Caught in a storm

I don’t know if I would really consider myself a runner, but I do enjoy it from time to time. It’s never something I do super consistently, but sometimes I just need to get away for a little while and move. Running often gives me that escape.

A few weeks ago, I decided to run a few miles in the rain. I love rain. It’s refreshing, crisp, and often peaceful. But that is not exactly what I experienced…

As soon as I left my house, I knew I should not have been out there. It was actually a pretty bad thunderstorm with pouring rain and heavy wind. But of course, me being who I am, I just kept on going without a care in the world.

About a mile in, the rain got worse. It was now pouring heavily, and the wind had picked up. It felt like the rain was coming at me from the side, and I couldn’t see very much in front of me. Every few seconds I heard crashes of thunder and it appeared as if the bolts of lightening were right in front of me. I can remember multiple firetrucks and ambulances rushing by me, most likely due to fires from the lightening. I remember thinking to myself: they must think I’m an idiot.

And all of a sudden, I was aware of the real danger I was in. Images of getting struck by lightening and trees falling over me began to flood my mind. I thought, how depressing it would be if I died because I was stupid enough to go running in this thunderstorm.

As I continued to look up at the sky, I thought to myself how this was just a glimpse of God’s power.

I remember saying, “God, you could take me right now. I am just a speck, and you have the power to destroy me.” I felt pretty small at that moment.

But then in the midst of everything, I felt at peace. As I was praying, I felt like the Lord was telling me that He doesn’t need a storm to destroy anything. He is God, and He has and will always have the power to do His will. If for some reason He wanted to crush me…He could, with or without a storm.

In that moment, I knew that I was in no more danger than any other time in my life. In fact, amidst the wind, pouring rain, and thunder, I almost felt safer. I was reminded of how powerful God is, but also how He cares for me and protects me.

Although I wouldn’t recommend messing with storms, God used this to show me that He is in control and that my worries and fears are so much smaller than He is. Though life often throws us many “storms,” I am continuously needing to remind myself who is in control of them.

The Day Chicago Killed My Car

 

I head back to Uruguay in less than two weeks, and I recently came to the realization that I hadn’t done anything spontaneous or crazy with my summer. I decided to change that. On a whim, I decided to drive to Chicago with my brother and two friends in order to see the US Men’s National Soccer team play in the Gold Cup Final at Soldier Field. When we bought the tickets, they still hadn’t qualified yet. But to our relief, they won their semi-final match, and we were going to see them play… a.k.a. I was going to see Landon Donovan in person. Sweet.

For the sake of clarity, here is a timeline of everything that happened in these 24 hours. My apologies, but this is not a short story:

 

5:30am: (Sunday morning): We wake up

6:00am: We left Hudson.

6:20am: We forgot the tickets in the kitchen, so we need to turn around. Crap.

6:40am: We leave Hudson again, round two.

7:30am: Breakfast burritos and coffee. Self-explanatory. My brother Tony drives from here, and I’m out for three hours.

11:20am: We arrive in Milwaukee to pick up my friend Adam. I take the wheel to drive the rest of the way.

12:00pm: We are about an hour outside of Chicago when traffic starts to slow down. This is okay, because the game starts at 3pm. Of course we would be fine…

1:15pm: Emergency bathroom break in possibly the most disgusting bathroom I have ever seen, in some random Chicago suburb.

2:10pm: We arrive in Downtown Chicago, and traffic is barely moving.

2:45pm: We are within a mile from Soldier Field, and we begin to see smoke coming from the engine, accompanied by a horrible smell of burning plastic. The heat gauge is as high as it can go. Words were exchanged, words that I will choose not to repeat here…

3:10pm: The match starts. We are still at least a half mile from the stadium. I am forced to constantly turn the engine on and off in-between stops in an effort to get to the parking lot before the engine dies.

3:40pm: We finally arrive at the parking lot (recap: it has now taken 45 minutes to travel one mile). The engine has neither caught on fire nor has it stalled. Obviously we decide to go to the game and let the engine cool down.

3:43pm: We realize we have to walk 17 minutes to get to Soldier Field (even though we are in one of the official stadium lots, so you can imagine we are a little annoyed).

4:00pm: We arrive at the stadium, the game is in-between periods.

4:10pm: The second half starts about 10 seconds before we take our seats.

4:33pm: USA scores in the 68th minute (the only goal of the match). We go crazy.

4:05pm: The game ends, USA wins 1-0. It was a miracle that we were even able to see a full half, not to mention the winning goal. We stay to watch the award ceremony.

5:00pm: We leave, and meet up with a couple other friends to find a place to eat.

5:45pm: After a lot of walking, we find a pizza place that wasn’t full of fans.

6:30pm: I call my Dad during dinner to explain the car problems (the car belongs to him). He gives me a few possible ideas to try when we get back to the car.

7:30pm: We finish dinner, and walk the 1.5 miles back to the lot.

8:00pm: We return to the car and check the coolant: it’s empty, so we decide we need to drive to a gas station to buy some to replace it.

8:15pm: We buy coolant, fill up the tank, and we’re set. Problem solved. We begin driving home.

8:30pm: We run into traffic again on I-90, things are at a stand-still (right next to the Chicago skyline).

8:35pm: More smoke from the engine. The heat gauge is back up again. We decide we need to do our best to get out of the city, and then check the engine later. Tensions are high.

8:45pm: All of a sudden the engine dies while we are at a stand-still in the center lane. We are stuck, in the middle of thousands of cars. I put the flashers on.

8:46pm: To my relief, the car starts again. I immediately cut through two lanes of traffic to get in the right lane (There is no shoulder where I can pull over).  The right lane is moving now, and there is an exit up ahead. I take the exit, and even though the engine is still smoking, the car is running.

8:48pm: The exit ramp takes me back into downtown Chicago, and I see an area on the right where I can pull off. As soon as I move the car to the right, the engine dies for a second time. We knew this was it.

8:56pm: After discussing for a little while, we decide that I need to call Triple A (we have a membership, but I had never had to use it before).

9:10pm: After a lot of time on the phone, we get a tow truck to come. We continue to discuss the situation.

9:15pm: I call me Dad, and he suggests renting a car because no one knows when the car will be fixed. We decide that we need to leave the car in Chicago and rent a car to get home.

9:25pm: After a few calls, we learn that the only rental car places in the city close at 10pm. We realize there is no way we can make it.

9:30pm: After calling Triple A again, we learn that the rental car companies at O’hare Airport are open 24 hours.

9:35pm: Triple A calls me to tell me the tow truck should be there within an hour.

9:40pm: We decide to split up: My brother Tony and my friend Adam leave the car to find a taxi and go to O’hare to get a rental car. My friend Josh and I stay in the car and wait for the tow truck.

10:00pm: Adam calls to let us know they found a taxi and are on their way to the airport.

10:15pm: The tow truck arrives, and within 15 minutes we are in route to an auto repair place 5 miles away. The next 20 minutes include one of the more ridiculous conversations of my life while the tow truck driver, Gerry, talks about everything from not understanding soccer to which clothes you shouldn’t wear during a heat wave.

10:35pm: We arrive at the shop. We leave the car, fill out information, grab all personal items from the car, tip Gerry, and say goodbye. Then we wait.

10:36pm: Adam calls to say they will arrive at the auto shop in about 30 minutes. Josh and I decide to go find a beverage while we wait.

11:05pm: The rental car arrives, and we are on our way home. My brother Tony has to drive the whole 6 hours because the car is in his name.

12:30am (Monday): We stop in Milwaukee to drop off Adam. He needs to wake up for work in 4 hours.

12:50am: We stop at Taco Bell, because it’s time for fourth meal. I decide to stay awake the rest of the trip to make sure my brother doesn’t fall asleep driving. Josh is out for the rest of the trip. I blame Taco Bell.

5:45am: We finally arrive back in Hudson, 24 hours later, and only about four hours behind schedule. We crash in the basement and sleep until noon.

 

Conclusion: Chicago traffic killed my car (it’s actually fine now, just a 200 dollar repair).

Sailing

There is nothing like being out in the middle of a lake, alone, and having only the wind to push you along.

To me, that’s freedom.

I don’t consider myself a real sailer, but I am a “small-boat sailer.” And I love it. I own a two-person sailboat which I dabble with from time to time, just for fun. In fact, the last time I went sailing, the winds were too powerful for my boat to handle. Despite reaching an all-time high speed, I almost snapped the mast. You could say that I’m still learning.

But more than anything, I like to go sailing because it’s an escape. It is a means to get away from the world and connect with the outdoors, even just for a little while.

When I’m out there, I’m free.

There is something liberating about being out on open water, letting the sail out, feeling it fill with air, and suddenly being pulled by an incredible force: a force that can do anything from gently carrying you along, to throwing you into the water.

But the truth is that I need this. I need an escape from the world; the world that tells me I need to perform, that I need to impress, and that I can do better than others. I need to get away and remember that more important things exist.

I need a place where I can experience and connect with God.

For me, it often requires physically leaving the confines of the city and getting out into the wonder of creation. If I don’t do this from time to time, I will get lost in the business and work of everyday life.

My soul needs this. Every so often I find myself in a place where I have  had enough, and I need to get away. I need rest, but not just physical rest; an emotional and spiritual rest.

Our souls need recharging, and sometimes we simply don’t get what we need, so we need to be intentional. If I’m not intentional about taking time like this, it simply won’t happen. And then all of a sudden I find myself worn down, tired, and burnt out.

We all have things like this, outlets that help us to escape for a short time. For some it might be sitting down with a good book, and for others it might mean jumping off of waterfalls. But either way, I believe we need these things in order to stay healthy.

And so if you’re at a loss for how you can get away and be free, I might suggest sailing…

The meaning of goodbye

Saying goodbye has never been something I have struggled with, but lately I have been saying a lot of them. Too many. I spent the past year in South America, and in less than a month I will be heading back; with no idea what the future will hold and not knowing who I will or will not see again. Normally I just let’s things happen; being pretty adaptable to change, not clinging to the past, ready for whatever’s next.

But this is different.

I spent the last year far away from friends and family, and I have come to realize this trend is going to continue. It is finally starting to hit me that the majority of people I have gotten to know up until this point in my life will never see me again. I suppose everyone goes through a stage like this at some point after college, and for me this is just beginning to sink in.

But in the midst of all of this, I have an image I like to dwell on: an image that gives me hope for what is to come. It’s found in one of my favorite worship songs of all time:

For His returning we watch and we pray

We will be ready the dawn of that day

We’ll join in singing with all the redeemed

’cause Satan is vanquished and Jesus is King.

(Sing to The King, Billy Foote)

When I think about that third line, I always see an image: a sea of millions of people, stretching across the landscape. Too many to count, too many to see, all praising The Lord in heaven.

I believe this to be a reality that will happen someday. This means I will be reunited with those I care about, those I’ve lost, and all of those close to me that have also put their faith in this reality. This is an image I like to think about often…

So although saying goodbye might be difficult, there is a silver lining: a beautiful hope for a new and perfect world for those who call on the name of The Lord.

This morning, when I said goodbye to a few friends (for what could be a very long time), this is the reason why I was not sad. Truthfully, there is a very good chance we will see each other within the next few years, but we can’t really know that. No one knows the future, and no one knows when their time will come. But one thing I do know is that after this life we will see each other in a perfect world where there is no pain or suffering. That is the hope I cling to, and that is why goodbye never really means goodbye.

And for those people in my life who have never heard of this hope that I so strongly cling to, I suppose the indefinite time I have left on this earth has been given to me to help share the invitation.

The most important story in my life

I grew up going to church every Sunday. Sunday school, youth group, conferences, all of that. I never doubted the existence of God or blamed him for anything. But for me, religion was simply a nice thing that could complement my life when needed.

When I was in high school, I started drinking. I was curious. I heard it was fun, and I wanted to see for myself. I got to a point where I would lie to my parents and go partying on the weekend, only to show up at school on Monday again as the nice, church-going model-student.

When I arrived at college, I was even more excited for the freedom I would have, whether that included drinking, drugs, or messing around with girls. But after about a month of living in the dorms, for the first time in my life I felt empty. The people I was hanging out with only hung out to get drunk. Everything seemed like a facade.  I knew something was missing, but I didn’t know what it was, so I continued doing what I knew…

One night in the dorms when I was pretty drunk, someone invited me to a bible study. For the first time in my life I was excited to go to something like that. I was searching. I was desperate. I ended up going that next week and the guys immediately embraced me. They were fun, real, and they accepted me for who I was.

Right away, one of my new friends met with me to check in. He shared with me what it meant to be a Christian and why Jesus died on the cross. Even though I had heard all of that stuff before, for the first time in my life I understood… that Jesus paid the price on my soul that would have cost me my life, for eternity. I learned that his death on the cross, was payment for my debt. I remember saying, “why didn’t anybody tell me this before?”

That day, I decided to give my life to Jesus Christ… Forever.

After that, God began to drastically change my life. That summer he brought me to South Carolina on a summer missions trip where I experienced genuine community for the first time and learned how to share my faith. Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel around the world to share my faith with people who are desperately looking for an answer.

Even though I always knew who Jesus was, it took a personal encounter to actually know him. I’m so thankful that my friend decided to share with me what he found so valuable in Jesus, and I want to devote my life to doing the same.