There's a song by Switchfoot called "This Is Your Life." The lyrics are, in part, "This is your life, are you who you wanna be?" The song got me thinking. Am I who I want to be? Who am I, for that matter? I guess I'm a lot of things. I had to make a list.
A follower of the Lord Jesus Christ
A student of those who have something to teach me
A teacher to those who have something to learn from me
In short, I am what the Lord, in His grace, has made me. What more could I hope to be? As I've no doubt mentioned, it is my prayer that He will one day make me a husband and a father, but if He doesn't, I'm OK with that. As long as I am who He wants me to be, then I am who I want to be.
I know that I am called to something higher than merely surviving in this imperfect vessel. What purpose can there possibly be in eking out an existence in a temporary world? To what end do the masses strive and struggle to store up earthly treasures for themselves here in this fragile, perilous, momentary existence?
I echo the question uttered by every humanist philospher who has ever lived: what is the point? The difference is that I have the answer.
The humanist sees no "point" because he seeks it in a narrow, myopic, human view of our existence. But there is something greater. There is Someone greater. He created us in this world for a purpose which will come to its ultimate fruition outside of it. He created us to have a relationship with Him.
Each of us is called to discover this high purpose. There is no other purpose. If one does not seek the Creator, for what then, has one been created?
OK, I know that sounds like the setup for a really bad joke, but it's not.
As I'm browsing medical journals looking for data for a research paper I'm doing for my psychology class, I come across the following article: "Systemic blockade of D2-like dopamine receptors facilitates extinction of conditioned fear in mice."
I immediately think, So, how do they determine if the mouse is afraid? Look to see if he covers his eyes with his little paws?
OK, so it actually was the setup for a really bad joke after all. Sue me.
I seriously have to not do any research after 10pm. Things tend to get weird when I do.
Pour a forty on the curb for one of my dearest and most constant companions. My Fisher Space Pen is lost and gone forever. That pen rode shotgun in my pocket for a long time, and it's now naught but a memory.
Most of the people who know me well know that I have a pen fetish. And while I love all kinds of pens, the Fisher Bullet Space Pen has always been far and away my favorite. Sure, it can write underwater, in freezing weather, and upside down, but that's not why I love these pens. It's not often I have to write in the ocean, in the arctic, or on the ceiling (though I do frequently write in bed). But they are hefty, well built pens, they write smoothly, and their compact size when closed allows it to fit neatly in my pocket right next to my other constant companion, a Moleskine pocket notebook.
Yesterday, just before heading out for the day, I put my Space Pen and my Moleskine in my left jacket pocket, as I always do. On my way to the movie theater, I decided to stop at Starbucks. As I got out of the car, I put my keys in my left jacket pocket. I don't usually do that, because I hate having a bunch of things in one pocket. But I didn't give it much thought this time, and I absent-mindedly dropped my keys into the same pocket as my pen and notebook. As I was leaving Starbucks, I reached into my pocket, pulled out my keys, got in my car, and drove away. When I got to the movies, I checked my pocket to make sure my pen and notebook were in there, but my pen was nowhere to be found. I turned my car upside down looking for it, but it wasn't there. A sinking feeling began to grow within me as I slowly realized what must have happened. When I pulled my keys out of my pocket, I probably pulled the pen out with them. It probably clattered unceremoniously to the ground without me even realizing it, and I drove away, never to see it again. And some lucky fool probably found himself a nice free pen.
So until I can afford to replace it (and it's hard to justify spending $20 on a pen when you're unemployed), I'm reduced to carrying around a Papermate. Ick.
I've started wearing my wedding ring again. On my right hand, of course. Oddly enough, in the past, when I've tried to put it on my right hand, I've always had trouble getting it on and off. Like my right ring finger was bigger than my left ring finger. I guess, even though it didn't look like it, I must have had some fat on my fingers or something, because now the ring easily slides on and off. When I first took it off, back when I lived in Dearborn, for some reason I put it in my medicine cabinet. Probably just because I was in the bathroom at the time and I knew that if it just sat on the bathroom counter it would eventually get gross and probably become stuck to the counter (I've never been a particularly clean person - I'm working on that). So I put it in there to keep it safe. But the medicine cabinet became its home. I was used to seeing it in there everytime I brushed my teeth. It got to be something of a ritual: open the cabinet, acknowledge the symbol of my failed marriage, grab the Colgate, close the cabinet.
I was so used to seeing the ring in my medicine cabinet that, when I moved back to California, the ring went right back into the medicine cabinet when I unpacked. It has remained there, keeping my toothpaste company, ever since. Right up until two days ago, that is. Some compulsion I can't quite explain caused me to reach in, grab it, and slide it onto my right ring finger. Unlike the last time I tried that, it slid right on. And there it sits even now. Perhaps I'm wearing it because it has ceased to be a symbol of my failed marriage. Perhaps now it represents positive change, and the possibility for new life, and, Lord willing, new love.
Galen, being a boxer, doesn't have a tail. He has what I like to call a nubbin, or a nub for short (for short... get it? short? never mind).
Not having a real tail has never stopped him from trying to wag what little bit of tail he has. Like a normal dog, he wags his nub frequently, especially when he's being spoken to in a loving manner. Or, really, when he's being spoken to at all. Especially by me. What's really funny is when he's leaning his butt against me, as he so often does on the couch or when he hops up in my bed. Then, when he wags his nub, he pokes me with it repeatedly, often tickling me in the process.
This morning, as I was waking up, he was in precisely that position. Just for fun, I started messing with him.
"Galen." He looked back at me. *poke, poke, poke* "I love you." *poke, poke, poke, poke*
This played out exactly the same way several times, with me laughing hysterically each time, and him cocking his head at me, wondering what the heck was so funny.
I had an amazing, life-altering experience the other day. I've been meaning to mention it on my blog for a few days now, but I wasn't quite sure how to share this. But now time marches ever onward, and all I know is that I need to share it, regardless of how.
I've read that one who has been called into the ministry will be touched and blessed by the Holy Spirit before being sent forth to do His work. I've often wondered what that would feel like, and how I would know. How little did I understand. "Oh ye of little faith."
I try to meet with Pastor Fred at least once a week over a cup of coffee. We talk about the church, we talk about ourselves, but most importantly to me, he mentors me. I've learned a great deal about the ministry from him in the last few weeks. I don't know if he realizes just how much those meetings mean to me, but that's a story for another day.
One day last week, we had just finished up such a meeting. We had been discussing, among other things, my calling. After we were done talking, Fred went on his way to another meeting he had scheduled, and I remained behind at the restaurant to do some work on a Bible study I've been working on for quite some time. In fact, it's a study that Fred turned me onto. It's a challenging one, in Romans, about the old nature and the new nature. I've been getting a lot out of it. The Spirit has truly been speaking to me through this study. I've gotten a lot out of it, application-wise. And I'm nowhere near done.
But I had a lot of work to do, so I busted out my study Bible and my notebook and got to work. I proceeded to have what might just be the most blessed Bible study time I've ever had. There were a few moments where the Spirit showed me so much that my eyes welled up just a bit. It was almost overwhelming. And then something amazing happened.
When I first shared with Fred that I'd been called, he told me to keep my eyes open for a verse or a passage that the Spirit would show me, one that would directly speak to my calling. He said I'd know it when I saw it. And he was right.
So there I was, studying a verse in Romans chapter six, when I went to a particular cross-reference and I read it. There it was. The Spirit was speaking to me, and to me alone. These two verses were directly answering a question that had been on my mind from the beginning. I got a little emotional, as I read this passage and thought back on the last few months of my life. I could see the beginning of God's plan for my life playing itself out as, piece by piece, everything fell into place according to His will. I could see not only what he had planned for me, but I could see how He was working to bring it all together. I could see his Will in action, and it was an incredible feeling. Up to that moment in my life, I don't think I've ever felt quite so blessed. But that was about to change.
I packed up my books and, after one quick stop, I started on the drive home. I was happy, I was feeling blessed, and I thought that the Lord deserved some praise, so I fired up my iPod and went straight to the praise playlist. I drove home with praise music blaring on my speakers, and with praise on my lips as I sang to my God. A few moments later, my life changed. I felt an indescribable feeling. I wish I could put into words what I felt. I like to think of myself as something of a poet, but there were no words in my vocabulary for what I was feeling. As I've been rather fond of saying lately, trying to describe what I was feeling would be like trying to describe the color blue to a man who's been blind since birth.
I felt the touch of the Spirit. I felt His holy fire upon me. I felt righteous, blessed energy coursing through me and it was so powerful it darn near knocked the wind out of me. I had to pull over or I was going to lose control of the car. I had to pull onto the shoulder. I could barely manage to pull myself together enough to flip on my hazard lights. I was lost in the power of the Spirit. I was shouting praise at the top of my lungs. I was bursting with it and I couldn't give it to God fast enough or loud enough.
I don't know how long I sat on the shoulder before I was able to get it together enough where I could continue driving. Based on how long it took me to get home, I would have to have been sitting there a good twenty minutes. But time meant nothing to me during that life-changing moment.
I spent the rest of the day with an ear to ear smile on my face. How could I not? I had been in the Lord's presence. And I will never be the same.
I realized the other day that I both love and hate Las Vegas. It's such a weird feeling to gaze upon something that elicits such disgust, but then to think back on it with warm and fuzzies.
I hate Vegas because, as I mentioned in my previous post, it is a shining symbol of everything that's wrong with humanity. Sickening excess as far as the eye can see. In a world so filled with poverty, that such a place even exists borders on nauseating.
But simultaneously, I have so many warm memories of this place. I had a lot of fun in Vegas as a child, with my family. But more importantly, Vegas is where I married the love of my life. And though that marriage is now over, I still look back on our brief honeymoon in Vegas as one of the happiest times in my life. It was a time when all was right with the world. In fact, up to that point in my life, it may have been the first and only time that all had been right with the world.
I was in the Luxor the other day. I was walking around their "family friendly" area, where there are restaurants, museums, arcades, gift shops, etc. Sunny and I had spent a lot of time there. Neither of us has ever been big on gambling, so we spent the week seeing the sights instead. So there I was, walking those same shops and restaurants where, just seven years prior, I had walked with my beautiful bride. I was flooded with warm, wonderful memories. Later that night, I put on my headphones and drifted away listening to "I Need You" by LeAnn Rimes. That song more than any other reminds me of those wonderful days. I just listened, and remembered, and smiled.
So there's some insight into my love-hate relationship with the city of Las Vegas. I wish I could say that I wanted nothing more to do with it, but I don't know if that will ever be the case. Perhaps, Lord willing, one day, a new honeymoon memory, an even happier one, will arise to replace the old. Until that day, a piece of my broken heart will remain in that city in the middle of the Nevada desert.
I spent the last week in Las Vegas. Sin City. I spent some time driving down its crowded streets, with their familiar glittering signs, beckoning like the electronic calls of modern day sirens.
They say that New York is the center of American commerce, the heart of American capitalism. If so, then Vegas is the heart of American excess. It's a long-standing symbol of Americans who have too much money, and can't think of anything better to do with it than to dispose of it as quickly as possible on as little as possible. It reminds me of that bumper sticker, "Money talks, but all mine says is goodbye." Nowhere on earth is that more true than it is in Vegas, the jewel of the desert.
There's so much excess there it's almost painful to look at. You can shop 'til you drop. You can buy thousands of dollars worth of crap you'll never need, and then buy a two thousand dollar handbag to put it all in. And then, when you're done shopping, you can drop thousands of dollars or more on gambling. Or, heck, why not give it all to a stripper for a two minute lapdance?
Vegas is a glowing symbol of everything that's wrong with the world. We hoard wealth. Then, rather than sharing that wealth, we choose to throw it all away. We put it in the pockets of people who have made a science out of hoarding wealth. They then take that wealth and build us bigger, more beautiful monuments to excess in which we can throw away even more of our wealth. It's a sickening cycle. It's like we're trying to find newer, more creative ways to not do anything about poverty.
It's especially sickening in light of the fact that both extremes, poverty and excess, can be seen existing right next to each other, in stark contrast to one another. There are homeless people on one street corner, and a quick glance in the opposite direction nets you a breathtaking view of America's overstuffed pocketbook.
I'm a 33 year old pastor-in-training, and I'm married to the woman of my dreams. I love the Lord with every fiber of my being, and though sometimes the way is hard, I will walk with Him always. Aside from my wife, my best friends are my three dogs, Galen, Bianca, and Zeke. I am happiest when I have a bass in my hands and a song in my heart. That's about it.