Filtering by Category: Life

The Myth of Urgency

Kulturgeschichte / Religionsgeschichte / Juden / 19. Jh.Urgency seems to be the the tool of choice these days. If only I had a dollar for every time I heard something akin to, "This is the critical moment." If I'm going to make up a number, I'd say 85% of urgent situations are a marketing tool. Manipulation. Whether it's about making money or hustling an idea.

It's not that there aren't actually urgent needs, but we've blurred the line between crisis and simply less than ideal. Never mind that how I try to sell an idea today dilutes the notion of urgency for a later and more important cause; I want results. Over and over again, the ends justify the means.

It isn't that urgency is necessarily peddled with malicious or greedy motives, though I am skeptical of anyone under a $60 million contract regularly and vehemently telling wolf stories. Most people simply care, and relative to the carefree life they've experienced, everything appears as crisis.

I used to help at a soup kitchen in Columbus, Ohio called Manna Cafe. The woman who ran the place, lets call her Fran (I don't remember what her name was) was lively to say the least, "Praise the Lord and pass the Mennonites" she would exclaim whenever we rolled in with our 15 passenger Ford. A group would pile out, quickly dissipating into pecking order based on how often they had visited. Newbies hung back, held tight to their wallets, practically covering ears with their shoulders. Those who had already been there a few times headed straight for the entrance, offering a "hi" or two to whoever was slouched against the stone wall in the alley. The church was after all in a 'rough' section of the city, especially from the perspective of mainly rural dwellers. It took some getting used to.

The thing that struck me about Fran, was that no matter what was happening, she never seemed too worried about it. Even when fights broke out, she stepped in, asked someone to leave, then called the police if needed. For all her refusal to panic (at least the times I was present) she had the respect and attention of the community. Her years helping people  on the streets had left her resilient and difficult to suprise

And there are others like Fran, people like pastor Gary, who continue to explore, learn, then thoughtfully express what they've found, convincing me with their wisdom rather than their sense of panic. Their composure didn't communicate apathy, and it certainly didn't keep them from acting in moments of actual crisis. Rather, it showed that they understood something deeper about the way things work.

It was as though they understood that somehow and eventually, things would end up as they should be.



Conflict: Understanding the Problem

While in central Ohio this weekend, I had lunch with an old friend who recently stepped into his second pastoral position. He had spent that week at a conference on conflict mediation. Conflict is something my friend is familiar with, his first pastoral position was wrought with tension among members, which put deep strain on an already small church. I asked him to summarize what he had learned at the conference in thirty seconds; he condensed it to two minutes. I'll squish it into a sentence. The first step in resolving conflict is to get both sides to understand (from the other side's perspective) why there is conflict.

Doing this, he was told, is about asking a ridiculous amounts of back and forth questions like, "What do you think he just said?" "Do they have it right? Did you just say that?" You just keep moving in circles like this until someone says "They are angry because....." and the other person says, "Yes that's exactly it." All the while keeping both sides in a calm and thoughtful posture.

Laborious. Painstaking. Easier said than done.

It is difficult to listen to others, to understand why they do what they do. And so we bypass the person, fighting ideas that they might not even adhere to. We assume that everyone communicates in precisely the same way. I have been married long enough to kick my head back and belt a raucous laugh at how obvious that statement should be.

The place to begin with conflict is to acknowledge that resolution will primarily be a difficult and intentional effort to understand the other. Then and only then can true resolution come. If you are primarily concerned with winning, you won't do anything but pat yourself on the back.

The Fruits of Failure.

Failure. Not my favorite thing. But we had an altercation this past week. 250 miles of walking to Columbus, Ohio turned into 38 or so miles and an emotional breakdown. Funny, I thought it would be my knee that did me in.

I won't go into details as to exactly what happened, but long story short, I failed –miserably.

The uptick is, in the past year I've been learning to accept failure with a lot more grace than I used to. Because in most things, failure is not a light switch, it's a dimmer.

A breakdown of the breakdown.

  •  I'm in better shape than I've been in a while. Preparation for the trip got me off my duff and walking 100+ miles in the couple months prior to leaving, not to mention the 38 or so miles I covered in three days with a 35lb pack.
  • I still have five or so shows to play next week.
  • Driving home, Courtney suggested that we do the trip together this fall. Someone else suggested we take on a good section of the Appalachian trail. We'll see what develops, but it seems like failure is planting some new dreams in the both of us.






Aged Like Scotch: Not Dead Yet

gary.millerMaybe it's the fact that he has worked on Dodge Vipers and usually has an energy drink in his hand, but Gary doesn't strike me as old, at least not compared to the ladies and gents I've talked about so far. Consider him the freshman of this group of miscreants crowned with white wisdom.

I've only known Gary for six or so years, but the Red Bull drinking, greasy fingered mechanic, prophet and preacher, has raised the bar for me in terms of what it means to run hard in the last quarter life. Heck, he's redefined what it means to run hard at any age. I would follow that man to the ends of the earth.

And this is the thing that gets me about Gary. He still sees himself as a student. If you get to know Gary, you get the impression that he knows and does a great deal more than you do, and yet you get confused because seems to think he's barely got started. As he once told me, "We stop crapping our pants and the way we dance about it you'd think we'd won the superbowl or something. I mean yea it's great, but that's potty training." There is zero presumption. He doesn't feign spirituality to impress, nor is he all that impressed by spirituality. He's impressed by God and God's love for people. And much like someone else I've heard about, he draws very un-churchy people like flies: fixing cars for single moms, helping people on their last leg get an apartment or a trailer to live in, then helping them move their smoke stained couch. Jesus is what wakes Gary up in the morning –Jesus and Red Bull.

So to end the week, I lift a can of taurine to the Bettys, Ritas, and Garys of the world. May we all keep living, learning, and loving as long and thorough as you do.



Aged Like Scotch: Becoming More Like Yourself

As I said on Monday, the Gray Hairs in my world have inspired me, though not all of them. You don't have to look far to realize aging does not make us venerable by default. Rather, we simply become more of who we've been all along. Every inch of our choices is tied up by years into miles of footsteps in whatever direction we've been walking. Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes habit. I run a Meals on Wheels route two days a week for The Window, a group working to provide people in Goshen with the fundamentals of our existence: food and clothing. Meals on Wheels (in case you live under a rock) is a program that gets food to home-bound (as in unable to leave their home) persons. There is likely one in your area. Hint Hint.

Sad_GrandmaBut it's much more than just dropping off food. As Francis told me today (other than the fact that she used to be a belly dancer), "I don't have any living family other than my son." The way she talks, it doesn't sound like she has too many good friends either. "I'm 91, I figure I should just be able to kick off now," she says.

After a couple of weeks I already feel an emotional rhythm, more reliable than the local factory shift changes. These people have after all spent their entire life working at being them. By now, they are steady-eddie, pro-grade versions of themselves. Some for better, others for worse.

Betty for example, has no feeling in her legs, and her husband died four years ago. Since his death she has been in and out of nursing homes, which has been difficult for her. What is remarkable is her constant other-centered focus, even in the time of her life that most would say she is entitled to a little self-centeredness. She lives (maybe literally) to serve people, to the extent that when she was discharged from one of her nursing home stays, they offered her free room and board to stay on as an advocate for other residents.

Once, when she learned that her room mate used to be a ballerina, she would sing songs to her. And when Betty realized that this woman only had one change of clothes, she gave up some of her own, "But Jason," she said, "God told me, 'Betty, why don't you give her your best.' I figured that's what God had done for me, so why not?"

She tells me that her job now is an intercessor. She doesn't get to see people or get outside as much as she'd like, but she has purpose, even in her pain. And on a day when I was working through my own anxieties, she turned my own attitude around entirely. "Just pass it on" she tells me.

That request, maybe call it a wise and gentle command, is a call to tack on an inch along the path that Betty started walking a very long time ago.


A Walking Trip Update.

Middle_Age-roadOn April 25th I will step out my front door, make a right turn and head 13 miles south, the first leg of a journey that will ultimately end in Columbus, OH. If you want to follow the journey I'll be writing three to four posts a week for the duration of the trip. Or you can follow my journey to insanity 140 or less characters at a time @Jason__Ropp. Training has been fairly straightforward. I walk. This coming weekend I'll walk with a pack. It's not rocket science.

Two weeks ago I bought some shoes. The last time I bought new shoes was a twofer at a foot locker in Oregon in 2006, a record I was sad to break. But all good things must come to an end, even my arrogant footgear frugality.

When I walk, I try to imagine myself in western Ohio, which isn't all that hard as Elkhart county undulates only slightly more than our western neighbor. I work through all sorts of what ifs ranging in levels of plausibility.

What if there's a tornado? do I run to the nearest home and kick down the door?

What if I'm confronted by a malicious terrier? (Practices soccer technique)

What happens when nature calls? (Does not practice squatting technique)

But mostly I just wonder at the terror of the whole thing. Lately I've had a tendency to make myself do things that make me afraid to wake up in the morning. But I'll save that for another post.

I do have a request. I'm looking for some connections in the following locations: Columbia City, IN; Payne, OH; Ada, OH; Belle Center, OH; or Zanesfield, OH. If you know anyone with a couch (or a lawn) near one of those locations, I would be grateful.

Also, In case your interested I thought I'd list a few of the dates where I'll be playing music along the way. There will be more dates and information as it gets closer

April 29th ~ Warsaw, IN w/Dave Ferrier (Time and Place TBA)

May 8th ~ Rosedale, OH Speaking for chapel @ Rosedale Bible College

May 9th ~ Rosedale, OH Show @ Rosedale Bible College coffee shop

May 11th ~ Columbus, OH House show @ Oikos

May 13th ~ Goshen, IN @ Electric Brew

The Collateral Damage of Overeating

After a final lazy semester at school, an 11 day smorgasbord vacation in Oregon, and one more week of "deserved" break after we got back, I woke up from the insanity to find myself over 200lbs for the first time in my life. I know, 200 isn't really that big of a deal for a male these days, especially since I have enough sexiness in my face to make it relatively unnoticeable, but "not a big deal" now only gets me closer to a big deal later. Which could really pay off for my writing career if I made it on biggest loser.

It's easy to think of this as a personal problem. If I drown my sorrows at McDonalds every day I'm only damaging myself, but the reality is that my health affects my attitude, my ability to think, and my relationships with others. It's pretty clear that when I'm in shape, I treat people better.

None of our decisions are a personal choice. Everything we do, especially as a follower of Jesus, will affect our marriages, friendships, and communities. What we eat, how we spend our money, even how we treat the little plots of land I live on, will affect those around us in positive or negative ways.

This isn't hokey self-help. The summary of the law was love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. If my laziness makes me a grumpy person, I am not fulfilling that command.

If sin is whatever misses the desires of God's heart for his people as a whole, then this is my confession. May God give me strength to change.

How have your own decisions (eating or otherwise) affected your community (either positively or negatively)?