I discovered blogging in 2005 on MySpace. Over the next few years, with much encouragement from friends, I found that I really enjoyed writing. When Myspace was forgotten in the mass exodus to Facebook, I decided it would be smarter to move my writing to an independent blog site. When I started JoshStories I decided to include everything I’ve ever written. To separate my blogging from all the other stuff, I designated this category “The Dark Forest”.
Like the mystery that exudes from darkness deep in the woods, so is the unsearchable and enigmatic trail of thoughts which hang as a mist around emotion, philosophy and theology.
One of the saddest effects of the fall of man, was was our budding proclivity to indulge in the pure and beautiful to the point of perversion. Chief among the perverted beautiful things has categorically been the many facets of sex and sexuality. Because of the unique design of the sexes, this perversion of the joys takes on a different look in men and women. For the vast majority of men it plagues us primarily visually. I have personally found this to be singlehandedly the most relentless temptation in my life. Reading through the Bible, a man will come across numerous scripture warning against sexual sin from adultery to covetousness. A man desiring to do right, a difficult as it usually is, can much more easily avoid sleeping with a woman who is not his wife and discipline himself to not covet his neighbor’s wife than he can avert his eyes from a woman he finds attractive. From there it is a slippery and somewhat ambiguous slope into lustful thoughts. And so, when he reads Matthew 5:28, there is an especially poignant sting as he realizes he’s probably already lost the battle he set out to fight.
Recognizing The Danger of Sexual Sin
I’m part of a small group of guys who, realizing how damaging sexual sins are to ourselves and especially to our marriages, have set out try and hold each other accountable in this area. We recognize that a guy having a full blown affair can trace the roots of his folly all the way back to just lustful thoughts. Those thoughts can lead to viewing pornography and flirting with other women which can become an affair in a matter of days. We realize that broken marriages, especially those involving children are the foundations of many the world’s problems – not mention how it effects our God, our Heavenly Father who created us and wanted purity and righteousness for us but watched us all throw it back in His face.
Lustful thoughts are as easy or easier to drift into as breaking a diet or little white lies or gossip, but I believe the consequences are potentially more far reaching and destructive. So it is our duty to do all we can to guard against them. In my accountability group we often share little tricks that can help us keep our thoughts pure and directed toward our wives. One such tool was a profound realization I had once and I have since dubbed it The Cheerleader Effect.
The Super Woman
The Cheerleader Effect happens when a guy finds himself in a place with lots of attractive women. It doesn’t have to be cheerleaders, but this helps you get the picture as a group of cheerleaders can probably be universally considered ‘a group of attractive women’. (Also, the underlying principle can be applied to anything we covet, not just the opposite sex.) In this situation a guy will often leave that place with an powerful sense that he just saw a huge group of some of the prettiest, and depending on the situation, sexiest females he has ever encountered. When the lust juggernaut starts, he may be then flooded with lies and evil thoughts ranging from imagining sex with them to comparing them to his wife. The sad thing is, no matter how stunningly beautiful a man’s wife is, she will always lose out to the cheerleader effect (minimally in his mind). In his mind the group of attractive women will win UNLESS he realizes and concentrates on what is happening in his mind. Simply put, the Cheerleader Effect is a number of women blending together to create one, imaginary, super woman. This is what I realized one day – that when I tried to pick one out of the group and examine why I thought she was “so perfect”, I would find a flaw in that particular girl. So I’d move to the next until I found her flaw. Suddenly, when I disassembled the “super woman”, I realized that she was made up of flawed human females. This one with too big of hips, that one with ugly hair until I realized not one of them was completely better than my wife.
Men, we must realize when the cheerleader effect is happening and then mentally dismantle it until it no longer has power over us.
Today over the noon hour most of the USA stood outside staring skyward, hopefully with some approved glasses, to watch the first total solar eclipse in 38 years. Where I live, in western Colorado, it was only a partial eclipse but as 11am passed we could begin seeing a dimming of the sun that became, at its climax, comparable to the haziness cause by smoke from wild fires. Personally I was only mildly interested because we were only seeing a partial which is the same as any more frequently appearing partial eclipses I have seen in my lifetime.
Because I wasn’t real interested, I hadn’t heard some of the interesting facts that my co-worker, Ross, started sharing with me as we joined the rest of staff outside our place of work. First he pointed out the noticeable temperature difference which was about 10˚ to 15˚ cooler. He said a lot of animals will start to act erratically because it messes with their internal clocks which reminded me something I had heard about being quiet and listening. When I did, I noticed the din of crickets much louder than usual. I had also heard of people making pinhole viewers so I tried making a sort of pinhole with my index finger and thumb. Sure enough, I could see a little half-circle bump in my “pinhole” shadow on the ground.
This event also reminded me of an interesting documentary called The Privileged Planet in which philosopher Jay Richards and astro-biologist Guillermo Gonzalez talk (among a plethora of other observations) about the scientific data that is able to be gathered only at an eclipse. The documentary is mostly about the anthropic principle which, simply put, states that universe seems to have been designed for observation; the conditions that make our planet habitable are so finely tuned that any slight deviation in temperature, the earth’s axis, etc. would render our planet without life. There’s quite a bit more in that documentary and about the anthropic principle to discuss, but as I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I’m not here to reiterate ideas already thoroughly discussed elsewhere, but to add my original thoughts and observations to these kinds of topics.
Taking Our Sun for Granted
What struck me most is that, when I paid attention to the rising noise of the crickets and the cool, dim air, I was flooded with a lucid and almost eery realization of the sun’s power over nature. I’m not sure if the same effect doesn’t happen when storm clouds blot out the sun (and if it doesn’t, why not?). It takes a special event like this because, though one can observe the sun’s return each and every morning, one needs a jolt of the unordinary to recall their latent gratitude. Suddenly it flashes through my mind: What if something we have always regarded as a constant in our universe were to come undone or “break” so to speak and caused this phenomenon of the sun to happen more frequently? (And in any other necessity provided to us in our symbiotic existence? I.E. Why shouldn’t the trees run their course and suddenly stop giving off oxygen?) Depending on how much the sun was blocked and for how long, it could have devastating effects to life on earth. Today’s events proved it can start having major effects relatively quickly.
To Whom Do I Owe My Gratitude?
I don’t claim that any of this is an absolute proof that their is a God, but the idea that life exists on a knife edge, that any slight change in these consistencies that make life possible, testify (as Romans 1:20 says) to a Creator. Even prominent militant atheist Richard Dawkins said, when asked if there was one argument given by a Christian or Creationist that caused him to pause he said “I think the closest is the idea that the fundamental constants of the universe are too good to be true…that does seem to me to need some kind of explanation if its true”. When I start to remember that no one/no thing owes me my next breath or my next heart beat, I start to wonder who designed this place where I get enough oxygen, where my atoms hold together, my synapses keep firing and where our planet faithfully rotates giving us night and day. The sun rains down ultraviolet-B radiation helping us create Vitamin D, raises our serotonin which can relieve anxiety and reduce depression, its light kills bad bacteria, has a beneficial effect on skin disorders and on and on. I choose to thank the Creator for this incredible biosystem He built us into.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
I leaned forward and sank my head into my pillow trying sleep from a sitting position. I didn’t know the guy to my right or the couple behind me. I watched out the window into the dark as the desert sped by. There was a devil in the Mohave and he was anxious to fight what was stirred in my mind by the previous week’s events. He got me thinking, he asked me questions, told me things and I got mixed up in the conversation as to whether it was him or me. You don’t fit in here. You’re not being yourself. The guy directly in front of me was probably 7 years younger than me, but out of all the “adults” around me, I felt closest to his age. I still can’t fathom being in my late 20’s. Nothing is changing, not thing. You don’t have what it takes to change things for yourself. You’re a lot older than all your friends and it’s more obvious to them than you think. You’re not as “in” as you think. You should find people your age to hang out with – holding on to these friends is immature. I wrestled with the Mohave devil and he held me down. I tried to reason that some things went well but he had a rebuttal for everything I said. Later when I saw the pictures – I didn’t recognize myself at first. Am I really that guy? I don’t feel like I look. I’ve gotten fatter, haven’t I? I have this hideous slouch. My egghead has never been so boastful. When I looked in the mirror I wanted the mirror to close it’s eyes quietly and never wake up again. “I am so ready for change,” I said 6 years ago, and then 5 years ago….but I really meant it 4 years ago when I broke down once and for all. A second later I was saying it for real 3 years ago. You become numb to your ultimatum of self. The only release is to pretend like nothing is happening. Think of something else…..
Chapter 2: Rebecca’s Revolution
I knew in my head I needed to this, but it I knew it in my heart when Rebecca sent me a drawing in the mail. This girl was real, no longer a poster child. I was shaken to the core. A couple of my close friends were involved in Young Life and they were sacrificing huge amounts of time to make a difference in kid’s lives. I took note and admired the work they put in. A couple other friends left familiar territory and went far, far away because God told them to. And I asked myself, are you afraid? And God asked me what is most important in life? Money started to lose value as it came in like never before in my life. You have to find out for yourself what a new drum set, a new laptop, paintball gun, snowboarding gear and a longboard can’t do for you. Bono, using his celebrity as cash, chose to spend it in the most noble way. This friend of mine went to Boise Bible college, these other friends went to Bible college in California and God asked me how old were you when you gave your life to me? Chepto, can I help you? I’ll do what I can. Some friends of mine are working on Campus to diciple college students. I’m realizing a Revolution in World Ministries. I tried to make Hernando’s slide work better. I couldn’t believe he was playing about 30 yards from a landfill…and worst of all he had no parents…. Then I realized it….the Mohave devil was powerless against me when I was playing with Hernando, when I was sending Rebecca a drawing back.
Chapter 3: MySpace’s Fatal Flaw
How did this stupid online profile thing sweep the country and even the world? I’ll tell you what it offers, it gives you a chance to display things about yourself people wouldn’t normally know or see. Suddenly you can advertise yourself by picking all the photos you look hot in. You can convey exactly what you feel in a blog and it’s available 24/7 for anyone to read. You can see “what’s up” with all your friends. Gossip leaves a “paper” trail accessible any time of day. You get comments to you and about you and even more juicy is a message for your eyes only. The addicting part of MySpace comes when you open your account and you have New Comments, New Messages and New Picture Comments. They all have the potential to be little self-esteem boosters. You feel like your losing it when the comments run dry, though. When your only friend requests start to be fake profiles built by some stupid porn company you start to feel this artificial let down. The inherent problem with MySpace is that it’s all about me, me, me. As long as your eyes are on yourself, you will be more and more let down…. to be continued…?
Do you ever have days when you feel like nothing means anything? Like Solomon said “Everything is meaningless”. I feel at times like my friendships are fragile and one group of people I’m hanging out with today will be bored and leave the next day. A lack of response to postings >>deAd<< I feel like everything I do is in vain. At one time I thought the Vox was an awesome creative outline and now I feel like it’s just a piece of trash for people to prop up the short leg on their table. I feel like I’m running all the time to make sure I’m taking in as well as giving out but in the mean time I’m neglecting my talent. I know I’m not putting enough faith in God and I feel too tired to give more. Encouragement acts as a billows on a fire, giving new strength, but not long after its blow the fire comes down again. If only encouragement came more often.
Last night at The Door, Paul talked about the marriage relationship. He said man is not complete without woman; indeed the Bible says it is not good for man to be a alone (Gen. 2), and that she is his helper, councilor, comforter, etc. So then what is a single guy left with? If it is God’s plan for me to be alone, I havn’t a peace about it. Anyway-that’s a tangent. I have had encouragement, but it just doesn’t seem to last. I’m talking more specifically with my comic strip. The realist has to think the lack of encouragement is a natural sign that it just isn’t working. It’s not funny. (I could agree with that) So what now? After hours, days and weeks spent sketching ideas, penciling to Bristol, inking and finishing up, scanning and posting – did I simply go too far down the wrong fork in the road? I once had a mission – I was going to learn how to do it right – I was going to get syndicated. So what happened? Well – discouragement….should I keep sending these strips off when I don’t even feel like they’re funny myself.
It’s cold again. Maybe it’s the cold, maybe there’s no grease in my gears. I have a drive to create. I want to make songs, I want to play my drums, play my guitar. I want to make movies, animations. There is so much crap rollicking in my head in a temultuous storm. I want to write. There is no time and what’s worse, there is no audience. (Not completely-there has from time to time a person to flip through my sketch book and say –This is cool, you should be a children’s book illustrator! And I’d love to…)
In giving a couple of friends a ride home last night I discovered an expectation in my mind….something like – what’s in it for me? Maybe this will be an opportunity for them to know me better and introduce me to a girl my age…maybe they will like me more and need my friendship….What? Why can’t I just give them a ride because they need it? Hmm, maybe it’s just knowing after I drop them off, I’m driving home and nothing is going to happen [tonight]. Today is a dead end – no possibility for opportunity. I’m tired of the “glass wall” I talked about in a blog last summer. I’m tired the same old “same old” yet I have a death grip on it. I don’t want to leave my friends and so I hang around wearing out my welcome until they leave me. I’m tired of ordering a beer just to hold my seat so I can be social. I like coffee at obscure diners. I like telling and hearing stories. I hate when the bar/restaurant turns up the music so loud you have to yell to the person 2 feet away.
Why, even after knowing God wants an intimate relationship, do I still forget Him? And slap in Him in the face with my doubt and unbelief? Tonight I hope more than 3 people show up. But then again, if no one shows up I won’t have to do it-this thing I have taken on. It’s already brought stress on me – commitment. I have never really been a leader…people seem to be perfectly happy not following me – so what do I expect taking this leadership position? Well, I hope humbly I can facilitate the Gospel. OK, this was a HUGE rambling and I should be working….
Currently Listening : Pure Moods By Jean Michele Jarr
You have to muster up something to look over into the coffin where a dear old friend’s body lies. Yesterday after I shared a few highlights about my friend Adam Allen and I already cried in front of hundred or so people I’ve never met, then, then I could look. It was only the second time in my life I’ve seen a dead body (the first time was my grand-dad’s). The same feeling I remember after seeing my grand-dad filled me. It was this indescribable and indisputable knowledge that Adam was not there. The best way to convey the feeling is that it sharply contrasts the feeling of seeing a sleeping friend.
Right after the funeral I was busy catching up with friends I haven’t seen in 20 years, getting lunch and driving 3 hours back home. Finally though, just before bed, I started to process the day, the people, the service and lifeless wax sculpture I am told was Adam’s body. Why did that not feel like Adam? I wondered. Well, let’s think about this. None of what makes Adam, Adam, was in the building yesterday. All of us who shared memories, we brought more of a semblance of Adam to the room then did his body in the casket. And those snapshots, those were the things that made my eyes well up. Someone mentioned his sneezes that came like cracks of thunder and would make your skeleton jump out of your skin. Another mentioned his bone crushing hugs, or the way his shoulders bounced up and down when laughed so hard he couldn’t breath (as he often did).
You see, the more you knew Adam, the more you will understand that he wasn’t that room yesterday. A lot of times people muster up good things to say at a funeral: a very general “He was a loving father, brother, son, friend” or whatever. But Adam was someone that was easy to come up with good genuine memories and great things to share. I was thinking just a week or two ago, after seeing a funny Facebook post he made, how much I missed him and how he was truly one of the wisest, deep thinking, listening and loving friends I have ever had.
I want you know all of these things about Adam, because I believe God engineered that unique personality of his for a reason and the more people he influences (even posthumously) the better. I first met this chubby little friend because alphabetically his last name seated him next to me in 5th grade Home Room.
He was in several classes with me and it seems like it was in Mrs. Firestone’s music class where he shared with me his invention of an edible food glue. Right away I knew he wanted to be a chef someday. He loved my cartoon character, a little lizard named Duke and had me draw him all the time.
Im 8th grade Adam dressed as a chef (or maybe he was the Pillsbury Doughboy, I can’t remember)
Adam moved back to Utah after 8th grade but came back to Craig in high school. I shared at the funeral that I’m not sure how he and I became such great friends, because almost every one of his friends from high school and on were heavy into games like Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering and such and I am not into those at all. He as also part of the LDS Church which I was not. Maybe it was because I was a little bit into Sci-Fi and he enjoyed that too. I can’t remember what grade it was in when we watched the movie version of Fahrenheit 451 and after seeing the main character’s unique, forearm-grasping handshake, he and I greeted each as such for years afterward.
Our friendship became strongest when he joined my church youth group at Calvary Baptist Church. He grew up a Mormon and died one, but there was a section of his life when he was questioning all he believed (another personality trait of those with strong minds). He was quickly assimilated into our group of friends because he was such a caring and jolly person.
There were many adventures in the Calvary Baptist youth group and times when Adam, Nick Augustine and I hung out together. A couple of situations were so powerful, though, that they still come to mind often. One, which in way helped me discover part of my identity, was when Adam and I (and sometimes a few other friends) would meet up for coffee at the Craig Village Inn late at night. Our conversation would go into deep places as I hadn’t experienced with any one before. I realized then how much I like to think deeply about things (usually theological stuff). The other situation was right after Adam had to break up with his girlfriend Sara.
Adam needed to get it off his chest and so he pulled me aside in one of our church’s empty classrooms. He told me they had to break up and then, the tears started to flow. I think he was falling in love with her. I had never seen him cry. I put out my arms and he crashed his head into my shoulder with shudders. Not many guy friends (especially at that age) are that vulnerable and it told me that Adam trusted me probably more than anyone at that time. That vulnerability also showed when he told friends he sincerely loved them.
Adam’s desire to be a chef earned him the nickname Chef Curly and led him to pursue Culinary Arts in college at Mesa State in Grand Junction. I had already been there a a while getting my degree in Graphic Design and I was involved in a campus ministry called Master Plan Ministries. It was another large group of close friends that found it easy to accept Adam in.
I can’t remember where he went after Mesa State, but at some point he earned another degree at the Community College in Craig.
Years and distance separate all of these good friends like leaves in a river. You can’t keep up with every one you’ve ever known and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. You have those who are in your life now to turn your attention to. Sometime you’re lucky enough to both be in Craig again at the same time and this happened one last time for us about 4 or 5 years ago over Christmas. We met up for coffee at the Starbucks in Craig’s Safeway. We were both in our mid 30’s and still unmarried and we were commiserating about it. He listened to me go on and on about how I had chances with all of these hot girls and how I was disappointed over and over again with their character. He said “Josh, we have to learn to love those who are good for us.” He was dropping wise words on me all the time like this. But that one really stuck with me, especially over the next few years when I was in for more of the same. His words echoed in my mind until finally I began to change the priorities in my mate-search criteria. I truly believe it was his words that helped me find my wife. Thanks, old friend.
Unfortunately in the years since I last saw him, our friendship was nothing more than “Liking” a silly post he made on Facebook here and there. To his credit, he never missed a Christmas, Easter, Halloween or Thanksgiving to shoot a text wishing a happy one.
In the last couple of years Facebook has been full of political and ideological vitriol. I have kept following several friends with sharply oppositional views because 1) They’re old friends and 2) I believe its healthy. Through this I have a clear window into a world of people who do not believe in God and therefore buck at any morality that comes from specifically a Christian world view. Sometimes it seems this Godless world has completely lost its mind. Several weeks ago I was thinking to myself, you know who would have a level head about these things? Adam Allen. And I thought it would be really fun to meet up at a Village Inn and hear his thought on this issue. When you miss a friend, it really stings to know you won’t, you can’t see them again. I saw a post from a co-worker at Pizza Hut saying that he had passed away and my first reaction was Wait what? Nooooooooooo!
I know this was long….and more of time line than a picture of who he was. I want to give a picture, but its made up in so many millions of nuances, how do I? Like how he always said “Cool beans”, or he called me and my brother “Squashy Mess” (our names are Josh & Wes). Those nuances, those were the things missing from the room yesterday.
As I thought about all this last night, that was when I think God showed me the importance of our souls, the deep down part that is really us, our spirit. It’s why the Naturalist, the Atheist, the Evolutionary argument doesn’t work for me. If Adam was simply one of billions of highly evolved organisms, a meat computer who’s hard drive has finally failed…then where did Adam go? Sure, the body he occupied for 37 years was laying there right before my eyes, simply not functioning anymore. But where’s Chef Curly saying “Cool Beans” and talking about a food glue he invented?
I saw something today that was difficult to comprehend. Though it was something very common in our day and age, something I have heard about as far back as I can remember, it was hard to believe. I saw on a TV monitor, grey, white and black splotches that etched out the shape of a complicated little object. I am told this a computer image of what is inside my wife’s uterus but I cannot seem to make this connect to the same reality of my wife’s tangible fingers interlaced in mine and the technician at the computer across from us.
Finally I’m able to move passed the feeling that this is just the same ultrasound picture that I’ve seen in movies and TV shows and realize this is not a stock photo or a YouTube clip; this is a real-time image. Those grey and white blobs define the unmistakable arch of a skull complete with teeth, the dashed line of a spine, the pulsating spaces of a heart, the stripes of ribs and various white sticks that are arm and leg bones. What I’m watching is the actual movements of a tiny human baby and not just any of the millions around the world this same day, but this one….this one is my son.
If I recall correctly, it was about 2002 and I was 23 the first time I felt like I was really ready to be a father. I didn’t even have a girlfriend at the time, but a friend had just given birth to her baby boy and was bringing him around the house I lived in at the time. I’ll never understand God’s timing, but here it is nearly 13 years later and finally it’s really my turn to be a father. I feel like every year gone by has made this a little harder to believe, but it doesn’t dull the enormity of it all.
The usual thoughts of expectant parents start pouring in like: Will he have my nose? Does he have Shelly’s lips? Is he going to have those big blue eyes like his mother? Is he going to have a great sense of humor? What kind of man will he grow up to be? Like all parents I hope he’ll grow up to be great, to be honorable and wise. I think about all of these traits and where they’re coming from. I look at the perfect curvature of his little scull. How is he so perfectly human? Shelly and I only “knew each other” to put it in Biblical terms, but other than that, what did we do? Nothing. We didn’t have to concentrate really hard. We didn’t have to carefully sculpt him with our hands. We didn’t have to be careful to remember what all goes into a human to make sure he is being built right. So where did this new little person come from? If not our hands, whose are guiding his shapes and numbering his ribs and vertebrae? So much of who and what we are is laid out like a computer program in our DNA. So this organic code is driving the formation of our boy, but now more than ever I am hung up on where on earth did this blue print come from? It passed from Shelly and I, and ours came from our parents which got theirs from our grandparents and so on. But how long does that go back? How long has the code been building humans as we know them?
I watch that screen in perpetual amazement; I really think I could sit there all day watching. What is most fascinating is when he decides to move. This creature inside of my wife is making an autonomous movement and it just hits me that he is a complete entity of his own. Yes he is tied to his mother by an umbilical cord and at this point could not survive outside the womb, but that does nothing to mute the loud averment of this distinctly human gestalt displayed before us.
Later that same day I am scrolling through Facebook posts and I come across a post that would normally get my hackles up, but today it hits me more somber. Its a liberal friend’s post about how evangelicals are fickle because they have only defined life at conception since sometime in the 70’s. I’ve read many posts like it and the bottom line is that the author is trying to find some loophole or some new angle in which they can debunk the Pro-Life movement. It is just so sad to me that my friend, like the writers of these articles, is so desperate to find some argument or point of view that proves people don’t really have souls so their conscious can be clear if they or a friend should choose an abortion.
I could drown in the quick-sand of addressing each of these articles and blogs, but I’ll save us all the pitiful sight of more of these online shouting matches. You may think I am choosing to remain ignorant by not hearing out each of the Pro-Choice arguments, but I think I can safely say I don’t need to hear anymore. Why? Because I know what I saw today. I observed, with my own two eyes, my own son-with a skull like mine, two eyes, a nose and little fists and I saw him get uncomfortable-the same way I do in bed at night-and roll over. From this point you can level every argument known to man against the Pro-Life viewpoint and it simply wouldn’t make sense to me. Recently NARAL was upset when a Doritos commercial humorously depicted a baby shooting out of the womb to grab a chip. They tweeted “#NotBuyingIt – that Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses…”. “Humanizing fetuses”? Besides the silliness of the baby reacting to the Dorito outside the womb, in what way did the creators of the commercial humanize the fetus? Maybe the people at NARAL have never seen what I saw today, because the fetus in an ultrasound is plenty human on its own without any manipulation or editing. Trying to tell me what I saw today isn’t human is the same as telling me a puppy isn’t a dog, or a sapling is not a tree: it just isn’t rational.
As the days go by I only get to watch my wife’s belly grow, but she gets to feel the little guy squirm, kick and roll around. His movements are a daily reminder that he is alive and well and Shelly’s growing womb is an undeniable sign of the eventuality that our son will have completed his stage of dependency on the confines of mom’s body. We will soon hold in our hands a crying, breathing, human baby ready for the outer world.
9-24-04 Last night something really freaky went on. The only thing that makes it seem all normal or OK is that I’m pretty sure it was all a dream. I think I had been dreaming of being somewhere and I think I was with my brother. The scary part started when I thought I woke up. My eyes were barely opened and for some odd reason I didn’t recognize the room. There was a slight panic as I tried to remember where I was. Even as I started to remember I was here in my apartment it still seemed a little different or unfamiliar. Then I started to hear something like what I thought was a “ruckus” downstairs. There seemed to be a lot of commotion down there and I thought the lady below me was going to come up here or something. I heard talking (or yelling?) I think that’s when I heard a cookie sheet pop in my kitchen. The commotion may have been the neighbors on the other side plying music or video games but it sort of blurred into a constant roaring (This could have been a train going by because I live close to the train tracks) But my mind began to reel as I tried to figure out what was going on. Then I heard what sounded like someone brushing across blinds in the living room (but not mine, more like those vertical hanging type) back & forth. This rumbling sound continued and about the same time I heard this weird strained breathing with a bit of “voice” in it…sort of like a goblin – I swore I saw one, two…maybe three shadows pass my bedroom door way. I was panicking and frozen in fear. Then I thought I saw the arm of another figure walking by but then I realized I was looking at my dining room table. At the height of all the creepiness, as I lay there feeling paralyzed in fear I called out “In Jesus Name, leave me alone!” That is when it all stopped immediately. This one fact is what also led me to believe there was something spiritual actually happening and not just my half-asleep mind warping some outside noises and maybe some sleep paralysis.At that moment I managed to lift my head and completely open my eyes. I laid back down and thought about all this stuff and the fear made me start crying. Tears poured out of my eyes because it was so real. Just now writing about it I got chills and my eyes teared up (5:30AM)
Back in our skateboarding, punk rock days, my buddy & roommate Stevo and I were really into MxPx. We’d been fans since the 90’s but had never made it to a show. When we heard they were playing in Salt Lake, a mere 5 hours away, we planned to go. It was more of a festival show put on by an SLC radio station called X96 and featured an array of bands including The Used, The All American Rejects and The Bravery.
The Friday night before the show I was excited and knew we’d need to get up early to get to Salt Lake by noon, when the show opened. However, with Stevo, I knew plans were never ‘set in stone’.
Saturday morning I woke up and went to his door and knocked. Nothing. I knocked again this time, cracking the door and whispering “Hey, are we gonna go to Salt Lake?”. I can’t remember if he mumbled something or ignored me, but whatever he did gave me the impression he didn’t feel like going. My heart sunk. I was excited about the show; going alone wouldn’t be any fun at all. I went back to my room kind of sulking and thinking about how much I had anticipated this little road trip and decided to try one more time. I cracked the door and said, “Come on! We gotta get on the road if we’re going to the show!”
Surprising me, Stevo literally rolled out of bed into a ‘rocker’ position and jammed an air guitar! I laughed hard and said “Yeah! We’re goin’!”
Time was ticking away and we really needed to get out of Grand Junction and on I70 to get to Salt Lake by noon. It seemed like pulling teeth to get him ready and out of the house, but soon we were packed up (by which I mean, we had our skateboards) in my Honda Passport and and headed out of my neighborhood.
“Does it cost to get into this show?” he asked.
Baffled I said, “Are you kidding me? Of course it costs.”
“Well, can we go by my ATM to get some cash?”
Already annoyed by how long it took us to leave, this set me toward becoming angry, especially because his ATM was 3 miles in the wrong direction. Rolling my eyes I said, “Fine”.
We pulled up to the ATM kiosk, he jumped out and pushed some buttons. After a minute he jumped back into my Honda and informed me, “I’ve never used my card before and it won’t let me do anything without some further verification.”
“Yeah, can we go to my bank?”
Now I was angry. I knew his bank was in Palisade, about 7 miles in the WRONG direction. Sure it was only about 10 minutes the wrong way, but its the principle of the matter!
“Fine,” I said stiffed lipped and gripping the steering wheel. All these thoughts were going through my head: ‘Why is he never prepared?’, ‘Why am I the only one concerned with getting there when the show opens?’, etc.
We head to Palisade, and as we pull into the parking lot, we remember: the bank doesn’t open until 9.
“Aw shoot,” he says, “Um, can we go to my parent’s house? I can get some cash there.”
Now I’m fuming, this is another 5 minutes to the far East side of Palisade, STILL in the wrong direction! (In all, we’re nearing HALF an hour the WRONG way!)
I quietly head out to his parent’s house and he rushes inside. I know he was inside for maybe 2 minutes, but in my urgency it felt like another half an hour. I wait, and wait. Finally I’m thinking ‘What is taking so long?!’
That’s when I look over and see him over on the side of the house, prostrate on the ground aiming a .22 rifle at something toward the orchard behind their house. ‘What. In. The. World?!” I think. I hear a “POP!, POP!”. Then he puts the rifle away and runs back to my Honda. As he climbs in, the ridiculousness of the situation has allowed for just enough of my steam to vent so that I can laugh and ask, “What the crap are you doing?!”
He answers, “Oh, I had to shoot a cat!”
Finally we head for I70 and to Salt Lake City.
Finally we arrived at the X96 Big Ass show, and as we neared the venue, we should have known (especially running late) that there was no parking left. We drove around the surrounding neighborhoods and couldn’t find parking until about 5 blocks north. Luckily, we had our skateboards and cruised on them back to the venue. The problem then was, the venue would not allow skateboards inside. A police officer nearby heard us being turned away and said “I’ll be here all day, you guys can store them in my cruiser”. Though I was thinking ‘What? What cop offers that?’, we said ‘Thanks!” and stowed them.
I don’t have much to write about the actual show because now, 10 years later, most of it has faded (ironic, isn’t it?). I remember being very unimpressed with the All American Rejects, especially because they were so foul-mouthed and seemed to do this only to be cool.
MxPx was a blast and it was hard to believe we were finally seeing them after being huge fans for a decade. It was in this mosh pit where Stevo “brushed” up against one of the many “punk chicks” in the crowd and felt some sort of a connection. He was so moved he later wrote a punk song called “Sweet Punk Chick”.
After this we pursued the other bands and decided we needed to leave about halfway through The Used’s set. We got our boards back from the cop and cruised back to my Honda. We hit up a Del Taco before leaving town.
The Journey Home
On our way home through the desert in the night it started to become apparent to me that my head lights were dimming. At some point my CD player started to malfunction. If I remember correctly there were other malfunctions with the vehicle as well. When we got home there seemed to be a significant difference in how long the trip took coming home versus heading there.
Half jokingly we surmised that we must have had an alien abduction experience. However, I later discovered the alternator had gone bad in the Honda. (Glad we made it home!) The Jake Wilkinson’s Unicycle song “машина автоматический (car automatic)” is loosely based on this drive home.
All in all the day was quite an adventure, and I’d like to say I will never forget it. But if I do, it’s written here for future entertainment.
Please, all females, help me out here. You know what I’m talking about: the fad/trend of wearing leggings/yoga pants/tights (I’m not really sure how these differ but they all fit with my plea), as pants alone. Look, I KNOW (at least from what I’m told) they’re comfortable. And I realize they’re IN right now. And I know you can get them in all the funkiest cool designs from galaxies and Aztec patterns to leopard and zebra print. But, could you please, in public, wear them with something else? Like a long shirt or a skirt? Basically, pretend like you’re walking around naked if you don’t. Because like it or not, right or wrong, that’s close to how we guys see you.
I Know, I Know, It’s MY Problem
Now I know this is a heated topic. “I should be able to wear whatever I want,” you may say in rebuttal. “It’s not my problem you can’t control your lusting,” you may scream. And on & on. I’ve heard plenty of reasons in support of the trend. But here’s the catch: you’re right. You SHOULD be able to wear what you want and it’s NOT your fault it causes us to lust. And that’s why all I can do is ask, please, please help a brotha out. Actually not just ‘a’ brother, but all of us. I’m willing to bet 100% of all heterosexual men are struggling with this issue.
Is it a Sin to Wear Leggings as Pants?
You’re probably thinking I’m some old fashioned ‘Bible Thumper ‘ who thinks all women should practically wear burkas everywhere and that it’s a sin to show any skin. Well, this is a tricky subject. In fact, if you’re not a Christian and don’t believe the Bible as authority…well, I have nothing to give you. Even if you are a Christian, I have no verse to show you exactly what is and isn’t OK. So let me give you an analogy that might help clear things up:
Would it be it be wrong to wear a raw meat necklace? (Bear with me here) Would it be wrong to wear a hat made of juicy tenderloins? Weird, sure – but not wrong. Would it be wrong to go for a hike in your strange fashion? No. Even a hike where you knew there were wolves and other wild animals? ‘Aw look at the cute little wolf puppy’, you say as he comes up sniffing you and licking your wrist where you sprayed meat perfume. See where I’m going? Now you’re on board with me. It’s not wrong, just incredibly risky. The wolves are going to eat you alive. Here’s a phrase I have really latched on to when discussing issues of legalism vs freedom: “Maybe its not a sin, but- is it wise?”.
God made men & women very different in so many ways. I don’t know why He chose to make men so much more visually aroused than women, but in my life experience, most women don’t have the slightest clue how powerfully we men are sexually aroused through our eyes. My fiancee, in an effort to help me out said she would refrain from wearing them because ‘I know you don’t like them’. I had to clarify, ‘Babe, it’s not because I don’t like them. On the contrary- I like them too much!’. ‘Not my husband/boyfriend’ you might say. *Uh hem*, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if he hasn’t told you he struggles with this, either 1)You haven’t had a good talk about this, 2)He’s lying or 3)You’re in a relationship with an android.
Please Revert to Burlap Sacks
Just kidding! Sheesh, that look you just gave me burnt a hole in the atmosphere. But I have seen where the female’s side of this goes. “May I wear make up, do my hair, wear high heels, shorts, or a what about a swim suit (one piece)” and “So…. women are discouraged from wearing: swim suits, contacts, make up, nail polish, leotards, pants, shirts, shoes with any heel, leather coats, braces (which make beautiful teeth), or wear jewelry. And we may not dance, walk, swim, hug, stretch, run, workout, or bend over.” (I will keep her anonymous unless she’s OK with me citing her). Of course you can! In fact, her sister, chiming in on a heated Facebook thread said it very well: “There’s a difference between drawing attention to your body/sexuality/whatever and ENHANCING your BEAUTY“. There’s kind of grey area here, isn’t there? I’m more & more realizing how the line is blurred, especially for women. While us guys are thinking ‘How could she not realize she’s walking around naked with her pants painted on?’ or ‘Man, I think she’s trying to turn me/us on’. (And by ‘turn on’, I mean it in the strongest sense.)
This is where the issue will take talking with your man (or if you’re single maybe a trusted man like your father, or a pastor or guy friends, maybe.) Try to see through his eyes (He should also be trying to see things through your eyes about your struggles, but that’s another topic). Ask yourself: “Is this outfit good looking and enhancing my beauty? Or is it making me sexy?”. Obviously this entire topic is more than just leggings. It has to do with every way a woman presents herself. Do you think much of your ‘beauty enhancement’, like makeup, is making a guy -pardon my crassness- horny? Do you think your contacts are arousing him? I saw this picture online somewhere and, while I realize the lines are very subjective, it seems to be a fairly good guide:
Classiness is Key
I’ve discovered a curious thing in my battle against lusting after women. And that is there is a place between the burka and the bikini and that is a place I call ‘Classy’. I have observed many women in this place and thought ‘Wow, she is good looking’ or even ‘She is HOT’ and amazingly its a place where my mind isn’t instantly taken to a place of lust or sexual fantasy with her. Its like I can actually appreciate her beauty and even be powerfully attracted to her, but stop there, where I should. (Maybe not all guys agree on this, especially on what is or isn’t classy) Remember, I fully admit, this stopping place is where I SHOULD stop no matter how she is dressed. However, with the ‘Classy’ girl, it is so, so, so much easier.
Does a Girl Need to Burn All Her Leggings?
Public is the key word here. Believe me, we guys want to see you in your sexy clothes every bit as much as you want to wear them. The thing is, we (especially Christian guys, because we believe purity in us, is what God wants) want to have eyes only for our woman (and I know that’s what you want from us). So when you walk around in public, dressed sexy, there is ALWAYS some guy out there seeing you, who has a girlfriend, a fiancee, or a wife and for that moment that he sees your sexiness, and his eyes and his thoughts are pulled toward you and not his own girl.
And: Dear Church Girl, good grief. All this applies DOUBLY at church. When I’m trying to focus on God, my weak little mind is just ruined when you come to church dressed for the night club.
Believe me, it pains me to tell you stop something that is so good looking to me. And guys who disagree with me or don’t believe God’s plan is for monogamy and purity, they want to put duct tape over my mouth and chain me inside a dungeon. Like my tirade on fake boobs (https://rawar.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/boobies/) they want to yell “JOSH! SHUT UP!”.
So can I ask this of you? In public, can you think of leggings as being basically naked, and cover accordingly? At home, after marriage, (I’m looking at you fiancee), please, by all means, break out the leggings!
Does it Go Both Ways?
I don’t know, you tell me. I don’t think it does, at least not to the same extent. I don’t know of any sort of men’s public, daily, fashion that is causing women to stumble like this. If it was fashionable (*shudders*) for a guy to wear something as tight and revealing as leggings, I don’t even think that would turn most women on. I don’t know, but if it did- I would like to think I’d hear the plea of women saying ‘Please, its arousing but, please cover up’. And if there is some equivalent to this for you ladies, please- inform us!
Honest Question (Addition for those who disagree with my view on this)
As fashion changes over the years, we can all agree that clothing has become more and more revealing right? Let’s say the trend continues in this direction (as I believe it probably will). Let’s say one day a college girl showed up to class in a t-shirt and her panties. What would your thought and reactions be? Do you believe there is a point when its gone too far? Do we all agree that would immodest? If yes, then why? If no, then I really don’t know what to say.
In case you’re thinking ‘Gosh, Josh, why are you such a perv?’ and don’t believe me that “100% of all heterosexual men are struggling with this issue.”, here are anonymous quotes from my guy friends:
[In a conversation where me & a buddy are helping each other with accountability]: “The most frustrating thing to me is yoga pants. They are everywhere, and women have no idea what it does to us”
“I have no say so over other women but I do not let my wife wear leggings or yoga pants out in public unless covered up with a long shirt, dress…etc. ”
“It it very hard for us guys ladies. Honestly, I like when you wear tight Yoga pants or jeans or tight whatever. It’s pleasurable to look at & without self control & strength from God, very easy for our minds to wander deeper. So for our sake, modesty is very helpful.”
“I understand where you are coming from, ______when you talk about yoga pants, etc. being a catalyst for sinful thoughts.”
“Heck, I got full on called an A**hole by a woman for admitting that I had this very issue. Not a safe environment that person. It’s an issue for us because…it’s an issue. We can fake not having the problem especially from those near and dear to us who could be harmed by the fact that we have an issue. We can have good days, good stretches of self control, but there’s always that sense that it’s just biding it’s time, waiting in the bushes for the right moment to pounce”
“There is a significant difference between a women in jeans and a women in Yoga pants…and thats the ability to more clearly view the woman form.”
“I’m a very happily married man and I am tired of constantly being tempted to look at your yoga ass”
“What the difference between girls in yoga pants and girls in body paint? Not much…”
On a dark and cold January night I was sitting in my room in my neck brace a month or so after I broke my neck and had surgery. The phone rang, it was mom. Trying to hide emotion, she stated as matter-of-factly as she could, “I got my tests back….it’s cancer again.” It’s moments like that when the world stops and you can’t figure what to say to even finish the conversation. When I did say bye, there was some kind of built up emotion in me…it needed to come out somehow. My roommate was in the living room and so I grabbed my big coat and took off down the frosty street. I needed to be alone to let the tears fall. Not again, why God? WHY? Why her? HASN’T SHE HAD ENOUGH? This was mom’s 4th or 5th time (it depends on whether you count benign tumors and stuff) facing cancer. How much longer can her body keep up fighting this stuff?
When Jesus heard that his cousin John had been beheaded he took off for a lonely place. This is one of my favorite things about Jesus. He was a real person and He faced many sorrows in His short life on earth. He just wanted to get away and process what He just found out. He would have to put all that on hold for a bit, though, because one of His miracles that would echo through eternity was about to happen.
It’s crazy how easily and quickly I forget how powerful the scripture is. Man, though, when I read this today it just sent shivers down my spine.
All the sudden tons of people showed up..thousands! He could have gone and hid, He had some serious grieving to do, but He had compassion on the people. People needed food and instead of sending people to get some, this was an opportune time for Jesus to display His power. I love how so far in the book of Matthew its like Jesus’ identity is emerging, it’s building. And now He takes the few fish and pieces of bread they had on hand and blesses it and not only does He feed thousands and thousands of people, there are baskets of left overs!
When all that was done, the disciples took off in a boat and now Jesus finally had time to go and grieve and pray. I think He prayed through most of the night & then decided to go meet up with the disciples just before dawn. Instead of finding another boat or whatever, He just decides to walk out to them! When they see Him they’re freaked out because He looks like ghost. I love when Jesus is teaching us stuff because it’s almost always counter-intuitive or unexpected. We’re always freaking out and He’s always saying “Shhh….don’t be afraid, watch.”
Peter, for a quick moment actually has faith and then wants Jesus to let him try some water walking too. Just like I would imagine any of us doing, when he gets out of the boat normal life and logic say “You sink when you get in water” and so he does. So Peter goes under the water and Jesus helps him out saying “You of little faith!”
At that moment I’m there in the dark night on this boat with all these guys and we’ve just seen this guy, who’s already been doing and saying so many amazing things, we’ve just seen him WALK ON WATER!
Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying,
“Truly you are the Son of God.”
Amazing when that happens in the heart of a human being. It is the crux of humanity and existence on this planet.
Luke 15:10 says “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”