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.

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.

Embracing our inner Cynicism and Sarcasm and Nervousness and Anxiousness and Fear

There is some serious longing deep within me for some warmth, green and soft running trails. When all of this snow melts in July or August, I will get to experience it. There I go again embracing my inner sarcasm and cynicism.

There is some serious longing deep within me for some warmth, green and soft running trails. When all of this snow melts in July or August, I will get to experience it. There I go again embracing my inner sarcasm and cynicism.

“In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning

One thing that continually amazes me and I think gets overlooked often is the initial faith of Jesus’s first followers. I get criticism for doubting things later, but come on. Would start lose your composure if you were walking on water? Or in a boat that is about to capsize? The Love and acts of Jesus were so radical, it makes complete sense to me they had moments of wavering faith. But the initial faith was robust and childlike. It would have to be to give up everything and follow a random carpenter.

Another thing currently blowing my mind is the vulnerability and openness displayed in the writings of Brennan Manning. One of Brennan’s chapters goes into great depth about living like a child versus living like a Pharisee. The Pharisees were very much the law keepers and “religious people” of the day. They did not really get along with Jesus.

Brennan posits we all have some Pharisee in us. The Pharisee in us gets anxious. It gets fearful. It has prejudices against people different from us. It is paranoid, cynical and nervous. It looks solely for success with complete disregard to others and love. And we all have it in us.

My Pharisee is very cynical. And sarcastic. Lots of times it is cynical towards organized religion. It can grow cynical towards intimate relationships. It can be sarcastic at times of intimacy to avoid deep conversations and connections with friends and family. The Pharisee has to be embraced. It has to be communicated with. When it is ignored, it starts to run rampant.

We also all have a child in us. The child doesn’t close itself off to the world. The child is open. It is vulnerable. It is simple. It is playful. The child looks for spiritual surprises. The child does not turn away from risks that lead to growth. The child is available to new opportunities, others and Abba. The child has trusting dependence on Abba and others. The child knows and welcomes the tenderness and compassion that is God’s Love. It accepts a wild, rambunctious, full, overwhelming Love. And the projects that Love on others. The child is constantly learning, curious and looks at the world as a playground.

Two thoughts from Brennan pertaining to these thoughts:

“The ragamuffin who sees his life as a voyage of discovery and runs the risk of failure has a better feel for faithfulness than the timid man who hides behind the law and never finds out who he is at all.”

“Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.”

Regardless of your faith, even if that faith is solely in yourself, we all have a metaphorical (or literal) Pharisee and Child in us. What is your Child? What is your Pharisee? I really believe in getting to know your Pharisee. I hate mine. But we talk on occasion. It started as a “Twitter relationship” (we communicated in about 140 characters at a time. But it is getting better. Knowing your Pharisee well is the only way to eradicate it. Embrace your Child. Let your Child free.