Monday, January 31, 2011

I'm Still Already!

When I was 5 we started going to church.  It was one of those old-timey denominations typically associated with oatmeal. We didn't have to wear any funny hats or drive around in buggies, but we did have some scripture framed and hung prominently in the front of the sanctuary, up by the pastor.


The verse was under glass in that needlepoint style, and given the average age of the congregation it probably was needlepoint.  I looked at that thing every Sunday morning and Wednesday night for years, and every time I thought it was an antiquated concept.  I mean really, I was part of the modern era.  I had no need for those turn-o-the-century ideas. Seriously, we were replacing our 8-tracks with cassettes, I could flip on the radio and listen to at least 1 song an hour that I liked, we rented laser discs every weekend to watch movies that were only about a year old, and my Atari 2600 kicked ass!!!

Life is about input.  Sights, sounds, colors, things hitting from all sides.  The modern man is all about filling the senses, stillness is for the blue hairs amongst us, right?

As I write this I am sitting outside on my porch. My iPod just played its last, my laptop has no speakers, and the lights are out.  Its dusk and the sky is a mix of grays and pinks, the wind is gently making its way through the coffee fields, the construction workers are occasionally treating me to some heart felt mariachi, the kids are playing in the streets, I can hear the clink of dishes inside which is telling me TheVWM is getting dinner ready.  Everything is calm.

I'm still!

Its really strange, but the only thing I am thinking about right now, is how great is our God, how wonderful his creation, how lucky I am to have a wife who loves me, kids who are proud of me, people that support me, a family that cares for me.

So maybe those ideas, those people, those verses that are a viewed as a bit more seasoned, a tad old fashioned, maybe the still do have a place in the modern world.

Oh, just got the word that dinner is on.

ecwrites

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is Community?

We are a people that love community. We live in community, we play in community, we even study in community.


NBC's Community


When TheVWM were looking to buy our home, we sought out a good community to raise the boys.  We donated to community causes like the Boy and Girl Scouts. We were even part of a faith community.  Now we have a new community here in Costa Rica, but...

What is community?

Today is my birthday and I have received tweets, posts, and emails from people all over the globe wishing me a great day. Many of these people I have never met, apart from the internet, but somehow they feel like friends. I talk about them to my "real" friends, I think about them, and I pray for them.

Isn't that what we do in a community?

I find myself living in this sort of evolving community, virtual vs. real. Many of those I am virtually connected with are strangers, yet I know them intimately (via blogs, tweets, facebook, etc...). Many of those I am physically connected with are virtual strangers.

So here is what I want to know:

How do you define community? What does your community look like (real or virtual)? Is your view of community, like mine, changing?

ecwrites

Monday, January 17, 2011

You Left Your Fingerprints on Me!

So I got this new iPod touch for Christmas. Actually, TheVWM and I bought them for each other. The first gifts we have exchanged on Christmas in years. Being the great dad I am, I installed a bunch of games on it for the boys. You know, to give them something to do in the car or while we are out and about and they are bored.

The modern day teenage pacifier.

Anyway, the first one playing with my gleaming electronic miracle is my youngest. He is 10 and I love the crap out of him, but he has dirty little paws. I am not sure why, but his mitts are always kinda brownish and sticky so it was really no surprise to get it back with this thin layer of grime on the screen.  Little gooey fingerprints to remind me who was playing with it.




The thing will never be the same, it was permanently changed by my son's touch.

So as I have been reflecting on my trip to the states I have been thinking a lot about those fingerprints, those marks left by my boy. Mostly I am just kinda torqued because the screen is still a tad on the tacky side, but there is something else.  There were other things, other moments, really other people that left fingerprints on me.  Prints that will, and have changed me for ever and every time I grabbed that iPod I am reminded of them.

I spent some time with this guy who is a scientist. He is intelligent, likeable, but much more than that, he loves his two beautiful daughters. I love my kids to death, but I would be lying if I said I was a competley devoted dad, but this guy is. He spends every moment showing his daughters he loves them, spending time with them doing what they want to do, doing what they need him to do, really he just serves them. Now he works extremely hard, in a high pressure environment, often at all hours of the day and night, but when he is with his daughters he is "with" his daughters.  He is not thinking about the office, not about the paperwork, not even about his vacation, at least that I can tell. He is there, in the moment. He has set the standard, shown me what a loving father looks like.

We also spent a ton of time with this guy, this friend, I have known for years. We are about the same age, but his level of maturity and desire to better himself, well, they just put mine to shame. While I was off skipping classes in college, pretending I was going to play in the NFL, he was pursuing his dreams. When his first dream fell through (I don't want to say failed because he progressed farther with it than most) he went back to school. He started with nothing but the drive to succeed and now, at 37, he is finishing his bachelor's in history at the head of the class.  He is getting A's all while working full time and being a newlywed.  He has taught me more about dedication and sacrifice than anyone, and although he doesn't know it, he was a key factor in my decision to return to school.

Finally, we spent some time getting to know this group of people, some of them family, all of them friends, who have ended up in my hometown with a purpose. Their vision is to change the world, my world, for Christ. They are living in a foreign culture of soccer moms and minivans, leaving behind friends and family, but they travelled together across our great nation to live as followers of Christ. Not only are they living it out, but you should hear them talk about it. They speak differently than most because they speak with passion. For them, it is not enough to obey, they obey with vigor. Passion is infectious, and now I am having a hard time getting it off me.

So to you, those who have left me changed, inspired, and in awe, those who have left your fingerprints on me, thank you. Thank you for being you, for being real, for living a truly authentic life. Its noticed, its appreciated, and its about time you know.

ecwrites

Friday, January 7, 2011

Do It, BETTER!

So I'm talking with my parents the other day about a project they have been working on for their church, Bayside Church of Lincoln.  As a church they decided that they really haven't been meeting the needs of the community so they sent out a team to speak with leaders in the community, presidents of companies, store owners, politicians, to ask:

How can we do this better? 


I love that!  Looking back, evaluating honestly, and trying to make things right.  Businesses do it, at least successful ones, sports teams, even TheVWM and I have done it to improve our marriage, but "the church"** seems to be reluctant to do it.  

So, I am just curious, what you think.  

Where is the church doing a good job?  but more importantly, Where is the church failing you, your community, the world?  

BE KIND!!! No names please!!! unless its something great.

**by the church I mean collectively, not necessarily a specific place of worship.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Share Some Love

It was just about a year ago that I first posted as El Chupacabra.  What has surprised me most is not that people read this crap, but the willingness of others to put their reputations on the line to support, encourage, and even endorse this site even though it was a baby, less than a year old.  Now comes my turn to share some love.

These past couple of  weeks I have been reading more of what is out there on the interwebs and I found a couple of new blogs that really stuck with me.  These blogs showed  honest expressions of the thoughts, fears, struggles, and foul mouthedness of the authors and I feel they are worthy of passing on.

The first one is One Righteous Babe.  ORG just started her blog, but has already said a lot.  She is sharing her desire to live a life as a follower of Christ without having it all figured out.  Struggling to find her place in the world without knowing where it is.  Writing what is on her heart without caring what others think.

So hopefully I will resolve my issues this year and actually be able to write on this blog for a year, not get pregnant, stop hating myself, be radical annnd grow a pair. 
ORG, you have already "grown a pair" so keep up the blog!  Oh yeah, don't worry about others reading the word "pissed" on your blog, say what is on your mind.  My guess is everyone, "christians" included, have said much worse.  Lets cut the bs piety and shoot for some realism.



The second bog that really hit me is The Justice Journey.  The blog is Doug Mullin's vehicle to live out his faith in a real manner.  His place to ask questions about faith, affect change in the world, and ask for accountability.  Its easy to make a New Year's Resolution, but its hard to do it publicly where someone is going to ask how things are going.

 Doug, speaking of himself:
As he traveled and made new friends, his faith was challenged. Owing in part to his time in Seoul and in part to his continued friendship with an atheist, his outlook on life was greatly altered. Upon his departure of Seoul, he had determined that he was Christian by choice, not merely by birth.
I love the fact that Doug is questioning, and resolving his faith.  What would the world look like if "christians" all examined their lives and attempted to live as authentic followers of Christ?


Now I know I don't have the largest following in the world (although it is rather large).  I do, however,  have a great relationship with the author of one of the fastest growing blogs in the "Christian" blog-o-sphere, Jamie TheVWM (don't tell anyone, but I have been sleeping with her for a while).  So who knows, maybe this will help.

Now comes your job.  


Have you read any good "new" blogs (less than 1 year old) that need to be mentioned?  Is your blog needing a little boost in readership?


Leave a comment, tell the world.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

What a Difference a Culture Can Make

Many of you already know that I have had some struggles with my self-image mostly centered around my beard. Until we became missionaries, I was unable to have a beard.  In high school and college I played on football teams that had a no facial hair policy.  Immediately after my play days, I started working as a police officer which limited one's facial hair to above the bottom of the earlobe to the corner of the mouth. If you are wondering, YES!!!, I sported the typical cop/Tom Selleck stache.


Just so you know, it was quite a dark moment in my life, 3 years to be exact.  A time I would rather not talk about, much less remember.  However, given the right set of circumstances, usually involving a pint of my favorite Irish stout, I have been know to show the occasional pic.

Anyway, I can tell you the exact last day my chin saw the light, May 26th, 2007.  That was the last day I worked as a cop, that was the last day I wore the uniform, and that was the last day I shaved, my chin at least. Since than I have had a variety of beards ranging from a simple goatee, to the amish chin curtain, to my current full beard. 

For the most part my facial stylings are well received, but when I start approaching ZZ Top length, I start getting the stares and the comments back home.  Its a pattern at this point.  I let the beard grow to epic proportions, I get made fun of, I get bummed out, then I shave it off.  The best part of the shave off are the reactions.  The last time I shaved off my beard, friends who only knew me with the beard didn't recognize me at first. 

So I was getting close to losing it. The constant looks of my newfound Costa Rican countrymen, the overt reactions as if a Yeti had crossed their path, the jokes, the sneers, it was getting to me and I made the decision to cut it, today as a matter of fact, New Year's Day, but something has happened.  Something unexpected, something magical, something wonderful.  

I started getting compliments.

It started at the Houston airport.  A TSA screener told me the beard was "impressive".  Then some kid at a skate shop called it "epic", one of his coworkers, without hearing, called it "the most manly beard" he had ever seen.  I bet about a dozen people have stopped me in the past 10 days to tell me how great the beard is. 

You know something?

It feels GREAT!

Which reminds me.  We visited a church back home.  A "gringo' church.  We have a church that we attend, but we were looking for a place to make some new friends.  Anyway, while sitting in church we got stared out, whispered about, and I'm pretty sure a fair number were doing a little judging. After the service no one came to say hello.  No one stopped and asked our names.  No one even acknowledge our existence. 

Had I been a real visitor,a real seeker, a real person hurting and looking for comfort, I would have felt like shaving off that church, that denomination, and if we are being honest, God all together.

What a difference a culture can make.



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