Life Is A Highway And I’m Lost!

Of all the songs to have stuck in my head, “Life is a Highway,” sung first by Tom Cochrane, was the last song I’d have asked to be echoing in my brain.

I mean, yes, “life’s like a road you travel on.” I’ll accept that tired metaphor, but I’ll curse the lyrics, “Life is a highway and I’m gonna drive it all night long.”

But last Friday as I was on my way to a wedding I didn’t want to drive the road all night long.  I’d set out a good hour before the start of the ceremony, which should’ve given me plenty of time, as mapquest told me the drive would only take a little over half-an-hour.

With my directions printed out and in the seat next to me (I haven’t buckled yet and bought a smart phone), I headed south on Santa Fe Blvd, taking the old trail the Indians and Cowboys used to travel from Denver to Santa Fe, New Mexico, towards the little train stop community of Larkspur, CO.  Fortunately the road was free of horses and wagons, but unfortunately it was raining hard, slowing the traffic down just enough to make me worry.  Time was slipping by.  The wedding was at 5pm and I was pushing 4:45.  All I wanted to do was make to the wedding on time.

Sadly, as I reached Castle Rock, a town noted for the rock on the east side of town that looks like a, you guessed it, castle, I missed my turn.  Maybe it was because of the rain, but I am man enough to admit it, I was just absolutely turned around on my way to Crooked Willow Farms.

I was frustrated and lost.  Why hadn’t I asked some of my friends who I knew were going to the wedding to carpool?  Too late now, I though as I zipped around Castle Rock.

Sometimes when you are lost, okay, sometimes when I am lost I lose all self-respect and ask for directions.

I flicked on my blinker and pulled off the failed road I’d been driving, and stopped at the closest gas station to ask for directions.  “Okay, take your first left, then take a right on Founders, and then a left on 85.  Oh and get off on exit 184,” said the gas station clerk in a fast Asian dialect.  Time was ticking and so I didn’t ask her to clarify.

I should have.  If life is truly a highway and you don’t want to drive it all night long, always ask for clarification.

Back in the Honda Civic, I took my first left into a Wal-Mart parking lot.  Wait, I was lost, again!  What she didn’t say, was I needed to get on Interstate I-25 and then take my first left.  So, I turned around and merged onto 1-25 going south.  Instantly I realized I was going the wrong way.  If she wanted me to exit the highway at 184, then mile marker 179 sure was the wrong way.

Stuck on the highway, all night long! I don’t want to drive it, all night long!  Worried I wouldn’t be able to exit until Colorado Springs, which would’ve taken me an extra twenty miles away from my final destination, I started beating on the wheel.  “Get me off this stinking highway,” screamed.  I wanted to exit immediately, but I was stuck on my course, the guard rails blocking any attempt to ditch the road.

In a moment of clarity I realized, Larkspur is south of Castle Rock.  I wasn’t going the wrong way, I was just on a different road. But then I realized I didn’t have directions to the wedding from I-25 and I wasn’t sure when the exit for Larkspur would show itself.

It was already 5:20 and I felt demoralized.  I was going to ride this rainy road all night long.

By now I was cursing the fact I don’t have an iPhone.  I was screaming at the highway for not letting me exit so I could check my bearings.  And then, at mile marker 174 I saw an exit and took it.

The man at the Yogi Bear Jellystone mountain biking tour shop looked at me sympathetically and said, “Get back on to I-25 and go south one more mile.  Exit at 173 and you’re in Larkspur.  Now for Crooked Willow Farms take a right at Fox Road under the railroad and then curve around to Perry Road.  You’ll find your destination on your right.”

Larkspur was so close!  As I turned off into the little town, very late and rain still pouring down, I felt at ease.  I turned right onto Perry.  Wait, wasn’t Fox Road supposed to come first?  I crossed over the rail road and kept driving.

And then I saw the sign.  Hannah And Dave’s Wedding This Way!

I was on the wrong road, but it led me to the wedding anyway.  As I parked my car and snuck up to the outdoor venue I realized it didn’t matter that I was late.  This night wasn’t about me.  It was about my friends, and heck they were busy saying their vows, they wouldn’t notice my tardiness.

Even though it rained through the rest of the ceremony, the wedding and reception were fantastic.  And It dried up in time for me to dance like a mad man.  As I drove home, safely and without any detours, I started thinking about how life is really like a highway.

Back in Castle Rock I’d missed my turn.  I could’ve tried to figure things out on my own, but I decided to stop and ask someone.  That’s being open to letting other’s into my life.  Even more than being open to people, I find I need to be open to God.  Often times in life I get a little lost and all I need to do is stop and ask God for directions.

Even after I messed up the directions again, got on the highway the wrong way and took the wrong road, I still made it to the wedding.  If we trust God he’ll help us reach the correct destination.  No matter if we mess up along the way, he’ll get us back on track if we let him, and then maybe we’ll figure out that life’s not always about us, but the people we’re traveling to see.

So if you ever get lost in life or on the road, you just have to trust the signs, ask for directions, and keep driving all night long.

Need Somebody? Don’t Do Life On Your Own

On July 20th I was reminded how much we all need people in our lives who care for us.  I was shocked when I woke up on Friday and found out that a madman had opened fire on the audience during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  I am sickened that people went out for the night to see a movie and now families have been ripped apart.

That Friday morning, after leaving for work, my dad sent me a text.  He wanted to tell me he loves me and is proud of me.  My dad is over sentimental, but I don’t really mind.  I am glad I have a family that cares for me.

Having such a loving family makes me wonder what happened to the shooter.  Why was he such a loner?  I’ve heard reports from people who played soccer with him in high school or sat next to him in grad school that he never connected with anyone.  That he was just odd.

We may never know why the shooter didn’t have a community around him, that loved him and supported him.  He probably thought he was better off alone.

I think, especially after the movie massacre, that’s utterly wrong.  We need people in our lives to help us celebrate life’s joys, to help us grieve life’s sorrows, and to help us recover after we’ve been hurt.  I pray that the people directly affected by the shooting in Aurora don’t shut themselves in.  I hope that my city of Denver and state of Colorado continues to reach out to these families in the months and years to come.

Our world may be broken, but if you and I set out to show our neighbors love and respect, maybe, just maybe we will see true healing.

I try to live by what Jesus says, which is hard, because I’m not perfect, but he commands me to “Love my neighbors as I love myself.”  How can we do that if we live in seclusion or if we just rely on our own strength?

Over the last year I have found a group of friends who love and support one another.  We meet almost every Monday night for dinner and games.  It is a very fun time that often ends with us praying for one another.  I’m very thankful for each person in the group, because I know I am supported, and  I don’t have to live my life alone.

Do you have people in your life?  I’ve been talking about living spiritually in my blog a bit this year.  I’m finding the number one thing I need to do to live spiritually is to connect with God and let him connect you to a healthy community.  I can’t live my life on my own.  I hope you don’t either.  I know it can be hard to open up to other people, but the reward is worth the risk.

God will redeem this horrible tragedy.  I believe, “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Paul, the man who wrote the above quote, had seen many atrocities, but also, as an early Christian leader, he’d seen Christ work miracles.  He knew that God will take what has been broken and heal it.  The scar may never fully disappear, but if we let him, it will turn into something beautiful.  And that will happen when we connect with the people around us.

In-N-Out: My Weekend In San Diego

On June 30th I experienced the best fast food burger I’d ever eaten.  I went to In-N-Out Burger for the first time.  It was as good as advertised and well worth the 28 year wait.  Plus, eating at the burger joint, which has a much deserved cult like following, capped off an extremely great weekend.

The day before, I stumbled out of bed in Colorado, a perfect state to live in, save for the lack of In-N-Out Burgers, and boarded a plane at an unhealthy hour of 6:00-am for San Diego.

The real reason for my early flight was a wedding.  My good friend RJ was to be married on the beach behind the Catamaran Resort.  RJ and I were in a men’s life group in college called Rootz (The spelling is still being argued over).  Over the years our friendship deepened over our love of sports (I have to constantly forgive him for being a Patriots fan) and adventures.  Our friendship grew stronger when I moved to Guatemala.

No, RJ didn’t ever visit, he was too busy trying to find his life’s calling here in the states, and I don’t blame him, because if he hadn’t, he never would have met his future wife.  No, RJ was one of the few from Rootz who stayed in contact with me while I was in Guatemala.  His commitment to the friendship meant a ton to me, and so when I received the invitation to his wedding in the mail, I knew I needed to be there.

His wedding was at 3-pm on Friday, June 29th, the same day as my early flight.  I would’ve loved to have spent more time in San Diego, but on my meager budget I could only afford one night.  I boarded my plane in hot Colorado, leaving the horrible forest fires behind, and half a morning later I walked out of the San Diego Airport.  The clear blue sky and 70 degree temperature instantly made me love the city.

Around 2-pm I started making my way to the Catamaran Hotel with my friend Rob.  We’d decided to walk over to the wedding, only a three mile walk, which is nothing when the sky is clear blue sky and cool breeze comforts you along the way.  Walking is also a plus because Rob found a 20 dollar bill along the way.  My discovery wasn’t as cool, but when I saw that one of the wedding guests was wearing sandals I was ecstatic!  Without hesitation I peeled off my hot dress shoes and slid on my sandals.

The wedding was beautiful.  RJ and his wife, Andrea, couldn’t have asked for a better day.  Andrea was gorgeous and RJ looked stellar.  But I think the wedding could’ve been in bland Wichita (my apologies go out to Marinés, my only friend who lives in the little Kansas town) and I still would have been thrilled to be there.  Yes, it was a blast to dance the night away, to take a ferry across Mission Bay at midnight, but nothing compared to being there for my friend.

I wanted to be at the wedding to let RJ know I supported him and Andrea and that I would be praying for them as they took the next step in their lives.

I haven’t been able to attend all of the weddings that I’ve been invited to, but as I danced, ate, and spent a little time talking to RJ, I knew this was the best way I could say thank you for being my friend.

I believe strongly in staying connected with people.  Sometimes it takes only a phone call and sometimes it takes a plane ride.  I guess that’s why I went to the wedding, but it’s also why I went to In-N-Out Burger.  The day after the wedding, after a great breakfast with RJ and Andrea, I met up with another friend who lives in San Diego.   Kasey and I had worked together in Guatemala.  We hadn’t talked in almost a year, since we’d both moved back, but as we ate, our friendship felt instantly renewed.

Maybe that’s what having a Dr Pepper, animal style french fries, and a burger with special sauce will do.  Or maybe that’s what happens when you reach out to your friends.  After we ate our burgers Kasey drove me back to the airport.  I was exhausted.  My trip to San Diego truly had been in and out, but even though it was so quick, it was very much worth it.

For me, even a quick trip is worth reconnecting with friends and showing them that you care about them.  I mean if we didn’t have friends and family, who would we love and be loved by?  Or more importantly who would take us to In-N-Out Burger?

Field of Dreams: My All Star Moment

Dreaming is a tricky thing.

I’m not just talking about the kind where you place your head on a pillow and close your eyes, although night time dreams can inspire our waking dreams or desires.  When I was twenty I had a dream I married a girl name Sarah.  When I woke up I believed it was actually going to happen, so for two years I didn’t talk to girls, unless her name was Sarah.  This is a slight exaggeration, but I let that dream hinder how I lived.  Fortunately, that dream died, later than it should have, but only after I made myself awkward around a few too many Sarah’s.

The other night I dreamt that I was back in Guatemala.  Dreaming I’m back in Guatemala is pretty typical.  Most mornings when I wake up I tell myself, “well, guess I didn’t dream about Guatemala last night, must be over it now,” but then ten minutes later my dreams come drifting back through my mind and yep, I was in Guatemala again.  I feel like I dream about Guatemala so consistently because the country and the people there mean so much to me.  I am very grateful for all of my dreams, but unfortunately another aspect of my dreams is most of the time they turn out unresolved.

In my last dream, I was in Guatemala for the graduation of some of my students.  It felt so right to be back.  In my dreams it’s raining, as it is always raining in Guatemala.  I am teaching again, but IAS looks different.  It is more like a castle, which is odd, but not odd enough to tip me to the fact I’m in a dream.  My students are listening to my every word, and who can blame them, my lecture is flawless.  Bam, I know it’s a dream.  Then, in a flash, it’s time for graduation and I want to celebrate each kid, tell them how special they are.  But before I have a chance to tell anyone how great they are I have a light saber battle with Lord Voldemort.  But before I strike the killing blow, I wake up.  Always.  I never see it to the end.  It’s horrible.

Crazy, right?

Waking up from an unresolved dream is annoying, but living life in a dream world is a tragedy, because you never actually live. Like when I was dreaming about a girl named Sarah.  Yet, I would be lost if I didn’t drop off at night and let my mind create.  Sadly, if all I did was sleep, living in my dream world, I would be even more lost.  I believe we must dream in the real world and go after those dreams, because  “If we are afraid to dream grand dreams, then we live empty lives.”

I have many dreams or desires in my life.  I want to write professionally, have a family, become more like the man Jesus created me to be, and maybe go back to Guatemala to teach again, and it would be a shame if I didn’t go after those dreams.  If I live my life just dreaming I’ll never reach my potential.  I must take action.

In Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone Harry comes across a strange mirror.  It’s a mirror that can tell the dreams of a man’s heart.  The mirror is aptly named the Mirror of Erised (desire backwards).  In the mirror Harry sees his parents, who have died.  He spends hours just staring at them, settling for the unreal fulfillment of having his parents with him, instead of living his life and creating actual relationships.  In the book, Dumbledore, Harry’s headmaster, warns Harry away from spending too much time in front of the mirror.  Dumbledore tell’s Harry, “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”

Living is part of taking action.  I can spend all day dreaming about life in Guatemala or becoming a writer, but if I never write, I will have never lived.  I will have never reached out and taken a risk.

And so as I have grown up my dreams have changed.  I have let go of my dream to be a rock star (can’t sing), being president (not corrupt enough), or Robin Hood (Don’t like Wearing Tights).  However, it is important to remember our childhood dreams and remember that God can redeem our past hopes and their innocence, but that is a blog that will come later.

When I was little I dreamed of playing in the major league  Unfortunately I didn’t even make it as far as Moonlight Graham, who played one game in the bigs, but didn’t even get to bat.  I retired after the 5th grade.  I’d had a great year at third base, but my team was downright awful.  Most of the kids didn’t have a passion for the game, they were just playing because their moms and dads wanted to watch them pick dandelions out in center field.

I played hard, but struggled with migraines the entire year.  When my school didn’t have baseball in the 6th grade I decided it best not to play, mostly because of my migraines.  My dream ended quietly, but I had school to distract me from the void not playing baseball.

I didn’t let myself stand in front of the mirror, but I moved on, and I’m glad I did.

In fact, I’d completely forgotten how passionately I dreamed of playing in the majors until I had my Field of Dreams moment.  Fortunately, unlike Adam Greenberg who was beaned in the head by the first pitch he faced in the majors, which ended his career, all I did was ride the pine in the Colorado Rockies’ dugout four hours before a game.

I was on a tour of the Coors Field for my job.  I’ve been working as a summer camp councilor with Ken-Caryl here in Littleton, Colorado.  I have a feeling none of the kids at my camp actually grasped how cool it was to sit where the likes of Todd Helton or Troy Tulowitzki have sat.  But as I sat down, as my butt touched the wooden bench, I felt transformed.  It was as if God was saying, “you might not have made it to the majors, but here’s a little taste of what it is like.”  It was awesome.

I didn’t think I would feel such a rush as I sat on the bench, but I did, guess that’s what dreams do to you.  I have been on the bench of a major league baseball team.  And even though I only sat for a couple minutes it was enough for me, I knew I couldn’t sit there for my entire life, holding onto the greatness of that moment.  Life had to move on, nor could I sit their dwelling on what could’ve been.  God has more for me than that.  And so, I stood up feeling fulfilled.

Adam Greenberg knows that life must move on.  After being hit by a pitch to the head, he was plagued by bad eyesight and dizzy spells, which negatively impacted his game.  Sadly he has never made it back to the majors, but he did get to face the pitcher again in a minor league game.  He came away with a hit in the at bat and he knows that’s good enough.  He can move on with his life.

I will never reach my dreams if I keep my head on my pillow.  I left Guatemala because, while I loved living there, God was giving me new dreams, like going back to school and being a part of a healthy church community.  Those things couldn’t happen if I stayed in Guatemala.  And right now, even as I dream about the country every night, my real life dreams can’t happen if I go back at this point of my life.  I have to let go a little, and live my life and trust that God wont let my true dreams end unresolved.

What are you dreaming of?  Are you living your life or are you stuck looking at the Mirror of Erised?

4th of July: What Does Independence And The Flag Mean To You?

I love taking pictures of the American flag.  The flag’s outward beauty is evident, but I think what it represents is even more beautiful; Independence.  Freedom to worship without the government telling me how I need to pray or not to pray.

Personally, I have never known religious oppression, but I know it still exists.  Growing up in the United States, I thought everyone had those same freedoms.  When I moved to Guatemala I found out that I was wrong.  Now, Guatemala is a much different place than it was even twenty years ago, and most people are very free to go to whatever church they like, but throughout Guatemala’s history the country struggled to find the right balance between secularism and religiosity.  Mainly the Catholic and Protestant populations fought for control of the government.

Each group tried to impose it’s will onto the rest of Guatemala.  This is a very simplified view of the centuries long struggle in the country.  To go deeper we would have to consider racism, classism, and greed.  Needless to say, Guatemala struggled because it wasn’t founded on independence and the freedom of religion like we were in the United States.

Maybe the reason why I love taking pictures of the flag is because America allows me to love my God.  America lets me place God first in my life.  I can abstain from saluting the flag if I feel like it is overtaking my allegiance to God.  Just think back to the 1930s, in prewar Germany, people had to give the “Hitler Salute” or face severe punishment.  And Germany was supposed to be a “Christian Nation.”  But then again, that’s the same Nazi Germany that murdered millions of Jews just because they didn’t believe in Christ, which doesn’t sound like religious freedom to me, or very Christlike.  I think it was Christ who said love your neighbor like yourself.

I know America has its flaws, but when I look at that flag, I see some of the things we’ve done right.  I thank God for my country, and I pray that some day everyone will experience true independence, true adventure; a free life with God.

I hope you get a chance to take a look at your flag and think about what it means to you.  Happy Fourth Of July!