#AffirmationWednesday – Because there should be no limits on when or where to affirm

My friend Daniel and me got to spend some bro time this weekend. We ate meat, drank beer, climbed rocks and arm-wrestled. But this post is about another impactful person in my life.

My friend Daniel and me got to spend some bro time this weekend. We ate meat, drank beer, climbed rocks and arm-wrestled. But this post is about another impactful person in my life.

Editor’s top note: Here is some recent research that connects the environmental issues with human well-being. Interesting and pertinent stuff.

When I was in my final semester of graduate school, I was fully planning on doing AmeriCorps. My mind was all over the place with research, writing and trying to graduate combined with a ton of personal issues and thoughts. I applied for an AmeriCorps VISTA job in Steamboat Springs, Colo. I knew I wanted to help underserved youth.

The former executive director of where I served told me to apply to their other AmeriCorps program as well. I did and had an interview set up with the program manager, Lindsay Kohler. I wrote it down wrong on my calendar. Totally spaced it and missed it. I sent an email begging for mercy. I figured I had not only blown my chances at that job but also the original one. Lindsay responded and said it was no problem and rescheduled another interview. Despite multiple offers, I knew what I was going to do. Work with people who knew forgiveness and understanding.

Three things Lindsay has taught me:

  • Forgiveness and understanding. Obviously. But it went through the initial experience into multiple times this year when Lindsay moved from coworker to supervisor for me. Lindsay truly wants to help people and so she constantly looks past frustrations and difficulties to ideas of how to help. She is constantly looking for ways to putting others first. And this stems for her consistency in forgiveness and understanding.
  • Passion towards helping underserved youth. This is what Lindsay does and continues to do. She has been serving underserved youth in multiple capacities since being at Partners in Routt County. She worked in a middle school. She did grants and fundraising and marketing. And now she runs the program that puts AmeriCorps in middle and elementary schools. But do you know what the bottom-line, guiding factor is in all of Lindsay’s decisions and actions? Helping the kiddos. Always. How she and her mentor crew can help in the best way.
  • Running passion and dedication. I have consistently stated throughout my life I am more impressed with the people who run and train but never lead the pack than the people who do lead the pack. Lindsay is not a pack leader. But she is out there training through Steamboat winters anyway. Relentlessly. I watched Lindsay walk into the office day after day with snow and ice all over her after a mid-day run. And it was never about dreams of winning races. It was about the struggle. And the fulfillment of completing a challenging course. It was super inspiring.

There obviously is a ton more to Lindsay. But these are the three most prominent things I learned from her after two years of near daily contact. So, if anyone wants (or knows someone who wants) a fulfilling experience mentoring at-risk youth while being mentored by a passionate, dedicated supervisor (and friend), look into the AmeriCorps School-Based Mentoring program for Partners in Routt County in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

Two posts in two days – BIG TIME

One of the reasons to miss Steamboat. My old running path.

One of the reasons to miss Steamboat. My old running path. Love the emphasis on “very.”

*Editor’s top note: Have you heard of cellulose? It is in a lot of our food AND all of our paper. If you are one of those granola, weird-o, hippees who care about what goes in their food, read this article. I am going to throw away all shredded cheese in my aunt and uncle’s house as soon as I get home.

Hello, again. Yesterday’s post led my Memaw to call me three times at work and ask my psychiatric nurse practitioner aunt to be on suicide watch. Additionally, it left my mother crying in front of the computer screen. Not my intentions. It also led to a lot of outpouring of support and relation from a lot of people. My intentions. There is a power in the relation from vulnerability. The older I get the more I am affirmed we have to be open and vulnerable with each other. It breaks down enormous walls and leads to connection, compassion, understanding and love. How resplendent.

So to appease the concerned readers and help with perspective, I am using my blogging power to declare every Thursday from this point forward Thankful Thursday. #ThankfulThursday if you will. Because despite potential criticism I am a sucker for lame hashtags and alliteration. On this Thursday, here is what I am grateful for:

  • The ability to ride my bike to and from work.
  • Coffee and blueberries every morning.
  • Being able to work in a climate controlled office stocked with snacks and beverages.
  • The people who love and support me.
  • Sunshine. I have been on the Front Range for almost a month and only once have I walked outside in the morn to clouds. I was SO offended the Sun let me down. Perspective.
  • Connection.

What are you thankful for today? It is imperative to think about.

The State of the Nathan Address: A Lack of Running and Loving

This is Boulder. It is where I work for three more weeks. Then I will be unemployed. Hit me up if you are anyone else wants a slightly above-average writer with a big heart.

This is Boulder. It is where I work for three more weeks. Then I will be unemployed. Hit me up if you or anyone else you know wants a slightly above-average writer with a big heart.

Editor’s top note: If you do not what is going on with the current influx of refugee children entering the good ol’ U.S. of A., you need to. This is a serious issue and will only keep getting worse if nothing is done. Here is a good article explaining it (please, please, please read and educate yourself on the issue): Go here! On to regularly scheduled programming.

Hello. Once again it has been over a half a year. And honestly, there hasn’t been a ton of depth to share. There are two reasons for this post. The first is because of a conversation I had a few weekends ago. I was in Jefferson City, Mo. celebrating a good friend’s wedding. Sunday morning I had a conversation with a mother of someone I grew up geographically close to and went to high school with. Her daughter is a Facebook friend of mine. We really haven’t talked since high school but she was forwarding my posts to her mother. Her mom thanked me at a brunch the morning after the wedding. No “where have you been?” or “I miss your posts.” Just a thank you.

The second reason is the state of my life. Let me tell you, I have slipped in virtually every aspect of my life the past half year or so. The roles I have messed up in no order (to my knowledge) are: employee, friend, Christ follower, son, brother, significant other, roommate, renter, athlete, blogger and probably others. All of this came together last night and led to a big low. And so before I continue, this is a fair warning, I am getting ready to go into a pity-fest. If you want, skip to the end. I definitely would.

Two years of trying to live a life as an AmeriCorps volunteer and have fun in a ski town has left me fatigued and broke. I now commute by bike 40 miles round trip everyday because I cannot afford gas or a closer place to live (Front Rangers, hit me up for a hike, bike or java!). I also cannot run so it is serving as my cross training. Financially speaking, I have made some horrible decisions.

OK. Gross. I cannot go on. Long story, short, I am in a weird place. With no one to blame but myself. But things have changed. First, apologies! I will not name names but those who have been wronged will know.

I am sorry for not responding to emails. Or phone calls. I have wronged people by not showing up or being responsive. I have squelched other’s love. I have refused to allow others to love me. I have stopped communicating. I have created strife instead of simply listening and being there for others. I have stopped taking care of myself spiritually and it has bled into other aspects of my life. And so it goes.

This is not a “everyone feel sorry for Nathan” piece or a “God is good and awesome piece.” Because, well, I don’t really know who God is right now. I haven’t spent enough time with God. But that is changing now. And hopefully it will bleed love into lives around me. It will.

If you are still with me and have gotten through the (slightly pathetic) monologue, here is the take away. I have grasped onto a lot out of fear. I have not reached out to others because of fear I have already hurt them and they don’t want to connect anymore. And last night as I was trying desperately to reconnect with the Universe, I realized fear and grasping onto seemingly safe and familiar things in our lives leads to selfishness, oppression, dysfunction and a shallow, meaningless life. Maybe others already know this. I just learned it. Now it is time to do something about it.

Editor’s bottom note: Life is gorgeous and things are really great. Everything will work out. and like a close friend told me last night, I have much to be grateful for. I just need to look outside myself and into those blessings. They are everywhere. Relationships, forests, cities, apple orchards, mountains, deserts, everywhere. I hope you take time to find yours today. I will for sure. I need to more.

#AffirmationMonday – The Man Who Taught Me it is OK to Love a Kansas Jayhawk

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don't see why it shouldn't be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

So, the American Medical Association might have some input on making cheerleading a recognized NCAA sport. I honestly don’t see why it shouldn’t be a sport at that level. They do athletic stuff that would take a ton of training for me to be able to accomplish. I am for it. Happy #AffirmationMonday, everyone!

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I have been blessed with a lot of good male role models in my life. My grandfather, Jack Edwin Allen, is one of them. He also turned 81 yesterday.

For as long as I can remember, my grandpa and I have playfully teased each other about the Mizzou-Kansas basketball rivalry. We used to have a game where if one of us made fun of the other person’s team, we had to give that person 10 cents. A dime is a lot to a 10-year-old. Not so much for a grown adult. Looking back on it, I think it was his way of getting in a few good diggers for a small investment.

1) My grandpa is wise and smart. I think it can just be assumed that someone who has seen many seasons of life will be wise. My grandpa definitely falls in that category. He has had many life experiences and has spent much time reflecting on them and growing from them. And we are blessed to have him share those life lessons and experiences with us.

But he is brilliant as well. To be a civil engineer for an oil company, designing pipelines around the West, you have to be smart. He passed that on to each of his children. It does not take long to realize how smart he is by interacting with him. I do not think I have met someone who processes, contemplates and analyzes like him. I hope to have half of his brilliance at some point in my life.

2) My grandpa is absolutely a hard worker. It is insane. He always has been. But it is crazier the older he gets. He instilled in me early on a strong work ethic and the importance of getting your work done. When my brother and I would spend time with my grandparents in the summer, we did chores with my grandpa every morning. We got to go fishing or go to the park afterwards, but it was always about finishing the chores first. While we were not stoked about it then, it is one of the things that has made us who we are today.

And even though he is now 81, he continues to work on projects and chores as much as possible. It is actually really humorous to watch him help my dad with stuff. My dad will tell him to sit down or take it easy and he just continues working right next to my dad.

3) My grandpa is a fighter. He has been battling lung cancer for a few years now. Even though his body is tired, he continues to fight. I also have a young cousin named Jack. Big Jack is Little Jack’s main male role model. And you can already see the benefits of that relationship. Little Jack is an incredibly smart little dude. He has an engineering brain like his father and grandfather. Little Jack works hard. Last time I was at his house, he came home from his pre-school and immediately would water all of the plants in his yard. Even though it was over 100 degrees.

My grandpa continues to fight. Probably for many reasons. But I think one of those reasons is his love for Little Jack.

My grandpa is a great man. A strong, wise and tough man. He has and continues to teach me many things. I love him and am proud of him. Even though he is one of the biggest Jayhawk basketball fans I know.

#AffirmationMonday – Number Eight – I Have a Beautiful Sister, Her Name is Lydia

This is my mother and me, circa spring 2012. This post is about my sister. But my mother has played a large role in my sister's life. Mainly, birthing her. But, they are best friends as well. I am happy my mother got to have a daughter.

This is my mother and me, circa spring 2012. This post is about my sister. But my mother has played a large role in my sister’s life. Mainly, birthing her. They are best friends. I am happy my mother got to have a daughter. Also, photo cred goes to Melissa Hatfield.

Having a decade difference in age from a sibling is a gift and a curse. Moving out of the house when Lydia was seven led to not getting to know her as well as my brother. We just didn’t get to spend as much time together. But it is an absolute gift in terms of being able to remember every part of her life.

I can still vividly remember the day my parents sat my brother and me in their bedroom and told us we were going to have a younger sibling. I remember the night she was born. My grandma driving laps around the hospital in my mom’s minivan, as my brother and me tried to guide her to a parking place. I remember holding Lydia in my arms for the first time. I remember the first time she smiled.

Here are three of the many reasons my sister, Lydia, is an awesome person:

1) Lydia is hilarious. It is what I hear a lot from people who know her. Or meet her. And it is so true. Mainly the humor comes from this ridiculous sass she possesses. But, one of her best qualities is her ability to see the humor in life. She is able to laugh at herself. She is able to laugh at circumstances and situations. It is rare and contagious.

Being around her or interacting with her reminds me to do that in my own life. To always look for the humor in life. And to laugh often. It is one way Lydia’s life has made mine better. And a way she has made me a better person.

2) Lydia tries everything. As someone who found a passion I wanted to stick early, I respect and admire this a ton. Lydia has done so many different sports and activities. And I think it is because Lydia loves people and relationships. She constantly wants to get to know people and develop new relationships with others. It is incredibly refreshing to hear about and watch.

I love talking to my mother and hearing her talk about what Lydia is up to. What her new hobbies and passions are. And I love having parents that encourage and support that type of attitude towards life. She teaches me to break out of my comfort zone with people and circumstances. To continually try new things and meet new people. Because it is how she lives her life.

3) Lydia is brilliant. She has always had a large vocabulary. She very much benefitted from living in a house with people a lot older than her. But she has a desire to learn. She loves to read. She seeks out people older than her and learns from them. She absorbs everything.

I think what is most impressive is how smart she is about life. She is incredibly mature for her age. She gets life. She gets that it is about relationships and people. And to get that at such a young age is so wonderful.

Lydia has a beautiful heart. She is accepting of all types of people. What’s more, she loves all types of people. It is that passion that makes her see the humor in her own situations and circumstances and relationships. It guides her to get out of her comfort zone and try new things and meet new people. And it has made her “life-brilliant.” She teaches me new things all of the time. I love her and am proud of who she is.

I spent the first ten years of my life not being able to imagine having a younger sister. I have spent all of the years since not being able to imagine what it would be like to not have Lydia.

*Editor’s note: There was an interesting (brief) article this morning about why people live in Oklahoma when it is so prone to tornados. First,  I am not entirely sure why this is a question. I am not sure where tornados rank with other natural disasters in terms of prevalence and destruction. But couldn’t you ask the same to someone who lives on the coast about hurricanes? My experiences with people in Oklahoma is akin to people from other Heartland states – hardworking, loving and always willing to help others. That would be enough to make me want to stay somewhere as well. Tornados or not.

*Editor’s (second) note: So, I ran a race this weekend. The success wouldn’t have been possible without a HUGE group of supporters near and afar. I am blessed with amazing friends and family who constantly support and love me. Also, it wouldn’t have been possible to train at the intensity I have been able to without an enoouraging and flexible staff at Partners in Routt County. Not only was I allowed to leave for runs in the middle of the day, they constantly showed interest in my training. They were all at the race on Sunday (two of them running themselves). The encouragement has been humbling.

Horrible Things Happen Everywhere, Even in Ski Towns and I Have No Idea Why

Got to spend the past two weekends with these fine people. Multiple things to say about this photo. First, great to spend time on the University of Missouri campus again. Miss that place. And Columbia in general. Proud of my younger (obviously not little) bro for getting two degrees in four years. And doing it with #madsteaze. Four people in my immediate family have attended college. Between us we have eight degrees (seven from the University of Missouri). No pressure, Lydia. Later that evening I had a good friend tell me I looked homeless. Now I know what he was talking about. Have a feeling all of that hair will be coming off soon.

Had to throw in as many positive things to this post as possible. Got to spend the past two weekends with these fine people. Multiple things to say about this photo. First, great to spend time on the University of Missouri campus again. Miss that place. And Columbia in general. Proud of my younger (obviously not little) bro for getting two degrees in four years. And doing it with #madsteaze. Four people in my immediate family have attended college. Between us we have eight degrees (seven from the University of Missouri). No pressure, Lydia. Later that evening I had a good friend tell me I looked homeless. Now I know what he was talking about. Have a feeling all of that hair will be coming off soon.

The rest of this post won’t be as dramatic as the title. Just had to let it out. All of my Steamboat friends have heard the news. For those outside of the bubble, if you don’t want to click on the link (I don’t blame you), a third-grader’s life was taken by his mother early Wednesday morning. More details will come out regarding motive and what actually happened soon enough. For now it just doesn’t matter. This type of situation sucks.

I realize children (and others) lose their lives in unjust and unfair ways daily. But in a small ranching and ski town in northwest Colorado, everyone is affected. Everyone cries. Everyone is connected. Steamboat’s crime is usually someone doing drugs or getting drunk and either starting a fight or doing something equally stupid. The police blotter during ski season is always entertaining. Children are not murdered here. So this hurts the entire community.

Working at a youth serving nonprofit, it stings even more. Everyone in this office loves kids. We have a wonderful, brilliant, caring, loving, passionate mentor full-time in the elementary school affected. Cannot imagine how she is feeling now, but if I know her the way I think I do, she is being strong for the rest of the kiddos.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, I had a post about tragedies. I had the opportunity to address a question I am asked about my faith more than any other question and avoided it. “Nathan, why do bad things happen?” Or, “Why does God let bad things happen?” It is an incredibly touchy subject and one I am nowhere close to being qualified to answer (I haven’t had truly tragic situations in my own life and I am no theological scholar). When I am asked one of these questions, three immediate responses usually come to heart and mind.

1) I don’t know. I just don’t. This was part of the Boston post, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but I don’t know why bad things happen. In one of Don Miller’s books (not sure which one), he compares us trying to understand God to a pancake trying to understand us. I think it is true. If we are to believe in a Devine Being, it is impossible for us to expect to understand this Devine Being.

I think a lot of Christ followers get caught up on trying to justify and explain God and why things happen and our individual reasons for faith. Here’s the thing: it isn’t our responsibility to justify or explain God. God doesn’t need us to do that. Admitting not knowing how God works is fine. Admitting you are not completely sure why you follow Christ is fine. So, what do we do then?

2) Jesus wept. My favorite part about the miracles Jesus performed is not the actual miracle. Although they were awesome. It was the compassion behind the miracle. Jesus was full of compassion and His Heart would break for people. When bad things happened, Jesus mourned with those who mourned. Jesus showed compassion, empathy and an unfathomable love towards everyone.

It is one of my favorite qualities of Jesus. He understood sometimes all there is to do is grieve. And that is OK. We don’t have to try to fix things immediately. We don’t have to insist things will be better. There is a time when it is good to just sit next to someone who has had a loss and weep with them.

3) Beautiful things are created from the ashes of a tragedy. They are. People are often bonded through tragedy. It does take a decision to allow that to happen, but it can be there. And while I do not think God “causes” or “allows” tragedies, I do think He is there ready to embrace us and weep with us. If we allow it. And then He is ready to create gorgeous things with our lives.

We live in a world where evil is as prevalent as Beauty. We have seen both. But, if we mourn with those who mourn, share burdens and allow tragedies to bond us together and to a Higher Spirit, gorgeous things happen. It is not easy. And I still do not know why children (or anyone) are murdered, enslaved, oppressed and bullied. I never will. I do know hearing the high-pitched, uncontrollable laugh of a small child being pushed in a swing by a parent as I run by a park in downtown Steamboat gives me hope for the Good in people and the Good around us. And one day, all things will be made right.

*Editor’s note: Super pumped about getting to spend this weekend with good friends and my brother. Two of the subjects of #AffirmationMonday posts will be in Steamboat this weekend. #Blessed Yampa River Festival, some running races and sunny, 70 degree weather is going to make this a special weekend. Hope all of you enjoy yours as well. Be sure to spend as much of it as possible outside. Because…

*Editor’s (second) note: Sometimes (often?) people get greedy and do not respect or appreciate our Natural World. I am biased, for sure. Four out of the eight degree in my family are from the School of Natural Resources at Missouri. But through the greed of some, a scary world is being created for future generations. Obviously there are multiple sides to every story. I studied journalism, I get that. And I often do not condone the tactics used by Greenpeace. But deforestation is a real problem. And if you think it is OK because it is another country. This world is getting smaller and smaller. Everything is connected.

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.