Saturday, December 10, 2016

Lost Hope - A Desire to do Good

I am an engineer, formally, and naturally. I like to fix things, and do the impossible. If you were to give me a bag of marshmallows and ask me to build the Eiffel Tower from them, I would give it some serious thought. Ultimately, I like to make things work. My default attitude is that everything can work given the right pieces and circumstances. However, in life, we do not always have right pieces and circumstances. So in the meantime all you can do is hope they eventually come along.

Part 1 - SUMMER 2008: Mark Bernthal and I decided to spend an entire day working odd jobs in Oak Park and River Forest so we could take the money we earned to go distribute McDonald's gift cards to the homeless in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago. We figured it would be a great way to go love on others and spread the love of Christ. After a full day of working, we rode our bicycles East on Chicago Ave, straight into Austin. If you have been to Austin, you know there is no shortage of people hanging out on the street. We would stop and start talking to random strangers. We did not have much in common. However, we were able to ask them about their days and families. If we sensed it was appropriate, we would offer them up a Mickey D's gift card. People weren't too weirded out by it, so all was going smoothly.

It didn't take much more than an hour or so to exhaust our gift cards. Once we were finished, we decided it was as good as time as any to head back into Oak Park. Just minutes after our departure to head home, police sirens go off. We did not think anything of it because we were just riding home on our bikes. To our surprise, the police car came darting at us and instructed us to immediately get off our bikes. Within seconds, we were handcuffed to on another and being interrogated by two officers.
Mark and I each knew we were not getting away, so after one quick and deep breath, we each front flipped and landed on each offers shoulders. We slammed them down and were able to pin them between our legs. One officer was able to go for his gun. Mark kicked it out of his hand, and I caught it. Immediately, I aimed it at our hand cuffs, pulled the trigger, and broke us free. At this point, we had the officers in a sleeper hold just long enough that they were fainting.

Okay, I am going to stop now. Slight tangent there. Everything is completely made up after we were cuffed. So getting back on track; Mark and I were cuffed and being interrogated by two officers. They were not the kindest people in the world. Apparently, they thought we had ridden our bikes into Austin to purchase drugs. We told them our story about the gift cards, but they were not buying it. We went back and forth for a couple minutes, and our defense just wasn't holding up. Things weren't going well. Luckily, I remembered that I had kept the receipt from the gift cards. I showed the offices the receipt and they finally believed us. We were un-cuffed, and told something that I will never forget by them; "It's great what you both are trying to do. But you need to realize that people here just don't care. There is no hope for them, and you are wasting your time."

Part 2 - Winter 2011: Steak n' Shake was a popular thing among my friends growing up. I'm sure it being the only cheap thing open late at night had a lot to do with it. One night, we ventured out to Steak n' Shake for some grub. A man came up to us as we were getting out of the car and asked for money. He pointed over to a mini van in the lot with a family in it. He told us it was his family, and that they were stranded with no gas. They were from Belvidere and needed to get his young daughters home, who were freezing. Suspiciously, some of us gave him some money to help him. As were were finally out of the car, we saw the mini van he was pointing to drive away without him. He was able to disappear before we could do anything. We were dooped.

Part 3 - Winter 2013: Some friends and I were driving along interstate 290 through Chicago heading towards trivia night at the one and only Hawkeye's Bar and Grill. When we pulled off at the Ashland exit, an incredibly disgruntled woman came running up to us crying, and began to tell us an elaborate story of how her car ran out of gas on the interstate, and how she's trapped. We were barely able to calm her down, but promised we would be back with a gas can for her.

Ten minutes later, we were back with the gasoline, and she was nowhere to be found. We looked for her car on the interstate as well. It was nowhere to be found either. We were dooped.

Part 4 - Now: Those of you who know me know that I am not a "city guy" per say. But despite that, I do have a big heart for the city, and the people living in it. Growing up in Oak Park and bordering the Austin neighborhood in Chicago, I was able to witness nearly first hand how difficult and hopeless life can be there.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest." Matthew 9:35-38
The best part of this entire post is that I get to tell you about Tommy. Tommy is a rad dude who I have gotten to spend lots of time with the past 2 and a half years. I met Tommy at an incredible ministry in the city called Grip Outreach for Youth. Every Monday, hundreds of us get together to spend time with High Schoolers who come from broken families. It is a sports based evening. I like to call it throwing dodge balls at kids for Jesus.

Tommy has been incredible to spend time with because he is such a loyal and compassionate guy. His compassion is especially what sets him a part from the other students. He has a special lens that he sees the world through. He can tell when people are hurting. Mostly, he downplays his own tough situations because he is more worried about other people. That's some toughness right there.

Spending time with Tommy also brings its fair share of challenges. Tommy does not have a dad who is around at all, and one of his brothers is in prison. This leaves him, his sister, other brother, and mom. We spent lots of time just talking about things you would normally learn from your parents, such as saving money, politics, hard work, forgiveness, responsibility....We also spend time trying to get each other out of our comfort zones. One of our favorite things to do is going rock climbing.

Tommy and I have a lot of fun with each other, but ultimately, my goal for him is to know the Lord, and to become a man of integrity by being loyal, hard working, and responsible. Any of you who are in similar situations know that this is not an overnight process, and can sometimes even feel impossible. The best learning moments with Tommy have been when he wants to learn. If he doesn't want to learn, the situation feels very hopeless.

Part 5 - My Point: Why do I keep putting myself in situations that end up failing. I try to do good, but the past has shown that whenever I do, I get scammed, or the person just wants my money, and not any real help. Sometimes it's safe to say that I have lost hope. I often feel more disappointed than I do satisfied. Why not just do me? I am wasting my time trying to make a difference in people's lives. I could be traveling more, playing basketball more, or just be looking out for #1 more.

The fact is this; I have betrayed my heavenly father and infinite amount of more times than people here have betrayed me. Despite all that, he still loves me perfectly and completely, holding back nothing from me. He blesses me through my rebellion, he feeds me through my rebellion, he provides community through my rebellion, he provides compassion, defense, loyalty, steadfastness, and strength, despite my constant rebellion. Our God never loses hope in us, because that's how he loves us. If we are going to love others like God loves us, we can never lose hope in him and in them. Therefore, my time here is not finished yet. Nor is it finished for the rest of my brothers and sisters who hope for light in this city.
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, " I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times." Matthew 18:21-22

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Gratitude II - I Can't Express Enough

Does dissatisfaction root from a lack of gratitude? Lack of gratitude is certainly not the only root of dissatisfaction, but it is certainly one of them.

Many times I find myself dreaming of what's next, and how that next step can make my life better. A side effect of that has been discontentment in my current situation. The fact is, I have so so so (yes, times 3) many things to be grateful for. When I spend more time dwelling on those things, I find satisfaction in what God has blessed me with. Why me at a high end job in Chicago? Why me growing up in Oak Park? Why me with the education? Why me owning an SUV (4Runner to be exact)? The fact is, I have been blessed with these things, and I need to be a great steward of them while I have them.

Lastly, I am not saying hunker down where you are at right now and never leave. Maybe it's time to move on to something else. You will know best. In the meantime, try stirring some gratitude into your coffee in the morning (and lay off the sugar, it's not good for you). 

1st Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Monday, November 21, 2016

No Pain No Gain

I just told my coworker that I am going for a run this evening, to which he responded, "you're crazy, its like 10 degrees out." I responded, in my mind, "that's some weak sauce."

Don't let being uncomfortable temporarily slow you down. No pain no gain has never been so real....just kidding, but it still does apply.

So get out there, breath in that cold - crisp air, feel it in your lungs, and do your body a favor. 

Grateful - Don't Take Heat for Granted

In case you do not know, I decided to move to the West side of Chicago this past month. I have been there for nearly a month now, and have already added a few interesting chapters to this adventure.

The one I am writing about now is how we have not had any heat in the apartment. November has been full of many temperature ups and downs, so some days/nights have been easier than others. Two nights ago, the temperature finally seemed to take a final turn towards winter. Since, I have regularly measured temperatures in the 40's (F) in our living room and bedrooms.

I really miss heat. It has a lot to offer. It offers:

  •  A good nights rest
  • Comfort during the day
  • A desirable place to be
  • Ability to work from home
  • Time
  • Many other items in an at-home setting
I am hoping that the time item and good nights rest item caught your attention. Those two have really struck me, and here's why; The neighborhood I am living in has an extremely high poverty and unemployment rate. I moved here, by the grace of God, to get to know the community and its people. In the short time I have been here, thoughts and ideas I have had my entire life have already been put to question. 

Here is my point: It is so much harder to go about daily life when you lack basic necessities to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. In this case, that necessity is heat. The lack of heat has effected my rest, making it harder to function the next day for work, being social, and chores. Because my lack of rest is so damaging, I therefore spend more time just trying to stay warm by re prioritizing my responsibilities, and not getting around to other things I need to. 

Applying this fact to the community around me, and other impoverished areas around the world, it goes to show that breaking out of poverty by getting a job has many obstacles. How much harder is it to hold down a steady job when you lack basic necessities?

Therefore, I am grateful for something I have never been truly grateful for before - heat. My days are limited in this heat-less apartment, but not all other people's are. 

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my first ever blog. I am 27 years old, and I have absolutely no idea where that puts me in the spectrum of ages of people starting their first blog.

Just a little bit of background information about me which will help set the scene for this blog.

1. I am a practical person....hence why I am writing a numbered list and not getting all wordy.
2. Once again, I am practical. I like to make decisions based on overall benefit to my community, family, friends, environment, and lastly myself.
3. What feels good right now is hardly ever what's right.

I intend to populate this blog with little tid-bits that I pick up, or dream up. They will be things that I want to remember for myself, and come back to in discussion with those who read this.

Lastly, I am excited to start this blog so older sibling of pickles (yes, inside reference to maintain anonymity) can have a blog neighbor. I can't recall any one of our other friends doing this. I have always been very impressed by older sibling of pickles (OSP) blog, and OSP encouraged me, without knowing, to starting this.

Nuff' said - enjoy