Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Venture to Spokangeles

Venture To Spokangeles

Volume 2

It wasn’t until about three p.m. on Wednesday afternoon before I decided to begin packing all the goods into my luggage. Scurrying through my neat and tidy room tossing drawers on the ground attempting to find just a few clean shirts to toss into the empty bags was a scavenger hunt in and of itself. Gonzaga shirt with bleach stain; okay. Gonzaga shirt with Chili stain; sure. Gonzaga shirt with coffee stain; no can do. As I finally get my bags totally packed and grab a box of wheat thins for the road I am officially ready for a sweet seven hour road trip to good ol’ Spokane (Spokangelous- This is a name used to describe how similar Spokane and Los Angeles are in the realm of gangster’s, whatever that means). As we head out the roads are a bit wet but traffic seems significantly non-existent for a day like this; the day before Thanksgiving (insert Turkey here…lol). We chomped down some Wheat Thins and chugged a few Diet Dr. Pepper’s while discussing the up’s and down’s of Eugene Bible College and the difficulties of believing the majority of what’s taught to us. This doesn’t go to say that we are skeptical of the Bible; we were just speaking openly regarding our hindrances in conforming to the typicality of the Pentecostal interpretation of the Bible. The issues of tongues and angels and prophecy bring confusion rather than clarity to many freshmen at EBC who are extremely unknowledgeable concerning the Acts of the Apostles and Jesus’ practices while on earth. They have heard all the stories and seen all the B- films on the disciples but have failed to make it personal (take ownership of…) the gifts of the Spirit in which the Father had in store for His people in the days of old and for today. The conversation never turned into debate; thank you Jesus. It was seemingly innocent pondering by a few young men who love God but don’t fully understand what it is He has for us.

As our road trip progressed the traffic ease became evident. Through the light rain and fog we could see a plethora of pairs of red lights at a stand-still about a quarter-mile ahead. We then spent about two-hours stuck in a bumper to bumper traffic jam and decided after reaching Albany that dinner sounded good to. Out of the overabundance of quality restaurants we chose Denny’s: it doesn’t get any more American then that. The place was insanely packed and it was palpable by the multiplicity of frustrated faces that we weren’t the only set of commuters that were stuck in that monotonous pile of vehicles for the better half of our afternoon. We all had our meals and chatted a bit about how excited we were to get home; we were on our way promptly. Andrew decided to get some directions from the bartender next door because according to our waitress she was like a human, “Map Quest.” I found this partially comical because their were a few drunks trying to help in the ordeal and Andrew listened to them. Believe it or not I was actually uncertain about trusting the directions from a mill worker with a scrappy mustache and mullet whom had just pounded down eight Budweiser’s and three whiskey sours, but Andrew trusted “her” so we went for it (insert laugh). But, in the end the drunks were right as usual (maybe not as usual, but they were right). We found our way from highway ninety-nine (the ol’ shortcut) to Portland and were off and going at full speed from their on out.

The arrival in Spokane was euphoric. I got into my friend Pat’s house at around one-thirty a.m. and was glad to just throw on my iPod and crash out on the couch. I didn’t wake up until half past seven, late bloomer. I had to prepare myself for my 11th annual Garry Park Turkey Bowl.

Quote taken from the Spokesman Review:

"Out on the wind-swept fields of Chief Garry Park, a motley neighborhood squal sketched out a rahter convulted and perhaps complicated play on the palms of their quickly numbing hands...across the line the opposing team-dressed in black jerseys and festooned with yellow plastic flags- grew restless and boisterous as the huddle dragged on and the scriptre play underwent several revisions...Now in its 19th year the Chief Garry Turkey Bowl, a very loosely orgainized battle for neighborhood bragging rights, pleased both the winnners and the losers-in large part because of the dearth of injuries...The beauty of the teams, alternately outfitted in sweats, camouflage shorts and Wrangler jeans, lies in thier free0wheeling approach...Despite the oath of good sportsmanship, the teams weren't averse to a little trash-talking..."

So yeah...that's what the paper said about the annual event.

I was just pumped to be able to see all my old neighborhood pals and get a chance to barrel a few sweet Touchdown passes down their throats. Afterwards I went down to the street to my aunt’s house where Thanksgiving Day Dinner soon followed.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays and I still don’t fully comprehend why that is. It is a day where we get together with people and eat until we’re sick; I just don’t really know if we need a specialized day-off for this sort of event. Isn’t that in a nut shell the, “history of America?” Overeating. I am constantly eager to bite into the flush green jello (Aunt Benita’s Specialty) and caramelized shotgunned stuffing (Uncle Denny’s Specialty). After two and a half heaping plates everyone was asking me about my thoughts about dessert; I responded with a belch, grunt, and stomach rub and answered respectively, “duh?” As I plowed through a small splice (huge chunk) of Pumpkin Pie I was thinking to myself; God, you are so friggin’ cool. I realized that regardless how many relatives I have left alive; I will always remember times like these. My Uncle Ray now seventy-three sitting in his normal seat at the head of the table and my uncle Denny sitting directly across from me, waiting on a chance to sneak a chunk of butter into my milk like he did last year. My aunt Benita, now sixty eight, constantly moving around trying to make sure everyone has what they need. And last but not least my cousins; head’s down and mouths open, shoveling food in their mouths like it’s a competition. That’s just a glimpse of my magnificent Thanksgiving. It sounds incredibly awkward and un-cool to most people; but to me it’s like, “Heck yeah, that’s the family!”

The day after thanksgiving was primarily spent whining about my cramped up legs from the game and my inconceivably insane stomach aches. I went over to my Uncle Ray’s house and we just sat and talked for three or four hours while Fox News blasted in the back ground. I am almost positive in that one sitting alone he put down two Budweiser’s and a pack of Pall Mall’s. Unk (nickname) has always been the one consistent person in my life, as far back as I can remember. He spent forty-five years of his life driving cross country as a furniture mover for Allied Van Lines; a truck driver. Regardless of the typical stereotypes that truckers get, my Unk is a diamond in the rough. He has been through every state at least four or five times and is honestly able to list off immediately any main highway or freeway leaving any major city in the U.S. I quiz him sometimes just to see if the old geezer losing his touch; he never fails me. When my father died my Unk went through a tremendously difficult time. Unk was the oldest of the four boys in his family: Butch (the youngest) was blown up by a landmine in Vietnam in 67’. Jon (my dad) died after a series of vicious strokes in 2001. Jim (the 2nd oldest) died of a stroke in 84’. It was ridiculously tough that he was the oldest and had watched all of his brothers and two of his sisters die. Yet, through that depressing time he never gave up on me and kept on encouraging me and challenging me to make more of my life. So, I helped him hang up some Christmas lights and that was about it for the day.

I spent all day Saturday just helping clean up my uncle’s place and then went to a movie with my best friend Patrick Malone. He and I have been friends since high school. Come to think of it I don’t know where we met; somewhere at school. Anytime I talk about an old story of mischief it most likely concerns him. During my rougher days he and I would cause some serious ruckus with anyone we could find; punks. But yeah, it was a crappy flick but a good night in general.

On Sunday I had breakfast with my mentor and his wife and son and Unk and Shari’s. My mentor and I have an incredible relationship and its cool when Unk can just come along and see that God is putting people in my life that care about me. I also drug Unk to church with me and by the time we came outside it was snowing like crazy so he decided to give his motorized wheelchair a test drive on the fresh powder; the rest is history. Pat picked me up around four o’clock and we went to Red Robin and had some Gourmet Cheeseburgers and fries; boy o’ boy those were some sweet burgers. Brian picked me up around six and we took off for Eugene and made the best time we’ve ever made. Spokane to Eugene in six hours and twenty-some odd’ minutes, that’s miraculous. Thank you Jesus for an awesome time with my family and friends and a safe trip there and back.

Until I travel again….


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Life Lately


I don’t know how else to explain the last month of my life. I have had some extreme highs and some tremendous lows. I went from getting to see my family for the first time in nine months to being plagued with incredibly debilitating migraines. I went from starting the most incredible job as the Associated Student Body Vice President to being involved in a run of the mill auto accident. It has been an eccentric last month or so to say the least; I cannot remember a time in my life where such joy was mixed with such pain and I must say that through it all God has been God; constant and unchanging in His love; regardless of how I may fail to see his grace at times its still new every morning.

I remember when I first gave my life to Christ how insane the choice seemed to my immediate family and closest friends. I can recall vividly conversations regarding the, “mistake” I was making; the fluke I was falling for. I am able to recite word-by-word the piercing comments and rants of exasperation from the best of friends; both young and old. “It’s a waste of time.” “It’s fake.” “There is nothing after this life; face it!” I have to honestly admit that although I may not have allowed it to take toll on me then but when I find myself in the lowest-of-lows, such memories plague me. When I am in the pit and feel stung by life I want nothing more than to hear the clear still voice of my Father, yet something is hindering me. It is seemingly my inability to tune out those painful words of discouragement, those rotten self-image-issues, those lies from the trench of hell that have a mysterious way of surrounding me like a cloud.

When life is in order and I feel like I am truly pushing through the discontent of everyday life I am somehow able to receive a second wind like a marathon runner and finish whatever the task is with immense strength and success. I don’t want to have such a mentality and strength only when life is ‘smooth’ and there is little ‘resistance.’ I desire to live a life of a godly man; but if my character is twisted and shifted so drastically with the minor details; how will I hold up when life really hits me hard again? As a sixteen-year-old youth I watched the only love of my life, my amazing father Jon Strength sit on a hospital bed and be fried by a series of eleven or so massive strokes. I watched on as my dad lost his movement on the left side, then the right, then he lost his vision, then he lost his ability to understand, then he lost his ability to speak, then he couldn’t even grab my hand. I watched as the doctors ran in and out with various machines and cables and power tools; I watched my dad be absolutely manhandled by every tool known to the medical field. Sixteen years old; I was alone. My family could never understand my pain; no one could. I didn’t even cry once for the first two months. I never missed a day of classes; none of my close friends had a clue. Then, one afternoon I was playing my playstation and it hit me that he was never going to walk through that door to give me a hug and kiss, to tell me he loved me, to hold me in his arms and tell me everything was going to be alright; that was over. My life was over as I knew it. That was pain.

Yet I sit here in the comfort now of my bible college dorm room with Christmas lights blinking away and my candle warmer putting off a bold pumpkin pie scent; some Michael Buble playing in the background, the light peeking in from behind my curtains. After a month of incredibly painful migraines; a car accident that has twisted me like a pretzel; and still the pain is there. But I know I can overcome this pain because God told me that He would never put me through something I couldn’t.

Truthfully I often find myself questioning God’s promises. When it’s two a.m. and I am rolling around on the floor of my dorm room in tears from the pain of yet another migraine; I wonder where God is. When my back went into spasms last night as a result from the extreme twisting and shifting it went through the night before; I was looking for God. I was searching for God in my discomfort; as was Job when he was tested. I haven’t so far and pray that I never would react as Job did to his ultimate pain and tribulations: “And whom God has hedged in? For my sighing comes before I eat, and my groanings pour out like water. For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me. And what I dreaded ahs happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet. I have no rest, for trouble comes (Job 3:24-26).” It’s known to all who read Job that his faithfulness to God was unblemished; but when true trials and tribulations came he crumbled. I wonder at times why I would be above that. Is it not true that pride come before the fall? I find myself quite comfortable at times in my failure to find contentment; bathing in my narcissism. It may happen behind a curtain but it does happen.

As life progresses and the good and the bad come I see that God is good and faithful despite how I am. He remains still through pain and quite through chaos; the opposite of all I seem to be. To rely on the opposite; to trust in that which doesn’t come natural; that is faith to me. When I look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith I am both comforted and concerned. Comforted in His love of me, comforted in the fact He would never leave me nor forsake me. I am concerned because His Word spoke of the persecution that would infect the saints: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2nd Timothy 3:12).” It wasn’t a suggestion that pain and strife would come; it was a guarantee. As assured I am in the face He came, died, and rose again. I am also assured in the truth that the worse of my struggles are still to come. I am ultimately content in this though: “He who is in you is greater that he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).”

I really feel like so often I want to cover up my flaws and discomforts from those who love me. But, I woke up this morning and realized that I’ve been telling myself that being real just bog’s others down; that is crazy. If I am going to go through this life and only talk about the good then I will appear just as I’ve been; fake. People can call me a downer or a whiner if they’d like but I’ve gone through my fair share of dramatically destructive events in my life and don’t feel like allowing all of my hurt, pain, and grief to go to waste. I heard it stated once at a youth summer camp that, “God will never waste suffering!” I couldn’t see it logical that a just, loving, and sovereign God would allow me to endure such hardships to not use the lessons learned to minister to those around me.

Ah, that was a really long blog.

I guess there is more to come. My life right now seems very scattered and disorganized. I want to just believe that everything is going smoothly but I can tell its not. I can honestly say I am struggling with life and the loads of junk that come with it. But struggling is part of the fight; I didn’t say I was giving up and I didn’t say I was losing, because I’m not quitting and I won’t lose. I read Revelation once: my side wins.

Catch Ya’ Later World,

I will blog more later when my hands regain feeling and circulation…

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Sho(u)t Heard Around the World

The day started beautifully and ended tragically.
Fruity Pebbles and Stumptown Coffee started my day... Frantic searching and not finding ended my day.
I lost a precious friend yesterday, one who's been there through thick and thin. Was never out of reach. Communicated clearly. I lost my pride and joy...

So yeah.
My phone somehow got lost between the car and the apartment. I was going from a quick Jack in the Box run to my ASB meeting. Somewhere in between, while never getting out of the car when I was out running around, I lost the phone.

So of course, what does one do when something essential is lost? They frantically search.

I searched my clothing. I searched my backpack. I tore my room to shreds. I searched the vehicle I was in for about 45 minutes. I had a friend search the vehicle. I walked to the apt. and searched around it. I searched the parking lot.



So the sucky part is that I jsut know this whole ordeal
is going to cost me phatty cash that I str8up dont have.
So yeah, keep me in your prayers. I hope I find that
dumb thing; that would be lame if it didnt show up.


Money I don't have to spend!

"all bout' the benjamins!"