In Sickness

I’ve felt sick the last few days.  It’s nothing, really.  I have a cold, or a touch of the flu.  It will pass within a week almost certainly.  It has been hard to focus, and since I very rarely had headaches growing up, I’ve never really learned to cope with them very well.  A bit of nyquil and a bit of rest and I’ll be on the mend soon.  For me. my wife was the carrier of this particular malady, but I know how she came by it, and these things do happen.

It is easy for sickness to overtake you.  Viral and bacterial infections are built to spread, replicating themselves in some unwilling host until they find a new vector to expand into a new host.

In the same way, hatred and rage are diseases built to spread.  They often grow quietly inside of a host, waiting for a way to express themselves to the outside world, spreading as they do.    We’ve created new vectors, new disease paths for this hate to grow and spread, although we usually just call it social media.

My cold (assuming this a viral pathogen) is not cured by the medicine I take, instead the medicine is simply masking the symptoms while my body fights the infection.  In the same way, we often choose to hide our hatred in subtle ways.  We mask the fact that we are filled with rage in interactions with those around us.  It may look like we have been cured, but it isn’t so.  We’ve only hidden the symptoms of our true feelings.

In physical sickness, sometimes healing just takes time.

In this emotional sickness, we have to seek out help.  We have to purposefully choose to remove the infection from our lives, there is no automatic process.  There is no antibody for hatred.  We can not simply wait for our feelings to subside, as the disease still lurks below the surface.

God asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He then has the audacity to ask us to pray for those who persecute us, to do good to those who harm us.   We are to return peace for pain, love for hatred.

It’s tough medicine.

It’s about time we give up.

There come’s a time when the only option left is to give up.

Frankly, I must tell you that this point in your life is not a pleasant place to be in.  People tend to be pretty resilient, accomplishing grand feats in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds against them.  We hear the stories of those who have accomplished so much when so little seemed possible, and we long to be like that person, to hold on in the face of adversity until we conquer the obstacles set before us.

We try to instill this in our children, with stories of little engines that could.  We take them to Dr. Seuss for advice about the places they will go.  We encourage our children to stick with it, no matter the cost, no matter the temporary pain they go through to reach their goal.   The pain makes you stronger, we say.  We preach that “Pain is weakness leaving the body”.

We teach our children to stand against those who wish to harm them.  We explain to them that you have to stand up to those who wish to bully you.  We show them that they have to fight against those who abuse them emotionally or even physically.  We teach our children to protect themselves against all who stand against them.

Still, there come’s a time when the only option left is to give up.

Do not misunderstand me.  Fighting for your happiness, your health, your friends and family, and even your very life is a noble cause.  I do not wish to convince you that non-resistance is the path to peace.  The cross-country runner should dig that last sprint out of their very bones and leave every ounce of passion in the grass smashed beneath their thundering feet.  The children in danger of mistreatment and neglect should seek safety and the love they so deeply deserve.   Those spouses who are being abused should not give up the fight until their situation has changed, and they have protected themselves from those who seek to do them harm.  

Yet, in every life, there comes a moment when you must choose peace over power.

This moment of surrender is not in the midst of the fight.  Rather, this moment is when all of the fighting is finished.  When you have done everything in your power to set right what is wrong, and there is no further path to take to ensure your well-being, this is when you must give up.  You have to give it all up.  You have to let go of your power.

The pain.  The hurt.  The scars.  The hatred.  The past.

Even when you are victorious in conflict, the time comes to give it all up.

You have to forgive those who have hurt you.  You have to give up the right to claim anything from them.  You have to accept that what you are owed, whether it be an apology or reparations, will never be enough.  The equation can never be balanced while you hold on to your half of the numbers.  You have to forgive.  You have to wipe the slate clean and walk away.

You don’t have to try to solve the same equation again, but while you hold onto the numbers, you’re still fighting for a balance that can never be found.

We see the greatest example of this modeled for us from the cross.  “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”

Give up friends.

It’s our only hope.

Peace be with you.

Light in the Dark (#Watch)

Low Transition Take-Off.

My most popular photo of the year. This photo ended up being liked by more than 30,000 people when shared by a few aviation pages.  It was pretty exciting for me when it took off.  I later got to have a print autographed by the pilot.  A super cool experience all around.

As a dream ended, I woke up, looking at my watch with hopes for good news and a few more hours of sleep.  A few moments later I wiped a bit more of the fog of sleep from my eyes and tried again to see what time it was.  A third attempt at reading my watch yielded no better result, and I had to instead reach over to my phone to discover the time.  3:35 a.m. August 24th, 2019 is the data I retrieved from my phone.  My 35th birthday had come and with it, the light of my watch had gone.

It seems too perfect for a coincidence, that the watch I had worn for a year stopped shining it’s little light on precisely the day that I meant for it to be retired.  Each year on my birthday, I retire the watch I’ve worn through the past year, and this year was to be no different.  I’ve retired eight watches now and I wear the ninth, each a representation of one year in my life.   I’ve had a few watches break bands that needed to be replaced, and one watch actually lost the little piece that allowed me to set the time, but I have never before had a watch fail on the exact day of it’s retirement.  It’s left me feeling a bit lost as I prepare for the year ahead.

In 2019, Sam and I survived the “Polar Vortex”. It brought windchills down to -45. It also brought about the opportunity to capture some intricate frost tracery across our front window.

The past year has been an intense year.  I celebrated with my wife our first full year of marriage.  I think I’m still really learning what it means that I am no longer just me, but this new creation of Sam and Josh together.  No longer complete by myself, but instead broadened and expanded by the woman who has decided to stand beside me for the rest of our lives.  I’m sure in 5 years I’ll look back at this moment and realize that I had no idea what I was talking about here, and that the small changes that have happened so far will pale in comparison to half a decade of life with Samantha.

I’ve gotten physically older, and seem to have fallen down a bit of a valley that I’ve been trying to scramble back out of.  In June I began waking up with stiff arms, and it progressed to the point that for a few days I couldn’t lift my arms above my elbows without significant pain.  There were days I stayed home from work because I needed help to put a shirt on.  This has mostly gone away now, but even still these pains come and go unpredictably, and unexpectedly.

My wife and I took a trip to Holland for our first anniversary! Holland Michigan.

Beyond my personal life, there have been a lot of moments that have brought painful stretching.  In September last year I began launching a new business, one focused on a passion of mine, aerial imagery.  As the year progressed Sam and I discussed together many times the next steps for the business, we filed as an LLC, and then after seeking funding, we’ve made a large investment in what I hope will result in an explosion of growth for the business, but also Sam and I as we wrestle together with the realities of profit and loss.  We received funding in August just before my birthday, and quickly discovered that what we thought would be the hardest part of growth (acquiring funding) was actually one of the easiest parts.

Immediately after funding came in, my car broke down 200 miles from home, and Sam and I spent a lot of emotional energy and used a bunch of unplanned for money to get it home and repaired.  Work for me has been a chaotic merry-go-round that repeats over and over the difficult parts, just revisiting the same struggles for months on end, with no real power to resolve the issues for my self.  We’ve been busier at my day job this year than we have ever been before, and trying to balance that with new endeavors has been tasking and at times heartbreaking.

  There is a light in the dark that lights the path in front of us.  A beautiful sand dune on the coast of Lake Michigan.  Sam and I visited for our anniversary in May.

So when I woke up at 3:35 the morning of my birthday to find that the light of my watch had gone out, it felt like a slap in the face.  I felt like the light had gone out inside of me, and that my watch was yelling the truth out loud, even though I was unwilling to admit it to myself.  I was confronted with the realization that I wasn’t in a good place, and that for all my effort I hadn’t gotten where I was going yet.  My light had gone out.  I had nothing left to give, but I had to wake up that morning and I had to keep going, because there was no provision or plan for stopping.  The light inside of me was so dim that I couldn’t force myself to sit down and write the one post I have to write every year.  I was exhausted and felt empty.  My light has so nearly gone out.

For the past month, I’ve repeated to myself “The light has gone out.” in moments of reflection.  I’ve been trying so hard to understand the message sent to me through the timing of my watch and put it’s lesson to work in my life.

Finally.  I think I begin to understand.

Everything is in God’s hands.  Even the simple little lighting circuits of a $45 watch.  Everything is seen and guided.   The light didn’t go out for any reason other than that I needed to be reminded that I am loved and cared for.  The light went out so I would remember to ask God what was going on.  Not only that, but the light went out exactly when it was supposed to.  There has been a lot of death in the community around me, a lifelong shepherd in my life went home this year, and at least 2 people who were students of mine at the youth center have passed from this earth unexpectedly.  Their lights did go out, and it was shocking and it certainly hurts, but the timing was exactly as it was intended to be.  It’s frightening to know that nothing is guaranteed, but at the same time it’s exactly as it should be.

So Lord willing, Sam and I will spend many happy years together.

So Lord willing, I will fly here and there and make money in my new business venture.

So because the Lord is willing, my light will shine for precisely as long as he has ordained.

Thank you Jesus for the time I have been given here on this earth.  Thank you for the past year.  I’ll take precisely the time you’ve given me.  Help me to be prepared for your reckoning.

If the Lord so wills, I will write to you again next year my friends.  If I fail to write, know that it is not a failure, but rather, the fulfillment of a precise and exact plan.  Celebrate with me on that day.

Sam and I watching the sunset over Lake Michigan.

I’ve decided to start adding a head shot to all of these birthday posts. Mostly so some day my kids and grand kids can laugh at me. 😉

 

Ticket

The kingdom of heaven is like Chuck E Cheeses.

For anyone who may not have ever been to a Chuck E Cheeses, it is basically a place parents take their children to play in ball pits, various tubes, and slides.  There is pizza and a cast of animatronic characters.  It also features an arcade with a variety of skilled and video games.

When I was young, it was a common staple of birthday parties to get to go to Chuck E Cheeses.  (Henceforth abbreviated as CEC since it’s ridiculous to type.)  At the time, it was a blast.  I’m sure if the day comes that I have kids of my own, I’ll be over it by then, but most of my memories of the place are fond ones.

I’m forgetting something though…

The tickets.

You see, there was a prize counter, and if you played the right games you would earn tickets at the end of the game.  You would collect the tickets and turn them in for prizes just before you went home.  Each prize cost a certain number of tickets and it was often my goal to earn enough for a Nintendo or a bike or one of the cooler, bigger prizes.  The problem is that the amount of tickets you earned was directly related to how well you played the games.  A perfect performance would gain you far more tickets than the performances I was able to turn in.  So while I wanted the Nintendo that was 1000 tickets,  I was usually able to scrap up about 72 by the time we left for the day.  Enough to get me some sort of fake gold ring, and maybe some candy or some other equally worthless trinket.

It seemed like no matter how hard I fought to win tickets…I couldn’t earn enough to get what I really wanted.

No matter how hard I try to be good enough, I’ll never earn my way into heaven.

An imperfect performance in the games meant I wouldn’t get what I wanted.  An imperfect performance in life has separated me from the life I could have lived, and the future I could have had.  A game is a game, but this life thing…it’s serious.  This ‘sin’ thing is serious.

Sin isn’t messing up in a game of skiball, but any time I’ve disobeyed or deliberately hurt someone, that was an act of rebellion, an act of sin.  I’ve been found in rebellion against God and his commands in my life more times than I can count, and the end result is that I will not earn my way into heaven.

That’s why Jesus stepped in.

Imagine a father taking on the games in our place.  Earning the tickets we could never possibly earn.  Imagine this battle to win tickets costing him everything.  (Probably not too hard to imagine if you’ve ever been to CEC)  The father finishes the game victorious and walks up to you to hand you all the tickets you’ll need to redeem for the desire of your heart.  He hands you so many tickets they have to bring you a bag to keep them all in.

Imagine a father, sending his son to fight the battle for perfection on our behalf.  Earning the reward we never could, never will.  Imagine the son giving everything to earn this perfection for you.  The son, hanging on a cross, bleeding and beaten, hands you a white robe and tells you you’ve been made clean as he breathes his last and closes his eyes.

Now imagine you take that bag of tickets and go home, hiding them in your closet.  You leave them there until it’s too late to redeem them, and they are thrown out into the garbage.

You see, you didn’t redeem the tickets.  They’ve done you no good.  Having the tickets is one thing, but you can turn them in for something far better.

Jesus has bought your forgiveness, but will you redeem it?  Will you accept the new life that he is offering you, that he fought for and bought with his very own life?

Turn your tickets in.

Be redeemed.

Observed

I stumble around Youtube from time to time, and occasionally something really captures my attention.  I was wandering about Youtube yesterday in fact, and found a compilation video of a theoretical physicist named Michio Kaku.  To summarize and simplify the first few minutes of the video, Michio shares that everything in the universe is like Schrodinger’s famous cat problem.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Schrodinger posits that if a cat is placed in a box and unobservable, it must be both dead and alive simultaneously.  It is only when the box is opened and the cat is observed that it becomes either dead or alive.

Schrodinger’s cat is known for seeming to be illogical but theoretical physics has found that it is a viable interpretation of how our world is working at the atomic level.  MIchio takes this concept a step further and talks about how nothing in the universe can even exist if it hasn’t been observed.  He states that the observation of something is essential to it’s creation.

Creation.  Perhaps the biggest argument of science and faith.  How were we created?

Genesis 1:4  And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 

God saw the light that he created.  God observed the difference between light and darkness and then continued creating, seeing that each new thing was good.  God “sees” 7 different times in the first chapter of Genesis.  In the beginning, God created, God saw.  He observed that which he had made, and called it good.

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

God saw me when I was unformed, when he brought me forth into this world.  He saw me then, and he sees me now.  I am seen, and I am known.

Perhaps one day we will see that science itself points to our creator, and perhaps in that day we will no longer only know in part, but instead see the entirety of the truth that God has created for us.