I Love to Take Risks. Someone Special Also Loves for Me to Take Risks.

There is a race this weekend I am participating in. The distance, competition and course have all earned my respect enough to taper. The last time I backed off for a race was the regional cross country championships in November of 2007. 100 plus mile weeks with intense workouts has dropped to 60 last week and 40-50 this week. Many different emotions, energies and feelings have inundated my mind and body. None of them great. I cannot wait to run this race and bring the mileage back up. #taperrage

There is a race this weekend I am participating in. The distance, competition and course have all earned my respect enough to taper. The last time I backed off for a race was the regional cross country championships in November of 2007 (my junior year of undergrad, I am old). 100 plus mile weeks with intense workouts have dropped to 60 last week and 40-50 this week. Many different emotions, energies and feelings have inundated my mind and body. None of them great. I cannot wait to run this race and bring the mileage back up. #taperrage

Hello. It has been a while since I have done anything on Tales of a Ragamuffin. Since I know I have about five regular readers (three of which are family members) and have been spending a lot of time with them recently, I haven’t felt too guilty about not writing. But I do love writing. What I hate the most is missing two #AffirmationMonday posts. But, I want everyone to get the time and effort they deserve. And because of traveling and trying to be present in the moment, I just didn’t get to it.

I have some favorite movies. The absolute usually changes depending on mood. But I do have a top three or four. I have favorite books that also change depending on mood and stage in life. Same with music. I also have a favorite story in the Bible. I enjoy a lot of the Bible. Mainly the accounts of the life of Jesus. But this story has been my favorite since the time I read it in my parent’s basement when I was 17.

It is a story about a woman. Jesus is just starting to become a rock star. He is traveling around the region loving people when he takes a boat across a sea. Upon arrival to the other side, he is met by a large group of people. In that group is a man named Jairus. Jairus happens to be the ruler of the local synagogue. If there is one group of people Jesus didn’t see eye-to-eye with, it was the religious leaders of the day. But He loved them. Jairus had a young daughter dying and asked Jesus to go with him to his home to heal her. Jesus agreed.

As they were walking through the crowd, people were pushing and shoving to try to get close to Jesus. I imagine it was probably the first moshpit in the history of the world. Jesus was a rock star. Enter the woman. She is not named in scripture but she has been suffering with hemorrhaging for years. Despite multiple attempts to heal her bleeding, no one had been able to help her. So, she had heard about this Jesus and knew if she could lay one finger on His robe, she would be healed. She did and she was.

Jesus felt energy discharging from Him. He went out of His was to stop and try to figure out who had touched Him. His homies all told Him many had touched Him. But Jesus insisted someone reached out for help. The woman came forward. And Jesus loved her immensely. The main reason Jesus loved her: her risk of faith. Jesus had spent time with the religious scholars of the day who didn’t believe in Him or anything He did. And here comes this woman, terrified but desperate. She had suffered for years. And in her suffering and desperation, she reached out with complete faith to this person she had never met.

To me, this is a gorgeous story for so many reasons. There are two main reasons:

1) Jesus loves and rewards risks of faith. We just have to be willing to reach out to Him. Like the woman, it often takes suffering and desperation for me to get there. But when I do, Jesus is excited. He loves the risk immensely. And He loves me immensely.

2) As a Christ follower, I am starting to realize I am called to absolutely know, love and reflect Jesus. If we are to reflect Jesus, we have to reward risks of faith. When we see people around us taking risks to be closer to our Leader, we have to encourage and love that. We have to encourage and love each other. Because He loves and encourages us. And our risks of faith.

When I get to meet Jesus face-to-face, the first thing I want to hear Him say is what He said to the woman: “You took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole.”

*Editor’s note: After Jesus found out who touched His robe, He healed the daughter of Jairus. While there are multiple accounts of this story in the gospels, all told from different perspectives, my favorite is Mark’s. It can be found in Mark 5: 21-43.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 7 – I go to a Small Church Next to Aspen Stands at the Base of a Mountain Pass and the Entire Pastoral Staff Lives on the Land. Kind of like a Commune.

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

Food is extremely personal. Where you get your food. How you prepare it. What type of food you eat. I am a big believer in being intentional about the food entering our bodies. Consequently, articles like this intrigue me. What do you think about how your food is grown?

You know, I have been extremely hesitant to spend an #AffirmationMonday writing about a group of people. I like these posts to be specific. And it is somewhat difficult to be specific about a group of people without making a few generalizations. Please respect and understand that. Additionally, there are multiple individuals in the group who deserve and will have their own #AffirmationMonday posts, but first, I would like to expand on the impact the Euzoa community has had on my life. So, here goes…

I came to Steamboat on a spiritual high. I spent the summer working with one of my best friends and life mentors. We worked with a community I loved. It had also been after a month of work in Kenya and Oklahoma. Basically, I didn’t want to lose the spiritual maturity and community I had spent all summer building. I needed to be plugged into a spiritual community immediately.

I got to Steamboat on either a Sunday or Monday. I remember sitting on the floor of my room alone without furniture thinking I just moved to a town where I didn’t know anyone. My lovely roommates were all spending times with their families. And although their families generously extended invitations to spend the evening with them, I chose a run instead. So there I was. Alone. I sent an email to the pastor at Euzoa and the pastor from another local church. Within the evening, Chris had responded asking if I had time to meet him for coffee the next day. I laughed out loud as I thought, “Chris, I do not know anyone. I think I can probably squeeze you in to my schedule.”

We had coffee the next morning. He invited me to church on Sunday. I still haven’t heard back from the other pastor. Maybe my email was lost in the Internet Abyss. I went to the other church’s Saturday night service and Euzoa’s on Sunday. My brother was with me. After Euzoa on Sunday, he told me I had to go there. I felt the same. Here is why:

1) Euzoa’s worship is perfect for so many reasons. There is passion. There is intensity. There is love. And the music was awesome. I immediately wanted to be involved in the worship band. But judging on appearances, it would take covering my body in tats and getting a flat-bill hat. Now that I am involved, I get to see what makes the experience so intense. One reason is the worship team is a family. Every Thursday, Euzoa provides dinner for the practice. We share a meal together. We laugh. We discuss what is going on in our lives. Also, the practice is actually worship. Sure, we are “practicing” but what we are really doing is enjoying God and each other.

2) Euzoa’s lack of judgment. Upon people. I felt comfortable immediately. And that is because there is an absolute low level of judgment. I guess what I am saying is I am not embarrassed to invite people to come to Euzoa. And that is because I know they will be greeted with love instead of judgment. They will also be met with interesting looking and acting people. They will be met with people covered in tattoos. And piercings. And hats. And laughter. And love. In a world of church’s getting caught up in the little things like appearances and politics and getting to service and leaving as soon as possible and leaving our faith at the church door instead of taking it out into the world, Euzoa gets it.

3) Euzoa’s love for the people of the Yampa Valley. Again, Euzoa gets it. They have a passion to love people in this valley. Instead of spending millions to display the love, they talk to people. They spend time with people. They do not have the millions to spend, but even if they did, they would spend it loving people instead of trying to increase church numbers. They spend a lot of time in prayer. They try to reflect Jesus to this beautiful valley and these beautiful people as much as possible.

Obviously no one is perfect. And therefore, no church community can be perfect. But I think Euzoa does a good job of being upfront with that. One thing they do well is make people feel a part of their community. The welcome people. They show them love without judgment, trying to get them to become members or take all of their money. They love God well. They love others well.

*Editor’s note: I tried to find a photo of Euzoa. No success. Just imagine a barn-looking structure in an Aspen stand with multiple buildings and ponds surrounding it. And dogs running around. A lot of dogs.

*Editor’s (second note): I ran a race this weekend. I share this article not to toot my own horn but because I hate it. Luke did a fine job writing it. But, it was not the story I wanted to be portrayed. Honestly, I think I sound like an arrogant ass. It made me sick to my stomach Saturday evening. But, I learned something from it. I am taking myself and my running way too seriously. Running is an absolute gift. So, now I am focusing (again) on enjoying it. Running without socks so I can feel the dirt on my feet. Taking my shirt off so I can feel the warmth of the sun on my back and chest. Running fast when I feel like running fast. Running slow when I feel like it. What I am saying is, I am finally Forest Gump. Beard and all.

Our To-Do List Culture

This is Steamboat yesterday. I have ran bare-chested through the forest multiple days in a row. And do not see that changing anytime soon. SPRING. Finally.

This is Steamboat yesterday. I have ran bare-chested through the forest multiple days in a row. And do not see that changing anytime soon. SPRING. Finally.

Spring in Steamboat is flawless. Steamboat is pretty much always superb in its own way. But spring is perfect. Green chases the white from the valley floor to the surrounding mountain peaks. A hike (or run or bike ride or unicycle ride) to the top of one of those peaks reveals spring rushing winter back to the heavens. You can literally see life penetrating where snow spent months residing. Spring in Steamboat is flawless. Running on the single track surrounding Steamboat reveals the journey of intrepid flora further up the mountainside each day.

I recently went on a hike with a friend who I respect and admire the hell out of. We have both been through some similar circumstances and have benefitted listening to each other talk things out. Something he said made me think about the word “settling.” The (very) general topic of discussion was the seeming impossibility of settling for something when we have experienced something better. Very akin to Don Miller’s ideas on living better and better stories.

The definition of “settle” is to appoint, fix or resolve definitely or conclusively. Our culture spends a lot of time trying to fix and resolve. We love to fix and resolve. Fix and resolve relationships. Fix and resolve problems in our lives. Fix and resolve. We live in a “to-do list” culture. We love to get stuff done effectively and efficiently. We love to check stuff off the list.

It isn’t the actual fixing and resolving that concerns me. It is our motives behind fixing and resolving and what we do post-fixing and -resolving. We fix. We resolve. We settle. We stop growing. If we have experienced beauty, why would we settle for anything less? Obviously, there are many answers. And the answer is probably different for everyone. Mine are laziness, apathy, time and selfishness. Answers could also be fear. Or comfort. Or seeking peace. Or lack of trust.

But do you know what I think the most prevalent reason could be? We do not like to suffer. We do not like to engage in activities that might “cost” us something. We try to shield our friends and families from suffering. We try to shield ourselves from suffering. So we settle. In our efforts to stay safe, we get lame. We settle in our safe lives and the only thing we are passionate about is protecting our safe lives. And in that effort, we miss a lot. We stop doing things. And when we do, we do them in the “to-do list” fashion. We miss adventures. And as my good friend Mel mentions, it is all about the adventure. The conversation. The voyage.

I have done this for long amounts of time in my life. I have been comfortable. Too comfortable. And it has felt good. And I haven’t wanted it to end. So I do everything I can to maintain that comfort. But that is all I do. Just enough. Settle.

I read an interesting article recently about a dude named Max. Max is a recent Ivy League grad and wrote an email to an economist who writes for a blog. Max’s basic question and fear was not knowing what to do with his live because he lacked passion for anything. He wanted advice on how to be passionate. And what to do if he couldn’t be passionate about anything. The blogger was stumped. He invited Max to lunch with two other economists to try and talk it out. They formed questions for Max to help form a framework for his thoughts. The first question was: How much are you willing to suffer in the short run to get a better future? Perfect.

This is a question we should continually ask ourselves. We should also ask how we can get out of our to-do lists with relationships. Let’s stop focusing on checking stuff off and focus on the opportunities we have while checking things off.

“When we start losing our tolerance for vulnerability, uncertainty, for risk — we move away from the things we need and crave the most like joy and love and belonging, trust, empathy, creativity.” — Brené Brown

*Editors note: Brene Brown is a brilliant social work scholar. She has a wonderful TED Talk about why it is actually good for us to make mistakes. She actually has multiple TED Talks, but I love the one linked. I think another fear keeping us settled and safe is fear of messing up. I have definitely harbored that fear. Enjoy!

*Editors (second) note: My good friend, Mel, had a blog post this morning about another reason I think our culture is a “to-do list” culture.

*Editors (third) note: I really cannot believe you are still reading this. As I was getting rowdy on the Steamboat single track the other day, I started thinking about this platform of communication. One thing I do not like is a dominant voice in communicating. I thought about how much richer the communication of ideas is when it is discussed and shared. I want to make Ragamuffin Stories a platform that appreciates and offers diversity. Diversity of thoughts, opinions, ideas and the way those thoughts, opinions and ideas are expressed. Consequently, I am opening this platform to other ragamuffins. Let me know if you want to post something. Ragamuffins need multiple voices.

*Editors (fourth) note: Enjoy the weekend! Going to be a gorgeous one in ColoRADo. Try something new.

#AffirmationMonday Week 6 – My Other Brother Named Daniel

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

I recently read an article about a study in Sweden. It was a small study involving 165 infants and their parents. The study found 65% of the babies who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parent’s saliva were less likely to form certain allergies. The idea is to increase the diversity of our microbiomes at a young age. Microbiome is a word describing the community of bacteria living within and on us. All I got from the article is once again, diversity makes everything better.

Allow me to introduce you to the fine looking gentleman holding my hand and running alongside me in this photo. His name is Daniel Lee Gale. We have been good friends for a decade. He has been a brother to me. I love him.

This first thing you need to know about Daniel is also the reason why I chose this specific photo for my #AffirmationMonday posts. Lots of times in life what we need most is not someone to be in front of us leading and giving advice. We also do not need cheerleaders cheering us on from behind. We need someone to hold our hands and go through life next to us. Daniel has done exactly that through many life storms.

1) Daniel the Best Friend. Beginning in high school, Daniel was the perfect best friend. Truly. We did incredibly stupid stuff together. He was the one person who would not only go along with anything dumb I wanted to do, but encouraged it and took it to the next level of dumb. We went on huge runs together. We played pranks on other people together. We pushed each other down hills in wheelbarrows. We bonded over running, life, girls and God.

All this being said, the best part about having Daniel as a best friend is his loyalty. Despite multiple opportunities I had (and took) to ruin our relationship during our early years of undergrad, Daniel stayed my friend. He is truly the epitome of a best friend. In every sense of the phrase.

2) Daniel the Personality. Daniel is hilarious. Dude can make anyone laugh at any time. It is truly a gift. People are drawn to Daniel. Because he is so happy and funny all of the time. Daniel also has a killer attitude towards adventure. He is always looking for a caper. At one point, it was running. A lot of running. Now it is his climbing.

The thing about Daniel is, once he gets his mind set on something, there is no going back. And I love that obsessive drive and personality. Daniel loves outside. He loves others. He loves God. I don’t know many others who would just move out to Colorado with me for the summer and then give away as many working hours as possible so we can focus on our running and other capers.

3) Dan(iel) the Man. While some dudes (like me) are slightly immature and afraid of commitment, others are starting good and productive lives. Daniel falls into the latter category. Daniel graduated college twice, fell in love with a great woman and has started a life with her. He is mature. Honestly, for someone who once asked me to punch him as hard as I could in the forehead with a Pringle’s can on my fist, it gives me hope for the maturing of anyone.

I had the great honor of standing next to Daniel as he married his love. At a time of nothing but cynicism for me towards love between two people in general, I watched Daniel’s face as his love walked into the church sanctuary and then towards him. I watched his eyes. In his eyes I saw nerves change to disbelief of the beauty he was witnessing to adoration and finally to tears. I witnessed a well of emotions through his eyes. And I realized, not only that my brother had become a man but he also had found someone in life that could bring intense emotions at the very sight of her. And I found another level of love and respect for him.

I have learned much from Daniel. I have learned about excitement for life. I have learned about forgiveness. I have learned about the diversity and dynamics of love.

Love you, bro.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams.

This is Daniel and Nathan in high school. We are watching the Field of Dreams. My butt is wet.

Am I Really Nothing Without “Knowing” Jesus? If So, That Really Sucks.

This photo is on the front page of the Steamboat paper today. It was taken by Steamboat Pilot photog, John Russell.

This photo is on the front page of the Steamboat paper today. It was taken by Steamboat Pilot photog, John Russell.

I read an article this morning on NPR about the way our brain processes words. The theory used to be we had a special place in the brain for processing language. Like a word module. Recent research (outlined in the article) suggests processing language is a full brain experience. Especially language involving metaphors. The thing is, to make meaning of words; it takes many different parts of our brain. Mainly to visualize our experiences with those words. Pretty cool, huh?

 “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning (but every single person could say this)

I had a great two-hour long phone conversation with a good friend this week. It was a conversation where have of the participants were slap-happy exhausted and the other half was on (legal, I think) drugs. Between the long awkward pauses where we both were trying to form thoughts, there was a lot of good topics covered.

One of those topics was self-defeatism in the Western Christian church. If you have spent any time at all in a church in America, someone of authority has probably told you you are nothing or at least less than stellar without Jesus. I want to tell you right now, they are absolutely wrong. Before I piss off a bunch of people, let me reiterate my faith in Jesus and the Christian God. I love Jesus. I do. I think His radical Love is life changing. I think His radical teachings of putting others ahead of you and being a servant are perfect. I love the way He reaches out to the marginalized. But…

To say someone is nothing without Jesus is ignorant (in my opinion). Do you know how many people I know who are loving, caring and passionate people but do not “know” Jesus or “love the Lord?” Countless. So, let me take this moment to let all of you reading this, I love you. So does Jesus. And you are unique, special, lovely, beautiful – all of those adjectives. And that is how my God sees you. Not as nothing. Not as lame. You get the point.

And if you do identify as a Christian, guess what? He doesn’t love you anymore (or less) than your atheist neighbor. Or your gay neighbor. Or the prostitute working the streets downtown. And so, if you have been in an organized religious situation and someone has told you you are nothing without Jesus, I want you to know My Jesus doesn’t see it that way. And remember, as a wise author once said,

“Real freedom is freedom from the opinion of others.” – Brennan Manning

What they say about who you are as a person is an opinion. How do they know you are nothing without Jesus? They don’t.

Enjoy your weekends. In the words of my man, Bob Goff, “Love others and do stuff.”

*Editor’s note: I realized while writing this my posts are feeling less self-reflective and more opinionated. One of my flaws is I can get cynical towards organized religion. Cynicism usually doesn’t help. Or benefit anyone. In the next few posts, I will be working on this. Hopefully the point is communicated well that I love you and think you are awesome and so does my Jesus.

Jesus Liked Wine. He Liked Changing Water to Wine. What He Liked Most Was Probably the Reason For Changing the Water to Wine. It was to Show Love. And PARTAY.

In 2013 I have ran two races. One did not end up well. The other did. Regardless, I finished both of them bleeding. Also, one of my favorite things about running is it makes you humble. Running is probably the only sport where within 42 hours you can go from a dominant performace to being made fun of and heckled by nine-year-old girls for the length of your shorts.

In 2013 I have ran two races. One did not end well. The other did. Regardless, I finished both of them bleeding. Also, one of my favorite things about running is it makes you humble. Running is probably the only sport where within 42 hours you can go from a dominant performace to being made fun of and heckled by nine-year-old girls for the length of your shorts.

I have been thinking a lot lately about one of the main criticisms of Christians. And other religious groups, for that matter. Hypocrisy. I am not talking about the whole “drinking alcohol is bad” or “cussing is wrong,” tiny things that do not actually matter. If you do not know this, it is time you did. Jesus drank wine. I know, this might be tough for some to accept. Hold on to your seats. Jesus actually changed water to wine at a wedding so the guests could party, dance and have a good time. Don’t even get me started on the cursing issue, damn it.

I am talking about the big hypocrisies. At least big in my eyes. I am talking about identifying as a Christ follower but not making sacrifices for our Lord and others. My Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He sacrificed His Life. In my eyes, you can boil down the life of my Jesus to loving God, loving others and sacrifice. And I do think it is one of the biggest mistakes Christ followers make. We don’t like to get dirty. We don’t like to get out of our comfort zones. We don’t like (or allow) our Abba to change or mess up our lives. But the thing is, our Abba’s presence should change or mess up our lives. And this is why I fail at full sacrifice for others and my Abba. I used to think the focus on sacrifice should be what I sacrifice; now I know it is about my reasons for doing so.

One of my favorite things about Christ’s life was His love for living for others. For Him, it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was the result of a Heart full of Abounding Love from His Abba. It wasn’t the act or sacrifice; it was the reason for doing so. And this is where I suck. I get so focused on the act. I forget about the Abounding Love and Grace I am shown on a daily basis. And this makes me look at everything differently. It changes the way I look at every interaction.

So, to all of my friends I have bailed on or said, “No” to, I am sorry. It is not at all a representation of Who I base my spiritual life around. It is not who I want to be. It is who I am when I focus on the act instead of the reason for doing every act. It is the result of not allowing that Gorgeous, Perfect, Abounding Love to flow through me.

Giving yourself to others and a Devine Being looks different to everyone.  It is something personal requiring inner-reflection. A mysterious, Abounding Love is my reason. It is not something I have fully grasped, nor will I ever come close to understanding. It is profound. It is relentless. It is fulfilling.

Regardless of your beliefs, think about a life lived with others and for others. Think about a life in which you are fully engaged in the well-being and interests of those around you. Think about a life in which you actually and fully enjoy others. When I think about this in my own life, it looks beautiful. And purposeful. And meaningful. And lovely.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 5 – My Younger Brother from another Mother

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let's do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday! Let’s do some big time affirming to our friends and family today.

Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone. One thing I realized at a young age was if I surrounded myself with people better than me, it would make me a better person. If I looked up to someone for any reason, I would befriend them. Allow me to introduce you to a dude I constantly look up to and he probably doesn’t even know it. His name is Hunter Schroer.

I first knew of Hunter when he would hang out with my brother and some of my brother’s friends. Then I worked as a summer intern at the church in Missouri both of our families attended. Hunter had just graduated from high school and was very active in the youth group. It wasn’t till working in the sun and heat of the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains that we truly bonded together. After a week of working hard in the heat, our minds started to go. Seriously. We very much entered the slap-happy stage.

1) Hunter the Laugh. Hunter’s laugh is contagious. If you know Hunter, you know this. It makes you want to hear that laugh more, and in my case that means do more stupid stuff that I think will get him to laugh. But there is way more to Hunter’s laugh than just the sound. Hunter is excited about life and always has a positive outlook. I admire and respect Hunter’s ability to find the humor in life and specific situations. People are drawn to that attitude. Hunter is also one of the nicest guys I know. His charm and humor make him extremely fun to be around.

2) Hunter the Genius. Hunter is an intelligent dude. I am amazed by and attracted to smart people. Hunter is one of those people. He has a brain that sees the world, situations and problems in ways mine could never. He very much has that engineer brain but also has an artistic and creative side. I (like many others) have benefited from both. Whether it be jamming out or building our own hammocks, what we do when together is usually a product of Hunter’s brain.

3) Hunter the Friend. Hunter is one of the best friends I have. The thing is, he is that friend to all of his friends. He has an amazing capability and gift to build quality and deep relationships. He is not afraid to be vulnerable and truly open up to people. Hunter has already come to visit me in Steamboat. He is already planning a return trip. He is a friend. He is there for me. He listens. He loves. He shares. He is a friend.

4) Hunter the Heart. Probably the best thing about Hunter and what I admire the most is his heart. He has a huge heart for people. He is so mature. He loves people a ton. When I moved to Colorado in August, I wanted to stay in close communication with him (even though he was spending a semester in London) and grow our relationship and have someone to really open up with. Hunter and I had a helluva email chain going. We got to know a little too much about each other. But, I got to see Hunter’s heart. And it is beautiful. Many people have a good brain. Or a good heart. Hunter has an amazing heart and brain. And he wants to use both of them to help people.

God has huge plans in store for Hunter. Truly. I cannot wait to see what they are. But, I know they are going to happen. Because Hunter and God are besties. They hang out with each other. They listen to each other. They love each other. I have been blessed by having Hunter as my friend. He has made me a better person.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

This is Hunter. He is in the process of charging up a mountain with snow shoes and skis on his back. What a bad ass.

What I Have Learned From Running with a Blind Dog

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

This is Ella. She is the blind dog I have been living with for a week now. She doesn’t answer when I ask her how her day was. She just looks at me with adoration and wags her tail. But I imagine if she could talk, she would have a ton of interesting stuff to say. Alas.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am house sitting for my supervisor this week. Since last Friday, I have been enjoying the company of Zazu (bird), Simba (male kitten), Shadow (17-year-old male cat) and Ella (old, blind dog). And by enjoying, I mean I could think of about 3,275 other things I would rather do. Regardless, it has been a good learning experience. I have learned if you let Zazu walk around on the counter, he will poop and Simba will try his hardest to kill him. I have learned no matter how much you talk to an Aspen tree, it just doesn’t reciprocate. Also, the male kitten is one of the most annoying species on the face of the earth.

But, I have learned the most from Ella. Ella might be the sweetest old dog on the planet. She is fat, furry and full of love. My supervisor warned me before I left she would try to run with me. Ella loves to run. However, my supervisor told me to try to sneak out so she doesn’t go with me. Ella is used to running short distances with my supervisor.

The first time I went for a run, I waited till she looked asleep and the opened the door and stepped out quietly. A few minutes into my run, I hear something behind me. Here comes Ella charging. I had already made some turns and I am guessing she was either tracking my scent or listening to my footsteps. Regardless, she was charging at top-end speeds. I turned around in time to watch her sprint full force into a snow bank. She somersaulted and gracefully kept running. Although it did look painful. I admit, I laughed. Pretty hard. Like I had to stop running because I couldn’t breathe.

But then I started to think about the situation. And how she kept following me. And because I live my life in fantasies and am very much an idealist and romantic, I probably thought too much about what I had just witnessed and what I continued to witness. But, the blind (I know, sorry) faith of that dog is amazing. She also might love running more than me.

So, what I have learned:

  • Ella is fearless. She runs full speed. She goes for it. She trusts herself.
  • Failures do not stop Ella. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have watched this dog hit her head on something. Or run into a door. Or fall over her face while running. But she keeps going. With an amazing attitude. Her memory is so short to failures. And it is beautiful.
  • Ella absolutely loves adventures. I imagine almost every day is an adventure if you are a blind dog. But she also seeks it out. She is always outside exploring her surroundings.
  • Ella adores people a lot. Pretty much without any reserve or self-consciousness. She is not afraid to love. She is not afraid to show her adoration. She shows her adoration by running out to greet me every day when I get to her home. It doesn’t matter if it is 6 p.m. or midnight. She also wags her tail so hard it shakes her butt. And she makes these annoying, whiney noises when she first notices your presence (I had to retype to change that statement from “when she sees you”).
  • Ella truly loves and enjoys life. She cannot see life, but she seems to enjoy her existence in this world to the fullest capacity.

I started wondering what my life would look like if I lived life Ella-style. At first I thought I would probably do a lot more stupid stuff. And get myself in a lot more awkward, uncomfortable and probably dangerous situations. Those types of things would probably happen. But, think of the stories. I bet if Ella could talk to me (she doesn’t, believe me, I tried) she would have a ton of interesting stories to tell me about her day.

How would our lives changed if we became fearless? Or didn’t allow our failures to discourage our dreams and pursuits? Or loved and sought out adventures on a daily basis? Or truly adored people? Or absolutely loved and enjoyed life? How would our lives change if we tried to focus on one of those things for a week or weekend?

My Ode to Steamboat – Why No One Should Move Here (and by no one, I mean everyone)

This is an image of Steamboat's amazing Mountain after a recent event in Steamboat. This is one of the many reasons I love Steamboat. Never a dull moment. NEVER.

This is an image of Steamboat’s amazing Mountain after a recent event in Steamboat. This is one of the many reasons I love Steamboat. Never a dull moment. NEVER.

Steamboat will have its own #AffirmationMonday post. As will pretty much all of my friends here. But, lately I have been feeling super blessed to live in this gorgeous town and area and would like to share why. Enter the top nine reasons I love Steamboat (Ski Town, USA and Bike Town, USA).

9) The mountains. In Colorado you expect mountains. I have to admit, when I first arrived, I was somewhat let down. After driving through high, craggy peaks, Steamboat’s peaks seemed mellow and somewhat boring. But they grow on you. The Aspen change into piercing yellow in the autumn. Trails cover them. Running across the gentle inclines and descents allow me to get lost in the forest, the moment and myself. The mountains are gorgeous in their own unique way. Just like us.

8) The active culture. Steamboat is a bubble. A bubble of fit and active people. People come to Steamboat to play on its trails, in its mountains and on its rivers. They climb, hike, backpack, fish, ski, run, bike, unicycle and truly enjoy God’s playground.

7) The skiing. I think it is telling of Steamboat that the main reason I came here is this far up the list. Not telling of the skiing (it is world class), telling of the other items on the list. One of my goals before moving here was to not become a snow snob. I wanted to enjoy every day. And ski every day like I wouldn’t have another. That lasted until my first powder day here. It is trademarked Champagne Powder for a reason. Skiing through knee-deep fluff in an Aspen glade will change your life forever. You will NEVER be the same. And now I am a snow snob. Thanks, Steamboat.

6) The sunsets. I am a sucker for a good sunset. The sunsets here are resplendent. In the autumn, the rays splash through the changing Aspen. They illuminate the forest in oranges, yellows and reds and then pinks, deep purples and dark blues. In the winter, the intensity mellows some, but alpenglows combined with sunsets inundate and engulf you in piercing and soft colors. Everyday creates a unique but equally stunning descent of the sun behind the foreseeable earth.

5) Partners in Routt County. Partners is the nonprofit I work for. And is the other big reason I moved to Steamboat. I had some options but I chose Partners because I wanted to spend a year being a voice for an underserved and represented population (poor and at-risk youth and their families). It has exceeded my expectations. Mainly because of the people I work with. They are passionate about helping youth. They work hard and play hard. They don’t just allow me to go for runs in the middle of the day, they tell me to have fun when I leave and ask how it was or how my training is going when I return. They are great people and it is a great organization.

4) The Nest. The Nest is the name for the home where I live. It is welcoming. It has positive energies and vibes. It is made up of caring and loving people. It has absolutely been a perfect living situation that I am probably taking for granted. It is a home.

3) Running. There are trails. Lots of trails. Through forests. Across creeks. Up mountains. Down mountains. From my front door, I am within two miles of about four different trail systems. All in national forests. In the past two weeks, I have seen a family of elk, a family of moose (meese?) and a family of bears all running within a two mile radius of my front door. On a weekly basis, someone walking, running or biking by will give words of encouragement.

2) The people. I have never met a more beautiful, intelligent, caring, compassionate, active, aware, like-minded and healthy population of people. They are welcoming. They share meals. They go into deep conversations quickly. They encourage. They show concern. They are supportive. They are unique. They love life, outdoors and others.

1) Euzoa Bible Church. When I got to Steamboat, I knew no one. I mean, I had talked to my roommate via phone and email, but I didn’t really know anyone. Euzoa’s community took me in immediately. They have shown me love. They have bought me meals and coffee. They have included me. They have been with me. They have been what the church should be. Unfortunately, that does not happen a lot with the Western church. Euzoa is the exception.

#AffirmationMonday – Week 4 – The Woman, The Myth, The MEL!

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

Thanks to my good friend, Mel, I have another awesome new #AffirmationMonday graphic. Also, thank to Mel, I have an awesome, new #AffirmationMonday post.

“But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright.” – Bob Goff

As I begin my week of house sitting in God’s Country, Colorado, I feel it fitting to affirm my favorite introvert and good friend, Melissa Hatfield. In all actuality, this post has been planned for a while. It just happened to end up coinciding. And as I struggled over the past couple of weeks trying to find the words, I realized while Mel will appreciate these words, and the world must know how rad of a person she is, she is a selfless person (HUGE understatement) and will not get hung up on these words. That is my problem. Once again, I will attempt to put these affirmations into three categories.

1) Mel the Mentor. Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to many. She has had a huge influence on this blog. She has encouraged. She has prayed. She has given me new things to ponder. She has made me ponder old things in new ways. She created the graphic for #AffirmationMonday posts. She introduced me to Don Miller and Brennan Manning.

Mel has been a spiritual and life mentor to me since the beginning of high school. And while there was a time when we had little communication, she was ready to pick up right where we left off when I reached out to her again. The largest thing Mel has done for me (and others) is allow me to form my own beliefs. She gives immense love, support and encouragement. But when it comes down to forming beliefs, she left that up to me. And it has made my beliefs stronger. Because they are my own.

2) Mel the Introvert who Loves and Seeks Discomfort. My first real interaction with Mel came at a church lock-in at the local YMCA. She had graciously (and definitely with a good heart and lots of naivety) asked the band I was playing in to play at the lock-in. She took an enormous risk. And on the surface it failed. I mean, we were freshmen in high school. And we were idiots. Some of the athletes decided it would be funny to throw flour over all of our amps and instruments while we were not with them. In retaliation, we found the flour next to their letter jackets and dumped it on them. Mel should have been furious. But she showed us nothing but love. That changed everything for me. I started paying attention to spiritual things. Because she showed us love, grace and forgiveness.

Last summer on a flight back from Africa, Mel shared with me her heart was feeling pulled outside of Jefferson City, Mo. Her home is Jefferson City. But if you know Mel, you know while her heart is very much with Refuge Student Ministries and the Jefferson City community, she has left pieces of her heart all over the nation and world. That is how she operates. She leaves her heart with people and cultures. And, lets be honest, Jefferson City isn’t the most glamorous place. She could do amazing things for God all over the world. But she decided to stay in Jefferson City. Not because it was the comfortable thing to do. Because she loves people and she loves God. And that is where God has called her.

3) Mel, Abba’s Child. Mel would want this post to be all about God. That is how she lives her life. But, Mel, this post is about you. And how you are Abba’s child. Mel teaches me on a daily basis how to be Abba’s child. She knows her inner-Pharisee. She is open about her inner-Pharisee. She loves to be with God. She loves spending time with her Abba. And her Abba has unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild, unfathomable Love. Mel reflects that love on all she comes in contact with.

In seeking to be Abba’s child, Mel seeks to be with people. And she is an introvert. She is with people. She laughs with others when they laugh. She weeps when they weep (she is really good at weeping). She bears other’s burdens. Mel knows she is not perfect but also knows her Abba is.

Over the past year, Mel has transformed from strictly a spiritual and life mentor to that and a best friend. I have watched as she has displayed unsuppressed, rambunctious, wild and unfathomable Love to me and countless others. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Nakupenda, Mel.

*Editor’s note: If you know Mel, tell her how much you love her today. Tell her your favorite thing about her. My favorite thing is she loves big. And she loves everyone. And she is selfless.

*Editors (second) note: Mel loves God, loves others and does stuff. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, she would encourage you to love others and do stuff. Looking for something to do? Mentor. Seriously. I have seen firsthand the benefits in my own life and others. It might not feel like it has an impact, but it absolutely does. Google “mentoring” and the community you live in for some resources.