I’ve been getting a real sense of purpose about what to do with my…creative impulses over the past week or so. To tell you the truth, I’ve never really been afraid to write anything before, but I’m afraid of this.
The time commitment scares me.
The research scares me.
Potentially interviewing people scares me.
It all began with a post I retweeted from Rick Warren (read it here). It was extremely well done and not at all what I expected.
It made me think about a lot of things, not the least of which is how we who profess Christ represent him to the gay community. I wonder what they think of us?
What ideas do we have ingrained in our psyches about what gay men and women are like?
What are they like?
Where all this is going I don’t know, but when I read about Dan Cathy in that article it gave me pause about my own preconceived notions regarding LGBT people and how my personal interaction with them has been.
I realized I don’t know any gay people very well here, either at work or in my private life.
I realized the thought of gay people getting married does not make me feel threatened, and I’m really not sure how I feel (or ought to feel) about that.
I feel this issue and the controversy surrounding it is at least partly to blame for young people turning away from The Church (as a corporate entity) I don’t know what to do about that, and I’m not at all sure how this project will turn out in the end.
I only know I have to write it, and that as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I should be doing homework right now. I have to read this Ezra pound thing and write about it. I have a book I want to finish, and the other day I made a new character on Star Wars, the Old Republic I want to play more.
Right now, I can’t do any of that. I can’t think about doing any of that. I went literally from my knees to this chair in my hotel room and all I can think about is that Huffington Post thing I posted earlier about the prayer of St Francis–that ball started rolling last week when I watched this:
If you have a little over an hour to watch that video, I promise you, you will not regret it. Anyway, the shirt Nick is wearing in this video had the words “where there is hatred, let me sow love” across the chest. I hadn’t heard that before, and I wanted to know where it came from.
It’s from something called “The Prayer of St Francis,” which as the Huffpost article pointed out, was probably not written by St Francis, though he certainly lived his life in such a way he exemplified it. Before I go any further, here it is:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
So I was sitting here at this little desk in my hotel room and I was just idly looking at the Ezra Pound piece and I felt the uncontrollable compulsion to spend some time talking to God. It wasn’t really a question of whether or not I wanted to or if I had something I’d rather be doing, it was more like
So that’s what I did. At the end of that time the words of the Prayer of St Francis came to me again, and they seemed to me more valid than ever, and an aspiration each believer should hold dear:
make me an instrument of your piece.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Not the whole prayer, just those two lines.
Is that for me, God? I asked myself that as I returned to my chair and opened up this window.
How can I be an instrument?
How can I be used in the furtherance of your kingdom? I am not an apologist. I am not a pastor? I haven’t been to seminary.
I’m just a man. I’m a man that sometimes doubts, and occasionally goes for days without reading his bible. I lapse into old thought patterns and old sin patterns. I swear more than I should. I misuse my gifts.
How can I be an instrument? Don’t you have someone more qualified? Someone who knows what to say to people and what to do?
Where is there hatred that I can do anything about?
God showed me my own family. Sometimes the people I work with. Sometimes even the people I worship with. Yes, even them. Just because people go to church doesn’t mean they cease to have the same problems everyone else does, and respond to others while they’re deeply in the throes of them in a way which is often less than faithful.
How do I sow love? I love these people (love as a verb, that is). I love them in spite of their wrongs, real or perceived. I love them even if I don’t want to. I love them like God would love them.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…
Now I find myself in the position of beginning a task I am not comfortable with. It doesn’t matter that I feel there are other things I have to do. It doesn’t matter that I feel there are other things I am better or more skilled at than sharing love–sowing love–with others, others who need it most. Oswald Chambers says God cares not at all for our natural proclivities, and I think he is absolutely right. God doesn’t care what we’re good at, though he does bless us with talents. I think what Chambers is trying to say is that God doesn’t care if we think we’re good at something. He can and will still use us.
I can say I’m not good at talking to people about Christ. I can believe I’m not good at talking to people about Christ. I might not even be good at evangelizing people in the way others are.
Yet to deny that God can use me and use my story in spite of my shortcomings is to deny God himself.
Tonight I was given a glimpse of the task ahead, and it is daunting. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know how to do it. All I can think of to do right now is to pray these words, and trust God to supply everything else.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love…
The first couple of days here were the worst. When we landed in Fairbanks it was -30ish Fahrenheit, and it was like nothing I’ve ever felt. We were as prepared as we could be, but there’s only so much you can do when it’s that cold. It’s colder than the inside of your freezer, colder than anything you can imagine. When we got up the next morning and were getting ready to leave the hotel in Fairbanks, we found out what happens to hot coffee in -40 degree temperatures:
It freezes before it hits the ground–it turns to vapor when it hits the cold air all spread out. It was amazing.
The other thing was the air itself. It’s so cold, breathing is…different. It feels strange to breathe; the air is that cold. It didn’t quite hurt, but if you had any moisture at all in your nasal passages you could feel it freeze, and that’s a really strange sensation. You wear a face mask because of the cold, and it gets ice crystals on it because of the moisture from your breath.
After those first couple days, it wasn’t so bad, temperature-wise. I think it was easier to acclimate to cold than it was to get used to the heat when I came to Yuma. I didn’t expect that at all. The other thing I did not expect was how beautiful everything was. My Goodness, I’d never seen anything like it, and probably never will again. It reminded me of the beginning part of the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe–ice and snow everywhere. It was like being inside a snow globe, but infinitely colder. Just look at some of the things we saw. And this is only some–if you want to see more of the pictures, just look at my Facebook page.
I also went ice fishing, and that was way more fun than I expected. I got to use a giant auger to drill holes in a frozen lake, and I even caught a few fish, all about the size of this monster here:
I had a moose burger, too. One of the test officers here said her sister had killed it not to long before. It was really good. Nicely seasoned, and freshly barbecued. Awesome beans, too:
The thing I was most worried about was keeping myself together spiritually. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to get to a church, and I was right. There was nothing nearby, and I didn’t want to drive around Delta Junction looking for one when it was all icy everywhere. Plus, I get lost going to the bathroom.
At first, it was really hard to maintain my spiritual discipline. We got up pretty early, so it was difficult to read or pray or journal early in the morning (much like it is at home). And I didn’t feel much like doing any of that when we got back to the hotel, either. So I mainly didn’t do anything in the way of devotional time.
Another problem was that one of my past…problems or…addictions as a single man was to look at certain types of things on the internet. I knew I’d be here with no one to hold me accountable but my own conscience, and that’s not really enough. So I messaged quite a bit with Zeb, and he mentioned this online MMO he played as a good way to kill time. I downloaded it and it pretty much did the trick. If I’m not watching a movie or doing homework on the computer, I’m usually playing Star Wars, the Old Republic. It’s pretty fun, even if I am not particularly good at it.
Still, I was having trouble reconnecting with God–and I fully knew the problem was me. God had not gone anywhere. Then there was this one day where someone had to stay with the test item while the soldiers went back for chow, and I told them I would do it. So it was that I was all by myself at this OP where there was nothing much around at all. I had a warmup room, so I was sitting in there on this little couch when I just started to pray, and ask God to show me something so that I could know he was there even if I wasn’t talking to him at that time. I needed to know that He was still God, was still on the throne. I hate that I got to that point, but it happened.
It wasn’t the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. So I prayed, and I listened to some worship music on my phone and then I got the sense I was supposed to go outside. It had just started snowing kind of softly, and it was about 2 degrees above zero. I looked around for a little bit and it just smacked me upside the head. God had not gone anywhere. He hadn’t moved at all. He was everywhere around me.
After that, things got better. Not perfect, because nothing is perfect. I just found a time and place where I could be alone with God for a little while when I got back from work. It wasn’t first fruits, but it was all kinds of better from what it had been.
The main struggle then was just missing these people:
I’m usually able to speak to Jen and the boys maybe once or twice a day. John called me this morning, as a matter of fact. Jenny said he grabs her phone and says “call daddy.”
Man, I can’t wait until next weekend. I miss them so dang much.
The thing I’ll most take away from this place isn’t the pay check, or the leftover per diem. It’s that one day at the OP when I realized that no matter where I was and no matter what was going on, God was still God, and always would be.
There’s no way I can look at those places–or even those images of them–and think they could have been made by anything but God.
Listening to music while doing reports and this random lyric stuck in my head from Carry on Wayward Son:
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely Heaven waits for you
I think that is what finally brought a feeling of peace to my life–that knowledge the emptiness which had been such a huge part of my life was no longer there, and Heaven will be there at the end. Jesus will be there.
I spent–no, wasted–so much of my life throwing things around and making a huge mess of my life because I wanted something to fill up the empty places, but nothing ever did.