Blog Archives

Utah Promulgation: Piquant Provisions – Red Iguana

I like Mexican food. Mexican food in the Midwest… well, at least here, is weird. From the salsa served in tiny wine decanters and separate bowls to the un-fried, “fried” chimichangas, Mexican food has been made into a boring routine of sameness. And the sad part is, is that I am slowly accepting it. I occasionally crave Mexican food, and we decide to go to the local restaurant, and I am becoming resigned to the fact that it is not spicy, or exciting, or has much different flavors from one dish to the other. Good Mexican food is hard to recreate too.

I grew up going to my favorite Mexican restaurant at least twice a month. At my youngest memory, I’d get the small combination. Eventually, I graduated to the large combination. Then I discovered smothered chili verde burritos, no beans. Wow. It was my favorite. The restaurant was La Frontera. In Utah there was lots of good choices for Mexican food. You had Cafe Sylvestre on the East side, Alberto’s in West Jordan, the semi-Mexican Cafe Rio all over, the taco truck by the Sear’s on 8th and 8th, and La Puente. But, it wasn’t until much later in my life, sadly just a year or two before I left Salt Lake, that I had discovered The Red Iguana.

How many times did I pass this place on North Temple going to and from my Grandparents? How did I miss it for so long? And now Guy Fieri and his Triple D show, shows up and it is probably a mad house now-a-days. I only ate there like 2 or 3 times, but they were memorable, and busy… very busy. But, if there was a place I needed to go, to show my friends that Mexican food isn’t just a standard tortilla, half-heartedly filled with chicken or pork, and maybe has that okay white cheese sauce, then the Red Iguana is it! Just warm your heart with these non-standard, standard pictures of the best Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake…

art10027widea DV0407H_Red-Iguana_s4x3 IMG_0022 red-iguana sampler-sooo-good

Darn it! Now I’m hungry…

Advertisements

Utah Promulgation: Oh, The Places I’ve Lived

SLC Map Places I livedOf course, no trip to Utah with friends, would be complete if we didn’t visit the places I have lived. The geography of a place has much influence on the development of who you are, and the places I lived in the valley had more, sometimes, than friends or family. In the 40 years that I lived there, I called home in 12, possibly 13 places. I wouldn’t make them go to all, but there is some neat aspects of the area in all.  (And this is a chance for me to recall all those locales.) Here is a very brief summary of them all.

  1. I was born in a home I didn’t live long. I have seen pictures of myself, wrapped all up and sleeping, with my older brother and sister peeking over the edge of the cradle, that I am told, was in this house. When I was born, this home was the 3rd house in from 1300 East, but with its expansion, now it is on the corner. After several moves, our family will have come full circle back to the same street, but on the other side of 1300 East. No need to visit.
  2. I only lived in the second home until I was 8 years old. There are vague memories of a man who astounded me by knowing my name, friends on the corner, and playing in the dirt of a home that had the first waterbed I knew about. I had a best friend named Steve Shoop that I learned went to Brighton later on, a big hill we would ride our skateboards and bikes down, and a strange recollection of a bridge over a swimming hole. No urgent need to see.
  3. This location, this locale, was the place that I called home from 8 until 21 years old. It was the longest place that I lived. Near the base of Big Cottonwood Canyon and smaller Ferguson Canyon, this helped in my love for hiking and nature in general. The only thing I found hard was the fact that any grand bike ride ended up going home uphill, but it never stopped me from going. We had no one living behind us except the dead, and it was a grand rambler with an unfinished basement save for the single bedroom my dad actually finished. My brother and I had a framed out room, but that was as far as it got since my dad detached himself from the family. I made a few great, enduring friendships up there on the east bench. There was so much to explore; unfinished Ferguson_Canyon_(2)fields, new mansions framed out to walk through, canyons, neighborhoods, cemeteries. This formed my youth and young adulthood. There were hard times, there were great times, and I could always escape to the mountains. I miss them…  [3b. is a brief excursion to Logan, Utah from Autumn ’87 to Spring of ’88. Not long but important period in my history. We obviously wouldn’t visit this due to distance, but it would be fun if only to get ice-cream from the Aggie Dairy.] We would need to visit this house to see the updated trailhead entry for Ferguson Canyon, and also if we went up Big Cottonwood. Must see!
  4. This location is my family’s first apartment experience. It was my Mom and younger sister. I worked retail and stuck with my Mom because I believed she needed me. We had a dog at the time named Tasha, whom we had to give up to other family, (until we moved to #5) because of some stupid decisions on my part. It was a depressing time for all of us, but thankfully, I don’t think it lasted more than a year or so. No need to visit.
  5. Back to Sugarhouse, and the same street I was born. An old home with lots of problems, but a great place to escape after the horrible apartment experience. We got our dog back, I got a couple of new jobs, met my wife while living here and finally moved out, apart from my Mom in 1994. No need to visit unless we’re in the area… which may be possible due to the proximity to Sugarhouse Park.
  6. A bit of a dirty, scary, newly married couple’s apartment. We weren’t there for too long, thankfully, lots of weird goings-on happening there. They had a pool there we wouldn’t go near. No visit, no future thought.
  7. This was another apartment, that apparently was called a condominium. There was a drunk-old man who lived above us who always seemed to be falling down. It was very small, but the owner was a very nice guy who lived in Park City and always responded promptly when we had a problem. Once the drunk guy left his car door open and the keys in it, making the “bing-bing” sound. I took them out and took them up to him. He hardly looked at me, took the keys and closed the door. We lived close to an Italian restaurant that was pretty good, the most famous frozen custard in town, a great little hole-in-the-wall Chinese place, and the house I lived in until I was eight. We did a lot of walking here, and discovered that we were expecting our first baby.
  8. Three days after our first child was born we moved. My aunt and uncle had offered for us to live in the little cottage that was behind their house. They lived in the Avenues: a very eclectic part of Salt Lake City. I loved to walk in this neighborhood, and I especially liked walking our new daughter, who never slept. We’d go to the fountains at LDS hospital, the library up on 9th, all the way up to 13th and down to the cemetery I wrote about a few posts ago, and even occasionally downtown SLC. It was the only time we lived in the actual city of Salt Lake City. We loved it.
  9. To save our aunt and uncle some money, they offered us to move upstairs of their home, while they rented the back cottage out to someone willing to pay more. The upstairs had air conditioning and our own little small kitchen. Our growing daughter loved looking down the high windows and we were good with living above family, but it was a bit uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. Other significant events that occurred while we lived up there was the biggest tornado hit the city on August 11, 1999, and two planes crashed into World Trade Centers. The tornado went only a few blocks away while I was at work and my wife and daughter were napping while my Mom frantically called trying to find out if they were okay. Our aunt and uncle came up during dinner one night to tell us they were selling the house. It sold in three weeks. We might visit this place simply for the reason that there is so much to see in the area.
  10. Apartment time again… We had to give up my wife’s favorite cat and were still sore from our relations selling the home. It was an okay apartment, and we had our second child there. The people below us constantly complained while we tried to live with the noisy people above us. There was a swimming pool that was clean and it seemed like we were the only one who used it. We walked a lot here too. There was a mall and shopping district nearby, a park with the only frisbee golf course in town, and the Catholic elementary school I went to as a child. We’ll probably drive by it, due to the locality near a transitory street.
  11. Our first home! It was what they called a twin home, although I don’t know the difference between a duplex and a twin home still is, and that these twin homes looked not always like the one on the other side. It was a compact busy neighborhood. At one point two loud guys lived next door who played their music late at night, right next to the girls’ room. Our third daughter was born here. It was close to a Home Depot and a Smith’s Marketplace, as well as many different movie theaters. Walking was hard because there was so many busy streets around. Here is where I walked to the bus stop and then the train station for work. It was a good little home, but not necessarily one I would show friends around. I would like to see what they did to a yard.
  12. Our second home and our last in Utah. This one never really felt like home. I now realize that perhaps God was preparing me for a move, in how I felt. It was a very big home that stood all on its own. We could walk to the Salt Lake Community College campus and play and walk our dog. I didn’t really like the neighborhood at all. It was noisy and… something just wasn’t quite right about it. Again, I am interested in what they did with the yard, and really what they did in the house. We were only the second owner of a house that was built in the early ’70s, and I don’t think they did any upgrades since then, and we really couldn’t afford to do anything with it. We had my wife’s Mom and her new husband live with us for a while after they moved from Pennsylvania, only to be estranged with them not much later. Very odd point in our lives. We were close to my wife’s cousin which was about the only bonus I could find. No visit.

And then there was West Plains.

~Mayo

Strange Confessions: Spare the Car, Fine the Child

Strange Confessions: I was dreadfully afraid to get sick in the car while I was growing up, because I didn’t want to get fined for littering if I threw-up out the window.

I have a vague recollection of a conversation with one or more of my parents regarding those signs you see on the freeways warning of fines if you littered. All sorts of scenarios went through my mind regarding string, rice, ice, apple cores. But the most perplexing thing that was given birth in my brain was, “Is vomiting out the car window considered littering?”

I sincerely put forth my query and they told me that, yes indeed, throwing-up out the car window was littering. “Who has to pay?” I asked. I was informed that they would pay but they would expect remuneration for the foul fine. I doubt if my parents ever said remuneration to me, and I never considered an upset stomach coating the black asphalt speeding perilously by, to be a work that they had done for me. Who were these policemen who would hate a child enough to watch them speeding by as the green faced warrior of warning and chaos spewed forth its venom and then pursue them to the ends of the earth just to make sure fines were distributed to the innocent? It was just an undigested bit of beef or blot of mustard or an underdone potato that caused all the mess anyway… how could they consider fining the poor sick lad who didn’t want to be slapped for mussing the car all up?

My mind pondered this for some time, and then I ingested the information, took it for what it was worth and vowed never to get sick enough to vomit out a car window.

As some trigger in my brain released this long forgotten information, I wondered at its genesis. Did my dad, for as the more I write the more I recall, tell me this just to have a bit of fun? Or did he tell me this because his dad told him? My Grandfather died before I was born and the only thing my dad told us about him was that he owned a spaghetti factory by the union station tracks near downtown Salt Lake, and that he punished him once for messing with a dishwasher and broke his arm. I also recall a picture of him someone, somewhere had of him strolling down the streets of downtown Salt Lake City in finely pleated slacks, polished shoes, double-pocketed button up shirt and a straw hat perched nonchalantly on his noggin. Did he tell his son stories to mess with him? My dad was an only child. I am the middle.

Perhaps I recall this story to purge it from who I am. Many people find it a ridiculous notion that our relationship with our fathers drives our relationship with God. I many times feel as if I am God’s comedy release. Even now, with so many things frustrating and mocking me because of my own fate, makes me feel that God isn’t angry with me… He just likes having a good laugh at me once in a while. Purge it. Purge it. Purge it. Thank you for the recall of such innocence of youth, brain, for it is to purge bad theology that effects my heart. Nonchalant hat tips to my God.

“Turn and Face the Strange… Ch, Ch, Changes”

In this episode of Stranger in Rebellion, congratulations and good wishes and hope for the future of our family are in order. Things sometimes move rather quickly around here, but then again, stop rather suddenly, and it can be quite the roller coaster ride if your orbit circles the center that is our mass. If you want to find out quickly what the congratulations are all about skip ahead to the bottom at, “Final Verdict,” but be warned that what happens between here and there is my true heart and reveals to you my philosophy that I have gained here in West Plains regarding truly knowing who people are…

Over the last couple of weeks I was surprised to find a company that really pushed towards gaining me as an employee, so much so that they flew me out to Denver to interview me. More surprising was many of the reactions from our friends here in West Plains. (Actually they have become more of a family than anything else.) When announcing our transition from Salt Lake City to West Plains almost 5 years ago, there was a resigned sigh from our church family. What I mean in that, is that people accepted what we told them and, perhaps regretted that it was so, but didn’t really fight the idea that we had made. Looking back now maybe they did see the Lord’s hand in it all, and didn’t feel compelled to question our motives. I know that the whole AWANA team and the kids that were a part of it, felt bad about the whole thing, but the only real question about it all was an older boy who came up to me and said with disdain in his voice, “Okay now, where are you going and why?!” That was the biggest regret in leaving Salt Lake; those kids I knew and loved… and left behind. Sure, they’re all doing fine and dandy without me, but just the fact that I’m not in their lives now just leaves me empty somehow.

When we told some friends here in West Plains, there were a lot of questions, a lot of statements about how they felt, and a lot of reminders about how much we should be praying. The last one was like, “Duh! How can we not pray?” Prayer was constantly, continuously, perpetually, uniformly, and weightily a part of the last week’s activities. To me, it was like telling me I possibly couldn’t understand what God was trying to say, so you better listen to us. I thought that if we did stay, that particular relationship would not be the same, but in talking a bit more to them I believe part of what was happening was shock at such a surprise announcement. I apologized and told them that I should have been more forthright and let them know we have been semi-seriously looking at a transition. I didn’t realize how soon such a great opportunity would come up. I should have explained more about our belief in West Plains as temporary.

One of the most compelling things I heard in this time from a friend was, “If this move is God’s will then great, but if we believe that it isn’t God’s will then we will do everything to stop you.” I mean, what? Really? You’re going to do everything you can to stop us? I was at first a little disturbed by this; how can someone hear more from God about what is best for us, than us? Then it became more and more comforting, knowing that if someone apart from the issue sees it different or hears or knows something that we can’t or won’t, that force might become necessary in the convincing of God’s will. I’m not talking him knocking me out, tying me up and putting me under bright lights until I see the truth, but I guess it would be strong, steady persuasion. I guess at this point I’m glad I am truly convinced of God’s will in all this at this point and can share it with them, and you now.

God’s will. It can be sometimes difficult to discern. This job for example: it just happened all so… perfectly. You remember me writing about how I needed to get my resume in order and getting it out there, well as soon as I did this, I applied, was contacted and she forgone the second interview so that I could fly out for a better view of it all. I was training up in St. Louis for the week she wanted me to come out and I told her I could fly out after training was over. Getting to an appropriate airport is difficult here, but being in St. Louis at the time? How… God’s Will like. I found out that my true spiritual mother and father were going to actually be in Denver when I was there. You see, we have family in Denver and my true spiritual mother and father, (Aunt and Uncle), live in Yankton, SD right now and just happened to meet back up in Denver after she spent 2 weeks in Salt Lake City watching some of her grandkids. Before the interview I found out we were flying out on the same plane! I wanted them to do the early check in, since I was going to be at the interview, and we saw the connection. My interviewer asked me when I wanted to fly back and I gave her several options, and she just happened to pick the same flight they were on!? It was a too much of a coincidence, too much of a sign.

Another friend asked me what this decision had to do with Perspectives. You may recall we had the opportunity to take this class last year. It was a wonderful time of learning and seeing God’s work and will in the world. We gained a more global perspective and the attitude to move anywhere He would have us go. I said that since Denver was so big that it would have a cultural opportunity to serve Him in many ways. I didn’t do much research on the fact, but I can figure it to be true, right? God is at work everywhere and anywhere. It seems like a great place to be, if truly God wanted us there.

The other thing I was told by the same man who said they would stop us, was that it is a good thing that you are going. Because in the going, you can hear God better. This was told him by his brother when he was told to visit colleges. Paul was stopped when he was going in a direction he desired or believe he was led to go, and turned in another direction. It was a good thing that I go. A good thing that I go. But this company spent around $700 dollars for me to go, that is quite the engagement ring, per se. Committing to a fly-out is serious business. What if I really, truly believed God was stopping us?

The other thing is my family. Being in Denver is only a slight day drive from Salt Lake. I very much so worry about something drastic occurring in SLC that needs my immediate attention or even my whole family’s. It is just a slight jaunt up and over the mountains to get there. Coordinating an immediate geographical change from West Plains to SLC would be overwhelmingly expensive. It ain’t gonna happen without some generous horizontal funding.

Final Verdict: Everything seemed to be screaming, “Move!” but in walking out of the interview and sitting in front of the shop until my ride came, God was slowly and reassuringly convincing me that this move was not His will. He wanted to show me that even in the midst of everything seemingly being a sign, that the sign in itself is not always what is revealing His will. I called my wife and told her my initial belief, but I had to see her face-to-face and talk before we could be certain. I have a long letter to write to the company regarding my decision, for in this decision I believe I have something to share with them in order for them to make a better decision in whom to hire. I haven’t even received an offer yet, but I know what my, no, our, no, God’s decision is. He showed me that what I was committing to there would not be Him, but would be a company. He showed me that what He has prepared me for all my life was not to be completely turned over and changed to suit a need and desire for myself and more so even my family in the immediate. I’ve made more of a commitment to Him over the last few years that I ever realized could be ten years ago, when I would have taken this job, no questions asked. The people in my life here have made me appreciate so much, I love them all and am more committed than ever to involve myself and my family in what God is doing here through His church and through us. That is not to say I won’t stop looking at opportunities in other geographical locations, but the examinations will now be more solid, more in line to understanding a greater need and purpose therein, and that is His ultimate will, is it not? Yes, I know we have disappointed many a family member, but it is not the end of all hope. Congratulations are in order because we heard what was to be. The future is and always will still be bright because He is there, He is here and He is.

~Stranger

Sunday Scrutinization: Utah is a Far Away and Dark Land

This morning my eldest daughter and I made our way to a congregation we weren’t familiar with to listen to and hopefully meet a guy who was on his way to the deepest, darkest jungles of SouthCentralWestern United States, known as Salt Lake City. A friend from our current fellowship brought me into the know that such a one as this was speaking there, and since he knew I was intimately familiar with the locale, he correctly assumed the level of my interest.

In trying to find out more about this other church, I felt a pang of regret in not taking advantage of this summer’s foray into night services by visiting other fellowships and witnessing God’s hand in the goings and comings therein. And in that, I remembered a discussion with a couple the other night about “cherry-picking” your favorite stuff among the churches you live nearby. Our friends are ones that have come to the current fellowship we are a part of, as well as being members of the previous large group we were attending. They are still participating in ministries there as well as being a part of the new, and have even participated in other congregations activities when there was an opportunity and God was leading them there. *Gasp!* There was accusation that they are “cherry-picking” the favorite things to be a part of wherever that may be. They were told that if you have chosen your church, then you must minister within the programs offered by that church. They obviously, respectfully disagreed. We are a part of the Church of West Plains, and we want to be where God is, no matter the congregation, fellowship, or denomination. That being said, we really want to have that kind of vision, and hope that others see things in the same way. In passing out flyers this summer, inviting people as a community to the fellowship meeting we have been doing, one of these things that stuck out in my mind was people not accepting the flyer stating that they already went to church.

Ouch.

How can we envision His Church in this way? You have yours, and I have mine, and may the two never meet. So I was glad to sit in on a service that baptized a baby (*Gasp!*) and meet a man who has such a heart for the lost. People said they were glad I was there. And you know what? I was glad to be there too, even when they don’t believe everything I do. The heart of Christ was central to our gathering, to the reasons we were all there, that morning.

As you all know, I grew up Catholic in Salt Lake City and became an evangelical Christian in my early to mid-twenties. The people I knew there were all Christians. We were part of an Awana group that came from all over the valley. We had Bible studies, fellowship dinners, retreats, all with other believers. The non-believers I knew of were my family and my coworkers (about 4 guys). I grew up there, knew the town, the places and surroundings. It is a bright and beautiful place for me. So when I heard the introductions for this man and what he spoke about, they made Salt Lake City or Utah in general sound like this faraway foreign land where people have dark hearts and lead dark lives.

How could they speak of my hometown in such a way? Then he gave some statistics: only 2% of Salt Lake is Christian. Given that just a few years ago Salt Lake hit the one million population mark, that means that there are only about 20,000 people there are Christian. Hmmm… that sounds like a lot to me. So then there are at least 800,000 people who are not. Wow. Okay, I’m getting a little of the picture here. He said he was going to be in Lehi, which is just North of Provo, home of BYU, and that Provo only had about 24 churches. That sounds like a lot. I did some searching for how many churches might be in the Salt Lake Valley, but couldn’t find any exact numbers, but I would guess from around 150-200 churches, and again, that sounds like a lot to me. But then I did a search for how many churches are in the West Plains area, where I live now, and see that online I come up with about 50, some people have told me 75. If we take the entire population of Howell County, in which West Plains is the county seat, of 40,000 then number of churches in West Plains alone is 1 per 530 people, but just taking West Plains population it is 1 church for every 160 people! An incredible number. If my guess is right about Salt Lake, then they have 1 church for every 5,000 people, or about 1 church for every 100 Christians.

Looking up the estimates of Christians in China, they have about 3% of the population. It’s no wonder there is a trend to send Church planters there to my little hometown of Salt Lake. It makes me wonder why I left… oh yeah, it’s because I was so comfortable there. I needed to get out and get challenged, to grow and to trust in God way more than I ever could in Salt Lake. Those people who are being sent to Salt Lake to plant churches better be prepared to be uncomfortable. I admire them and hope that I can be a support to them, which I am trying to do now. There is an expertise I have when it comes to going to Salt Lake and I hope people might rely on me in little ways in that, and I hope those that I know there can support them as well. There is a great work of God happening there, what with Ravi Zacharias speaking for a second time in the Mormon tabernacle and the nations evangelicals turning their eyes to the lost, I pray for them and hope you will too. And if you are a friend in Utah and would like to be connected to these folks, don’t hesitate to let me know. We could all use some small bits of support.

Oh, and if I may interject the best resource here for witnessing to Mormons, it is this book. You can find it at the best resources for Christians in Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry. There is a right way, and a wrong way to witness to Mormons.

According to a Mormon, Contention is from the devil. Why would they listen to you with signs like this?

Don’t be these people.

Build a relationship first.

~Stranger

Transitions

I am a thoughtful guy. I have been told that once in a while. My best friend from high school told me this. One of my best friends now thinks it chuckle worthy how much I ponder motivations, reasons, transitions, life. And in the immortal words of Paul McCartney, “What’s wrong with that? I’d like to know. ‘Cause here I go… again!”

I’m feeling like I’m in the middle of a transition point: It has been a little over four and a half years since we moved from Salt Lake City, and I believe those of whom I would call friend are truly beginning to forget me. No worries, I’m not bitter or anything, just pointing out the normal path of these sorts of things. I still see their stuff on that one site and I occasionally like or comment on posts and vice-versa them to me. This is not the way a hearty relationship keeps afloat, yes? Alas, things are winding down from that initial transition to a new place. I have been in West Plains long enough to finally figure out a large, parochial, baptist church is not a good fit for me and my family. We have been with another group of believers for almost a year now and I believe the mists of our comings and goings in the many buildings of our former gathering is dwindled to the point that people might not recognize the auras of our former selves lurking in the corners. We had no one come and visit us seeking the how’s and why’s of our departure, and there is fewer occasions of having to explain to people where we have been when running into them at some store or the library. The biggest shock of late is that one of my best friends, someone who was there with me from the beginning of being here in West Plains, has transitioned to Florida. He worked for the large church and because of shrinking congregational numbers, was laid-off. Thankfully he now has a job with Wycliffe, unfortunately our relationship faded the last couple of years because of hard circumstances that still remain unresolved. Praise God that all will be made right in heaven. The other jolt came from hearing that the pastor there had been voted out. I am saddened, but I understand that God is working in this whole situation to heal and grow those who need it. I pray that all involved will see His hand in all this, even when it is still sharp and stingy. Interestingly enough, it is hard to see that these sort of things happen because of what a friend calls pastoritis. It has been a couple of years since I’ve seen the construct of the modern society within the church, is doomed to a cyclical pattern of growth, loss, blame, transition, and hopefully growth again. Some never recover from the transition point here because they look for some man to have all the answers for their problem in the first place, when it should be each other we fall upon, and mostly God who bears the brunt of our sorrows. It is also interesting that I keep reading in 1 Corinthians about how the church there regarded the leaders as one of the most important things to follow, or be “of”. Put a man on a pedestal, seek the answers from him and he will always fail you. I love this man and I am sorry that he now finds himself in this situation of our making, of this Western church society we have built. Pray for that church that they would not seek the answers they need in a man, but find it already there, within themselves, that it is God who dwells in them.

We just got back from an eleven day “vacation.” I say vacation, with the quotes, because I don’t see the vacations we take as equal to what I normally see spoken of or pictured on that one site. Not that I compare. It’s just that I’ve always had in my mind the idea of a vacation as taking off in a jet plane, not seeing anyone you know, or thinking about work, and staying for several long, careless days at the beach, or camping in a National Park, or staying on a cruise ship, or visiting another country, or a high interest amusement park or site of historical significance. It seems that people posting on that one site have much more opportunity or availability or just plain cash to make those things happen. Also, I don’t want you to think I am unsatisfied with how our time off usually goes. It is visiting friends or family, hanging out or hanging in, going to places we are eager to go because of cheap clothes or good eats or cooling off, but always a place where we know someone.

Getting back to my point: our vacation consisted of visiting three kinds of family; family we chose, family of my wife’s, and family of mine; in that order. We went to Kansas City to be with some friends of almost 20 years, to eat and shop at the thrift stores and used book sellers. We then proceeded to Yankton, South Dakota, where my wife’s uncle is the interim pastor at a church that voted out their pastor, who then quickly went down the street, opened and new church and dragged a third of the congregation with them. (The pastor I refer to above has already sought to sell his home here, which I believe is a good choice, a hard choice, but the right choice.) There are a lot of broken people because of this and (for the sake of making it easier, I’ll call him “my uncle”) my uncle believes God has developed him for such a time as this; for over 45 years! I intended to rest and take it easy there but for some reason I was troubled and restless there. More of the family joined us from Denver, whom we haven’t seen for three years, and the husband is an active sort who likes to do lots of things, and I joined him in his endeavors, but that isn’t what made me troubled. I started to feel the pull of work, and the tension associated from being away, the dread of going back. This part of this last 4.5 years of transition has been the transitioniest. I can truly say that the defining aspect of this position in regards to point-of-contacts and managers, has been change, and never really for the better. The final stop of our tour was Des Moines, IA where my brother, his wife and family reside. My mom flew in from Salt Lake to see our kids in addition to his: it was a win-win for her. I really had a good time with my brother and his family and my Mom, but thoughts of transition began to invade my thoughts and made me more irritable than usual. I drank a little too much, which was probably a horrible choice on my part because of some transitions happening with my brother. I didn’t get drunk, but I had some of the hard stuff, and relaxed… perhaps, too much. I enjoy the tasty beverage when “vacationing” but this wasn’t the time or place. Some would definitely tell me otherwise, but I know, between me and God, that I was wrong.

On the way home, an 8 hour drive, I began to think and pray about my situation here in West Plains. I no longer want to be discontented with my work. I want to minister where God wants me. I have a calling to be creative and I want to get more organized when it comes to assigning myself a task to create, as well as to sell myself when the time comes. I thought of many different things I could do to fix my failures, uplift the listlessness of work, and create on the way. Many things that came to mind were practical, but impossible unless I invite Him to change me to make it a habit within me. I cannot go through this transition alone. I see my friend doing many things, but I don’t hear about God in a specific area he introduced me to (I will write about that another time). I see my uncle and diving into was God has involved him for the last 45 years. I see my brother desperately needing Christ, apart from the hour or so he may or may not encounter Him on Sundays. I see my former pastor being forced into figuring out God’s will for his life after it seemed that this town could be a place for life. I see a friend thankful to be released from a difficult position, that he was so content to be in, and hope and pray that all works well for Him, especially in the character building God may have for him now. I know I can’t do this alone, and I am so afraid, because I have jumped before in the past, in the wrong direction, but I have learned a lot. Does God have something for me 45 years in the making? Or am I to be content with the character building of the last 5? Transitions are happening all around me, all around us, every day, in every corner of the world, and He has His hand in every part of it. Am I to let go of the idea that I am His comic/cosmic relief, or see a God who truly sees me as I am and what I need? I am glad to have our Tuesday night fellowship group and look forward to sharing this time with them. I look forward to God possessing me and my life transitioning to a life of constant prayer, and hope and trust in Him. I will ever praise Him, ever praise Him.

In the course of the next few months, I will be transitioning away from that one site. I will be posting all my favorite posts and stuff from the “Stranger in Rebellion” Facebook site, then deleting my account. I have also found some old journals that I am going to transfer here. If you are a regular reader and appreciate my character on that one site, please let me know if there are some reasons I should consider not getting away from it, I would like to know and am not fully convinced, but I am transitioning in that way. This is a much better format for me in where I am going, so I hope you might follow me here if you don’t want to be forever away. Thank you, o constant reader, and fellow transitionist, hope to see you soon.

~Stranger

Seeing Specks Through the Log

Strange Confessions: I grow weary of what others are critical of others for and thus grow weary of myself…

I know, I know. Sounds confusing, but I realize that I’m in a circular mess in which the thing that I’ve been bothered by lately is in turn something I should examine within myself. First, as always, a little bit of background and reasons why I come to where I am now.

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, which as most of you know is a bastion of Mormonism. I, however, was a Catholic. Many of the things I saw my Catholic friends and family doing was done in direct opposition to what might be expected of a Mormon. For example, coffee, to a Mormon, is regularly regarded as a forbidden drink, so, perhaps, a Catholic, being a religious type person, and not wanting to be associated, thought of, or regarded as a Mormon, will regularly and in public consume mass quantities of the stuff just to show the world how un-Mormon they really are. (Wow that sentence has a lot of commas in it. I wonder if my English major friend will judge my work harshly by the mass quantities of commas used in that last sentence.) I assume that many a religion has an averse relationship to itself because of the culture that surrounds it, as it was in many ways that I witnessed in SLC.

When I became a Christian, I found out more about how Mormonism came about and their beliefs. As I talked more to Mormons I realized that many of them did not know what they really believed. A common remark that Mormons would utter when faced with a question they could not answer was, “You should talk to one of our elders.” Many Mormons understood life as presenting to the world a facade of goodness, pleasantness, rightness and a surety in all the those behaviors. Yet they couldn’t say why they did certain things, where those ideas came from, or whether or not those things were actually laws in their code or just things to try to do. They were in fact what I would call, a Cultural Mormon. I felt sad for them because they were as Reb Tevye, strolling down the ways, singing praises to Tradition, yet not nearly as flexible in their thinking as our sad hero of “Fiddler on the Roof”. They would not be moved. Which in some ways is a good thing, but when it comes to reasonable dialogue, there is a wall that is very difficult to breach.

As I moved to the “Bible Belt” I saw the same thing, yet from the Christian standpoint. We all hear about those who understand our faith to just be a Sunday-only, self-righteous and condemning belief system, but I saw a little more of it here than out in Mormon country. Mormons tended to judge each other by how much less their “brother” was doing the “right” thing. When you get into a culture that emphasizes a right way to live within yourself, you tend to get people who look at all others behaviors in minute detail. We as Christians should live in such a way that we know the right thing to do and understand the fact that we really can’t do any good in our own strength and so better the relationship with Him who works through us so that the natural behavior that comes out is improving every day because of how much we know our God and how thankful we are to Him. Many times though, unconsciously, we fail and fail, again and again in the same area that we forget our God and the power we can draw from Him. We begin judging ourselves against what others are doing or not doing, much as the Mormon is bound to do. They have a hopeless religion where more and more they have to compare and contrast themselves to others. We have a faith that says He is able to complete in us what He began; and that is our sanctification: the way we display the fruits of the spirit more and more the closer we get to Him.

And so comes to my point: One of the first examples, of what can come about in this culture, I witnessed, was a woman who left a church angry because someone wouldn’t give her the money she believed the person should have given her, because after all: he was a Christian. I see that a lot. People who are frustrated with another believer because they believe that those others are not fulfilling their Christian responsibility. “How should we deal with those who aren’t behaving like Christians?” I hear. Now, it is one thing to call someone out for committing adultery, it is quite another to call out someone for not giving money when they were called to. We do not know what other people are called to or not. It is not their story we are living out, but ours. We should look at our motivations, our attitudes. I see it on Facebook; how someone generally calls out people because they suck, or are evil, or are mean. Like we should be surprised. Posting a general statement about how evil people are does not help any situation, nor does it display any type of love, compassion or understanding that we should display as Christians. I say this not to hurt but just to remind you who you are, and that the world is watching.

There is one place in the Bible that it tells us about dealing with someone who may not see as clearly. It is when Jesus told us that before we deal with the speck in someone else’s eye, we should take care of the log in our own. It hit me today that it is not described as a log because our problems are bigger than others, but because dealing with our own issues if INFINITELY more important than dealing with others.

I see that I may be trying to deal with someone’s speck in their eye and not looking at my own log, but perhaps I need look at the situation in the same way I see my driving. I have come to view other drivers as an individual that is going through something I may not understand. Maybe they are slow because of a death in the family. Maybe they are rushing because this is the last opportunity to proclaim their love to someone before they fly off to Japan. I don’t know what is going on in people’s lives, and maybe they shouldn’t post generic angry stuff on that one site, but that doesn’t mean I should get upset with them. God deals with us all in a variety of ways. May I always be reminded to examine myself when I see the specks in others eyes.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: Four Years Away from “Home”

Strange Confessions: When we left Utah, we told people we’d never come back. I regret ever saying that. Totally.

Our family has had the wonderful privilege of hosting our niece over her Thanksgiving break from college. She is going back to Mississippi tomorrow. I just put my youngest daughter to bed and she started to act like she usually does when we’ve had guests and they are about to leave. She gets very emotional, tells me she is sad about them leaving, but usually doesn’t cry until just after they leave. Then the next few days I expect one or another of my daughters to just start crying and say how they miss Utah, our family there, the friends we had. It makes me sad. Makes me regret ever coming here. I don’t want to put my family through this kind of regular heart-ache.

We have some truly wonderful friends living in Kansas City. We have been friends with them for about 19 years. They moved from Salt Lake City about 13 years ago. Lived in the San Francisco area for a while, then moved to KC. Being friends with them after such a long time of geographical challenges is a real testimony of their loyalty and patience with our family. We see them at least three times a year now, and I love every minute they are here or we are up there. We are travelling to KC soon, and the one thing I don’t look forward to is leaving. Having to deal with the kids’ state of mind, and even my own is very sad. I counsel the children that this is not the end of seeing them, it’ll happen again, we had fun here now, why ruin it with sad feelings? I’m really talking to myself. This happens when anyone who stays for more than a night comes for a visit. They especially miss my mom, as I do.

1458495_10151816420628581_685874544_n

This Thanksgiving marks four years since we moved from Salt Lake City to West Plains. In a lot of ways it has gotten easier. We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We knew that God wanted us to get out of our comfort zones and look to new challenges of trust and empathy. I accept His sovereign will in my/our lives in this matter. Our cousin posted this picture you see on that one site, and it has been very helpful in the last few days. All the things on this list are true. I usually dwell on the things I don’t have, which is, I believe not the way God would want me to look at things. There is one thing I would add: “I really miss my family who is miles away, because that means that I have family who still live in this country.” I have a friend, I’ve told you about him before, who has no family. Well, that is not entirely true, but his parents and only other sibling are gone. He does have an ex-wife and stepdaughter. I don’t know him intimately, we were friends only for a summer back in high school, but when I wrote him on that one site, we talked quite a bit and still maintain some contact, at least I haven’t driven him away for good… yet. In my lame little way I contacted him over Thanksgiving to see how he was doing. I know it can’t be easy for him, but how do I know? Maybe he can take it. I know I couldn’t. Anyway, I hope he’s good. I don’t want to feel like I’m sorry for him, just let him know I’m there, if it matters…

I am thankful for what my wife and I have found here: a deeper, more intimate and trusting relationship with the Lord, my beautiful, loving and smart wife, my wonderful children, a great fellowship group that meets at our home that is fiercely diverse, a good church family where His word is brought to my ears to challenge me, and all the other things that make it possible for me to have a job, home, and means to get from here to there.

There is some things that sometimes seem to be missing. I say sometimes, because I do have occasions that I am completely fulfilled by Him in His glory. I also want to point out that I am not complaining, or at least I am trying not to. I just know that there are things, of this world, that make difficulties a bit more… easy. Again, that is not to say that I shouldn’t look beyond God to fulfill me, but, you know… that it would… help. “He never said it would be easy,” is the occasional mantra of the Christian, and I know that. I just miss my family, my wife’s family, the best Awana club with the best group of kids ever, and to a lesser extent, the mountains, the roads and valleys, the buildings, and yes, the familiarity of it all. I do want to go back to Utah, or at the least 2-3 hours away from the Salt Lake valley, or even a maximum of 5 hours.

My mom will call me and say something like, “when are you going to come over and fix my faucet?” I tell my wife, after I am done talking, about what she said. I say that of course it is all in jest, but then my wife says in many ways it isn’t and I see the truth in her words. My mom would very much like me to be home, in Utah. I would very much like to be there for her. Perhaps, someday, God will see fit that we would go back there. Perhaps not. I really pray in these times of realization, that I want to be a teacher, that I want to be a full-on missionary, that I want to be closer to my mom, that God would do a miraculous work here to get me to face those situations head-on. If God wants me to stay here, until He comes back, so be it, and praise Him for it.

When I moved here I was astounded that so many people came here, and of their own free-will! “Why?!” I would ask them. Many of the answers that came back were, “family.” Sometimes that answer rips my heart out. I want to cry out, “I know, I know! Why do we move so far from those we love.” But then, I consider the full-time missionary. They sacrifice what they know, to be with those who they… love. See that? Because I just did. We need to love the people we are with. Does that mean we forget those we left behind that we love? May it never be! You must love them all the more. Hope that they know God has laid on your heart a people who need to see clearly the love of God and His sacrifice.

Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called. ~1 Corinthians 7:24

One of the reasons I called this blog “Stranger in Rebellion” is, I like the connotation of the word “Stranger”. I am a stranger to you, but I am also a stranger here on this planet: this world is not my home. I call Salt Lake my home; I was born and I lived 40 years there, but it is not my True Home. That is heaven, where I will be with my true Father forever. The feelings I feel for the people and the place that is Salt Lake City, are just a dim shadow of what I will or should feel for my home in heaven. I long for SLC as I should long for heaven. People I’ve known and loved there for years are there, maybe they are not waiting for my return, but I am. I am also longing to be in heaven, so we shall never know the pain of ever having to say goodbye… ever… again.

~Stranger

Strange Confessions: Declarations of Hopeless Optimism In These Troubled Times

Strange Confessions: I’ve recently understood that what I always thought regarding my attitudes towards others is not as truly optimistic as I’ve always regarded them to be, but rather quite the opposite; I am a pessimist and I hope only recently so. Because if this is how I’ve always been, it kind of frightens me; to think I may have been a horrid pessimist always driving people who may care away from me, thinking that they chose it.

There, now that may have driven the truly uninterested away, for this is deep stuff for me, and I dare say seriously frightening for me to finally understand as well as reveal. Even though I’ve held the attitude that I have nothing to hide, knowing these things reveal much more to me than I think I wanted to know.

Last week I confessed that I enjoyed the company of children way more than adults. I surmised that I am emotionally open because of the fact if people don’t hang around me for long I can blame them because they couldn’t handle the truth. That was something I discovered as I wrote and have since searched my heart and found it to be true. I believe that this may be a recent change in the motivations of the way I am with other people because of some things that have happened in the past six or so years.

We had a friend over for supper, well actually they brought supper over to us, the other night, who is from the congregation we have recently been attending. Conversation turned to how we are… assimilating into the church. I allowed my wife to speak, for fear that I would go off on some strange tangent regarding what I wrote about last week. While I sat there, I really thought about it. Thought about why I was really so off-putting in terms of getting to know new people. To our guest, I kind of mentioned my behavior as of late, and they mentioned that I was really good at the community dinner we had a couple of months ago.

The church has a community dinner every couple of months, inviting those who are… perhaps a bit less fortunate than us(?) I told myself I was going to go there and make people feel as welcome as I could. I prayed to God to make me bold in my conversation, keeping things open and real. God was with me and in me that night, and I was happy to serve Him while serving others.

I and my family travel three hours East of us, to one of the poorest communities in Missouri, every month or so, to organize, pack, and distribute food to the people in the community there. I enjoy meeting the people who come around and those who come from other places to help out too.

We also spoke of living here, in small town West Plains. I told of my expectations when moving here that people would be interested in knowing someone who lived so far away, what life was like where I was from. No one ever said, “Really, Salt Lake City? What was that like? Where did you live? Who did you know?” That is what I talk to the kids about. What their life is like, where they live, who they know. And then there is the satisfaction of the status quo. They actually like living here, they come back and live here. There is nothing new, things are always (seemingly) the same. And they aren’t interested in the outside world. Now, I know that I am thinking in general terms here, and not everyone is like that, but it is a pervasive attitude that invades everything, and it makes me want to shake their world whenever I can. Which is rare for me. Because of what I am understanding.

As I spoke with our guest, thinking about these things I understood that I don’t trust people. Kids are honest and serve no agenda, there is nothing I need to hide. Strangers may have an agenda, but I don’t have to make myself fiercely available to them; I’ll be home soon anyway. Someone tells me that I did a good job, and I think they are just saying that because I’m the poor fellow who needs to be encouraged, so they have to say that sort of thing to me. Someone asks me how I’m doing and I believe they are fulfilling some sense of duty within themselves, and they feel better for talking to the weird guy. There is really no reason for anyone to want to get to know me, I believe. So why should I give them the benefit of knowing me when they have all they need already. They have the friends they have no need for more, especially one of such… emotional openness that is displayed through weakness and pretend shyness.

You must understand this is never something I consciously understood, but as I think about it, I see the truth in it, and it makes me sad for the sad little man I’ve become in this respect. But is this how I’ve always been? I hope not. Understanding this makes me know, at least these last few years, why I have become this way. Relationships broken. People who I thought could be trusted, but couldn’t. The evil of this world has done a number my thinking, yes? One of the “benefits” of one who thinks too much, perhaps?

With God’s leading, mercy and love for me, I’m certain things can change in this. For the relationships I need to bear with others of the faith should be more excellent than what I have been thinking about them. For this comes through in prayer, with every situation I am coming into I will pray that God will fix my thoughts on what I need to do. That I shouldn’t consider the worst in people, but only be aware of who I am in Christ, and that is all that matters.

“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” ~Phillipians 2:1-2

~Stranger

 

Strange Confessions: My Current Spiritual Relationship Situation

Strange Confessions: I would much rather have a conversation, or hang out with those of the 6-18 year-old set. Adults make me very uncomfortable, and I seriously don’t make it easy for them to talk to me.

Since I became a Christian, I have always known that I have been blessed with the ability to relate with those of the younger type. Back in Utah I would try to recruit people to become an AWANA leader. One of the answers that really surprised me was, “Kids really intimidate me.” I’d stand there, shocked and amused, wondering how in the world kids could expose these people’s insecurities in such a way. Kids are the most honest people on the planet: they have nothing to hide, and they say what is on their mind. It has always been so refreshing to me, to not have to interpret what they are saying, whether or not they have some agenda, or are just trying to make me feel better. I have even had kids tell me that I am fat. It was annoying, but they told me the truth, as they saw it. I enjoy any time I can hang out with kids, finding out about them, playing with them, teaching them, learning from them. It has been a little different here in West Plains, but, you get right down to it, and kids are the same everywhere. I’ve held some pride in this gift and have given God the glory for it. I’ve always believed it was a blessing. Until last week… when I started to question my motivations for avoiding adults.

I’ve talked about in previous posts about another church family joining with the one we have recently become a part of, and  now there are lots of kids in our congregation. Lots of new names to learn. Lots of new friends to find out about. Another commitment I’ve made, when we have joined here, is for me to be more involved in people’s lives. You know, the iron sharpening iron deal, the relationship with peers, the making myself available for discipleship, the being an integral part of our congregation. Essentially, being the hands and feet of our Lord here on earth. I know, I know… perhaps part of that is having a great relationship with the children in the church. But, last week, I annoyed myself.

Before I explain about the crazy thoughts that went on in my head last week, I want to explain again, one of the many purposes of this blog: I write, to find out about myself. I get the idea in my head that I want to tell you something, something short and sweet. But, my brain works out things as I type, and I need to discover something that my subconscious keeps tap-tap-tapping away at my conscious part of the brain about. I need to understand this thing, and I need you to understand this thing too. I started this blog knowing that not many people would actually read this, and that is fine, so when I say “reader” or refer to “you” it just may be me that I am talking about. Well, whatever. I am a strange one, and I’ve never attempted to hide it. So, onward…

We have been having meals after services every week. It has been a chance to share a meal with those who have heard the same sermon we all just listened to, and to discuss our thoughts on it, sharing our lives, concerns and praises. I get my plate, look around the room and pick a spot that looks the most comfortable. The most comfortable is usually a table not full yet, but has people at it who can talk well and are already involved in conversation. I can sit, maybe answer a, “How are you doing?” question or two, but then I just blend in. I’m like camouflage: hidden among my surroundings, keeping the attention away from me. I am a professional conversation divertée: ask me a question, I’ll answer mildly, then ask the person next to me something a bit deeper, transferring attention with ease. I’ve been doing it for years. It’s not that I don’t want to really know people, or let them know me, it’s just that the standard situations we make to figure these things out are incompatible to my personality. Give me a pool table and a pitcher of beer and I’m a go! Set-up a game night where it goes deep into the night, to reveal Mr. Goofy-pants, and we’ve bonded. Take a hike on a strenuous trail together, friends for life… well, for a time: a good time I promise, maybe.

I suppose I had some more to say before I got to what happened last week. Remember? It’s about writing, about finding out more about me… Hmmm… sounds a bit narcissistic, no? Oh well, that was addressed in the last post. Whatever.

There is a lot more kids at church now than there was a few weeks ago, and they go out to play when they quickly eat up their meal. Since there are so many now, some might get in a bit of “trouble” out there. I’ve decided to make myself an adult chaperone. I go out and watch them, organize plays, have a bit of fun myself, talk to them, know them. It felt a bit like an excuse. It is a bit of an excuse. It is so much easier, so much more comfortable, so much more fun; to be with the youngins. My wife even asked me, “Are you ever going to be in with the adults?”

One of the reasons we came to West Plains, is because our life was “easier”, more comfortable in Salt Lake City. We only really knew, I mean, really knew that, was a few years of living here. Now, here I am choosing the easier, comfortable, fun way. Instead of the hard, uncomfortable, work that I need to do, to be the Christian God is calling me to be now; I’m taking the easy, wide road.

And I did it again this week. In fact, a couple of guys came out today to talk to me. They asked me how I was doing, what is going on… I gave the easy answers. I’m feeling a bit ashamed. One of them was the pastor, or head elder, (I still don’t know what to call him), I was about to tell him my thoughts, then my wife came out… probably to save me from some embarrassing statements on my part. I have to get out of this position. But, I have to admit that I don’t really know how to do it. Do I tell them this whole bit? Well, not the “whole” bit, but just my difficulty. I’m feeling like… no, I shouldn’t. I’m not like normal men. So I shouldn’t think that something that separates me from the others would be the thing that binds us. I appreciate where we are now, I just don’t know how to move on.

I have a very fulfilling relationship with the small group I have been a part of for the last couple of years. It has been only the last few months where I have truly been able to open up. Sometimes I believe I’m sharing myself deeply, but for myself, it might have been what I believe they may have wanted to hear. Which may account for some of the depression and lack of desire to attend for the first year or so. I protect myself by being open to the point of driving people away. I see that now… as I write. I do not want to be this way anymore. It is too fake for me. No, nevermind… I am moving beyond this, slowly.

One thing I do know, is that God knows what I need to do. He will lead me and guide me. I thank God that He is on my side, He is even on their side. I know there is no superficiality in their dealings with each other, I want it to be that way for me. Perhaps I do need to be a bit open about what I think, just limit it until things get… easier.

But not too easy.

~Stranger

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Wretched with Todd Friel

A Really Wretched blog

The Journey

learning to be His

Steven D. Jennings

The nations leading blogger from behind bars! Steven shares his journey towards rehabilitation & redemption. He also exposes the realities of prison life...the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Frank Viola

Copious amount of Words, Substantially Packed in an Unceremonious Format from the Former Stranger.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

GODINTEREST - Christian digital media website exploring faith, culture and life

Godinterest is a place to talk about God, Culture, Life and all that other stuff

Tim Challies

Informing the Reforming

Fencing With Ink

Words, Art, and R-Rated Christianity

pointe4Jesus - Blog

Copious amount of Words, Substantially Packed in an Unceremonious Format from the Former Stranger.

The Matt Walsh Blog

Absolute Truths (and alpaca grooming tips)

Life After Ministry

Leading Mormons to the REAL Jesus Christ

Irony Is A Poor Master

"where all the cool people learn how to think"

Through Another Lens

A WordPress.com site looking at Christian and non Christian news, culture etc, from an independent Christian viewpoint. Don't run after reading the word 'Christian'! Give it a chance, then run if you want ;-)

%d bloggers like this: