Author Archives: Joshua

Underdog (DOP #22 2017)

(#22 of 25 – 2017)
Everybody loves a good underdog story.

When I see a film or watch a TV show that features an underdog, I am silently rooting for the underdog.  While I’m not much of a sports fan, I nearly always root for the underdog in the competitions I happen to watch.  An underdog is loosely defined as the person or team who is predicted and expected to lose.  The Jamaican bobsled team is an example of this, as they were from a tropical country, and had no experience or funding to compete at the Olympic level.  The movie Cool Runnings portrays this adventure in a bit of a romanticized way, but ultimately the Jamaican bobsledders did achieve at least some success in future Olympic contests.

We have a soft spot for the underdog, and often, we relish the opportunity to see the underdog defeat the dominant team in a sport.  We feel as though the dominant team secretly deserved the loss, and it gives us hope that we can one day beat those who hold dominion over us in the same way.   We glory in the knowledge that sometimes the best equipment, coaches, and players that money can buy can be defeated by a team with heart and just a little luck.

Underdog stories are popular during war time as well.  We read of Audie Murphy who held off a German advance single-handedly for hours.  We celebrate Alvin York who single-handedly captured more than 100 opposition soldiers.  We remember hundreds of men and women who fought with great heart against all odds to win the day for their comrades in arms.

So what does that mean when your country has the strongest military force in the world?

When the underdog loses, it is no surprise, they were predicted and expected to lose, and the glory of the victor is somehow less than the underdog would have received had they won.  Yeah, the victors still win, but the glory of the victory is lost in the inevitability of the win.  Of course they were going to win, they spent nearly 10x as much on player contracts this year as the underdog.

So what does it mean, when your country can assault nearly anyone, anywhere without even putting it’s own soldiers at risk?

What does it mean when your country literally spends more on its defense than the 8 other leading countries combined?  
What does it mean, when your country can take on any other country in the world and win, immediately, according to the numbers?

I love the freedoms that I have been granted here in the United States, and I understand that freedom is not free, but purchased through struggle and sacrifice.  I also understand that war was never intended to be fair, and never will be, but can we take some time for self reflection here?

How can we claim to be a nation of peace, when we are clearly preparing for war?

When will the underdog come for us?  After all, every dog has his day.

Jesus, Refugee. (DOP #21 2017)

According to Wikipedia, a refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely.

The world is full of refugees right now.  In fact, right now, 152 million (152,000,000) people are considered refugees.   There are more refugees on our planet right now, than people living in Russia, the 9th most populated country in the world.   That means that if we treated refugees as a nation of their own, they would bump Russia down to the 10th most populated country.

This blows my mind.  So many people are living without a safe place to call home, right now.

Of course this is a big deal, and you’ve been hearing about it on the news for years, but each year, instead of getting better, the situation gets worse.

I could continue to hit us all over the head with stats and figures about how serious the situation is for the world right now, but it seems like it isn’t really doing any good, since I know that the news is reporting these stats regularly, and the situation continues to get worse.

So instead, I’ll point you to Matthew 2:13–23.

In this passage you will find that Jesus himself became a refugee.  He had to flee the country he was born in, and live in Egypt in order to be safe from an evil government bent on destroying him.  Jesus, born a Hebrew, returned to Egypt, the land of his peoples enslavement to escape death.

Perhaps you’ll argue that Jesus is a special situation, since he is the son of God.

May I point you to the Pilgrims?

You do realize they were refugees, right?  They were fleeing religious persecution in their own country, and fled to the Americas to find the freedom to worship they were seeking.  Many of us in the United States today would not be here if it were not for the Pilgrims, and others like them who fled their governments and established themselves in a new place that welcomed them.

The refugee crisis is complex, and terrifically hard to understand, and frankly I don’t have any new answers to these questions.  Luckily, we don’t need new answers.

Matthew 25:31-46 says this.

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

“Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

“Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The word stranger can be translated as refugee, or ‘other’.  Someone not like us.  I hope that when it is my turn to be judged, I am found on the side of the refugee, but it is not enough for me to just hope.  I must take action.

Now excuse me while I wrestle with what this must mean to me in MY life.

Home at Last (DOP #20 2017)

concluded from previous…

Home I

Home II

I had made some pretty crazy choices in the months leading up to getting the bus, but I knew that I hadn’t changed enough.  It wasn’t enough to simply buy a bus, I had to take some sort of action to ensure that it wouldn’t just become another project that gets pushed to the side and never finished.  If I wanted a home, I couldn’t stop pursuing it yet.  So as October drew to a close and the end of the year drew near, I contemplated doing something a bit crazy again.

Remember the girl I mentioned in the previous post?  Well, while I was trying to change my own life, God had plans of his own.  I had been a terrible boyfriend in a previous long term relationship, and when that relationship finally ended, I was pretty much resolved to go it alone from then on.  I had held on for so long in hopes that I could make it work, that I could be different than I was, but it wasn’t until I finally burnt that relational bridge that I felt any peace about it.  Once I had committed to a new way of life, little things in my life began to change.  Addictions that had held me for decades fell away overnight.  I still wasn’t happy, and I still wasn’t healthy, but I had finally been turned around and set on a new path.  I resolved to be single, as I didn’t trust myself to be more than that.

The girl in the previous post is now my fiance.  God had his own plans.

In November, we started going on dates.  On December 14th, I started an account to save for a ring.  On December 24th I asked her to officially be my girlfriend, and on December 28th I moved out of my apartment.

I moved into my truck.

Somehow, I had felt that God was going to teach me something, and that he needed me to be homeless in order to accomplish it.  So, more because it sounded like a great adventure than a desire to be obedient, I moved out of my apartment.  I burned the bridge to the only place I had ever lived on my own.  I spent the first few weeks in my cargo trailer with a propane heater and my 0 degree sleeping bag.  After getting ice rained inside of it in a Menards parking lot a few weeks later, I chose to abandon the trailer and move into the truck.  I showered every couple of days at a 24 hour gym, doing my best to avoid suspicion as I headed straight for the shower each time I got there.  I ate far too much fast food in this past year, and I learned to stash snacks in my truck.  I woke up many mornings in a new place, and occasionally didn’t remember where I was, or what I was doing there.  I sweated through the heat of summer and shivered through the cold of winter.

It is December 28th today.  I’ve lived in my truck for over a year.

I have learned so much.  I now know more fully what a home is, and I am more convinced than ever that it has nothing to do with 4 walls, a shower, and a roof.   Home is not a building.  Home is not a place.  Home is where you find peace.  Home is where you go when everything else is falling apart and you are afraid that you’ll never find peace again.

For me, home is where Samantha is.  I’ve found in her someone who has accepted that I am more than a bit odd.  She has accepted that sometimes I do crazy things.  When I told her I was buying a bus on our very first date, and she didn’t refuse to return my messages, I knew that I had found someone special.  When I told her that just days after we officially became boyfriend and girlfriend that I would be moving out, she accepted it and loved me in spite of it.  I find more peace with her than I have found with any other person in my life.  Home is not a place, it is the people in it.  Your home can be church, school, work, or any number of other places if you find peace there.

Now that a year has passed, I’ve given up my wandering ways, and I will be moving in to a rental home in a few weeks.  I’ll live there in that house until Samantha comes to join me in roughly 4 months, and together we will make it a home.  God has brought to me something I could not find on my own.  Peace.

To everyone who knew my situation and offered me a place to stay, I am sooooo grateful for you.  I appreciate everyone who offered me comfort, even if I didn’t accept it.  To everyone I drove crazy by my choice, thank you for living through it, and just know that it wasn’t something you did that caused me to refuse your hospitality.  I felt compelled to follow the call of God in my life.

I’m sure that as time passes I will write more about this subject, as I do feel like I have learned quite a lot from it.  Specifically, I’ve learned a lot about the cycle of poverty that can grab people in this situation, and how you really can’t just grab yourself by the bootstraps and pull yourself up.  More on that later.  Subscribe to the blog if you don’t want to risk missing these future posts.

Home II (DOP #19 2017)

…continued from previous post.

In my quest to find some sort of peace with my place in life, I began to seek out adventure.  I have been an off and on runner for quite a few years now, and while I had been running, I decided to try new trails, and make adventures out of my weekends.  I drove up to Michigan to run 17 miles, and basked in the glory of getting out of my own town, and out of my own head.  The more time I spent pursuing something that I had considered out of my reach, the more I found enjoyment in what I was doing.

I guess I may have gone a bit too far, because it was during this period that a friend showed me an auction site used by government agencies to sell public property.  I signed up for an account, and with my very first bid won something a bit bigger than I expected to win.

I won a 2002 Thomas school bus.

The bus was in Washington D.C.

I had 7 days to pick it up.

So I flew to Washington D.C. and endeavored to drove the bus back to Ohio.  It was probably one of the more crazy things I think I have ever done, and it was certainly way out of my comfort zone.  I had never driven a vehicle that big before, and I had bought it on the internet, with no chance to inspect it or even determine if it would start when I got there.  I took a HUGE risk and I really had no way to know how it would turn out.

The night before I flew out, I met a girl at a Wal-Mart to show her a cool quarry I had taken a picture of on a previous adventure, and we ended up getting coffee afterwords.   We talked for several hours, and then I had to take another huge risk and tell her where I was going the next day.  This was also something that was totally outside of my comfort zone.  It really turned out that October 2016 was a fateful October.

To make the long story short, I spent the next four days getting the bus back to Ohio.  It was an adventure I hope I never forget, driving through the fall leaves in the mountains of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  When I finally made it home, I was exhausted but excited.

I had bought the bus in hopes of turning it into an RV.  A mobile home.  Somewhere to call my own.  I had no peace in the apartment, and I was seeking something new and fulfilling.  I was seeking a home.

Home is a word we throw around a lot, but I really do believe that ‘home’ is essential to peace.  Having a place to call home can be the difference between hopeful and hopeless.  Many who live in a house don’t truly have a home, and many who have no house, can have a happy home.  Home is a place that you feel safe, a place that you find love, a place that is filled with peace.

Maybe your home doesn’t look like this, or at least it doesn’t right now, but I encourage you to identify those things in your life that are preventing you from being at peace, and work to change them.  I knew that I wasn’t at peace where I was, and I started trying things I had never tried before to change where I was.  I chose to seek a new way where my old way was not working.  Sometimes finding peace means making a scary and drastic change.

To be concluded…

If you missed the daily vlogs, I’ve compiled them all here AND fixed whatever sync issue I had with the audio.  Enjoy!

Home I (DOP #18 2017)

In May of 2016, I wrote a 6 word story in the spirit of Hemmingway that I published on my Facebook page.  The entirety of the story was this.

“Full fridge, nothing to hang there.”

I had returned to my apartment one evening to find a pink sheet of paper taped on my door.  I immediately assumed I was being evicted, but upon reading the sheet of paper, I discovered it was just a notification that my filters would be cleaned the next day.   This was much less terrifying than the previous assumption, so I walked inside and went to hang the notice on the fridge.  Perhaps I was feeling especially lonely that night, because I suddenly realized that I had nothing else hanging on my fridge.

Most families have plenty of hand drawn art, or photos, or calendars hanging from their fridge.  It is a bulletin board of sorts, filled with information about what everyone is doing, or accomplishments that the family is proud of.  Inside most fridges, are plenty of various foods that are for the family to eat and enjoy.  The family finds nourishment for the body and the soul at the refrigerator.  I had plenty of food, but I suddenly discovered that I had no one to share it with.  I had no one to share my life with.

I had filled my apartment with things.  I had a TV and a chair.  I had several musical instruments and plenty of books.  I could keep myself busy for hours while I waited for work to start the next day.  I had a shower, and a washer and a dryer.  I even had a microwave and a George Foreman grill.  I guess you could say that all my physical needs were taken care of or provided for.

I didn’t feel like I was well taken care of.  I felt like I was on the edge of giving up.  When a weekend would come, I would have grand plans of working on some personal project or getting out there and exploring the world around me.  Usually, I ended up staying in bed until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, going to get something to eat, and then returning to bed to read or just mope.  I wasn’t exploring the world around me, and I wasn’t getting pursuing any of my personal passions by completing projects I had started.  I was wasting away, in the lap of luxury, I was starving for peace.

Like I said, I was probably feeling especially lonely that day, but I feel like right now there are many people in the same place I was in on that day.  They do not lack physical provision, but their souls are starving.  There are many things that can take peace from us, having a physical or emotional need that is unfulfilled is one of them.  Not having anyone to share my life with really made that apartment a place I lived in, instead of a home.  While I was warm and well fed, I was not at peace.

At some point I began to finally take some steps to change my situation.  I got rid of my bed.  It was old and worn out anyways, but even then it was too comfortable, it was too easy to waste my life lying in it, and I decided it had to go.  So I threw it away, and I didn’t replace it.  I began to spend my nights on an air mattress I bought, and a foam pad my dad had gotten from somewhere, that I had claimed.  I was so sick of where I was that I started changing small things in an effort to find some sort of internal peace.

Getting rid of the bed was a start, but it wasn’t enough.

To be continued…