that will cause us to look up and make eye contact. That eye contact brings us one step closer to a place where it is even harder to run. But with a brother there to strengthen us we have somebody to uphold us to our standards, to help us flee from temptation. 

            In this scenario buying a falcon wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but making rash decisions by yourself is unlikely to end in greatness. I needed somebody there to make sure I came to my senses. We all need somebody to make sure we keep to our true self, who helps us flee from temptation, and avoid eye contact.

Entry 5: Failure

Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

            When I arrived in New Zealand I quickly came to realize that I did not know a sole and that I was becoming extremely lonely even after a few days.  This combined with just having a left a summer spent with my best friends working at an Adventist camp soon made me understand that I was becoming slightly depressed. I had no motivation to exercise or find any other sort of activity to entertain myself.  I hadn’t ever felt like this before. I was so used to being an optimist, so used to being busy with the fun things life had to offer, that I was taken off guard. I hadn’t ever truly been to a place where I didn’t know anybody. I was living in a building with 30 other people, but I felt detached.

            Shortly after arriving I was walking through the dormitory, half looking for some form of activity and half wandering for no good reason. I was mentally living in the past hoping to return to all my friends who I envisioned being at home and spending every waking hour together. I was clinging to an idea that was no longer even a reality. I knew that we had all moved on to new things in the past week anyways, but because I was so far removed, it felt like they were all so close together. Thirty hours of flying is a lot further away than 3 hours of driving.

            As I wandered, I noticed a verse scattered through the dormitory, repeatedly hanging on what seemed like every wall. The verse was Jeremiah 29:11. As I read it, gave me the tiniest sliver of hope. I was told later that day that I was to give a worship for the boy’s dorm. I knew that I had my inspiration and ended up giving a short talk on this verse. The worship ended up being more as a pep talk to myself than to the boys, the kind of pep talk you give yourself in a mirror before you do something important. Saying the words out loud just made me feel better. 

            A screenshot of the verse eventually filled the screen of my phone and I and looked at it constantly throughout every day for several weeks. It gave me hope, kept my sanity, and gave me motivation to get out and exercise, and meet new people. It didn’t take overly long to realize that God did have a plan and that I was here for a good reason.

            Looking back on that time, I can see how far I’ve come since then. I made amazing new friends, gained some valuable experience, and changed my perspective. Being led out of my comfort zone was something I needed, it gave me time to think and mull over what I was and am trying to do with my life. Life didn’t lead me where I expected or hoped, it lead me where I needed to be led.

            God has a plan for us all, and even though I had many days that were difficult after discovering this verse, I knew that God always knows what He is doing. God’s plan does not come in our own time. We cannot always expect to suffer for a certain period of time and then reap a great reward in the same lifetime. Some Christians suffer for their entire life simply because they believe. Nevertheless, God has a plan for us all; a plan where we all have a happy ending, some of us may experience it in this life, but all will taste and see that the Lord is good in the next eternity.  

Entry 4: Light

Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

            When I arrived in New Zealand I quickly came to realize that I did not know a sole and that I was becoming extremely lonely even after a few days.  This combined with just having a left a summer spent with my best friends working at an Adventist camp soon made me understand that I was becoming slightly depressed. I had no motivation to exercise or find any other sort of activity to entertain myself.  I hadn’t ever felt like this before. I was so used to being an optimist, so used to being busy with the fun things life had to offer, that I was taken off guard. I hadn’t ever truly been to a place where I didn’t know anybody. I was living in a building with 30 other people, but I felt detached.

            Shortly after arriving I was walking through the dormitory, half looking for some form of activity and half wandering for no good reason. I was mentally living in the past hoping to return to all my friends who I envisioned being at home and spending every waking hour together. I was clinging to an idea that was no longer even a reality. I knew that we had all moved on to new things in the past week anyways, but because I was so far removed, it felt like they were all so close together. Thirty hours of flying is a lot further away than 3 hours of driving.

            As I wandered, I noticed a verse scattered through the dormitory, repeatedly hanging on what seemed like every wall. The verse was Jeremiah 29:11. As I read it, gave me the tiniest sliver of hope. I was told later that day that I was to give a worship for the boy’s dorm. I knew that I had my inspiration and ended up giving a short talk on this verse. The worship ended up being more as a pep talk to myself than to the boys, the kind of pep talk you give yourself in a mirror before you do something important. Saying the words out loud just made me feel better. 

            A screenshot of the verse eventually filled the screen of my phone and I and looked at it constantly throughout every day for several weeks. It gave me hope, kept my sanity, and gave me motivation to get out and exercise, and meet new people. It didn’t take overly long to realize that God did have a plan and that I was here for a good reason.

            Looking back on that time, I can see how far I’ve come since then. I made amazing new friends, gained some valuable experience, and changed my perspective. Being led out of my comfort zone was something I needed, it gave me time to think and mull over what I was and am trying to do with my life. Life didn’t lead me where I expected or hoped, it lead me where I needed to be led.

            God has a plan for us all, and even though I had many days that were difficult after discovering this verse, I knew that God always knows what He is doing. God’s plan does not come in our own time. We cannot always expect to suffer for a certain period of time and then reap a great reward in the same lifetime. Some Christians suffer for their entire life simply because they believe. Nevertheless, God has a plan for us all; a plan where we all have a happy ending, some of us may experience it in this life, but all will taste and see that the Lord is good in the next eternity.  

Entry 3: Ruthless Kindness

Location: Fictional Digne, France and Lisbon Portugal

            In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is a man just released from prison, put on parole, and given a yellow passport that signified his history as a “dangerous criminal.”  In that time it was extremely difficult for a man to find work after he was condemned with a yellow passport.  Valjean searched far and wide for work or a place to stay but nobody would have him after they saw him for what the law claimed him to be.  Valjean found himself in Digne, a small town in southeastern France.  While there, he continued to look for shelter from the harsh nights. After a short series of events and knocking on all the doors in town, Valjean finds himself at the door of Bishop Myriel. The Bishop lets Valjean into his humble home, feeds him from his own table using his finest silver, and gives him what is likely the best mattress he has slept on in 19 years. 

            Valjean, however, wakes up in the middle of the night, steals most of the Bishop’s silver and flees. Soon after, he is picked up by the police and brought back to Bishop Myriel’s home. When the police inform him that they caught Valjean with his silver the Bishop tells the police that he gave the silver to Valjean.  He goes on to chastise Valjean for not taking the silver candlesticks that he also “gave” to him.  In doing this Bishop Myriel gave Valjean a second lease on life by not only preventing him from returning to prison indefinitely, but also by giving him the candlesticks with which Valjean could use start an honest life. The Bishop leaves Valjean only stating that he must remember the promise he made, to become an honest man. Valjean, however, never made an agreement like this, but neither is he in a position to argue. 

            This is one of the greatest acts of ruthless kindness represented in classic literature.  The Bishop gives greatly of himself, despite his own poverty, to prevent Valjean from going to prison and even gives him the funds to start a new life and get back on his feet.  I never truly understood this sort of kindness until I got a small taste of it as I was travelling in Lisbon, Portugal. 

            While I was living in France, I had the opportunity to travel to Lisbon, Portugal with one of my friends who happened to have family there. I always enjoy staying with people who live in the city I am visiting because it gives me the opportunity to really experience the culture of the city and find things that I would normally have difficulty finding on my own. Little did I know that I was about to experience a new sort of ruthless kindness that I would forever remember.  I will refrain from telling you the entire story, but in summary I have never been shown more love, fed more dessert, bought more train tickets, or allowed to drive a car that is not my own and then get lost, then found and subsequently set back on track by somebody who I hardly even know much less by somebody who was not a member my direct family.  I was so touched by this kindness that I wrote a journal entry the day I returned from Portugal:

            June 9, 2012

“I don’t know if I have ever experienced such ruthless kindness before in my life.  The ----- family gave until the last moment we were with them. They bought us food, train tickets, took us wherever we wanted to go, fed us, refused to let us wash our own dishes, they gave us their car, bought us delicious fruit, and gave us snacks for the ride home. I can’t repay their kindness in any other way but to, one day; give the same to another, as payment for what I took. If everybody in the world gave so freely and joyfully we’d all be broke but most of us are already, so at least we’d be happy.”

            I hope that one day you meet your own family, so that you can experience a taste of such kindness. Or, better yet, I hope that you and your family become a family such as this. You never know, maybe you will change somebody’s outlook for the rest of his or her life, as mine was changed.  

Entry 2: Salt

Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.” Matthew 5: 13-16

            Within a week of moving to NZ I was asked to give a short thought on this verse in Matthew 5 for a vespers program called Night Life. The theme for the night was about being on the fence or being a lukewarm Christian. This is something that I think most youth struggle with. This world we live in has an amazing ability to distract us from what is important. We are too busy, distracted, or in need of a break that we don’t focus on what we can become or have become. There are lots of things that can cause us to lose our saltiness. 

            Having just moved to NZ I had this opportunity to present myself in whatever way I wanted. Nobody knew who I was or what I stood for. They didn’t know if I had a nickname, they didn’t know what I loved, or where I had been. I had this rare opportunity to start with a clean slate, to dictate how I was viewed. I contemplated using a new accent or changing my name. Eventually it came down to me deciding all that wouldn’t be me, it would be somebody else. I did have to become a more responsible version of myself because I was no longer the person attending school; I was working at the school. But I was still me, I still could account for who I was and what I stood for.

            In this verse Jesus is calling his followers to keep their salt, to be on fire, and not to sit on the fence; he is challenging us to live a life like his and to not wear a mask. This is a challenge to live every moment exhibiting exactly what it means to be a Christian. What it means for our studies, our work, our relationships, etc. Christianity should be reflected in all parts of our life, just as salt changes each dish it is added to. It is so easy for us to put on this mask of this ideal person that is living in our body. No matter how good that mask is, no matter who they are, they aren’t you. You do not need a mask because you are already beautiful. When we apply this mask we begin to lose ourselves and we lose our salt. So tell me, when you meet somebody for the first time, can they tell what you stand for, that you are a Christian, that you have salt? Could they guess without you telling them?

            Follow up question; do you think that people knew what Jesus stood for when they met him for the first time, even if they hadn’t ever heard of him before? I think yes, not because of his incredible works or his miracles, but because of his LOVE. Jesus loved everybody who came in contact with him. He loved the filthy, the sick, the thieves, and the proud. So… when you meet somebody for the first time, can they tell who you are and what you stand by? Can they tell that you are a Christian by your love?

            We are called to live a life on one side of the fence, a life of light, and a life with salt. Do you live a life of salt? Do you simply exist as a Christian or do you live as a Christian?

Entry 1: Dreamers of the Day

Location: Arabia

 “All men dream: but not equally, those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.”

- T. E. Lawrence

            “All men dream…” By itself this phrase has no significance. I once wrote “All men dream…” on my arm in sharpie so that I could remember this quote throughout the day; it was not long before a friend laughed at me for it. She pointed out how pointless a saying it was, and she was right. It is a foolish and obvious statement without significance, that is, unless you know what follows. All men do have aspirations, hopes, or dreams. 

            What little boy or girl dreams of working in a cubicle? Not to say there is any shame in that, but it’s not exactly the stuff that dreams are made of. No! Boys and girls want to be astronauts, doctors, athletes, and the occasional oddball that envisions himself/herself growing up and acquiring a successful career as a dinosaur. The point is that we all have or had dreams at some point. The question is what do we do to make those dreams a reality? Are we simply dreamers or are we dreamers of the day? Here is how to recognize the difference

            Dreamers, daydreamers, and dreamers of the day are not all the same thing. At night dreamers simply have their minds wander, their subconscious leading them through a whole manner of scenarios. Daydreamers are not much better. They simply occupy their time with frivolous thoughts that generally lead to them being caught off guard by the next person to approach them. There is a time and place for both of these dreams in our lives. After all, who doesn’t enjoy getting lost in their own mind and seeing what oddities they can think up? But the dreamers of the day are a different breed; they take action so that they may live out their dreams. 

            A dreamer of the day has a dream that is achievable whether through days, weeks, months of countless hours of work, or through simple steps. My dreams are to travel, to be healthy, and to become some type of modern day renaissance man or rather, a person who has learned or tried to do everything. I consider myself a dreamer of the day because since I made this a goal I have achieved great things with my dreams. I am a healthy individual who has travelled to 23 countries and I have acquired a few new random skills such as acting, accordion playing, hair braiding, etc. Sure, these things are random, but they have become a part of what defines me as a person and they are part of what makes me feel accomplished. 

            Being a dreamer of the day however, isn’t something you achieve. There is no trophy you earn and put on a shelf. A dreamer of the day has to wake up every morning and choose to whether to continue dreaming or not. That’s the difference. Unlike day dreaming or dreaming at night, embodying the ideals of a dreamer of the day is a conscious decision. Embodying this idea requires thought and motivation. Above all, it requires action.

            What are your dreams? Do you live them out on a day-to-day basis? Are you striving for something? I owe my achievements to my parents and to my God who have guided me towards and through the experiences that I’ve had in the past. Finding your own support and your own inspiration is what personalizes this. You cannot adopt an idea unless it’s tailored for you. Find this and make that conscious decision all throughout your day. Concentrate on it. Focus it. Dream it.