Silence Is (Not So) Golden

Nothing new here. Life is moving on imperceptibly slow. Sure, there are minor details of life that may be interesting to some, but for the most part life has been nothing but the slow turn of the Earth, marching onward with no slow down in sight. 
I’m not sure how much time has passed since I have been here. Sure, a calendar will tell me it has been two weeks since my arrival, but every day has felt like many days. Even yesterday is a blur at this point. 

I went without running water in my temporary home for almost ten days only to find that the leak that had once forced me to keep it off has mysteriously ceased. I had a shower today and it was lovely. Also, my dishes that had piled in the sink refound their homes in cabinets and drawers. 

Life has been good, yet lacking. 

I miss the companionship of a wife and children. I miss the noise that accompanies the domestic half of my life. Work is a welcome distraction from the silence of my borrowed trailer, but it is no substitute for the joy of family. 

So I wait, impatiently, for their arrival, angry at those who have delayed it with their careless (and possibly criminal) actions (or lack therof). 

Perhaps I should relish the silence, enjoy the time spent in quiet. Perhaps I should take this time to reflect or grow. 

Not for me. For me, there is no growth without the stress of noise. There is nothing in silence but time for navel-gazing and dangerous over-contemplation of one’s life choices. 

I think too much when I am alone. I go to places the mind should never go. I worry and fret and despair over details of life which I have no control over. I take too much credit for my position in time and space. 

If I have discovered anything in this time of silence it’s this: God has given me gifts which I have taken for granted. I assume that what I have is normal and is a part of me, like appendages. I did nothing to bring them into existence, they just are. Every good gift must be something I deserved, merely because I exist. 

But, a wife, children, and the fertilizer of chaos are not deserved, they are gifts. God supplies them for the growth of a man, and when they are removed, even temporarily, a man can find himself stunted and unable to flourish. 

God knows I need noise as much as He knows I need times of silence. One to grow me, the other to force acknowledgement of His gifts. 

Pray that they arrive safely and more importantly soon. 

New Adventures Begin 

Out of my driveway and into the world

Some things are laughable, like planning to leave at 6 AM. After driving for Uber late into the night I woke up way beyond my alarm and left at 9. 

My singular goal on day one was to get lunch at Lee’s Diner in Hammond, LA. My mom used to eat here during her younger years and she has always raved about it. I tried to eat there last year on my way through, but a fire had gutted the kitchen and they were renovating. My personal memories of it are sparse, I know we went a few times when I was a kid, but what I ate besides a chocolate malt escapes me. I hit the road salivating. 

Someone’s having fun…

Before I even got out of Florida I was reminded why I was heading west.  A prescribed fire was going just on the other side of the highway. I hope it was successful, given the smoke column I’m pretty sure it was. 

The panhandle of Florida takes what seems like an eternity to cross. My lunch plans settled into dinner plans as I ate some roller “food” from a gas station. I know people who won’t touch those things. I figure if I am going to be sick I may as well do it right! 

There wasn’t much excitement between home and the Louisiana border. Then came the Obligatory Community Coffee Stop at the welcome center. 

My favorite part of the coffee setup they have there is the “Children Need Assistance” sign. Everyone should know all Cajun kids start coffee at a very young age, the younger the better. That’s why we tend to be shorter than average. 

Mmmmm

I kid of course. But really,  I started coffee at five, and my growth stopped at 5’7″. There has to be a connection. 

Around 5 PM I finally reached my goal. The place was packed, so I grabbed a spot at the counter. I’m not used to traveling solo so I am not used to lunch counters. I actually tried to pull my stool closer to the counter at one point. My embarrassment was quickly stifled by this:

Double Mmmm. 

I was persuaded that I could probably make a decent po boy at home but that ettouffe was a bit more difficult to perfect. I’m so glad I made that decision. 

I topped it off with a chocolate malt and headed out full but determined that boudin balls were necessary to make my drive through LA complete. After discovering that most places were closing soon I found Hebert’s down the road was open until 7 and if I hurried I might just get me some awesome. 

I assume it’s Cajun lasagna… 

When I saw they had lasagna I was a little worried. After a short discussion with the girl at the counter I decided on links instead of the usual balls. 

Insert obligatory sausage joke…

While they may look a little strange, they were amazing. 

I trucked on and crossed the Mississippi at sunset. 

Old Man River #NoFilter #WowMyPhoneCameraIsGood

My second goal of the day was to make it to Houston. I selected a Pilot Travel Center just outside of town thinking “this will work”. Normally this would be reasonable thinking, but when I arrived around Midnight I was met with one hour parking signs and a panhandler telling me about his seven felonies. “Nah man, I won’t snatch your wallet, I ain’t dumb.” Then he asked if I smoked “hydro”. Soooo it was on to the other side of town where thankfully I was able to find a Walmart with rvs parked out front. Rvs are always a good sign that no Walmart manager is going to scoot you along at 4 AM. 

After six uncomfortable hours across the front seats of the van, I decided to trek onward. 

Day two was even less eventful than day one. About the time I hit west Texas the AC stopped working well and I was forced to switch from long pants to shorts. That was quite an event! Sarcasm.

Roasting and getting blinded, TX hates me. Oh, and so many bugs.

Finally I hit NM and after getting through Carlsbad and Hope I was finally climbing into the mountains. 

More like “hills” really…

My plan was to park somewhere on the forest and set up a tent. There was snow rumored on my aunt and uncle’s property where we plan to stay for the summer. About ten minutes from town I find out that they are actually in town and the property is pretty much snow free! 

After eating decent Mexican (i.e. NOT Utah “Mexican”) we settled down to sleep in their trailer. 

My hidey-hole…
First view of Cloudcroft in the daylight.

Now to get the rest of the family out here. 

I can get used to this…

The Adventure….Doesn’t Begin

Today was supposed to mark the beginning of our adventure to New Mexico. Of course, thanks to a snafu by the car dealer, our title has not been sent from VA to NM. So we are stuck in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future.

Which is fine.

This is fine
How I really feel

We are way behind on packing and cleaning, and it gives me time to do my new favorite pastime: driving Uber.

For a total of four nights now, I’ve driven around town and picked up people from all walks of life. Some are chatty, some are eerily quiet, most are somewhere in between. Some are drunk, some are just trying to get to or from work. I feel a bit like I am playing GTA in real life, picking up random people in random places and dropping them off in other random places, then watching the money counter scroll upwards. For an extrovert like me, this has been a pretty cool job.

I’m glad to have a little job to do, it distracts from the craziness of trying to get this show on the road. As if I didn’t have enough anxiety already, add a deadline and a really long drive and I’m getting crazy not being on the road. I made it to Arizona in three days last year. If it comes down to it, I can probably make NM in two…

I’ll keep you posted.

My Life is About to Get a Whole Lot Of Crazy

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Lighting a backfire in Idaho, State Fire 2013

When I’m not wrangling five hoodlums, I wrangle fire. In 20 days I’ll be starting my second full season of working on an engine full time. Needless to say I’m a bit freaked out, not because of the job, but because of all the stuff that must be done to get there. We have 20 days to get the house cleaned and prepped for a six month absence, get a trailer cleaned and packed, prepare two vehicles for a 1500 mile drive, prep for a pack test, and get three cats, a dog, and seven people from Florida to New Mexico.

Needless to say I am incapable of deep thoughts at this point. While I do have some stuff already written up, I can’t edit them to my liking right now. So don’t expect much in the next few weeks except for some possible updates on our adventures.

Those are probably more fun anyways. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Music and Art Monday February 27th

Almost didn’t get one this week. We spent three days driving from VA to FL. THREE DAYS!

So, that was a lot of time to listen to music. This week I will recommend some driving music:

Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand

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This album doesn’t have any bad songs to drive to, just a constant beat of awesome. It helps that the lead singer sings in pretty much exactly my range.

Record in A Bag by Hollerado

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Another band I discovered in a truck in Idaho. A good mix of upbeat and slow stuff to keep you wide awake.

Sugar Man by Yolanda Be Cool

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Really anything by Yolanda Be Cool is good to drive to, but this remix of Rodriguez’s Sugar Man is the best in my opinion. Second best is Soul Mokossa (Money).

Stay Gold by First Aid Kit

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It’s hard to choose between this and The Lion’s Roar but this has more of a road trip feel right off the bat with “My Silver Lining”.

An Awesome Wave by alt-J

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Sometimes you just need something musically complex to keep you alert on the road. This album has enough ups and downs and strange sounds to keep any brain wondering where it’s going next.

Hope you enjoy these!

No art this week. I did not sit still long enough to browse through anything. O.O

 

 

CRAS: Nudity

If you’re not familiar with my term “CRAS” go here for an explanation.

Clothing demonstrates to others our character. What we do or do not wear projects our character to the world. As Christians we should strive to project Godly character with what we wear. We do not want to give a false impression of God’s people to the world. We should be humble but also project joy. We should dress according to occasion. Somber times (and corporate worship) call for somber dress and somber face. Joyful times, such as weddings, call for more joyous dress.

But what about nudity? In my quest to become more Biblical in my thinking and less influenced by culture, this topic has come to mind any time a discussion of “modesty” comes across my newsfeed.

What we wear can demonstrate to others our openness or reservedness. Nudity is to be fully open and exposed. Which is why people generally do not like it. People do not like to be vulnerable. Sins and scars can be hidden with clothing. 

While nudity equalizes us and removes classes, every habit is demonstrated on the body. Abuse from self and from others is displayed. Such things are shameful and the desire to cover them is great.

Is simple nudity sinful? Some say lust and sexuality make nudity sinful. Some say the dress requirements given to the Old Testament temple priests prove nudity is sinful. However, I conclude that simple nudity is not a sinful state. Would God have created Adam and Eve in a sinful state? In spite of the unclothed state of man, God declared Creation “Very Good”.

Some say that certain passages in Leviticus 18 and 20 define nudity as sinful. However, it is clear from the context that “Uncovering the nakedness” is a condemnation of sexual immorality. Literal readings would mean we cannot change our children or bathe an elderly parent. We could not care for others in any way that might require exposing their bodies.

These passages do not condemn simple nudity, they condemn sexual acts among relatives or between non-married people. There is also a condemnation of rape found in these passages. “Exposing the nakedness” in this case is an aggressive act of embarrassment and objectification. In the story of Ham, the bible does not condemn Noah’s nudity, just Ham’s exposure of it. Noah cursed Ham’s son Canaan for drawing attention to his compromised situation.

Some say we should always wear clothing because it is symbolic of Christ’s covering of our sins. This was certainly true of the clothing God created for Adam and Eve. Is there reason to believe God’s clothing of Adam and Eve to be prescriptive to us? When He provided their skin coverings God could have outright declared nakedness to be sinful. However, He simply provided coverings to them as an act of mercy and as a protection to the new harshness of the fallen world. Nudity seems therefore to be acceptable morally in some if not many and most situations.

Some say that the command to “clothe the naked” implies that nudity is sinful. However, if we take this approach to other commands to care for others we would have to assume the state of poverty is sinful, being hungry is sinful, being imprisoned is sinful, being a stranger is sinful, being thirsty is sinful, and being sick is sinful.  All of these states of being would be preposterous to declare sin, so why declare nudity sinful?

We clothe the naked as a protection against the elements and to make the person socially acceptable to the culture they reside in. We do not clothe them because we are making a statement that the body is inherently sinful. Because of this I do not think it’s a requirement that we should clothe cultures where nudity is normal. Indigenous people getting dressed after being converted show us less that nudity is sinful than that the culture that brought them the gospel is “superior” and they are showing respect and admiration for it. Many missionaries did not concern themselves with forcing clothing on the natives, even where they noted the nudity in their journals. The gospel was first and foremost on their minds. We should be more concerned with spreading the Gospel than in making sure people are clothed according to our cultural standards.

Some say that nudity is only appropriate in certain circumstances. They argue that nudity in the garden was only between spouses. I have a few problems with this position. The proponents of this must be reading into scripture an assumption that Adam and Eve would realize the sinfulness of exposing themselves to others outside of their marriage once they started procreation. This is patently absurd. God gave one rule in the Garden and it wasn’t “cover up when  you start having kids.” 

I suppose I cannot say they are accusing God of creating Adam and Eve in a state of sin, since these folks say nudity in marriage is not sinful, but the command to take dominion and procreate was given before clothing. This to me demonstrates that nudity would have been the state of man even after procreation. Had man not fallen, he would still be naked to this day. The only reason he might have gotten dressed was for protection from the elements outside the Garden. But that is speculation as well, and I’ve already condemned the speculations of others so I’ll move on.

While it may sound special and spiritual to claim that the sight of one’s body should be reserved for one’s spouse (and I do not condemn those who feel this way), I do not believe it is a Biblical mandate. If it was inherently sinful to expose ourselves to others besides our spouse, one would be sinning by showering and changing in a public locker room or by exposing ourself to the nurses and doctors at the hospital. There are no exceptions for sin. If we cannot find Scriptural support that says seeing or exposing our nudity is sin outside of marriage, there are certainly no verses excepting doctors, nurses, or old men at the gym.

We should reserve sex for our spouse, but the body is not itself sex. The body is a sin-scarred image of God, not inherently sinful in itself, but marred by one’s spiritual condition.

Does this mean we should all strip off and preach the Gospel in the nude (as Isiah did)? No. We should be offending others with the Gospel itself, not in our appearance. We should adhere to the dress norms of the culture we are reaching.

Does this mean we should have naked church services? One place perhaps that we could be safely naked would be church. But, clothing is symbolic, it does demonstrate a level of humility before our God that we should cover ourselves in His presence. Unless Scripture tells us to remove our clothing (like God telling Moses to remove his shoes) we should wear clothes to church. 1 Timothy 2:9-10 demonstrate that what one wears in church is important to demonstrate our holiness to the world around us. Again, we should be offending the pagans around us with the Gospel, not with our dress, if certain parts of the body offend the culture around us, we would be right to cover them up for the sake of our witness.

So when should we be naked? I do not think that’s the right question, it is not a matter of “should” it is simply a matter of “is it wrong, can I condemn someone as a sinner for doing it?” We cannot Biblically condemn nudity as a sin, but we should be careful in how we approach it. We should not violate our conscience or the conscience of those around us. We should not offend our culture with our bodies, but with the Gospel alone. We should be careful not to project a false image of ourselves, clothed or naked.

Can we go naked here, there, and everywhere? I don’t see why not. “Should” we? It depends.

Be careful what you wear or do not wear, it says a lot about you to the world around you.

Keeping Our Kids Off Porn

Not my method…

Last week,  I discussed the fact that porn is a drug and corrected some common misconceptions about it. This week I intend to give a couple of methods that I see as useful in preventing and fighting porn addiction.

I recommended last time that those who are hooked should stop right now, cold turkey. But while the behavior can be stopped immediately, I think it’s important to examine the root of this addiction and slavery to sexual sin. What makes so many men (and women) vulnerable?

Part of the allure is wiring. Illicit sex is a very enticing sin to many. We are wired with a strong need for intimacy and human touch, and sex is the strongest expression of both. We are often so needy of intimacy that we will settle for even the cheapest of imitations. 

Sex is such a strong desire in our lives, many have over-focused on it and made sexual sin out to be the worst possible sin one can commit. While scripture certainly tells us that sexual sin is especially heinous to the point where one sins against his own body, it is certainly not the unpardonable sin. We need to extend grace to those who have genuinely repented of sexual sins.

It is an understatement to say that we live in a sex-saturated culture. While some of the discussion about sex are healthy and much preferable to the prudishness of previous generations, much if not most of what’s floating around out there is anything but helpful. Most of the sexual discussions out there do not promote healthy sexuality.

What is the root of this porn obsessed culture?

Within the church a large part of it is the “modesty culture.” This sub – culture of Christianity has placed undo sexual meaning to the word “modest” and has created an entire generation of sons who can’t even look around at the mall. 

This group of people have so over obsessed with the sexual attractiveness of the female body that even breastfeeding is shameful and should be kept in bathrooms or in one’s own home. 

Both the church and the secular culture at large have bought into the Freudian lie that sex is the most basic motivator for all human behavior. Our sexuality and sexual appetites define us now. It has become the biggest definer of our self-worth and self-image. 

If everything is sexual, everything becomes Pornographic,  regardless of the content. Even showing affection to your children is sexualized now. 

In the sex-obsessed world we live in it may seem impossible to prevent and kill porn addiction. How do I recommend we do it? 

Short answer: we change our perspective of the human body and sex. Instead of adopting the culture’s pornographic view of the body and sex or the modern church’s prude view of the body and sex, we need to instead adopt a proper and Biblical view. 

The human body:

Much of what attracts young men to porn is the allure of the forbidden. Growing up many if not most Christian boys are constantly told that the allure of the female body is so strong that they have no choice but to lust when exposed to any part of it. 

I believe many young men get into porn as an innocent desire to see what has been hidden. They are told growing up that the sight of a bare breast (thigh, midriff, ankle, etc) will set them into wild fits of lust. They are told to avert their eyes every time a girl walks by in a bikini. This kind of indoctrination creates a curiosity in the young mind. Will the sight of female flesh really make them feel great? What’s under there that is so powerful it must be hidden at all times? 

Naturally these boys will look for what is most accessible. Unfortunately,  most of what is readily available is highky sexual in nature. The media reinforces the teaching that men can only view women as sex objects by portraying them primarily as sex objects. And, just as prohibiting and limiting alcohol consumption until older and older ages leads many into binge drinking and unhealthy alcohol abuse, limiting healthy exposure to the normal human body leads to unhealthy binge consumption of unhealthily sexualized bodies. What started as a curiosity easily turns into an addiction. 

When you are constantly told “don’t look don’t look don’t look”  your mind is being trained to view women’s bodies (and women in general) as stumbling blocks, not as people. 

I knew guys in college who were proud of the fact that they stared at the sand or the sky every time they went to the beach. They avoided even the slightest sight of flesh. That is not something to be proud of. That’s actually a great sign that you need an adjusted mind. One should be able to see a nude woman (or any part of a woman) without flying into fits of sexual rage. 

We should not confuse attraction with lust. Attraction is normal, wild covetousness of women is not. Men who grow up being told that this is how they will react to the sight of women are in a sense conditioned into lust. Well-meaning “bounce your eyes” teachers tell them that even just one lingering glance is lust. If merely looking is lust, why not continue on to do the real thing?

Many of the “bounce your eyes” porn-fighters make avoiding the sight of the female body the cornerstone of their method. I recommend the opposite approach. I recommend seeing it more, specifically in an artistic, non-sexual setting. 

This serves two purposes. First, it removes much of the “forbidden fruit” aspect of the body that increases unhealthy interest in it. Second,  it trains the mind to view the body as on object of symmetry and beauty, not as a purely sexual object. If the non-sexualized nude body was a normalized sight in our culture this “body = sex” association would be much more difficult to plant in the minds of young men (and women). 

If you can train your mind to “not lust” by averting your eyes you are also training your mind to lust when your gaze lingers. A much better approach is to learn a proper perspective of the body not as a pornographic object but as an object made in the image of God and worthy of our respect and admiration. 

I found that when I started painting and drawing the human figure, much of the sexual aspects of the body faded into the background. It’s not that the body is not attractive, it just becomes attractive in a different way. When viewed as art, the body becomes lines, curves, and symmetry. The body becomes an object of great beauty, not an object of sexual appetite.

If you think that the body uncovered is sin in itself just stick around for my next CRAS post. 

Sex:

My last posts got called out for being “repressive” and “puritanical”. I hope I did not come across as prude to my mainly Christian audience. My intent is not to make sex taboo or make people think it is dirty and couples can’t have fun with it. Quite the contrary, I encourage married couples to experiment and try new things to keep their sex lives spicy. 

Key word there is “married”. That is the box I place sex into. I don’t think it is repressive or “puritanical” (not in the sense most use it anyway) to claim that truly healthy sex is found only within the bounds of committed heterosexual monogamy. Marriage is God’s gift to us and allows us the ability to channel our sexual appetites into a productive and beautiful place, rather than into degrading and harmful places. 

In my opinion,  one of the best ways to take the steam out of the pornographic culture we live in is to teach a healthy ethic of sex. This needs to be done early and often in our children’s lives. Start with basic biology well before puberty begins and slowly introduce them to the fact that sex feels good and has many positive and wonderful effects within a committed and monogamous relationship. 

We need to teach our kids, boys and girls, that attraction is a normal thing. As they grow, they are going to find themselves feeling inclined to look and linger at the bodies of others. We need to teach them that this is normal and healthy and that they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. They should not obsess over or feed these thoughts too much either as they can lead to lust.We shouldn’t be teaching them that this attraction is lust or that every time they notice another person they will lust. They can have these thoughts and feelings and not be mastered by them. 

We then need to teach them that marriage is the channel God intended us to put our sexual thoughts and desires into. Teach them that passionate marriages are a good and blessed thing, and that there is nothing shameful at all about sex within that boundary.

To fight porn’s temptation our children need to understand that sex is not a tool for self-gratification. Sex is a building block of intimacy with another person. It is one way we share ourselves with the one person we will (should) spend the bulk of our lives with. It is a powerful part of building intimacy and as such should be reserved for one person alone. 

There are many more things I could say, but I hope you get the idea. Perhaps one day I’ll get deeper into these discussions as I’m sure some of you will find tons of holes in this that I simply don’t have the ability to fill in so few words. 

But for now, I’ll leave it at this: if you want to keep your self or your kids off porn, work on changing your and/or your children’s understanding of the body and of sex.