i leave for michigan late tonight, or early tomorrow--whichever way you want to look at it. at the moment my room is filled with packing piles. most of my clothes are in my bag, and the piles are things that i've assembled to take with me: books, personal electronics, letter writing supplies, shoes, suckers. they just need to be assembled into a certain bag. just have to decide which one.

i started packing late last night. got kind of into a frenzy with it, and went till 3am. and even then i had a hard time falling asleep afterwards. my sister does this too sometimes, and i look at her and think it's kind of crazy. the other day she woke up at 4am and thought of all the stuff she had to do, so she just got up and started doing it all. it's a strange realization to see that i do the same thing. i just don't have kids and so much to do so i can sleep in a bit. still, i wonder if i will become occasionally frenetic. the procrastinator in me doesn't help. last night i didn't finish, but i got enough done to know that i would easily be able to finish today.

a couple of weeks ago i had a nightmare. now maybe sometimes those are left behind with childhood, but this one came back out of nowhere. it is a somewhat recurring dream, though i haven't had it for quite some time.

it's opening night of a play that i'm in, and say, just about an hour before going on stage i realize that i don't know any of my lines. i don't have a major part, but one just big enough that not knowing any of my lines would sufficiently ruin the play. i have a pretty good memory so i take to trying to memorize them. i used to rattle through 5 or 6 verses in awana that i just memorized while other kids were reciting. got me all 3 crowns and the plaque in sparks. boo-ya. but now they aren't sticking, and i go on any moment. i will be standing up there in front of everyone and have no idea what to say. and all the action will come to a dead stand-still. you know that in a play, where everything is just halted for a few painful moments. it's as if one person is able to stop time, and everyone around bearing it cries out within for that person to let them continue forward.

this dream is probably rooted in some sort of childhood experience. but as far as i can remember i always knew my lines. i was always prepared. driven by fear maybe, but always prepared. this goes for a lot of my life too. actually, so much of my life and what i do is driven by the desire to be prepared for whatever comes my way. and much of my fear comes from wandering into areas where i feel unprepared.

it's a strange tension with my procrastinating tendencies. did i say tendencies? i meant affliction. but what brings this two together is the night. i will procrastinate, but i will always have it done the day before (or more often i'm up late enough to be the morning). i can't go to sleep and finish the paper in the morning, no way. what if i don't have enough time? as long as there is sleep ahead of me--to be forfeited or not, i know i will be able to get it done in time. i never asked for extensions in college. i never turned a paper in late. i was always prepared.

at the same time there are a lot of things that i don't prepare for. i just do them when they come up, because i feel like i am already prepared in general. i have the skills/tools/experience to just do it on the fly. i like that feeling, that i am good enough to just do it without thinking about it--because i have prepared enough in the past not directly for that specific thing, but for that type of thing. of course most of the time i can do it, just not as well as it should be done. it's a mixture of pride and laziness that leads to second-rate living.

being prepared. it's a strange driving force of life. not that it's the strongest, but it's up there. you see, cause the thing about life is that there is no way to really prepare for all it has to throw at you. even as i type that i think it's not true. maybe you can. maybe if i am close enough with God i will be able to bear with patience and peace any sort of thing that's thrown at me. so then i'm growing closer to God as a preparation rather than out of love. that's not good. or i'm reading a book simply to be able to offer it to someone else if needed, then i miss out on all that it could have done for my heart. i want to read more for the experience of it than for the measurable gains. i want to seek God for who he is and not how it can benefit me.

it's a good thing to be prepared i suppose, but maybe not if it's driven by a fear or pride about how you will come off to others. how do i address this problem in me? oh wait, i guess i better finish packing first.

--sorry for the post all about me. it seems somewhat narcissistic. i wasn't meaning to just write a lot about me. the point was about this issue, not me. hopefully it relates to you much more than just learning about me, because that wasn't what i was going for.


by (semi) popular demand

my running playlist. it's ok if you want to copy. but again, cds are $5*. place orders in the comment section please. and without further ado:

1. Eye of the Tiger by Rocky Soundtrack -classic starter
2. Battle Without Honor or Humanity by Kill Bil Vol. 1 -a good shorter one early on, not too high energy
3. Molossus by Batman Begins Soundtrack -perhaps the best one, time to really get going
4. The Chase by Kill Bill Vol. 2 -very short, good to have short songs in between longer songs. variety keeps you going.
5. Like a Dog Chasing Cars by The Dark Knight -recent addition, so good. super intense.
6. Sandstorm by TechYes! -you definitely need this on there. good build for shorter sprints within the run.
7. Training Montage by Rocky Soundtrack -to push through your first wall
8. Elk Hunt by Last of the Mohicans Soundtrack -short and charged
9. No Easy Way Out by Rocky Soundtrack -another good one to keep you going. love the 80s! do it.
10. Green Hornet Theme by Kill Bill vol. 1 -quickness
11. Holding Out for a Hero by Footloose Soundtrack -ok this one is slightly embarrassing
12. Training Montage by Spy Game Soundtrack -short, kinda techno sounding
13. Summertime Killer by Kill Bill vol. 2 -short, better for lower energy
14. Terminal Velocity by Boondock Saints Soundtrack -brings back visuals from the film. that will keep you running!

well that's the gist of it. there are a few more, but i gotta leave a few surprises for the cd*! also mix in a few techno songs off the TechYes! cd--i just don't know what they are actually called. sam made me that cd for going to europe. it's also available upon request.

now if you are laughing at me, remember i am a child of the 80s with older siblings and a love for movie soundtracks. i have left my 80s music behind in my early adolescence, but still there just isn't much that carries the energy to work out to anymore. if nothing else, you laugh and how cheesy it all is and that makes you feel better in the midst of all the pain. but, i suppose you will still scoff. so go ahead and commence. just don't forget to place your cd orders too*.

*you do realize i'm kidding...mostly.


the colosseum

the major league baseball all star game was just last night, and it was truly great (non-baseball fans bear with me). 15 innings, winning on a sac-fly with a close play at the plate. both teams down to their last pitcher. the dreaded possibility of another tie hanging over everyones' heads as bud selig looked down on the game. kc's own joakim soria pitched a solid couple innings, giving up no runs and striking out a couple--and making them look bad doing it. the nl still unable to win an all star game since 1996. a young rangers player hitting 28 home runs in the first round of the derby the night before. great story lines.

but the choice story was that this was the all star game played in yankee stadium during its last season. since 1923 it has been "the house the ruth built." a great place of american history and tradition, holding thousands of games and the best players of america's greatest pastime. at one point the announcer referred to it as really our modern day colosseum. and that got me thinking.

you know, yankee stadium probably is our modern day coliseum. except of course that we don't kill the people performing in the arena. no, instead the only people who are put to death are the fans.

like ancient rome the colosseum was used to appease the masses. to keep them happy and distracted. don't get me wrong, i'm quite a big sports fan of course. but sometimes i wonder why, and what it's done to me. i didn't really miss it all that much when i was abroad. it was like being free. as if i am somehow bound to it here and cannot get away. i feel the same way with much of entertainment. what good does it do? tv shows, sports, movies. i am all for art, but it is kind of hard to find sometimes amidst all the entertainment.

sometimes it gets to me, usually while i am watching a baseball game, that i don't think anything really all that good gets accomplished by someone who has burdened themselves with the weight of passing so much time being merely entertained. you can take it to a deeper level analyzing it and breaking it all down, sharing it with friends and much more. and you can probably get some measure of delight from it all. but is it all worth it? all the massive quantities of time it takes?

i guess the question is if you really believe that you have something better to offer with the way you spend your time than just receiving stimulating vicariouness.

i don't mean this to seem condemning or judgmental, and i am saying this to myself as much as to anyone. i think it's good to sometimes take a step back from whatever, from everything we do and just ask ourselves "what is this all about?" we accept far too many things at face value as normal and reasonable.

the midwest

i took a short road trip this past weekend. just up into nebraska and then back down into kansas city by way of manhattan. it was a fun little trip--great to see my friends (pictured left, along with the great swedish yard game kub). i always enjoy getting out on the road, though it was nothing compared to last year when i drove over 7000 miles on two trips from san fran to maine. and tomorrow i leave for san fran again (don't worry, flying this time) for a friend's wedding. but throughout all these travels there is definitely something i love deeply about the midwest.

i always hear people complaining about the drive across western kansas. "there's nothing out there" they say. well i think they just must really be looking then. there is so much beauty. not only a little in the sky where i have seen some of the best cloud formations ever save from above in an airplane, but also all along those great plains. they truly are great. i was driving through nebraska the other day, and its slight hills covered in corn stalks. those fields would give way to golden wheat fields, many recently cut and rolled into bales. and when i say golden i mean golden. so bright and beautiful.

i've been to the mountains of colorado, vermont, banff, alaska, switzerland, heck even the flint hills. i've been to the atlantic, pacific, arctic, and mediterranean seas. volcanoes. islands. ruins. and they are all so beautiful. probably more beautiful than the midwest, sure. but there is something in a field, lit up by the hanging sun. i don't know if i can explain it. maybe it's just my kansas roots, but i truly love it. take 177 south of manhattan to wichita and then try to tell me that kansas isn't beautiful.

of course the stillness of straight fields yields its own power in other ways too. on my way back through manhattan i got a look at some of the tornado damage. pretty crazy stuff.


howdy all

greetins' to all of you folks out there tonight all over the country. i'm coming to you from the mighty ceresco nebraska (insert corny carnival music here). small town usa--where folks are livin' twice as hard as you are a dyin'. just think about it a minute, you'll get it.

it's been a fun weekend, coming up here to visit my friends. it's been some time since i've been up here, but i've made it out several times--including the time i introduced the two now married friends of mine. i'm pretty good at this match-making thing, so if you desire my services don't hesitate to ask.

anyway, it just so happens that this weekend is some sort of crazy fair thing here in ceresco, so i have gotten to partake in the wonderful festivities. though i did miss out on the beer garden (not as glamorous as it sounds--an orange meshed fenced in area you have to pay to enter so you can pay to buy beer) and the street dance--i wasn't too bummed especially since it started pouring on all of them last night, i did get to watch another fireworks show (3rd of the week). it wasn't the most entertaining of the three, but it was quite enjoyable to see my first fireworks show ever with a commentator. in between blasts the speakers would shout out "whoa looka that one!" or "whew! they don't make um like that" or "how bout that boomer!" i could go on, but you get the idea. it was spendid. i also got to be in the parade, riding in the back seat of this:
it was great--the adorable old man driving it told us that he drove the same kind of car back in high school, the 1931 model a. and we threw candy to children lining the street. afterwards we had bratwursts and a funnel cake. so american. kinda. but fun either way.

though truly the best part is seeing my old friends ben and jodi who live off in this distant land. it's good to see them and share in a festival, a game of golf, and some great refreshing conversation.



free music--for sharing with friends. or pay what you want. fair-trade music initiated by the artists themselves. it was started by derek webb and a bunch of artists are getting in on it. there is some great music here: derek webb, sandra mccracken, katie herzig, micah dalton, waterdeep, alli rogers, etc. and one with maybe my favorite album cover ever: robby hecht. definitely check it out!



in the cool of the night

there's nothing like a run at 1 in the morning. i feel sorry for girls because it isn't safe for them--but then again i'm not so sure it's safe for me. i always pick up my pace a bit when a random car happens to be out on the road and passes by me. still, it's a pleasure to run in cooler weather in the middle of july in kansas city. i hadn't really planned on running tonight. it just kind of happened. so there i was, on the road at 1a.m.

i watched the royals game tonight too. in fact, it's kind of what spurred me on to run. no, they did not win--but the game went 13 innings. in somewhat typical royals fashion, they blew a 2 run lead in the eighth and the game was tied. it stayed tied till the 11th when the white sox scored two runs because the umpire botched an interference call that would have kept the runs off the board (it was pretty clear on the reply). but then the royals came back and scored two in the bottom half to tie it again. john buck pinch hit with a runner in scoring position for a chance to win the game, but grounded out--that's ok, he did win the game yesterday. so the white sox scored in the 13th, and the royals came back and loaded the bases with only 1 out. but a double play ended the heartbreaking game.

now you may not care about the royals or baseball, but that was quite a game. all the royals had their rally caps on in the dugout just like they were still in little league. jose guillen was jumping up and down. it was fun. and then they lost. of course, the royals of years past never even would have put up that kind of fight and made it that far. the white sox are a first place team, and they have better players on their roster. but the royals could have won the game. they made some crucial mistakes and failed to execute when they had the chance. the white sox are not only a better team, they are a better trained team (though things are changing for the royals).

a couple years ago i lost a good amount of weight (isn't strange how it's weird to talk about that? i feel like a lot of the time people are either in some way ashamed of it or are way too proud of themselves. why is it so taboo?). i went to europe and benefited from all the walking, the smaller portions, and getting to play swiss semi-pro basketball for a terrible team. i don't think we won a game. but i had fun, scored lots of points, got a technical for throwing my headband, and got in shape. a lot of people lose weight when they go to europe, but the truth is i had been running quite a bit the summer before i went to get things started.

when i got back, people noticed of course. i remember one person telling me about a time they lost a bunch of weight working construction one summer, but then he gained it all back. he said i would gain it back too--not coldly, just matter of fact like. i remember someone close to me pointing to one of my senior photos from high school not long after it was taken and saying, "you'll probably never look better in your life than you do in that photo." i resented both those things, but they motivated me (eventually at least) to work hard and to stay in shape and even to lose a little more the following year. is this all too personal?

the smaller portion thing was great too. when i got back every meal out meant leftovers and another meal for later. it was great. but soon enough the portions and great food took over and i lost that smaller appetite. i still kept working out a lot though, and that was enough.

then i got a large cyst on my tail bone, shutting me down for a couple months. i'm just finally fully recovering and getting back to being active again--though the fear of it coming back is hard to overcome. i'm way out of shape and soft now. and laying around has taken it's toll. that and lots of amazing baked goods that are way to delicious for my own good. (doesn't mean i don't still love receiving them though! thank you! you know who you are!) so i'm back to the grind. and it's slow going off the start, trying to get back so much that was lost.

i'm running the same paths i ran for soccer in high school, though much slower of course. back then we had to run those 3 miles in under 21 minutes, and i'm a bit older now with a stiffer back and sorer joints. i remember in high school, at lunch the day of the big timed run. i watched one of our star players go get a coke out of the machine. not on the day of the run! you'll cramp up, not make it. of course he ran it in under 20 minutes still. i always had to be more careful though it seems. my body seems more averse to long distance running than others--that or i just don't know how to push myself like they do. but to so many it seems like it just comes so easy. and i resent that. i know that guy put in a lot of work so that a coke on the day wouldn't really matter, but it seems like it's always a combination of hard work and natural ability. some people have the metabolism of a hummingbird, eating whatever they want and maintaining a body fat percentage of 2.3. those people should be force-fed rice cakes while plates of donuts are dangled in front of them. mmm, donuts...

anyway, the run back then, and still today consists of a nice steep incline at 87th street off somerset. which is of course where i live. i live on top of a giant hill, and no matter where i run i will always have to end my run going straight up hill. unless of course i run my desired distance before i reach the hill and then i walk it for my cool down. that has been my strategy of late. still though, there is something that feels wrong walking up that hill. maybe it's all those days of coaches yelling during the last 5 minutes of practice while we were running, "4th quarter!" and "overtime!" and "18th hole!" ok maybe not that last one--but i'll tell you carrying your 30 pound clubs 18 holes for 5 hours for 7500 yards is no picnic. but walking that hill just seems like quitting.

so tonight, listening to my running mix on shuffle, i'm walking the hill and the training montage from rocky comes on (oh wouldn't you like to know what other gems are on my running mix!?!? if you beg enough maybe i'll post it in all its glory and hilarity! cds are $5. contact me). and though i'm leaning forward to maintain balance and i've already finished my couple miles for the night, i start to jog. not a quick run, but a jog. and then i slow down a bit, and then i run full out to my street.

maybe soon enough i'll be able to run that hill without stopping. maybe i'll pick up my pace and build back some of all that muscle i lost on the sick bed. and maybe, if i keep at it long enough, i'll be able to take those runs at 1p.m. in the heat of the day.

...heck no! what do you think i'm crazy? i see people running that time of day in all that humidity and i think they are insane! they're like the people who keep jogging at red stop lights. or the ones who run because they actually enjoy it. masochism is alive and well folks. those people are just nuts.



sometimes themes just become clear--whether it's in a book, a movie, or your own life. and then you look back on so much that you have done, so many events that you have walked through, and suddenly you understand why. maybe it won't all make sense, but you begin to see that there is something larger at work in it all. you are learning something. and sometimes it takes a few things and a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months. then there are the lessons that somehow seem to be the theme of your life, or at least perhaps this long season.

i wrote about a burden a couple posts ago. more simply put (in case it was too long a read for you ;) ), it was about how we are all "condemned to be free" to use sartre's phrase. my longing in response to that, was to just have someone wise to lead me along the way--a spiritual director. we all hunger for this guidance in our lives to some extent, though the expressions may be different. like this quote from a movie i watched recently, "parents have an unfair advantage over us. we want to believe them. and even when we don't believe them, we still just want to be with them." but i suppose sooner or later we are all confronted with our own freedom, and that no one can make our choices but ourselves.

no i suppose guidance is not such a bad thing, but it is never complete and it will never be enough to overcome your fears--no matter how much you trust your guide. even if God is your guide, and you believe you are close enough to him to be led every step of the way, i don't think he'd do it. he doesn't control us like that. in some way that wouldn't be loving.

i think a lot of times in my life i have been searching for the way to just break free of it all. to escape all the trappings that are created by...well, life. you can try to attach it more specifically to society, parents, culture, money, jobs, etc. whatever it is, the object is not really the problem. it is life. and it has its problems. there are things that are good to break free from--life cannot be one of them. and running away, in whatever form is not the answer. i feel like i've received enough grace to avoid that mistake.

ok let's bring this in. what am i really talking about here? i suppose it's all about commitment. maybe i don't have the wisdom to make the decisions that are before me, or maybe i do. either way i have to make them--and it's not going to help if i wait or when i'm older, because the decisions are before me here and now and they will just change. and you have to decide what it is you are going to commit yourself to.

because the fact of the matter is that at the heart of all of this is fear. the fear of "what if...?" all fear is rooted in desire, and this one is in the desire to do things right. i've seen enough of everything done wrong and the pain it causes, and i've set my life upon a course to learn how to do everything right. but the goal of life is not to avoid pain, or even to make all the right decisions. i've realized that i'm not afraid of pain (though i act on that fear so much), but rather what i'm really afraid of is meaninglessness. and the answer to meaninglessness is truth, which is found not in the answers but in the questions themselves. questions that lead to more questions.

long ago i learned that somehow it wasn't about doing everything right and to full completion, but just to try. the weight is too great if i think i have to begin with full assurance of what all will come of it. that's why i avoid goals, because i say to myself, "what if things change?" and this is a problem because i bind myself to what i set out to do, because anything less will be a cop out and a failure. otherwise what's the point of setting the goal in the first place? "i'm afraid of beginning because i don't know how to end."

these lessons just keep coming back up constantly in my life. they are the themes--because i just can't seem to remember them the first time? hope, not fear. gaze. try. it's not quite commitment--but it's the first step. i suppose you have to try to put yourself in position to make a commitment. i need to learn how to do this in the concrete. i can do this broadly, choosing to be with God through it all. it's the smaller decisions that seem much harder, because they are far less clear.

i'm not going to do everything right. i'm going to make mistakes. i'm going to hurt people, and myself. i have to accept that. that is part of life. and i must hope that people will afford me grace. and that the good i do will have more meaning than all the mistakes. that the night will not take my heart. that God will give me much when i gaze into him. that i am his beloved. then i will be able to chose, to commit.

if i had a soundtrack to this season of my life, i think it would be this. especially the first 4 songs.



"The highest of all is not to understand the highest, but to act upon it."