Friday, April 28, 2006

Prince Charming? How about Awkward Pauper?

I just read The Silver Chair (4th in the Chronicles of Narnia) and it got me thinking about princes and chivalry and charm... that stuff is dying if not dead, and I haven't decided if that's a bad thing.

My mom used to sing Snow White's famous lines "Someday my Prince Will Come" when I was younger. Half jokingly, usually, when she was annoyed with my dad. But I think a part of her really wanted a prince, some man of extraordinary charm to sweep her off her feet and carry her away from the drab of her ordinary life.

Lately, I've been wondering if I could be a prince to someone. Do I have the passion for such a performance? Is that a fair way to describe it, as a performance? Part of me wants to believe in the possibility of a romantic fairytale, boy meets girl and it's magical, ending happily ever after. Part of me, the realist, says that's crap. Life is hard, people misinterpret the meaning behind actions and words, and things aren't asked, doubts foster fears, risks aren't taken. Fairytales don't exist because there is no work to be done in the relationship, the magic is written in. There is no fighting for the girl except from conveniently evil, predictable villians. Relationships takes work, hard work with tough conversations.

Why can't there be more poison apples? I think I could handle poison apples. It's those cryptic comments, conflicting schedules and vast spans of silence that cripple my character.

I should write a modern day fairy tale romance, crap and all. Perhaps it wouldn't sell, though, since it wouldn't resemble the classic template. Perhaps it would, because it would remind them of their own experiences. Now that I think about it, it would sell, for it's already been done successfully in Garden State. Their lives are screwed up, and they fight through it. I don't know. Perhaps I'm full of it.

To be a modern prince, does it mean to be annoyingly aggressive? Or is that just... annoying? I am pretty sure he would be confident in what he wants. The problem seems to be with what is assumed with the word Prince. Who would turn down a Prince? But a normal guy? People do without them all the time. I don't feel very princely most times.

But I do sometimes... feel like a prince. I am a Prince, for I am a brother of the Almighty King, co-heir of Christ's Kingdom. I believe that whole-heartedly... sometimes. Okay, rarely, but it's true and I should hold onto that truth for dear life. The Flip-side of that is true as well. There are breath-taking princesses out there, worthy of the most respect and tender-hearted love one can muster.

So what does it mean to love a daughter of God? How does one respect her wishes while battling the cravings of one's heart, desires for more than the platonic? How do you make the fairy tale play itself out without completely upsetting the flow of normal life, without seeming like a selfish ass?

I don't want to be a selfish ass, but I want more. I want to try to be the prince. Is the prince even charming? Will a Awkward Pauper do?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


It's been on my mind these days, what it means to be a man. Logically, I've gone back into the depths of my mind, recalling moments with my father... some good, some not. I've meditated on some sermons I've heard, some passages in books I've read. Being a man, a true man, as one is intended to be, is one of the ultimate challenges for half the world's population. The other half has their own battle, but none on that currently.
I enjoy teachings from Larry Crabb quite a bit. I can see his authenticity, his humble honesty, and I trust his word. I've been thinking about what he said in chapel a few weeks ago. You see, he spoke on true masculinity/femininity in preparation of some visitors we were to receive the following week. Soul Force, an organization dedicated to fighting for equality for the homosexual, Christian community, are having an Equality Ride to dozens of Universities with policies that do not advocate the homosexual lifestyle. All that to say, Crabb spoke about how homosexuals and heterosexuals alike struggle with being the men and women God intended them to be (the main point being Homosexuality presents an alternative to some to not have to face and struggle through their true expression of masculinity or femininity).
I could go on and on about the Homosexuality issue, but I won't. We all are afraid to be who we are. The young man who likes the girl but never pursues, or does but backs off when it seems too vulnerable... he lacks a strength essential to being a full man. The father, who being afraid of failure or rejection, avoids interactions with a son, starts a dangerous cycle of raising future generations crippled by timidity. The woman, defensive from past pains and disappointments whether from a neglectful/abusive father or a self-centered, hedonistic guy, isn't fully a woman when she closes off her heart from receiving the love and support of a man. Others avoid the challenge by looking to pornography, where an image on a computer screen or magazine cannot reject you and there is no committment to another person. The man who has an affair with a prostitute, because for that short period of time he feels like she desires him and is able to please her (ignoring the fact that she is paid to act that way).

I have gotten to the age where I'm imagining starting a family soon. The thought has crossed my mind several times whether or not I'm competent enough to raise a son or daughter (or both). Looking back at my relationship with my parents, their is a legitimate fear that I can't; I wish they handled things differently than they did, and I as their son, should have acted differently too. Anyways, the fact is parenthood, marriage, relationships are ridiculous. It calls one to open up and expose your heart, because that's what love is. Yes, there is a place for boundaries, but at the same time, boundaries can become fortresses with one's heart closed off inside, preventing any connection with those one is supposed to love. Isn't that all too frequent an occurance. Emotional distance.

I was at a prayer team retreat a while back, last year I think, and I was being prayed over. My deepest concern for me then was that I was stuck being timid. After the prayer, I had a vision of sorts. It was just a thought, nothing extremely detailed, but it was of me and my son. You see, it was profound because I had never before imagined having a son. I feared it. I felt completely inadequate raising a son. A girl I could imagine. I didn't have a problem imagining to pour love and affection on a daughter. But a son... that wasn't modeled to me very well. The vision was of me having a great time playing with him, and we were close. It was a great thought.

What do I think it means to be a man? Perhaps the question should be "What qualities do I want to exhibit as a man?"

I want to be vulnerable. Our culture avoids being vulnerable and transparent. I want my friends, co-workers and family to know when I am good and bad. I want to have the humility to accept their support as I show my weakness. I want to model that to my future kids so that they will grow up the same way. I want to be persistent. I want to be the first to encourage my future wife of her importance in my life, the first to ask my kids how their day had gone, what they had learned, how I can support them. I want to never avoid. I want to see a problem and resolve it. I want to love deeply, share intimately, and live boldly.

I have found more strength in God than in anyone or anything. I look back over the last few years in my faith journey, and I feel I'm becoming the man of God I'm called to be. My desires to be a man, those qualities, are absolutely attainable. On my own power, they will never come to be. But with my heart focused on Christ, his example, and by seeking to become like Him, I cannot fail. In Christ there is Life, the Abundant Life. A life where families are strong and centered, where relationships are deep and meaningful, where lives are changed and people see they too can experience joy and peace, Heaven on Earth as you will for the Kingdom of God is here. Victory over evil and death, pain and isolation, is readily available for those who submit their lives to God. I'm learning to do that and am seeing the fruit of that labor. I'm no master, but in time and with grace, I will slowly grow in greater likeness with Christ and the world I know will change. Lives will change.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Emptiness

I probably should be in bed. I imagine that is what the apostles thought at this same time those many thousands of years ago. I can imagine their grief. They had lost their teacher, their mentor, their friend. He claimed to be this mighty ruler, the one to restore Israel, to bring a new Kingdom upon the Earth. He died though, and was put in the ground the afternoon before last. Jesus had a way of getting them excited. They were hopeful, they believed the claims he made. But now, now their hopes are deflated... empty.

I sorta feel like that now. Empty. I guess I'm just thinking too much about my life, where I am, where I'm going. You see, I'm finishing my time at CCU. I haven't taken any classes this semester, finished those in the Fall. I settled for a job that is not challenging and pays poorly. I have three weeks left with some of the greatest people I'll ever know. I have no place in Colorado after graduation. I need to move back home. At least for now. I'm sad because things just started to pick up here. I prayed a while back that God would take me on an adventure. After going to Nicaragua, and making new friends, there is a lot more I feel I could do here in Colorado.
Glendale doesn't seem like an adventure most times. Not for me. It's too familiar, too full of the obvious. Living at home again. Also, too familiar. So I feel like this adventure I felt God beginning to take me on is much like how the disciples must have felt about their adventure with Christ... derailed.

I remember a Psalm. It was one I was told to read by God (through his servant Amber). Psalm 77.
I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands
and my soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
"Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will meditate on all your works
and consider all your mighty deeds.
Your ways, O God, are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

I was told then, and I believe I'm being told now, that when in a low state, feeling empty and abandoned, that I need to remember what the Lord has done already, for it is with that perspective that I am able to see the present for what it really is. The morning is nearly here. The Son will shine brightly in glory, victorious over the darkness. Jesus is King, he has not been defeated by death, but his Kingdom has come and is here now, in my heart and yours (I pray)! My adventure is not derailed, it is continuing strongly, with a change in setting, introducing familiar characters that need to see change. My short time remaining is not a thing to be grieved over, wishing there was more of it, but a thing to be grasped and enjoyed, taking every opportunity to savor for what it is, a perfect gift from God. And who knows, I may end up back here in the Fall, or in Nicaragua at the Project... the possibilities are endless. But for now, I will delight in the Lord for the blessings he is pouring over me: time with my dear friends, time to grow closer together and closer to God... time with my family to continue to struggle through what our relationships will look like as a approach adulthood... time to walk the path the Lord has for me, whether it is living in the States, serving in some capacity, or in Nicaragua, supporting a beautiful hope for more in life than living and working in trash.

You see the emptiness of Easter has nothing to do with the feeling of defeat and has everything to do with the grave. Christ is Risen. And his story is not over but continues this day in my life and yours. I have Jesus in my life and he leads me in truth. He leads along a tough path, full of twists, turns, fog and smoke. I lose my way sometimes. But Jesus always knows where I am and calls me back to continue on. And so I go, excited, for I know no harm can come to me.

Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Few Photos from the Trip

Take this link to my Facebook Site where I have a few photos up of the trip. We have yet as a team compiled all the Photos, so the ones of the dump and many other good ones will not be there. Enjoy anyways and I'll keep you posted of additional shots when they become available.

I hope this works. Here is a link to more photos from the trip, taken by my teammates. And another. And another.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Final Thoughts on Nicaragua

I've been back to the States for over a week now. I just finished entering all my journaling from the trip into this blog so others can fully know what the trip was like. Last Friday, we had a debriefing meeting through the Missions Department at school. It was a somber meeting. We were all a little culture shocked still, needing to find the best way to integrate what we learned into our lives. America is an unique place. We have much more than we need... yet we feel empty a lot of the time, thinking we need more. I've experienced living without much: no hot water (let alone dependable water pressure), no air conditioning, no washing machines, no fancy SUVs with seven seats... I've seen families in the dump, children smiling, happy despite their condition. We all adapt to live and make due with what's available. In the States, though, I feel we feel entitled to more. Maybe we are, not as Americans, but as members of Humanity, entitled to more. I don't know. I think God wants us to be happy. I've seen Nicaraguan who live very happy lives with much less than what we have.
I think America has let capitalism overshadow moral and societal values. We strive so hard to become independent, wealthy and successful, when such pursuits drive us away from family, friends and God. Throughout my journey as a Christian, trying to discern what it means to have a relationship with God, I have had one certainty that is applicable now. I've discovered with absolute assurance that when I think I have life figured out, that I know what's best in a situation, I'm usually wrong, and it usually ends in frustration, pain and failure. It ends that way because I act with my interests in mind, my comfort, my benefit. Many call it "the Fall of Man."
The beauty of God's will (the opposite of selfishness usually) is that in the end, there is benefit for me even though I did something for the benefit of others. It's a most beautiful paradox: that through denying my own preservation, I am freed to preserve others, and in mercy and grace, God blesses me and preserves me because I obeyed. I could have gone through my trip in Nicaragua, keeping a shield up, not letting the kids get too close, protecting my emotions, but then I wouldn't have developed such amazing ties with them. I could have dwelled on the fact that I was sick and hot and uncomfortable, but then I would have missed out on all the fun of experiencing God in the midst of that. I experience God on a daily basis. I feel when He's impressing something on me. God loves his people. The only thing that assuaged my heart in the dump was the fact that I knew God was faithful to have more for those people, a hope of a life with Him for eternity. The truth... everyone of us lives in the Dump. Life is miserable and meaningless apart from being with God. I love the illustration Christ gave to us through his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well. He offered her (and all of us) Living Water, the quenching of all our worldly thirst. It isn't a physical thirst but a spiritual thirst, a soulish thirst. I've tasted that Living Water and so have many of the joyful people in Nicaragua. This water quenches the burn from the smoke we breathe in our dump of a world. The fumes are abundant... our perceived need for comfort, luxury. The waters we drink to attempt to parch the thirst... lust, pride, entitlement, food, television, fashion... all fail. I've drank from every one of those contaminated waters, and still do turn to them, but I've only found Christ to be able to quench the thirst because He freely gives His Spirit of love and unconditional acceptance to us. There is rest in Him. I eagerly await the day I fully understand and embrace that truth.
My trip to Nicaragua affirmed that truth in my heart, something I knew in my head mostly, but forgot in my heart. The life with God close by is hard... it demands us to give up the things which instinctively seem good for us, but in reality bring death and pain. It is only with forfeiting those rights and becoming an obedient, sacrificing servant to God do we find there is true life, abundant life in God, life with purpose and rest from the wickedness of this world.
Enjoy my writings of my trip. I found more of God down in Central America... I hope you find Him through my reflections.