Brokenness

I’m so saddened, so broken hearted, so speechless right now. A man is dead and another man’s life is effectively ended.

Late Saturday a young man I know. A young man who not only works for me but that I felt especially close to, killed another man. There is so much more to this event than I will ever know. I can’t even begin to find the words to try to understand why or how this could have happened, but it did. He pulled a weapon and shot a man. Now that man is dead.

What is even more tragic is that these men are all related by blood, of the same race and live in the same neighborhood. There is a depth of loss so profound in this particular community, this particular family, that it defies comprehension.

I am a man so on the outside of this. I tell these young men often that while I may understand on some level the prejudices, bigotry and economic hardships they live under better than the average “white guy”, I am sincere in my belief that I wouldn’t last five minutes in their world. I can only sympathize on many levels. Empathy is unobtainable for me in so many way for what they deal with, the manner in which they have been brought up and the thought processes that color so much of how they view the world and react to that same world.

This young man had so much promise. Twenty-two years old just this past Friday. We celebrated his birthday with cards and cake and a lot of good natured ribbing. He was hamming it up for the girls and enjoying being the center of attention. He had just been handed additional responsibilities in his job and was rising to the occasion beautifully. I could see such a great future for him.  With the crack of a pistol report, it’s gone. It’s all gone.

So much of the news these past few months has been about the inordinate amount of police misconduct in and amongst black communities. Ironically, even as a white man, I get profiled by local police because of the car I drive passing through particular neighborhoods in route to my own home in a suburban, middle class, neighborhood in a bedroom community of the capital city of Mississippi. The cry has been, “Black lives matter”, and most certainly, indeed they do. I spend the majority of my life with people of a different race than me. That doesn’t earn me any special favors or variances but does allow me to see first hand the struggles of others. I have dedicated myself to helping the men who work for me to see greater things for themselves and their families. I care about them because they work for me but more so, I care about their families. Their kids and wives or girlfriends. Their grandmothers or grandfathers, who are, many times, the only ones who have shown these men they are cared for to any level. I care what happens to them and seek to guide them, when allowed, into a life where God is central and the world is secondary.

So as I sit here and mourn the loss of this man’s life, present and future and the loss of his relatives earthly life, I am struck by the irony of this latest marching slogan. “Black lives matter”. They have always mattered. Not just when white cops shoot black men in the back or any of the other dozens of tragic events we’ve seen played out on the evening news all over the country. Black lives mattered for the decades of black on black crimes that have preceded our current reality fascination fix of racial inequality. Where was the black lives matter cry then. Where was it in this community, in it’s psyche last Saturday when two men, two relatives, two black men thought so little of each others lives that they tried to end each others lives to such a devastating and heart wrenching result.

Sadly, there is no easy answer or profound words to be spoken that will change the hearts of man. We are a broken people, living in a broken world and there but by the grace of God go I.

Brokenness, brokenness, brokenness. All is brokenness. I weep for you my friend. For a life squandered, a family broken, a hope unrealized. Brokenness, brokenness, brokenness. All is brokenness.

Washing Your Down Gear

Washing camping and hiking gear that is composed of down such as sleeping bags, jackets or quilts can be intimidating or even a bit mystifying. This is a video blog on how to properly hand wash your down gear and have it clean, bring back the loft of the down and restore the insulative wonderfulness that is down filled gear.

I hope you find this useful.

Tarps, Tieouts and Stormy Weather Testing

Just a video on some new additions, a tutorial on tieout set up and some stormy weather testing in the Membrane Sil tarp.

Working this weekend on a video review of a new pack knife I have acquired and a video tutorial on cleaning your down gear.  Lots of work to do and so little time to put it together.

Enjoy

And a hush fell over the crowd…

Literally. I was a little taken aback by the silence of visitors to the blog over the past few days and wondered aloud although to myself if it was the topic choices for the last few posts or just a general malaise in readership.

I have to believe it is the subject matter. Now, let me be very careful here. I’m fine with the silence on some levels. I suppose I’m not unlike most anyone who has a blog. One would be encouraged by visits and likes and comments and subscriptions. I am a man, and unfortunately at times, a man with a level of pride.  So when things went silent in this particular part of my world, I reflected instead of reacting.

The question to myself was why do I even have the blog. I started it to get somethings out of my head and in a format that I could share with others and refer back to for myself and hopefully say, I helped someone with my thoughts and words. I believe there is a level of narcissism in every blogger. What we have to say is important enough to take the time to craft it and write it. So it must be important to others because, well, we thought of it, wrote it and shared it with the greater world.

Is what I have to say really that important? In matters of hiking and hammocks, am I really going to change the life of another person in a significant manner? Who knows, but in my own estimation, not likely. In matters of sharing my life experiences, is that really going to do anything for another person other than perhaps make them laugh, either at me or with me, or say to themselves, “I hear ya brother. Been there, seen that, got the T-shirt”. I can spend a great deal of time talking on several topics about which I have a world of experience and knowledge by the sheer fact of my age and time put in.  Will any of that change someones life in a significant manner? Sincerely? I doubt that.

In matters of faith, I feel differently. I have to. I have every reason to believe that the sharing of the Gospel, the good news, is that revolutionary, that life altering, that eternity changing that for me to not speak about it or on it would be a tragedy. I mean, how much would I need to hate someone to withhold something that could improve their life here, now and offer them an eternity as well? Take heaven out of it and just look at the emotional, psychological and practical benefits of following Christ. How much must I hate someone, anyone, everyone to keep that to myself and just hope they make it through?  You say you don’t hate people and I believe you but do you keep silent if you see someone about to walk obliviously in front of a bus? Or drink something you know to be lethal? I think you wouldn’t. I hope you wouldn’t.

Postings about my faith aren’t about what I’m doing right then. They are about who I am. Faith is not what I do. It is who I am. It affects and informs every part of my life both casual and serious. The other stuff I post on is what I’m doing. Faith is what I am being. There is a huge difference.

This post was not an opportunity to vent or wag my digital finger at the world of WordPress and it’s bloggers. More to reassure and reaffirm why I even bother doing this. I want to share some of who I am. The narcissist, the outdoors-man, the tinkerer, the philosopher, and the man of faith. If that helps someone then, wow, what a bonus. If no one reads this or a million people read it, then so be it. In the end, the only person I owe an explanation to is God above. That day is coming, sooner than I would like, or perhaps not soon enough some days. He is my rock and my fortress. My ever present help. His steadfast love endures forever. I want everyone to know Him as I know Him and I want to know Him more deeply today than yesterday.

So, I’ll keep talking. Hopefully, someone will listen. In the hush….I KNOW God is listening.

If you believe…God cares about me.

If you really believe what you say you believe, it will affect what you do.

Have you ever wondered if God really loves you? Have you thought to yourself or perhaps stated it out loud; why would He love someone like me?  Have you asked yourself this question in the last year? The last month or week? Did you ask this question of yourself today?

I believe that as men we want and desperately need to feel like God’s much loved sons – that He knows what we’re going through, that He loves us in spite of ours sins, and that He cares – really cares – about us personally.

This is a difficult concept for many men in the church. We believe that God loves us but we don’t believe He could ever like us. Twisted, I know. We are taught from infancy that God is love, He loves everyone and on and on. We see His love as part of His character, his very essence. However, we are quick to dissect that part of His being that would say that He would genuinely like us. That His knowledge of what we are going through is not just informational or factual but intimate understanding. He gets us. What we think. How we think. Why we think what we think. That it’s personal for Him when it comes to us, to me, to you.

Patrick Morley, in his book, Man Alive, recounts an exchange with a friend where he relates that he, Patrick, is convinced that God loves him and what’s more He delights in him, is pleased with him and genuinely likes him. His friend looks at him like he has three heads and states that he, the friend, could understand that God could love him but never that he liked him.

How foreign is this thought to you in your life? Most men feel the way Patrick’s friend felt. God loves me but He could never like me. I’m too flawed. He could never like someone that does and thinks the things that I have done and thought. Sigmund Freud used the term “morally despicable” to describe this feeling. We know too much about ourselves and not enough about God’s grace. I tell people often that I’m a generally self-aware kind of dude. I’m brutally honest about myself with myself. I am keenly aware of my faults and motives. I don’t self delude on that topic, but I’m just as guilty as the next man of believing I can separate God’s love from His grace and care for me. In fact, this is impossible. God cares deeply about me, about what I am going through and He wants me to know that He doesn’t just have answers for the problems but that He has my back as well. He is my friend. He likes me in spite of how I treat Him.

What does God’s word say on this? More than I have space or time to write about here, but here are a few just to prove the point.

1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”

1 John 4:10 “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

Romans 5:5 “For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

1 Peter 5:7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he Cares about you.”

So if I believe that God’s word is true and that what He says to me in that word is real…I can know that he loves me. So let’s say you’re there. There’s one more key question: Can you really ever fully trust God to take care of you? As Morley says in Man Alive, “It’s one thing to believe that God loves you as one among many. It’s another thing altogether to trust that God knows what you’re going through, that He cares, and that He has the power and desire to watch over you personally.”  This is the crux of the issue for men in this relationship with God.

It is my belief that I can. If I look at past experiences and remember what He has done just for me then that should, could be enough. If I take God’s word and use that as proof alone then I have that to rely on. If I look at those around me and take their testimony as being sincere then that should be enough as well. All of that together is what I am taking into account. For me, right now, I am becoming more and more convinced that God loves me. That He delights in me and that I am pleasing to Him. What’s more, that He genuinely likes me.

If you really believe what you say you believe…..

God, help my unbelief.

Believe and trust. God cares for you. He does love you. He does like you. He really likes you. Come home.

If you believe….

I’ve been involved in teaching and ministry for a large portion of my life. The key desire in my work with students and with men is that they be sincere about where they are in a relationship with Christ. That is to say, I have them continually answer one question on a virtually daily basis. “IF you really believe, what you say you believe, it will affect what you do”. I am confronted and convicted by the answer to that single question daily with regard to my relationship with Jesus Christ. What I say I believe has to match up with what I think, how I react to the world around me and the manner in which I act and the ultimate feet applied to that action.

The fact is this is a general question and can be applied to all manner of aspects of a persons life. Business processes and procedures, personal philosophies, parenting, science, and the list goes on. There is nothing particularly spiritual in the statement but the application of the truth behind it can profoundly affect how you approach your faith.

My desire has always been for students and men alike to “own” their faith in a way that is at once truthful and deeply personal. If I believe what I say I believe about gravity, I don’t take long walks off the top of five story buildings. The belief is that gravity will have its way with me and I will not be happy with the outcome. As they say, it isn’t the fall that hurts you, but the sudden stop at the end.

If I believe what I say I believe about God, His word, His promises, how He relates to me, then it will have a profound affect on what I say and do in this world. I have no problem with persons who deny God. This is a personal choice and one I will respect. My heart breaks for the choice made but I can respect it if they act in accordance to what they say they believe. I want the same level of conviction and honesty from those who claim the name of Jesus Christ. Let me carefully and clearly state that I don’t expect believers to be perfect because we aren’t and we can’t this side of heaven. However, I do want believers to be honest about how they are walking, and as stated before, “own it”.

Pride is a particular issue for me as is lust of the eyes and desires of the heart. I know this and seek the grace of God on a daily basis and generally have victory over these matters through the profound beneficence of a holy and living God. On those times when I fail, I can, almost without exception, trace the weak spot back to a moment where I consciously chose to believe or not believe what God has taught or told me about His own character, desires or promises to me regarding any matter. If I am tempted to a particular sin and chose to give into that I have believed something other than the truth or I have denied the truth entirely. The temptation is not a sin. Christ himself was tempted in every way as any other man, yet was without sin.

It is not just the believing but the right believing, the understanding and application of sound belief that is so key. With that in mind I will have a series of posts to follow and share that I hope will be beneficial to every reader including myself. Drawing from music, scripture and other dialogues that inspire the process to help us both to seek God more earnestly, more profoundly, and more deeply.  I hope you’ll come along for the ride and that God will bless us both richly in our collective walks.