Thursday, February 19, 2004

My (Small) Quarter-Life Crisis

This week as I was putting the paper together and debating on the topic of my weekly column when I came across a familiar name in our obituary section.
Daniel Ramsey.
I couldn’t figure out why the name rang a familiar bell until I read the entire obituary.
I reported on Daniel’s fight with cancer (June 24, 2003) and Montgomery Chiropractic Clinic’s work to help find a bone-marrow transplant.
At the time I wasn’t very interested in covering the story. I was caught up in a number of other stories the morning of the press conference with the family.
I wanted to pass the story along to an intern or another reporter, but I’m glad I didn’t.
Especially now.
I only met Daniel and his family once, but I will always be struck by his calmness, bravery and sweet spirit.
It was well with his soul.
Daniel was down to his last chance for a transplant.
His family members had been rejected and now he was left with finding a possible donor from the general public.
Yet, it was well with his soul.
I was so touched by Daniel and his family that I did something I should have done a long time ago, add my name to the National Registry of Bone Marrow Donors.
I unfortunately didn’t keep in touch with the Ramsey’s after the bone-marrow drive that was held for Daniel, but if his last six months were anything like the brief moment of time I had to meet him, they were well with his soul.
Daniel loved his family and loved life, yet even in the face of death -- it was well with his soul.
I’ve heard various people from time-to-time comment that a writer they read was always in search of themselves.
The more I write the more I think that’s true of all writers who are really honest with themselves and their readers.
I think that’s why we write.
We’re in search of ourselves and ultimately something greater than ourselves. We’re always questioning things.
As I look back at some of my writings I can easily see a pattern and see that I’m in search of myself and something greater.
Maybe it comes across to you, the reader, with more certainty than I feel, but the questioning is always there in my mind and in many ways I hope it’s always there.
As I turn 25 next week I’ve realized that for all intensive purposes my life is a quarter of the way over.
It’s a small quarter-life crisis I’m in.
I think my quarter-life crisis can be defined “as searching now -- to be assured that I don’t end up having a mid-life crisis at 50.”
25 years from now -- I’ll likely look back on my life and wonder if I chose the right path.
50 years from now -- I’ll likely look back and wonder if my life made a difference at all.
I’ll wonder if anything I ever did or said or wrote will be remembered by anyone.
It seems like lately I’ve been replaying the final scene of Saving Private Ryan through my mind as well.
Pvt. Ryan is standing in a cemetery of World War II soldiers and he recalls the last words Capt. John Miller told him -- the man who gave his life to bring Ryan home to his mother. “Earn this.”
Ryan turns to his wife and seems to beg her for assurance that he’s earned the sacrifices Miller and others made for him.
So as I break the quarter-century mark I continue to really question what I’m doing with my life and if I’m on the right career track or heading down the right path.
Maybe I should pack up and head to Asia or Africa for missionary work.
Or maybe I need to stop everything and focus on my side business.
There’s a number of if’s and maybe's I could stress over if I took the time.
But in the long run I just want to live a life content and happy so that at the end of my life I don’t have to look back and wonder if I did my best or chose the right path.
I want to always be able to say, no matter how many questions may come, “It is well with my soul.”
So while I remember Daniel, I hope that his family will know that he did make a difference to someone. I only wish I could have told him myself.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
So, for Daniel and the Ramsey family:
When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this best assurance control: that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and he hath shed His own blood for my soul
It is well, with my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O my soul!”
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight. The clouds be rolled back like a scroll, the trumpets shall sound, and the Lord shall descend, “Praise the Lord, it is well with my soul!”
- Horatio G. Spafford

Friday, February 13, 2004

My first tattoo. Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Confessions of a Tattoo Addict

I must admit, I am a tattoo addict.
Now granted, I haven’t become an addict like some people, but I really like the two I have -- and I’ve got the itch to get another one (sorry mom).
A few months ago I went with a friend to get his second tattoo.
In the process, I met a great tattoo artist who shared her heart with us and reflected things I’ve heard said by many.
My friend’s artist questioned the design he was having permanently inked into his arm -- a symbol for Alpha and Omega.
This of course opened the door for a unique exchange between us and her.
We were both saddened to hear her say, “I know about the Bible, I just don’t believe in Christianity.”
She told of how she had grown up in a Catholic church and left after realizing the church cared more about buying new carpet and air conditioning for the church, than feeding the hungry people sitting outside the church doors.
She told of how she had spent time teaching in Japan at a Bible school and was actively involved in the church.
After several years of service and involvement she went through a bad divorce and withdrew from God and the church she felt had shunned her.
“Not one person called to check up on me,” she said. “Not one person called to see if I was ok -- after all I had done for that church.”
From this point she fell deeper away from God and began getting caught up in “the things of this world,” including her new found addiction with tattoos.
After several months she ran into friends from the church who walked by her in disgust judging her new look and lifestyle.
Now she won’t even step foot into a church.
My heart went out to her has I knew this was a familiar story to many.
Members of my own family have felt betrayed and forgotten by their churches.
While I don’t excuse any wrong behavior, I hurt for those who feel the church has turned their back on them.
I hurt for those who can’t stand pious Christians -- too good to share a pew with someone not wearing a suit and tie, or someone who may have made a few mistakes in their lives.
As Christians we are to love our fellow man -- regardless.
As Paul said, He was the chief of sinners, yet God’s grace saved him as well as us.
When we step out of our bubble and reach out to those around us, whether they have a tattoo, a divorce, three illegitimate children, maybe even someone who’s had an abortion, we are showing our love for Christ.
“When I was naked you clothed me, when I was hungry you fed me.”
Why do we ignore so many parts of the Bible that tell us to love our neighbor?
Is it because we have become to comfortable in our holy huddle and are too afraid to let any dirt in?
Why do we have people who live outside the Christian bubble, like a tattoo artist have to come in and wake us up?
And why are we still not listening?
What will it take for ME and the rest of the church to realize the love that Christ has for everyone, and the love that He asks us to share with everyone?
I’ve heard it said many times before, the Bible doesn’t command the world to go to the church, but for the church to go to the world.
If we are to reach out to the sinner we must be prepared for the sinner to come and join us in our fellowships.
We must realize that the person sitting next to us is a sinner just like us and we must show them the same love of Christ that someone once showed us.
I pray for my new friend. I pray that something, in some small way will make a difference. I pray that she will take our conversation to heart.
And more importantly I pray that God will continue to work in her and bring his grace to full fruition in her life like He has done in mine.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

It's All Stuff

Last week I caught an old George Carlin show on my new satellite dish.
It’s amazing what a small 18” piece of metal can do to for an otherwise quiet evening.
Now while I’ve read and studied theology from a number of sources, I never expected to get a lesson in theology from Carlin.
It goes to show that God can use anything and anyone to teach you something important.
Carlin who is widely known for his routine on the 7 words you can never say on television (although recently I’ve began to doubt those are still accurate) gave a very hysterical and fairly accurate viewpoint on materialism.
That’s all it is. Stuff.
“You know why we have houses?” Carlin began. “It’s so we can keep all our stuff in them. And when we buy a new house and we have to buy more stuff to fill our house.”
He continued by saying that if we didn’t have any stuff we wouldn’t need a place to keep all our stuff while we go to work, to make more money, so we can buy more stuff, to keep in the place, where we keep all our stuff.
Oh how true it is.
And when we get too much stuff, we have to go buy a bigger house, to keep all our new stuff.
Then we find out that we have a new room that’s empty, we go out and buy more stuff, to keep in our house.
It’s such a vicious cycle.
I myself have been caught in this rat-race before and if I’m not careful, I can get caught up in it again.
As I’ve been telling my Sunday school class – the reason we buy newer bigger stuff typically, is because we see our neighbors or friends or family members buy bigger better stuff.
I was perfectly content with the three or four channels my 19” television picked up until I kept seeing friend after friend with a 32” television and 100 channels.
And now that I’ve upgraded to a satellite dish, I can’t pick up KNCT, the local PBS affiliate. I had begun getting very addicted to their documentaries and of course “Austin City Limits.”
Along with upgrading my television options, I’m considering buying a house.
It makes me wonder, am I buying a home as a wise investment or as a place to keep more of my stuff.
The house I have now is great. Granted, it’s right next to the rail road track and I found out last week at the Belton City Council meeting that apparently the majority of people in my neighborhood don’t like renters -- but otherwise it’s a great house that holds my stuff.
And I even have a whole extra bedroom room where I can hide my “junk stuff.”
So what should I do?
Should I spend the extra money each month to have my own place where I can do what I want? Or should I be content with the things I have and avoid the worry and trouble of owning a house?
It’s a difficult decision.
Unfortunately Carlin didn’t give any real good theological answers.
Luckily King Solomon did over 3,000 years ago.
As we discussed in my Sunday school class this week, Solomon asks, in Ecclesiastes 6, what good is it to have money and never enjoy it.
“I looked long and hard at what goes on around here, and let me tell you, things are bad. And people feel it. There are people, for instance, on whom God showers everything--money, property, reputation -- all they ever wanted or dreamed of. And then God doesn't let them enjoy it. Some stranger comes along and has all the fun. It's more of what I'm calling smoke. A bad business.”
One of the members in my class, brought an article to class this week that really illustrated this point.
The article told of a man who had won a huge sum of money and within an hour of wining it, was struck and run over by a car, killing him instantly.
What good was his money?
Now in no way am I promoting the idea of going out and splurging all your money to keep up with your neighbors – Solomon says repeatedly in chapters one and two that that’s only chasing after the wind. But I think Solomon also says to enjoy the blessings God gives you while you can.
“Say a couple have scores of children and live a long, long life but never enjoy themselves -- even though they end up with a big funeral! I'd say that a stillborn baby gets the better deal. It gets its start in a mist and ends up in the dark--unnamed. It sees nothing and knows nothing, but is better off by far than anyone living. Even if someone lived a thousand years--make it two thousand!-but didn't enjoy anything, what's the point? Doesn't everyone end up in the same place?”
Solomon says later, “Just grab whatever you can while you can; don't assume something better might turn up by and by. All it amounts to anyway is smoke. And spitting into the wind. Whatever happens, happens. Its destiny is fixed. You can't argue with fate.”
So, where does that leave my decision about buying a house or even buying more stuff that will someday fill a landfill?
I don’t know.
Sorry if you were expecting a great revelation from me.
I’m still examining how all this applies to my current situation -- and I won’t even bring my desire to buy a Harley Davidson into the picture.
But I do know that above4 all I’m going to do everything possible to keep from getting caught up in the proverbial rat-race and still enjoy life and the blessings I have each day.