It's all about the journey.
I read a story about Moses in the Bible yesterday that gave me some comfort. Mostly it was comfort in knowing that the frustrations and doubts I’ve been having about my relationship with God are not unique to me. It sure seems like Moses had some of the same feelings that I’ve been experiencing.
In Exodus 33: 12-13, Moses felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt alone and up against an impossible task. God had charged him with leading and shepherding the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses wasn’t feeling God with him and beside him, and felt completely in the dark about how to move forward. I’m a lot like Moses. When we’re stressed out and frustrated, we throw inhibition to the wind and just say what we’re thinking:
Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”
I’ve been feeling a lot of this same emotion for months now. I know the Bible tells me that God loves me and I’m special to him, but I don’t feel His presence and I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I seem to be in a holding pattern in so many areas – my career, the pursuit of my writing dreams, even many of my relationships. If I just had some small idea of what God’s plans are for me, I might not feel so lost. “If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans.”
Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”
God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”
Moses continued to challenge God in verses 15-17. He desperately wanted to see and feel God’s presence. So do I. I want Him to draw near in a way that will strengthen my faith and give me assurance that He’s really with me. I’m asking Him for that, just as Moses did. When Moses asked, God revealed Himself in all His glory, because He loved Moses. “…I know you well and you are special to me. I know you by name.”
I know God loves me in the same way. I believe what the Bible says. I’m just not connecting what I know (in my head) to what I know (in my heart). I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m frequently depressed. I need a vacation from myself. But mostly I need the joy of knowing God is by my side and on my side. How else will I know that I am special?
How do you find God’s presence in seasons of spiritual drought?
Ever since I turned 40 and read John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart, I seem to have this need for adventure. For challenging myself beyond my normal routine. For living on the edge (not the edge of glory like Lady Gaga – that’s just gross). I’ve lived a pretty conservative, “safe” life up to this point, but now I want to party like Bear Grylls. Just short of drinking my own urine.
I got a taste of some of this kind of adventure on my summer vacation. I rode the longest zipline in the world over open water, conquered a surfing wave simulator, and went surfing for real in the ocean off West Palm Beach. I’m a realist, however. I know there are basic limitations on what I’ll actually be able to do, mostly because I have two kids to put through college and adventure tends to be expensive. So here are a few activities from my ultimate bucket list, tempered with some realistic but less-wild substitutions.
Super Rad Adventure
Kinda Lame Substitution
|Climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Just being Down Under is amazing, but climbing the Bridge? Sweet! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, a chance to conquer my fear of heights, and the photo ops of the Opera House are awesome. Oh – and it most definitely gives you annoying bragging rights. Especially if you spit or pee over the side like the Aussies do.||Climb onto my roof to clean the gutters. I would never do this, as my wife will confirm. I’m lazy. But I would call our “guy” Kevin to come and do it and I would watch from the front yard.|
|Hike to Everest Base Camp. How much more exotic, legendary, and dangerous can it get? Now I could have said “Summit Mount Everest” but honestly I don’t want to die. I’ll pull back on the adventure a bit and just hang out at base camp with those preparing for their ascent, while placing bets on which climbers will actually return from the Top of the World.||Ride Expedition Everest at Disney World. I’ve actually done this, multiple times. Disney makes it feel like you’re actually in Katmandu, “hiking” through the endless queue to get to the mine train to take you to the summit. It’s not as authentic as the real thing, but at least you don’t need supplemental oxygen or those mummy sleeping bags.|
|Sail around the world in a luxury catamaran. What could be better than exploring stimulating ports of call, falling asleep to the rocking of the waves, battling the forces of nature (storms, shark attacks, diarrhea), and blogging about the whole experience from internet cafes in Instanbul, Papeete, and Hong Kong? Jealous yet?||Ride the Boardwalk Beast at Kemah. On the way to Galveston (the closest lame beach we Houstonians have) is the Kemah Boardwalk. Developers have turned this into a sort of entertainment district with restaurants, bars, and “attractions.” One of these is the Beast – a high-speed thrill boat that takes you four miles into Galveston Bay, revs up to 40 MPH, and sprays gallons sea water on you from your head to your toenails. Nasty.|
|Compete on Celebrity Apprentice. Oh I can go head-to-head with The Donald. Make no mistake. I’ll be the guy with the idea to design and sell Gucci Latex pants, targeted to workers in Manhattan’s Meat Packing district who want to look stylish while eliminating those pesky blood-spatter stains that permanently ruin fabric. If the idea flops, I’ll cleverly blame it on Charo. Do I even need a reason?
And why do I qualify as a celebrity? I’m the guy with 10 million hits to a viral YouTube video where I’m caught peeing off the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
|Compete in a Chili Cook-off. I make good chili. It’s my own special recipe with lots of secret ingredients like brown sugar, Gatorade, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Whoops – dang it! Now I have to invent a new recipe.|
What’s on your bucket list?
Let’s face it – sometimes exercising can get monotonous. While that round-and-round motion on the elliptical or the thump-thump-thump on the treadmill or up-and-down-up-and-down on the Stairmaster can have a liberating, hypnotic and transcendent quality, your mind needs some stimulation. At least mine does. (Since I work out in the evenings, my coffee/caffeine high has already worn off at this point.)
If you’ve learned anything about me from reading my blog so far, I’m sure you’ve recognized that I’m a) quirky, b) resourceful, c) mischievous, and d) sexy. Using the combined power of the first three (the fourth one is a nice-to-have but irrelevant here), I’ve created a few titillating “Gym Whims” (patents pending) that I use for entertainment while exercising in my rhythmic trance. Feel free to borrow them, but just give proper credit when you get caught or noticed. And by proper I mean blame Obama.
Wonky Pedal Punk’d
Occasionally one of the pedals on an elliptical machine comes loose and begins to slide around. The sliding is usually accompanied by a very noticeable thumping and slapping noise.
A couple of weeks ago I made my way upstairs to get my 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in, but the floor was packed. It was the day after Independence Day so I’m sure all these peeps were working off the copious piles of barbeque, hamburgers, and potato salad they consumed over a six-hour period.
I managed to locate one lone machine that was not currently hosting a large, sweaty man/woman (to dispel your confusion I mean either/or, not hermaphrodite). I hopped on, put the pedals in motion, and there it was: slide-thump-slap, slide-thump-slap. Just great. The grinning dude next to me finished up and headed for the stairs so I immediately took his vacancy.
This is when my fun began. Less than five minutes after I switched machines, Victim #1 approached. Sauna-Suit-Sally rustled up to the machine in her full-body, NASA-grade, silver reflective outfit. She grabbed the stationary handles to steady herself before hoisting her sizable buttocks one-by-one up onto the pedals. When she finally got the thing into motion, the slide-thump-slap, slide-thump-slap action had her lurching all over the place like a drunk sailor riding the perfect storm. She stopped to evaluate what the heck was going on, couldn’t really figure it out, and finally hoisted each (sizable) buttock down off the machine.
A few minutes later, Victim #2 ambled over. He’s a regular at my gym and I call him Monkey Arms. Not so much because of their length (although they are a bit longer than on most men his height) but because of what he does with them on the elliptical. These machines have two sets of handles – one is stationary, the other set moves back and forth with the pedal motion. When Monkey Arms gets going, he goes fast – those arms fling back and forth with such wild abandon that you think they’re gonna come loose from their sockets. At the same time, he sports a sort of constipated grimace on his face while snake-like sounds escape from his lips with each exhale: Ssssssss…
This video clip comes pretty close to illustrating Monkey Arms in all his glory.
I could hardly control the smile starting to eclipse my face as I anticipated the spectacle I was about to witness. Really, the entertainment value doesn’t get much better. Monkey Arms hopped onto the crippled machine, grabbed the moving handles, and revved it into high gear:
It took a full two minutes (I timed it) for Monkey Arms to realize that something was not right. He popped an earbud out, leaned over to me, and asked, “Is there something wrong with this machine?” I shrugged and turned my head so I wouldn’t get caught with the impossible-to-contain huge grin on my face. I guess Monkey Arms decided that there was something indeed wrong with the machine and he left for a different tree-top.
A total of five victims learned about the broken machine the hard way. I got more amused with each new episode, and felt like a kid with the giggles in church. It was awesome. Some might say epic. I won’t say “epic” because I think it’s a cheesy thing to say. But some might. Could I have been a compassionate, helpful, generous person and warned these victims before they made fools of themselves? No I could not. That would have violated the rules of my Gym Whims, drastically reduced my entertainment value, and cheated you out of using this nifty diversion at the gym when your iPod’s battery runs out.
Stay tuned for more Gym Whims for your edification and pleasure.
What do you do at the gym to keep from getting bored?
I’m in one of those awkward, uncomfortable places again. (And no, I’m not talking about the Ladies Room.) I continue to wrestle with the meaning of “significance” for my life. My head is filled with lies that I’ve allowed to infiltrate my heart, making me restless, discontent, and anxious. Covered by a smothering blanket of depression.
I’m cursed with a 45 minute commute each way to the office, which actually has the decided benefit of blessing me with some of my best thinking time. I’m a thinker, a processor of information, and I need this thinking time to make decisions and come to conclusions. For Bugs Bunny fans, I’m more like Marvin the Martian than Hugo in the Abominable Snow Rabbit episode. (I’m also kind of a random thinker.) This morning I made a little bit of sense out of what I’ve been feeling. It all comes down to lies and truth.
I’ve surrounded myself with a bunch of ideas that reflect popular viewpoints in our culture today.
It’s about who I know. Being part of the “popular” crowd, aligning myself with influencers, seeking shallow friendships with “cool” individuals who by association will make me appear to have it all together. Investing my time and energy in the wrong places.
It’s about how I feel. If I allow myself to “feel” useless, unwanted, incapable, and untalented, then I must be those things.
It’s about what I do. Being a vice president, owner, partner, author, speaker, or having another “prestigious” role will clearly make life worth living. Not having any of those titles just proves how insignificant I am.
It’s about what I have. The latest technology gadgets, new clothes, big house, and feature-rich cars mean that I’ve made it.
It’s about my image. Revealing only the parts of myself that won’t embarrass me or show my weaknesses. Hiding behind masks of composure, style, physical appearance, and carefully scripted interpersonal engagements. Keeping up with the Joneses. Or maybe the Kardashians.
I’m slowly beginning to shatter those lies. My value and worth is based on an entirely different standard.
It’s about Who I know. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and know that He lives within me. My relationship with Him gives me my identity – not my things, my job, or my friends. All of those things won’t last, but my security with Christ is for eternity.
It’s about believing without evidence. Much of the time I don’t feel like a child of God, deeply loved and cherished. But the bible says that I am: “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27) Feelings are deceptive. God’s word is unfailing.
It’s about the richness of my relationships. I have the most amazing wife who puts me first, loves me when I’m unlovable, and believes in me when I can’t believe in myself. I have two amazing kids who challenge me in every possible way, daily chipping away at my impatience, intolerance, and selfishness. I have deep friendships with a handful of guys that I would label as “2 AM Friends.” Brothers I can call on any time of day or night to walk with me through pain and sorrow, pray with me and for me, and give me wise counsel.
It’s about making a difference. Most of the time it’s not about the job or profession that I have or the position that I hold, but about the people surrounding me. Jobs are temporary – people are forever. Showing compassion to a co-worker with serious health or family issues, being available to listen when a colleague’s marriage is crumbling and pointing him to the truth of God’s love and hope, or rejoicing with a cubicle neighbor whose child was accepted to an Ivy League school – this is what it’s all about.
It’s about my character. The consistency (or inconsistency) of my behavior at home, at the office, or in Sunday morning church has a lot to do with the willingness of others to trust me. Am I living what I say I believe? Or am I a hypocrite and a liar? My behavior should reflect the purity and intentions of the Holy Spirit living in me.
It’s about being real. When I dig deep and find the courage to reveal my true self, I find freedom. Realizing that no one has their act completely together gives me comfort to just be me. The real me that I’ve been ashamed of, embarrassed by, and scared of for most of my life is becoming a close friend that I enjoy time with. I don’t worry so much about whether others feel the same. To not be me is to deny God’s work in my life. I just can’t do that anymore.
I’m a work in progress. I need these truths to infiltrate my heart each and every day, but it takes intentionality and discipline. I guess that’s the next area I need to focus on!
What lies do you tell yourself? What are the truths that overcome those lies?
Maybe it’s my borderline OCD, a result of childhood scarring, or an involuntary reflex from past situations that went down badly – but there are certain things that I will absolutely not put my hands on. Or any other part of my body. I could go on and on, but I’ll give you the short-list because apparently I’ve had complaints about not being succinct enough in my posts. (My blog coach, Bryan Allain, has berated me more than once for being too verbose. Actually, he said “you use too many of them there words” because he’s not fancy and he lives with the Amish in Intercourse, PA.)
These are a few of my favorite things I won’t touch. Julie Andrews won’t touch them either.
Most anything in a public restroom.
Airports are the absolute worst, followed by sports stadiums and the ones at my office.
- The toilet seat. If I walk in, all the urinals are occupied, and I end up in a stall where the seat is down, I am not lifting it. Not even with a big wad of toilet paper used like an oven mitt. I’ll do my best to aim straight, but I apologize up-front for any stray splashes. On the rare occasion where I might actually have to sit, I won’t. I hover. Not even one of those butt-doilies can make it right.
- The flush handle. I believe in flushing. It’s truly a civilized thing to do. Even at an Astros game. But I’m not touching that handle because I know that whoever did business in there before me did not have an opportunity to wash their hands before touching it. Or, if they’re like me, they used their shoe to engage the lever. You know exactly where those shoes have been.
- The exit door. I have seen way too many guys leave a stall and completely bypass the sink area on their way out. I’m not touching that door handle. I usually wash my hands, dry them with a paper towel, then use the same paper towel to grab the handle and pull open the door. Standing at the free-throw line in the doorway, I’ll lob the wadded up paper towel toward the nearest trash can. I usually miss, but I refuse to correct my error. That would mean making contact with the bathroom floor, another thing I will not touch.
Most anything on a commercial airplane.
What with all the cutbacks, we are paying much more for much less. This includes the luxury of a cabin cleaning crew.
- The seat headrest. Most airlines now have these weird looking “wings” on the headrest that you can bend to fit your head shape. Nice idea, except when they are infected with lice or crusted with dried slobber. This is why I don’t sleep on planes.
- The tray table. How many times have I pulled that thing down and found chunks of food or smeared booger juice adorning that wobbly surface? Too many. I will continue to eat on my lap. I know exactly what to expect there.
- The blankets and/or pillows. I have heard too many stories of Mile-High-Club activities happening under cover of those royal-blue institutional felt blankets. (My mother read Fear of Flying to me as a bedtime story when I was six – yes, another piece of the puzzle drops into place.) Breast-feeding mothers are fond of propping the kid and his dirty diaper on top of one of the pillows and disguising the naked nipple action with the blanket. No way am I paying $3.75 for the use of linens that are about as sanitary as the bottom of my teenage son’s laundry basket.
Let’s face it, they stink. They roll around in random outdoor poop, they lick their butts and genitals, and they rarely bathe (and even when they do you still have the aroma of “wet dog”). People like dogs because they are friendly, but that’s a big part of the problem. They want to be all up in your grill, and unfortunately they bring their filth and stench with them. I push them away, but they immediately come back. And by pushing them away I have to touch them. Then I must wash. Immediately if not sooner.
What are some things you draw the line at touching?