Uber and the Kingdom of God

Vegas, baby. Sin City. That’s where the story starts. Which is appropriate considering the subject. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning.

Last month, I had to be in Las Vegas for a trade show. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan — of trade shows OR Vegas. But when I stay in Las Vegas, I always stay Downtown….old Vegas. Maybe it’s the low key vibe, away from the glitz and glamour of The Strip. Maybe it’s the local Arts District. Or maybe it’s the $5 craps tables. Either way, Downtown is my jam.

The only problem with staying Downtown is the commute south to The Strip, where most conventions are hosted. Traffic can be bad, and it’s just a hassle shuttling back and forth. I’d get a ride to The Strip in the morning, back Downtown after meetings, again to The Strip for dinner with mucky-mucks and then back Downtown to hit the sack. Taxis are great and all, but you can’t beat the convenience and “new-schoolness” of Uber, right?

After four days in Las Vegas, it was time to head home. I’d had somewhere between 8–10 Uber drives at that point. Most were fairly talkative. I think it stems from a place of being hospitable and wanting to avoid awkward silence. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind silence. I’ve got two small children, so my whole life is filled with noise. A 15 minute drive in silence sounds just dandy to me, but it makes most people uncomfortable, so I’m happy to carry on a conversation.

So there I was. Standing outside my hotel, bags in hand, ready to see my family again. I requested an Uber and five minutes later, Donald arrives. He was in his early twenties. He wore his Yankees hat low, just above his eyes and spoke with a New York accent, although he looked like he could be Puerto Rican or something.

I threw my bags in the trunk and sat down in the passenger seat, preparing myself for the typical, “What are you here for” types of questions, which came immediately. I answered Donald’s questions and then, trying to even out the conversation, I asked him how his day was going.

His eyes lit up.

“Oh man…this is second best day of my life. I mean, my kid being born was the best, but today is a great day.”

“Oh yeah,” I replied. “Why?”

He spoke fast, like he couldn’t get the story out quickly enough. “I’m from New York,” he said. “I moved out here because I have a respiratory condition and the winters there were too hard on me. But my family is still there. I was born in New York, but my parents are from Puerto Rico. They came into the United States illegally, so I’ve been trying to get my citizenship for two years. It’s a long process,” he explained.

Donald looked directly at me for a second and said, “I want to do it for my girlfriend and our kid, you know? So they can have a good life.”

He explained to me that his girlfriend’s mom doesn’t think much of him. That she thinks her daughter could do better. Donald is respectful about it, but you can tell that he’s got a chip on his shoulder about it and wants to prove her wrong. “My girlfriend is Italian, and smoking hot,” he tells me. I get the feeling he may think his girlfriend’s mom is right after all.

He continued the story. “So after two years of going back and forth trying to get this shit taken care of, I got a call this morning that my citizenship was accepted. I literally just got off the phone 20 minutes ago with the guy. I’m so f**king excited! Now I have to book a flight out to New York next week to take the oath and make it official.”

His phrase, “so f**king excited” didn’t even do it justice. You could see it all over his face. Pure joy.

And in that moment, driving to the airport in Las Vegas with my Uber driver, Donald, I was given the best representation of the gospel I had ever heard in my life.

Here was a guy, who was literally born into a country he didn’t belong to. He was an orphan looking for an identity — living within the walls, but needing to be adopted as a citizen…as a son. And now, after all those years, he had been accepted into the country he’d fought and sacrificed and traveled so long for.

Isn’t that the way the Kingdom of God works? We feel the call to travel, to pack light and walk towards the whisper a Kingdom away. And even though we fight and carry on, we still need help. We come to the end of our strength and wait for the voice on the other end of the phone to say, “you’ve been accepted.”

The thing about Donald was that his being accepted brought joy — and joy brought a declaration of allegiance. I was his first ride of the day, but I imagine everyone after me heard the same story. When you’re accepted and understand the work it took, and that in the end, you don’t have much to do with it at all — when THAT happens, you’re filled with joy and tell people about it. Perspective matters. It’s what dictates our response. Let’s make sure we tell our stories. They’re the best gospel we have.

Maybe that’s why I was sent to Vegas? Not for a trade show, but to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God from Donald. To take that story and tell it in other towns — or here at least.

“But he said, ‘I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’” — Luke 4:43

The Mysterious, Knowable, God

There’s a difference between the mysterious and the unknown. For something to be mysterious you‘ve got to have a sense of its presence. Something without that sense is just unknown.

When I was in college, I started reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. They are the best examples of mysteries that I can come up with. The common theme with these stories, and any other mystery, is that the stories are driven by clues. There are clues hidden along the plot line that spark movement — whether to another thought or another clue. These clues are connected to something else. They are connected to the answer, and they have value because of that connection.

Let me give you an example. You wouldn’t pick up a cigarette butt you found on the ground, right? But you would if you were searching for answers and you thought it was a clue — that there might be DNA evidence on it. You wouldn’t give a second thought to a thing that wasn’t intrinsically valuable or connected to something else that was. Mystery drives us to discover truth — to solve the mystery.

God is at times mysterious, but His desire is to be known. He uses mystery to encourage the hunt.

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” Proverbs 25:2.

I believe that God is always speaking to those who are listening. It’s in His nature to “feed the hungry.” I once heard Bill Johnson say that God conceals matters for us, not from us. I think Bill is right. There is a depth to the knowledge that comes through revelation. What kind of parent, when hiding Easter eggs, makes them impossible for their children to find? No one! What parents do is to determine the difficulty of the search based on the maturity of the child. I wonder if that’s how God uses mystery in our lives? He knows us and He wants us to know Him. So as we mature and seek out His mysteries, He reveals them to us relative to our ability to understand. It’s like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it.”

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes:

“2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”

When we come upon revelation, we share it with one another. We do this, like Paul says, in order for others to “understand insight into they mystery of Christ.”

There’s a word that has captivated me for over a decade. The word is “alluvium.” I can’t shake the picture it creates in my mind. Here’s the definition:

alluvium: “a deposit of clay, silt, sand, and gravel left by flowing streams in a river valley or delta, typically producing fertile soil.”

As these deposits are left behind, they build on one another, cementing themselves into what’s called an “alluvial deposit.” These structures (sometimes massive) are built by small deposits attaching themselves to other small deposits over time. This is how I think of revelation. Throughout our lifetime, as we search out the mysteries of God, He reveals more of Himself — acting as alluvial deposits along the stream of our life. Each deposit creating a more complete picture of who He is.

The truth is that all mysteries will be made known — and all by revelation through the Spirit, either in our lifetime or the life to come.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

My hope for us Christians is that our lives would be marked by revelation. That as we search out the mysteries of God, He strengthens the reflection in the mirror.

We’ve got humility all wrong

As the world’s foremost leader on humility, I feel obligated to drop some knowledge on you.

Kidding, but I actually have been thinking of humility a lot lately. It’s a tricky thing, this concept of humility. You know it when you see it, but it’s also clear when it’s lacking or misplaced. I’m not a fan of our current way of thinking about humility because it can sabotage power and confidence (which isn’t Biblical in the right context), and becomes more about the person than their position. I’ll explain, but here’s what I’d like to do first. I’d like to propose a new definition of humility, as well as a construct for helping us think about it. Ok? Here we go.

Humility = A proper understanding of the source and purpose of power — of where power comes from and what power is for.

In this definition, I’m using “power” to mean any measure of skill, gifting, talent, ability, passion, faith and influence an individual has been given. We know that God distributes a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) and giftings (1 Cor 12)to each person as He sees fit. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” So to summarize, everyone has a measure of faith and gifts, and they are to be used for the common good (i.e., within community).

It’s important to recongize that humility is NOT a denying of our power, authority, passions or giftings. This is a relatively easy one. We call it “false humility” and it’s super annoying.

However, humility is also NOT a minimizing of power. This is a critical distinction. True humility acknowledges it’s power, but manifests that power within the context of community (verses the individual). Humor me for one second with a few simple questions:

Is Jesus our best example of humility? Yes

Did Jesus say He was God? Yes

So, clearly humility is not a denying, or minimizing of power. There are tons of verses that speak of Jesus’ power, but the one that comes to mind is where Jesus Himself says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Again, humility is not a denying or minimizing of power. Paul is another example. In Corinthians, he comes right out and says, “I urge you to imitate me” and “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” At first glance, this doesn’t seem very humble. But even so, Paul acknowledges his authority.

So we have to take power out of the humility equation. Our problem is that we have, I think, simplified humility into a one dimentional model where everyone lands somewhere on the spectrum of humility to pride. But this is not how we should view humility. 

A better construct for humility might be more like this: 

Biblical humility is dependent upon the position you operate from and the purpose you operate for. Humility is where you operate FROM the Source and FOR community. This is also known as “the Kingdom of God”. In Matthew 12:25–28, Jesus explains, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus manifested His power, which He recognized was from the Spirit, and demonstrated it within community. Humility is about recognizing:

  1. I have been given power
  2. It is given by the Spirit of God
  3. It is for people

So let me explain this diagram. On the right, you have power displayed in community, but without recognizing the source of that power. Power without the recognizing the source is fine, I suppose. This is good works, charity, etc. Believers and non-believers alike use their talents and resources for good. And many times, God uses and honors this, bringing change in the lives of those that receive the resources. But more often than not, power, devoid of the Source is transactional, not transformational.

In the left circle, you have power without community. This is like the parable of the talents. You acknowledge the source of the gift, but it’s not sowed into community. It’s the city in a valley, not on a hill. It’s about the individual, not community.

Pride can be found on both extremes. It’s not sowing your gifts into community, and it’s also not recognizing the true Source of your gifts. This model is definitly more complex than the Humility/Pride spectrum, but I believe there is Biblical evidence to support this construct.

Phillipians 2:3–8

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Jesus was the best example of true humility. All power and authority was given to Him. He recognized that His power was given by the Spirit and He used that power in the context of community; healing the sick, teaching in the synagogue, giving water to the thirst, food to the hungry, raising the dead, and ultimately, going to the cross.

We need to become a people who identify and develop our gifting’s from the Spirit for display within our communities.

The world does not need a castrated Church, who operates without power and authority, following the commission of Jesus to “go into all the world and be nice to people.” No! That’s not what He said. Now, I’m not trying to put too much stock into miracles and signs and wonders. After all, Jesus chastised those cities that required miracles in order to believe. There is just as much power in giving water to the thirsty as there is in raising the dead. I just can’t get around the fact that signs and wonders are meant to be manifested through us within community as well.

Mark 16:15–18

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

John 14:12

12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

How can we do “even greater things” if we don’t identify, embrace and encourage the gifts that God has given us? The world does not need nice, safe Christians. The world needs humble Christians, who recognize that they‘ve been given authority to be used within their communities. It’s your risk taking, empowered by faith, displayed in your communities, that the world is longing to see.

Foiled!!

Jenn and I had it all figured out. We would rendezvous at the getaway car after the kids had gone to bed and travel to Los Angeles under the cover of darkness, leaving my poor unsuspecting mother at the mercy of two midgets. It was the perfect plan. We would get to LA late Wednesday night, I would work Thursday, then go to the Mat Kearney show Thursday night and get our faces melted by his gentle, hipster rock. We rarely get time alone without the kids, let alone two nights away. We had been looking forward to this trip for weeks.

I woke up on Wednesday morning with a tingle in my throat. I figured it was because we left the fan on throughout the night, but I was wrong. Jenn woke up with the same symptoms, but we left Wednesday night as planned. We stopped in Oxnard and picked up some medicine at a CVS and started pounding it. We know how to party. When we arrived at the hotel, it was about 11pm, so we checked in and passed out. I woke up the next morning not entirely feeling up to a full day of work, but I had commitments to keep, so I rallied. Jenn took shots of lemon juice every 30 minutes throughout the day (a little trick we learned), so by the end of the day, her sore throat was gone. I however, was not so lucky. By the end of the day, I could barely speak and it was super painful to swallow. We decided we wouldn’t let it ruin our night, so we drove downtown and had dinner at LA Live, which is right next door to the Staples Center. I’m sure the food would have been great if I could have tasted it and if every bite hadn’t felt like swallowing razor blades. We finished our dinner and headed over to the Mayan Theater for the show. Doors opened at 7:30, so we showed up at 7:15 to get in line, which was awesome, except that doors opened at 8. After 45 minutes of waiting in line, we were both ready to call it a night and spend the next three hours sleeping in the car. We wouldn’t be defeated though, so we leaned on each other (literally) and made it to 8pm. Doors opened and we found a spot where we could lean again the railing and watch the show. We stood there waiting for the show to start, but soon realized that we wouldn’t last if we remained vertical the whole show. I was in serious pain and Jenn was exhausted. We walked up to the balcony, found some seats and hunkered down. Mat Kearney finally went on at 9:45, after the supporting band. He put on an awesome show and the new songs sounded amazing. I just wish we would have been in better spirits and could have enjoyed it more, but it was still a great show. We drove home this morning a little defeated after feeling like our trip had been ruined by sickness.

At the prodding of Jenn and my mom, I decided to go to the doctor today. Turns out I have strep throat. Huge bummer! I’m supposed to lead worship at church this Sunday too. I’m on meds now, so hopefully I’ll be ready, but I’ve got a plan B in place if I’m not. Dang though, I really don’t want two things ruined by this crap.

Cross your fingers and pray for me, but don’t lay hands on me…..cause I’m contagious.

The 3-Year Itch

“Are you happy?” she asked me. It was as if she knew the answer before she asked the question. Perhaps she was looking for a glimmer of hope, but I suspect she was simply confirming the obvious. It was the last question in a series regarding my career. Or should I say, it was her last. If you ask me, there was one more question. The most important question.

It was a warm day. Unusual in December, even for San Luis Obispo. I can’t remember if it was a Saturday, or if I was playing hooky from work. Same difference, really. Either way, I was with my family walking the streets and enjoying the weather when we came upon an old friend, pushing her baby as he lay content in his stroller. We chatted briefly about the horrors of parenthood, the loss of the female body, and the superfluous amount of crap we have to carry to keep the little monsters happy. All was well, until a butterfly fluttered past and whispered in my ear that I was being an a$*hole. Normal, butterflies are timid creatures, so you can imagine my surprise.

Soon enough, we had reached the point in the conversation where everyone knows it’s time to find a new topic, so our friend turned to me and asked, “What is it exactly that you do?” I thought through about fifty-seven smart ass things to say before I finally settled on, “Medical sales.” It’s just easier that way. Apparently, she had been talking with some mutual friends and they were trying to settle upon what I did for work. Had I been in the room, I’m not sure I would have been much help in finding them an answer. In some ways, I hate the question, because the one I want to answer is “what would you love to do?” I feel like answering the question of what I do sort of lets the wind out of my sails. It’s not that I’m ashamed of what I do. It just feels like a comma, when I want to answer with a period.

“Are you happy?” she asked me. It was an interesting question, and a good one at that. “No,” I replied. “I’m not happy.” I wasn’t looking for pity. It was an honest answer to a direct question. Keep in mind we were talking about careers. With respect to family, you’d be hard pressed to find a more satisfied man. But for many men, their careers have a lot to do with their overall impression of life. Careers are where men make their name – families are what give it value. It’s a sad man who doesn’t feel like he’s made something of himself. I am just trying to avoid becoming that man. It seems as if every three years, I get this itch to switch careers, which is one thing if you’re single, but it’s quite another when you’ve got a family to support. You can’t just “start over” whenever you please. The problem is that I become incredibly indifferent with a job after three years. When it’s lost the new car smell, and I’m just doing the job to put food on the table, I feel my soul slipping a bit. So, the question of “are you happy” is an easy one to answer. But the more important question, I think, is…”should I be?” I’ve got an amazing life – a better family than I could have hoped for, and a relatively comfortable lifestyle. But it’s not enough.

Turns out it’s not enough for our friend’s husband either, who is dealing with the same questions I’m dealing with. Maybe the same questions you are dealing with. How do I balance contentment with what I’ve got with the desire to see my dreams fulfilled? If the desire to make something of oneself is tempered with humility and control, I don’t see anything wrong with the desire. On the other hand, I’ve only got what I’ve got at the moment. I believe that I should be content with whatever that is. The rub is that I’ve got unrealized dreams that push me towards this idea I have; the idea that if I could wake up every morning and generally, love what I do, I would be a happier man. Who doesn’t want that? I know that contentment and dreams are essential, so maybe humility is what keeps the scales even.

The issue for me is really one of unfulfilled dreams and how they should affect my outlook on life. I can’t yield to the thought that hardly anyone gets to do what they love, so if everyone else is miserable, it’s okay for me to be miserable too. So I’m dealing with what might be the harsher reality; that my dreams are what make me…me. Pass or fail doesn’t even matter. It’s not the realization of the dream that gives a man his name – it’s the pursuit.

Karaoke and the choice of friendship

I swore I would never do it. Sure, I’d sung in front of people hundreds of times before, but doing a bad cover of an even worse song had no appeal to me. Karaoke was reseved for drunkards and fools. My people. It would take a Mel Gibson sized volume of booze to persuade me to make a fool of myself like that. At least, that’s what I thought until my 29th birthday party. It was billed as the party of the century….or at least of the day. My birthday is the day after a close friend’s birthday, so there have been a few years where we decided to share a party – this was one of those years. She and her husband agreed to host the party, the invites went out, and on the day of, the threat of a karaoke party was realized. See, this was her one request. A karaoke machine. Mine was bourbon. I kept eyeing the karaoke machine all night. It was like a high school bully that was waiting for me outside the locker room. Sooner or later, he was going to pummel me.

A few hours later, after most of the guests had left, the hour was upon me. There was no backing out of this one. The remaining guests, which were my closest friends, decided that the guys should all sing something together. You know, to break the ice. After a less that convincing rendition of “Single Ladies,” The guys put down their mics and I was asked to sing something. I guess the belief is that having performed in front of people makes you a pro at karaoke. Well friends, let me be the first to tell you that this just isn’t true. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. Heck, I might have even sounded halfway decent. The problem was that I was SUPER embarrased. This was going to take some easing into. A good friend of mine, who smelled my fear, decided that we would do a duet. I think he was trying to do me a favor, but despite popular thought, singing a duet of “Endless Love,” with another dude is slightly more humiliating than singing a Cheap Trick song on your own. We nailed the duet thought, so all was well. But then we busted out some Taylor Swift. I immediately Bedazzled my microphone and, like I was singing to Taylor Lautner himself, sang, “you’re the best thing that’s ever been mine.” Actually, that last bit didn’t happen. Well….not that night.

We karaoke’d (can that be a verb?) for hours. Until 3am if I remember correctly. And somewhere between U2’s Where the Streets Have no Name and Rage Against the Machine’s Killing in the Name, I realized that these people and I really love each other. We had to. No other group of individuals would make such fools of themselves and still retain any bit of dignity for the others the next day.

It made me wonder what makes friends stick together. Usually, you have a lot in common, or are in a similar place in life. But is there more to it than that? Why do you just “click” with some people and not others? Is it “God ordained,” for lack of a better term, or is it completely environmental? Maybe a bit of both? What solidifies you with your closest friends? There seems to be an intangible “magical bit” that’s unexplainable. Thoughts?

Catching Up

Yo.

What’s shakin’?

Cool. Me?

Oh, you know, the usual – growing a baby, buying a house, working, traveling, running. Life’s been crazy for us. I’ll go through things one at a time to catch you all up on what’s we’re doing. First of all, Jenn’s been pregnant for the past six months, which, if my math is correct, means we’ve got three months to go. I know Jenn is excited to welcome our baby girl, Stella, because being pregnant is miserable. At least that’s what I’m told. It’s actually miserable for the guys as well, just not as miserable. Not even close. But still miserable by our standards. I’m excited as well, but also nervous. I’ve heard it all, “two kids is easier,” “two kids is harder,” etc. Doesn’t matter, really. We’ll find out when we get there and it will be awesome and super tough.

As far as the house thing goes, we are in escrow. The process of buying a house started and is proceeding very quickly. We’ve had our eyes on the market for the past three or four years, but we weren’t in a position to buy until now. Mostly, due to the generosity of our incredible parents. When we started looking again, about two months ago, we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted. Unfortunately, everything in our price range were short sales or foreclosures, which turns out, makes for a miserable buying process. We eventually found the house that we are currently in the process of buying. It is a great first home for so many reasons – it’s close to parks, safe, only five years old, close to friends, but mostly…..it’s ours. We are only starting to wrap our heads around the idea that we can put holes where we want, change the floors or the counter tops, or paint or kid’s rooms. It’s really such a privilege to be in the position we are in where buying a home is a possibility. It’s something we honestly never thought would happen, but we are SO ready to move in once escrow closes next month. Keep your fingers crossed. HUGE shout out to Holly Rodgers Realty. She’s been great to work with. Super encouraging through the process, but also really honest, even when the news wasn’t positive. If you’re even remotely interested in buying, email her. She’ll find you a great home, complete with a 14 color rainbow and garden gnome. hrodgersrealty@gmail.com

Work stuff is boring. I’m working like a dog, traveling all over kingdom come, blah, blah, blah. Nothing new there. But business is great and I’m thankful for having such a great gig.

My lovely wife has been….uh….encouraging me to exercise lately. With all the work and stress, she wants me to stay healthy. At least until my life insurance policy is worth more. I’ve tried all sorts of things, but the bottom line is that I just don’t like exercise. I hate it actually. Exercise hurts. The only exercise I enjoy is surfing, but surfing is difficult because you are a slave to the conditions. You also need at least a few hours from getting suited up to getting out of the water, showered and ready for work. It’s just not an acceptable substitute for a consistent workout. So, despite my own fears and hesitations, I’ve begun running. It’s just the easiest way to get out and do some cardio to keep the ticker ticking. But I’ll be honest with you. I absolutely despise running. At least at the moment. I started last week, and so far I’ve run about two miles nearly every day. There are people who love running. Love being outside in the fresh air, love the challenge, love setting goals, etc. I’m just not one of those people. I’m not an especially motivated person. I don’t really care to set goals for myself, or challenge myself physically. This presents a problem because running sort of requires that you push yourself to new boundaries. At least most of the initial pain is gone, having done it for a week now. My thought is that if I can run three or four miles three or four times a week, I should be in pretty good shape. I’ll be even more sexy and my wife will get to keep her husband around. Win-Win.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but this is the last topic. Writing.

I’ve got a project that I’m working on that had to be put on hold until I thought it through a bit more. I’ve begun working on it again, and now, it just needs to be finished. I’m plugging away at it, slowly but surely, and I’m excited to share it once it’s done. It’s an essay about our responsibility as Christians to love others who are struggling with hopelessness, given the dilemma of the human condition, realizing that we ourselves are subject to the same condition. It’s a monster of a subject, so I wouldn’t expect any revelations. But writing about it has allowed me to better understand it. Hopefully it will be done soon, considering I’ve been working on it for two years.

So that it, folks. Hope you all are doing super awesome. Why don’t you tell me how awesome you are in the comments section. It would be nice to get something other than spam comments.

Trav

Failure

I asked Jenn to record an interview Oprah had with J.K. Rowling last week. I finally got around to watching it tonight, and I was super impressed with J.K. Rowling. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that all of my readers watch Oprah – so there’s no need to repeat what you’ve already heard, but J.K.’s thoughts on failure really struck a chord with me. I have this insane urge to succeed, and it’s not because of fight – it’s because of fear. I am deathly afraid of people finding out what I fear is true of myself – that I may fail. This might be the reason why I haven’t finished any of the writing projects I’ve started. It might be the reason why I haven’t taken many chances in my life. I usually take the “failure is not an option” approach, which is fine, unless your fear of failure has everything to do with other’s perception of yourself.

J.K. said something in the interview about failure that I thought was really great:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

I am really trying to deal with my fear of failure. I don’t want it to prevent me from trying something, even if it means I’ll likely fall flat on my face doing so. I want to tame this beast for myself and for my children. They need to know that they are only bound by their ambition. What if everyone lived this way? What if that little idea you have…the one that won’t go away. What if that idea is that one that frees you from your fear of failure, even if it does so by causing you to fail. I think I’m ready. At least I hope I am. You?

Words without Power

I came to the realization yesterday that words and ideas that used to be packed with meaning, and therefore power, have slowly been diluted. Words like hope, trust, promise and love have been marginalized to the point that their meanings have become confused and misunderstood. We say, “words are cheap.” And they are, if the person who says them has no intention of following through on the action the word demands. Friends of mine, going through really tough times have been on the receiving end of this . Their friends say to them, “I love you,” but what they mean so often is “I will be committed to you until it becomes inconvenient for me to do so.” This got me thinking about C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a series of letters, written by a senior demon, Screwtape, to his junior-tempter nephew, Wormwood. In the letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood on how to handle a certain human, to ultimately secure his damnation. Like most things C.S. Lewis writes, it’s brilliant. As I was thinking about the power of words and ideas through the lens of spiritual warfare, I thought that, if I was responsible for the damnation of humans, I would begin to trivialize the ideas that give them hope. I assume that I’m not alone in the thoughts I have. Thoughts like, “I wonder if dinosaurs cross-bred?” Well, maybe I’m alone in that one, but I also wonder what life is all about. What am I here for? Will I ever feel truly content? Things like that.

It seems like at each milestone in life (i.e. getting married, having kids, buying a house, etc.) there is the potential to think, “huh….that wasn’t really as fulfilling as I thought it would be.” It’s proven to me that life isn’t about the things – it’s about the people. And in a world where people can be thought of as commodities and rungs on a ladder, words like hope, faith and love are more important than ever. When the guts are ripped out of hope, people lose the motivation to hope – and by hope, I mean the active pursuit of hope. Because if hope is futile, what’s the point? I’ve seen this in myself. When hope is lost, when love disappoints, and when faith is damaged, I’ve become lifeless. A robot, going through the motions. When that happens, victory goes to Screwtape.

In the last few days, I’ve been trying to rethink these ideas. Who do I really love? What does that mean? Am I fighting for hope? I’ve felt a bit robotic in the past few years and I think it has something (or everything) to do with allowing myself to lose the power of the things I believe in. Because life has gotten so hectic and distracting, I’ve stopped thinking about the things that really matter because I’m simply trying to make it through the day. It’s a strange paradox that when I pursue hope and love, making through the day becomes an afterthought.

Lakes – The Agreement

1996 – Audio Adrenaline: Bloom

1999 – Blink 182: Enema of the State

2000 – Caedmon’s Call: Long Line of Leavers

2003 – Norah Jones: Come Away with Me

2006 – John Mayer: Continuum

2010 – Lakes: The Agreement

There are albums that, for whatever reason, you relate to so deeply that they become landmarks on your journey. Bloom was the first CD I ever bought. Enema of the State was on repeat throughout my senior year of high school. “Can’t Lose You” from the album Long Line of Leavers was my lament while Jenn was living in England. I listened to Come Away With Me on every drive to Northern California to visit Jenn while she was living with her parents prior to our marriage. “Stop this Train” from the album Continuum was, and still is a song that completely encapsulates my feelings on the speed of life.

This year, it’s the album The Agreement from the band, Lakes. It’s going to mark a chapter in my life because it’s full of songs about the struggle. Hope in the midst of heartache – faith when it comes at a cost. I am pleased to say that I’ve got friends in this band. They are a group of men that believe the songs, because they’ve lived them.

We all want to listen to music that moves us. And I can promise you, with complete certainty, that this album will move you. I’ve had the privilege of getting a sneak peak at the album, and it’s incredible. So do yourself a favor and pre-order the album here. It will be released on Friday, September 3rd.

For those of you in California and neighboring states, please come to the release show in San Luis Obispo on Thursday, September 2nd at Downtown Brew. The only thing you will regret is your face being melted off. But it will be worth it. Trust me. Buy tickets here.

I’m doing this for your own good. Listen to my advice and you’ll get some kick ass music and warm fuzzies. Maybe not in that order…but you’ll get them.