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that’s not me.

31 Aug

I have been struggling with something lately.

I have been struggling with this blog.  Not with the ideas behind it, nor with completing anything off the list.  It’s more of an attention thing.  It makes me uncomfortable to be praised for the things that I’ve experienced in writing this blog.  I never really considered that would be a potential outcome.  Honestly, I figured most people would write me off.  I was unprepared for the heaps and heaps of positive response.

First, THANK YOU.

But second, instead of praising my efforts, consider taking on your own challenge off the 50 ways list.  If there is one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that you just need a little push.  I know I did.

(Warning:  What you are about to read is going to first not relate to anything I’m talking about AT ALL and then, once you get past that, it will show you a few of the strokes of paint on my completely black canvas.)

I’m claustrophobic.  I’m literally claustrophobic, in that if you hold me too tight or stand too close or lock me in an empty ice making machine (long story)– I.  WILL.  LOSE.  IT.  I’m also mentally claustrophobic, in that as a teenager, I felt like the small town I grew up in was a cage.  So, instead of going to a state school like a lot of my friends did, I decided to move to Chicago and go to school in the city.

Moving to Chicago brought me toe-to-toe with a topic I had never really encountered before: homelessness.  Aside from a brief stint working in the projects of New Orleans, I had never really encountered homelessness.  Chicago was a much grittier world than I was accustomed to.

At first I wanted to help everyone.

“Do you have any change?”
“YES, YES, here, take all the change I’ve got.”

Next, I grew wary (and weary) and justified not caring anymore by the fact that obviously they were just going to use the money on booze or drugs.

“Do you have any change?”

“No.”

Eventually I just pretended they didn’t exist.

I pretended a human being didn’t exist.

I think I was proud of this.  Friends would come to visit and I’d say, “Oh, you’ll get used to it.  Just ignore them.”

You’ll get used to pretending a HUMAN BEING doesn’t exist.

That is the person I am capable of being.  That is the heart I am capable of having.

Last weekend I was in Boston and a man asked me if I had any change so that he could get a cup of coffee.  I said, “No, I’m so sorry, I don’t.”  I didn’t.  I wished I did.  I felt like…  you know how in those Road Runner cartoons there’s always a huge metal anvil that drops out of the sky and crushes the coyote?  Yeah– I felt like that.

I could not just ignore the fact that he existed.

I asked him his name.  “I don’t have any change but I would love to buy you a cup of coffee, James.  Where can we go for some good coffee?”

I know the person I am capable of being.  I know the heart I am capable of having.

The love that freely flows through me, the heart that has been placed inside of me– that’s not me. I know this, because I know the things that once came so so easily to me.  I know this because I know what I am capable of.  I know this because I’m constantly reminded of what He is capable of.

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real hunger.

25 Jul

So I didn’t really eat for a week.  I mean, I ate a bowl of rice a day.  A bowl of bland, unseasoned, unsalted, unbuttered brown rice.  I didn’t always finish that entire bowl of rice though, even in the deepest of hungers.  It tasted like cardboard.  Sometimes it got stuck going down.  I drank water and I ate rice.  I was hungrier than I knew I could be.  I gained a little perspective.

Just a little perspective.  I starved myself within a very controlled environment and I gained a little perspective.  I had a bed to sleep in.  I drank glass after glass of filtered water to help keep my hunger at bay.  I took vitamins each morning.  I didn’t have to walk to work; I drove.  I sat in my air conditioned office where the most “manual” my labor got was a 40 minute phone call with a woman who had a lot to say.  I got a headache so I took medicine.  If I wanted food, I could have bought food.  If I couldn’t afford food, my friends wouldn’t have let me go unfed.  I gained a little perspective.

More later, probably, as it comes in.

a bowl of rice a day pt. 2

22 Jul

It isn’t very difficult to go a day without eating– we have all done it.  Most people don’t enjoy the feeling of hunger, but a day without eating anything but a bowl of rice is an inconvenience, at most.  Sometimes you don’t even notice the hunger; it’s that dull.  You notice the hunger after your second day of insufficient nutrients.  You’re hungry.  You find yourself thinking about it throughout the day.  It becomes more and more difficult to concentrate.  By day three, food consumes your thoughts.  You’re HUNGRY.  It’s all you can think about.  You start resenting people who eat.  On day four you throw up.  (Well, I did.)

People say that they hunger for God; that they thirst for Him.  Right.  Raise your hand if you’ve thought about God half as often as I’ve thought about food this week.  I know mine’s not up.