Sunday, August 31, 2014

On my knees

Something that I try to do, but haven't been so successful at in the past; but something that I am really trying to do this year is trying to invest a lot more in prayer.  I would like to say I am good at praying and I pray often, but I'm not.  I'm weak; my mind scatters quickly.  However, on the way into Boonville, I felt I wanted to pray for the city in general. Here's a fact about Uzima Outreach. It started in prayer.  In fact, my best friend ST and I just had a talk about this.

He said to me, "Uzima started with a few of us on our knees in prayer before the Lord. We are getting back to that and I can't tell you all the crazy things the Lord has been doing because of it."

To be honest, Needle2Square didn't exactly start like that. But that is how it will end. With me and all the staff of N2S on their knees.  With that said, I have really invested into praying just before I get to a city.  Specifically praying for the city and the people and for opportunities to share.  I honestly have seen a difference .  Now, I never really know what to expect so I try and be ready for anything; whatever is going to come my way.  While in Boonville, I had an opportunity to stay at this host family's home.  They have tons of goats.  It's a beautiful farm.  They fed me.  They were amazing and kind and generous and fun and happy.  Towards the end of one of the nights, I got to talk with one of their daughters. She is about 20; she is going to school--super smart, very creative, very artistic.  I mean she can draw just about anything.  She is a really happy person.  Her room is filled with hundreds and hundreds of books, any kind of book series; all the popular ones...books everywhere.  She also has over 500 movies, and she has watched all of them.  We were talking, and what I love about my project is the "why" question.  Because I get to explain and bring my faith into the project.  You can't talk about my project, you can't talk about Uzima, you can't talk about Needle2Square really without getting to this point where people want to know the underlying, What is all this about?"  I always get to come back to my faith and, of course, that always brings more questions and we get to go into deeper issues. There are always questions that people have about the Gospel.  It has forced me to have a deeper knowledge about it.  If I don't, people are quick to dismiss what I say.  And then, it's my turn to do some questioning and ask them some questions.

One night we were up late talking; talking about the Lord, sharing my faith.  What I hear so often is people want to be happy.  But I propose this, you can't have happiness without purpose.  You can't just live a cushy comfortable life and be happy.  That's not the source of happiness.  You need to have purpose.  Purpose, identity is what gives you happiness.  She talked about school and what she is going to do when she grows up but in her answer I could see this deep sense of  not knowing.  I could also see that she was trying to make here family happy. People want her to be a nurse, people want her to do this or that.  And I felt like it was my opportunity to kind of share what I know about purpose.  I explained to her that I lived a pretty good life for the most part.  Playing music and touring.  It wasn't without its tragedies, however, it was pretty good.  I explained my relationship with God and  about faith.  We talked about the Gospel.  She used to be Catholic and she finally broke down at one point and said she was angry at God.  She talked about wanting to commit suicide.  She had attempted it five times.  She talked about seeing people be hypocrites in the church.  And that is something that I always get, this hypocrite kind of comment.  "There are so many hypocrites in the church."  And I always think, "Was your faith based on other people or based on your personal relationship with the Lord?  Is it based on what the pastor tells you or do you have a personal relationship with the Lord?"  Because if it's based on what other people do, like your pastor, or your friends, I am convinced that the weeds of life will choke out the seeds that were planted in your heart. In fact, that is low-hanging fruit for the Enemy.  He sees that and thinks, "Their faith won't last"! Are the roots of your faith planted deep enough?  For me... it doesn't matter what everybody else does.  There is a song that I remember back from the late 1990's, early 2000's within the church community, and there is this line that says, "Though 10,000 fall by my side I will still stand, for You are my God." So here's my question to you.  If your pastor falls, do you fall?  Are you following God or a man?"  People always say, "The church hurt me."  Okay, but did God purposefully try and hurt you?  Is this God trying to hurt you or did a fallible, sinful man or group of people hurt you?

I had this girlfriend once who had a sister and the sister and I never got along.  In fact, the whole family didn't like me.  But does that mean I am mad at her (my girlfriend) and I take it out on my girlfriend if the family doesn't like me?  Does that mean since they don't like me I don't like her?  My point is this, I wasn't in love with her dad, I was in love with her.  I wasn't in love with her sister, I was in love with her.  Are you in love with the people of the church or the programs at the church?  Are you in love with the pastor or... ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH GOD?  That's the reality.  That's the question.  Long story short, that night we debated a lot of different things and in the end we got out her Bible that had never been opened.  Brand new.  Beautiful.  I put a marker in Psalm 103 and I handed her the Bible.  I said, "Listen, the enemy is going to come for you now.  He is going to try and steal the Truth that has been spoken into you tonight.  The enemy and sin will keep you from this Book and this Book will keep you from the enemy and sin."  I told her, "This is the Lord's love letter to you. This is His love letter."  And I watched her grab it and there was that moment where she held it tightly and I prayed right then, "Lord, please don't let the enemy steal this moment.  Don't let him come for her heart."  She told me, "I don't want to wake up in the morning and not feel this way. I don't want to wake up; I don't want to lose this."  And I just pointed her to God and that Book, the Bible.  Lord, please keep her safe.  Protect her heart and mind from the enemy.

Circle of Death

The next day I met up with this woman.  Her mom had met me probably about two months earlier in Steamboat or maybe a month earlier in Steamboat Springs and I will never forget it.  Her mom and her sister were driving a big white dodge and they pull up right in front of me and they step out and they hand me a very large sum of, well not a very large, but they handed me a big donation.  They said hey, I am going to tell my daughter about you when you get to Denver.  So when I got to Denver, she had already looked me up and we had met at this place downtown.  It was great.  We just sat, talked, shared stories; it was epic.  I have a lot of fun talking to people.  As we are walking it is starting to get dark we are going to go down town.  I was supposed to meet Cash at this event called the Circle of Death. The Circle of Death is a bike ride and everybody meets at the end of this bike ride at this park downtown Denver and I guess they just ride around in a circle.  Well, I ended up going to this Circle of Death and it was awesome.  But on my way there, we were walking up 16th street during the nighttime.  So, I was walking up 16th street and 16th street is the place where all the happening things are; bars, people hanging out, everybody having fun.  We walk right up 16th street.  She is with me, people are taking pictures and a guy on a pedicab pulls up next to me and he says, "Hey, I remember you.  We met in Steamboat Springs."  There is a common theme to these stories.  I met a lot of people in Steamboat Springs.  He says, "Hey, I met you in Steamboat Springs, I would like to give you a free ride up 16th street."  Of course I say, "Yeah!"  Now if you don't know what a pedicab is, it is a bicycle that has one front wheel and two back wheels and across those two back wheels is a bench that you sit on and has a place to put your feet.  Well, the first question is, how do you get a goat onto a pedicab?  What we did was, my friend and I sat on the bench and LeeRoy stood where your feet go on the pedicab and this guy rode us up 16th street towards the Circle of Death.  It was HILARIOUS.  Everybody was coming out, losing their minds that this guy was giving a ride to me and my goat.  People were taking picture after picture, we were surrounded by people.  Any time we had to stop, people would run out and take our picture.  They would get in the way of pedicab so he couldn't go anywhere and take pictures.  It was HILARIOUS.  It was so much fun.  We had a blast.  I can't tell you how much of a thrill it was.

 We get done, we get off, I shake his hand and say "Hey man,thanks."  He says, "No, thank you for what you are doing man."  I get that a lot.  "Thank you for what you are doing."  I don't know how to take that, but I take is as a compliment I guess.  "Thank you for what you are doing."  It was cool.  We kept on walking.  Eventually we get to the Circle of Death.  It's kinda weird.  It looks like kind of an old, almost like an outdoor amphitheater kind of thing.  It is a circle that is sunk into the ground.  There is a way that you come in and then there are steps, big steps that you sit on.   So it is about five rows high and you sit on these steps and in the middle is a circle.  At one end of the circle is a stage where people hang out and talk and stuff.  So we had gotten there before most of the fun happened.  At the other end of the entrance of the circle, there is this big long concrete path and it has all kinds of vendors.  It is about 11:30 now and all the bikes start showing up.   There are probably like 200 bikes and they start riding around in this circle and then there is music playing, a rapper shows up, and everybody starts getting off their bikes and start dancing and it fills up quickly.  It was epic and you can imagine that a guy with a goat at an event like this is a BIG HIT.  It was a hit.  People were coming from everywhere.  I made a bunch of new friends.  People who still to this day send me care packages.  It was such an awesome time.  Eventually I met Jackie and Cash there and I stayed with Cash another night and he drove me out to his place.  It was great.  The very next day I saw the opportunity.  Cash was leaving for the weekend so I couldn't stay at his house anymore so I made plans in my head...well to be continued...


I wrote this blog just before starting back up this year...

I am a cigar smoker, it's true.  You know out here in Kansas, there is a high cost for cigar smoking because it is cold...cold and windy.  I don't think I am going to enjoy  this cigar right now.  I want to, but it is just too cold.  So now I am just going to sit inside and I am just going to hold this cigar.  I know people judge cigar smokers and I don't understand how smoking cigarettes became the cool thing to do and cigars were looked down upon.  If you go into a place that has smoking and you pull out a cigar, the reaction is, "Oh, how dare you."  But cigars are so classy, so much more classy.   Cigarettes are kind of, I don't know, ghetto.  I don't know.  Anyways, I am a cigar smoker.  I think it is because it takes time, depending on the size of the cigar. With the fatter ones you gotta take your time with it.  To get all the good flavors out of it. You can't just smoke it fast like a cigarette.  For a cigar that is fairly large, fairly thick, you take one puff every minute, so a big cigar takes a long time.  It takes patience to get a good flavor.  It is not a habit.  Cigarettes are a habit.  Smoking a cigar is a hobby.  Smoking a cigar is like, "Okay we just finished this big project, let's settle in, let's think about it, do some thinking."  It is like emotional yoga.

 Anyways, I am cigar guy.  I don't smoke them often; maybe 15 a year. There is something about it. I feel sophisticated.  I know that sounds stupid to people that don't smoke cigars, but I do.  I like to sit somewhere outside, maybe in a quiet place and just puff on a stogie. I wanted to do that right now.  I wanted to go sit out on the porch.  I'm here in Kansas.  Here in a small, small town outside of Topeka, KS called Silver Lake.  I am in a big, old blue house right on the edge of a big corn field.  Tractors are in the background, a tree every now and again.  A small town, peaceful, kinda quiet area.   Not the life I have normally lived.  I wanted to sit on the porch, smoke a stogie and have some coffee and tell stories about the road, but instead I am trapped inside, drinking coffee because it is so cold and windy outside.  It just chills you to the bone.  The wind that just bites at your nose.  It is only a month away until I start walking and I am starting to worry because I don't want to walk in this business!  On with the I have been enjoying my time out here in Kansas, letting my trip to Africa settle into my mind; lots of big changes have gone on with the organization.  I have been really excited and I have taken some time to reflect.  And when you reflect, there is no better way to do it than with a cigar.  Ok, I'll stop talking about cigars..... CIGARS.... so I will reflect cigarless.

I am going to take this story all the way back to Denver which to me was a small victory.  You know the last major city I was in before Denver was Salt Lake and it didn't go so well; I had made some poor decisions, but I was determined to have Denver be different.   I set my mind ready to make some better choices.  I was prepared.  I didn't want to go through those same mistakes again.  So, I walked into Denver boldly, excited; walking down Colfax street.  It's one of the major streets there.  It is the kind of street where you can see the social economic situation of that particular area.  When you first come in, it's really nice, then it drastically drops off into more low income and then you go into the downtown area and things start to pick up.  Then you hit Aurora and it gets pretty bad.  Just on the outside of Aurora, it gets really nice again.

Anyways, I ended up spending over two weeks there in Denver and it was an epic adventure.  It was so fun.  It was the best.  It redeemed the big cities for me.  It redeemed the time.  I had plans for later on in the week to meet up with some friends and go to a baseball game, but for right now, I was really just hoping for a place to stay.  I met a guy named Bud back in Steam Boat springs. His parents live in Denver.  I ended up staying  at his parent's house for a few days..  LeeRoy stayed in the back yard and ate up all their bushes.  What's so interesting is I went out with some friends that I had met in Steamboat Springs.  We hung around, they showed me the city, spent some time downtown Denver.  It was alright, nothing special.  At some point we ended up and at these two guys' house.  Ha-ha. I have never been into drugs.  Not that I'm above it in some way; I just never got into it.  I don't know why. I guess that D.A.R.E class in the 5th grade worked.  Anyways, we walk into the apartment. it was a house apartment ... you know the type .. a big old house that had been divided into apartments.  It was a total frat house vibe it smelled like old stale beer, cigarettes and weed.  There were dirty dishes piled in the sink, clothes and random stuff everywhere; old speakers... bongs and pipes everywhere.  Now, when I walk into these kind situations I'm not scared or freaked out.  I just kind of drop my shoulders and hang my head and take a big breath; because these are more annoying than anything...

The next day I picked up LeeRoy and headed back downtown; started walking into town.  On Colfax there is a 7-11 west of downtown and I walk to the edge of that 7-11.  It's hot! I am going to get myself a soda.  While I am out front tying LeeRoy up this guy pops out of nowhere and starts freaking out.  He is stuttering, "Hey, you're the guy! Oh my gosh, it's you!  You're that guy! You're famous!"  He scared me, he startled me. He is yelling.  He is talking fast.  He has his hands directly up in the air staring at me, eyes wide, super excited.  I looked back at him, a little panicked.  I see black slacks, a 7-11 employee shirt, a name tag and a really shabby goatee.  He might have been 24, but he was looking at me like I was Denzel Washington.  He was just like, "Hey I love what you are doing."  He knew my story, he loved what I was doing.  He had seen pictures of me.  He was so excited.  He wanted to meet me...he wanted to meet me.  He wanted to see me.  He goes inside because he has a customer.  He is the only one working and I follow him.  I grab myself a monster energy drink and head to the counter.  He is still losing his mind.  He can barely focus, he can barely talk.  He says to everybody that comes in, "This guy is famous!  You're famous on Facebook!"  Which I don't know how to take that statement... I'm famous on Facebook?  But he is yelling, "This guy's famous!  Take his picture!"  I am starting to get embarrassed.  I am feeling shy; uncomfortable even.  "This guy's famous!"  We take pictures.  It's great.  I tell everybody the story, collect about $5 in donations and I keep walking.

The sun is hot and I am headed to REI.  REI is kinda like Dick's Sporting Goods, except cooler.  It's a place you go to get recreational equipment and so I headed down there.  Now, the way I am taking, I have to get across the freeway. So as I am coming from the west side, I come over the freeway and right on the right side of the road is an aquarium. The left side has a Mexican restaurant, then there is an abandoned field.  You keep going and there is a bridge in the background, and on the other side of that bridge, on the other side of that overpass is a Starbucks and REI together!  It's like Heaven!  So I walked down there and I sat outside the Starbucks.  I used the internet.  See I had made a plan.  I thought to myself, "There is no way I am going to be able to walk all the way  through downtown, so what I am going to do is try to sleep in this field next to the aquarium, right by the overpass."  Now I am literally maybe eight blocks from the very center of downtown Denver and it's one of those things where you gotta make bold moves.  So my plan was, this is where I will camp tonight.  I went into REI, I had to get a couple of things and then I spent the rest of the day sitting down in Starbucks, chilling, telling stories, meeting people, talking, using the internet; getting ready.  Then, I met a guy named Cash.  Cash is a really awesome dude.  We got to talk a lot.  He eventually invited me to his house that night.  His cousin was a barista at Starbucks so we talked with her for a while too.  We all became pretty close, you know, friends.  You know, just a side note, I say friends, but what I really mean is acquaintances, I think.  I would say I only have maybe three or four  friends, but I have a lot of people that I know that I am acquaintances with.  We are, I don't know, what's between acquaintance and friend?  What is that word? That's what we are. We are not quite friends, but every time I see them, it's like, "Cool, hey it's good to see you, let's catch up."  But, as far as a friend-friend, like ST friend, you know, Noah friend, no they are not like that.  They're not on that level.  So, whatever that word is, that's what I would apply to them.  Not an acquaintance; more than an acquaintance.  We debate theology and we talked about all this stuff.  Long story short, I end up staying at his house.  That night, I drove LeeRoy back to his house.  It was great.  He actually lived right by that 7-11.  We got to his house and it was small, in a quaint little neighborhood.  Not small, it was in a quaint little neighborhood.  They had just moved in, him and his wife.  Really sweet couple, both of them.  I think she was a dental assistant.  We just kinda hit it off.  Cash was a really good guy.  In the back yard, as we are tying up the goat and starting to get kinda more personal with our conversation, I tell them my story.  I tell them my stuff.  And his cousin is sitting there and she is about 19 or 20.  She is listening to all of this.  As I talk about my difficulty with women and how I have been not the best at relationships Cash goes inside to grab a bowl for LeeRoy and she looks at me and I saw the moment, I saw it.  She says to me, "we have a similar story."  And you know that moment in the movies when somebody is about to tell you something really important, but they don't because somebody interrupts them.  It was that moment.  She had something that she wanted to say.  She had something that she wanted to tell me, but we were interrupted.  I take mental note of those moments because I know that is an opportunity; that is an opportunity to share.  We kept going through the night, talking, having fun, hanging out.  I woke up, hung out at Starbucks.  She ended up coming with me the next day and we walked through downtown Denver together.  She walked me through the area.  TO BE CONTINUED??? Actually, that is not what happened.  The next day, I mostly hung out at Starbucks, just resting.  I was meeting with some people...hold on, we are going to put a to be continued on this a start a new story.... haha ... ADD IN EFFECT