starving for substance

Ouch

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 26, 2009

I’m pretty accident prone.  I’ve also never been hurt doing something masculine.  Here’s a fun little rundown of major things…or just the majorly stupid things.

6th Grade:  I used to take gymnastics, and one day before the session started, we were kicking these blocks of foam around that was by a foam pit.  Well there was this high bar at one end of the pit and we were at the other end trying to kick the blocks of foam over the bar.  I took a swing, missed the block entirely, and ended up fracturing my toe.

I figured this was the end of my injuries, but then things changed.

June 2006:  I was teaching a swimming lesson in a rather shallow pool.  I was demonstrating the butterfly and for some reason, as I was swimming, my shoulder popped out of it’s socket.  So yes, a group of kids taking a swimming lesson see their teacher get taken away in an ambulance.

November 2006:  I used to be in a dodgeball league with some friends.  At the gym we were playing at, there was this I-beam that was supporting the ceiling (it’s hard to describe).  I had been playing a game called “Splinter Cell” where the main character is this stealthy superhero capable of climbing things exactly like this.  So I decided to imitate him and was surprised at how easy it was to climb.  I got really high up, got my foot stuck in some padding, and decided to jump down.  I ended up breaking my 2nd and 3rd metatarsal, needed surgery to correct the 3rd one, and got some minor nerve damage in the process.

June 2007:  My shoulder pops out again, this time I was on break racing another instructor in breaststroke.  Once again, the patrons at the pool get to see a lifeguard/swim teacher get taken away in an ambulance.

February 2008:  I sat down to take a test and apparently had a tonic-clonic seizure.  So my memory goes like this.  I sit down ready to get my test, I wake up really confused in the hospital.  Apparently the first words out of my mouth were “Aw crap, this is going to cost a lot.”

June 2008:  I’m making fun of someone, step off a curb, and sprain my ankle.  It doesn’t fully heal until December of 2008.

January 2009:  I jumped off a stairwell and sprained my knee.  I’m actually really thankful because as I was in the air, I had time for two thoughts.  1) Wow, this was a lot higher up than I first thought.  2) Shoot, I really hurt myself the last time I did something like this.

I’m still waiting for the time I get hit by saving the life of some poor grandma too slow to cross the street.  My goal for this year is to stay out of the hospital.  History is not on my side…

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Shutup

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 23, 2009

Today I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while.  Catching up with him, he told me he was carjacked at gunpoint early last semester.  Naturally, I’m relieved he’s safe, but on the other hand, there’s this 16 year old kid potentially facing a minimum of 20 years in jail.  There are parents that could not be reached when their 16 year old son carjacked a kid and got in a high speed chase with the law.  Naturally, the business majors don’t have a solution.  But neither does anyone else.

What makes me sick is that business majors are seen to be cruel and heartless bastards.  That people in much nobler pursuits look down on us for not caring about the world, not understanding the plight of the everyman.  There’s no way we can ever be enlightened or open-minded enough to ever grasp the subtle and complex issues our society has to deal with.

Get off your high horse.  This moral arrogance is the thing prolonging the problem.

Good to Be Back

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 20, 2009

It’s so nice to be back with the roommates, and being able to have absolutely idiotic conversations.

Kevin:  I’m going to be Steve’s secretary since he’s going to be a CPA and be all busy.
Paul:  You don’t have any aspirations of your own Kevin?
Kevin:  Why would I want aspirations?  You only need that for headaches and heart-attacks.

And another one.

Me:  How was your Italian beef?
Kevin:  Meh
Me:  Where’d you get it from?
Kevin:  Jewel-Osco
Me:  Oh, you guys have that down there [he’s from “southern” Illinois]?
Kevin:  Yeah, his name is Jewel, he lives three doors down.
Me:  Did he keep it in his icebox?
Kevin:  How did you know?  It’s cutting edge technology.  He spent his life savings on it.  But he’s got a good government job.
Me:  What does he do?
Kevin:  Pony express rider.

[This was all deadpanned, by the way]

It’s like that all day 🙂

Dairy Queen

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 17, 2009

In high school, my friend worked at a Dairy Queen.  During music theory, we would devise concoctions and after school sometimes I would go over and buy them.  One cool thing we made was a triple-dip dip cone.  A layer of chocolate, a layer of caramel, and another layer of chocolate.  This was all covered with sprinkles.  My favorite was when Dairy Queen used to have this “Strawberry Cheesequake” blizzard (they still might).  My friend would load the cup with cheesecake and just a little bit of ice cream, hence creating the “Strawberry Stevequake” (this might also explain why I have a weight related new year’s resolution).

The moral of the story is that when you’re hopelessly into yourself, it’s good to have a friend that works at Dairy Queen.

Book #1 Is Done

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 17, 2009

Well one of my new year’s resolutions is going on track but don’t worry, I just had dinner at a buffet so another is probably at risk.  Somehow, in between cramming the Old Testament into my brain and a car ride to and from the east coast in which I was only able to read one chapter of 1 Samuel, I was able to finish a book.  So this post will be my report of the book Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller.

Donald Miller is pretty popular from his other book, Blue Like Jazz, and that’s how I became acquainted with the man.  While I find Blue Like Jazz much more readable than this one, I also have to say that this is probably the last book of his I read for a while.  His style just seems a little too introspectively gloomy, and it’s just been a little too much to stomach.  That being said, I still think this is a great book for a couple reasons.

For one, it’s an excellent portrayal of the gospel.  One thing I like about Miller is his insight into things.  He’s always seeing things from a different angle that casts a refreshing perspective on things.  And so the way he describes the fall of man, Jesus, the gospel, it’s all really well (and cleverly in some instances) done.  His chapter on Jesus and the other on the gospel are well worth the price of the book.  And I borrowed this from the library, so it was an even better deal.

Another reason I liked this book was he again challenges evangelicals to re-examine the way they engage the culture.  The last 50 pages or so can be incredibly rebuking to some and “well duh” to others.  Either way, it’s a good read.

Some excerpts that I enjoyed:

I’ve never heard of a homosexual group trying to take over the world, or for that matter the House or the Senate, but I can point you to about fifty evangelical organizations who are trying to do exactly that…I do not believe a person can take two issues from Scripture, those being abortion and gay marriage, and adhere to them as sins, then neglect much of the rest and call himself a fundamentalist or even a conservative.  The person who believes the sum of his morality involves gay marriage and abortion alone, and neglects health care and world trade and the environment and loving his neighbor and feeding the poor is, by definition, a theological liberal, because he takes what he wants from Scripture and ignores the rest.

There was also an interesting sentence that compared Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well to a well known evangelical walking into a gay bar and asking a guy to buy him a drink.  I really like the way Miller questions the involvement of Christians in their own communities, and paints such a good picture of who Jesus is and shows how Christians today are not like Him.

Imagine how much a man’s life would be changed if he trusted that he was loved by God?  He could interact with the poor and not show partiality, he could love his wife easily and not expect her to redeem him, he would be slow to anger because redemption was no longer at stake, he could be wise and giving with his money because money no longer represented points, he could give up on formulaic religion, knowing that checking stuff off a spiritual to-do list was a worthless pursuit, he would have confidence and the ability to laugh at himself, and he could love people without expecting anything in return.  It would be quite beautiful, really.

This was probably my favorite paragraph in the book.  Just a wonderful picture of what the world has the potential to look like.

…we are, perhaps, even more obsessed, in the church, with the stuff culture is obsessed with.  We are hardly providing an alternative worldview.  The mantra seems to be “Trust in Jesus!  He will redeem you to the world.”

I had to add this in because it was so Piper-esque. 🙂

One thing I don’t like about this book is how he will use extremely long illustrations to prove a menial point.  Sometimes the anecdotes are good, other times it’s just a little frustrating to keep up with everything.  He also stresses that denominations don’t matter as long as a person has a personal relationship with Jesus.  I believe that this is true to an extent, but that is too much of a blanket statement to be entirely true.  Since we come from so many different experiences and places, there is a tendency to view this relationship in different ways, and various denominations or sects might influence the way the relationship is perceived.  I’d like someone to argue this with me though.

Sorry this was such a piss -poor entry, I’m fighting food coma and am only writing this because I feel compelled to stay accountable on how this reading thing is going.  It also forces me to learn something from it by interacting with the text.  But if you have some extra time, this is an excellent book for both Christians and seekers.  A short, easy read.

Next book on the list is E.M. Bounds on Prayer.  I think this is where the resolution gets thrown off its track…

Humbled

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 16, 2009

Man, sometimes I get so caught up in the heat of the moment I forget who God is.

Hear the Need

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 14, 2009

I was at the gym a couple nights ago, and one of the things I like about this gym is that it’s open 24 hours.  Actually, that’s the only thing I like about this gym.  I don’t think I do enough steroids to actually enjoy that place (X-Sport for all you Libertyville people (who don’t read this anyways so moot point)).  Since it was so late, the music coming over the speakers was pretty clear and I caught the lyrics to this song called “Believe” by The Bravery.  Here’s a link for the song (embedding is disabled).  What really stuck out to me was the chorus.

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

It’s heart-wrenching to listen to lyrics like this, to the hopelessness in someone’s heart.  The fact that I grew up mainly listening to classical music and the fact that high school literature made me consider songwriters as inferior writers and not worth listening to (I’m a recovering arrogant prick), the lyrics in songs were never something I really considered.  I just figured they were beneath me.  And I still think this is true to a certain degree.  If I want poetry, I’m not going to listen to the Jonas Brothers.  Even RATM needs to STFU at certain instances (“they” were justified in blaming Islam for the murder of Malcolm X.  Read his autobiography).

Shortly after hearing this song, I was listening to probably one of my favorite albums, “A Ghost is Born” by Wilco.  It’s wonderfully simple, and I think that’s where most of its elegance comes from.  On a side note, ever realize how flowery prose can make crappy music sound awesome?  “The rhythmic counterpoint of Hannah Montana beautifully interplays with the range and timbre of her voice.”  That doesn’t even make sense but it makes her sound awesome.  A little music theory vocab goes a long way.  But anyways, I was listening to Wilco and in a song they were singing about theologians who don’t know nothing about Jeff Tweedy’s soul.

Whether I like it or not, there is so much of our own culture reflected in popular music these days, and while I always acknowledged this fact, I never realized how blatant the message was.  I remember joking with some people about how no one goes up to you and says “What must I do to be saved?” yet right here, the message is almost as explicit.

In the words of Rage Against the Machine, “Wake Up.”

One Look Back, Two Steps Forward

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 12, 2009

I like making clever little titles with multiple meanings.  It makes me feel like I’m smart or something like that.  Yet after making this title, I rather like it.  While 2008 was good and all, there’s still so much to learn and so much to hope for in this coming year.

2008 was bookended by a couple retreats.  I left for OIL 2008 on January 1 and got back from AF1 on December 31.  To actually sit down and think about everything that has happened in between that time is mind boggling.  If there was a common theme in 2008, it was growth.  This was the first year that I can say that through it all, I consistently grew in my Christian walk.  OIL was really something that brought it all together, Mexico went on to change my life, and ending everything at AF1 made me take a step back and realize how far God had taken me in just one short year.

2008 was the first year where I seriously started to question my aspirations for good jobs, good grades, and whatever else school encouraged us to live for.  Again, there’s nothing wrong with these things, but for these to be the sole purpose to live our life seemed so wrong.  Going to J-Gen stirred something within me.  It was not just my first time leading a small group, but my first time back at a retreat where the last time I was there, was convinced that God and church were a part of my life that needed to go.  These stirrings became even stronger as the year went on, and finally at AF1, I really felt what it means to live for treasures in Heaven.

As I look back, I realize how all I did was take little baby steps yet God was willing to use even that.  In Isaiah, the only requirement God needed to use Isaiah was that Isaiah simply had a willing heart to go.  I’m really in wonderment at all God was able to do in my life in just one short year and can honestly say I’m excited for what 2009 has in store.

I know that was a broke recap, but there’s simply not much left to say.  I can’t really say that I was the one that made this year what it was, God was just able to use me and I’m only able to stand here in awe of what He has done.

Killing Time and a Book Review

Posted in Uncategorized by starvingsteve on January 2, 2009

As 2008 winded itself to a close, I found myself on the couch watching “The Office” on DVD and trying not to throw up.  AF1 (Chicagoland youth retreat), while incredible, left me with a cold and the stomach flu.  Let me tell you, it’s definitely not fun when you have a particularly nasty bout of diarrhea only to stand up and vomit into that wonderful porcelain throne.  With that intro out of the way, the reason why I’m mindlessly typing is because I can’t sleep because diarrhea is a cruel mistress, so while I await her call, I’ll jot some things down that have been on my mind.

[Edit] This entry was finished about a day after this incident [/Edit]

A couple things to write about include AF1, a book I finished reading, and a recap of the year 2008.  However, the first and the last need more time to think about.  The middle, not so much.

So I finished reading Don’t Waste Your Life, and it is one of the best books I have ever read.  My mom gave it to me on my 17th birthday, and 4.5 years later I finally get around to reading it.  In a word, “wow.”  While still a Christian, the whole question of “What are we living for?” was bouncing around in my head for some time.  I knew that we live for the glory of God, for God, yada yada yada the list goes on and on.  Textbook answers don’t suffice when the question of life is brought up.  I needed some more relevance than just a rote answer, and this book provided it.

To summarize, I’m going to use three paragraphs that really jumped out to me, and I feel capture the essence of the book.  Or life.

I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.” At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life – your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.

Being a business major, I get to spend a lot of time observing business students (I hope this is the revolutionary insight you’ve come to expect from me).  In many of them, I’ve witnessed incredible drive and ambition, all for the purpose of getting a nice job once they graduate, which will hopefully lead them to better better paying jobs. I know that there are other things we could also do during that time period, but I find it interesting that many businesses provide other means of service opportunities as a way for their employees to “get involved” in their communities.  This runs counter to the philosophy (and my belief) that for corporations to exist, they must benefit the society they exist in, since obviously they must do more than just exist.  A sort of social contract, if you will.  Yet the existence of these community involvement opportunities show a need in the typical Joe Cubicleworker to do something that has more tangible results than the bottom line.  A couple weeks ago, I had a conversation with my uncle who is probably the most high powered businessman I know personally.  He was talking about his time as the owner of a tax consulting firm (or just tax firm) and one of the things he made his employees do at the end of the year was submit a sheet telling three things.  1) How much money the client saved, 2) The client’s reaction when told, 3) How they were going to save the client money next year.  My uncle told me that one of the things that happened as a result of this was that the job satisfaction of his employees went through the roof.  My long-winded conclusion is this.  We all like to believe that the lives we live actually mean something.  That’s why community service or seeing a client react to the amount of money they saved because of us triggers something in every person.  We can immediately see how we mean something to someone else.  There must be a greater purpose for us to live our lives because if all that was waiting for me at the end of a life well lived is a yacht and golf, I would kill myself.  I’m not joking either.  If that’s what life is, then I don’t want to be a part of it.

Piper later explains why my own life has such a low sense of fulfillment in what is probably the most profound excerpt from the book (to me).  This was a part I read, was shocked, then re-re-re-read.

When was the last time someone asked you about “the reason for the hope that is in you”?  That’s what Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer for: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Why don’t people ask us about our hope?  The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do.  Our lives don’t look like they are on the Calvary road, stripped down for sacrificial love, serving others with the sweet assurance that we don’t need to be rewarded in this life.  Our reward is great in heaven (Matthew 5:12)!  “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).  If we believed this more deeply, others might see the worth of God and find in him their gladness.

The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do. That sentence is worth the price of the book.  If you read any past entries, you will definitely note a life that’s spent agonizing over things that I shouldn’t be worried about.  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

But again, I asked for relevancy.  It’s one thing to point something out, but I’m not very good at application so I like it when I get shown how to go that extra step.  Piper doesn’t disappoint.  He quotes B.B. Warfield in the point that drives it all home.

Now dear Christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ.  If so, you must be like him in giving…”though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor”…Objection 1.  “My money is my own.”  Answer: Christ might have said, “my blood is my own, my life is my own” …then where should we have been?  Objection 2.  “The poor are undeserving.”  Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels…shall I lay down my life for these?  I will give to the good angels.”  But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost.  He gave his blood for the undeserving.  Objection 3.  “The poor may abuse it.”  Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth.  Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood.  Oh, my dear Christians!  If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving.  Christ is glorious and happy and so will you be.  It is not your money I want, but your happiness.  Remember his own word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

As I said in a previous post, money is probably one of the more important things in my life.  And the way I treat my possessions shows what I’m living for.  This quote pretty much sums up the rest.  Again, I would definitely recommend this book if you have not read it.

[Edit] Thanks for the recommendation anonymous pal [/Edit]

And remember, if you have the stomach flu, drink a bottle of Gatorade, then fill it with water and drink it too.

Happy New Year!