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If everything goes right, and Lord willing, I will be dead in the next 40 years!
I have always had a desire to depart, never suicidally, but a good healthy “I can’t wait to go to heaven, which is far better” desire. I have posted here previously about how many guys in the Bible desired to die. It’s not always a bad thing.
Any time I hear about diets or medicines or special obnoxious things a guy can do to “lengthen his life,” I make sure to do the opposite.
“Honor your mother and father so your days may be long on the earth” didn’t quite have the desired effect on me.
I honored my father and mother because my father had a way of making not honoring him turn out very badly for me.
I am of the conviction that a guy must present God with the opportunity to end his life every once in a while just to give God a handy way to off ya in case it’s time.
If you’re not somewhat regularly nearly dying, you probably aren’t really living.
Here are my top ten near death experiences in my first 40 years in no particular order, cuz they were all, in their own way, awesome.
1) River Canoe Ride. I was about five-years old and canoeing down a river with my dad and another guy. We hit a submerged tree. The canoe flipped all the way over and back around to right side up. I never let go of the metal bar in front of me and went around with the canoe. But I was alone for terrifying moments.
2) Bike Rides. I have been hit by one car. I have been nearly hit many times. Once by a high school chic speeding around a 90-degree turn and sliding right across my lane about four feet in front of me and then she went into a ditch and into a tree. Idiot. There have been many mountain bike rides where I assumed I would die, including two where I slid down a hill on my head.
3) Icy Lake Superior. Junior high me was walking along an ice covered cliff on Lake Superior. Oh yeah, here ya go God! I slipped and began sliding to my death and was saved by my uncut fingernails. Who says bad personal hygiene is actually a bad thing?
4) Downtown Minneapolis. My wife and I used to regularly attend Minnesota Twins games at the Old Metrodome. We found a great place to park for free at a housing project where you had to walk across a pedestrian bridge over the highway to get to the stadium. One night around 11 as we were walking back to our car a guy came running up the embankment, over the fence and onto the bridge right in front of us. I thought we were dead. We were not. Minnesota nice!
5) Stupid Marathon. The training went so well. But when you’re hyperventilating, crying and being hugged by overweight women who are walking the same speed as you, death seems imminent.
6) Downtown Chicago. College age me with two friends got lost in downtown Chicago, a significant portion of which was spent underneath the main roads with a large population of homeless folk. I have no idea how we got there or how we got out. Then we got kicked off the tollway cuz none of us had any money for the toll! “Do you take checks?” was the awesome line of that night. A night that will live in infamy.
7)Wilhelmine. I was a janitor at college in Nazareth Hall, a huge old building from an old Catholic seminary. There were many reports that the building was haunted by a woman named Wilhelmine buried in a chapel on campus (you can watch a documentary on her here. Kevin Thompson and Dan Monson–interviewed in the documentary–were two guys I worked for.). I worked at night. I was often the only one in the building. One night in particular while I was cleaning the cafeteria, by myself, a door that went into a tunnel under the courtyard that was always, and I mean always, locked, suddenly opened and I saw things. There are more stories I have on that, but we’ll just move on. I gave myself the creeps again.
8) Dating. Pretty much every date I went on until I met my wife-to-be was a near death experience for me. My insecure self was too messed up to stay calm in such situations. I knew I’d marry Cindy cuz at no point in our dating did I ever feel like throwing up. Except that one time when I had that spicy chicken Chinese meal, but trust me, that was different.
9) Sickness. In one six month stretch I had four different strains of violent stomach flu. Whether I nearly died or not, I remember praying that God would please kill me now. Then there was the episode with the abscess. But I’ll move on.
10) Riding with Idiots. Since I couldn’t drive due to my eyes, I had to hitch rides with friends. Being an idiot myself, I had idiots for friends. There are way too many stories about near death in cars. There is a reason young men have high insurance rates. One particular moment will always stick in my memory–looking down on the driver from the passenger seat because we were on two wheels.
OK, so the first half wasn’t perfect. I spent most of that time being a rude, ignorant fool.
Now that I know a little bit more, what implications does that knowledge have on the next half of life?
I have no concept really, but here are a few hopas.
1) I am going to get a study with walls around it. No sense getting irritated at people for using their own house. I’m the one in the way.
2) Being decisive. My wife will like this one. One of the results of being insecure is that you learn to fudge answers. “I don’t know” and “whatever” and “fine” make up about 80% of my answers to questions. Man up wussy boy! Make some concrete decisions!
3) Be rigorous. Rigor is defined as “strict precision, exactness.” My theory of education was “go for the B.” Getting a B was a great strategy for me in school, I had other things to do. Unfortunately, it has developed into a habit of doing good, but not great, stuff. I could work harder, more thorough, more dogged and determined to exhaust a subject rather than calling it quits with sufficient information. Be more precise, not so quittingly sloppy.
4) More people time. I spent a large portion of the first 40 years avoiding people at all costs. I have come to see that I lose on that deal, not to mention the loss that people have not being around me. Indeed. You can’t love people if you aren’t around them.
5) More willing to look the fool. I spent too much time not doing stuff for fear of looking dumb. I have embraced my inner dumb, might as well make it the outer dumb. I will still feel dumb, but hope to enjoy the freedom of accepting this, rather than shrinking from it. On a serious note of this: more evangelistic conversations should happen in my life
6) Less media time. This probably means I’ll have to cut down on watching sports. This will be tough for me, but I’m realizing I should. Less mindless internet surfing. Freecell might have to be deleted. Oh dear. I don’t own a cell phone or any “devices.” My goal is to finish life that way.
7) Some spiritual stuff that would sound arrogant if I publicly announced it. Bringing my body under subjection, not out of legalistic pride or self-righteousness, but out of the idea I am running out of time and Judgment Day nears. The love of God constrains me, etc.
8) Do the uncomfortable. The older I get the more I see the value of forcing myself to do uncomfortable stuff. It’s easy to make excuses, to give the old “I’m sooo busy” line instead of going the extra mile. Force myself into situations where discomfort comes. I see way too many older folks sitting in their houses all day doing nothing of any discernible value. I don’t want my latter years to be a pursuit of the comfortable.
9) Invest in commodities. Rather than wasting money on frivolity, or speculating in markets I don’t understand, I desire to buy quality things that retain value regardless of Wall Street or Washington. The more money is tied up in public markets, the more influence and tracking the markets and government do to you. Yeah, I’m a bit conspiratorial and Luddite on this one. Sue me. Courts won’t be able to find any of my money to seize anyway!
10) Ensure my family. A life insurance salesman was grilling me on my life insurance a month ago. I said I didn’t have any. “Well, consider our products, we just care about your family.” Oh, well that’s nice. Basically I was told I didn’t care about my family because I have no life insurance. Surely he cares more about my family than his commission.
I want to ensure I have a family, not insure my family. I want my kids to grow up to be friends. I want my relationship with them to be healthy, so we can continue to enjoy being together. I want to do whatever is in my power to make sure we are a family that loves each other and are willing to serve each other.
If nothing else, I want my family to be a testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Word of God are of utmost importance to me. And when they bury me in the ground, this awesome rendition of Amazing Grace will be played.
Through forty years of life, I have learned a lot of stuff. Some of the stuff I have learned was wrong and it took years to figure that out and in some cases, years to overcome.
Life is all about learning. “Live and learn” aint just a pithy phrase, it’s the way it is.
Here are the top ten lies I used to believe were true.
1) People are saved because they said The Prayer. Nope, sorry, don’t buy it. There is no verse in the Bible that even remotely comes close to saying that salvation comes by “saying the prayer.” Faith is a fight, it’s a race, it is no one-time event that you did and then move on. Continue in the faith. Those who continue in the faith are the only ones who are saved by faith. The just shall LIVE by faith.
2) The Cubs should be rooted for. I grew up with diseased people who coughed their Cub fandom germs on me. It took me many years to get better. The Cubs are an awful organization mired in stupid. Continuing to cheer for them does not show loyalty, it shows mental disorder.
3) You can’t mow the lawn on Sundays. Yes I can.
4) I don’t need anyone, I’m just fine by myself. People were always creepy to me. I isolated myself, stayed away from people and did my own thing. When I talked to people it was to rip them apart. Who needs em? I’ll be fine. Except I wasn’t. Plus I hate cooking.
5) I’m the only person in the world who truly understands the Bible. I actually remember the moment when this began to crack. My buddy Joe beat me at a game of Bible Trivia! Joe? Joe the Catholic? Beat me? I’m a pastor’s kid! HE beat ME? Yes, yes he did. Plus the D I got in Old Testament Survey. Plus the one time the WWII vet asked me if it was too late for him to get saved and my mouth said, “Yeah, probably.” That was a pretty low moment too. Oy.
6) Getting good grades is the key to your future. Oh wait, I never believed that.
6) People in church have everything together. The only way you would think someone has a perfect life is if you don’t know them. Most churches are filled with unknown people who either purposely want to be unknown to keep their outward perfection, or don’t want to be known because they know they aren’t perfect. Everyone needs to relax and help each other come to Christ.
7) You know you did well because someone told you you did well. I learned part of this when I played my trumpet. Whenever I totally blew my song I would get the most compliments! When my daughter began playing piano in public I told her the same thing, “Hey, don’t worry about messing up, you’ll get more compliments that way.” Try it some time. It’s true. And the compliments are all lies too incidentally.
The flip side of this one I am still learning–the desire to get a compliment. That I didn’t do a good job unless someone told me I did. Growing up as an insecure flop, I like a good compliment. When no one says anything about the sermon, was it any good?
The need for approval is in everyone, but growing up being rejected by many, turned on by a lot of people I thought were friends, made me especially susceptible to this one. I admit I’m still learning this one. Doing what I do before the Lord and letting it rest there. I’m trying, I’m trying.
8) You should sell your gold, it’s not going to go up. D’oh!
9) Girls are gross. Some of em are, but not nearly as many as gross boys. The female mind is a land of wonder. I continue to be amazed at the insights and perspectives I would never in a bazillion years come up with. There is one female in particular who continues to impress me with her ingenuity, supreme baking skills, great recipes, charm, wit, and business sense–I love you Martha Stewart.
10) Everyone I know is going to go to heaven. This has been a painful one to learn. Heaven isn’t populated based on who you know. You are not the fortunate one to be born smack dab in the middle of people who have it all right spiritually. Some people leave the faith. Some people play games with you. Some people bluster and intimidate so as not to be challenged. Heaven is reached by a narrow road, not the broad, crowded road. If everyone you know is going where you are going, you might want to change roads.
There are people who say “I have no regrets” as they look back on life.
These people are morons.
Seriously? No regrets? You nailed everything perfectly?
“Well, but the mistakes helped me become who I am.” Perhaps you overestimate who you are.
Imagine who you’d be if you hadn’t made those mistakes! Who knows.
There are many things I regret in my first 40 years of life.
1) Inappropriate jokes. I can’t help it, jokes come to me. Many of them are hilarious but also wrong. I have learned, or am learning, that getting a laugh isn’t always worth it.
2) I should have treated my mother better. My father had to continually tell me to be nice to my mother. I was a disrespectful snot. I can’t do it over, but I regret having been that way.
3) Speaking too soon. I have judged people too harshly. I have shared opinions with insufficient information. I have assumed I knew the problem and the solution and went ahead and assumed that people desperately needed to hear my thoughts to save them from themselves.
4) Speaking not at all. Oh the times when I should have said something and didn’t. Why is it that my mouth works when I want it to stop and doesn’t work when I want it to go?
5) Afraid of people. I have let people dictate my behavior too much. My fear of criticism, or even fear of being noticed, has kept me out of a lot of things in life. Now that I have more confidence I find myself finally doing things I should have done 30 years ago.
6) Wasting time. Oh the hours I’ll never get back. Television and internet are the killers of living.
7) Worry. This is one I’ve gotten pretty good control of, but worry used to ruin me as a kid. When you can’t see what’s going on, you worry about what’s going on you can’t see. Will I find my classes at school? Will the teacher call on me to answer the math problem on the board I can’t see? Oh the tension. I’m glad I’ve grown here, but man did I put myself through the ringer.
8) Unfair expectations for my wife. Being perfect as I am, I needed a perfect wife. I thought I had one. Then it all came crashing down. Then I realized, “Oh wait, I’m not perfect either.” Sorry I put her through my years of frustration, impatience and attempts to change her into what I thought she should be instead of just loving the poor woman.
9) No discernible skills. I really, really wish I had learned a practical skill at some point. Fixing motors, home repair, electrical wiring, plumbing, something. But here I let my fear of looking like a moron cuz I can’t see what I’m doing stop me. I had opportunities. I didn’t take them. This was dumb.
10) Too frustrated with my children. I have high expectations for them too. I fear I over correct on things I should just let go. I’m impatient. I work at home. I have kids. My “office” is in the basement, which is unfinished. The stairs get walked up and down about 5,000 times a day. My thinking, writing, reading, whatever it is I’m doing, gets interrupted each time. I continue to blow this one, but my kingdom for some peace and quiet. Perhaps I regret not having built walls around my study.
I am a Christian and this is a big deal for me. I grew up in a “Christian home” with two loving parents, for which I am mighty grateful, and I always “believed” Christian truth.
My testimony is rather pedestrian: No drugs. No alcohol. No abuse. No prison time.
I have no Damascus Road Experience.
But I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.
No one is saved because they grew up in a “Christian home.” Faith has to be an individual thing. You enter through the strait gate all alone or not at all.
Here are the top life experiences that formed my faith, that made me personally invested in my Christian faith, what made it mine, and served to grow it. They are in roughly chronological order.
1) Being legally blind. Walking by faith and not by sight is something I do every day! I cannot see half of what’s going on. I have learned many ways to cover this fact, to the extent that most people who know me have no idea how little I see. I, in fact, actually have no idea how little I see! What I do know, is that I’ve had to learn to take other people’s word for it when I ask what’s going on, or where something is, or what is on that menu up there.
2) Being bullied. I gotta tell ya, the modern anti-bullying movement really irritates me. Suck it up, people! I was made fun of my entire life. Even now, as a 40-year old man, kids stare at my crossed eyes and make comments. Being bullied made me an observer of people. It made me a thinker. It gave me the blessing of sarcastic wit. It has taught me the crumminess of human nature and the security that is in Christ. Bullying may have been the most formative element of my life. To all you bullies out there: Thank you! I couldn’t have done it without ya!
3) Going to college. Getting out on my own, out of the “Christian home” and into the world on my own to work, go to school, have a checkbook, pay rent, etc. was huge for my little insecure self. I rethought everything there. I quit going to church for about two years, having grown up going to church three times a week. I read the Bible. I marked up the Bible. I read theological books. I prayed. I began to figure out what I believed. Without discomfort, there can be no growth. If mommy and daddy are always there, you will remain a moron.
4) Getting married. Good Lord, I had no idea what a selfish jerk I was. OK, I had an idea, I just had no idea how huge a problem it was. Living with another person totally showed me my disease, the greatness of grace and how much I need love.
5) Becoming a pastor. I quit being a pastor less than two years in, before coming back and now being in my 14th year of pastorship. There were any number of reasons for my brief quitting, one was that I felt I was in over my head. I also had a fair amount of people telling me I was in over my head more than I actually was, which didn’t help. Taking the responsibility of teaching the Bible completely revolutionized my faith. Being freaked out about this responsibility has driven me to the Word, to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and my dependence on Jesus Christ.
6) Becoming a father. In all honesty, nothing has taught me more about the character of God than being a dad. The Old Testament completely makes sense to me looking at it from a father’s perspective. God loves His kids, but wow, can they be irritating.
7) Death of my father. My dad was “My Guy.” When I had theological questions, he typically answered them, or at least gave me a sarcastic answer that made me have to think it through for myself. When he died, I was, in a sense, on my own. My Bible reading went up a notch. Also seeing how young he died totally changed my attitude toward physical things. The entire year after my dad died, I only bought two things for myself: A 2-liter of soda and a pack of socks. I wrote a book about detaching from money that six people liked. My attitudes toward life, people and possessions completely changed after my dad’s death. I can’t even explain exactly why, I just know it’s true.
8) Biking and running. When I was 16, all my friends were getting driver’s licenses except me, the blind kid. I bought a $300 bike with my paper route money and took off. I’ve been biking ever since. Running has also played a part in my life from being the only thing in gym I could win, to “running” a marathon. The time running and biking is mostly where I think and pray and go over sermon material and pontificate and occasionally preach at trees. These activities have never been merely “exercise” for me. It is also a form of transportation and freedom for a blind guy, which is nice.
9) Writing. I won a writing contest when I was in kindergarten for the award-winning novel, How Mallards Got Their Color. I had my first article published when I was in college. I have written all sorts of things, a surprising number have actually been published by other people who paid me even! Not blogging is apparently impossible for me. Writing is how I process thoughts. Usually, to understand something, I have to write about it. It’s why I’m writing about turning 40 see. Without writing, I’d be even dumber than I currently am.
I am turning 40 in a few days.
For the most part it’s just another day, but at the same time I understand the significance of being about half done (statistically speaking).
When a guy hits halftime of life, he realizes what a moronic waste most of the first half was.
At the same time, the first half of life solidifies a whole bunch of stuff that will impact the last half.
Most of the first half of life is learning. I imagine the second half will be filled with more learning, but also, I’m hoping, more learning to apply.
For the most part, my first 40-years were spent being chicken. Even when I knew stuff, I was often too chicken to act on it.
I regret that. At the same time, being chicken has kept me out of a lot of trouble!
The older I get the less I care about the chickenizing stuff that marked my first half.
I am getting over fearing what others think of me. I am already over arguing about what people think of me! Whatever.
I am becoming more principled in doing what is right, or if there are no moral obligations at stake, doing what is more entertaining, regardless of who is around.
Growing up legally blind and cross-eyed made me very insecure and afraid of being noticed. My preferred place was in a corner with no one noticing.
I still like my corners, but I get out of them more now, cuz I don’t care anymore.
So, anyway, this week I’m going to be reflecting on life here, stuff I’ve learned and how I hope the second half goes.
I’d appreciate knowing if any of it helps.
What is your advice for getting old?