Sojourner


I have always been interested in the unique word sojourner. To understand what the word, not necessarily the historical name, actually means takes a bit of research and some creativity. Even in the Bible. a few translations make reference to being a sojourner throughout the land. Slowly but surely I’m beginning to have a better understanding of what this word means, and how it applies to me.

Perhaps, I should begin by offering a heart-felt apology to so many people. I feel guilt. Shame. Abandonment even. It may not necessarily make sense at the moment, but please believe me when I state my aim is not to create hate, but instead confess my own confusion.

I do not understand this world.

I do not understand this society.

I do not understand the people.

While not impossible, I do firmly question how hard it is to be a Christian within the society that I currently dwell in. Maybe that is too broad of a statement and/or question. Perhaps I have not tried hard enough to emphasize my thoughts, God’s will, or Biblical interpretations in relation to last weeks election.

I feel…nothing.

*crowd throws tomatoes*

I am sorry. This is where my heart hurts. I see one side of people thrilled about an elected leader who is going to ‘change the status quo in Washington’. I see another side that is full of fear, sadness, and anger. I’m stuck in the middle because I feel sadness for both sides. I cannot look at any person, any group of people, and suddenly feel threatened by their power. God is a lot bigger then what we measly humans can conjure up. That realization, that fact, that truth is what I hold onto on a daily basis. In fact, literally this is something I carry on me in the form of in on my left shoulder:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

I did not get a tattoo just because I wanted one. I received one because I wanted that reminder with me. Originally, I thought it would serve as a reminder of what God has done to protect me coming out of a horrific divorce. However, five years past those tragic days I see that God’s message holds true in many uncertain events.

Reality is understanding that bad things will always plague this world. We have done this to ourselves. History demonstrates that to us on a daily basis. We will always have leaders that strike fear throughout the masses, and there will always be groups of people trying to rewrite the laws of society. This is not a situation within just the United States, this is a situation that resides within the global community.

I have watched friends, colleagues, people of faith, and people without, tear at each other for the past seven days. I tiptoe around every conversation I can, barely giving recognition to the results of the previous week. Why? Because I’m not spiritually swayed one way or another, there is no line for me. I follow the government as instructed, and I follow the God that created all of it. I try to keep my regulations and rules to a minimum, and simplify thoughts so that I do not become lost within ‘red tape’.

However, the problem with the information stated above is that it does not sit well with anyone within society anymore. I can say the things above because I am “a middle class, white, male who owns personal property”. I’m ‘entitled’ to live life risk free because of elements that I cannot control within my own identity. With that said, if I do choose to take a side, most likely either viewpoint will immediately conflict within the Biblical principles that I am to hold myself accountable to. I can gain the whole world, but in turn I can also lose my soul.

I feel like a wanderer, a person without a home. I feel the urge to apologize to every person I come across since last week because there is not a camp that I fall into. I don’t understand how Christian’s can take such polarizing stances on any specific political topic inside our society. So much of everything conflicts with the governing nature of God, Himself. I know what Christ said about government, I know what God warned about in relation to government, and I know that the direction is at all times to trust God, love like Christ, and endure the world that I currently live in.

Currently, I am not mad, angry, or frustrated with any group of people within the United States. Extremists, political groups, advocates, social media stalkers, etc…I’m sad because inside my soul; I can tell I do not belong. I feel isolated and alone because I did not take a side*, pick a camp, or reside with specific people that have the same political views. I chose none of it because none of it made sense compared to the teachings that I have immersed myself in. I do not need Church leaders to tell me who to vote for, who to be afraid of, or when to panic. I need a body that is willing to focus on what and who is important and recognize that the kingdoms of this world with come and go. Only one will forever remain.

In conclusion; I am sorry that you do not find me with a  safety pin, and I apologize that I do not join you in jokes about protestors, immigration, and racial charged groups of people. I apologize that I have very little share on social media, and my ‘political education’ appears to be turning up nothing of value for fuel of those looking.

I am sorry that this one time I will agree with former teachers, leaders, parents, and everyone else; I cannot resist but to go against the grain and not follow the standard norm. I am a sojourner; this is a land where I realize I will never belonged.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19

-D-

*Note: As a citizen within this society, I would like to go on record of stating that I did vote within the election. Should be stated just as an act of clarification.

Shoes Instead of Pews


Life continues to be a world of ‘firsts’ throughout the 2016 year. So much of it has revolved around running, friendships, and breaking away from the standard system that I had grown to accustomed to over the years. The truth is; I think I am growing, and at the least I am beginning to think on my own versus accepting a reality that has been preprogrammed into my soul.

Perhaps I will say the wrong thing, upset the balance of acceptance, or maybe just rub a reader the wrong way. I would apologize for such strange ideas, but in my life, that tends to just be the direction of which my heart flows.

I am happy and sad all in the same mindset and my soul struggled to comprehend such explicit emotions…

I had an interesting weekend. Darco and I traveled north to Omaha, Nebraska. We were traveling with a group of 14ish other people with the same task; run. My challenge was a 21 mile trail race Sunday morning. It did not go quite as planned. I finished, but I finished with a limp, a waddle, and nearly a crawl. My body gave out early and I truly struggled to finish the race. Afterwards, I was not in a good spot. My body hurt, my heart hurt, and the only thing I knew I did not want to do…was to run. That is how extreme the course was in my perspective.

After a rough night of trying to sleep, and lounging around in the classroom through the day, I decided to head back out to the trails Monday night. In celebration for Halloween, our running group had decided to have a ‘costume run’. Meaning, I was on a trail between a unicorn and a clown. I told myself, I told my wife, I told my mentor/coach that I was just walking for a mile. That was all I wanted to do, still slightly disgusted with myself on the day prior.

Something happened though; perhaps it was lacing the dirty, crusty shoes, or feeling the October evening breeze, or perhaps even just kicking up a little dirt, but even in my soreness I had to run. I started running, painfully, but I kept moving. It became fun, each step, each breath, each conversation with the people that I have grown to love. A mile and a half passed by and I finally stopped for a drink and to catch my breath. I felt better. I could discuss the chemical reasons and reactions for why I felt better, but honestly my heart felt better. Even walking the mile back down to the trailhead I sang to myself, walked in the dark, and just embraced the moment. I felt clean. I felt pure. I felt free of guilt and disappointment.

What a strange sensation.

Life taught me that being dipped in the water, raising your hands, and following the chords of a guitar was to bring about that feeling. Laying hands, eating crackers, and clapping to a 4/4 beat was to bring about joy. Ensuring that you were in your seat at 8:30 Sunday morning, not leaving the building until 7:00 PM Sunday night, plus Wednesday night from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM, that is what was to bring about glory and peace. Listening to speakers discuss fear and politics, and voting strategies because God doesn’t know what He’s doing was the norm to bring the mind under control.

I cannot be tied down anymore. I have to escape.

The biggest joy in my life is knowing that God is amazing, patient, and never gives up on me. It is so humbling, terrifying, and inspiring; it’s something that I do not deserve. It does not make sense, it is not scientific, and at last check it is not necessarily politically correct.

But it is mine, and mine alone, and my heart feels so light because of it. What a beautiful gift.

What a beautiful gift I almost lost. What a brilliant joy that I almost forgot. What a marvelous prize that I almost gave up.

I love God. I just can no longer stand the institution.

What I witnessed last night was the beautiful benefit of God’s love through the element of friendship. Friendship that is not tied to work, and not tied to the Church, but tied together with heartstrings. I could not walk into a church, complain about feeling down after a race, and expect to find grace. Instead the pain tends to get buried under budgets, and bureaucrats, and business transactions that illuminate stained glass like the office lights along Wall Street. I’ve searched, I tried, and I have torn my heart apart to find what is so wrong with me for the sake that I cannot seem to locate a building, an institution, a congregation that can put down the Facebook posts and ignore the campaign signs and just breathe life.

Likes, shares, and retweets aside…simply I ask, why did Christians choose to make being a Christian in this society so difficult?

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Maybe shoes instead of pews could change a lot of lives.

-D-

God’s Tracks and Trails


I fear that I as I head back to school for another exciting school year, many people are going to inquire as to what I did with my three month. The fear derives from the reality that my answer will be rather…basic?

I ran. A lot.

Knowing that within the next few days I’ll be reporting back to school has given me an opportunity to do a mental recap over the summer, and truth be told, without shame, this summer really did revolve around running. I logged a lot of miles in the few months apart from the school year.

While some were difficult, emotional, and challenging, some, such as the experience I had this weekend, were soul fulfilling.

I’ve struggled for recent months (in some cases years) with the current condition of the Church that flies its banner within the political confines of the country that I exist in. Truthfully, the concept and questioning has come to a head over the past several weeks. Notably it’s been stated that running really can provide an amazing opportunity to experience worship. That may sound strange to those who hate running, but to those who lace up frequently, I feel that, that knowledge maybe understood.

Yesterday, I was given the opportunity to stretch out my mileage with some amazing friends early on in the morning hours. Originally I chalked up as just another run, and another chance to log mileage for myself.

What I, shamefully, hadn’t planned on was the experience with God through the miles of wilderness.

***

Imagine having to take the first mile in stride, seeing only a few feet before due to limitation of dawn’s light. Through mile two and three you begin to coexist with reality for the day. The sky has lightened, life has returned, and you are merely another creature moving about the planet. No talking, no noise, just the idle, repetitive footsteps through God’s terrain. Miles four through six show the ultimate event horizon, where your existence blends into the dirt that you’re attempting to cover. The overhead rocks show your small stature in the world outside of man, and the gentle breeze reminds you of how much you are loved. The final miles bring about celebration! A mix of adrenaline and grace streams through your presence; you recognize how small you really are, and yet how important your life truly is. Finishing eight miles in the woods on a random Saturday morning was not just about logging the required mileage. It was about the opportunity to reconnect to a place, to an entity bigger than ourselves.

***

So, when people ask what I did this summer. I’ll think back to my random journey’s through the woods and I’ll smile and simply say…

I worshipped. A lot.

-D-

XXXI: Ultras


I wanted to be fast.
I wanted to win.
I wanted to prove everyone wrong.
I wanted to prove myself wrong.
I accomplished none of these things.

Try to imagine this strange complex (some of you may be able to relate). You love a specific sport, soccer, football, baseball, etc…it is your life, it is your desire, it is something you dream about. There is just something about the event that just drives you. You play, participate, practice, train, etc…However, when the day ends, you are still too short, too big, too slow, or you just don’t ‘have what it takes’.

How do you accept that reality? Do you quit? Do you keep going? What is your exit plan when your dreams don’t always pan out the way you envisioned them?

For about a month, almost two months, that has been the life I have been living when it comes to running. I love running. I love everything about it. I train, I run, I eat well, I practice with others, and I run races. I just love to run. However, in a world full of statistics it turns out that passion doesn’t always equal results.

To be honest; I’m 6’5 and around 250 pounds. Overall I am just a big guy that towers over other people. There was not a lot of biomechanics that came with this physical package. Where MC and many other family members thrived in athletics; I looked good, but when push came to shove, I fell down. A lot.

I needed a change up. I didn’t want to vacate running because I still love the sport. However, I could slowly but surely feel the burnout growing within my own heart. I was growing tired of lining up for a local 5K race, running the race, and finding similar results. This year alone I’ve finished 4th in my age group in four different races. The ‘click’ just isn’t there, and now I’m starting to accept that reality.

Praise God for random strangers, stupid ideas, and foolish attempts.

Several weeks ago I wrote about making friends, trying out speed running sessions with random strangers, and even my involvement of being on a city running team for a local business. I needed all of those things, desperately. They were all the slight pushes I needed to move away from what was comfortable, but not fulfilling, and into something extremely uncomfortable yet incredibly fun.

Trail racing.

This is running on trails that are designed really for mountain bikes. A lot of rocks, roots, dirt, and the such. I’ve been out a few times, and each time I come back loving it that much more. Partly because of the technical challenge, partly because trail running people are a very special, close-knit group. Also, the distances for the races are a little different compared to standard 5K. They range from 7 miles to 20 miles to 50 miles to 100 miles, and everything inbetween.

I needed this. Road running was just becoming stressful, frustrating, and the love was really lacking. This is new, refreshing, and at the level of insanity that I’m comfortable with.

Because of all of this I’ve joined up as a volunteer for construction projects on our local trails (AKA: more friends), I run with a specific group each Monday (AKA: more friends), and of course our running team comprises of several trail runners (AKA: more friends).

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Flyover Trail Racing (I have no idea what I’m going to do with this)

This has also allowed me to experiment with design and concepts for logos, brands, and marketing. I launched (for fun) a Facebook page, blog, and Twitter account really recapping my experiences in this new sport.

Personally, and this is not something I would have predicted, it is the support that is best part of this transition. These crazies all enjoy doing foolish things on the trails, and they don’t make excuses about it. I don’t have to go to races alone, I don’t have to talk to myself about my adventures, I now have a group of people that are all just as unstable.

I consider that quite the blessing.

Here’s to the ultrarunners. You untable, insane, awesome group of people that I can call my friends.

-D-

XXXI: My Declaration


I’m sitting in my basement. The sun is shining through two windows and the blinds are currently drawn on the patio doors adjacent to this entertainment room. Above I can hear our two cats wrestling with each other in the living room. The laundry is caught up, washed, dried, and put away. We’re working on a way to correct our frame for our new bed so that our cats will not destroy our box springs (again). The kitchen is calm, dishes are washed, and I’m thinking of cooking ribs tonight for dinner. I washed my truck for the first time in six year. Darco’s tomato plant is growing, and our new landscaping in the front yard looks great thanks to my wife’s hard work. Her dress is currently drying in the summer breeze out on our porch looking over our backyard. We just learned that my wife will be receiving another ‘promotion’ within her company in the next six months. Granted, if I gave details she would be all bitter towards me for sure.

Later today, time permitting, Darco and I will drive six miles down the road and explore the trails that surround the lake that we live next to. Tonight Darco and I will attend Bible study with a group of people that are relatively close to our age. We’ll laugh, study, and talk about our positions in life and what we think God is directing us towards. In a few days MC and Jim will come to our house and we’ll watch the fireworks display that is being set off only two miles away from our neighborhood. Tomorrow morning I’ll run from our house, across the dam of our local lake, into the small downtown of our town. I’ll grab a cup of coffee, eat a cinnamon roll, and then run back to our house. Afterwards I’ll meet MC and Jim and we’ll depart to the city 15 miles south of our neighborhood. We’ll ride the streetcar, shop through the open air river market, and explore antique stores through the city’s old industrial sector referred to as the West Bottoms.

***

Between the founding concept of this website and the world currently outside my front door, negativity is something that plagues the world around me. Someone is upset, offended, hurt, or dead it seems every minute (maybe even more). Social media tends to be toxic with people arguing over what is right and what is wrong.

This world is a shockingly hard place to live in.

If I get wrapped up in what is so wrong with the reality around me I’ll miss the blessings that have already seen set before me. The truth is God is good and has blessed me tenfold in the past five years. I have a loving wife, a pretty entertaining job, and I live somewhere that I would have only imagined living in, in my own wandering dreams. I have central air conditioning…and tile floors…and a garage! God has given me more than I should ever deserve. Biblically speaking I only deserve death, so there’s that. I’m only curious, and this is solely directed towards the ‘Christians’ of the world. Whatever happened to us giving praise for the life we have? The enjoyment that we should never have had in the beginning? It is so easy to rely on God when the chips are down, but what about the other moments.

One of my objectives since 2011 was to experience life to its fullest. That included a crazy marriage, moving, and many different jobs. However, guess what, God has stayed faithful through every single moment of my life. He never left me, never forsake me, never gave up on me. He ‘s still right here, and I can’t express how comforting that is.

Let’s be real; I’m a divorced Christian that remarried to a woman who wasn’t even a Christian when we first met. I watch anime from Japan, teach middle school students, enjoy tattoos, running, and electronic dance music. Sometime during the year my beard is dyed different colors, and sometimes I even wear headbands when my hair is getting long. There is nothing, I pray, nothing about my life that fits the criteria of being a ‘Christian’ in today’s society.

Even thinking back to the days of youth church camps, mission trips, etc…there always seemed this unspoken urge to be sad, broken, or devastated about this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, Paul, David, John, Job, and many others all tore their clothes for the sorrows of their own life’s and that of others. However, they also danced, rejoiced, and praised the high points of life.

I don’t think God expects us to be stoic.

I think God expects us to live a life worth living, and to reflect back knowing that we gave it our all and we had a blast along the way.

I will declare my happiness, my joy, and my peace at this moment in my own life. Darco and I are blessed, and I firmly believe that as a Christian couple it is our responsibility to not only seek God throughout our days, but also to give Him praise when life turns out in ways we could never dream of happening.

We’re praising. We’re blessed. God is good.

-D-

Mobile Minutes: Rubber Bands


Here I am, two hundred miles from home, a race at 8:00 AM tomorrow morning.

Primarily hills.

I went to warm up on a light mile this evening. Halfway through, heading up a hill, all I felt was a ‘pop!’ in my left calf.

I was done.

So, two hundred miles from home I’m trying to figure out how to keep my body together for 3.1 miles tomorrow morning.

Words can’t even express how absolutely upset I am at this moment.

-D-

XXXI: Prayers of Laughter


We’re laughing in the middle of a prayer; God is going to be so mad at us…

Here’s the truth: Darco and I struggle to come to a middle ground when it comes to church. I struggle with music, but love deep, theological ideas through a sermon. She enjoys music…and people. Needless to say, we’re not exactly on equal terms, but we’re trying.

In recent adventures, through way of Google Maps and Facebook, we found a church near our house that had a young adult group that met every Monday night. We had come to the understanding, and both of us agree, that one of our struggles is not being around people our age. Not the people that are currently having kids (no offense), but the ones that are starting their adult lives, not rushing into families, and trying to make an impression on the world before being whisked away in the world of…family.

That’s when, while visiting this small church, we learned of the small group of young adults that met each Friday night at the leaders apartment a few miles away from where we reside. Last Friday, against all social fears that I could dream up, Darco and I traveled to this strange little apartment to be surrounded by a handful of people…that we’d never met, and that we knew absolutely nothing about.

The group was inviting, relaxed, chilled, and…wait for it…focused on humor, relationships, and faith. There was a quick devotion, some time for singing, and just talking about the real, unique problems that face people our age. Interestingly enough Darco and I are the only married people in the group. That’s an interesting perspective that I never thought I’d witness.

It was warm, comfortable, and inviting. Honestly, it was exactly what Darco and I had been searching for. There were people from India, South Korea, California, Missouri, Kansas, etc…fascinatingly diverse, but still unified on the same grounds of concept; faith, Christ, God, love. Even more awesome to me was the fact that not all the people there attended the same church. Some attended the small church we originally visited, some from a church near my school, and others from throughout the city. They came from all walks of life, and were respected for the unique quirks, concepts, and ideas.

Doctrine wasn’t discussed; only exactly what the Bible had to say and the encouragement to do better, dive deeper, grow stronger as  Christian and to rely on one another. It was so mesmerizing that Darco and I inadvertantly were there for nearly three hours last Friday night.

It was so fascinating that we decided to go again last night. Again, challenged to actually read the Bible, listening to people confess their shortfalls was so humbling to witness, and to know that people supported and prayed for one another was just jaw-dropping. It was basic and simple; it was something that I was extremely comfortable with. I was able to speak thoughts with this group, to listen, and to discover more about all of these people that are so seemingly close to same point in their lives as myself.

Consider it a blessing; I know that I do. It’s incredible that on Sunday nights I can witness the maturity of people and families that are established that we spend time with. On Friday nights it’s comforting being around believers that understand the similarities that each other are going through within the age establishment of the group.

Finally, it is the overcoming sensation of speaking to random strangers. I’m not one to enjoy heading out, being with groups, and talking about faith. That’s a rather stressful point of conversation I’ve learned over the years. However, there is something that can click within the individual to where a suppressed sensation of “this is safe, take a chance” becomes apparent. I consider this small blessing a large victory. It has been nearly nine years since multiple days throughout the week involved multiple groups of people. Again, I consider this gain. The temptation is be quiet, isolated, and individualized…the truth is that I need the fellowship, the wisdom, and the support of those around me.

Overcoming so frequently can become eventual blessings.

-D-