Adventures of a Manboy and his Father

The Adventures of a Manboy and his Father

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventures of a Manboy and his Father

Time to explain how my blog design relates to what has been going on inside of my heart.

First of all, the title: "Not all who wonder are lost."  This is a fragment from a poem by J.R.R Tolkien (which appears in the Fellowship of the Ring).   The stanza from which I snatched my title follows:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

 I chose that line for two reasons.  First, my older brother once told me it was one of his favorites, and so in many ways it reminds me of him and even his story.  Second, the line represents my story as well.  I wander in more ways than I can recount.  I strive to wander from the normal American story.  I lament how I wander from Jesus.  I am constantly tempted to wander from the challenges He allows to come before me.  Still, despite these wanderings and the others unmentioned, I never feel like I'm lost.  No matter how many times I see the disappointed or chastising look in others' eyes when I say "I don't have a clue what the future holds, I just want to love God and people," I don't feel lost.  Yes, I might be a dreamer.  No, I don't have a clue about my future, but I have a feeling I'm right where I need to be. Besides,  you probably need to have a direction before you can be lost.

The subtitle: Adventures of a Manboy and his Father.  It started in February while the light outside my window had just begun to fade.  I remember sitting in my dorm room, melancholy, reflecting on on a recently butchered social interaction.  Previously lost in my thoughts, I suddenly jolted up on the couch with a realization, "Wait a second... wait one second.  I'm still struggling with the same crap I did in highschool.  I am ridiculously tired of this same old stuff.  Jesus, I'm ready to start dealing with this. Let's go."  In that moment, I saw really clearly that I was still just a boy, and do you know what I wanted to be?  A man.  A man abandoned for God, and yet, I wasn't.  Instead, I was scared of relationships.  Preoccupied with the fear that I was ugly.  Worried if anyone actually liked me.  Anxious about my to-do lists.  In a word, pathetic.  Now, I know that might seem like a harsh judgment, as pathetic truly is a strong word, but it really is stupid.  It is stupid to let fear run my life.  It is stupid to worry about things that Christ has promised He has already taken care of.  And its pathetic to still be acting like a highschool boy when I'm 23.  I know culture tells me these are perfectly reasonable struggles and that I shouldn't be so critical, but well... for me... I think that's stupid as well.

Which brings us to today.  I want to be a man of God.  I want to have deep roots that cannot be reached by the frost.  Most days, however, I still feel stuck somewhere in between the man to whom I've been called and the boy I used to be.  However, I'm tired of being scared, preoccupied, insecure, worried, and anxious.  God has already redeemed me from that crap.  He has stripped away those slavery inducing emotions from my heart, so why do I keep returning to them?  Yes, the road away from these things is hard, but it is straight.  And I praise God, for the hope of my maturation rests not in my ability to overcome, but on the faithfulness of my heavenly Father.  And when I pray, I know can ask boldly for I know these things because I have certainty that they are in His will.  That being said, I also long to couple my prayers with action.  Not letting a day go past without being in the Bible and hitting the floor in prayer, refusing to let fear dictate my social interactions, and fighting my old childish habits until they die, these are the actions that I want to be able to reflect on as I go to bed each night.

The best part of it all?  It is not just for me.  The fight for manhood is for my family, my future spouse (if God brings one), and the Kingdom of God.  And that reality gets me jazzed up.  Plus, I know He's got it! The Holy Spirit doesn't start something without the intention of finishing it.  I just ask that you would have patience with me, knowing me its still going to be a long road!

Lastly, The background: the background of my blog is white.  White represents simplicity and purity, both of with which I long to characterize myself.  I don't need to be a mystery anymore, and I am learning that not every part of me needs to say something.  Furthermore, the color white seems like a static color.   There is no question of gradation or shade with it: it just is.  I want to be like the color white.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I forgot to mention that last weekend we went ziplining in the rain forest.  It was pretty cool. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

And then we prayed (Week 1)

So while I should be working on homework, I am instead writing a blog post.

Week one of the program is done.  I was in spanish class for 15 hours this last week.  Then, on Friday, I had the honor of getting rocked by my first test, which served as a pleasant reminder that I actually have to pass these classes (wait... what?).  Our class is nice though, three hours can feel a little long, but the professor gladly follows grammatical rabbit trails, which excites and fascinates me.  Below is a picture with our professor.

Our group is getting along really well.  The 10 girls to 3 guy ratio at some points feels as if I'm swimming in a sea of estrogen, but the girls are awesome and a couple of days my cheeks have started to hurt from laughing so much (what a wonderful problem to have).   And Mom... I haven't run into any Ecuadorian dream girls yet, feel free however to continue holding fast unto hope.

On a vaguely related note, and more so than my spanish skills, I've been growing greatly in my cooking abilities.  Both of the guys I live with enjoy cooking, and so I've been able to soak up some of their knowing.  Tonight we made chicken and shrimp fettucini alfredo with garlic bread and some blue cheese and onion finger salads.

And I thought this was fantastic...

         A story with which to leave you:  Friday night our whole group got together for a family dinner night, and two of the hosting girls had a great idea for each of us to share the ways we had seen God's faithfulness recently.  One by one, we went around the table and shared stories from their summer or the last couple of weeks, and slowly the conversation moved into the general direction of people confessing their desire to see the Holy Spirit move.  Which, led us to decide to clean up dinner, and then watch the movie Finger of God (a really cool documentary about miracles).   
         While preparing for that, someone started playing guitar, and prayer and worship just started happening all over the apartment.  After an hour or so, another person came forward with a prayer request for the whole group.  She had been having pretty bad neck pain that night, and wanted to know if we'd pray for healing.  Excited and apprehensive, we all gathered around and lifted her up in prayer, just praying that Jesus would heal His daughter.   People prayed with courage, and asked God boldly for the removal of her pain.  "Its pretty much the same" she said after we where done.  To which someone replied, "Then, we need to pray again."  That caught people off guard, you could almost see the thoughts on people faces 'it didn't work  though...'  Tentatively, our group gathered around her again.  One by one we laid our hands on her.  Suddenly, one of the girls started laughing and then explained that she felt like the Holy Spirit had been asking her to pray, but that she had been too scared so she hadn't.   Following her confession, she asked God to heal my friend and guess what happened?  All the pain immediately left her neck.   

What if God is real?  

That's the question I've been asking a ton these last couple of weeks.  What if God is real?  What would change in my life?  How would I live differently?  Pray differently?  Think about His kingdom coming differently?  Maybe I don't see big things happen because all my prayers are centered on myself, and I only ask for things in ways that I can easily back out of.   I mean, how often do my prayers end with "however if _____ is not in your will, that's okay" type caveat, which is honestly less of a declaration of God's right to do whatever He pleases, and more of a lack-of-faith-backdoor through which I can retreat if nothing happens.

But, what if God is real?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Quito, Ecuador

         Everything is different this time.  There was no hunger or desperation.  I didn't need to come here like I needed to go to Uganda.  Honestly, this whole thing started as a "what if" followed by a whole string of "I guess I'll do this just to keep the door open.  No explicit call from God, just jumping through hoops until lo and behold I was boarding my first flight.
        All along the way, I knew my motivations for this program were mixed.  Part of me desired to participate in the program because I wanted/feel led to learn Spanish, so that I might be able to love more.  Another part of me hungered for accomplishment: one more semester could result in another degree.  The last part of me didn't want anything, and that frightened me.  The growing apathy, the disappearance of dreams that had occurred throughout my time in college, has not gone unnoticed.  I hope Ecuador can be a place where I can remember how to dream.  Maybe I can find the part of me  I've sacrificed for the sake of obedience and a commendable GPA.  Maybe I can find my heart here.
        Orientation is over now.  Classes start today.  For the next month or so I'll be taking three hours of spanish every weekday.  After some testing, the program coordinator placed me in the more advanced class, a decision about which I am simultaneously excited and apprehensive.  I crave to be able to speak Spanish, and yet I can't stand feeling inadequate and like I am failing (things I will most likely feel often.)  My class will focus less on grammar and rules, and more on the production of Spanish, namely speaking.  People are funny.  As soon as we get what we want, we start doubting ourselves.
        I just pray that the Lord would use Spanish to teach me humility, discipline, grace, as well as use it to equip me for more ministry.   One of my leaders down here constantly reminds us that our ability or growth with spanish has no reflection on our identity or value as child of Christ.  I'll probably have to return to that encouragement many times throughout the semester, as epic, embarrassing failures seem unavoidable as I try to learn this language.
         Note: I want to learn Spanish because I have seen/felt what happens when somebody speaks your first (or as I prefer to call it your heart) language: you feel at home.  There are so many people in America who are hurting and never feel at home.   If God would use me dedicating a part of my life to learning another's heart language, then any time or effort spent working on it will be worth it!   May the Lord multiply my natural abilities and study skills.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Macchu Picchu (Peru Final part)

        On what would have been on our third day of the hike we went into the sacred valley to see Maras and Moray.  Maras is a giant salt mine/field.

          Moray, on the other hand, was a spectacular experimental greenhouse at which the Incas used multi-leveled, concentric terraces to create microclimates.  They used this system to hybridize and acclimatize different agriculture so the plants could grow in diverse conditions. 

        On the way to these sites, we stopped in a small village where some micro-enterprises had been initiated to teach some of the local women traditional weaving techniques.  At this place, we saw beautiful clothing, blankets, and table runners. The colors they're able to produce from local ingredients blew my mind!  Then, topping off that whole experience I met my friend Packy the Alpaca.  Don't you just want to hang out with him!?

        The next morning we awoke at 4:45am to try to make it to Macchu Picchu for the sunrise (which we did!)  Hiking up, my Dad was still breathing a little hard, but overall he was doing great!  Then we turned the corner and BAM! There it was: Macchu Picchu.  As we sat and watched the sunrise fall on the ancient city, guess who walked up!?  Our original hiking group.  They happily invited us to join them on a guided tour of Macchu Picchu, which was so good.  Macchu Picchu truly is fantastic, and honestly I could go on and on describing it, but instead I'll just throw some pictures up here and summarize random thoughts. 


          In the middle of Macchu Picchu stands a lone tree. 

          A view looking up at the sun temple.  Notice how fantastic the stonework is. 

        A part of the mountain that the Incans carved into the same image as a neighboring peak.  Fun!

Hello Friend!

         After the tour, we hiked back up to the overview.   I realized we might never be back there and so we just sat down and tried to absorb the moment as much as we could.  I tried to suck in every detail about the place and our trip and sear it into my mind.  The mountains.  The breeze.  The sweet smell from the flower, and the way the sunlight fell on the walls and courtyards.   Beautiful.  Sensational.  And then I started to wonder, why?  Why has God given me so much?  So many stories, countries, and adventures?  Such incredible friends and family?  It seems unfair that I have been given so superfluously.  Other people lack food or suffer without companionship, but not me.  Not only do I want for nothing, but the Lord continuously and extravagantly showers me with new mercies and more gifts.   I've been given more than I deserve, and every time the Lord just says, Yes you have been.  It's because I love you.  It is because He loves me.  I don't understand why.  Why would God ever favor me so much?  It doesn't make sense, grace doesn't make sense. 
         I know that to him who has been given much, much will be expected, and that's me.  I owe everything to the kingdom and its King, and I just hope that He will take this boy that I am and change me into a man.  A man that will praise His name when suffering comes.  Who will wake up and see God's goodness, no matter if there is Macchu Picchu up the hill or an empty pantry.  A man who can never stop boasting of what the Lord has done in his life: the results of an extravagant grace that flows from His wasteful love.   For even if God took away all the opportunities, memories, friends, and families.  His love would still be infinitely beyond what I deserve.  
          He has given me so much.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Higher Mountains (Peru pt. 3)

       The next day we took it easy.  At one point my Dad went to change some money, and on his return he seemed different.  He quietly entered the room and sat on his bed.  Hands together, elbows on his knees, he leaned forward and said that God had been talking to him.
      What?  This wasn't something I heard everyday from my Dad, or really hardly ever.  I flipped of the Spanish version of Friends and asked him what God had been saying.  Tears filled the corners of his eyes.  "God told me that I've been carrying too heavy of burdens, and if I hand them over to God, then the left of my life will be easier and He will show me more beautiful mountains than Peru or I could ever imagine.  God's provision are already in place and all I need to do is slow down as His provisions go in front of me and await me."  Now, tears filled my eyes.  "I think you should listen Dad."

The Inca Trail (Peru pt. 2)

           The day had finally come.  Following a late night meeting, a scramble to collect some last minute supplies, and an extremely early 3:45 pick up, my dad and I were headed to the Inca Trail!  The tour company's bus slowly picked up our other four teammates from around Cusco and then we began the 2 hour drive up to the trail.
          Needless to say, our spirits were high.  As the dark mountains came into view with the morning light, all the apprehension or questions concerning whether or not we had trained enough slowly faded into the background.  Such questions were of no use at this point.  Unloading the vans my Dad and I saw we were the only two people in our team carrying a full load of gear.  Maybe we'll get some help later.   For now though, this is for what we had trained.

     The trail is beautiful.  On first day of walking, one is only a little above 9000 feet, and much of the vegetation appears almost subtropical.  Birds fill the air with their music, and the river gurgles on the left.  As we walked we saw flowers, and cacti, and homes scattered along the trail.  The path was wide and always seemed to be rising in elevation.  Our guide Erik has fourteen years experience and knew exactly the pace at which he'd like to go: fast.  After forty minutes of hiking, and a two minute break, sweating, I glance back at my Dad.  His smile told me he was feeling the same thing.  We were already feeling it, but excited for the next six hours, we pressed on.  
      The trail only became tougher.  After two or so hours of pretty continuous hiking we began clambering over our first pass.  The way was steep, as apparently the Inca people thought switchbacks were only for the weak.  I felt good hiking, tired, but good.  Nearing the top, I kept checking in with my Dad.  He labored up the mega-hill, stopping occasionally, breathing heavy, but upon reaching the top, he tossed off his backpack and gave me a big smile. "Awesome isn't it?"  And it was.  

From the top of the mega-hill we could also see our first Inca Ruin, Llaqtapata, a trading community located at the juncture of two valleys.  Needless to say, it was pretty cool.

         Following the above view, the trail plunged down a little over a thousand feet before starting to climb again. As we hiked, we thought we were getting close to village where we were going to stop for lunch.  Erik informed us we weren't.  Up and up and up the trail climbed.  I was feeling it more.  We would stop and catch our breaths for 15 seconds and then keep going.  At one of the spots a solitary tree towered above the valley.  Our group stopped to look at it, drank some, water and then proceeded to move on.  My Dad didn't stand back up though.  In fact, he made no effort to stand and didn't look well at all.  Glancing up towards me, "I can't," he said.  "Hold up!" I yelled up to the group. "My dad just needs another second".  I looked in my Dad's eyes: they were red, and and I thought I saw fear in them.  I knew this was serious.  He held up his hand it: it was shaking.   His breathing was quick and shallow.  After a minute or two, my Dad said, "I just can't get my breathing down.  My heart rate is decreasing, but I feel like there's indigestion in my chest or something."  I was scared.  Our guide came over, "What is wrong?" and after I gave him a quick explanation, he said, "I think it is the altitude."  I wasn't sure.  As my dad drank more water, I asked our guide we could do.  "For altitude," he said, "you must go down. You can go up, but, its dangerous." 
         My Dad started rubbing and squeezing his arm.  Instantly, heart attack symptoms flashed through my head. Scared, I asked, "What are you doing Dad?"  "My arm keeps tingles or something."   I turned to the guide, "Dangerous you said? What are our options?"  "Yes dangerous, when people with altitude go up, some get more sick, some die." "Well that's not happening" I interjected, meagerly trying to force a laugh.  "You can either go up rest and then hike back.  Or you can hike back now," he concluded.  I looked at my Dad.  "We'll go down."
        Three hours later we were halfway back to our starting point, and my Dad wasn't doing well.  We needed to stop often and he seemed to be growing paler and more fatigued.  His focus seemed to be in and out, and so I tried to keep talking to keep him involved.  I wasn't sure if we were going to make it back, so I started praying even more.  Jesus, help us. Please. Hear my cry.  Then, suddenly a guy rode up on a horse guiding two donkeys, and after a series of broken questions, we agreed to pay him to let us borrow his horse.  The Lord had heard and provided.  My dad at first refused, but I convinced him that I would ride on the man's donkey in a moment or two (which I had next to no intention on doing), and so he consented to ride it.  
         Two or so hours later we arrived to the town.  The timing in our arrival was perfect as the last bus for the day was leaving as we walked up.  Thing after thing clicked into place.  A man helped my dad carry his pack and then helped us barter a taxi driver down to a price we could afford.  At night when we arrived into town, our hotel still had a vacancy.  While we had started the day with extra money, by its end we were back in Cusco, safe and fed, with only cents left in our pockets.  "I think it was just sheer exhaustion" my Dad said. "Too much weight, too fast, too high, and too little sleep."  I told him its okay, we'll take it easy the next day.  Then, we collapsed on our beds, exhausted, and talked about how the Lord is faithful. 


To Feed a Llama (Peru pt 1)

       I wasn't sure how seriously he took me, which seemed fair: I wasn't sure how seriously I was myself.  An offhand comment, "Dad we should go to Peru and hike the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu," pretty much was the entirety of that initial conversation (which uncharacteristically for me was actually a rabbit trail in a conversation about something unrelated).  I honestly didn't even think that much about it until a month later when I picked up the phone to hear my Dad saying, "Alright Drew, I'm in."  Confused, I asked, "In what Dad?" "I'm in for the Peru trail or whatever its called." "Oh. OH!"
       Six months later, here I am.  Sitting in my new apartment in Quito, Ecuador trying to figure out what just happened in the last two weeks.
       The trip that began as a joke evolved into a full-fledged two country, twelve day adventure.  My Dad and I left the USA on August 24, one week after my 23rd birthday. First we stopped through Quito for two days, and spent a considerable time walking around (and above, note the pictures below) the city.  Its bigger than I expected! (I think technically it is approximately 2 miles wide and twenty something miles long with a population a little over 2.5 million. Tulsa all the sudden seems small. )  I'm pretty pumped to continue exploring; there is just so much of it!

        Our time in Quito quickly came to a close.  I'm glad we came so my dad could see where I would be living.  We were excited to go, for we had our sights set on a different fish: Cusco, Peru.  
        We came into Peru slowly.  Customs twice over, check-in twice, four hours waiting in airport lines, but we finally made it to the Rumi Punku (our hotel) on the night of the 27th.  

      We spent the next two days exploring the ancient Incan capital.  Cusco is a beautiful city!  The historic center of the community is lined with extravagant old cathedrals, craftsman, and masseuse parlors.  Most of the buildings are set upon Incan foundations, and some even have integrated the ancient Incan walls into the modern buildings.  In one of those walls lies the world famous 12 point stone.

        At night, everything comes alive in Cusco and the mountains surrounding the city twinkle with house light after house light, climbing towards the sky until they blend in with the stars. (FYI! We found out Inca culture did not have constellations. Instead, they found representative shapes in the few dark spaces in between the stars of the milky way. I guess living at 11,000 feet means you have too many stars to connect.)  Can you see the llama, man, turtle, and fish in the stars below?

       One story to end this post with...
       On Tuesday (the day before we left for the Inca Trail) we visited the Incan Sun Temple, the ruins of which are now located inside a convent.  The site was really impressive.  Inca stonework involves huge rocks cut with such precision that mortar becomes unnecessary.  It astounds me to imagine the skill and patience it would have taken to get those rocks to fit so perfectly.  After my dad and I left the sun temple, a girl ran up to me and asked me to take a picture with her baby llama.  At first, I refused, but realizing that I only encountered baby llamas once every 23 years, I turned back around figuring I would be willing to pay a buck or two for the opportunity.  Then, right before we took the picture a lady, whom I presume to be the girl's mother hobbled over and jumped in with us.  Alright! Peruvian, llama flavored Drew-wich. 

       We took the picture and I gave the girl (on the right in the picture) some soles (local currency).  She proceeded to ask for more money, a request I denied, thinking what I had given was fair.  Then with her head down and a tug on my sleeve, the women (on the left) held out her hand and begged me for more.  My head start shaking no as I followed her gaze down to her foot.  The slow limp I had noticed when she hobbled over was the result of a serious foot infection.  The skin of her swollen foot was stretched tight, and flesh resembling raw ground beef burst through in several spots.  My heart caught in my throat. I didn't know what to do or say.  Horrified, I gave her another coin and started to walk away.  Coins clicked in my pocket with each step I put between us.  Ashamed of my miserly generosity, turning around, I walked the twelve steps back and gave her the rest of my coins (bringing the total money given to about three dollars.)  Feeling like I had done all I could, I walked away relieved. 
      I walked down the hill and further down the street. Theories of community development crashed through my head.  Questions of theology bounced around my heart.  Still, I felt fine.  I passed my mental check lists: I think I done all I could.  Time to move on. 
      Avoiding a taxi, I crossed the street and continued my day. The sun shone brightly. Spanish bubbled through the crowds of people filling the sidewalks.  I felt fine, in fact good: I had done all I could.  I mean, maybe God would even use those three dollars in some miraculous way.  Yeah, that would be cool.  I wonder what he could do.  I mean, I had done all I could. 
      I walked further down the chaotic street, a restaurant owner invited me in to look at his menu.  My smile said no.  Then, with that distinctive peace, things became a little quieter.  A small voice tugged at my heart saying, "Yes you did all you could do.  But what if I wanted to do something?"  When I tried to ignore the prompting, it repeated itself.  I protested, "But I don't even know how to say that in Spanish. How do you say, excuse me random llama lady, I think maybe God wants to heal you or something." Instantly, the question "Puedo orar?"(Can I pray?)  leapt into my head.  That would be enough. 
      However, my feet kept walking away.  "Drew" the peace said again, "What if I want to do something?"  Still protesting, I thought, "Well, I'm too far away now God.  It would be ridiculous to turn back now." What if I want to do something?  "Come on God, I'm embarrassed to ask my Dad to walk back four blocks with me to pray with someone."  I understand. You can keep walking or you can see what happens if you act like I'm real. Learn to live with me. What if what I want to do isn't about you?
     I stopped walking. Alright.  Nervous, I called out to my Dad. I want to go back and pray for her foot.
     She was at the same spot.  Kneeling, I looked into her eyes, and asked "Puedo orar a Jesus por su pie?" (Can I pray to Jesus for your foot?)  Slowly, she smiled, nodded her head, and closed her eyes.  I had seen people who seemed to know what they were doing touch the afflicted part of a person's body when they prayed.  But I was afraid to touch that foot, so compromising, I lightly rested my hand on a safe section of her shoe.  Follow me.  Okay. I slid my hand onto her foot and prayed that Jesus would bring His kingdom here and for His glory and heal my sister.  I looked up and smile into the woman's eyes.
     Then I quickly stood up, side-stepped a police officer who had come over to investigate what was happening and walked away.  Right before she was out of view, I glanced back at her.  She was slowly running her hand over her foot, staring intently. I ducked through an alley and smiled.  

     Did God heal her?  I don't know, one way or another, and in many ways I'm not sure it is mine to know.  Not everything that God wants to do through me is about me.  I do know this though, I want to learn to walk with the Holy Spirit.  To know what prayer that doesn't center around me feels like.  I want to live like God is real, and I want His kingdom to come.