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I have a confession to make.  For the first few days, I read everything I saw about the whole Tiger saga.  It goes against my values; I think our tabloid frenzied, celebrity obsessed culture is a destructive distraction, but I participated with gusto.  Those invasive telephone-pole-truck-cameras were there because of me too.  I couldn’t stay away, after all, I watch golf because of this guy.

But almost immediately after Woods’ “confession” I started reading about how, in his imperfection, he was a perfect example and how he would be a better man after all this.  That put me over the edge and I stopped.  But I can’t get it out of my head; this writing is catharsis.

A perfect example?  Of what exactly?

“ ‘Atta boy Tiger, way to carry on a lengthy affair while your wife was pregnant, get in a mysterious car crash and confess once there was no other way out!  Great read, great read!!”

I’m pretty sure we don’t need more imperfect examples.  I think it’s been established: Nobody’s Perfect.  You don’t need to prove an axiom, you just state it and move on.  The shortest distance between two points is a line.  End of story.  I’d like my examples to be, you know, good examples.  What we need is more examples of human beings actually flourishing.  That’s the belief and the hope that is harder to keep burning.

The other article was worse.  Rick Reilly, I’m calling you out.  Tiger, a better man?  Eventually, that will probably be true.  I know, you put that qualifier in there too.  But you also lionized him once again.  Hopefully he will become a better man.  To say so right now is like turning the knife.  Right now Tiger is a jackass that is just beginning to feel repentant about what it seems he was still trying to cover up only a short time ago.  Right now Tiger is a jackass who lived a lie every day by apparently carrying on a prolonged affair that started when his wife was very pregnant.  Can we mourn the staggering implosion of another high-profile family for just a moment before we re-canonize the perpetrator?  The jury will still be out for a long, long time over whether Tiger can become a better man.  It’s none of my business, but I hope so.  For the sake of his family.

That’s the thing that I hate about these stories.  Almost every time it boils down to: Men cheat; boys will be boys.  There’s always a line in there about how men need to have their needs met, and if they aren’t, they tend to look elsewhere.  Blah, blah, blah.  That may be true enough, but just once I would like to read something that nails these guys to the wall for being so damn selfish.  Look, I am a guy; I can think with my dick too.  But my heart and my mind tell me that I would be destroying everything that’s important to me.  U2 sings about not “trading love to find romance.”  Bono has been married a long time, he knows.

It goes deeper though.  What if the equation was tipped the other way?  What if the excitement really did outweigh the commitment for me?  That’s the part that no one talks about, the part where the selfishness really comes in.  First, there is a woman who has been betrayed and feels like a fool because she has been living a lie.  Great start, you’ve turned the entire life of the person you pledged yourself to upside down.  Then there are the kids.  One of the major things that helps kids thrive is a stable, loving relationship between two parents.  It helps them feel secure.  How many of us have significant baggage because of our parents?  My parents stayed together, but I still have had to work really hard to not carry their shit with me into my life and family.  These kinds of things affect generations.  It’s about more than just a philandering dude.  It’s even about more than his sobbing wife.  An entire web of relationships is broken.  The titillation pales in comparison.

I’ve stopped reading about Tiger.  I don’t need to hear this story again.

Memo to Tiger: Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  Just keep that in mind.

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My blogging hiatus has come and gone. I’ve visited family and spent a signifiant amount of time not doing much of anything. In fact, I haven’t even read very much. Instead, I’ve done a lot of hiking, sleeping, and sitting. I’ve gotten the rest that I’ve so desperately needed. In fact, this past weekend I had dinner with a few friends I hadn’t seen since the spring. After a few minutes they remarked about how I seemed so much calmer. And I feel like it.

A couple of years ago I got an unexpected call from my grandfather. My extended family and I had just celebrated his 90th birthday over the Christmas holiday and he was in the midst of planning his funeral. He asked me to give the eulogy and help one of my uncles with the service. In his words, “You’re good at speaking in front of people.” But he failed to take into account that I will probably be balling my eyes out. Again, over this past Christmas holiday, my extended family got together to celebrate his 92nd birthday and after it I started thinking about the reality that he will die. I’ve written parts of his eulogy in my head but the rapidity of doing so has increased with his quickly deteriorating health. This was especially true on Tuesday.

Tuesday he went in for back surgery and I was preparing myself for a phone call that said he didn’t make it. The cardiologist told my family that “If he were my father I would NOT allow him to have this surgery.” All morning I waited, with a couple of e-mail updates from my brother, and only when evening came would I allow myself to believe that he was going to be ok. And he’s ok.

When I think of my grandpa I have many wonderful memories. Smoking cigars together, a family vacation to Disneyland when I was young, sitting at his table listening to stories about farming, WWII, and the Great Depression. But my best memories are of hearing him laugh. He has the kind of laugh that comes from his gut. A laugh that doesn’t allow him to breath at the same time. His face gets red. The veins in his head take on a life of their own. His laughter is what I’ll always remember and I’m thankful for that.

Laughter is such a powerful thing. I remember one particular night in Charlotte, NC visiting Scott and Tami several years ago when we sat on the deck and laughed. I remember Christmas with my immediate family and looking over to the couch to see my mom and my sister laughing so hard that they couldn’t speak. I remember my brother hiding behind a door a few weeks ago to scare me (which he did) and the goofy smile on his face when i nearly hit the cathedral ceilings in his living room. Those are the images that stick with me when I remember my friends and family.

I can’t help but think that there’s an aspect of shalom that inextricably linked to laughter. There seems to be a kind of healing and harmony that occurs when people laugh together. My thoughts are probably premature but I can’t help but think that shalom is about living and laughter is an amazing part of our lives. What would our lives be without laughter? In my 32 years on earth I’ve never thought of that question. Laughter is an important part of the human experience, of the Christian experience. Does the Bible talk about laughter? I really don’t have any idea and would LOVE to hear about it! On another note, do you have any stories about laughter?

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Whenever I think about patience I hear a friend of mine singing in the background: “Have patience/Have patience/ Don’t be in such a hurry/When you get, impatient, you only start to worry.” Growing up, Nate would sing this song in particularly tense situations, which led to unspeakable laughter because he is tone deaf. There’s something about hearing someone who is tone deaf, and knows it, belt out a song in a public place to ease the tension. So, this kids song has remained a part of my everyday litany of internal song options thanks to Nate.

Today at the post office, this song came rushing back to me as I waited to get to the counter, with ten people separating me from the rest of my day. The postal worker was doing her best taking care of the person standing in front of her without rushing. But I wanted her to rush. At this moment the children’s song came rushing back to me and I couldn’t help but laugh. The man standing in front of me gave a little glance backwards and as I kept laughing a smile crept across his face too.

As I completed all the things on my list, driving around town, this song kept going through my head. Then I asked myself if I’m a patient person. Of course, I’d like to think that I’m patient. That I’m not in a rush or willing to wait. Then I thought about all of those situations where I am infinitely patient: teaching, airports, conversations. Then I thought about all of those situations where I have little patience: bad drivers, check-out lines, relationships, ignorant people. As I thought about different areas of my life I realized that I am patient and impatient all at the same time. It’s amazing to me how, for so long, I’ve always thought of myself as a patient person, only to realize that there are areas of my life where my impatience can only be described as like a petulant child.

Patience and waiting are two-sides of a similar coin. Scott’s last blog talked about the longer view, which is a view that I have when it comes to most of the important things in my life. Yet, at the same time, it is a view that I often fail at achieving. I can’t help but ask myself why it is that I sometimes don’t have this longer view, a view that embodies patience when I want something and I want it now. When I got home I searched for a verse that came to mind and found it in Psalms 38:15: “I wait/hope for you O Lord! You will respond, O my God!” I’m not a Hebrew genius, like Scott, but “wait” and “hope” are both used, depending on your translation. I think it’s interesting how wait and hope are used in similar ways but, when taken together, we get an idea of expectation. To wait is to hope in expectation. At least this is how my untrained perspective sees it.

Patience requires a willingness to wait. But I find my ability to be patient completely dependent on the situation and circumstance. It’s hard to be patient when you are expecting something. This is where the train comes off the rails for me, like at the post office: I know what I am expecting but I just want to get there faster. At the post office, I knew exactly what I wanted and was impatient waiting for it. In relationships, I know exactly what I want and am impatient waiting for it. My willingness to wait, to have patience, goes out the window when I know what to expect. What’s funny about expectations is they are rarely in reality.

My thought process over the last few hours has led me to think that my expectations have nothing to do with waiting. To be able to rest in the fact that I don’t know what to expect is freeing and allows me to wait with confidence and contentment. Confidence and contentment are two things that I have more of than I should most of the time. But there are always those things that make us impatient. Those things that others don’t struggle with but I do. Things that make me wonder if I’m an impatient person rather than a person who can be impatient. However, shalom helps me to think about patience, hope, and expectation in a very different way. To be content with any situation, as Paul implored the Philippians, requires one to rest in the knowledge that I am waiting because I trust. And remembering how important it is to trust our Father has added a dimension to my rest that gives me hope that an uncertain future is beautiful and full of possibility.

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Completion

As I near the end of my education I’ve found myself thinking a lot about completion. What does it mean to complete something? Be complete? There’s a finality with completion, as if to say the end is here. But is anything every really complete? Is there ever an end or merely a string of relapses and revisions? I don’t know the answer to these questions but they’ve been on my mind recently. I hear that finishing your PhD is one of the most anti-climatic experiences of your life. You work on something for so long and with such intensity that its completion seems almost unnatural. Yet the completion of one thing leads to the beginnings of another. The beginning of a career. The beginning of a life that seems so foreign after so many years as a student. Endings are beginnings but it’s so easy to desire what has been rather than what is.

As a single male grad student/professor who has been moving every few years for over a decade, it’s hard to accept completion with any sense of, well, completion. My mobility has required me to sacrifice so many things, from relationships to friends to community, that completion in one city often meant resisting beginnings in another. But I always found a way to make beginnings as painless as possible and endings just as painless. I think this has something to do with how I’ve lived self-preservation in so many ways, strategically choosing every step, so that this ending would be a less jarring experience than the last.

There is always part of me that doesn’t want completion. Call it comfort or complacency, two things that I often find difficult distinguishing between, but I’d like to put down roots somewhere so that completion doesn’t stare me in the face once again. To live in a place I know I won’t be leaving for awhile would be so very nice. I think this just means I’m getting old. Or maybe it means I’m growing up. Either way there’s a sense that completion can be delayed and denied, at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

I think my last blog about absence and presence is related. Absence can be so very difficult because we fear completion and face uncertainty. Uncertainty. I think that completion has everything to do with uncertainty. The what’s next question that consumes our mind as one chapter ends and another begins. We don’t know what will come, only that it will come regardless of our preparedness. The question becomes, what now? Am I ready? Will I ever be ready?

The fear of uncertainty is something we all face. We would rather have things the way they had been, before all the stuff. We don’t want completion, so we hang on as long as we can until, finally, we realize that we stand at the precipice between endings and beginnings. We stand there alone and wonder. Completion could be filled with so many possibilities but often regret takes over and we try to maintain what is already gone. At the precipice we look backward to the past and forward to what we cannot see. So often I experience regret when completion nears. I think of all the things I should have done differently or what I could have done to change things. In my life regret is an emotion that I’ve had to experience to get to what’s next. After regret comes possibility and hope, two things that make beginnings so much easier.

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Silence

Driving back from Colorado I had a lot of time, once again, to challenge my body’s capacity for sitting. In fact, I drove 750 miles, only stopping one time. My mind thought this would be a good idea yet my body disagreed vehemently. In the 1100 miles back to my new home I listened to music, talk radio, and Christian radio (a blog about which will come later), but much of the time I just sat in silence consumed by my own thoughts, observing the oddities of interstate driving, and wondering what this new year will bring.

I’ve always had a volatile relationship with silence. There’s just something about a silence so deafening that you just want to hear something ever so banal, just as long as it’s from that person. An experience a long long time ago made me hate the silence. In fact, I hate it so much that it drives me absolutely insane and makes me just a little bit crazy. Ok, it makes me a lot crazy.

I can sit in silence on the phone with good friends for a very long time. But this isn’t the kind of silence I’m talking about. It’s comforting to know that friends or family are there, on the other end of the line, just sitting. When you live so far away this is the best thing you have to just sitting, spending time in each other’s presence. It’s part of living with the people you care most about albeit with hundreds and thousands of miles between. Silence can be comforting but more often it is frustrating.

My students get frustrated if they send me an e-mail and don’t get an immediate response. I secretly laugh at them because I think this is a bit ridiculous. It’s not like I don’t have many other things to do, after all. Although sometimes I find myself doing exactly what they do to me. I get frustrated and annoyed when the people I want to hear from the most don’t call me back or just send me an e-mail to let me know that they are still there. Silence makes me a little bit crazy.

I can’t nor would want to change the experiences of my life, yet I am continually confronted with the effects of those experiences. Sometimes I wish I could change my reaction to that thing that hurts me the most but I just don’t know how. It’s as if I’m trapped by my own past that continues to haunt me in those moments of silence. And the silence continues to follow me.

What’s odd about all of this for me, the contradictory nature of my own existence, rests in that I know I have family and friends who love me deeply. I know that I am able to just take a drive or make a call and be in their physical presence. I know that they are there and will always be there. But that doesn’t stop the silence, my desire to know that someone is there, from consuming me. Why is it that all the people in my life who care deeply about me isn’t enough? Why do I long for silence to be broken and communication restored? When a connection is so pronounced and that connection willingly taken from me, my soul hurts. And it’s hurting today.

I think, especially around the holidays, some of you might relate to this. We tend to remember those we’ve loved and lost, whether family, friends, or others. We hurt because we want to know and be known. We want to hear but the silence engulfs us. The silence will end, as it always does, the question is what happens when it peeks around the corner once again. I’m thinking of my family and friends and I suppose that’s what I should have been thinking about all along. The silence is there but I can hear again.

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Lost

I think it might be a requirement for one in ten cars in Indiana, or at least where I’m living, to have the bumper sticker that says “Not all who wander are lost.” I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately. Not because it’s a clever or profound cliche, but because I don’t think anyone who wanders is lost. When you wander, you know exactly where you are. It’s easy for other people to see someone who’s trying to find out what they want in life, not living with a particular goal or plan, and think that they are lost, rudderless, hopeless. I don’t think this is the case. Being lost is far more traumatic than that.

When you think you have life figured out, that you know what you want to do, where you want to go, and who you want to be, that’s a perfect time to realize what it means to be lost. You began walking down a road you thought would take you to a specific destination only to realize that it leads to nowhere, or at least it leads to a place you didn’t know exists. You’re lost. You don’t know where you are. You don’t know what to do. And all you can do is sit down, look around, and wonder. And now, I’m sitting down in wonder. It would be easy for me to tell myself that this moment will pass, which it will. It would be easy for me to think about all the things I need to get done in the next two weeks and how the past month will seem like a cake-walk in comparison. But I don’t want this moment to pass just yet.

I don’t know why I think it’s important that I think about where I am right now. I’m not talking about where I am in life or rethinking all the things I want to do in life. Instead, it’s about a moment that doesn’t come often, that moment when I’m forced just to stop and look around, paying attention to things I may have neglected. Remember past relationships that didn’t end as well as I’d like to tell myself, understanding my complicity in the situation and self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Or how I allow friendships to slowly slip away if for no other reason than I’m busy or, quite honestly, because I feel like I’m the only one trying to make the effort to stay in touch across the distance that now separates us. Then I think about people that I’ve hurt by words that I have or haven’t said because I have a difficult time thinking about the good things they bring to my life, rather than those times of complete frustration and self-pity. Moments like this give me a chance to be free to be lost.

Sometimes I feel lost. This might be an odd thing to hear from a 31 year old man. I think I have things together. I have a good job. I’m living my career dream. Reached the highest level of education one can achieve. Those who know me might think this is an odd thing coming from me, from a person who seems so together, who has a level-head, and enjoys life. But sometimes I feel lost.

I just moved to a new town. No friends. No people who I can call if I need to move a piece of furniture or grab a drink. The lonliness and isolation that comes from the reality of my present moment seems to be catching up with me. I work at least twelve hours a day. I’d always thought of people who are workaholics as those who are trying avoid something but now I know that it just magnifies everything. In those still quite moments between things that have to be done, I realize where I am. Lonliness magnifies all the things about me I don’t like. It leaves me with nothing but myself. It’s almost as if all the things I’ve always thought about myself have come rushing to the forefront of my mind and there’s nothing I can do about it. We’re all insecure. We have our own issues that creep up on us when we least expect it. We all wish we could be someone else because to escape who we are would release us. But it wouldn’t. We would just be exchanging one set of insecurities for another. One set of problems for the ones that have come to haunt us. We would be exchanging the known for the unknown, and this is one of the only situations in our life where uncertainty is preferable.

Moments like this give me a chance to be free to be lost–that sentence just seems weird to me. Maybe this is why I’m focusing on this moment right now. Why I stopped grading papers. Why I realized I just need to let my fingers do the talking and wonder. The thought that being lost is freeing still sounds weird to me. Free to be lost. It has an odd ring to it but it keeps whispering to me, and that whisper has now turned to a scream. Be free to be lost. Be free to wonder. Be free to just live. I really don’t know where this is going. I’m just writing what comes to my mind. But that’s maybe what being lost is like. Maybe being lost has more to do with realizing that all the things you’ve planned. All the calculated choices you’ve made has led you to a place you no longer recognize. It might be exactly where you thought you’d end up but something has changed. You’ve changed. Or maybe you haven’t changed. Maybe you just need the chance to sit down and take it all in. Maybe you just need to sit for awhile and rest and wonder and let yourself be taken in by whatever comes to you.

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At different times in my life I’ve heard people talk about the importance of guarding their heart, regardless of the type of relationship. A guarded heart protects us against those who, intentionally or innocently, cause us pain because we have decided to share our passions, hopes, regrets, and dreams. In order to protect ourselves from the possibility of pain, our heart remains guarded.

While this piece of advice, to guard our heart, will certainly help us to feel less pain, it isolates us from those around us. To guard our heart we must close the possibility of being rejected by those we know and don’t know very well. We become closed to the possibility of living a life of openness and honesty, a life in which our pain can be transparently viewed and vulnerably prodded. We close ourselves off to the possibility of releasing life through our own. And we do this for what?

We could talk about the ways that our culture prods us to become the best which, often, means doing whatever we need to do to get to the top of the proverbial ladder. We could talk about how we have been trained to resist intimacy with people we hardly know, keeping them at a distance until we are able to trust them with the things that define us. Self-preservation seems to be our goal, trying to keep others far enough away to ensure that when, not if, they hurt us and leave, we won’t feel betrayed or abandoned. Our desire to avoid betrayal or abandonment keeps us at a distance and we think this is the only way to get through life unscathed, at least this is the story we tell ourselves.

When others hurt us, it’s easy to slip into a pattern of self-preservation. It’s easier to avoid the pain than to take the path of intimacy once again. Self-presevation is a form of self-focus that we often rationalize as good for our emotional health. But, to release life in others, we need to share the part of ourselves that matters most. The part so personal, so intense, so beautifully complicated, that we take a risk.

I’ve never heard anyone talk about guarding their heart as a self-centered action used to keep others at a distance for the selfish purpose of avoiding personal pain. But I think that’s precisely what it is. We don’t allow ourselves to be open to the reality that my passions, my fears, my story could release life in others. To tell others what I care most about opens me up to the possibility of rejection and, as we all know, rejection hurts. Yet, the damage that’s caused is the kind of damage that focuses me inward and paralyzes my actions. If I don’t want to be rejected or abandoned, I keep others at a distance until it becomes obvious that they won’t reject me. Maybe they have similar intersts, passions, or hurts, or maybe you feel like they can understand where you are coming from. Regardless of your reasons, you feel comfortable sharing the part of you that defines who you hope to become. We live our lives in fear and that fear paralyzes us from releasing life in those around us to become the best possible version of themselves.

I’ve often heard people talk about rejection and abandonment in terms of “giving pieces of my heart” to someone else. As if to say that I only have a limited number of pieces to give and, with each fleeting piece, my heart has less life and less hope than I had before. But the beauty of the body of Christ and the work of the Spirit in each of us is that the pieces of our heart are continually replenished. Our heart is renewed and filled with the love of our community and our Father. We are replenished, allowing us not to focus on our desire for self-preservation but on our desire to release life in others. To encourage the person in front of our face with the things we care most about.

You’ve read about my life on this blog. And if you’ve been hurt by the actions of others or your own stupid choices there’s one thing I would encourage you to do: pour your life into others. You don’t need to wait until you’re fixed. You don’t need to wait until you can trust again. Just leap. Pour your life into others because when you leave self-preseravation behind, you’ll find a different, better world full of hope, possibility, and healing.

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