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

2013-08 State Fire - Holley (3) Burnout-highwind.JPG
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. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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.

Anxiety: The Contentment Killer

Self-imposed (Acrylic on paper) 2016

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) 

Anxiety sucks. Thanks (but no thanks) to anxiety, most of the normally joy inducing events in my life have been reduced to numbness or paralyzing worry. Every bit of good news is given a caveat by my brain. Not much really makes me happy or excited. 

I don’t share this part of me much. I call it my douche-bag brain. It’s the part of my brain that whispers “I want to die” first thing in the morning. It’s the part of my brain that refuses to enjoy experiences because it tells me there are others who may not be enjoying the same things. It’s the part of my brain that won’t accept good news because it assumes that something horrible is going to happen. There is no such thing as good news, there’s always a catch. 

Very rarely do I ever exhibit outward signs of this anxiety. I’ve perfected my poker face and cool demeanor. But while my outside is calm, my inside is racing through every possible contingency and assuming 95% of them are doomed to some variety of failure. 

Now, for my chosen career this can be somewhat helpful. Having a good situational awareness is key to safe firefighting. Having the ability to process large amounts of data and creating contingencies for many outcomes is great to ensure everyone gets out alive. But in everyday living this pattern of thinking can be very exhausting and thoroughly fry one’s brain. 

Unfortunately (fortunately?) for me my brain has developed tactics for dealing with this issue of burnout. I go numb. I no longer get get excited for anything. I no longer get torn up by bad news. Every bit of information is taken in with the same bit of “meh”. Food, drink, and even sex is not as enjoyable since even the physical data gets a filter. 

This year I have resolved to be more content. But that contentment won’t come if I am anxious. Contentment is not numbness or limp acceptance of one’s circumstances. Contentment is a peaceful understanding that one’s circumstances are exactly where one is Providentially supposed to be. Contentment is joy (not happiness happiness necessarily, they are two different things) in all circumstances good and bad. 

Numbness is not joy. If I am to be content I must fight my brain for control of my responses. I must learn to respond to data and not merely react. I must learn to take every errant thought captive and submit it to intense scrutiny and correction. I must train my brain to accept physical pleasures as good gifts of God. I must learn to get excited again about good news and truly mourn for the bad. 

Now, if my brain would not add “stop being anxious” to the list of things to be anxious about, I probably would be able to get rid of it. For now, it’s just going to be prayer and supplication. So far that has seemed to work out for me. God does provide. The more I trust Him, the more He has provided. 

Anxiety sucks, but the more I live, the more I’m proved how wrong it is. DB brain may be a loudmouth jerk, but he’s also a liar . I know that all will work out. I know that eventually, despite what my anxiety says, life does tend to find a way to proceed without too much complete failure. Every day is a test of my will to kill this. I intend to win. 

Tumult

rainy.jpg

The mind of a two-year old is a tumultuous place, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of sorrows in a single breath. Sometimes I wonder if my mind is much different. I fear that our highest highs get numbed, while our lowest lows get more morbid with time. Death is always ever closer. We feel not simply the sorrow of not getting one’s way, but the sorrow of knowing that every moment gets more and more valuable. To watch a young child get frustrated with circumstances one is convicted that one is nothing more than a young child all grown up. As we get older we are still frustrated, but our frustration is directed at different objects. Life never cooperates. By the time one figures that out, life performs its last frustrating act: it ends.

I am terribly resistant to change. I want everything to stay the same. I will go to great lengths to ensure nothing ever changes. I take pictures. Lots of pictures. Not because I will ever look at them, but because they preserve every present moment. No one changes in a picture. No one grows up. No one ages. No one dies. That moment is perfectly captured. Frozen. Still. I resist change and attempt to live my life in a series of these frames. But life is never still. Life is never frozen. I can’t hold a single moment in a frame and be there forever.
Perhaps I am subconsciously preoccupied with death. Not a fear of death. Just a fascination with its inevitability. It is the one thing we all experience. It is the destination of all of our changes. Good changes, bad changes, all changes end with the one final change.
I don’t think God wants us to be morbidly occupied with our death. We should be acutely aware of it, but we should not allow it to dominate our lives. We were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever and “forever” begins in this mortal life.  If I am to truly enjoy Him I should enjoy His gifts in my life. I should enjoy my children and my wife. I should enjoy good food and drink. I should enjoy music and friends and knowledge. I should embrace the world around me with unabashed joy.
If I am to glorify Him I should show the agnostic and atheist world around me that there is joy in knowing the Creator. There is pleasure in His creation. Death is inevitable but it is not to be feared. It comes at precisely the moment God decides in His wisdom to bring it. And those that know Him and His salvation have even less to fear, because while that enjoyment begins in this mortal season it gets better in the eternal season.
I want to learn contentment this year.  Part of contentment is accepting change. Part of accepting change is accepting the inevitable. To accept the inevitable one, has to accept the ultimate inevitable: death. Only when I accept death and place it in its proper place in my mind will I be able to enjoy life with contentment and without tumult.